With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA:

MILWAUKEE — If you made a list five years ago of Democratic surrogates who candidates in purple states like Wisconsin would want to campaign with, Kathleen Sebelius’s name would not appear. The botched rollout of Obamacare made her politically toxic, and she took the fall as the Obama administration’s scapegoat for the early problems with Healthcare.gov.

But fortunes change in politics. A law that cost scores of Democratic lawmakers their seats over four election cycles is now widely seen as an asset. And the former secretary of health and human services was welcomed to the campaign trail on Monday with open arms by Tony Evers, the Democrat challenging Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) in one of the hardest fought contests of 2018.

Sebelius reminded a group of Democratic volunteers at a field office of what Sarah Palin used to say about her. “I was going to run the death panels — choosing who got to live or die. That was me,” she quipped. “There were lots of accusations. … Yada, Yada, Yada. None of which turned out to be true.”

The former governor of Kansas said she’s campaigning for multiple Democratic gubernatorial candidates this fall, including Laura Kelly in her home state and Richard Cordray in Ohio. She added that she’s also done “some remote advising” for Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan and called Stacey Abrams in Georgia a good friend. “My eye is on governors,” said Sebelius.

Her ability to go to states like these puts in stark relief how much Democrats have become emboldened to play offense on Obamacare. “It is nice to know that health care is now probably the top issue in the 2018 election, and people finally understand that it’s a right that people have access to health care in this country,” said Sebelius. “It does make me a little bit unhappy to watch people who have tried for eight years to do anything they could to kill the law now claim to be big supporters.”

Feeling vindicated, the 70-year-old was clearly pleased to be on the stump defending her own legacy and relished going on the attack against Walker for, as she put it, “playing politics with people’s lives.”

“When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, we knew there would be a problem between the time the law was signed and the time that the full benefits started to roll, which was January 2014,” said Sebelius. “So there were almost four years, and those four years were pretty deadly [politically] because all kinds of assertions were made. What we have right now are … about 22 million Americans who have health coverage [and] who now say, ‘Wait a minute! You’re not going to take my insurance away. You’re talking about me, or my child, or my aunt or my brother. Everybody now has a very personal connection to the benefits that are finally in place.

Sebelius’s focus during her stops in Milwaukee and Madison was the pending lawsuit by states, including Wisconsin, that challenges the constitutionality of Obamacare. Democrats say that, if the litigation succeeds, the entire law — including the popular requirement that insurance companies must cover people with preexisting conditions — would get struck down. The airwaves are full of attack ads accusing Walker of wanting to take away coverage from people with preexisting conditions.

-- In an interview Monday afternoon after a campaign stop at a manufacturing plant on the outskirts of town, Walker blasted Sebelius and promised he will make sure people with preexisting conditions are still protected if the law got struck down. He noted that she was among the Obama administration officials who promised people would be able to keep their doctors if they liked them. “It’s only fitting that they would bring her in to lie about our record here,” said Walker. “My wife is a Type 1 diabetic. My mother is a survivor of breast cancer. My brother has a heart condition. Like a lot of families in Wisconsin, it’s personal to me.”

The governor said Obamacare is still “a huge mess,” and that you can keep some of the good parts but still get rid of most of the law. Walker mostly focuses his stump speech on highlighting the low unemployment rate, which he calls “the Wisconsin comeback.” He warns that Democrats would raise taxes if they regain power and restore the union power he rolled back in a way that would make the state less economically competitive. “They want you to be distracted by that [preexisting conditions] debate,” Walker said during his event in Milwaukee. They want to talk about that because they want you to ignore the failure of Obamacare. Particularly if you’re a small-business owner or a family farmer or anyone buying your health insurance on the individual market, Obamacare has failed you.” 

-- Walker spent Monday crisscrossing Wisconsin with another former HHS secretary, Tommy Thompson, who is better remembered locally for his 14 years as governor. In a brief interview, Thompson said it was always inevitable that public attitudes about the law would “moderate” over time. “It always does,” said Thompson, 76. “There were some good things in Obamacare. There were some bad things. The problem was it was just a partisan bill. I’m not blaming either party. … If you look back in history, when you have big moments in society, it’s always best done in a bipartisan way: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, workers comp.” Thompson predicted that political pressure might mount next year for a bipartisan bill to improve the existing law. “Hopefully now, after this election, both political parties can come together and come up with a better health-care bill.”

-- The airwaves here are full of commercials hammering Walker on this specific issue. The latest went up Monday from A Stronger Wisconsin, an outside group funded by the Democratic Governors Association:

-- Walker’s impulse has been to not let these hits go unanswered. He responded yesterday by recording a straight-to-camera video on his campaign bus and posting it to Twitter, in which he promises to “always” cover preexisting conditions. His running mate, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, talks about her own battle with cancer in another response ad. A Republican state representative, Mary Felzkowski, says in a separate ad that she’s been diagnosed with breast cancer twice and accuses Democrats of playing politics with health care.

-- Some of the Democratic rhetoric has grown quite hyperbolic. “The governor wants to get rid of your health care. That’s what this all comes down to,” said Mandela Barnes, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, as he introduced Sebelius. “We know we’ve been right on this issue for a very long time. Gov. Walker hasn’t seen the light. He’s seen poll numbers.”

-- A Marquette University Law School poll released last week underscored why Democrats have zeroed in on preexisting conditions. The survey found the governor’s race neck-and-neck, with Walker at 47 percent and Evers at 46 percent. Fifty percent said they would like to see the Affordable Care Act remain in place, while 44 percent would like it repealed. But 78 percent said the ACA’s requirement that preexisting conditions should be covered by insurance companies is “very important” to them. Another 15 percent said it’s “somewhat” important. Only 5 percent said it’s not important. Even two-thirds of the people who still want to repeal Obamacare say forcing insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions is “very important” to them.

But there’s also widespread agreement that the status quo is not good. Only 4 percent of respondents said the ACA should be kept as it is, while 55 percent favor making improvements to the law. Another 25 percent endorse the idea of “repeal and replace,” but only 10 percent want to repeal Obamacare without a replacement. On a separate question, half of those polled said they would favor a “Medicare-for-all,” single-payer government plan, while 41 percent oppose such an approach.

-- An NBC-Marist survey, also published last week, put Evers ahead of Walker by 10 points among likely voters, 53 percent to 43 percent. In that poll, 27 percent of voters picked health care as the issue that will determine their vote — edging out the 26 percent who named jobs and the economy.

Walker promised that, if the lawsuit he greenlighted succeeds, he will immediately call a special session and prod the state legislature to come up with a solution. “For us, still we believe we're better off making those decisions at the state level,” he explained in the interview. “That's what the lawsuit allows us to do if we're successful. Every credible observer knows any action by the courts or the Congress isn't going to happen until next year. So we'd have plenty of time not only on preexisting conditions but anything else to set up the kind of plan we want to have in Wisconsin. This is just a huge excuse for them to make a false claim. … I could be the inventor of covering preexisting conditions, and they would still claim I wasn't.”

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GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington released a list with the names of 31 priests who have been “credibly accused” of abuse since 1948, saying the move is necessary for “full transparency” amid the church’s larger reckoning with abuse and coverups in the Catholic community. (Michelle Boorstein and Julie Zauzmer)
  2. The New York Police Department plans to charge nine members of the right-wing group Proud Boys and three anti-fascist protesters in connection to the brawl that occurred near the Metropolitan Republican Club. The department announced the group would be charged with various counts of rioting, assault and attempted assault. (Daily Beast)

  3. HHS Secretary Alex Azar has proposed that pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. be required to list the price of their drugs in television ads — the latest in a string of efforts by the Trump administration to curb rampant drug spending. (Amy Goldstein and Carolyn Y. Johnson)
  4. Militants in Syria indicated tepid support for a demilitarized zone surrounding the country’s final opposition stronghold in the Idlib province — even as they appeared to defy a deal brokered last month between Russia and Turkey, which ordered them to withdraw by Monday from the 13-mile buffer zone. (Louisa Loveluck and Ghalia Al Alwani)
  5. Police in Florida released surveillance video that shows a Lakeland city commissioner fatally shooting an alleged shoplifter at the Vets Army Navy Surplus store. Investigators are reviewing the footage to determine whether the commissioner, Michael Dunn, should face charges in the man’s death. Two attorneys who reviewed the tape said it appears to contradict the defense that Dunn “feared for his life” when he opened fire. (Tampa Bay Times)
  6. An internal investigation from Harvard Medical School found fraudulent data in at least 31 scientific publications from a high-profile heart researcher, Piero Anversa, and his colleagues. The team — which received millions of dollars in federal grants — was credited with discovering a population of cells in the heart that suggested it has the ability to regenerate. (Carolyn Y. Johnson)
  7. An alarming new report finds insect populations in decline across the globe. The study draws on years of previous research — including a 2014 study that found a 45 percent decrease among invertebrates since 1979. Last year, researchers measured a 76 percent decrease in flying insects in German nature preserves over the past few decades. (Ben Guarino)
  8. One of China’s most popular online stars was jailed for five days after she posted a video singing the national anthem badly. Officials confirmed the detention of 21-year-old Yang Kaili this weekend, saying her portrayal of the country’s song was “disrespectful.” (Gerry Shih)
  9. The U.S. Embassy in Australia apologized after it mistakenly sent a mass email of a cat wearing Cookie Monster pajamas and eating a plate of cookies. The email was titled “meeting” and was sent to an undisclosed — but presumably large — number of recipients outside the embassy. (BBC)
  10. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen died at 65. The cause was complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. (Harrison Smith)

WHERE'S JAMAL?

-- “Turkish investigators were permitted to search Saudi Arabia’s consulate on Monday, 13 days after journalist Jamal Khashoggi vanished while visiting the mission, as President Trump dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the case with King Salman, the Saudi ruler,” Kareem Fahim, John Wagner and Souad Mekhennet report. “But hours before the Turkish forensic team arrived, journalists photographed a cleaning crew entering the consulate, hauling buckets, mops and what appeared to be bottles of cleaning solution. When the Turkish investigators entered the consulate, some wearing white protective gear, they ‘smelled chemicals had been used,’ according to two officials in contact with the investigators.

U.S. officials began predicting over the weekend that the Saudis would inevitably admit complicity in the death of Khashoggi and claim a ‘botched operation,’ said one person familiar with the discussions. Over the past few days, Saudi officials have discussed issuing a statement that, in part, would mention a botched operation and call for the punishment of culpable officials, according to another person with knowledge of the discussions.

Speaking to reporters, Trump said Monday that he had talked for about 20 minutes with the king and that Salman had firmly denied the kingdom’s involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance. ‘I don’t want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers,’ Trump added. ‘Who knows? We’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial.’ It was not clear whether Trump’s mention of ‘rogue killers’ was his own speculation, a theory he had heard from the king or an intended confirmation that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, as Turkish investigators have concluded. . . . Khashoggi’s family issued a statement Monday urging an ‘independent and impartial international commission’ to look into his disappearance.” Pompeo has arrived in Riyadh for the talks about Khashoggi’s disappearance.

-- Two more Washington lobbying firms dropped the Saudis as a client. Tom Hamburger reports: “The Glover Park Group notified the Saudi Embassy in Washington that is was canceling its two-year-old contract to represent the kingdom . . . The consulting firm, which was established in 2001 by Democratic political veterans, had been receiving a fee of $150,000 a month . . . Separately, the GOP-founded lobbying powerhouse BGR Group, which had an $80,000-a-month contract with the Saudi government, announced it was also dropping the kingdom as a client. … Late last week, the Harbour Group announced it was terminating its relationship with the kingdom. The defections underscore the depth of the crisis facing Saudi Arabia, which plowed $27 million into lobbying in Washington last year, making it one of the highest-spending countries .... On Monday, the Saudi Embassy canceled a long-planned reception that was to be held Thursday evening honoring the country’s annual National Day, which commemorates the renaming of the kingdom in 1932. Guests who had been invited to the embassy celebration received a short email Monday morning informing them that the event was off.”

-- The heads of the asset management giants BlackRock and Blackstone Group have joined other business leaders in abandoning a Saudi investment conference. From Jeanne Whalen: “The defections could jeopardize the large fees global banks and investment firms have been earning from the kingdom — and the promise of even bigger business if Saudi Arabia makes good on plans to privatize its oil industry and boost foreign investment in a variety of sectors.”

THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:

-- A federal judge in L.A. dismissed Stormy Daniels’s defamation lawsuit against Trump, delivering a blow to the adult-film star and particularly her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, in their ongoing legal crusade against the president. Elise Viebeck reports: “[U.S. Judge S. James Otero] had indicated during a late September hearing that he was skeptical of Daniels’s claim on First Amendment grounds. The ruling ordered Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, to pay Trump’s legal fees. . . . Avenatti called the ruling ‘limited’ on Twitter and said it did not affect Daniels’s primary case against Trump and [Michael Cohen], which seeks to invalidate her 2016 nondisclosure agreement.”

-- Trump promised to ask Congress for additional emergency disaster aid, as he and the first lady traveled to Florida and Georgia to view some of the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael. Felicia Sonmez, Seung Min Kim and Patricia Sullivan report: “[FEMA Administrator William ‘Brock’ Long, who traveled alongside Trump], did not give a specific dollar amount for the needed aid, saying it was premature. Trump made the remarks at an American Red Cross facility in Macon, Ga., after visiting hurricane-ravaged areas on the Florida Panhandle earlier in the day. . . . Congress approved $1.68 billion in emergency aid after Hurricane Florence — funds that were included in a broad reauthorization bill for [FEMA] earlier this month.”

-- The federal deficit is swelling despite Republican promises that corporate tax cuts would generate new revenue, which is not materializing. The New York Times’s Jim Tankersley reports: “The deficit rose nearly 17 percent year over year, from $666 billion in 2017. It is now on pace to top $1 trillion a year before the next presidential election, according to forecasts from the Trump administration and outside analysts. The deficit for the 2018 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, was the largest since 2012, when the economy and federal revenues were still recovering from the depths of the recession. Administration officials attributed the deficit’s rise to greater federal spending … But the numbers released by [the Treasury Department] suggest falling revenues were a far larger contributor to the rising deficit than higher spending.”

-- Former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with reporters, including Ali Watkins, the New York Times reporter with whom he had a romantic relationship. BuzzFeed News’s Zoe Tillman reports: “The guilty plea represents an about-face for Wolfe, 57, who earlier in the proceedings had vowed, through his lawyers, to ‘vigorously’ fight charges that he lied to the FBI about his contacts with reporters. . . . . By pleading guilty, he saw [three charges] knocked down to just one count. … According to the indictment, in October 2017 Wolfe gave a reporter — identified only as ‘Reporter #3’ — information about an unidentified man [who was subpoenaed] to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The reporter published stories about the subpoena and the man's upcoming testimony in a closed committee hearing.” Wolfe’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Dec. 20.

-- A proposal from Energy Secretary Rick Perry to help protect ailing coal plants was rejected. Politico’s Eric Wolff and Darius Dixon report: “Perry has spent more than a year pushing various plans that would invoke national security to force power companies to keep their economically struggling coal plants running — a goal in line with Trump’s frequent pledges to revive what he calls ‘beautiful, clean coal.’ But the White House has shelved the plan amid opposition from the president’s own advisers on the National Security Council and National Economic Council, according to four people with knowledge of the discussions.”

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN:

-- After he was tapped as Trump’s defense secretary, Jim Mattis began attempting to reshape the U.S. military — hoping to create a force that would waste less money, deepen global alliances and evolve its strategies to counter foreign adversaries. But Trump “soon began throwing curveballs his way,” Paul Sonne, Dan Lamothe and Josh Dawsey report: “The result is less time for [Mattis] to focus on the agenda he set for himself. . . . Mattis has convinced allies that they can still count on the U.S. military to defend them, despite Trump’s whipsaw comments, while persuading them to contribute more to their own defense. But Mattis so far has enacted few large-scale changes certain to outlast his tenure. He hasn’t initiated the cancellation or introduction of any marquee weapons programs or systems. His plan to build a more lethal force remains in the early stages. With a few exceptions, his effort to drive efficiency across the Pentagon has stalled . . . Most critically, the difficult, in-the-trenches work of rewiring a giant bureaucracy to focus on countering Moscow and Beijing is largely still on paper. Key policy documents on that front … haven’t been released. Some analysts argue that to devote sufficient resources to that goal, Mattis would ultimately need to draw down in Afghanistan; so far he has done the opposite, with no end to the expenditures in sight. The war is among Trump’s greatest frustrations with Mattis, officials say.”

-- Contradicting Trump’s claim that he was “sort of a Democrat,” Mattis said he has never registered with either political party. From Sonne: “[Mattis said he] joined the military when he was 18 years old and adhered to its apolitical underpinnings as Republicans and Democrats alike came and went as commander in chief. ‘Where am I today? I’m a member of the president’s administration. And you have seen President Trump’s military policies, security policies, reaping significant bipartisan support,’ the 68-year-old retired Marine Corps general said … Mattis said he had not spoken to Trump about the comments on ‘60 Minutes’ and didn’t watch the interview. ‘We continue in the Department of Defense to do our job,’ he said. ‘It’s no problem.’”

-- “Trump Says Sears Was Mismanaged. Mnuchin Was on Its Board for Years,” by Bloomberg News’s Alex Wayne and Saleha Mohsin: “Trump said that [Sears] had been mismanaged for years before it declared bankruptcy. Among those responsible for its management: his Treasury secretary. Steven Mnuchin was a member of Sears’s board from 2005 until December 2016, and before that was a director for [K-Mart], which was acquired by Sears in 2005. ‘Sears has been dying for many years,’ Trump told reporters as he departed the White House on Monday to inspect hurricane damage in Florida. ‘It’s been obviously improperly run for many years and it’s a shame.’”

-- Fresh questions are being raised about Simona Mangiante, who is married to former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, after she released a photo of her Italian passport. ABC News’s Matthew Mosk and Kaitlyn Folmer report: “Mangiante acknowledged on Monday that she altered the date of birth on the photograph to disguise her age. She now says she is 37, not 34, years old. ‘I did happen to lie about my age,’ Mangiante said in a statement … ‘I don’t owe anyone an explanation about it.’ … [Mangiante] has faced persistent questions about her own background from social-media sleuths, media personalities and even her in-laws. … [Mueller’s prosecutors] pulled her aside to ask her whether she spoke Russian or had ever traveled to Moscow. In the months that followed, especially when she became more vocal in public, she was asked repeatedly if she was concealing any ties to foreign intelligence outfits.”

MORE ON THE MIDTERMS:

-- Facebook says it's cracking down on disinformation on its platform in the run-up to the midterms, including banning false information about voting requirements. Reports of violence or long lines at polling stations are being referred to fact-checkers. Reuters’s Joseph Menn reports: “The ban on false information about voting methods … comes six weeks after Senator Ron Wyden asked [COO] Sheryl Sandberg how Facebook would counter posts aimed at suppressing votes, such as by telling certain users they could vote by text, a hoax that has been used to reduce turnout in the past. Links to discouraging reports about polling places that may be inflated or misleading will be referred to fact-checkers under the new policy, Facebook said. If then marked as false, the reports will not be removed but will be seen by fewer of the poster’s friends.”

-- The Department of Homeland Security is investigating a rising number of hacking attempts on U.S. election systems before the midterms. NBC News’s Pete Williams and Ken Dilanian report: “‘We are aware of a growing volume of cyber activity targeting election infrastructure in 2018,’ the department's Cyber Mission Center said in an intelligence assessment issued last week … ‘Numerous actors are regularly targeting election infrastructure, likely for different purposes, including to cause disruptive effects, steal sensitive data, and undermine confidence in the election.’ The assessment said the federal government does not know who is behind the attacks, but it said all potential intrusions were either prevented or mitigated.”

-- Beginning this week, Paul Ryan is slated to hit the campaign trail on behalf of 25 vulnerable House GOP candidates. USA Today's Eliza Collins reports: “Ryan’s travel plan … has the speaker visiting a dozen states over the next three weeks. Ryan’s campaign tour will zigzag from New York to Kansas to North Carolina, with stops in between. He’ll end the campaign cycle back home in Wisconsin with a bus tour touting GOP candidates up and down the ballot. His tour across the eastern part of the country — he visited other regions earlier in the cycle — will take him to stump for some unlikely candidates, including multiple members of the House Freedom Caucus. The ultra-conservative group has been a thorn in Ryan’s side during his speakership … Ryan’s team says that these candidates were chosen because they are in competitive races and the speaker has not yet visited the district. By the end of the cycle, Ryan will have campaigned for more than 55 candidates.”

-- Nancy Pelosi has also been aggressively hitting the campaign trail, even as many Democratic congressional candidates distance themselves from her leadership. Politico’s Anna Palmer reports: “Electing more women is central to Pelosi’s mission. Of the 84 ‘Red to Blue’ candidates whom Democrats see as top pickups in races to win the House majority, female Democratic candidates are running in 43 of them. … Over the weekend, Pelosi headed right into the heart of where Democratic women are poised to make gains — Pennsylvania. The state’s congressional delegation — 18 House members and two senators — is currently all male, but the Keystone State is now expected to elect women to its delegation for the first time since 2015.”

-- GOP Rep. Martha McSally accused her Democratic opponent, Kyrsten Sinema, of supporting “treason” during an Arizona Senate debate. The AP’s Nicholas Riccardi reports: “[McSally] attacked Sinema for protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and referenced a 2003 radio interview in which the host engaged in a lengthy, rambling hypothetical that ends with him asking Sinema if she’d be OK with him joining the Taliban. ‘I don’t care if you want to do that, go ahead,’ Sinema replied in that interview … McSally described that exchange Monday as Sinema saying ‘it was OK for Americans to join the Taliban to fight against us.’ Then, turning toward Sinema and pointing at the Democrat, she asked if she going to apologize to veterans like herself for saying ‘it was OK to commit treason.’ Sinema said: ‘Martha has chosen to run a campaign like the one you’re seeing right now where she’s engaging in ridiculous attacks.’”

-- Trump will appear at a Houston rally next week for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). The Dallas Morning News’s Todd J. Gillman reports: “The president announced last month that he would hold a ‘major rally’ for Cruz at ‘the biggest stadium in Texas we can find.’ That turned out to be the 8,000-seat NRG Arena, which isn't close to the biggest event site even in Houston. Nearby NRG Stadium, home to the NFL Houston Texans, and tops out at around 80,000 people. The Toyota Center, home to the Houston Rockets basketball franchise, seats 18,000.”

-- Mentions of Bob Mueller’s probe have been noticeably rare in campaign ads. Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn reports: “Debates have all but ignored the story, focusing instead on kitchen-table topics like the economy, health care and taxes. . . . Most Americans are barely following the Mueller investigation’s intricate legal movements … Most important, voters don’t want to talk about it either.”

-- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams encouraged her supporters in Georgia to direct others to the polls to make up for the 53,000 voter registrations held up by the office of Secretary of State Brian Kemp, her Republican opponent. Vanessa Williams reports: “Abrams rallied a lively crowd of supporters at St. James Baptist Church, making a dream come true for a city council member who had repeatedly asked her to make a campaign stop in this small town often skipped over by candidates running for higher office in Georgia. John Howard, whose effort to get Abrams to visit Forsyth was chronicled recently in The Washington Post, said before introducing her, ‘If I don’t do anything else, this is the one thing I won’t forget.’”

-- Minnesota Republican Senate nominee Karin Housley once compared Michelle Obama to a “chimp” in a Facebook post. From Felicia Sonmez: “In the 2009 post, Housley opined on the then-first lady’s posture and compared her to a chimpanzee from the 1951 film, ‘Bedtime for Bonzo,’ which starred Ronald Reagan. ‘Speaking of Bedtime for Bonzo, I think even that chimp stood up straighter than Michelle. Uh-oh, someone is going to make a comment,’ Housley wrote, according to a screenshot of the post reported by HuffPost. … Housley is running against Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) for the seat that was previously held by Al Franken (D).”

WARREN WATCH:

-- “As she sought Monday to quell persistent questions about her distant Native American ancestry, Sen. Elizabeth Warren also raised an important new one: Just how much is [Trump] driving the Democratic presidential contest?” Matt Viser asks and answers: “The Warren issue, a response to Trump’s relentless attacks on the Massachusetts Democrat, illustrated the tricky task facing Democrats as the 2018 midterms near and soon are followed by the 2020 presidential contest: how to respond to the roiling debates within their own party and also to the bomb-thrower in the Oval Office. Even as many Democrats would like to focus on 2018 candidates, Warren was pushed by Trump to release a DNA test about her heritage. Michael Avenatti . . . showcases a near-daily engagement with Trump, one that appeared to backfire when he aired unsubstantiated accusations against [Brett Kavanaugh]. Former vice president Joe Biden, another potential presidential aspirant, has been counterprogramming in the same places as Trump, holding rallies in Kentucky last week and Nevada this week to respond to the president. All of that has given the appearance that Trump, and not his would-be challengers, is setting the tone of the current debate, defining what topics his political rivals react to and distracting from more-pressing Democratic needs.”

-- Trump backed away from a promise to donate $1 million to a charity of Warren’s choice if she took a DNA test that showed she had Native American ancestry. From Amy B Wang and Deanna Paul: “The release of the test results Monday morning called Trump’s months-long bluff, which arose at a July 5 rally in Montana when the president questioned the senator’s heritage claims. … ‘I’m going to get one of those little [DNA testing] kits . . . [and] say, ‘I will give you a million dollars to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian.’" Warren asked Monday for the check to be sent to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. When a reporter asked Trump about his promise, he replied: “I didn’t say that. Nah, you’d better read it again.” He said later, “I’ll only do it if I can test her personally, and that will not be something I will enjoy doing either.”

-- White House adviser Kellyanne Conway dismissed the DNA test as “junk science.” From Lindsey Bever: “‘I haven’t looked at the test,’ Conway told reporters Monday morning. ‘I know that everybody likes to pick their junk science or sound science depending on the conclusion, it seems some days.’ But is it junk science? Jennifer Raff, an assistant professor in the anthropology department at the University of Kansas, said the geneticist who analyzed Warren’s DNA is a prominent scholar in the field, and the method he used and the way he used it was appropriate.”

-- The leader of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma issued a statement criticizing Warren’s decision to take the DNA test. “Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong,” Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a statement. “It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, whose ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is proven. Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.” (Matt Viser)

FOLLOW THE MONEY:

-- Trump has now raised more than $100 million for his own 2020 reelection bid, according to new FEC filings. Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy report: “Trump pulled in $18.1 million last quarter through his campaign committee and two joint fundraising committees with the [RNC], for a total of at least $106 million since January 2017 … Together, all three committees ended September with $46.7 million in cash on hand . . . No other president dating back to at least Ronald Reagan had raised any money at this point for his own campaign committee . . . Unlike his predecessors, Trump began fundraising for his reelection shortly after his 2016 win. Trump continues to be buoyed by an avid small-donor base. FEC filings show 56 percent of the total raised by his committees from July through September came from donations of $200 or less. Despite his haul, Trump was not the biggest fundraiser last quarter. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger to GOP incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, reportedly raised more than twice as much, pulling in $38.1 million.”

-- “The largest recipient of Trump campaign funds was a company called American Made Media Consultants, which was created by the campaign to purchase digital, radio and television advertising, including online fund-raising solicitations,” the New York Times’s Kenneth P. Vogel reports. “The company, which is controlled by Trump campaign officials, was set up this year in consultation with its law firm, Jones Day. It is not intended to turn a profit, but rather to save the campaign money by acting as a clearinghouse for spending that would otherwise be done by outside vendors who typically take commissions on such purchases. The model, which is patterned off one pioneered by Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, could also allow the campaign to avoid disclosing to the election commission precise details about its spending, instead just listing line-item expenditures. Monday’s report showed 19 payments to American Made Media Consultants totaling $1.6 million.”

-- Democratic candidates have seen an infusion of donations in the final run-up to Nov. 6. Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy report: “Democratic Senate candidates in the nine most competitive races, including incumbents running for reelection in deep-red states that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in 2016, raised a total of $212 million compared to $164 million raised by Republicans so far in the election, according to FEC records filed Monday night. … House Democratic candidates also received a surge of cash in the third quarter. In many of the most competitive House races across the country, the Democratic challenger outraised the Republican incumbent in the three-month period — some raising more than twice the amount the GOP incumbent raked in.”

-- “Wealthy donors who have given at least $1 million this election cycle contributed 60 percent of the $812 million that has flowed into super PACs,” Anu Narayanswamy, Chris Alcantara and Michelle Ye Hee Lee report.

-- A member of Mar-a-Lago donated $150,000 to a legal-defense fund set up for Trump aides entangled in the Mueller investigation. From Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn: “Anthony Lomangino, a recycling mogul and major GOP campaign contributor, gave two donations, in July and September, to the Patriot Legal Expense Trust Fund, according to the trust's latest filing.”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Myanmar's military is said to be behind a five-year Facebook campaign spreading anti-Rohingya propaganda in the country — laying the groundwork for a systemic ethnic cleansing campaign, which would ultimately force some 800,000 people into neighboring Bangladesh. The New York Times’s Paul Mozur reports: “While Facebook took down the official accounts of senior Myanmar military leaders in August, the breadth and details of the propaganda campaign — which was hidden behind fake names and sham accounts — went undetected. The campaign … included hundreds of military personnel who created troll accounts and news and celebrity pages on Facebook and then flooded them with incendiary comments and posts timed for peak viewership. Working in shifts out of bases clustered in foothills near the capital of Naypyidaw, officers were also tasked with collecting intelligence on popular accounts and criticizing posts unfavorable to the military … So secretive were the operations that all but top leaders had to check their phones at the door. They began by setting up what appeared to be news pages and pages on Facebook that were devoted to Burmese pop stars, models and other celebrities … [and] then tended the pages to attract large numbers of followers …  Those then became distribution channels for lurid photos, false news and inflammatory posts ... Often, they posted sham photos of corpses that they said were evidence of Rohingya-perpetrated massacres.”

-- North and South Korea agreed to push ahead with plans to establish road and rail links between the two countries, despite current U.N. Security Council sanctions enacted over Pyongyang’s nuclear program. Simon Denyer and Min Joo Kim report: “[It] is unclear how far or how fast the project can proceed without violating those sanctions, which Seoul has vowed to respect. It also comes amid some concerns in Washington about the enthusiasm with which [President Moon Jae-in] has embraced [Kim Jong Un], despite the fact that North Korea has so far taken no concrete steps to disarm. .... The United States has repeatedly insisted that sanctions will be lifted only after North Korea completely and verifiably dismantles its nuclear weapons program. … Moon’s government takes a different view, preferring a phased process in which both Pyongyang and Washington take gradual steps together.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Trump used Twitter to disparage Elizabeth Warren over her DNA test:

Fact-check: The Boston Globe found Warren's claims of Native American ancestry played no role in her hiring at Harvard.

Trump pointed to the statement from a Cherokee Nation official as vindication:

But some Native American groups have criticized Trump's use of the term "Pocahontas" in other statements.

Many were quick to also fact-check Trump's initial response to Warren's DNA test:

From a Post reporter:

From a New York Times reporter:

From Obama's 2012 campaign manager:

Republican Sen. Susan Collins received a threatening letter at her Maine home:

The Council on Foreign Relations president criticized Trump's foreign policy:

A CNN international editor shared a photo of cleaners arriving at the Saudi Consulate:

Trump's suggestion of “rogue killers” inside the consulate prompted backlash from congressional Democrats, including Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.):

From a Post reporter who covers intelligence:

A GOP communications strategist mocked the Saudis' alleged explanation for Khashoggi's disappearance:

Columnist Connie Schultz, who is married to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), swung back against his opponent:

A former House speaker represented the Cincinnati Bengals in China:

And a congressional candidate named Robert Crook has noteworthy campaign signs:

GOOD READS:

-- “‘I wouldn’t go to your work and flip you off’: CNN’s Jim Acosta engages Trump Nation,” by Paul Farhi: “Not long after Jim Acosta enters the arena, people start calling his name. ‘Jim!’ shouts Stephanie Boyd, who is standing just beyond the barricades that pen in dozens of reporters. ‘Jiiiiiiiim!’ Acosta looks over in Boyd’s direction. He isn’t sure whether she wants a selfie or wants to dress him down. Sometimes, it’s both. … Ever since he started on the Trump beat, Acosta has known that [campaign rallies] can be fraught. Acosta is both a recognizable face and a walking incitement to members of Trump Nation. He’s something like the star of the opposing team at a home game — a villain, a target.”

-- “Political contests erupt as cities and hotel industry struggle to curb Airbnb,” by Robert McCartney: “The explosive growth of short-term rentals nationwide has pushed local governments to rein in the practice, with help from the hotel industry, which wants to stifle a formidable competitor. From San Francisco to New York, cities have been trying to regulate the blossoming ‘home-sharing’ economy. But that effort has divided communities and triggered a backlash in some places, where short-term rental companies and property owners are angry at the prospect of losing a lucrative enterprise.”

-- Politico Magazine, “The Great American Health Care Panic,” by Michael Kruse: “Here in Bucks County, Pennsylvania . . . the margins of electoral victories traditionally are as slim as the spectrum of political opinion is vast. … Spend a few days around these parts and one meets Republicans who used to be Democrats and Democrats who used to be Republicans and voter after voter who insists he or she picks the person over the party. Heading, though, into this year’s midterms, there is one thing that everybody seems to agree on. No matter what they say about [Trump] and regardless of what they think of their relatively moderate Republican congressman … the people and particularly the senior citizens and retirees [are] all but in lockstep when it comes to the health care system. It’s broken, they think … [and getting worse] …”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“James apologizes for 'terrible mistake' of letting swastika in Senate ad,” from the Detroit News: “Republican challenger John James apologized Monday for a ‘terrible mistake’ — the appearance of a swastika in footage included in his recent Senate television ad. In a brief shot, roughly 10 seconds into the ad, a swastika appears tacked to a bulletin board in a hallway of an unidentified school. It wasn't clear if it was part of a school history project or something else, but the campaign said it was from stock footage. Democrats and liberal groups complained that James, a Farmington Hills businessman and Iraq War veteran, was promoting a symbol of hatred as he seeks to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing, who is running for a fourth term.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“American Bar Association drops review of Kavanaugh,” from CNN: “The American Bar Association will no longer review its ‘well qualified’ rating of Justice Brett Kavanaugh now that the Senate confirmed him, an ABA official [said] Monday. The official, who declined to speak on the record, cited an ABA policy of ending its rating process once a nominee is confirmed. ‘Per the published policy and historical practice of the Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, once a justice or judge is confirmed, the Standing Committee's rating process is closed,’ the ABA's website states. The group had previously said that because of the allegations against Kavanaugh of sexual assault and conduct during his September 27 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, it would reevaluate its rating.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump has no events on his public schedule.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“I hope she’s running for president because I think she’d be very easy. I hope that she is running. I do not think she’d be difficult at all, she’d destroy our country. … With that being said I don’t want to say bad things about her because I hope she’d be one of the people that would get through the process.” — Trump talking to reporters about Elizabeth Warren. (Amy B Wang and Deanna Paul)

 

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

-- Washington will see a bright, cool and overall autumnal Tuesday. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Morning clouds, maybe an early-morning shower especially south and east, with partly sunny skies by midday and afternoon. We stay cooler with highs in the upper 50s to low 60s as very low humidity dries us out. Light winds blow from the north at 5 to 10 mph.”

-- Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) and Democrat Abigail Spanberger held their first debate, in which Nancy Pelosi played a central role. Laura Vozzella reports: “[Brat] invoked Pelosi repeatedly as he tried to paint Spanberger as a liberal who supports ‘sanctuary cities’ and ‘a total government takeover of health-care.’ Brat referred so often to ‘the Nancy Pelosi liberal agenda’ that the phrase started drawing laughs. … Spanberger, a former federal law enforcement agent and CIA operative who has positioned herself as a moderate, said flatly and repeatedly that Brat was misrepresenting her views.”

-- “Meet the Democrat challenging Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland’s only Republican in Congress,” by Arelis R. Hernández: “Jesse Colvin is approaching his quest to unseat Rep. Andy Harris (R) in Maryland’s solidly red 1st Congressional District the way one might expect a former military intelligence officer to chase an elusive target. … But it could be an ill-fated mission for the 34-year-old former U.S. Army Ranger and first-time candidate. The heavily gerrymandered district — which includes pieces of Baltimore, Harford and Carroll counties and the Eastern Shore — leans strongly Republican, with 64 percent voting for President Trump in 2016 and 67 percent voting for Harris.”

-- D.C. police are searching for a man who sexually assaulted another man in Northeast Washington this weekend while posing as a driver for hire. (Michael Brice-Saddler)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Stephen Colbert says Elizabeth Warren is running for president:

Trevor Noah justified Warren's decision to take a DNA test:

Alec Baldwin encouraged voters to “overthrow” Trump's government while speaking at a Democratic fundraising dinner:

And floodwaters in the French city of Trebes mixed with wine to create a purple liquid running through the streets: