With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: The nationally syndicated conservative talk radio host Dennis Prager argued passionately that professor Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her and covered her mouth when she screamed for help during a party in the 1980s “should be ignored.”

“Even if true, they tell us nothing about Brett Kavanaugh since the age of 17,” Prager, 70, wrote for National Review. “When my wife was a waitress in her mid teens, the manager of her restaurant grabbed her breasts and squeezed them on numerous occasions. She told him to buzz off, figured out how to avoid being in places where they were alone, and continued going about her job. That’s empowerment.”

The intense blowback to this piece from women across the ideological spectrum, especially younger women on the right and even at the magazine, has put into stark relief the chasm in attitudes toward sexual assault that continue to exist across generations and genders.

“Conservatives can never advocate ignoring allegations of sexual assault or diminish the importance of protecting women from abuse,” writes National Review staff writer Alexandra DeSanctis, who is in her mid-20s and two years out of college. “No moral society can overlook, downplay, or otherwise dismiss behavior as grave as what Ford alleges Kavanaugh did … To suggest otherwise is deeply perverse. … Prager’s argument in defense of Kavanaugh is destructive to the conservative movement. It is uniquely wounding to conservative women.”

DeSanctis’s response is currently the fourth-most read story on National Review’s website. The stories getting more clicks this morning were not only each written by men who are older than her but also vigorously defend Kavanaugh and accept his denials: Andrew McCarthy argues, “It’s a Set-Up.” Dan McLaughlin says, “In Evaluating Credibility, the Signs Point in Brett Kavanaugh’s Favor.” And David French puts the burden of proof on the purported victim, asking: “Do Democrats Believe Christine Blasey Ford Doesn’t Have to Prove Her Claims?

Interestingly, French’s wife Nancy — a best-selling author who is also strongly conservative — takes a different tack. In an op-ed for today’s Washington Post, she notes that she was a victim of childhood sexual abuse.

“Victims who’ve been abused by clergy, the wealthy or the philanthropic are frequently assured that their predators are overall ‘good people,’” Nancy French writes. “But how much money does a person need to donate to a women’s shelter to make up for striking a woman in the face? How much for a rape? Who determines the value of innocence? Who determines the price to be paid? … As a survivor of sexual assault, I can say that if her story is true, none of Kavanaugh’s subsequent good deeds wipe the slate clean. … [P]undits’ comfortable political opinions and their Supreme Court idolatry is poisonous when it results in waving away the gravity of assault.”

-- Fresh polling shows mounting opposition to Kavanaugh — driven by a significant gender gap. The NBC-Wall Street Journal survey shows that only 34 percent of registered voters nationally want to confirm Kavanaugh, and 38 percent oppose him. “This is the first time in the NBC/WSJ poll — dating back to John Roberts’ nomination in 2005 — that a Supreme Court nominee has been underwater on this confirmation question,” writes NBC political director Mark Murray. “The increased opposition to Kavanaugh has come, in particular, from women over 50 (who were 3 on Kavanaugh’s confirmation in August and are -7 now) suburban women (-6 in August and -11 now), independents (who were 15 in August and -16 now) and seniors ( 9 in August to -10 now). … [A] partisan split also applies to women: 70 percent of Republican support Kavanaugh, compared with just 5 percent of Democratic women and 17 percent of independent women who agree.”

-- At the urging of West Wing advisers like Kellyanne Conway, Trump has restrained himself for most of this week from attacking Ford the way that he attacked the 13 women who accused him of sexual misconduct during the 2016 campaign. (The president now faces a pending defamation lawsuit from one of his accusers that is based on such comments.)

But the self-discipline showed cracks this morning:

Speaking to Fox News’s Sean Hannity in Vegas before his rally last night, Trump also wondered why “somebody” would wait to publicly accuse someone of sexual assault for three decades: “You could say, 'Why didn't someone call the FBI 36 years ago?' You can also say, 'When did this all happen? What is going on?’”

-- Several Republican male politicians who face tough races in November have gotten themselves into hot water over the past 24 hours by diminishing Ford’s allegations:

In a “VIP” conference call for donors ahead of Trump’s visit last night to Las Vegas, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) called what’s happening “a little hiccup.” “We’ll get through this, and we’ll get off to the races,” Heller said, according to the Nevada Independent.

After getting slammed by his Democratic challenger Jacky Rosen, Heller — already widely expected by strategists in both parties to lose — walked back his comments. “No, I do not believe sexual assault allegations of any kind are a hiccup,” he said in a statement. “I was referring to how poorly the Democrats have handled this process …”

-- Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), 65, opened a debate with his Democratic challenger earlier in the day by making this off-color joke: “Did y’all hear this latest late-breaking news from the Kavanaugh hearings? Ruth Bader Ginsburg came out that she was groped by Abraham Lincoln!”

“Norman’s line appeared to elicit some scattered laughter and applause from the Kiwanis Club of Rock Hill crowd,” the Charleston Post and Courier reports. “Norman responded later Thursday on Twitter, saying the comments were ‘meant to add a bit of levity to a very serious debate’ … ‘People really need to learn to lighten up,’ Norman said.”

-- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), 71, also ridiculed Ford’s allegation during a campaign event in his district: “This guy who’s going to be our Supreme Court justice, and he better be our Supreme Court judge, he’s a perfect candidate. And what do they say? ‘Well, in high school you did this.’ High school? Give me a break!”

“Rohrabacher, of Costa Mesa, a staunch supporter of President Trump, began his comments about Kavanaugh with a reference to the dystopian classic novel ‘1984,’” the Los Angeles Times reports. “‘George Orwell, he was so incredibly insightful and could see what’s going to happen,’ he said. ‘But that’s the challenge you’re going to have. At least I didn’t have to worry about that.’ After he mocked the allegation, a supporter joked about Kavanaugh ‘cutting in line on hamburger day.’”

-- Mississippi Republican Senate candidate Chris McDaniel, 47, accused Ford of making up her allegation against Kavanaugh. “I'm tired of all these made-up scandals, frankly,” McDaniel, currently a state senator, said in a radio interview, according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. “Now, granted sometimes these accusations may be accurate. But most of the time, we know what they are. The American left makes it up. They throw it out there. They hope it sticks. You know, I don’t fall for it anymore. I hope the American people aren’t falling for it. These allegations, 99 percent of the time, are just absolutely fabricated.”

-- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), 63, called the allegations a “drive-by shooting” and referred to Ford, a professor who has a PhD and teaches psychology in a consortium with Stanford, as a “lady.”

-- To be sure, some Democratic men have also been particularly insensitive. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), who harbors presidential ambitions, mocked Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) after she revealed during a radio interview that her office has been getting threats related to how she’ll vote on Kavanaugh. “Boo hoo hoo,” he tweeted.

Under fire from his Bay Area constituents, Swalwell deleted the tweet and issued an apology. “Sexual assault victims deserve respect. And senators shouldn’t be threatened by the public,” he said. “I said something stupid and minimized ugly behavior.”

-- “Amid the maneuvering, the nomination was roiled further late Thursday by incendiary tweets from a prominent Kavanaugh friend and supporter who publicly identified another high school classmate of Kavanaugh’s as Ford’s possible attacker,” Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey and Emma Brown report. “Ed Whelan, a former clerk to the late justice Antonin Scalia and president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, pointed to floor plans, online photographs and other information to suggest a location for the house party in suburban Maryland that Ford described. He also named and posted photographs of the classmate he suggested could be responsible.”

Ford dismissed Whelan’s theory in a statement: “I knew them both, and socialized with” the other classmate, Ford said, adding that she had once visited him in the hospital. “There is zero chance that I would confuse them.”

Whelan said Friday morning that he had made an “inexcusable mistake” by identifying Kavanaugh’s classmate: “I made an appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment in posting the tweet thread in a way that identified Kavanaugh’s Georgetown Prep classmate,” he tweeted. “I take full responsibility for that mistake, and I deeply apologize for it. I realize that does not undo the mistake.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill and White House officials immediately sought to distance themselves from Whelan’s claims and said they were not aware of his plans to identify the former classmate, now a middle school teacher, who could not be reached for comment and did not answer the door at his house Thursday night,” per Kim, Dawsey and Brown.

Whelan has been involved in helping to advise Kavanaugh’s confirmation effort and is close friends with both Kavanaugh and Leonard Leo, the head of the Federalist Society who has been helping to spearhead the nomination. … Kavanaugh and his allies have been privately discussing a defense that would not question whether an incident involving Ford happened, but instead would raise doubts that the attacker was Kavanaugh, according to a person familiar with the discussions. … Earlier this week, Kavanaugh told Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), one of his most fervent supporters, that Ford has the wrong perpetrator in mind and that he has not attended a party like the one Ford described in an account she gave The Post this week of the alleged assault.”

-- Against this backdrop, negotiations for Ford to appear next week — probably Thursday — continue between lawyers and Senate staff. Ford’s attorney, Debra Katz, said her client wants to come but cannot make it on Monday. “The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), said through a spokesman late Thursday that he would be consulting with colleagues on how to proceed,” my colleagues report. “Meanwhile, [Republicans on] the Judiciary Committee has interviewed lawyers to be potential outside counsel who would lead the questioning in the highly charged hearing, according to two people familiar with the process. If the outside counsel was a woman, it could help with an optics issue facing the 11 Republican senators on the committee, all of whom are men. … ‘There is a deliberate and conscious effort to not seem like we are attacking the woman in any way,’ said a Senate GOP official.

“Katz raised concerns about the potential of an outside counsel coming in to question Ford, arguing that the scenario would be too much like a trial … Ford also does not want Kavanaugh in the hearing room when she testifies, Katz told the staffers, and requested that the nominee speak first. Katz also raised the possibility of a subpoena for Mark Judge, the person who is alleged to have been in the room at the party, and other potential witnesses … Republicans are sure to push back on Katz’s requests. One Senate GOP official familiar with the call said Ford’s request to have Kavanaugh testify first is a ‘non-starter,’ adding that ‘it only makes sense for the accused to respond to the charge.’ The committee also does not plan to issue subpoenas, the GOP official said …”

-- Several people involved on all sides of the saga have now received threats, in addition to Ford and Kavanaugh. “Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office has received threats of bodily and sexual harm against staff — some naming specific employees,” McClatchy reports of the California Democrat.

“Kavanaugh's wife, Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, also has faced threats, which are being investigated by the U.S. Marshals Service,” adds the Wall Street Journal. “She has received two profane notes on her work email account in recent days … Both notes … were sent from the same email address. One of the notes to Mrs. Kavanaugh, a town manager in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., reads, 'May you, your husband and your kids burn in hell.' … One person close to the confirmation process said that while Mrs. Kavanaugh is upset by the attacks on her husband, she doesn't want him to withdraw.”

-- On the pages of The Post, male and female commentators are writing in very different ways about what’s going on.

“Ford deserves to be treated with dignity, not maligned or attacked. But let’s not forget that Kavanaugh is human too,” writes columnist Marc Thiessen, a buddy of Kavanaugh’s from their days in George W. Bush's White House. “The standard of evidence to ruin a man’s reputation cannot be zero.”

“I am on record saying that Republicans should go the extra mile to examine the Ford accusation. But not an extra marathon,” adds columnist Michael Gerson, who likewise worked with Kavanaugh under Bush 43. “Of all our institutions, the FBI retains some shred of moral standing. It should be instructed by the president to conduct an investigation, in a limited amount of time, with a narrow remit: to see whether there are any other witnesses or contemporaneous evidence that would make Ford’s claim seem likely. If not, Kavanaugh should be quickly confirmed.”

-- Compare their takes to this:

“Millions of women understand Christine Blasey Ford’s decades of silence,” by Metro columnist Petula Dvorak: “My friend shared her #MeToo ordeal this week, inspired by Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation … ‘I was a preteen when I was first assaulted. Sometimes, it takes decades for victims to come forward,’ she wrote on Facebook, in response to a friend who blasted Ford for waiting over 35 years to accuse Kavanaugh of attacking her. My friend waited 40 years to speak up. … My friend — a fierce reporter — understands Ford’s decades of silence. She was determined to keep quiet even when her assailant died — and even as she was tasked with writing his obituary for the local paper, taking deep breaths and tapping his accomplishments out on the keyboard while burying his secrets with him. Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. He was a family friend. Everyone respected him. She didn’t want to destroy his life.

“And she knew she’d be blamed, as women often are when they are assaulted. Why would he do that? Why were you there in the first place? Did you lead him on? Why is that skirt so short? Button up that blouse. What in God’s name is on your face? Wipe that lipstick off right now. What did my friend’s mom say when she finally told her? ‘Me too.’ Her mother said she was 17, trapped in a D.C. hotel room with a door-to-door salesman her family trusted. We’re good at secrets. And confessions. Sometimes it just takes a cup of coffee or a bottle of wine for them to begin. This week, they’ve been triggered by a Supreme Court nomination: ‘Graduation party.’ ‘The gym supply closet.’ ‘His parent’s house.’

But it’s different now, you say? Not at all. Last month I met with a young woman who said she’d been assaulted when she was a little girl by a dad everyone in the community knows. Her family’s big Christmas parties were dreadful because he was always there, jolly-jingling in her home as one of the guests while she hid in her bedroom.”

-- “This is not an instance where only women should be upset. Men should be livid,” writes Monica Hesse, who covers gender and its impact on society. “Good men all over the country should be enraged that Kavanaugh’s defenders would suggest that there is something inherently rape-y about being a man. … I want #NotAllMen to be the battle-cry response to Carrie Severino, the Kavanaugh defender who went on CNN and dismissed the alleged incident as ‘rough horseplay.’ No, Carrie. Not all men would consider luring a 15-year-old into a room, pinning her down and trying to rip off her bathing suit ‘horseplay.’ … I would like 10,000 good men to bellow ‘Not all men!’ at the reader who sent me an email claiming that ‘every living [heterosexual] teenager pushes the boundaries a little in the height of his hormones.’ No, reader. Not all men believe that attempted rape is a normal part of growing up.”

-- How it’s playing:

  • Yale Daily News: “A photograph that appeared in the Yale Daily News on Jan. 18, 1985, shows Kavanaugh’s fraternity brothers waving a flag woven from women’s underwear as part of a procession of [Delta Kappa Epsilon] initiates marching across Yale’s campus. Kavanaugh does not appear in the photograph.”
  • The Guardian: “'No accident' Brett Kavanaugh's female law clerks 'looked like models', Yale professor told students.”
  • Eli Rosenberg: “Harvard Law students want Kavanaugh investigated before he returns to teach.”
  • Greg Jaffe: “In the ’80s, boys’ prep schools like Kavanaugh’s could be bastions of misogyny. I went to an elite high school down the road from his. Here’s what I saw.”
  • Caprice Roberts: “Kavanaugh’s Senate hearing isn’t a trial. The standard isn’t ‘reasonable doubt.’”
  • Sean Sullivan: “Mazie Hirono’s blunt style makes her a favorite of liberals looking for a fighter.”
  • DeNeen L. Brown: “The scathing ad 1,600 black women bought to oppose Clarence Thomas.”
  • Catherine Rampell: “Why should we believe Kavanaugh?”
  • Megan McArdle: “A full Kavanaugh investigation? Yes — it won’t take long.”
  • Sandra Newman: “Want to help prevent rape? Withdraw Kavanaugh’s nomination.”
  • Eugene Scott: “Trump’s willingness to believe sexual misconduct allegations usually falls along partisan lines.”
  • Eugene Robinson: “Fairness left the GOP long ago. Is decency gone, too?”
  • Rudy Mehrbani: “I directed White House nominations. Of course the FBI can check Kavanaugh again.”
  • Suzanna Danuta Walters: “Mob misogyny is nothing new. I have the death threats to prove it.”
  • AP: “Suburban women wrestle with Kavanaugh allegation.” 
  • New York Times: “Evangelical Leaders Are Frustrated at G.O.P. Caution on Kavanaugh Allegation.”
  • CNN: “Aides quietly stunned by Trump's respectful handling of Kavanaugh accuser.”
  • Politico: “Ex-aides in Hill sexual harassment scandals tell Congress: Finalize a misconduct deal.”
  • The Hill: “Teen girls pen open letter supporting Kavanaugh accuser: We imagine you at that party and 'see ourselves.’”

-- Another important perspective:Black children are 18 more times likely to be tried as adults than are white children,” Vanessa Williams reports. “It is a statistic that Phillip Atiba Goff, a social psychologist who studies racial disparities in the criminal justice system, would like to be included in the [Kavanaugh] debate … Some … have asked if it’s fair to judge him as an adult for something that he is accused of having done when he would have been 17 years old. This kind of consideration is rarely extended to black boys, said Goff. He authored a 2014 study that found that black boys ‘are seen as more culpable for their actions (i.e. less innocent) within a criminal justice context’ than white boys, and ‘are actually misperceived as older relative to peers of other races.’”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. A 26-year-old woman opened fire on employees at a Rite Aid distribution center in Maryland, killing three people and injuring at least three others at the sprawling facility before turning the gun on herself. The attacker was identified as Snochia Moseley, who had been working at the center as a temporary employee. Authorities said she was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital and are still working to determine a motive in the attack. (Rachel Chason, Justin Jouvenal and Paul Duggan)
  2. Authorities said the suspected shooter in an attack on a Wisconsin software company had worked there for almost 18 months and had no criminal history in the state. A medical examiner identified the suspect as 43-year-old Anthony Tong, who died in a shootout with the police after three people were seriously wounded in the attack. (AP)

  3. At least 44 people died after a Tanzanian passenger ferry capsized on Lake Victoria. Though 37 people were saved from the sinking ship, such ferries often carry hundreds of people, and authorities said the death toll is expected to climb today as rescuers resume their efforts. (AP)
  4. A former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was sentenced to six years in prison for fraud and accepting bribes. The former aide, Joseph Percoco, was convicted earlier this year for accepting more than $300,000 from companies hoping to gain influence with Cuomo. (AP)
  5. D.C. police arrested the man suspected of stabbing 35-year-old Logan Circle runner Wendy Martinez near her apartment earlier this week. Authorities identified the man as 23-year-old Anthony Marquell Crawford and said he was taken into custody at a park near 14th and Girard streets. “We feel very confident we have in our custody the person for this murder,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, crediting his quick arrest to bystanders who gave a “detailed description” of the suspected assailant. (Peter Hermann and Michael Brice-Saddler)
  6. A 24-year-old Dallas man died of head injuries after he fell off an electric scooter, likely becoming the first person to die while riding the new and hugely popular form of electric transportation. News of his death comes just one day after California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill to make it legal for adults to ride the devices without a helmet. (Peter Holley)
  7. Boston-area lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit against Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, claiming that the company’s negligence forced more than 8,500 residents from their homes following a series of devastating gas explosions. In total, more than 80 gas explosions were reported in towns north of Boston, triggering a series of fires and even building collapses. (Karen Weintraub and Frances Stead Sellers)
  8. The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to soar in the coming decades, according to a new CDC estimate — increasing from 1.6 percent of the U.S. population in 2014, to a projected 3.3 percent by the year 2060. (CBS News)
  9. Marijuana use has skyrocketed among older Americans in recent years, according to a massive new federal study — so much so, in fact, that adults ages 55 to 64 are now slightly more likely to smoke pot on a monthly basis than teenagers. Marijuana use has also grown 4 percent among adults 65 and older. (Christopher Ingraham)
  10. Ticket prices for Michelle Obama’s upcoming book tour are raising eyebrows. The worst arena seats are going for $29.50, but attendees can pay $3,000 for front-row seats and a “pre-show photo opportunity” with the former first lady. With many of the cheapest seats getting quickly snatched up in the pre-sale, some would-be attendees complained about getting priced out of the event. (Emily Heil)

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN:

-- Michael Cohen sat for multiple interviews with Robert Mueller’s team over the past month, which lasted for “hours” and touched on everything from alleged Russian collusion to whether Trump had ever discussed the possibility of a pardon for his longtime former attorney. ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos, Eliana Larramendia and James Hill report: “The special counsel’s questioning of [Cohen] has focused primarily on all aspects of Trump's dealings with Russia — including financial and business dealings and the investigation into alleged collusion with Russia … The interviews with Cohen took place in [D.C. and New York]. They were also attended in part by prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York. Cohen’s participation in the meetings has been voluntary — without any guarantee of leniency from prosecutors … The news of Cohen’s dealings with federal and state investigators comes close on the heels of [last week’s guilty plea from Paul Manafort] … As the Manafort deal was taking shape -- Mueller’s team had already been talking to Cohen. And given Cohen’s prolonged time spent in proximity to Trump [and his family business], some insiders consider his cooperation with authorities to be one of most serious potential legal threats to confront the president.”

“Cohen has confirmed he attended a lunch meeting with a Ukrainian politician one week after Trump took office, where the two men discussed the potential for Cohen to share a Ukraine peace proposal with his contacts at the White House.” The president's longtime fixer surfaced repeatedly in the infamous Trump-Russia dossier authored by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele.

-- Stephen Miller has managed to outmaneuver Trump’s other senior advisers to become the administration’s dominant voice on immigration issues. NBC News’s Dan De Luce and Julia Ainsley report: “Days before the Trump administration announced plans to slash the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. to its lowest level in 40 years, [Miller] made his case for fewer refugees to a room of senior officials at the White House. His sales job was made easier by the absence of top officials who disagree with his stance. They weren't there because they weren't invited, according to two people briefed on the discussions. Missing from the room last Friday were U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Mark Green, both of whom have promoted a more generous policy toward refugees … Miller's victories on the Muslim travel ban, limiting legal immigration and separating migrant families at the border show his skill in pulling bureaucratic levers, blocking opponents from key meetings, restricting the flow of information and inserting his allies in key positions, said current and former officials.”

-- House Democrats are preparing lists of Trump associates they would like to question if they retake the majority. Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn and Kyle Cheney report: “Those likely to be hauled over to Capitol Hill include close Trump associates like the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., former White House communications director Hope Hicks and the current White House social media director, Dan Scavino. Trump Jr. and Hicks have appeared before the House intelligence panel but, Democrats complain, gave incomplete answers in their testimony. Such an approach comes with political risk. Republicans already accuse Democrats of being obsessed with Russia, to the exclusion of kitchen-table issues, and they say the investigative zeal is merely a prelude to an inevitable impeachment push.”

-- “Hackers Went After a Now-Disgraced G.O.P. Fund-Raiser. Now He Is After Them,” by the New York Times’s David D. Kirkpatrick: “Documents from the office of [Cohen] revealed that [Elliott] Broidy had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model to keep her quiet about their affair, which led her to get an abortion. And emails stolen from his account showed he had used his White House access on behalf of the rulers of the United Arab Emirates while landing hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts with them for his private defense company. Mr. Broidy, though, is not going quietly. His lawyers said this week that, after more than 80 subpoenas and months of forensic analysis, they had managed to identify as many as 1,200 other individuals targeted by the same cybercriminals. The list of names the lawyers compiled, they argue, will bolster Mr. Broidy’s case that the rulers of Qatar — the tiny Persian Gulf emirate that is a nemesis of the U.A.E.— had targeted him for his advocacy against them.”

-- Under Ben Carson, the Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded promotions and pay raises to five political operatives with no housing policy experience within their first five months — demonstrating a priority for loyalty over expertise, even at the agency’s top ranks. Tracy Jan reports: “The raises … resulted in annual salaries between $98,000 and $155,000 for the five appointees, all of whom had worked on Donald Trump’s or Ben Carson’s presidential campaigns. Three of them did not list bachelor’s degrees on their résumés. The political hires were among at least 24 people without evident housing policy experience who were appointed to the best-paying political positions at HUD, an agency charged with serving the poorest Americans . . . The limited experience at the upper reaches of the agency … injected confusion into the rollout of policy initiatives and brought delays to even routine functions, according to interviews with 16 current and former career staff members.

-- Mike Pompeo declined to cut off the U.S. military’s support to a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen after learning that doing so could jeopardize $2 billion in weapons sales. His decision came despite objections from his own staff, the Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum reports: “The move has fueled rising outrage in Congress, where a bipartisan group of lawmakers is trying to cut off American military aid for Saudi Arabia and the [UAE] in their three-year-old war against Iran-backed fighters in Yemen. More than 16,700 civilians have been killed or injured in Yemen, according to the [U.N.], which says the Gulf nation is home to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The U.S. is backing the Gulf allies in Yemen, where the Trump administration is working to contain Iran’s allies and al Qaeda militants. Mr. Pompeo overruled concerns from most of the State Department specialists involved in the debate who were worried about the rising civilian death toll in Yemen. Those who objected included specialists in the region and in military affairs. He sided with his legislative affairs team after they argued that suspending support could undercut plans to sell more than 120,000 precision-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia and the [UAE], according to a classified State Department memo.”

-- Trump’s scathing and repeated attacks on Jeff Sessions have largely failed to bother people in the attorney general's home state of Alabama, and there's widespread speculation on the ground that he will run to get his old Senate seat back against Doug Jones in 2020. Politico’s Eric Velasco reports: “[While some Republicans] are indeed upset with Sessions over his recusal …. observers on both sides of Alabama’s political spectrum predict Sessions will weather this storm among his home-state voters. Rather, Sessions is widely considered a shoo-in if he runs when his old Senate seat is on the ballot in 2020. Even if Trump is impeached by 2020, state Republicans are expected to back Sessions in the primary, and therefore the general election[.] “Trump has this unwavering support, but I don’t feel they’re going to fall out with Sessions,” said Steve Flowers, a former state representative and current state political commentator. “Sessions would win the race going away, if he wanted to run for it.”

THE IMMIGRATION WARS:

-- Trump hinted again on Thursday that he might shut down the federal government next week if he doesn't get money for his border wall, but more and more congressional Republicans are breaking with the president on one of his most high-profile campaign promises.  Erica Werner, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim report: "The same Republican lawmakers who rushed through the tax bill Trump wanted, confirmed his first Supreme Court pick and are fighting to defend his second … have taken a far different approach when it comes to one of Trump's most memorable campaign promises -- deeming the wall to be impractical, unrealistic and too costly." 

"People can climb over the wall or go under the wall or through the wall. We’ve seen that in different places,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the No. 2 in GOP leadership, explaining why a system of technology, infrastructure and personnel is preferable to a physical wall.

  • Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said he told Trump that funding a 2,000-mile-long wall could jeopardize money for the military and other programs: “Some things are reachable and some things aren’t,” Shelby said he told Trump. “I’m committed to securing the borders . . . But I’m also committed to funding the government.”

“The GOP’s recalcitrance on the wall underscores the extent to which immigration and border issues continue to roil the party [since Trump took office]. The idea of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border remains hugely popular among Trump’s core supporters … [But border-state] lawmakers face concerns from landowners and businesses that could face disruption from the construction … Others represent states and districts with large Hispanic electorates that could be turned off by the idea, while others say the idea of a big wall … risks funneling precious funds away from more-essential government functions. Behind all the rationalizing lies a hardening reality: Many congressional Republicans just aren’t that into Trump’s wall.”

-- ICE has arrested dozens of immigrants who came forward to take care of undocumented children being held in government custody. CNN’s Tal Kopan reports: “The news will serve as confirmation of the worst fears of immigrants and their advocates: that a recent move by [Trump's] administration to more fully vet people who come forward to care for undocumented immigrant children who are alone in the US has been a way for the administration to track down and arrest more undocumented immigrants. On Tuesday, [senior ICE official] Matthew Albence testified … that, after [HHS] and ICE signed a memorandum of agreement to background-check and fingerprint potential ‘sponsors’ of immigrant children, ICE arrested 41 people who came forward. The individuals could have been the children's parents or family members, and they also could have merely been fellow members of the homes of adults who applied to care for the children as they fight for a legal right to stay in the US. … [An] ICE official confirmed that 70% of those arrests were for straightforward immigration violations — meaning they were arrested because ICE discovered they were here illegally.”

-- HHS Secretary Alex Azar, who was tasked with reunifying migrant families separated along the U.S. border, was not consulted on Trump's zero-tolerance policy before it was announced in early May — even though his department is responsible for housing migrant children who are on their own, Amy Goldstein reports in a profile. “In the months that have passed since the late June night the secretary was trying to help figure out who had been separated, HHS has managed to return more than 2,000 to their parents. The reunification efforts have overshadowed the other work of the department that Azar arrived to lead in January with a four-point agenda — including a promise to lower drug prices — and a role as frontman for the Trump administration’s strategy of shifting health-care policies to the right through executive actions. The migrant crisis also has put on the line his carefully cultivated reputation as an orderly, competent executive who understands how to make government work. As the crisis escalated and the secretary became its public face before Congress and on cable TV, Azar adhered to the administration’s talking points, betraying no hint he was caught unaware by zero tolerance.”

-- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director Lee Francis Cissna is the son of an immigrant and the son-in-law of a refugee. "[He's] a man who says he’s just obsessed with the fair implementation of laws,” Politico Magazine's Ted Hesson writes in a profile. “So why is he making them so much harder for immigrants?”

-- Internal emails from Google show employees discussed altering the company’s search-related functions after the travel ban was announced to help users push back against the controversial policy. The Wall Street Journal’s John D. McKinnon and Douglas MacMillan report: “The email traffic … shows that employees proposed ways to ‘leverage’ search functions and take steps to counter what they considered to be ‘islamophobic, algorithmically biased results from search terms ‘Islam’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Iran’, etc.’ and ‘prejudiced, algorithmically biased search results from search terms ‘Mexico’, ‘Hispanic’, ‘Latino’, etc.’ The email chain, while sprinkled with cautionary notes about engaging in political activity, suggests employees considered ways to harness the company’s vast influence on the internet in response to the travel ban. Google said none of the ideas discussed were implemented. … The disclosure is certain to fuel complaints by many Republicans that [Google] stifles conservative viewpoints online and promotes a liberal worldview.”

A NEW CYBER STRATEGY:

-- National security adviser John Bolton said Trump has authorized “offensive cyber operations” against foreign adversaries, as part of the administration’s new policy seeking to ease rules on the use of digital weapons ahead of the midterm elections. Ellen Nakashima reports: “'Our hands are not tied as they were in the Obama administration,' Bolton said during a news briefing to unveil a new national cyber strategy. He did not elaborate on the nature of the offensive operations, how significant they were, or what specific malign behavior they were intended to counter. Bolton’s remarks are consistent with the Trump administration’s more aggressive posture toward cyber deterrence compared with that of its predecessors. He cast the latest move as part of an effort to ‘create structures of deterrence that will demonstrate to adversaries that the cost of their engaging in operations against us is higher than they want to bear.’ In general, the president’s directive — it is called National Security Presidential Memorandum 13, or NSPM 13 — frees the military to engage — without a lengthy approval process — in actions that fall below the ‘use of force’ or a level that would cause death, destruction or significant economic impacts, said individuals familiar with the policy[.]”

-- Google said the personal Gmail accounts of an unspecified number of U.S. senators and staff have been targeted by foreign hackers, CNN’s Donie O'Sullivan and Alex Marquardt report: “On Wednesday, Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, wrote in a letter to Senate leadership that his office had learned that ‘at least one major technology company has informed a number of Senators and Senate staff members that their personal email accounts were targeted by foreign government hackers.’ Google confirmed it was the company Wyden was referring to, but would not say which senators were targeted or when the attempted intrusions were detected. The senators and their staff targeted were both Republicans and Democrats[.]”

-- A third California Democrat's congressional campaign was successfully targeted in a cyberattack earlier this year. Rolling Stone’s Andy Kroll reports: “A few hours before the biggest debate of the primary season, California Democrat Bryan Caforio’s website crashed. When he took the stage to debate his Democratic rivals, each of them vying to knock off vulnerable incumbent Republican Steve Knight in California’s 25th District, Caforio’s site was still down. … It wasn’t the first time Caforio’s campaign site had suddenly crashed.... Caforio, experts say, appears to be the victim of repeated distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attacks."

-- In an op-ed for The Post, former CIA deputy director John McLaughlin implores Trump not to declassify Carter Page’s FISA warrant, saying that doing so would amount to his “most damaging attack so far on our judicial, law enforcement and intelligence systems.” He listed several three consequences that could occur if Trump persists with his requests for the unredacted documents:

  • “First, sensitive sources, human and technical, would be exposed. The message to other intelligence services and to specific sources would be that you can’t trust the United States to protect secrets. …”
  • “Second, the nature of these warrant requests is such that revealing this one would not quell controversy. Few people understand that these are investigative tools, not prosecutorial documents. They are not designed to prove guilt or innocence. They pull together reports that suggest a concerning pattern, and the judges have to decide whether the information is sufficiently compelling . . . In other words, law enforcement is not saying it is absolutely certain — it is asking for permission to find out.”
  • “Regarding Trump’s declassification request, my hunch is that responsible leaders of agencies will play this by the book, which means that agencies contributing material to the warrant will do yet another formal classification review. It will come back with lots of [redactions]. If the president … insists on unredacted declassification, it would force some officials, sworn to protect sources and methods of intelligence and law enforcement, to consider resignation.”

THE REST OF THE AGENDA:

-- Small businesses across the country are bracing for Trump’s latest round of tariffs on Chinese goods, which they say could make it even harder to compete with major online retail giants. Abha Bhattarai reports: “Small businesses around the country say [the tariffs] could cut into already-thin profits and leave them with little recourse but to pass on additional costs to consumers beginning this holiday season. And while larger retailers such as Walmart, JC Penney and Amazon say they have already locked in low-priced inventory for the holidays, independent retailers tend to rely on third-party suppliers to import products for them, giving them little control over where their goods come from, or how much they cost. … Analysts say the tariffs — which begin Monday at 10 percent and will rise to 25 percent on Jan. 1 — are likely to trickle down to retailers and consumers in the coming weeks and months, raising the prices of everyday household goods. While nearly 6,000 types of products, including seafood, suitcases and ski gloves, will be affected, industry leaders say big-ticket items such as consumer electronics, appliances and furniture will be among the hardest hit.”

-- Paddlers who use the Potomac River have filed a federal lawsuit against the Coast Guard for shutting down a portion of the river when Trump plays golf at his Virginia golf course. Jenna Portnoy reports: “The Coast Guard instituted the shore-to-shore security perimeter last summer, angering recreational canoers and kayakers who use the river for paddling, classes and conservation. Democracy Forward, a nonprofit formed last year that focuses on executive branch actions, is representing the Canoe Cruisers Association of Greater Washington DC, which is based in Montgomery County. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for Maryland, Southern Division, says Trump has made more than three dozen visits to the golf club since the rule was put in place, and each time river access was restricted to some degree.”

-- The governor of Puerto Rico is using the first anniversary of Hurricane Maria to step up his calls for statehood. John Wagner reports: “In a letter to [Trump] this week and in television interviews Thursday, [Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló] argued that disparate federal responses to Puerto Rico and other states affected by hurricanes underscore the need to alter the U.S. territory’s status. ‘I think the case has essentially been made to the world in the aftermath of Maria,’ Rosselló said during an appearance on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe.’ ‘The truth of the matter is we’ve been treated like second-class citizens.’ Rosselló, who campaigned on the promise of promoting statehood, said he was pressing Trump and members of Congress to state their position on the issue. . . . He argued that the United States cannot claim to be a 'standard-bearer of democracy while carrying colonial territories in the 21st century.'”

-- Related: “On Hurricane Maria Anniversary, Puerto Rico Is Still in Ruins,” by the New York Times’s Frances Robles and Jugal K. Patel: “[T]he record in [the Puerto Rican town of] Punta Santiago and elsewhere shows that the federal government failed to take into account the poverty that plagued the island even before the storm. Unlike survivors of hurricanes along the Atlantic Seaboard or the Texas Gulf Coast, many Puerto Ricans were not able to take FEMA’s small assistance grants and couple them with their own resources to make their homes habitable again — they had no savings or credit to fall back on. Up to a third of all Puerto Ricans do not have bank accounts. Only 15 percent of those who applied for FEMA help had homeowner’s insurance, and 3 percent had flood insurance. The result is that hundreds of thousands of people across the island are still living in homes in desperate need of repair.”

-- The Justice Department is examining whether a paralegal in its antitrust division may have used government resources to further her political protests, in a potential violation of government ethics rules. Devlin Barrett reports: “[Allison Hrabar] was recorded during her participation in Democratic Socialists of America activities, in which she discussed her efforts to find the home addresses of a target of one of the group’s protests. The recordings were made by Project Veritas, an activist group [that uses] deceptive tactics to secretly record conversations ... Months earlier, Hrabar was part of a protest at the home of a lobbyist for a private prison company. In one of the videos, Hrabar described how the protesters found the lobbyist’s home.So we ran the license plate,’ she said. When someone asked how the group can look up license plates, she replied, ‘We cannot do it officially,’ but the video doesn’t show the rest of her answer. At another point, she said the group uses public information and research. … If Hrabar used government access to research data­bases to inform her protest activities, that would be a violation of federal law prohibiting federal employees from using government resources to engage in political advocacy.”

THE MIDTERMS:

-- Early voting for the midterms begins today. The AP’s Steve Peoples and Steve Karnowski report: “While Election Day 2018 is technically Nov. 6, Minnesota law allows in-person voting to begin Friday — a full 46 days early — making it the first battleground state to begin casting actual votes in the broader fight for control of Congress. Voters in every corner of the nation will soon follow. South Dakota also opens early voting on Friday, and four more states follow in the next six days, including key states including New Jersey and Missouri. … It may feel early, but make no mistake: The final phase of the 2018 midterm season has begun.”

-- A private survey commissioned by the RNC found that voters “overwhelmingly” believe the GOP tax overhaul helps the wealthy instead of average Americans. Bloomberg News’s Sahil Kapur and Joshua Green obtained the remarkable internal poll: “By a 2-to-1 margin — 61 percent to 30 percent — respondents said the law benefits ‘large corporations and rich Americans’ over ‘middle class families,’ according to the survey … The result was fueled by self-identified independent voters who said by a 36-point margin that large corporations and rich Americans benefit more from the tax law — a result that was even more lopsided among Democrats. Republican voters said by a 38-point margin that the middle class benefits more. When it comes to approval for the tax overhaul, American voters remain torn — 44 percent favor it and 45 percent oppose it. … The RNC study says Americans worry the tax law will lead to cuts in Social Security and Medicare, concluding that ‘most voters believe that the GOP wants to cut back on these programs in order to provide tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.’”

-- The internal RNC poll also showed Nancy Pelosi beats Trump when the midterms are framed as a contest between them. Bloomberg News’s Joshua Green reports: “The internal poll … asks registered voters who they support ‘when the November election is framed by Trump and Pelosi.’ Overall, respondents prefer Pelosi-aligned candidates over Trump-aligned candidates by 5 points, 50 percent to 45 percent. Among independents only, Pelosi still prevails by a 4-point margin. … [Republicans] may stick with the tried-and-true approach of attacking Pelosi — even though their own party’s poll shows her outperforming Trump. The alternatives are worse. The RNC survey finds that on a generic congressional ballot, voters favor the Democratic candidate by 9 points over the Republican.”

-- Republican leadership has expressed concern that Trump — through the “distractions” he generates and his assurances of a “red wave” — will have a detrimental effect on their midterm efforts. The New York Times’s Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman report: “During a discussion about his party’s legislative high points this year with a small group at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week, [Mitch McConnell] expressed a new concern about an old habit of [Trump’s]. The many ‘distractions’ generated by the president, Mr. McConnell said during the dinner, were preventing Republicans from having a coherent message for the midterm elections focused on the booming economy … [Paul Ryan], who also attended, expressed another concern — that the president’s talk with his supporters of a ‘red wave’ in November was unfounded. All agreed that he should instead be sounding the alarm about the possibility of big Democratic gains.”

-- The Congressional Leadership Fund said it is committing funds to five new House races in this year’s midterm election — and will spend nearly $3 million on behalf of three incumbents representing traditionally red districts who are facing aggressive challenges from the left. Mike DeBonis reports: “In downstate Illinois, CLF is planning to spend $1 million to reelect Rep. Rodney Davis and defeat Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan. In southwest Michigan, the group has earmarked $400,000 in ads for veteran Rep. Fred Upton against Democratic challenger Matt Longjohn, and in North Carolina, it has reserved $1.4 million to reelect Rep. George Holding over Democrat Linda Coleman in an exurban district surrounding Raleigh. In addition, CLF is spending $2.7 million to boost conservative Republicans in two open seats: $700,000 for Yvette Herrell, who has been outraised by Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in the race for the seat being vacated by GOP Rep. Stevan Pearce (N.M.), and $2 million for Danny Tarkanian, who has also trailed Democrat Susie Lee’s fundraising … Those announcements come days after the group announced that it would spend $1.5 million in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, represented by [retiring Paul Ryan].”

-- Steven M. Alembik, a GOP activist who donated more than $20,000 to Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis — and organized an opportunity for him to speak at Mar-a-Lago — recently used a racial slur to describe Obama on Twitter. Politico’s Marc Caputo reports: “The controversy comes after DeSantis sent his campaign into a tailspin the day after the Aug. 28 primary by using the awkward phrase ‘monkey this up’ in describing how the economy could falter under the plans of his opponent, Andrew Gillum, the Florida Democratic Party’s first African-American nominee for governor. DeSantis denied he had any racial intent in using the phrase. But the pattern of racial controversies, including the Alembik remarks, highlights a problem that is getting harder to overlook in this racially diverse swing state: Despite DeSantis’ denunciations of bigotry, this is the fifth race-related issue concerning the candidate, the campaign or one of its supporters to erupt since the start of the general election campaign.”

-- Wealthy donors have already spent millions trying to flip control of the Senate to Democrats. Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy report: “Senate Majority PAC, which works to elect Democrats to the Senate, posted a strong haul in August at $17.6 million, far above its monthly fundraising average of $10.5 million so far for the midterms. The super PAC has raised $94.4 million so far, compared to the $61.5 million by its GOP counterpart, according to new Federal Election Commission records posted Thursday evening. Among the biggest donors to the PAC last month was Seth Klarman, a Boston hedge fund billionaire and registered independent who was once the biggest GOP donor in New England.”

-- Texas Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Will Hurd, are hoping their good fortune in this week’s special state Senate race will extend to November. David Weigel writes: “[Republican businessman Pete Flores] won by nearly 6 points — a major reversal of fortune for Democrats, who had regularly carried the district, who beat Flores soundly here in 2016, and who won 59 percent of the vote in a July jungle primary. … Flores’s victory will pay years of dividends for Texas Republicans, who will hold a supermajority of state senate seats — one they are unlikely to lose in November. … A series of blunders hobbled the [Democrats] and were capitalized on by Republicans, who controlled the timing of the election and had plenty to gain by turning out votes in territory that largely mirrors the 23rd House district, held since 2014 by Hurd.” (If you haven’t yet, sign up for Weigel’s campaign newsletter here.)

-- Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) revised her bill to extend federal funding for Metro in the hopes of securing its quick passage, which one of her Democratic colleagues called a “last-minute, desperate” attempt to win voters in her close reelection race. From Robert McCartney: “Comstock’s revised bill would continue federal funding for Metro for 10 years at its current level of $150 million a year; the original version, proposed in December 2017, increased funding 50 percent to $225 million a year. … Despite the changes, prospects for the legislation remain uncertain. None of the Democrats who dominate the region’s congressional delegation have supported it … [Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.)] noted that Comstock filed the revised legislation on the eve of her first campaign debate against her Democratic challenger, state Sen. Jennifer T. Wexton (Loudoun).”

-- A super PAC that supported Ben Jealous in Maryland’s Democratic gubernatorial primary is spending $1 million to promote him over Gov. Larry Hogan (R). From Ovetta Wiggins: “Maryland Together We Rise, which is largely financed by unions and wealthy individual donors, is launching its effort Friday with a $175,000 advertisement attacking Hogan’s record on education. The ad, to be run on broadcast and cable stations in the Baltimore market, is one of the first attempts by Jealous’s supporters to counter a multimillion-dollar advertising blitz by Hogan and the Republican Governors Association.”

-- A new Suffolk University-Boston Globe poll found that Massachusetts voters are reluctant about the idea of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) seeking the presidency in 2020. Only 32 percent of those surveyed said Warren should launch a White House bid in 2020, while 57 percent said she should not. Meanwhile, 38 percent of voters said they would support Deval Patrick seeking the presidency, while about 48 percent said he should stay out. (Read the full results here.)

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- A recent U.N. report found a “massive” spike in oil smuggling has helped stabilize North Korea’s economy despite sanctions against the regime. Joby Warrick and Simon Denyer report: “The flurry of activity is coinciding with what intelligence officials described as a steady erosion in sanctions enforcement in the region: With tensions on the Korean Peninsula cooling — and with a U.S.-China economic cold war looming — Russia and China have shown little enthusiasm for cracking down on the profiteers who are helping supply crucial fuel for Pyongyang’s vehicles and factories, U.S. officials and independent analysts said in interviews. … To Western diplomats, the tanker convoy partly explains the faltering progress of the Trump administration’s disarmament efforts with North Korea.”

-- Negotiations over repatriating the remains of more U.S. troops killed in the Korean War have stalled due to unreasonable requests from North Korean officials. Dan Lamothe reports: “The requests included a large sum of money, eight ambulances and other items, said Kelly K. McKeague, the director of the Defense Department agency collecting the remains of U.S. prisoners of war and U.S. troops who went missing in action. … McKeague described North Korea’s most recent repatriation proposal as ‘out of sorts’ but sounded a note of optimism that a deal will be reached.”

-- China’s rapid development of the South China Sea has alarmed U.S. officials, who fear it could foretell Beijing’s next moves on the global stage. The New York Times’s Hannah Beech reports: “The country’s aggressive territorial claims and island militarization have put neighboring countries and the United States on the defensive, even as [Trump’s] administration is stepping up efforts to highlight China’s controversial island-building campaign. In congressional testimony before assuming his new post as head of the United States Indo-Pacific Command in May, Adm. Philip S. Davidson sounded a stark warning about Beijing’s power play in a sea through which roughly one-third of global maritime trade flows. ‘In short, China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States,’ Admiral Davidson said, an assessment that caused some consternation in the Pentagon.”

-- The World Anti-Doping Agency's board voted 9 to 2 to reinstate Russia’s drug-testing agency, lifting the country’s three-year suspension despite an outcry from athletes and watchdog agencies, who say Moscow has failed to atone for its sprawling, state-sponsored doping scheme. The decision paves the way for Russian athletes to again begin competing in international competitions under their own flag. (New York Times)

-- In Australia, more than 100 children are housed in offshore migrant centers on remote islands in the South Pacific. And after years of living in limbo at mercy of the country's hard-line immigration system,  many have lost the will to live -- and have begun attempting suicide. One 12-year-old Iranian girl recently tried to set herself on fire, advocates said, while another 10-year-old boy made several unsuccessful attempts to end his own life. And many young asylum seekers have grown so distraught that they’ve developed a dangerous condition known as “resignation syndrome” -- which can cause some to slip into unconsciousness and require a feeding tube. (Siobhán O’Grady)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Christine Blasey Ford has inspired a 55-year-old woman to speak publicly for the first time about an alleged assault that occurred three decades ago:

An antiabortion group sent a bus wrapped with “Women for Kavanaugh” messaging to Capitol Hill, but the project is being widely ridiculed on social media. Note there are seven men and six women with the bus in this picture:

A Judiciary Committee staffer's tweets about Kavanaugh attracted criticism:

The spokeswoman for Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) took issue with how Senate Republicans are trying to avoid having their male members question Ford:

From a former Yahoo News editor:

A Business Insider reporter highlighted one GOP senator's response to the controversy:

From a co-founder of Vox:

A group of protesters overtook a Republican senator's office:

The communications director for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Matt Whitlock, posted a photo of a woman dressed like a character in the "Handmaid's Tale" coming to their office:

Elizabeth Warren drew attention back to Puerto Rico:

A Reuters photographer captured the state of Brexit negotiations:

A Post reporter analyzed the depressing list of top Google searches related to the midterms. No. 2 on the list? "What are midterm elections?"

And Michelle Obama prepared for her book tour:

GOOD READS:

-- Time, “How Putin's Oligarchs Got Inside the Trump Team,” by Simon Shuster: “In the months before the 2016 elections, [Paul] Manafort, then Trump’s campaign chairman, had tried repeatedly to reach out to [Russian oligarch Oleg] Deripaska through intermediaries … [I]t is oligarchs like Deripaska, wielding extraordinary wealth and global connections, who may have played the most important role in the Russian influence campaign. [Vladimir] Putin himself has suggested as much. Onstage with Trump at a press conference in Helsinki on July 16, the Russian leader said he ‘can imagine’ private Russian businessmen supported Trump’s bid for the presidency. ‘And so what?’ Putin demanded. ‘They don’t represent the Russian state.’ In fact, their ties to the state are a lot closer than Putin let on. From the very beginning of his 19 years in power, the Russian President has turned his country’s wealthiest men into a loose but loyal band of operatives.”

-- “The journey of Jane Fonda: ‘I’ve always been curious. I’ve never really wanted to settle,’” by Ann Hornaday: “‘What in the world is the matter with Jane Fonda?’ That question, posed by President Richard M. Nixon in 1971, opens a new HBO documentary about the actress and activist. It’s safe to say that the answer, nearly 50 years later, is: Nothing.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Republicans In Texas Apologize For Hindu-Themed Campaign Ad,” from HuffPost: “A recent campaign ad from Fort Bend County, Texas, has members of the Asian-American community in an uproar. The county’s Republican Party apologized after its ad targeting Hindu voters in The India Herald, an area paper, sparked controversy, with many calling it offensive. The ad, placed in time for the Hindu festival Ganesh Chaturthi … depicted the god Ganesha, an elephant-headed deity. Likening the god to the Republican Party’s elephant symbol, the ad read, ‘Would you worship a donkey or an elephant? The choice is yours.’ The county has a large proportion of Asian-Americans — almost 20 percent of the population — and a relatively high number of Urdu, Gujarati and Hindi speakers. In a statement released Wednesday, Fort Bend County Republican Party Chairman Jacey Jetton said the ad was placed in ‘celebration’ of the holiday.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“A Michigan professor supported a student’s study-abroad application — until he realized Israel was her destination,” from Isaac Stanely-Becker: “[John Cheney-Lippold, a University of Michigan] professor of cultural studies, this month rescinded his offer to write on behalf of his student’s semester abroad at Tel Aviv University. The student’s request was a standard one … But when he received the form letter, Cheney-Lippold realized that he had missed a key detail. His student’s desired destination was Israel, whose academic institutions he has pledged to boycott as a way of protesting the state’s treatment of Palestinians. Cheney-Lippold is a member of the American Studies Association, whose members in 2013 voted by a ratio of more than 2 to 1 to endorse BDS. He wrote to the student on Sept. 5 to say he would not write the letter. He told her he would be happy to recommend her for other programs.” 

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will start his day in Las Vegas, where he will participate in a roundtable with supporters and sign an appropriations bill at a VA hospital. He will then travel to Springfield, Mo., where he will participate in another supporter roundtable and hold a campaign rally. Tonight he will fly to Bedminster, N.J., for the weekend.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“That doesn't bother me at all. What bothers me is that he has time to even do that. He has the most powerful job in the world. Like, you really got this much time that you can comment on me?” — LeBron James, responding to Trump’s tweet in August implying that the NBA superstar is “dumb.”

 

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

-- It will be mostly cloudy today with the possibility of a passing shower. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Clouds could dominate for much of the day, but the midday into afternoon hours should see increasing breaks in the clouds. Moderate southerly breezes may blow between 10 to 15 mph. Mugginess is at noticeable levels during the afternoon hours (dew points near 70 possible before sunset). High temperatures should be able to manage the upper 70s to low 80s, but subtract a few degrees if we somehow see rain sprinkles and completely overcast afternoon skies.”

-- The Nationals lost to the Mets 5-4. (Chelsea Janes)

-- The Democratic leader of the Virginia Senate will face a primary challenge from his left next year. Laura Vozzella reports: “Yasmine Taeb said she would swear off corporate campaign cash, push for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and oppose the death penalty as she tries to oust [Sen. Richard L. Saslaw], a veteran legislator from Fairfax who is firmly in his party’s establishment camp.”

-- A Prince George’s County resident shot and wounded two police officers after a search warrant team looking for a drug dealer targeted the wrong address. Lynh Bui and Clarence Williams report: “Police Chief Hank Stawinski apologized for the error Thursday and said he has halted executing search warrants until the department reviews how it corroborates information to confirm addresses and the location of investigative targets. … No criminal charges will be filed against the resident, who fired at police with a shotgun, said Stawinski, adding that police ‘did not draw the right conclusion’ about their target.”

-- A group of Marines from the barracks at Eighth and I Streets SE helped firefighters rescue seniors from a burning building. From Marissa J. Lang: “The call that crackled through the Marine Barracks’ radio system Wednesday wasn’t a cry for help. It was a warning. But Capt. Trey Gregory didn’t hear it that way. He followed the scream of fire engines about a third of a mile to the Arthur Capper Senior Public Housing complex, where thick black smoke and bright orange flames shot into the sky. Gregory and about 10 other Marines … charged into the burning building alongside firefighters Wednesday afternoon, emerging again and again, pushing and pulling and carrying seniors to safety.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Stephen Colbert predicted what a Senate Judiciary hearing with Ford will look like:

Seth Meyers questioned Trump's respect for "law and order":

Russian state media released a new video of Vladimir Putin posing with a Kalashnikov sniper rifle:

Supporters of former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif celebrated his early release from prison after he received a 10-year sentence for corruption:

And family and friends attended a vigil for Wendy Martinez, the jogger fatally stabbed in the D.C. neighborhood of Logan Circle earlier this week: