With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: When the bitter Supreme Court confirmation battle ends, likely with Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation on Saturday, don’t expect the political atmosphere to become less charged. And don’t delude yourself into thinking that the partisan fervor might break after the midterms next month, either. The divisiveness, the anger and the hand-to-hand political combat seem here to stay.

Republican lobbyist Bruce Mehlman warned clients in a presentation this week (entitled “The Chaos Continues”) that the lame-duck session between the November elections and the swearing-in of the new Congress in January could be especially fraught. “We may all miss October come December,” Mehlman told me yesterday. He thinks Nov. 6 is “merely the five-mile marker in the marathon,” and that “a huge hill is approaching.” Here are four questions Mehlman outlined:

1. What if the election results are not accepted? President Trump questioned the outcome of an election that he won in 2016, suggesting without evidence that he only lost the popular vote because millions of votes were cast illegally by undocumented immigrants. White House allies are already pointing their fingers at Chinese hackers, social media algorithms and liberal billionaires to justify why toss-up races might not break their way. If Democrats lose, the left might try to blame Russian interference or question the legitimacy of the results, as well.

2. What if Trump shuts down the government in December to try securing full funding for the border wall he wants? He’s already threatened to do so. The deal that he agreed to at the behest of GOP leaders kicked the fight past the election — but only until Dec. 7. If Democrats fare well in the elections, they’ll feel little incentive to cooperate.

3. What if the civil wars in both parties get worse? No matter who wins control of the House, there are going to be leadership fights on both sides. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is the favored contender to succeed retiring Paul Ryan, but he could face a tough race against Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) seems eager to regain the speaker’s gavel if Democrats win the House, but someone will emerge as a credible challenger. Last week she was able to postpone an internal Democratic caucus fight over the rules that will govern that election. But many of the party’s leading challengers in competitive House races have promised they won’t support Pelosi.

4. What will special counsel Bob Mueller do after the elections? Will he issue more indictments of people close to the president? Will he issue a report to Congress? Does Trump fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to try getting more control over the Russia probe? There could be a lot of turnover, including the departure of White House counsel Don McGahn.

-- The fear about what might happen in the midterms has been a key factor in keeping Senate Republicans unified behind Kavanaugh. They don’t want to risk losing control and then having Democrats keep the seat open. But they also want to clear the deck because there’s so much else on their agenda.

-- Whatever happens in the Senate, either party will have a very slim majority. If Republicans maintain control of the upper chamber, as they’re still favored to do, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will likely face amped up pressure from Trump and his core contingent of supporters who are newly engaged with politics to “go nuclear” and eliminate the filibuster rule that requires 60 votes to pass legislation.

-- If Democrats win either the House or Senate, they’ll issue reams of subpoenas, launch investigations of the Trump administration and hold oversight hearings.

-- It will all be happening against the backdrop of 2020. The Democratic nominating fight will kick off in earnest the day after the midterms. Many Democratic senators want to run, and they’ll be looking to score points against Trump to boost their chances. Several of the 2020 contenders plan to speak against Kavanaugh tonight on the Senate floor.

THE WHIP COUNT:

-- Kavanaugh continues moving closer to confirmation. The cloture vote is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. “Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) — two decisive Republican votes — indicated Thursday that the additional FBI probe was adequate, although they both cautioned they would continue to read the closely held report,” Seung Min Kim and John Wagner report. “Flake also told reporters that ‘we’ve seen no additional corroborating information’ to bolster the allegation from Christine Blasey Ford, who in emotional testimony last week said that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.” (Kavanaugh categorically denies wrongdoing.)

-- The third undecided Republican, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, said Thursday afternoon that she did not yet know whether the FBI had been thorough enough in its investigation or spoken to enough witnesses. She’s continuing to face intense pressure from Native Americans in her state.

--Potentially complicating attendance matters for Republicans is that Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) announced Thursday he plans to be at his daughter’s wedding back home on Saturday,” per Seung Min and John. “But Daines’s vote will not be needed Saturday unless one Republican defects and Democrats stay unified against Kavanaugh. In that case, a Saturday evening session could be held open for hours into Sunday so Daines, who supports Kavanaugh, could return to Washington after the wedding and cast his vote.”

-- Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) announced she will oppose Kavanaugh. “When I listened to Dr. Ford testify, I heard the voices of women I have known throughout my life who have similar stories of sexual assault and abuse,” she said in a statement. “Countless North Dakotans and others close to me have since reached out and told me their stories of being raped or sexually assaulted — and expressed the same anguish and fear. I’m in awe of their courage, too.”

-- That means there’s only one Democrat left who might vote for Kavanaugh: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. He said last night that he was reviewing the FBI report.

During a Wednesday morning meeting of Senate Democrats, multiple senators expressed frustration over how Republicans have successfully energized their base in the Kavanaugh battle,” Sean Sullivan, Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim report. “Republican officials have long believed that if they can get 50 of the 51 GOP senators needed to clinch Kavanaugh’s confirmation, they have a chance of winning Manchin’s support and putting a bipartisan label on the vote.”

THE BATTLE FOR HEARTS AND MINDS:

-- In an op-ed for today’s Wall Street Journal, Kavanaugh addresses concerns that have been raised about his temperament and partisanship by acknowledging that he got “very emotional” during his testimony last week. “I was very emotional last Thursday, more so than I have ever been. I might have been too emotional at times,” he wrote. “I know that my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said.” But Kavanaugh, who said opposition to him is part of a left-wing conspiracy to exact “revenge” because of his efforts to impeach Bill Clinton and because Democrats don’t accept the legitimacy of Trump’s 2016 victory, remained mostly defiant. “My statement and answers also reflected my deep distress at the unfairness of how this allegation has been handled,” he wrote.

-- Retired Justice John Paul Stevens announced that he no longer believes Kavanaugh should be confirmed, citing concerns about his testimony last week. The 98-year-old, during a Q&A in Boca Raton, Fla., noted that he praised a Kavanaugh ruling on campaign finance in a 2014 book. “At that time, I thought he had the qualifications for the Supreme Court should he be selected,” Stevens said, according to the Palm Beach Post. “I’ve changed my views for reasons that have no relationship to his intellectual ability. … I feel his performance in the hearings ultimately changed my mind.”

 “Kavanaugh and his allies have touted the recognition the judge received from Stevens regarding a decision on whether foreigners may contribute to U.S. political campaigns,” Robert Barnes reports. “Kavanaugh, who has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 2006, said in a speech that he was touched to have received a note from Stevens praising the decision.”

-- During a rally in Minnesota last night, Trump mocked former senator Al Franken for resigning from Congress so quickly after he was accused of sexual harassment and groping women. “Boy, did he fold up like a wet rag, huh? Man. Man. He was gone so fast,” the president said to cheers. “Trump seemed to criticize Franken for not fighting back against the charges — as Trump has done when facing charges of sexual harassment or groping from women,” Josh Dawsey and Felicia Sonmez report. “The president gave his usual stump speech, saying without evidence that Minnesotans would lose their guns and see their 401(k) and bank accounts diminish if Democrats won the election. … The rally was Trump’s third of four this week. He heads to Kansas on Saturday.”

--Democrats and representatives for those who claimed to have been victimized by [Kavanaugh] angrily denounced the FBI’s background check … asserting that the bureau, shackled by the White House, did not pursue obvious leads that could have helped corroborate the allegations the Supreme Court nominee faced,” Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky report. “The FBI interviewed nine people in its week-long look at Kavanaugh, and the White House and Republicans seized on its findings to declare that the claims of sexual misconduct remained uncorroborated. …

  • Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said that nine of the report’s 46 pages came from a three-hour interview with Mark Judge, a former classmate of Kavanaugh’s whom Ford claims was present at the time of the alleged assault in the early 1980s. Judge has denied her claim.
  • Lawyers for two of Kavanaugh’s accusers said the FBI did not interview dozens of people whose information they provided and who would have supported their clients’ accounts.
  • Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who has been repeatedly investigated by the FBI, called the bureau’s work on the Kavanaugh matter ‘a bulls--- investigation. The reality is that is not a full and thorough investigation. … You don’t get corroboration if you don’t talk to corroborating witnesses.”

AMERICA DIVIDED:

-- Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told a group of mostly women protesters who confronted him that he would talk to them when they “grow up.” (Eli Rosenberg)

-- Capitol Police said they arrested 293 people for unlawfully demonstrating in the Hart Senate Office Building, including actress Amy Schumer. Nine others were arrested for protesting at the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Marissa J. Lang reports on the activism: “Several women and one man from Alaska, Arizona, Maine and the District stood before the towering pillars of the U.S. Supreme Court earlier in the day to ask their senators for one thing: faith. ‘Believe us,’ they said. ‘Believe survivors.’ Their voices shook, breathing quickened. Some reached out to hold onto someone next to them as they told a crowd of thousands: ‘I am a survivor.’ The crowd called back, ‘We believe you.’

Sarah Evans, 31, an Alaska Native woman from Dillingham, said she and 135 of her fellow Alaskans were scheduled to meet with Murkowski late Thursday afternoon. Many of them intended to share stories of how they were sexually assaulted. ‘The state of Alaska has the highest sexual assault rate in the country. I‘m a survivor myself. I don’t know any Alaska Native women who aren’t,’ Evans said. ‘It’s been hard watching what’s been going on (in Washington), so we wanted to come and make sure our stories were heard.’”

-- Authorities arrested a Florida man for threatening on Facebook to shoot senators who don’t support Kavanaugh. James Royal Patrick Jr., 53, was charged yesterday with making written threats to kill or injure. “Besides threatening Democrats and ‘weak Republicans’ who might oppose Kavanaugh, Patrick also encouraged conservatives to break into liberals’ homes and kill them in their sleep,” the AP reports. Deputies say they found a rifle and handgun during a search of Patrick’s Winter Haven home. Investigators say Patrick admitted to making the Facebook posts but denied plans to carry out the threats.”

--A former congressional Democratic staffer will contest federal and D.C. charges that he posted private information about Republican senators on the website Wikipedia and threatened a witness who caught him on a computer in another lawmaker’s office, his attorney said after a court appearance Thursday,” per Spencer S. Hsu. “Jackson A. Cosko, 27, of the District, faces one misdemeanor and six felony counts carrying maximum penalties of up to 20 years in prison for allegedly posting the personal information of five senators during and after the Sept. 27 hearing … Cosko was ordered held Thursday at his first court appearance … pending a detention hearing. Cosko was arrested Wednesday by U.S. Capitol Police, who said he was caught sneaking into the offices of Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) after 10 p.m. Tuesday and using an aide’s computer and log-in, according to court filings and people familiar with the case.”

GET TO KNOW THE NOMINEE:

-- If you read one article in full today, make it this --> “The rise and the reckoning: Inside Brett Kavanaugh’s circles of influence,” by Marc Fisher, Ann E. Marimow and Michael Kranish: “The story of [Trump’s] embattled choice for the Supreme Court is a classic Washington tale of a young man who grew up surrounded by people in high places, keenly aware of protecting his image. He told a friend in college that he didn’t plan to buy stocks as an adult because he had to avoid conflicts if he wanted to follow in his mother’s footsteps as a judge. Kavanaugh’s story is also one of the power and insularity of wealth. He grew up in an idyll of country clubs and beach retreats, private schools and public prominence. The only child of a lobbyist and a judge, he had parents who pushed him hard, teachers who assured him that he faced no limits, and friends whose families knew the art of making problems go away quietly.

That Kavanaugh would achieve greatness seemed certain. Some of his classmates called him ‘The Genius.’ They liked him because he was smart and fun. Women found him thoughtful and empathetic. Men said he was a guy’s guy — a walking encyclopedia of sports, a good pal, always up for a beer. But again and again as he rose to the pinnacle of official Washington, Kavanaugh has given those charged with examining his life and character reason to pause and dig deeper. … This story about Kavanaugh’s rise — and how his upbringing amid Washington’s political and social elite has helped protect him from his missteps — is based on dozens of interviews with friends, classmates, co-workers and mentors, including some who think he has been grievously wronged in the confirmation process and others who think he is unfit to serve.”

-- Additional WaPo team coverage:

  • Ben Terris: “Why is Lindsey Graham acting like this?”
  • Ian Shapira: “Celebrating kegs and insulting girls: Inside Mark Judge’s 1980s Georgetown Prep underground paper.”
  • Eli Rosenberg and Alex Horton: “Mark Judge’s out-of-print memoir was fetching big money. Now you can get ‘Wasted’ free.”
  • Julie Zauzmer: “The National Council of Churches makes a rare statement to oppose Kavanaugh.”
  • Eli Rosenberg: “GOP official shares fake photo from meme mocking Ford as too unattractive to sexually assault.”
  • Amber Phillips: “Why is Heidi Heitkamp voting against Kavanaugh?”
  • Deanna Paul: “If Kavanaugh is confirmed, impeachment could follow. Here’s how.”
  • Eugene Scott: “Republicans are calling themselves Atticus Finch. But it’s hard to square Kavanaugh with Tom Robinson.”
  • Philip Bump: “The Kavanaugh nomination fight is the third-longest in nearly 50 years.”
  • Samantha Schmidt: “Beyond ‘no means no’: What most parents aren’t teaching their sons about sexual consent.”
  • Robin Givhan: “Wanted: Fashion designers who truly respect women. Now more than ever.”
  • Tony Romm: “That Facebook group you joined years ago? It might now be supporting Brett Kavanaugh.”
  • Michael Cavna: “How Time magazine’s striking Christine Blasey Ford cover came to be.”
  • Nick Anderson: “New bronze of Antonin Scalia unveiled at law school in Virginia bearing his name.”

-- Commentary and opinion from The Post:

  • Charles Ludington, Lynne Brookes and Elizabeth Swisher: “We were Brett Kavanaugh’s drinking buddies. We don’t think he should be confirmed.”
  • The Post Editorial Board: “Vote ‘no’ on Kavanaugh.”
  • Petula Dvorak: “Yes, we’re scared, Donald Trump Jr. We don’t want our boys to become entitled jerks like you.”
  • Anne Vetter: “I reported my rapist today so he can’t become a Supreme Court justice later.”
  • Former federal prosecutor Robert S. Litt: “Senators have to decide between Kavanaugh and Ford. Juries make those hard choices every day.”
  • Margaret Sullivan: “Dishing up lies while proclaiming the love of facts, Trump and Sarah Sanders gaslight America.”
  • Fareed Zakaria: “The Supreme Court tumbles into political dysfunction.”
  • Greg Sargent: “Here’s a list of people the FBI did NOT interview. Okay with this, Flake and Collins?”
  • Eugene Robinson: “Democrats, get mad about Kavanaugh. Then get even.”
  • Elizabeth Bruenig: “Kavanaugh is one more step in America’s cycle of self-destruction.”
  • Helaine Olen: “Our sexist double standards on anger.”
  • Mark A. Perry: “I’ve known Brett Kavanaugh for his entire professional life. It would be an honor to address him as ‘Justice.’”
  • Marc A. Thiessen: “Ford’s case against Kavanaugh continues to erode.”
  • Michael Gerson: “The last undecided Republican senator: ‘God, I need a stiff drink.’”
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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, and Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi who was held captive by the Islamic State, won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work to end using sexual violence as a weapon of war. Chico Harlan and Max Bearak report: “Mukwege has treated thousands of victims of gang rape from his hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Murad has become an outspoken activist about sexual slavery and human trafficking. … ‘We want to send out a message of awareness that women, who constitute half of the population in most communities, actually are used as a weapon of war — and that they need protection,’ said Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Closing arguments ended in the case of Jason Van Dyke, a white Chicago police officer who fatally shot black teenager Laquan McDonald in 2014. Many residents in the Windy City fear an acquittal could trigger widespread protests. (Mark Guarino)
  2. The DEA’s high-profile Colombia office has been rattled by multiple misconduct allegations. One agent has been accused of passing secrets to drug cartels, while another allegedly used government resources to hire prostitutes. (AP)

  3. Elon Musk taunted the SEC just days after reaching a settlement in his fraud case with the agency. “Just want to [say] that the Shortseller Enrichment Commission is doing incredible work. And the name change is so on point!” he tweeted. (Drew Harwell and Renae Merle)

  4. The University of Michigan raised $5 billion in its fundraising campaign. A growing number of public universities are turning to donations as a means of making up for lost government funding. (Wall Street Journal)
  5. The MacArthur Foundation announced the recipients of its “genius grant,” the $625,000, no-strings-attached award that's doled out each year to 25 people. It’s one of the nation’s most elite and highly competitive fellowships, whose previous winners have spanned nearly every profession in the book. But the most mysterious twist of all: None of the recipients had a clue they were nominated in the first place. (Caitlin Gibson)
  6. A convicted murderer recently released from prison was arrested for allegedly raping the woman who was providing him shelter after he fled from Hurricane Florence. Freeman Scott Ireland spent 20 years in prison for a second-degree murder conviction and has been on supervised release since May. (NBC News)

  7. Twelve children and seven adults were hospitalized this week after they suffered chlorine poisoning at a California swimming pool. All are expected to make a full recovery. (USA Today)
  8. Residents in Gilbert, Minn., are being warned to steer clear of the local bird population — which in recent weeks have been flying into windows and cars, and exhibiting other strange behaviors. The reason? Officials say they've been consuming fermented berries, which have apparently made them drunk. (Antonia Noori Farzan)
  9. Tony Award winners Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow will play Hillary and Bill Clinton in a new Broadway play. “Hillary and Clinton” will take place during the 2008 Democratic primaries, as Hillary Clinton and her chief strategist debate whether to bring in the former president to assist her White House bid. (Hollywood Reporter)

DRAMA AT THE PENTAGON:

-- Trump is considering ousting Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson after the midterm elections, over her alleged pushback on his directive to create a Space Force branch within the U.S. military. Foreign Policy’s Lara Seligman reports: “Wilson, a former Republican congresswoman from New Mexico, recently angered Trump as well as Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, [James Mattis’s] second in command, with what is seen as a campaign to undermine the Space Force effort, the sources said . . . . Trump is weighing firing Wilson after the midterm elections next month, but no final decision has been made . . . However, the source with knowledge of the situation said the administration is already exploring options to replace her. One name that has been floated is Rep. Mike Rogers, an Alabama Republican, who has been a strong advocate of establishing a separate military entity to oversee space for years.

-- Related: Lockheed Martin unveiled plans for a new lunar lander that would allow astronauts to remain on the moon for up to 14 days at a time. NASA hopes to begin construction of the platform in 2022. (Fox News)

-- Blackwater founder Erik Prince traveled to Kabul in September to push his plan to privatize the Afghan war — even after his effort was rejected by the Pentagon more than a year ago. The trip has given fresh credence to speculation in both Kabul and D.C. that Prince may have secured the ear — or even the private backing — of President Trump. Karen DeYoung, Shane Harris and Dan Lamothe report: “Prince swept through the capital, meeting with influential political figures within and outside the [President Ashraf Ghani’s administration]. ‘He’s winning Afghans over with the assumption that he’s close to Trump,’ said one well-informed Afghan … But Prince also sparked what Ghani, in a statement Thursday, condemned as ‘a debate’ within the country over ‘adding new foreign and unaccountable elements to our fight.’ What has given new life to the plan is a widespread belief in Kabul and Washington that Prince has a willing audience in [Trump], who is known to be frustrated with the cost and slow progress of the strategy he adopted a year ago. … Administration officials … said there was no firm indication that Trump, while clearly impatient about a war he once vowed to quickly win, is prepared to jump ship. But several noted they would not be surprised to wake up one morning to a presidential tweet saying the opposite.

  • “'We are constantly assessing our strategies, and are open to new approaches that would help us achieve our strategic objectives,’ a spokesperson for the National Security Council said Thursday in response to questions about whether Prince’s proposal was under consideration.
  • “At the Pentagon, the head of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, told reporters that ‘I absolutely do not agree’ with Prince’s contention that he could win the war more quickly and for less money with a few thousand hired guns.”

-- Meanwhile, a U.S. service member was killed during an operation in Afghanistan, the seventh member of the U.S. military to die in combat during 2018. Pentagon officials declined to immediately release details about the incident. (Dan Lamothe)

-- And a new White House report concludes that the U.S. military’s supply chain has been eroded to the point of posing a potential national security risk. Aaron Gregg and Christian Davenport report: “The report states that ‘all facets of the manufacturing and defense industrial base are currently under threat’ and that there are entire ‘industries near domestic extinction,’ forcing the Pentagon to look overseas for help. Top procurement officials said the findings underscored the need to think more critically about its supply chain and the U.S. military’s relationship with defense contractors.”

TRUMP, INC.:

-- As Trump’s political star ascended unexpectedly in 2016, business at his hotels in Manhattan and Chicago began to plummet, according to internal documents. David A. Fahrenthold, Jonathan O'Connell and Morgan Krakow report: “The decreases have stirred tensions in the buildings and left many investors [worried] that the Trump brand may be curdling in the liberal cities where Trump built much of his empire. In New York, documents show that the ownership board at Trump’s hotel considered the stunning idea of removing the Trump name from the hotel the president still calls his ‘flagship.’ … One board member, who spoke in favor of keeping the [name], was later nominated by Trump to a celebrity-studded presidential council on fitness. For the small-time investors — who bought individual hotel rooms, under an unusual arrangement that allowed Trump to offload financial risks onto others — the downturn has brought a bitter sense that they’re suffering for the political rise of a figure who is now loathed in their communities. 

  • “Between 2015 and 2017, revenue from room rentals at the New York hotel declined 14 percent … At Trump’s hotel in Chicago, a document [showed] a similar drop-off. Bookings fell 8 percent from 2015 to 2016, and this year’s figures are still lower than the pace in 2016.”
  • “[And] since Inauguration Day 2017, the owners of Trump hotels in Toronto, Panama and New York’s SoHo neighborhood all cut ties with the Trump brand, and changed their hotels’ names.”

-- Trump’s Turnberry golf course in Scotland lost $4.5 million in 2017, according to newly filed Trump Organization documents — marking its fourth consecutive year in the red. Fahrenthold reports: “They showed that, in the three years after Trump bought the iconic Scottish golf club, Turnberry was a sinkhole for cash. In all, Trump has spent at least $212 million on the property — $67 million to buy it and an additional $144 million to renovate it and sustain its ongoing losses. … When Trump bought it in 2014, Trump hoped the competition would return, and allow him to host one of golf’s premier events. So far, it hasn’t.”

-- New York City officials said they have joined state regulators in scrutinizing whether Trump’s family engaged in dubious — and potentially illegal — tax schemes while expanding their sprawling real estate empire. The New York Times’s Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and David Barstow report: “'We are now just starting to pore through the information,’ said Dean Fuleihan, the city’s first deputy mayor. One type of tax that the city will examine is the real estate transfer tax. Officials said the extremely low valuations the Trump family placed on buildings that passed from [Fred Trump] to his children through trusts could have resulted in underpaid transfer taxes. Mr. Fuleihan said the city would also explore whether another tax avoidance maneuver by Mr. Trump and his siblings resulted in Fred Trump’s empire underpaying property taxes . . . The inquiries will explore whether civil penalties and bills for back taxes are warranted. City officials said interest and penalties of up to 25 percent could be added to any unpaid taxes.”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Mike Pence sharply criticized China during a speech at the Hudson Institute, asserting that Beijing is working to undermine Trump and is influencing U.S. elections because it “wants a different American president.” David Nakamura and Anne Gearan report: “[Pence] accused China of using trade, diplomatic overtures and military expansion to spread its influence around the world and work against U.S. interests. He called on American business leaders, academics and journalists to counter Beijing’s global campaign and vowed that Trump ‘will not back down’ in the face of China’s challenge. ‘[Trump’s] leadership is working; China wants a different American president,’ Pence said. ‘China is meddling in America’s democracy.’ . . . Top White House aides have said the administration is developing new policies to mark a turn in the bilateral relationship away from cooperation in many areas and toward outright competition.”

  • “Pence cast Beijing’s efforts as a highly coordinated, ‘whole-of-government approach’ to promote its interests around the world, including in the United States. On the issue of election interference, Pence cited an advertising supplement purchased by Chinese state media in the Des Moines Register as an one example. … He [also] said that China is not being forthcoming about the real aims of its military expansion … and that it was cheating and effectively extorting U.S. firms while persecuting and subjugating Chinese people.”
  • Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai replied in an NPR interview that the Trump administration has “not shown good faith” in trade negotiations with Beijing: “The U.S. position keeps changing all the time, so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities,” he said. “And number two, I think there’s been some attempt on the U.S. side to force something like the U.S. will get 100 percent, and China will get zero. I don’t think this is fair.”

-- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has been one of the biggest proponents of Trump’s tariffs on China, even as he has conceded they will raise costs for U.S. consumers and business owners. “But behind the scenes, Mr. Graham has been working to help chemical and textile companies in his home state avoid the pain of Mr. Trump’s trade war,” the New York Times’s Jim Tankersley reports. “The senator has advocated on behalf of seven South Carolina companies that import products from China … urging the Trump administration to remove materials they rely on from a list of goods subject to Mr. Trump’s tariffs. Mr. Trump’s tariffs, Mr. Graham told the administration, could ‘economically harm consumers and stifle economic growth in South Carolina.’ The senator has written seven letters to the United States trade representative on behalf of companies seeking tariff relief — more than any other member of Congress has penned. [And four] received at least some of the relief they were seeking. … The product lines that Mr. Graham specified — and were removed from the tariff list before it was finalized last month — account for more than $430 million of imports from China annually[.] That’s about 6 percent of the total value of products removed from the final list.”

-- A far-right candidate who says he “loves” Trump has emerged as the front-runner in Brazil’s presidential election, which will be held Sunday. Anthony Faiola and Marina Lopes report: “Like Trump, [Jair Bolsonaro] embraces social media to reach legions of loyal followers. His rallies have become outlets for white men rattled by social and economic change. He has vowed to drain the swamp in the capital and make Brazil ‘great.’ … Bolsonaro, 63, has advanced with a Brazil-first campaign that attacks the traditional press while grabbing headlines with tough talk and his own set of alternative facts. His popularity, some say, reflects the globalization of the anti-globalists and the rise of Western candidates who seek to exploit racial and social fault lines.

-- Turkish officials met with Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to discuss the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Erin Cunningham and Kareem Fahim report: “Ambassador Walid bin Abdul Karim El Khereiji was called to the [Turkish Foreign Ministry] Wednesday for questions about Khashoggi’s location, the private broadcaster NTV reported … According to NTV, Khereiji was told that ‘the matter should be clarified as soon as possible.’” Khashoggi has not been heard from since Tuesday, when he entered the Saudi Consulate to obtain documents for his upcoming wedding.

-- The print edition of today's Washington Post includes a blank column from Khashoggi, who contributes to our Global Opinions section, to draw attention to his disappearance.

THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:

-- Congressional Republicans tentatively agreed to raise federal employees' pay by 1.9 percent  — bucking the intentions of Trump, who had sought to freeze salaries. Erica Werner and Lisa Rein report: “The preliminary deal between House and Senate Republicans is also likely to lift a salary freeze affecting hundreds of executive-level employees and appointees including [Mike Pence] and members of the Trump Cabinet . . . Democrats oppose that element of the deal, and the package could change when lawmakers return to Capitol Hill following the midterm elections and complete negotiations. Republicans who had been pushing to give civilian federal workers a raise hailed the outcome. GOP lawmakers including Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) had pushed Trump to reverse his initial decision in August to deny the raise. Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.), who chairs the spending subcommittee . . . credited Comstock for pushing for the result. Comstock is in a tough campaign to hang on to her Northern Virginia House seat, and the salaries of the tens of thousands of federal employees in her district had become an important issue in her race. Comstock said in an interview she lobbied [Pence] for a raise for the civilian workforce, and he was receptive. But the White House, citing budget constraints, never reversed its opposition.”

-- Nancy Pelosi said Democrats would take up regulation of Silicon Valley if they retake the House. Kara Swisher writes for the New York Times: “[Pelosi] even suggested that a new agency could be created to manage tech’s growing impact. ‘Something needs to be done,’ she [said], to ‘protect the privacy of the American people’ and ‘come up with overarching values’ — a set of principles that everyone can agree on and adhere to. Call it a Bill of Rights for the internet. Six months ago, Ms. Pelosi charged Ro Khanna — the Democratic representative whose California district is home to Apple, Intel and Yahoo — with the creation of that list. … [Khanna] came up with a list of 10 principles that cover topics such as privacy, net neutrality and discrimination.”

-- Food banks across the country fear they may not be able to process the increased food supplies provided as part of the Trump administration’s farm bailout. Jeff Stein reports: “The Agriculture Department usually distributes 700 million pounds of food through state officials to the nation’s largest food bank network, but that number is expected to more than double this year under the administration’s program. Local food bank officials said they are thrilled by the opportunity to feed more Americans who need help, but worry they will not be able to process all of the newly available agricultural products that could double or triple the amount of food they typically handle. They are racing to ramp up their capacity — from trucking capabilities to refrigeration — in time for the program, hoping not to miss on a rare opportunity to get fresh fruit and protein products to poor residents who lack them.”

-- One month into this year’s NFL season, the debate over national anthem protests appears to have largely faded  from conversation — garnering little of the outrage or public controversy that dominated the 2017 season. Liz Clarke and Mark Maske report: “While a handful of players have continued to demonstrate, the protests have gone largely unremarked — by the league, team owners, broadcasters, fans and, most notably, President Trump. . . . The reasons for this season’s relative calm are varied and not entirely clear. But the best explanation is a shift of focus by many of the players who have concluded that working for change in their communities is a more effective tool for addressing systemic social and racial ills than kneeling during the anthem.”

THE MIDTERMS:

-- Republican groups are dumping millions of dollars into Tennessee’s Senate race out of fear that former Democratic governor Phil Bredesen could pull off an upset. Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Sean Sullivan report: “GOP strategists have been frustrated that [Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R)] has not established a comfortable lead in the race to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R). GOP groups are deploying their full arsenal. Americans for Prosperity, the political arm of the conservative Koch network, on Wednesday announced a $2 million television ad campaign attacking Bredesen, on top of the $2.5 million it already spent on the race. The Senate Leadership Fund, the main Senate GOP super PAC, which spent $2.5 million on ads in the state so far, said it plans to spend roughly $3 million through the fall.

“And Blackburn’s backers are banking that although some voters are souring on the president, vocal support from Trump will boost turnout among the GOP base. … The difficulty for Republicans stems in part from the unique politics of Tennessee, and the fact that Bredesen, who left office in 2011 but has remained a household name, kindles a nostalgia for less-divisive times. He is a pro-business politician more in the mold of Corker, a moderate Republican who has sparred with Trump, than is Blackburn, who is deeply conservative and one of the president’s most loyal backers.”

-- Education is becoming an increasingly important midterm issue that could determine control of a couple state legislatures. From Valerie Strauss: “Hundreds of teachers and retired educators — an unprecedented number — are running for political office on the local, state and federal levels. There are hundreds of teachers — most of them Democrats — running for state legislative seats alone. The Associated Press quoted Mara Sloan, spokeswoman for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, as saying that in at least two states, Maine and Minnesota, teacher candidates could help flip control of state legislatures to the Democrats.”

-- In Florida, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis is trying to shake up his campaign after a string of polls showed him trailing Democrat Andrew Gillum. The New York Times’s Stephanie Saul, Patricia Mazzei and Jonathan Martin report: “A range of Republican officials, from the White House to the Florida state house, believe Mr. DeSantis has squandered valuable time, partly because his own self-inflicted errors were overshadowing Mr. Gillum’s vulnerabilities, which include an F.B.I. investigation of government corruption in Tallahassee, an inquiry in which Mr. Gillum has said he is not a target. Now with the election just over a month away, the DeSantis forces appear to be rebooting his campaign. Last week they announced the appointment of a new campaign manager … And after leaving Florida briefly this week to raise money in Dallas and Houston, he is back on the trail, working to define Mr. Gillum — who supports single-payer health care and abolishing [ICE] — as too extreme for a state that sits squarely in the middle of the political spectrum.”

-- Trump wanted to rally with DeSantis and congressional candidate Michael Waltz, who hopes to replace DeSantis in the House, but Waltz said no. Politico’s Marc Caputo reports: “[Waltz] declined amid concerns about the risks of publicly stumping with Trump, and instead wanted the president to headline a private fundraiser in his central Florida-based district. Both prospective events fell through in the end. The episode provides a revealing glimpse into the midterm election homestretch, where many Republican House incumbents and candidates are scrambling to lock down their elections — and to keep some distance from their party’s polarizing president.”

-- In Georgia, early voting by mail has surged in the weeks ahead of the November midterm elections — with almost twice as many absentee ballots mailed to election officials so far, compared to the same point in 2014. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports: “Election officials received 17,436 absentee ballots through Tuesday, according to numbers from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. Four years ago, 8,819 ballots had been recorded at this point in the election cycle.”

-- In Virginia, Pence — not Trump — tweeted an endorsement of GOP Rep. Dave Brat. Lauren Vozella reports: “Pence’s endorsement, announced on [Twitter] signaled Trump’s support without the president weighing in directly. Conveying Trump’s backing by way of Pence, who was considered a steady establishment figure … might animate the president’s fans in rural regions of the district without inflaming Trump critics in suburban areas.”

-- The FEC issued new guidance on which donors’ names political nonprofit groups must publicly disclose. The agency said the groups must provide the names of any donors who contribute more than $200 toward ads or other initiatives aimed at the election or defeat of a candidate. (Michelle Ye Hee Lee)

-- “A Former Obama Operative Built a New Anti-Republican Attack Machine,” by Bloomberg Businessweek’s Joshua Green: “Some Resisters march or knock on doors; others raise money or run for office. [Former J.P. Morgan banker John Burton] felt his gifts lay elsewhere: namely, in tearing down political opponents. Over the past year, backed by mysterious donors, he’s organized what may be the most audacious grass-roots project in the age of Trump. Burton has amassed an army of 16,000 amateur sleuths who, with professional guidance, have spent months ferreting out damaging material on scores of vulnerable Republicans in Congress and state legislatures. Now he’s ready to unleash it just in time for the midterms.”

-- Vulnerable Kansas GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder will skip Trump’s rally in the state on Saturday. He blamed a scheduling conflict, but the president is unpopular in his suburban district. (Kansas City Star)

-- “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek apologized for his performance as moderator of Pennsylvania’s only gubernatorial debate. Trebek said that he “failed to recognize the seriousness of the event for the voters” and that he was “naïve” and “misunderstood” his role. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

-- A third-party gubernatorial candidate in Rhode Island was arrested after she was allegedly found carrying 48 pounds of marijuana. The candidate, Anne Armstrong, has staked much of her platform on efforts to legalize the drug. (WPRI)

THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- The Justice Department indicted seven Russian GRU military spies on charges of cyber hacking — which officials said stemmed from the country’s doping scandal and attempted retaliation against the World Doping Agency. Ellen Nakashima, Michael Birnbaum and William Booth report: “Four of the [GRU officers] also were charged with targeting organizations probing Russia’s alleged use of chemical weapons, including the poisoning of [an ex-spy in Salisbury]. Three were indicted in July for allegedly conspiring to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. The indictment further exposes Moscow’s ongoing, widespread campaign to discredit Western democracy and international institutions …  ’We at the Department of Justice are not satsified with merely exposing the conduct,’ said Scott Brady, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, where a grand jury indicted the Russians. ‘We seek to arrest those who broke the law. We want to bring them to Pittsburgh. We want them to stand trial. And we want to put them in jail.’ All seven officers are believed to be in Russia[.]”

  • “The announcement came as the British government on Thursday accused the GRU of ‘reckless and indiscriminate cyberattacks,’ blaming it for everything from the hacking of top athletes’ medical records to disruptions on the Kiev subway system to the theft of emails at the [DNC]. A spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova, dismissed Britain’s allegations as a delusional and ‘diabolical perfume blend.’"

-- In a Post op-ed, former U.S. ambassador to Estonia James D. Melville Jr. explains why he resigned from his post in July: “The refusal of the [U.S.] to give up on Estonia’s independence through the entire Soviet occupation is the cornerstone of Estonians’ deep appreciation for America. But it is the values of our nation and the leadership and role we have played … give them the confidence to stand up to the genuine threats emanating from their eastern neighbor. Russia and its corrupt, authoritarian government are a threat to the rules-based order and the fundamental values and interests of the United States and its allies. Trump’s habit of denigrating our allies and their leaders while lauding Putin … placed me in an untenable position in Tallinn whenever I was asked, as chief of mission, to explain our intentions[.] I had no choice but to resign. I have no sympathy or understanding for those who remain in government service while claiming to be ignoring or otherwise violating their instructions.”

-- A Russian official with ties to Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who attended the Trump Tower meeting, has died under potentially suspicious circumstances. The Daily Beast’s Nico Hines reports: “Russian Deputy Attorney General Saak Albertovich Karapetyan was exposed in a Swiss court this year for a plot to enlist another nation’s law-enforcement official as a double-agent for the Kremlin. Media reports in Russia say he died Wednesday night when his helicopter crashed into a forest during an unauthorized flight in the Kostroma region, northeast of Moscow. … [Karapetyan] worked closely with Veselnitskaya as well as running some of Moscow’s most high-profile efforts to thwart international investigations into Russia’s alleged crimes.”

-- A new report finds that fake news is still thriving on social media platforms. The report from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation said more than 80 percent of the Twitter accounts that frequently shared false news reports during the 2016 election remain active weeks before the midterms. (Craig Timberg)

-- Bob Mueller has obtained audio of radio interviews between Trump ally Roger Stone and comedian Randy Credico, who Stone has claimed was his back channel to Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange during the 2016 election. CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and Nathan McDermott report: “The interviews between Stone and comedian Randy Credico took place between August 2016 and April 2017 on Credico's radio show, which aired on local New York station WBAI. … In the interviews, you hear Credico ask Stone about the back channel and also cast doubt that the back channel exists. While the interviews do not rule out the possibility Credico served as the back channel, the former radio host [said] he believes the content of the interviews back up his denials.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Capitol Police erected barricades at the Capitol before the Kavanaugh vote:

Democrats lambasted the FBI's investigation of Kavanaugh. From Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.):

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) dismissed the investigation as a “sham”:

The communications director for Kaine's reelection bid tweeted this photo:

Meanwhile, the Senate majority leader defended Kavanaugh:

One of Trump's lawyers pointed to the FBI investigation as evidence of Kavanaugh's innocence:

But many noticed the typo (He meant Ford, not Fox):

An NBC News reporter predicted Democrats would later subpoena Kavanaugh-related documents:

The NRCC's communications director replied:

A Wired contributor made this argument:

A writer for The Fix challenged multiple assertions from Trump and Senate Republicans surrounding Kavanaugh's confirmation process:

From a former FBI special agent:

CNN used a chyron to contradict the White House:

Democrats applauded Heitkamp's opposition to Kavanaugh as an act of political courage. From a former Obama speechwriter and Crooked Media founder:

A former chief of staff to Mitch McConnell saw her vote differently:

But a Post reporter suggested Heitkamp's struggles may be unrelated to Kavanaugh:

As a North Dakota debate was canceled, C-SPAN's communications director provided a throwback to another debate:

A Guardian reporter expressed skepticism that the Kavanaugh controversy would be a dominant issue for the midterms:

A biographer of Sandra Day O'Connor compared the former Supreme Court justice's decision in Bush v. Gore to the choice facing Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski:

Actress Amber Heard, who has accused her ex-husband Johnny Depp of physical abuse, visited Capitol Hill:

The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee rang alarm bells about the possibility of Democrats trying to obtain Trump's tax returns:

Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith (D), who is on the ballot next month, had a message for Trump as he held a rally in her state:

A CNN reporter analyzed a New York Times graphic:

A D.C. law student credited Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) with saving her from getting hit by a car:

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) oddly tweeted a photo of himself:

But he then followed up:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- A new analysis of traffic stops made by Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies found that, since 2012, officers on the 5 Freeway have pulled over thousands of innocent Latinos in hopes of scoring their next major drug bust. The LA Times’s Joel Rubin and Ben Poston report: “More than two-thirds of the drivers pulled over by the Domestic Highway Enforcement Team were Latino, according to a Times analysis[.] And sheriff’s deputies searched the vehicles of more than 3,500 drivers who turned out to have no drugs or other illegal items . . . The overwhelming majority of those were Latino.” Among their other findings:

  • “Latino drivers accounted for 69% of the deputies’ stops. Officers from the California Highway Patrol … pulled over nearly 378,000 motorists during the same period; 40% of them were Latino.
  • “Two-thirds of Latinos who were pulled over … had their vehicles searched, [while all other cars] were searched less than half the time.
  • “Though Latinos were much more likely to be searched, deputies found drugs or other illegal items in their vehicles at a rate that was not significantly higher than that of black or white drivers.”

-- New York Times, “50 Years Later, Troubles Still Cast ‘Huge Shadow’ Over Northern Ireland,” by Alan Cowell: “[T]he Northern Irish issue that preoccupied six British prime ministers from Harold Wilson to Tony Blair has interposed itself anew into the halting negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, expected to happen in just six months. At the time of the [1998] Good Friday pact, Britain and Ireland were both members of the European Union, meaning that they could largely dismantle the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland in line with the bloc’s commitment to the free passage of goods, services and people among member nations. But a chaotic British withdrawal could scuttle that arrangement.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Two People Were Being Harassed For Speaking Spanish In A Grocery Store. Then This Woman Stepped In,” from BuzzFeed News: “A woman who allegedly harassed two people for speaking Spanish in a Colorado grocery store was confronted by another woman before being arrested in an incident captured on video. The footage … shows Kamira Trent shouting down Linda Dwire in an aisle of a [a local grocery store]. ‘I'm calling the cops. You leave these women alone! Get out!’ Trent tells Dwire in front of two women from Mexico … who had been speaking Spanish to each other. According to interviews … the conflict began when Dwire overheard [the women] speaking in Spanish to each other, and interrupted to ask if the women lived in the US and whether they liked it. The two replied that they did, and Dwire told them to learn English, raising her voice as the confrontation went on. [One woman from Mexico], who has been in the US for eight years and was accompanied at the market by her two daughters and son, [said] Dwire was aggressive and kept putting her hand in her face.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Mayor de Blasio hands out nearly $1.6 million in raises to City Hall staffers,” from the New York Daily News: “Mayor de Blasio doled out about $1.6 million in raises to favored City Hall staffers in the last fiscal year — including a 60% pay bump for a long-serving aide Wiley Norvell ... The Daily News analyzed the salaries of 473 staffers who worked for the Mayor’s Office in both fiscal 2017 and 2018, and found that 106 of them were given raises totaling more than a million and a half dollars. Among them, 17 saw their salary increase by 30% or more — in some cases getting raises big enough to pay the entire salary of other staffers. At the top of that list was longtime adviser Wiley Norvell, who received a whopping $67,450 raise — bringing his salary from $112,550 to $180,000. That’s a 60% increase in a single fiscal year. Norvell is among the mayor’s most loyal and longest serving staffers — having worked for de Blasio back in the public advocate’s office before he was elected mayor. ... He has a reputation as being a true-believer whose main job is making the mayor look good.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will participate in a Defense Industrial Base Report presentation and later sign the FAA reauthorization bill.

Melania Trump will give her first sit-down interview since becoming first lady to ABC News’s Tom Llamas. “Being Melania — The First Lady” is slated to air on the network next Friday at 10 p.m. in a special edition of "20/20.” 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“She may lose. But in the morning, when she's brushing her teeth, she needs to like the person she sees.” — Heidi Heitkamp's brother, Joel, explains on MSNBC why the North Dakota senator is voting against Kavanaugh.

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

-- Humidity will somewhat subside today, but mugginess returns to D.C. this weekend. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Wow, a nice way to end the week. Pleasant near 70 to mid-70s are capped with refreshingly dry dew points in the low-to-mid 50s. Skies should stay at least partly sunny much of the time, but clouds may thicken here and there. Northeast breezes near 15 mph in the morning should slowly fade with time.”

-- The Capitals lost to the Penguins 7-6 in overtime. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)

-- A panel of federal judges floated the idea of Maryland creating an independent, nonpartisan commission to draw electoral maps. Ann E. Marimow and Erin Cox report: “A three-judge panel pressed the attorney general’s office and Republican voters challenging the electoral map about the possibility of settling their long-running case as it arrived back in court for the first time since the Supreme Court declined to immediately review the matter of redrawn maps. The high court in June avoided answering the question of when extreme partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional in the Maryland case involving a Democratic-drawn map — and in another from Wisconsin involving a Republican-led effort.” Such commissions already exist in California and Arizona, and Michigan voters will decide whether to adopt the model with a ballot initiative next month.

-- Some D.C. residents criticized the city council’s repeal of Initiative 77, which voters decidedly approved in June, as undemocratic. Fenit Nirappil reports: “The move seemed hypocritical to some because local lawmakers howl when Congress uses its power to overturn laws and spending decisions made by the D.C. Council. In Northwest Washington, Lisa B. Cohen of Takoma has been watching the repeal effort in horror. ‘They are acting just like our congressional masters,’ said Cohen, a 58-year-old congressional staffer[.] … ‘It completely undermines our efforts for enfranchisement.’”

-- A man was charged with first-degree rape after he was accused of dragging a woman walking home from the Rockville Metro station around midnight into a wooded area. The woman, who fought the attacker and was able to run free, was hospitalized with kidney pain and injuries to her throat and face. The suspect, Dustin Thomas Rogers, left his iPhone at the crime scene. (Dan Morse)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Seth Meyers mocked the extent of the FBI's investigation into Kavanaugh:

Trevor Noah reflected on the power of Trump's ability to "wield victimhood":

Republican Senate candidates have launched ads against red-state Democrats opposing Kavanaugh's nomination:

Meanwhile, the liberal group Demand Justice is running an ad in Maine, Alaska and Arizona featuring some of Kavanaugh's former classmates contradicting his Senate testimony:

Melania Trump fed baby elephants in Kenya during her Africa trip:

Utah's Ogden Valley is already enjoying beautiful fall foliage:

And a toddler landed in hot water after he shredded an envelope containing more than $1,000 his parents had saved: