With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: As senators today review the findings of the FBI’s investigation into sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) looks increasingly poised to score a hat trick.
Not only are he and President Trump growing more confident that they will be able to wrangle the votes to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court — starting with a key procedural vote on Friday — handicappers also believe Republicans are more likely to maintain control of the Senate than they were a week ago because the party’s base has been so galvanized by the battle. And, even more importantly over the long-term, a Justice Kavanaugh — at just 53 years old — would help McConnell realize his long-term vision of tipping the balance of the nation’s jurisprudence to the right for a generation.
-- To be sure, while Kavanaugh is now widely expected to be confirmed Saturday, his fate is still not assured. Everyone will be watching the three undecided GOP senators — Jeff Flake, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski — after they leave the secure room where the FBI report is being held. McConnell will lock down victory if he can get just two of the three because Vice President Pence can cast a tie-breaking vote.
Flake criticized Trump for mocking Ford yesterday (“It’s kind of appalling”), but he also said that the president’s comments won’t factor into his thinking about how he’ll vote. “You can’t take it out on other people, the president’s insensitive remarks,” Flake said. Republican vote counters took that as a promising sign.
-- McConnell’s historical legacy will be remaking the judicial branch. During his three decades in the Senate, and especially while in leadership, he’s been very attuned to the power of the courts and made judges a top priority. He has described the 2016 blockade of Merrick Garland after Antonin Scalia’s death as one of his proudest achievements. By keeping many lower-court vacancies opening under Barack Obama, as well, McConnell has now been able to fill them under Trump.
The Kentuckian was even the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that wound up before the Supreme Court, arguing that it infringed his First Amendment rights. He lost in 2003, but the court – thanks to George W. Bush appointees John Roberts and Samuel Alito – overturned much of that precedent in the 2010 Citizens United decision. Kavanaugh has made statements and rulings that suggest he shares McConnell’s views on campaign finance laws and other issues close to the senator’s heart, such as opposition to what’s known as the doctrine of “Chevron deference.”
-- Evidence continues to mount that the Kavanaugh fight is galvanizing Republican base voters in red states that will decide the Senate. An NPR-PBS-Marist poll that’s been in the field this week, and was published yesterday, found a negligible difference between Democrats and Republicans in the percentage who say that this year’s congressional elections were very important. “That’s a big change from the responses to that same question in a poll from July,” Philip Bump notes on The Fix. “Then, there was a wide gap between the two parties in the percentage saying that the election was very important. Since July, the percentage of Republicans saying the election is very important has increased by 12 points. What’s more, Republicans overwhelmingly say that they are more likely to support a candidate who backed Kavanaugh’s nomination — meaning that the energized base wants to see it happen.”
-- GOP pollster Chris Wilson said he’s seeing “similar trends” in local data from six states with competitive Senate races: Montana, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, North Dakota and Missouri. “Any Dem enthusiasm gap has been erased and even surpassed by GOP due to Kavanaugh hearings,” he tweeted this morning.
McConnell’s former chief of staff Josh Holmes argued last night that “the impact has broken decisively, entirely one-sided, for [the] GOP in Senate races.”
-- Trump himself has reviewed polling in recent days that shows this fight is activating his core supporters in the ruby red states that will decide control of the Senate. The president cited such polling in a tweet posted at 10:23 p.m. last night:
Wow, such enthusiasm and energy for Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Look at the Energy, look at the Polls. Something very big is happening. He is a fine man and great intellect. The country is with him all the way!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 4, 2018
He elaborated this morning:
The harsh and unfair treatment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh is having an incredible upward impact on voters. The PEOPLE get it far better than the politicians. Most importantly, this great life cannot be ruined by mean & despicable Democrats and totally uncorroborated allegations!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 4, 2018
-- It’s no coincidence that the only two Democratic senators who have not publicly opposed Kavanaugh yet are both are up for reelection next month in red states. Sen. Joe Manchin represents West Virginia, which Trump carried by 43 points. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp represents North Dakota, which Trump carried by 36 points. If it looks like Kavanaugh is going to get confirmed any way, Manchin and/or Heitkamp could wind up joining the majority. Manchin is more likely to defect than Heitkamp, though Heitkamp is considered much more likely to lose in November.
-- While a ginned-up Republican base is key to hold the Senate because of the nature of the 2018 map, it’s important to add that the fight has also undoubtedly fired up Democrats and independent women. Because control of the House is likely to be decided by moderates in suburban districts, this increases the chances that the Kavanaugh fight helps the GOP keep the Senate yet makes them more likely to lose the House. GOP operatives on the House side push back by arguing that they also benefit from a more activated conservative grass-roots.
-- Angry protesters who have descended on Washington to agitate against Kavanaugh have played into McConnell’s hands. A senior aide to a GOP senator from a red state emailed me a video posted by liberal activists who had screamed at his boss earlier this week to pitch it for inclusion in the Daily 202. His thinking was that the hostility on display would engender sympathy from many of his constituents.
McConnell recounted the “bullying” that Republican lawmakers have faced in the past few weeks during a speech Wednesday on the Senate floor. He noted that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and his wife Heidi were “run out” of Fiola, a fancy D.C. restaurant, last week. “Another [senator] reported having protesters physically block his car door,” he said. “And some have seen organized far-left protesters camp out at their homes. I’m not suggesting we’re the victims here. But I want to make it clear to these people who are chasing my members around the hall here, or harassing them at the airports or going to their homes: We will not be intimidated by these people!” The majority leader then described Kavanaugh as “one of the most impressive, most stunningly qualified Supreme Court nominees in our nation’s history.”
-- Democrats grumbled and cited Garland’s experience to accuse McConnell of hypocrisy. “It is galling [and] appalling to hear day after day the majority leader get on his high horse about delay when he almost invented the word when it comes to judicial nominations,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in his own floor speech.
-- It’s not just the rank-and-file who are fired up about Kavanaugh. Many conservative elites, who were already excited about the nominee, have become even more excited since the emergence of the allegations. A leading legal luminary on the right told me last night that he feels more confident than ever Kavanaugh will be a reliable vote. Because of hard feelings about the way he’s been treated, this person — speaking anonymously to be more forthright — predicted that the judge will be less likely to fall prey to the so-called “Greenhouse Effect,” a term widely used among conservative elites to describe the historical tendency of Republican-appointed justices to moderate somewhat after joining the high court in an ostensible effort to garner more positive coverage from the now-retired New York Times SCOTUS beat reporter Linda Greenhouse and otherwise win plaudits from liberal elites on the cocktail party circuit.
ABOUT THAT FBI REPORT:
-- Trump spokesman Raj Shah tweeted at 2:24 a.m. that the White House had received the updated background investigation, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) tweeted at 4:07 a.m. that the Senate had received its copy.
-- “The report will be available at a sensitive compartmented information facility, or SCIF, in the Capitol Visitor Center, a secure room designed for senators to review sensitive or classified material,” Seung Min Kim, John Wagner and Josh Dawsey report. “Just one physical copy of the report will be available … The two parties will take turns having access to the FBI report in shifts … For example, Republicans will spend an hour with the report from 8 a.m. until 9 a.m. Thursday, then Democrats will have an hour with the report. It will rotate throughout the rest of the day Thursday and potentially into Friday, with senators being briefed by staff members simultaneously. … The developments came as Senate Democrats opened a new front in their objections to the investigations of Kavanaugh’s conduct, suggesting in a letter … that past FBI background checks of Kavanaugh include evidence of inappropriate behavior, without disclosing specifics.”
-- The Wall Street Journal reported overnight that, “The White House has found no corroboration of the allegations of sexual misconduct against … Kavanaugh after examining interview reports from the FBI’s latest probe into the judge’s background.”
-- The FBI probe “appears to have been highly curtailed,” sources tell Matt Zapotosky, Robert O'Harrow Jr., Tom Hamburger and Devlin Barrett: “The Washington Post has been able to confirm interviews with only six witnesses, five of whom have a connection to [Ford] or her allegation. The investigation was always unlikely to answer definitively whether Kavanaugh was guilty of sexual misconduct decades ago. But the probe’s limited scope — which was dictated by the White House, along with a Friday deadline — is likely to exacerbate the partisan tensions … Trump has insisted publicly he was not curtailing the FBI probe. But privately, the White House restricted the FBI from delving deeply into Kavanaugh’s youthful drinking and exploring whether he had lied to Congress about his alcohol use …
“Even before the probe had ended, several people who claimed to have information that could be useful said they ended up mired in bureaucracy when they tried to get in touch with the FBI. … Some of those involved in the case complained that the bureau did not follow leads that were offered to it. The FBI, for example, interviewed Deborah Ramirez, who accused Kavanaugh of exposing his penis to her at a gathering when both were college students at Yale, and Ramirez’s team provided agents with more than 20 people who might have information relevant to her claims. But as of Wednesday, Ramirez’s team had no indication that the bureau had interviewed any of them. The FBI also did not interview Christine Blasey Ford … The FBI similarly had not — at least as of Wednesday — interviewed Julie Swetnick, who said in a declaration that Kavanaugh was physically abusive toward girls in high school and was present at a house party in 1982 where she says she was the victim of a ‘gang’ rape.” Kavanaugh categorically denies the allegations of Ford, Ramirez and Swetnick.
“Richard Oh, an emergency room physician who lived in Kavanaugh’s first-year residence hall, said he contacted the FBI office in Denver to describe overhearing someone tearfully telling another student about an incident when Kavanaugh was a student at Yale. The incident, which Oh described to the New Yorker, involved a fake penis and a male student exposing himself. Oh said he was put on hold and waited so long that he eventually submitted information through the FBI website. ‘So far I haven’t heard back,’ Oh said Tuesday. Wednesday night, he said that was still the case.
“Lawyer Alan M. Abramson said he represented a friend of Ramirez’s who was hoping to share an account of a conversation the two had in the early 1990s about an incident in her freshman year. The friend, Abramson said, was among those whose names Ramirez’s lawyer had passed to the FBI. Abramson said that when the friend, whom he declined to identify, did not hear from the bureau, he called a supervisor, who referred him to a field office, which said it would pass his information on.” They never heard back.
-- The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow quote several other people who are exasperated that the FBI didn’t follow-up on their accounts. This is the most notable excerpt from their story:
“Kenneth G. Appold was a suitemate of Kavanaugh’s at the time of the alleged incident [at Yale]. He had previously spoken to The New Yorker about Ramirez on condition of anonymity, but he said that he is now willing to be identified because he believes that the F.B.I. must thoroughly investigate her allegation. Appold, who is the James Hastings Nichols Professor of Reformation History at Princeton Theological Seminary, said that he first heard about the alleged incident involving Kavanaugh and Ramirez either the night it occurred or a day or two later. Appold said that he was ‘one-hundred-per-cent certain’ that he was told that Kavanaugh was the male student who exposed himself to Ramirez. He said that he never discussed the allegation with Ramirez, whom he said he barely knew in college. But he recalled details — which, he said, an eyewitness described to him at the time — that match Ramirez’s memory of what happened. ‘I can corroborate Debbie’s account,’ he said in an interview. ‘I believe her, because it matches the same story I heard thirty-five years ago, although the two of us have never talked.’
“Appold, who won two Fulbright Fellowships, and earned his Ph.D. in religious studies from Yale in 1994, also recalled telling his graduate-school roommate about the incident in 1989 or 1990. That roommate, Michael Wetstone, who is now an architect, confirmed Appold’s account and said, ‘it stood out in our minds because it was a shocking story of transgression.’ Appold reached out to the Bureau last weekend but did not hear back. Frustrated, he submitted a statement through an F.B.I. Web portal.”
-- Bloomberg News reports that the FBI did not interview Kavanaugh or Ford because it did not “have clear authority from the White House to do so”: “Instead, the White House has indicated to the FBI that testimony from Kavanaugh and Ford … last week is sufficient.”
MORE COVERAGE FROM CAPITOL HILL:
-- “U.S. Capitol Police announced late Wednesday that a former junior Senate Democratic staffer has been arrested for allegedly posting private information about Republican senators on the Wikipedia Internet website,” Spencer S. Hsu reports: “Jackson A. Cosko, 27, of the District, faces five federal counts including making public restricted personal information, making threats in interstate communications, identity theft, witness tampering and unauthorized access of a government computer, police said. … Edits to the online encyclopedia were traced to IP addresses of computer devices assigned to the U.S. Capitol. . . . According to the Legistorm website of congressional disclosures, Cosko was employed as a low-level aide from January 2017 to May 2018 with the office of U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and earlier with former senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).”
-- Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) dismissed Trump’s suggestions that he has a drinking problem, describing the president’s remarks at a Mississippi rally as “bogus baloney.” In an interview with Mike DeBonis, Leahy said he had “no idea” where Trump had gotten the idea that he was a drinker, adding: “He attacks everybody except Vladimir Putin. Everybody knows its bogus.”
- “Three longtime congressional aides of both parties consulted about Trump’s claims, a Democrat and two Republicans, all said that while Leahy is certainly not known as a teetotaler, he is also not known to drink to excess,” Mike reports.
- “But there is a clue where Trump might have gotten fodder for his attacks: In 2010, conservative talk show host Mark Levin aired an extended bit on a speech Leahy gave on the Senate floor at 9:41 a.m. on Jan. 28, 2010, criticizing the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision. Amid sound effects of a beer pouring in a cup, Levin accused Leahy of slurring his speech: ‘I think we have a senator with beer breath. I could be wrong. I leave it to you to decide, honestly. He sounds drunk to me.’ There’s one problem with Levin’s accusation: Leahy just happens to sound like that. C-SPAN video of other Leahy speeches around that time show him speaking in a similar manner. And in a hallway interview Wednesday, he sounded much the same.”
-- “Adopting Trumpian strategy, Republicans level personal attacks against Kavanaugh accusers,” by Sean Sullivan and Gabriel Pogrund: “The strategy has drawn condemnation, and it has even raised questions about whether Republicans have violated a provision of the Violence Against Women Act by disclosing Swetnick’s purported sexual preferences. But party leaders are undaunted, concluding that a scorched-earth strategy is the most effective way to defend Kavanaugh.”
-- Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) accused Democrats of being soulless. “It’s about winning. Just win, baby, win,” Kennedy said of the opposition to Kavanaugh. “These are people — I’m not gonna name names — but I’m not sure they have a soul. I don’t think their mother breast-fed them. I think they went right to raw meat.” Kennedy was the Democratic nominee for Senate in 2004, but he became a Republican in 2007. (Amy B Wang)
ALL POLITICS IS NATIONAL NOW:
-- “Because of Kavanaugh — and a tweet — people across the country suddenly care about a PTA election in D.C.,” by Theresa Vargas: “On the day [Ford] described her alleged sexual assault … and testified about [Kavanaugh’s] ‘uproarious laughter,’ Jessica Raven was compelled to step up in a way she’d never expected. At 6:27 p.m., the D.C. mom and sexual assault survivor tweeted: ‘y’all, a woman is running unopposed for PTA president at my kid’s school & tweeting in support of kavanaugh today. some days this fight feels so massive.’ Less than two hours later, at 8:13 p.m., she posted a five-word update: ‘she is no longer unopposed.’ Raven hadn’t planned to run for president of the Parent Teacher Student Association of her 4-year-old child’s school in Northeast Washington, but her reason for doing so immediately resonated with strangers. Suddenly thousands of people from across the country, and even outside the United States, were paying attention to an election between two parents at Langley Elementary School. That it took just a mention of the Supreme Court nominee’s name to draw international attention to a hyper-local election is telling about where we are now as a country.”
-- Additional Washington Post coverage:
- Robert Costa: Don “McGahn’s last stand: The White House counsel has been working feverishly to get Kavanaugh confirmed.”
- Susan Svrluga: “‘Unfathomable’: More than 1,200 law professors sign letter opposing Kavanaugh’s confirmation.”
- Lindsey Bever: “Trump’s onstage mockery of [Ford] was ‘hurtful’ to sexual assault survivors.”
- Eugene Scott: “Trump says men don’t feel safe from false persecution. That’s not a new feeling — for black men.”
- Dan Morse and Erin Cox: “Why Maryland police aren’t investigating the Kavanaugh allegations.”
- Paul Kane: “The Senate’s two faces: A day marked by bipartisan achievements and character attacks.”
- Philip Bump: “Lindsey Graham’s head-turning defense of Trump isn’t what you think.”
- Avi Selk: “‘He chose to blow it’: A rare dissent from the couch of ‘Fox & Friends’ after Trump attacks Ford.”
- Antonia Noori Farzan: “Kavanaugh allegations raise new question: Have you ever been in a bar fight?”
- Allison Slater Tate: “As women explain #whyididn’treport, how can we make sure our daughter will open up to us?”
-- Interesting takes from elsewhere:
- AP: “Kavanaugh had the edge over his accuser in TV audience size.”
- Time Magazine: “Trump's Attack Against … Ford Mischaracterizes How Memory Works, Experts Say.”
- USA Today: “Truth about Kavanaugh accusations hard to find as both sides hurl salacious details.”
- The Atlantic: “Conservative Women Are Angry About Kavanaugh — And They Think Other Voters Are, Too. Local- and state-level leaders across the country say they’re ready to lash out against Democrats in the midterm elections.”
- Connie Chung wrote an open letter to Ford recounting her own experience of sexual assault: “I, too, was sexually assaulted — not 36 years ago but about 50 years ago. I have kept my dirty little secret to myself. Silence for five decades. The molester was our trusted family doctor. … The exact date and year are fuzzy. But details of the event are vivid — forever seared in my memory. Am I sure who did it? Oh yes, 100 percent. … I am writing to you because I know that exact dates, exact years are insignificant. We remember exactly what happened to us and who did it to us. We remember the truth forever. Bravo, Christine, for telling the truth.”
- Karen Tumulty: “We’ve seen #MeToo gains. But also how fragile they are.”
- Megan McArdle: “No matter what happens, Kavanaugh is being punished.”
- The Post Editorial Board: “Trump makes a mockery — of himself.”
- George F. Will: “Jeff Flake let down the GOP — and served the nation.”
- Stephen Stromberg: “Flake’s super-awkward presidential tour.”
- Molly Roberts: “Slut-shaming has come to Congress.”
- E.J. Dionne Jr.: “Trump’s lying, mocking, despicable verbal mugging of [Ford].”
- Cathren Page on Slate: “Kavanaugh and … Ford could both be ‘right’ … Both people may believe they are telling the truth. Too often in our society, the male narrative is what matters.”
MORE FROM THE #METOO MOVEMENT:
-- Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) suggested he may step down as deputy chair of the DNC as he faces abuse allegations from his ex-girlfriend. Felicia Sonmez reports: “In an interview with Minneapolis-based WCCO radio, Ellison said he is ‘evaluating’ whether he will step down from the position, which he has held since last year. He did not indicate whether his decision was linked to claims that he dragged his former girlfriend, Karen Monahan, off a bed and screamed obscenities at her in 2016. Ellison has denied the allegations. ‘I need to put 100 percent of my time, energy and resources into the race and into my office,’ said Ellison, who is running for Minnesota attorney general. ‘And so that’s something I am taking consideration on.’”
-- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos vowed that overhauled regulations of how schools handle sexual misconduct allegations would balance the rights of the accused and accusers. Laura Meckler reports: “A draft of those regulations bolsters the rights of the accused while reducing liability for universities. … DeVos declined to say whether she agrees with [Trump], who said Tuesday that men are often falsely accused. … ‘I’m a mom of daughters and sons,’ the secretary said. ‘The framework for students needs to be fair and just for all parties.’ DeVos declined to say whether she finds credible allegations from [Ford] that she was sexually assaulted by [Kavanaugh].”
-- According to a new Public Religion Research Institute survey, a majority of Americans say they would not consider voting for a candidate repeatedly accused of sexual harassment — but a majority of Republicans say they would. NBC News’s Carrie Dann reports on a survey conducted before Ford's testimony: “[It] finds that six in 10 Americans (60 percent) say they would not consider supporting a candidate who had been accused of sexual harassment by multiple people, while 38 percent say they would still be open to voting for such a candidate. … More than half — 56 percent — of Republicans overall, and 61 percent of Republican men, said they would still consider voting for an accused candidate, the poll found. What’s more, an overwhelming majority of Democrats — 81 percent — said that they would definitely not support a candidate accused of sexual harassment by several people, while only 34 percent of Republicans said the same.”
-- A newly published academic study finds that the trauma of sexual assault and harassment may have lasting health effects on women’s health. NPR’s Mara Gordon reports: “In the study of roughly 300 middle-aged women, an experience of sexual assault was associated with anxiety, depression, and poor sleep. A history of workplace sexual harassment was also associated with poor sleep, and with an increased risk of developing high blood pressure. … Though the sample size was small, the results are statistically significant. Women who had experienced sexual assault had on average an almost threefold increased risk of developing depressive symptoms, compared to women who hadn't. They also had a greater incidence of clinically significant anxiety.”
-- The Las Vegas Police Department reopened an investigation into whether Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo sexually assaulted a woman in 2009. From Matt Bonesteel: “In her lawsuit, Kathryn Mayorga alleges that Ronaldo sexually assaulted her in a Las Vegas hotel room and that his legal team coerced her into signing a 2010 nondisclosure agreement in an out-of-court settlement in exchange for $375,000. … [Mayorga’s attorney said she] has a learning disability that prevented her from being able to recognize the consequences of the nondisclosure agreement, rendering it voidable, and that the settlement documents ‘are evidence of a criminal conspiracy to conceal and obstruct the prosecution of that sexual assault.’”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- A federal judge temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s plans to terminate the temporary protected status designation of more than 300,000 immigrants. Meagan Flynn reports: “In a decision late Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen in San Francisco found substantial evidence that the administration lacked ‘any explanation or justification’ to end the ‘temporary protected status’ designations for immigrants from [Haiti, Sudan, Nicaragua and El Salvador]. At the same time, he said there were ‘serious questions as to whether a discriminatory purpose was a motivating factor’ in the administration’s decision, which would violate the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. He cited statements by [Trump] denigrating Mexicans, Muslims, Haitians and Africans, including his January remark about ‘people from shithole countries.’”
-- China used a tiny chip to infiltrate Amazon and Apple, Bloomberg Businessweek’s Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley report in an alarming new cover story for the magazine: “The chips had been inserted during the manufacturing process … by operatives from a unit of the People’s Liberation Army. In Supermicro, China’s spies appear to have found a perfect conduit for what U.S. officials now describe as the most significant supply chain attack known to have been carried out against American companies. One official says investigators found that it eventually affected almost 30 companies, including a major bank, government contractors, and the world’s most valuable company.”
GET SMART FAST:
- Seven law enforcement officers were shot in South Carolina, including one fatally, after they attempted to serve a search warrant on Wednesday afternoon. Authorities said the suspect, who was not identified, barricaded himself inside his home along with children and was arrested after a two-hour standoff with police. (Eli Rosenberg)
A Utah man was arrested in connection to a suspected mail attack on senior federal officials. William Clyde Allen III is accused of sending envelopes containing castor seeds — originally mistaken for the deadly poison ricin — to Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and John Richardson, the chief of U.S. Naval Operations. (Missy Ryan and Devlin Barrett)
- The government of Nepal announced it has banned online pornography, as part of an effort to crack down on a rising spate of violent acts against women in the country. The move, though, has prompted criticism and complaints that it is a “distraction” from the larger issue. (Amanda Erickson)
- More than 250 people have died in the past six years while taking selfies, according to a new study, which labeled the social media-fueled phenomenon as a “major public health problem.” (Allyson Chiu)
- Amazon announced that it is eliminating monthly bonuses and stock awards for its warehouse workers. The news comes just days after the e-commerce giant pledged to raise employee wages to $15 an hour. Amazon founder and CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos also owns The Post. (Bloomberg News)
Chinese celebrity Fan Bingbing must pay $130 million after the country’s tax authorities accused her of underreporting her earnings for years. In a long letter posted on social media, Fan expressed remorse for her crimes and thanked the Chinese government for propping up the entertainment industry. (Gerry Shih)
A letter Albert Einstein wrote in 1954, in which the physicist derided the notions of God and religion, will be auctioned for at least $1 million. In the letter, Einstein wrote that he considered God to be “nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses.” It sold for $404,000 a decade ago. (Avi Selk)
-- Top Democrats said they will seek a “firsthand” look at Trump’s tax returns if they regain control of the House or Senate in the midterms. Just one day after the New York Times reported that Trump helped his parents dodge estate and gift taxes in the 1990s, the Wall Street Journal’s Richard Rubin reports: “Rep. Richard Neal (D., Mass.), in line to lead the House Ways and Means Committee if Democrats win that chamber, said he would get the documents, which the president has declined to release voluntarily. Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) followed Mr. Neal on Wednesday, saying for the first time that he would request the tax returns if he became Finance Committee chairman in January. … Mr. Pascrell and other Democrats could use their authority to probe decades of Mr. Trump’s tax filings.”
-- If the Times report is accurate, Trump and his siblings may owe New York state more than $400 million in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties. From Crain’s New York Business’s Aaron Elstein: “Based on the figures provided in the Times article, the Trumps could be on the hook for $210 million in unpaid gift or estate taxes and a similar amount in unpaid interest and penalties, according to Fred Slater, a CPA who has advised real estate professionals for more than 40 years. … Slater added that President Trump could be liable for a larger share than his sisters and brother because as trustee he signed the tax returns for the estates. … But it is possible the state would accept less than $400 million in order to avoid a prolonged battle.”
-- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would attempt to recover any unpaid taxes Trump may owe it. “It’s clear to me that there are real ramifications right now to what has been disclosed, either potential violations of law, or in cases where the statute of limitations has ended that there may be very serious civil penalties that can be applied by both the state and the city,” de Blasio said. “The city of New York is looking to recoup any money that Donald Trump owes the people of New York City, period.” (Bloomberg News)
-- Sarah Huckabee Sanders, meanwhile, dismissed the report as an “attack” — saying that the IRS had “reviewed and signed off” on the transactions “decades ago.”
-- Trump attorney Charles Harder threatened to sue the Times over the investigation. “The . . . allegations of fraud and tax evasion are 100 percent false, and highly defamatory,” wrote Harder, a libel lawyer who represented Hulk Hogan in the 2016 case against Gawker. He added, “Should the Times state or imply that [Trump] participated in fraud, tax evasion or any other crime, it will be exposing itself to substantial liability and damages for defamation.”
-- But, but but: At the end of the day, Trump is unlikely to sue, Paul Farhi writes. “Not only would Trump be unlikely to win such a claim, according to legal experts, he would be required as part of the discovery process to provide private financial documents that he has long resisted making public. More empty threats have been leveled against — among others — The Post (for reporting on the failure of one of his casinos in Atlantic City); publisher Simon and Schuster (over Michael Wolff’s book, ‘Fire and Fury’); [Steve Bannon] (for talking to Wolff); the Associated Press …and Tony Schwartz, co-author of the Trump book ‘Art of the Deal’... As a legal matter, Trump faces a very high bar in winning a defamation lawsuit, and he appears to know it. Trump [has] repeatedly said he wants to ‘open up’ libel laws so that he could more easily win a lawsuit. (He has never won any such case in court.)”
THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Some of Trump’s House allies said an interview with former FBI general counsel James Baker had “fundamentally changed” their understanding of the DOJ Russia investigation, but they offered no specifics to elaborate. Karoun Demirjian reports: “Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), both leaders in the conservative House Freedom Caucus, called the closed-door meeting the ‘most informative’ interview they have had in the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees’ nearly year-long probe … Jordan told reporters that Baker informed them of a ‘completely new’ and ‘explosive’ source who provided information ‘directly’ to the FBI ‘during the time that the DOJ and the FBI were putting together’ an application to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. He offered no details about the source or the information the source provided to the bureau beyond saying it was ‘related to the whole Russia investigation.’”
-- Russian-linked trolls and bots have flooded Twitter in recent days with disinformation surrounding the Kavanaugh accusers. Quartz's Max de Haldevang reports: “Hamilton68, a project run by the German Marshall Fund think tank that tracks tweets ‘tied to Russia-linked influence networks,’ listed Kavanaugh, Trump, the FBI, and Ford as the top four topics mentioned by Russia-linked accounts on the evening of Oct. 1. The Russia-linked accounts are largely lending their support to Kavanaugh, says Jonathon Morgan, CEO of New Knowledge … Morgan, who is currently tracking a set of around 1,000 accounts he believes are tied to Russia, says the Kavanaugh hearings have unleashed more US domestic-focused propaganda from foreign-linked networks than his firm has seen in months.”
-- Dutch authorities accused Russia’s military intelligence agency of targeting the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons with a cyberattack. CNN’s Laura Smith-Spark reports: “Dutch security services expelled four Russian military intelligence officers from the Netherlands in connection with the plot, Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten told a news conference. Describing the Russian operation as ‘very worrying,’ Bijleveld-Schouten said the four men were expelled on April 13, the same day the plot was detected. They left belongings behind, she said, enabling the Dutch to discover that one of the agents' laptops had made connections to Brazil, Switzerland and Malaysia, trying to interfere with the investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine in 2014.”
-- In Wired Magazine, disinformation expert Molly McKew writes on how “information terrorists” are using conspiracy theories to reshape American culture: “Once information architecture is in place, it's like pipes. You just inject new material into the system, and it gets where it needs to go faster and faster as people get used to receiving narratives and themes in a certain context from certain sources. … Gamergate became Pizzagate became QAnon became entrenched modern narrative architecture ripe for exploitation. The cadre mobilized a movement of misogyny and white nationalism and intimidation—of angry boys who reveled in the chaos god of Roger Stone—and cultivated the narrative to make it acceptable to a wider lane of conservatives. This is triggering violence and identifiable forms of extremism that we can no longer ignore..."
-- In August, Russia gifted a half-dozen MiG-29 fighter jets to Serbia — received as a “treasure” by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, despite the fact that they came with a “steep price tag for repairs: $209 million, payable to [Russia],” Michael Birnbaum reports. “The gift of the jets encapsulates Russian strategy in Serbia — and much of the world. The Kremlin has built a methodical but low-cost influence campaign that is reaping rocketing returns. The thrifty approach helps explain how a country with a faltering economy, a country [Obama] once derided as a ‘regional power,’ has been able to wield outsize influence and confound its adversaries. While the West is spending far more cash … Russia’s presence is far more penetrating. Across Serbian life, the Kremlin has been expert at finding ways to attract friends and good publicity at bargain prices.”
-- Vladimir Putin again denied involvement in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, even as he ranted that the former spy is a “scumbag” and a “traitor” during comments at an energy forum in Moscow. The Guardian reports: “'Putin, a former intelligence officer … has said he cannot forgive disloyalty and ‘traitors will kick the bucket.’ Putin’s remarks seemed intentionally provocative and insensitive, though not out of character.”
-- “GOP candidates pay the price for attempts to kill Obamacare and its guarantee of coverage for preexisting conditions,” by Tracy Jan in St. Louis: “In February, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley joined a Republican lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act, and with it protections for Americans suffering from preexisting medical conditions that previously could be excluded from insurance coverage. Now, running to unseat Democrat Claire McCaskill in one of the nation’s most competitive U.S. Senate races, Hawley is airing a sympathetic ad using the affliction of his 5-year-old son, diagnosed this year with a rare bone disease. … ‘I support forcing insurance companies to cover all preexisting conditions,’ he says in the ad. Hawley is one of many Republicans in key races scrambling to square their opposition to the health care overhaul with voters’ strong support for one of its most popular provisions.
“In Missouri — a state where nearly a third of non-elderly residents have health conditions that could have resulted in insurance denial, according to Kaiser — McCaskill has taken to asking voters who attend her town halls to stand if they have a preexisting condition. … Trump, who won Missouri by more than 18 points in 2016, said in September while stumping for Hawley in Springfield that he and Hawley ‘will always protect preexisting conditions.’ The president, whose administration argued in a court brief filed in June that ACA protections for preexisting conditions should be ruled unconstitutional, did not say how. … Republican Senate candidates in Florida, North Dakota and Montana also have penned op-eds and released statements pledging to protect treatment of preexisting conditions.”
-- Related: The average annual cost of employer-provided health insurance rose to nearly $20,000 this year, according to a new study from Kaiser. The Wall Street Journal’s Anna Wilde Mathews reports: “Annual premiums rose 5% to $19,616 for an employer-provided family plan in 2018, according to the yearly poll of employers … Employers, seeking to blunt the cost of premiums, also continued to boost the deductibles that workers must pay out of their pockets before insurance kicks in. . . . The average 2018 general deductible for individual-worker coverage was $1,573, according to the survey, up from $1,505 last year and $1,135 five years ago.”
-- Control of the Senate remains up for grabs, despite a very favorable map for Republicans. From Politico’s James Arkin: “At least six Senate races — three currently held by Democrats and three held by Republicans — are too close to call, according to a dozen senators, strategists and pollsters in both parties … That means even a slight shift in the national political environment between now and Election Day could be the difference between a slim Democratic majority and firm Republican control. And another handful of races on both sides are not yet out of reach. Republicans still have the inside track to defend their 51-49 majority … But the GOP had expected to finish off more red-state Democratic senators like Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri by this point.”
-- “House Democratic candidates are raising money like never before in the run-up to Election Day — and their record-setting hauls are alarming already anxious Republicans who now worry that a difficult political environment is becoming even worse,” McClatchyDC’s Alex Roarty and Katie Glueck report: “In Kentucky, for instance, Democrat Amy McGrath announced this week that she had collected $3.65 million from July through September. Sharice Davids, running in suburban Kansas City, said she had raked in $2.7 million during the quarter. And in California, Josh Harder delivered $3.5 million. Others across the country are repeatedly posting hauls of well over one million dollars. The sums — driven by small-dollar online fundraising — are unprecedented, sometimes exceeding even what many House candidates typically raise during an entire campaign. And strategists in both parties say they see this cash surge as a major inflection point …‘When we look back, that may very well be the big enthusiasm advantage that we think may have been decisive,’ said California-based GOP strategist Rob Stutzman, who added that as of now, he expects ‘the odds are that Republicans lose 30-40 seats.'"
-- Florida-based Democratic strategist Steve Schale, who directed Barack Obama's 2008 victory in the state, explains what it will take for candidates to win there in the November elections: “I’ve argued for nearly a year that despite what the polls say, both Bill Nelson and Rick Scott have a floor of 47 or 48%. Both parties have huge and loyal bases — neither has a clear base path to 50%. A handful of voters decide every election — and within that cohort one will find very few commonalties. … The simple way to think about Florida is North Florida being Republican, South Florida being Democratic, and the state balancing along I-4 — though as this piece tries to show, it is a lot more nuanced. However, it is true that Florida tends to be like a self-correcting scale — for every Democratic trend, there seems to be an equal, and countervailing Republican trend, which keeps the state exceptionally competitive.”
THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:
-- The Senate overwhelmingly voted to approve the final version of a sweeping opioids package, sending the bill to Trump’s desk for signature. Colby Itkowitz reports: “The vote was 98 to 1, with only Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R) opposing it. The bill unites dozens of smaller proposals sponsored by hundreds of lawmakers, many of whom face tough reelection fights. It creates, expands and reauthorizes programs and policies across almost every federal agency, aiming to address different aspects of the opioid epidemic, including prevention, treatment and recovery. It is one of Congress’s most significant legislative achievements this year, a rare bipartisan response to a growing public health crisis that resulted in 72,000 drug-overdose deaths last year. … Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who sounded the alarm on opioid addiction four years ago, is credited with the slice of the bill that could have the greatest effect. It will require the U.S. Postal Service to screen packages for fentanyl shipped from overseas, mainly China.”
-- Former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt excluded the agency’s own scientists when reconsidering a rule about what kinds of studies can be used to protect public health. From Steven Mufson and Chris Mooney: “Tom Sinks, director of the [EPA's Office of the Science Advisor], said in an April 24 email that 'Even though OSA and I have not participated in the development of this document and I just this moment obtained it (have yet to read it), I am listed as the point of contact.' . . . The proposed rule, dubbed ‘Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science,’ has ranked as one of conservatives’ top priorities for years. It would allow the EPA to consider only studies for which the underlying data is publicly available and can be reproduced by other researchers. Such restrictions could alter how the agency protects Americans from toxic chemicals, air pollution, radiation and other health risks, adding to the agency’s broader deregulatory agenda.”
-- The FDA seized more than 1,000 pages of documents from e-cigarette maker Juul during a “surprise inspection” of its San Francisco-based manufacturing facilities. The move comes amid the FDA’s recent crackdown on e-cigarette use, especially among teenagers — who officials say are lured in by “kid-friendly” flavors such as chocolate cupcake, mango and tutti frutti. NPR'S Emily Sullivan reports: “‘The inspection followed the Agency's request for information that we issued to JUUL Labs in April for documents that would help us to better understand the reportedly high rates of youth use and the youth appeal of JUUL products, including documents related to marketing and product design,’ the [agency] spokesperson said.” The FDA’s seizure came on the same day as the CDC released data indicating that Juul’s sales increased sevenfold from 2016 to 2017.
-- Two Democratic senators, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, called for an investigation into FEMA’s award of multimillion-dollar contracts to companies with “little to no experience” in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. McClatchyDC’s Kevin G. Hall and Ben Wider report: “[Blumenthal and Warren] released a letter Wednesday that highlighted contracts awarded to a Puerto Rican truck-parts supplier called La Casa del Camionero, which McClatchy reported last month has been awarded more than $40 million despite having never done any work for FEMA before and lacking direct expertise in the work being contracted out by the agency... Congress and [the GAO] are expected to look closely into contracts given in advance of storms to pre-position relief and into some high-profile missteps detailed in the reporting …”
-- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) unveiled new legislation that would break up major Wall Street giants such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, in an effort to ward off future taxpayer bailouts. Jeff Stein reports: “The measure is dead on arrival with a Republican Congress and [Trump] in office. And even if the current Democratic Party were to take control of government, it would face a difficult path to passage, as many of the party’s moderates have opted for answers to the banking crisis that did less to alter the financial system. Sanders’ bill would bar financial institutions from holding assets, derivatives, and other forms of borrowing worth more than 3 percent of the entire U.S. economy, or $584 billion in today’s dollars. The legislation would force federal regulators to break up six different Wall Street firms … [which collectively] hold more than $13 trillion in assets[.] Despite its unlikelihood of passing in the near-term, the measure could become a marker for Democrats seeking support from the party’s progressive voters, much like a single-payer, universal health care system has become.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Mike Pompeo said the United States is terminating the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran, blasting it as an “absolute absurdity” and “39 years overdue” just hours after the International Court of Justice ordered the Trump administration to lift some sanctions on Tehran. John Hudson reports: “The top U.N. court, which is in The Hague, does not have the power to enforce its decisions, which are usually ignored by the United States anyway. The court told the United States that it should lift a number of sanctions that were reimposed after [Trump] announced in May that he would withdraw from the [2015 nuclear accord]. A more punishing round of sanctions against Iran’s oil and financial sectors is scheduled to take effect Nov. 4, and the United States is warning allies that they could face secondary sanctions if they continue to do business with Iran. The court ruling was a moral victory for Tehran, even though it was hoping for a more sweeping decision on the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal. It had [also] argued that U.S. sanctions … violated the 1955 Treaty of Amity.”
-- As Pompeo prepares to head to Pyongyang this weekend to lay the groundwork for a second summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un, North Korea appears to have ramped up its demands — arguing that Washington should lift sanctions before it agrees to denuclearize. Simon Denyer reports: “After a summit between the leaders of the two Koreas last month, Kim said he was prepared to permanently dismantle his country’s main nuclear site, but only if the United States took ‘corresponding steps’ to build trust. At the time, it appeared that meant a declaration to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War … But during the past few days, Pyongyang has signaled that it may want more than that to move forward. A declaration to end the war should have come half a century ago, [the KCNA] wrote in a commentary on Tuesday. ‘It can never be a bargaining chip for getting the DPRK denuclearized.’ … Experts say Pyongyang is not ready to offer a comprehensive list of its nuclear facilities, believing this would either be disbelieved or give the United States a list of future military targets. Instead, it wants to take things at its own pace.”
-- The U.S. Navy is considering a major show of force against China after the two countries nearly clashed in the South China Sea. CNN’s Barbara Starr reports: “The draft proposal from the Navy is recommending the US Pacific Fleet conduct a series of operations during a single week in November. The goal is to carry out a highly focused and concentrated set of exercises involving US warships, combat aircraft and troops to demonstrate that the US can counter potential adversaries quickly on several fronts. The plan suggests sailing ships and flying aircraft near China's territorial waters in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait in freedom of navigation operations to demonstrate the right of free passage in international waters.”
-- The vice president is expected to issue a stinging criticism of China in a speech today. The Wall Street Journal’s Michael C. Bender reports: “According to excerpts of the speech, Mr. Pence will build on [Trump’s] remarks last week at the United Nations, where the president accused China of interfering in the coming midterm elections in an effort to derail the administration’s tough trade policies and unseat him from the White House. Mr. Pence’s speech is a signal to Beijing that there is a limit to the bonhomie between Mr. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, administration officials said. The excerpts provided by the White House don’t describe new actions the administration will take against China but instead sketch an ominous portrait of a country seeking to expand its global influence.”
-- More than 754,700 immigrants became U.S. citizens over the past year, the highest number since 2013. Maria Sacchetti reports: “The latest figures followed slumping citizenship numbers during fiscal 2017, a period that includes the president’s first nine months in office, and mounting frustration from advocates who fear that the government’s ‘extreme vetting’ will prevent people from becoming citizens in time to vote in the November midterms. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) spokesman Michael Bars said the agency had to keep up with a ‘record and unprecedented’ workload of nearly 2 million applications in 2016 and 2017 and has rebounded by increasing staff, launching four new offices … and expanding 10 others. … Almost 9 in 10 citizenship applications were approved last year, similar to the rate under the Obama administration, Bars said.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) implored people to stop personally attacking Ford or Kavanaugh:
I hve long history of respecting ppl w courage to step fwd. JudiciaryCmte gave Dr Ford serious consideration she deservd as soon as I learnd abt her-Ppl can decide who to believe But I plead w all: stop personal attacks &destruction of Dr Ford &her family or Jdg Kavanaugh &family— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) October 3, 2018
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) pushed back after a crowd booed his comments on Kavanaugh:
Booed by the audience when he says Kavanaugh "was treated like crap," Sen. Lindsey Graham responds, "Yeah, well boo yourself." pic.twitter.com/Ns6dNPCSk4— Evan McMurry (@evanmcmurry) October 3, 2018
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) made a last-ditch, long-shot attempt to obtain documents on Kavanaugh:
The FBI investigation was necessary, but it’s not sufficient. The courts MUST intervene to make sure Kavanaugh’s FULL record is available for public scrutiny. And that’s why I filed a motion for a restraining order against President Trump & Mitch McConnell. pic.twitter.com/kV5T5zioXR— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) October 3, 2018
A Bloomberg News reporter analyzed two swing-vote senators' responses to the Kavanaugh controversy:
The biggest reason to expect a Kavanaugh confirmation is Collins and Murkowski have had many possible off-ramps before now & haven’t come close to taking any of them.— Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) October 4, 2018
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) thanked the Capitol Police:
The last few weeks have resulted in a noticeable increase in activity around the U.S Capitol. I recently spoke to officers who have worked multiple 16-hour days. I want to thank the men and women of the #CapitolPolice for keeping members of Congress, reporters and visitors safe.— Senator Thom Tillis (@SenThomTillis) October 3, 2018
The chief strategist on Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign slammed these attendees of Trump's Mississippi rally:
Not far from this rally is a courtroom where a man is being tried for pouring gas over his 19 year old girlfriend in jealous rage & setting her on fire. She was found in her car burning. Politics aside, men will never understand what it’s like for women moving through this world https://t.co/Ju2yKW9uh6— stuart stevens (@stuartpstevens) October 3, 2018
The new Time cover features Ford’s likeness:
This week's cover of @TIME: Using words and phrases from Christine Blasey Ford's testimony, artist John Mavroudis (@zenpopart) "recreated her likeness by drawing each letter by hand." pic.twitter.com/f9c6CNEZtR— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) October 4, 2018
A Cook Political Report editor shifted some of his midterm predictions in Democrats' favor:
House Ratings alert: 7 more GOP seats move towards Dems at @CookPolitical. Biggest changes:#FL26: Curbelo (R) - Lean R to Toss Up#KS03: Yoder (R) - Toss Up to Lean D#MI11: OPEN (R) - Toss Up to Lean D#NY24: Katko (R) - Likely R to Lean R#UT04: Love (R) - Lean R to Toss Up— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) October 3, 2018
A Post reporter noted recent news stories about the midterms:
The "Dems panic about Menendez losing" news cycle ended just in time for a "Dems panic about enthusiasm gap" news cycle.— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) October 3, 2018
You can make your own news cycle at home. Just start with "Dems panic about," then add some words.
A former U.S. attorney who was fired by Trump expressed alarm about the presidential alert text:
Serious question - what law prevents abuse of this new Presidential Alert? What law prevents POTUS from using it to attack a rival or promote himself?— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) October 3, 2018
The text also prompted many Twitter jokes:
From a Post editor:
I didn't get a presidential text. Should I be worried? Am I being excluded?— Ruth Marcus (@RuthMarcus) October 3, 2018
From a Washington Examiner reporter:
DID YOU GET MY PRESIDENTIAL ALERT pic.twitter.com/u3bP7jIf3q— kelly cohen (@politiCOHEN_) October 3, 2018
The Daily Show also edited the text:
Even Edward Snowden weighed in:
All our lives dangle at the end of a wire. Ask yourself: who controls it? How else might it be used? #PresidentialAlert— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 3, 2018
-- “Steel is surging under Trump. Will workers benefit?” from Jeff Stein: “When [Trump] imposed tariffs on steel imports in June, Richard Lattanzi thought of dozens of his fellow steelworkers who have for years put off badly needed repairs of their cars and homes. ‘There was a lot of excitement here …’ said Lattanzi, the mayor of this town of 7,000 and a safety inspector at the U.S. Steel plant in nearby West Mifflin. ‘A lot of people around here were saying, ‘We’re going to be okay.’’ Four months later, Lattanzi is less optimistic. Production at U.S. Steel’s facilities have ramped up, and the company announced this summer that, thanks in part to the tariffs, its profits will surge. But in interviews in recent weeks, Lattanzi and other steelworkers said they’re no longer confident they’ll take part in the tariff bounty. [Now], the question facing the rank and file is whether the controversial policy — which has raised the price of inputs for many American companies and alienated allies — will translate into higher wages and better benefits. … ‘It’s been a little like watching the air going out of a balloon,’ Lattanzi said.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Conservative Group Wants You to Believe Iran’s President Endorsed Beto O’Rourke,” from the Daily Beast: “A neoconservative foreign policy group appeared to try and get audio recorded claiming erroneously that Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s (D-TX) Senate campaign was endorsed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The campaign appears to have not made it into production, and maybe never will, as the site where the group posted a call for voice actors took down the solicitation on the grounds that the script was clearly false. … The script for the spot was as follows: ‘Hello, I am Hassan Rouhani . . . Today, it is my pleasure to endorse Beto O’Rourke for U.S. Senate. As a Congressman, Beto was a strong supporter of [Obama’s] Iran Deal — which gave billions of dollars to my country of Iran.’ … [Both] the anonymous source and certain elements of the request suggest strongly that it could have been made by the group Secure America Now, an organization with financial ties to some major donors in the 2016 presidential election.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“My husband, Rand Paul, and our family have suffered intimidation and threats,” from Kelley Paul for CNN: “An open letter to Senator Cory Booker: It's nine o'clock at night, and as I watch out the window, a sheriff's car slowly drives past my home. I am grateful that they have offered to do extra patrols, as someone just posted our home address, and Rand's cell number, on the internet — all part of a broader effort to intimidate and threaten Republican members of Congress and their families. … In the last 18 months, our family has experienced violence and threats of violence at a horrifying level. . . . Earlier this week, Rand was besieged in the airport by activists ‘getting up in his face,’ as you, Senator Booker, encouraged them to do a few months ago. Preventing someone from moving forward, thrusting your middle finger in their face, screaming vitriol — is this the way to express concern or enact change? Or does it only incite unstable people to violence, making them feel that assaulting a person is somehow politically justifiable?”
Trump will fly to Minneapolis to participate in a roundtable with supporters and speak at a fundraising reception. He will then travel to Rochester, Minn., where he will host a campaign rally before flying back to Washington.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Chris Christie said he “could have prevented 75 percent” of the early problems that plagued the Trump administration if he had stayed with the transition team. “Because so many of [the problems] were personnel-driven,” the former New Jersey governor said in an interview with Joe Heim. “And we had set up a really intricate vetting process. And we had an entire schedule for the transition period … It was a 30-volume transition guide that was all thrown away by Steve Bannon and Rick Dearborn. And I think the president’s administration has never recovered, and I don’t think will ever recover, from having wasted that time.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- The summer heat continues in Washington today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Some patchy early morning fog should disappear as quickly as the temperatures climb. Despite the calendar and gradually increasing clouds, highs reach the mid- to upper 80s and the 90-degree mark is not out of the question. Moderately high humidity (dew points in the upper 60s) makes it feel even a few degrees hotter. Shower chances arrive late in the afternoon but any activity should be spotty.”
-- The Capitals beat the Bruins 7-0 in their season opener. Isabelle Khurshudyan reports: “Alex Ovechkin was the last of the Washington Capitals to be introduced. He walked down the Zamboni tunnel at Capital One Arena with the Stanley Cup in his arms, and as one skate stepped onto the ice, he hoisted the trophy over his head. When he first touched it in Las Vegas four months ago, he took a victory lap in front of the fans at T-Mobile Arena. In his home rink Wednesday night, he took the Stanley Cup for one last twirl. … When it was over, Ovechkin picked up the Stanley Cup, and he set it down on the ice so the Capitals could get one last photo with it — this time with the brand new championship banner behind them.”
-- Daron Wint’s then-fiancee told jurors he splurged on her using $100 bills in the days after he allegedly killed the Savopoulos family and their housekeeper. From Keith L. Alexander: “[Devonie Hayles] testified that Wint told her the cash was from lottery winnings and the sale of his minivan. Prosecutors contend that it was from the $40,000 in ransom businessman Savvas Savopoulos had delivered to his home in May 2015 in a failed effort to save his own life and the lives of his wife, their son and the housekeeper.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
The British prime minister danced her way on to the stage at her party's annual conference:
Trevor Noah tore apart Trump's image as a self-made man:
Jimmy Kimmel imagined the presidential alert texts as a horror film:
Celebrity chef José Andrés's appearance at the Atlantic Festival was interrupted by the alert: