With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: President Trump’s escalating effort to contain the political and diplomatic fallout from Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance, rather than confront Saudi Arabia, is emblematic of both his broader worldview and approach to foreign policy.
“The Trump administration and the Saudi royal family are searching for a mutually agreeable explanation for the death of [Khashoggi] that will avoid implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is among the president’s closest foreign allies, according to analysts and officials in multiple countries,” Shane Harris reports. “But it will be difficult for the young ruler to escape scrutiny, as mounting evidence points not only to the Saudi government’s knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate, but also to a connection by Mohammed to his disappearance.”
The effort to make it happen, however, speaks to eight elements of the Trump doctrine:
1. Trump is transactional and focused on the bottom line.
“In days of private phone calls and Oval Office huddles, Trump has repeatedly reached for reasons to protect the U.S.-Saudi relationship,” administration officials and presidential advisers tell Bob Costa, Josh Dawsey and Phil Rucker. “Trump has stressed Saudi Arabia’s huge investment in U.S. weaponry and worries it could instead purchase arms from China or Russia. He has fretted about the oil-rich desert kingdom cutting off its supply of petroleum to the United States. He has warned against losing a key partner countering Iran’s influence in the Middle East. He has argued that even if the United States tried to isolate the Saudis, the kingdom is too wealthy to ever be truly isolated.”
Trump defender Pat Robertson captured this mind-set on his Christian Broadcasting Network: “You’ve got one journalist … You’ve got $100 billion worth of arms sales. … We cannot alienate our biggest player in the Middle East.”
2. Trump believes in spheres of influence.
My colleagues on the White House beat report that Trump has repeatedly emphasized that, even though Khashoggi has been living in Virginia and writing for The Washington Post, he is a Saudi citizen — “the implication being that the disappearance is not necessarily the United States’ problem.”
Respect for the “sovereignty” of other countries has become a Trump buzzword in foreign policy speeches, including at the United Nations last month. He’s said the U.S. shouldn’t meddle in another nation’s domestic affairs. Other times, he’s suggested that he adheres to an old-fashioned diplomatic view that great powers should be able to control events in their parts of the world. (Think Russia and Ukraine.)
3. Trump does not believe promoting human rights or democracy should be central aims of U.S. foreign policy.
The president has been especially friendly with many authoritarian leaders over the past two years and resisted pressuring them on human rights. It’s a very different worldview than the one expressed by GOP internationalists like Sen. Marco Rubio. The Florida Republican took a hard line Tuesday on CNN. “Human rights is worth blowing that up,” he said, “and luring someone into a consulate where they’re thereby murdered, dismembered and disposed of is a big deal.”
4. Countering Iran trumps almost everything else in Trump’s eyes, and the Saudis are key to his strategy.
“A new round of sanctions on Iranian oil exports are expected to take effect Nov. 5,” Ishaan Tharoor notes. “David Sanger of the New York Times reported that White House officials fear the Khashoggi imbroglio ‘could derail a showdown with Iran and jeopardize plans to enlist Saudi help to avoid disrupting the oil market.’ With almost comic timing, Foreign Affairs published a new anti-Iran manifesto by [Mike] Pompeo this week. The U.S.'s top diplomat heralded Trump’s ‘moral clarity’ and eagerness to confront ‘outlaw regimes,’ underscoring the vast double standard the White House applies to Riyadh and Tehran.”
5. Trump selectively believes people’s denials when he wants to believe them.
As the president of the Council on Foreign Relations puts it:
We take Putin’s word he didn’t interfere in 2016 election, Kim’s he will denuclearize, and MBS that he had no role in Khashoggi murder. If Reagan was trust but verify, @realDonaldTrump is trust and look away. Sad to be sure, but also dangerous.— Richard N. Haass (@RichardHaass) October 17, 2018
6. The president’s personal financial interests consistently trigger questions about his decision-making.
The Trump real estate business has sold properties to Saudis, and more Saudi visitors have been staying at his hotels since he became president, despite his denials this week that has no financial interests related to the country. As a candidate in 2015 and 2016, the president boasted about deals he’s made in the past with Saudi business executives. Eleven Democratic senators sent a letter to Trump and his sons yesterday seeking a full accounting of any financial ties between the Trump Organization and Saudi Arabia. Remember, the president has never released his tax records and his business is privately held.
7. Foreign policy is a family affair.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who had no meaningful foreign policy experience before the president put him in charge of trying to negotiate Middle East peace, is playing a starring role in this drama because of the close bond he forged with MBS, who he reportedly communicates with over an encrypted text messaging app. Trump also told reporters last week that he has heard Ivanka Trump’s name discussed as a possible ambassador to the United Nations, and that she’d be “incredible" but that he'd be accused of nepotism if he appointed her. Last year, the president had the first daughter take his seat at a G-20 summit of world leaders. The president’s sons have also continued to travel overseas while he was president to pursue business deals.
8. Trump is trying to limit the flow of intelligence that is unhelpful to his agenda.
“Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said the administration had ‘clamped down’ on sharing intelligence about the Khashoggi case,” per Bob, Josh and Phil. “He said an intelligence briefing scheduled for Tuesday was canceled and he was told no additional intelligence would be shared with the Senate for now, a move he called ‘disappointing.’ ‘I can only surmise that probably the intel is not painting a pretty picture as it relates to Saudi Arabia,’ Corker said. Based on the earlier intelligence he had reviewed, he added, ‘everything points not to just Saudi Arabia, but to MBS.’”
Restricting intelligence briefings for a GOP committee chair is part and parcel of the Trump administration’s broader move to crack down on leaks that belie the president’s public statements. A Treasury Department official was charged yesterday with leaking financial records related to the Russia investigation. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also just issued a subpoena to an immigration attorney in an effort to compel him to reveal who shared an internal memo related to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s order to restrict political asylum for victims of domestic violence and gang crimes.
-- If you read only one thing today, make it Khashoggi’s heartbreaking final column for The Post about the need for free expression in the Arab world. “The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power,” he wrote. “During the Cold War, Radio Free Europe, which grew over the years into a critical institution, played an important role in fostering and sustaining the hope of freedom. Arabs need something similar. … We suffer from poverty, mismanagement and poor education. Through the creation of an independent international forum, isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda, ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face.”
-- Global Opinions editor Karen Attiah received a draft of this column from Khashoggi’s translator and assistant the day after he was reported missing in Istanbul. “The Post held off publishing it because we hoped Jamal would come back to us so that he and I could edit it together. Now I have to accept: That is not going to happen,” Attiah explains in an editor’s note. “This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for.”
-- The Post’s Editorial Board notes that Khashoggi would have turned 60 this past weekend: “[He] held numerous positions during his career, including as an adviser to a Saudi ambassador to the United States. But he was first and foremost a journalist — one who relentlessly tried to push the boundaries of free speech. He was twice fired as the editor of the most progressive Saudi newspaper, Al Watan, in one case for publishing sharp critiques of Islamist extremists. A television news network he helped to found in Bahrain in 2012 was taken off the air after one day, after it broadcast an interview with a critic of that country’s authoritarian regime.
“A turning point for Mr. Khashoggi came in 2016, when he warned the regime of King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, about ‘an overly enthusiastic embrace of then-President-elect Donald Trump,’ as he later described it in The Post. His column with the Saudi-owned international Arabic daily Al Hayat was canceled, and he was forced off Twitter. ‘I spent six months silent, reflecting on the state of my country and the stark choices before me,’ he wrote in his first Post column, published 13 months ago this week. Then he acted. ‘I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice,’ he declared. ‘I can speak when so many cannot.’”
-- Additional commentary from the Post opinions page:
- Max Boot: “Trump has given every despot on the planet a license to kill.”
- Anne Applebaum: “Saudi Arabia’s information war to bury news of Jamal Khashoggi.”
- David Ignatius: “MBS’s rampaging anger will not silence questions about Jamal Khashoggi.”
- Richard Cohen: “Trump’s weakness before Saudi Arabia.”
- Jennifer Rubin: “Gullible Trump is an easy mark for the Saudis.”
- Simon Henderson, the director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy: “Of course Saudi Arabia’s leader doesn’t fear U.S. fury. We give him everything he wants.”
- David Moscrop: “Canada stood up to Saudi Arabia once. It’s time to follow through and stop all arms deals.”
-- “The Donald Trump lecture series on ‘innocent until proven guilty,’” by editorial cartoonist Tom Toles:
-- Khashoggi was dead within minutes of entering the Saudi Consulate — beheaded, dismembered, his fingers severed — and within two hours the killers were gone, according to details from audio recordings described by a senior Turkish official to the New York Times’s David D. Kirkpatrick and Carlotta Gall: “After he was shown into the office of the Saudi consul, Mohammad al-Otaibi, the agents seized Mr. Khashoggi almost immediately and began to beat and torture him, eventually cutting off his fingers, the senior Turkish official said, describing the audio recordings. Whether Mr. Khashoggi was killed before his fingers were removed and his body dismembered could not be determined. But the consul was present and objected . . . ‘Do this outside. You will put me in trouble,’ Mr. Otaibi told the agents … ‘If you want to live when you come back to Arabia, shut up,’ one of the agents replied.”
-- Recordings from a Saudi dissident living in Canada demonstrate MBS’s extensive efforts to lure his critics back to Saudi Arabia to detain them. Loveday Morris and Zakaria Zakaria report: “Omar Abdulaziz hit record on his phone and slipped it into the breast pocket of his jacket, he recalled, taking a seat in a Montreal cafe to wait for two men who said they were carrying a personal message from [the crown prince]. When they arrived, Abdulaziz, a 27-year-old Saudi opposition activist, asked why they had come all the way to Canada to see him. ‘There are two scenarios,’ one of the emissaries said, speaking of Abdulaziz in the third person. In the first, he can go back home to Saudi Arabia, to his friends and family. In the second: ‘Omar goes to prison.’ Which will Omar choose? they asked. To drive home what was at stake, the visitors brought one of Abdulaziz’s younger brothers from Saudi Arabia to the meeting.”
-- Bad optics: Saudi Arabia sent a $100 million payment to the United States the same day Pompeo arrived in Riyadh. From John Hudson: “Saudi Arabia publicly pledged the payment to support U.S. stabilization efforts in northeastern Syria in August, but questions persisted about when and if Saudi officials would come through with the money. The timing of the transfer … raised questions about a potential payoff as Riyadh seeks to manage the [Khashoggi blowback]. The State Department denied any connection between the payment and Pompeo's discussions with Saudi officials about Khashoggi.”
-- More coverage from the mainstream media:
- Ann Gerhart, Youjin Shin, Monica Ulmanu and Julie Tate: “On Khashoggi, the Trump administration’s softening stance toward the Saudis.”
- Emily Rauhala: “Saudi Arabia’s spat with Canada was a lesson. Trump ignored it.”
- Allyson Chiu: “‘He wears his moral bankruptcy on his sleeve’: Trevor Noah rips Trump’s stance on Saudi Arabia.”
- CNN: “Steven Mnuchin to decide by Thursday on Saudi visit.”
- Wall Street Journal: “Fate of Journalist Heightens Saudi Debt Worries.”
- Associated Press: “With ‘America First,’ where do human rights rank?”
- New York Times: “How One Journalist’s Death Provoked a Backlash That Thousands Dead in Yemen Did Not.”
- Christian Science Monitor: “At stake in Khashoggi affair: control of the Arab world’s narrative.”
- Reuters: “Khashoggi case shows America's collapsing Mideast clout.”
- Indira A.R. Lakshmanan in the Boston Globe: “Khashoggi … is Trump’s first tough foreign policy test — and he’s failing.”
- Politico: “'That grip and grin will come back to haunt him': Pompeo takes heat for friendly Saudi sit-down.”
- HuffPost: “Trump Inflates Saudi Arms Deal But Stays Silent On Saudi Cash In His Own Pocket.”
- The Atlantic: “How to Respond to a Diplomatic Crisis Like Khashoggi’s Disappearance.”
- The Guardian: “Five books to understand Saudi Arabia.”
- Columbia Journalism Review: “The challenge of reporting the Khashoggi story.”
- Michael Cavna: “How cartoonists are artfully addressing the Khashoggi story.”
WHO IS STILL ON THE SAUDI PAYROLL:
-- The regime continues to pay D.C. insiders nearly $6 million annually to advance its interests here, even after three big firms cut ties with the kingdom. The AP’s Richard Lardner looks at three of the firms that remain in MBS’s corner:
Ted Olson, who testified as a character witness for Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing last month: “Saudi officials inked an agreement in late August with Olson, a partner in the Washington office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to fight bipartisan legislation that would allow the U.S. to bring lawsuits against OPEC members for antitrust violations. The Saudis could have expanded the scope of the agreement by retaining Olson, the U.S. solicitor general during the George W. Bush administration, for $100,000 a month. It’s unclear if they did so. The firm didn’t return calls seeking comment.”
“The firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck has no plans to alter its $125,000-a-month contract to represent the Saudi Embassy … The managing partner of Brownstein Hyatt’s Washington office is Marc Lampkin, a fundraiser for [Trump] and a former aide to Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“The McKeon Group, headed by former Armed Services Committee Chairman ‘Buck’ McKeon earns $50,000 a month … The McKeon Group didn’t respond to a request for comment.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
GET SMART FAST:
- The few homes still standing in Florida neighborhoods where Hurricane Michael made a direct impact were often saved by low-cost reinforcements, such as a few extra nails that were strategically placed, some small metal connectors and window shutters that created a sealed package. Some of this was required when the state instituted a stricter building code in the early 2000s, but industry experts say that homeowners can go further in strengthening their homes without spending tens of thousands of dollars. (Patricia Sullivan, Frances Stead Sellers and Emily Wax-Thibodeaux)
- A court unsealed the divorce records of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), in which the Democratic nominee for Minnesota attorney general claimed his ex-wife was abusive. The documents include an affidavit from Ellison in which he alleged his ex-wife hit him throughout their 25-year marriage. The Ellisons, who divorced in 2012, opposed unsealing the records, but the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the conservative website Alpha News claimed it was in the public interest after Ellison was accused of physical abuse by his ex-girlfriend. (Deanna Paul)
The former president of USA Gymnastics was indicted on a charge of tampering with evidence related to convicted serial pedophile Larry Nassar. A grand jury alleged that Steve Penny ordered the removal of documents on Nassar’s treatment of gymnasts “for the purpose of impairing the ongoing investigation by destroying or hiding the documents.” (Will Hobson)
- A government minister in India announced he will step down after more than a dozen accusations of sexual harassment from female journalists and former colleagues. His resignation comes as the first major victory for the #MeToo movement in India. (Vidhi Doshi and Joanna Slater)
Foreign creditors are eyeing a seizure of Citgo to pay Venezuela’s debts. The loss of the Houston-based oil company, which Venezuela has owned since 1990, would disrupt one of the country’s most reliable sources of cash as its economy continues to plummet. (Jeanne Whalen and Anthony Faiola)
Marijuana officially became legal in Canada. In Montreal, people lined up for hours to be among the first Canadians to legally purchase weed. (Selena Ross)
- The U.N.’s most senior Syria diplomat, Staffan de Mistura, announced he is leaving his post next month, citing personal reasons. Throughout his tenure, de Mistura remained committed to the U.N.-backed Geneva peace process to end the country's bloody civil war, even as the Syrian army advanced toward victory. (Louisa Loveluck)
A lawsuit against Facebook claims the social media giant knew about errors in its video viewership data for more than a year before it was first reported. Advertisers accuse the company of knowingly inflating the average time its users spent watching videos. (Wired)
- For the first time ever, a robot successfully “co-taught” college students at U.S. Military Academy. Researchers say some 200 students were lectured by the robot, Bina48, as part of their ethical philosophy course — and were surprisingly receptive to its teaching. (Axios)
-- With less than three weeks until the elections, a growing number of Republican candidates are beginning to sound a lot like the Democrats they are running against — echoing their opponents on issues ranging from health care to education funding — even when doing so breaks with longtime party orthodoxy. Erica Werner and David Weigel report: “Republicans around the country have begun campaigning on safeguarding insurance protections for people with preexisting medical conditions . . . In Arizona, Wisconsin and elsewhere, conservative GOP incumbent governors known for clashing with teachers are now campaigning on pledges to boost teacher pay … And after the bitter fight over [Brett Kavanaugh], a handful of Republicans are trying to turn the #MeToo movement against Democrats … In the campaign’s final stretch, the messaging from Republicans is in part an acknowledgment that the Democratic argument has resonated with voters.”
-- Democratic congressional candidates have raised a record-breaking $1 billion this election cycle. Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy report: “The $1.06 billion raised through the end of September surpasses the nearly $900 million collected by Republican candidates for Congress in 2012 — previously the largest haul registered by a single party by this point in the election cycle, according to a Washington Post analysis of Federal Election Commission records. And it is the first time since 2008 — when Democrats swept the White House and both chambers of Congress — that Democratic candidates for House and Senate have outraised Republicans in direct contributions to candidates’ committees. Republican candidates for Congress raised $709 million through September, FEC records show.”
-- Mitch McConnell said Republicans may try again to repeal Obamacare next year if they hold the Senate. Felicia Sonmez reports: “In an interview with Reuters, McConnell said that his party’s failure last year to repeal [Obamacare] was ‘the one disappointment of this Congress from a Republican point of view.’ ‘If we had the votes to completely start over, we’d do it. But that depends on what happens in a couple weeks. . . . We’re not satisfied with the way Obamacare is working,’ McConnell said.”
-- Democrats are seizing on other comments from McConnell this week to argue Republicans will try to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare if they retain control of Congress. Erica Werner, Damian Paletta and David Weigel report: “[Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen], who chairs the Senate Democratic campaign committee, held a conference with other party leaders to focus on McConnell’s comments. They sought to add urgency to arguments Democrats have been making in ads and campaign appearances all year, arguing that Republicans ballooned the deficit by passing a $1.5 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited corporations and the wealthy, and will now try to repair the damage by slashing entitlement programs. … Within hours of McConnell’s original comments, the state Democratic parties in Florida, Montana, and Nevada condemned him and asked whether Republican candidates for Senate stood by him.”
-- Democratic congressional candidate Donna Shalala is attracting intense criticism in Miami after announcing a campaign event with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who has expressed sympathy for Fidel Castro. Politico’s Marc Caputo reports: “In a district filled with Castro-hating Cuban-Americans and Venezuelan exiles, Shalala’s campaign committed an egregious gaffe … In 2016, Lee had said Castro’s death should be mourned. Lee’s visit was ultimately canceled, but not before Shalala was savaged in a debate by her Republican opponent. … The timing was especially poor for Shalala, occurring in the final weeks of a race in which the Democrat has struggled to lock down an open, Democratic-leaning House seat that was once assumed to be hers for the taking.”
-- Trump’s campaign rallies, considered an unprecedented phenomenon when they started more than three years ago, have taken on an unsurprising, scripted air, Jenna Johnson writes. “[T]hree years on, the rallies have remained frozen in time. News of the day can briefly intrude but the basics are the same for fans in the crowd: Dance to the same blaring hits from decades ago, roar as the president enters, listen to his trademark attacks and alternative facts, boo liberals and the media, chant the classic chants and relive the drama of election night that Trump recounts nearly every time. And if what they experience is the same, so too are Trump’s remarks, which is why most cable news channels — even Fox — have stopped regularly carrying the rallies live. The lack of surprise is sometimes visible: Some attendees will wait hours to see the president, then leave before he has finished speaking to beat the traffic.”
-- Trump is seeking to make the midterms all about him in an effort to energize his base, but some say that strategy could backfire. From Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey: “All midterm elections are, to some degree, a referendum on the sitting president and the party in power. But through force of personality and bold pronouncements, Trump has deliberately placed himself at the center of the November elections, explicitly telling voters to imagine they’re casting a ballot for him, rather than their local representative. … The risk, however, is that in energizing his base, Trump could also fire up the Democratic side while alienating moderate suburban voters, who may be looking to Congress to serve as a check on the president.”
-- Some Republican strategists have privately complained about Trump stockpiling cash for his 2020 reelection rather than using it to aid vulnerable GOP congressional candidates. The New York Times’s Kenneth P. Vogel reports: “Mr. Trump, they argue, does not need the money now as much as the party’s congressional candidates, both because he will not face voters again for more than two years, and because he won his 2016 campaign more by relying on his megarallies and Twitter feed than on pricey campaign infrastructure. Even some of Mr. Trump’s defenders admit that his brisk early fund-raising and spending may be more about self-preservation than about bolstering the party.”
-- “Despite rampant voter enthusiasm, the reality: Many don’t plan to vote in November,” by Gabriel Pogrund and Jenna Johnson: “Could this be the year that Tennessee’s Montgomery County shows up to vote? Located northwest of Nashville along the Kentucky border, this county often has one of the lowest voting rates in the state — in a state that often has one of the lowest rates in the country, and in a country that has one of the lowest rates in the world, trailing most developed nations. … Montgomery County residents offered a list of reasons: The state mostly has been controlled by Republicans for years, so many right-leaning nonvoters say their chosen candidate doesn’t need their support to win and left-leaners say their candidate will never win. Both sides ask the same question: Why bother?”
-- Anonymous Facebook ads have been used to falsely smear Democrat Jennifer Wexton as she attempts to unseat GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock in Virginia. The New York Times’s Kevin Roose reports: “The ads paint Ms. Wexton as an ‘evil socialist,’ with language and imagery not typically found in even the roughest campaigns. In one ad … Ms. Wexton is pictured next to an image of Nazi soldiers, and the ad’s text refers to her supporters as ‘modern-day brown shirts.’ In another … Ms. Wexton is compared to Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused [Kavanaugh] of sexual assault. The image is captioned: ‘What’s the difference??? Nothing!! Both are liars.’ The person or group behind the ads is known to Facebook, but a mystery to the public. The funding disclaimer attached to the ads reads, simply, ‘Paid for by a freedom loving American Citizen exercising my natural law right, protected by the 1st Amendment and protected by the 2nd Amendment.’”
-- Former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio filed a libel suit against the New York Times and editorial board member Michelle Cottle, claiming that an August editorial undercut his chances to run for the Senate again in 2020. John Wagner reports: “In a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Arpaio took issue with an opinion piece written after the August GOP primary titled, ‘Well, at Least Sheriff Joe Isn’t Going to Congress: Arpaio’s loss in Arizona’s Senate Republican primary is a fitting end to the public life of a truly sadistic man.’ Arpaio is seeking $147.5 million in damages … Arpaio contends the piece was ‘carefully and maliciously calculated to damage and injure’ his reputation among the law enforcement community as well as the ‘Republican establishment and donors’ in order to undermine another run for political office. In the suit, Arpaio, 86, says that he intends to run for the Senate again in 2020 for the seat vacated by the late Republican senator John McCain.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Paul Manafort and his attorneys have visited Robert Mueller’s Washington office at least nine times in the past month — suggesting the special counsel’s “quiet period” has not been so quiet after all. CNN’s Katelyn Polantz and Evan Perez report: “September and October at first glance appear to be quiet periods for the investigation … But [the two months have] seen a persistent murmur of activity, based on near-daily sightings of Mueller's prosecutors and sources involved in the investigation. In addition to Manafort, Mueller's team has kept interviewing witnesses, gathered a grand jury weekly to meet in Washington on most Fridays, and kicked up other still-secret court action. Plus, the discussions between [Trump’s] legal team and the special counsel's office have intensified in recent weeks, including after the special counsel sent questions about possible collusion . . . The President's attorneys are expected to reply to the questions in writing. People around Trump and other witnesses believe more criminal indictments will come from Mueller. Attorneys who have dealt with Mueller's investigators and other officials expect that the special counsel's efforts … will include an active post-election period [and] a much-anticipated report where Mueller will outline what his investigators decided to prosecute and what they declined.”
-- Mueller’s prosecutors have been asking Manafort about Roger Stone, his former business partner. ABC News’s John Santucci, Katherine Faulders and Ali Dukakis report: “Mueller’s interest in Stone appears to be focused on whether Stone or his associates communicated with Julian Assange or WikiLeaks … When asked what questions Mueller’s team might be asking Manafort[,] … Stone [said] that it ‘certainly wouldn’t be surprising’ that his investigators would question Manafort about him since he and Manafort ‘have been friends since childhood.’ ‘I am highly confident Mr. Manafort is aware of no wrong doing on my part during the 2016 campaign, or at any other time, and therefore there is no wrongdoing to know about,’ Stone said. ‘Narratives to the contrary by some in the media are false and defamatory.’”
-- Special counsel prosecutors say they are prepared to move ahead with Manafort’s sentencing in the Eastern District of Virginia — and will dismiss 10 outstanding charges against him if they are told by U.S. Judge T.S. Ellis, who presided over the Alexandria trial. But Mueller’s team “would like to reserve the right to prosecute Manafort for those crimes again,” Rachel Weiner reports: “[Manafort] went on to plead guilty to related crimes in Washington, D.C., and prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining Virginia counts after Manafort is done cooperating with the special counsel or sentenced — whichever came later. Last week Ellis threw a wrench in that deal, calling it ‘highly unusual’ to delay a decision on retrying Manafort and saying sentencing must happen within a few months of a conviction. The special counsel, he said, must either drop the charges or retry Manafort now. If they aren’t ready to give him credit for cooperation at sentencing, he said, they can file a motion to reduce the punishment after Manafort begins serving his time.
“In a filing [Wednesday], Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye said the special counsel has found no precedent requiring an immediate decision. Other courts, he noted, will delay sentencing until cooperation is over so a judge can evaluate the ‘full scope’ of a case at once. But, Asonye said, the government and Manafort’s lawyers don’t object to scheduling sentencing now. And if Ellis insists the special counsel make a decision on the remaining counts now, prosecutors are ready to dismiss them without prejudice, meaning Manafort could be charged again.”
-- In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended Mueller’s investigation as “appropriate and independent” and noted that it has “already revealed” Russia’s widespread effort to interfere in the 2016 election. "[A]t the end of the day, the public will have confidence that the cases we brought were warranted by the evidence and that it was an appropriate use of resources,” he told Sadie Gurman.
-- Michael Cohen met with a group of law enforcement officials investigating Trump’s family business and charitable organization. CNN’s Erica Orden reports: “The group, which included the federal prosecutors from the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York who charged Cohen in August and officials from the New York Attorney General's office, met at the Midtown New York City office of Cohen's attorney, Guy Petrillo, [sources] said. … The purpose of the meeting wasn't immediately clear, but both offices are continuing to investigate cases that relate to Trump entities and with which Cohen had professional involvement.”
-- A senior employee at the Treasury Department was charged with leaking confidential documents related to Mueller’s ongoing Russia probe. The charges steam from a string of BuzzFeed News reports that described suspicious financial activity reports, or SARs, that involved Trump associates. Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Rachel Weiner report: “The charges reflect the latest move in the Trump administration’s effort to root out leakers within the government. The Treasury case centers [on reports describing the SARs], which are generated by banks when a financial transaction may involve illegal activity. Prosecutors charged Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards with the unauthorized disclosure of suspicious activity reports and conspiracy. The charges were filed in federal court in New York but she is scheduled to make her first court appearance in Northern Virginia, officials said. The stories cited in the criminal complaint filed against Edwards match the headlines, wording and information contained in BuzzFeed News stories, though the court papers did not identify the company by name. Those stories often focused on suspicious activity reports related to key figures in the [special counsel probe, including Manafort], Russian diplomats and other Trump associates.”
-- The Russian billionaire who orchestrated the Trump Tower meeting set up a U.S. shell company a month beforehand. The Guardian’s Jon Swaine and Scott Stedman report: “The billionaire, Aras Agalarov, created the US company anonymously while preparing to move almost $20m into the country during the time of the presidential election campaign, according to interviews and corporate filings. The company was set up for him in May 2016 by his Russian-born accountant, who has also managed the US finances of compatriots accused of mishandling millions of dollars. … Agalarov’s previously unreported shell company is another example of intriguing financial activity around the time of the Trump Tower meeting.”
WEST WING INTRIGUE:
-- White House counsel Don McGahn has officially left. Seung Min Kim and Carol Leonnig report: “[McGahn’s departure ends] a tenure marked by a significant reshaping of the federal judiciary but also clashes with [Trump] over the ongoing special counsel probe. Trump announced in late August that McGahn would exit after [Kavanaugh] was confirmed … McGahn met with Trump to say goodbye on his last day . . . His successor will be veteran Washington lawyer Pat Cipollone, who has been informally advising Trump’s personal attorneys for months on [dealing with Mueller].”
-- A Manhattan condominium called “Trump Place” became the latest Trump property to take down the president’s name. David A. Fahrenthold reports: “Unit owners in the Upper West Side building, a 46-story tower at 200 Riverside Blvd., were informed of the decision to remove the signs Wednesday afternoon in an email from the condo board. According to the email, 69.3 percent of owners who participated in a vote in September and early October said they were in favor of taking down [Trump’s] name. As a result, the board said, it had ‘passed a resolution to remove the Signage.’ The change will not affect the building’s legal name, ‘200 Riverside Boulevard at Trump Place,’ only the signs ‘TRUMP PLACE’ on its east and west facades.”
-- The Secret Service said it is investigating an incident in which one of its agents blocked a reporter from asking Jared Kushner questions. Felicia Sonmez reports: “CBS News correspondent Errol Barnett posted video of the incident on Twitter on Tuesday night. In the video, Barnett can be seen attempting to ask Kushner a question as he makes his way off the plane, before a Secret Service agent appears to block his way. Barnett can then be seen showing his CBS and White House press credentials to one of the agents, who responds, ‘I don’t give a damn who you are, there’s a time and a place.’”
THE REST OF THE AGENDA:
-- A record number of migrant families have crossed the U.S. border since Trump ended his forced family separation policy three months ago, according to new DHS statistics — prompting Trump to threaten a new, politically risky crackdown just weeks ahead of the midterms. Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey report: “Border Patrol agents arrested 16,658 family members in September, the highest one-month total on record and an 80 percent increase from July … Large groups of 100 or more Central American parents and children have been crossing the Rio Grande and the deserts of Arizona to turn themselves in, and after citing a fear of return, the families are typically assigned a court date and released from custody. … The soaring arrest numbers — and a new caravan of Central American migrants heading north — have left [Trump] in a furious state, White House aides say.”
- “Trump has been receiving regular updates on the border numbers, telling [staffers] that something has to change … [Aides including Stephen Miller and Sarah Huckabee Sanders] have continually told the president that many of the children coming across the border are being smuggled illegally and that the United States is being taken advantage of. The president’s welling anger has left him pushing once more for a reinstatement of a family-separation policy in some form, which he believes is the only thing that has worked, despite the controversy it triggered.”
- “GOP strategists working on the midterms said that the separations coincided with the worst polling times of the presidency and that reinstituting separations would sag numbers for the Republicans, who are already struggling in many close races.”
-- Trump instructed members of his Cabinet to draw up proposals for cutting their agencies’ budgets by 5 percent, a move that would require congressional approval. From Damian Paletta and Seung Min Kim: “‘Get rid of the fat, get rid of the waste,’ Trump said at a meeting with cabinet members. ‘I’m sure everybody at this table can do it.’ Trump was likely referring to the planning process that will go into the White House’s budget request in the spring. But spending levels must be approved by Congress, and lawmakers have repeatedly dismissed the Trump administration’s budget proposals.”
-- The American Meteorological Society published a letter describing Trump’s claim that climate scientists have a “very big political agenda” as “misleading and very damaging.” Jason Samenow reports: “The letter, signed by AMS Executive Director Keith Seitter, stressed that the scientific community is an open one and rejected the notion that politics influences its conclusions. ‘The scientific community welcomes all who commit to the pursuit of understanding through science irrespective of their political views, religious beliefs, and ethical values,’ the letter said. … The letter took issue not only with Trump’s statement about the motivations of climate scientists but also with his reluctance to accept their conclusions. … [T]he AMS countered that multiple lines of evidence indicate that [climate change is] primarily caused by human activity.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Barack Obama implored his Twitter followers to vote on Nov. 6:
The last presidential election turned on fewer than 100,000 votes in three states. More people go to Coachella. There’s no good excuse not to vote. Head over to https://t.co/zTCemnRMYV to check your registration, get your absentee ballot, and find out where to vote on November 6. https://t.co/LIQbltVJtz— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 17, 2018
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert shared a picture of herself beaming in Riyadh, fueling the criticism that Pompeo’s delegation has been “tone deaf” on its Middle East mission:
Trump renewed his attacks on Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) over the handling of workplace misconduct allegations against Ronny Jackson:
Ever since his vicious and totally false statements about Admiral Ron Jackson, the highly respected White House Doctor for Obama, Bush & me, Senator John Tester looks to be in big trouble in the Great State of Montana! He behaved worse than the Democrat Mob did with Justice K!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2018
(Tester's Republican colleague, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson, has defended Tester's handling of Jackson's nomination as VA secretary.)
Trump also insisted college-educated women would be backing him over Democrats, a claim that is not supported by recent polling:
College educated women want safety, security and healthcare protections – very much along with financial and economic health for themselves and our Country. I supply all of this far better than any Democrat (for decades, actually). That’s why they will be voting for me!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2018
A GOP congressman suggested George Soros should be investigated for possible ties to the caravan from Honduras:
BREAKING: Footage in Honduras giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border @ election time. Soros? US-backed NGOs? Time to investigate the source! pic.twitter.com/5pEByiGkkN— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) October 17, 2018
Democratic senators reacted to Mitch McConnell's comments about trying again to repeal Obamacare:
I couldn’t have framed the election better than McConnell did this week. He says if GOP wins they will:— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) October 17, 2018
a. try again to repeal ACA and replace it w nothing
b. cut Social Security and Medicare to pay for their corporate tax cut
c. provide no check on Trump
Got it, America?
I think sometimes people think it’s some partisan talking point cooked up by pollsters or whatever. But they really are coming after your healthcare. https://t.co/ofLmdUvybw— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) October 17, 2018
Vulnerable Senate Democrats highlighted their own record on health-care issues:
In early 2014, I unveiled a series of commonsense proposals with 5 other senators to take needed steps toward making the health reform law work better for individuals, families, & small businesses across North Dakota & the country. Read more in @politico: https://t.co/MzUeI2ovwt— Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (@SenatorHeitkamp) October 17, 2018
Uh oh. Like the sun coming up in the morning. Tax cuts for the wealthy... now Rs planning cuts to Social Security and Medicare to cover the increasing deficit they caused. Not on my watch. Republicans Set Sights On Cutting Social Security https://t.co/u8aWIglB5H— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) October 17, 2018
The chief strategist on Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign mocked Republicans who stand by Trump as he insults women's appearances:
So when your daughter comes home from school crying because boys called her names the president routinely uses to denigrate women, just explain to her that we cut marginal tax rates for corporations and everything will be fine.— stuart stevens (@stuartpstevens) October 17, 2018
Paul Manafort's request to wear a suit in court was denied, per a CNN reporter:
Just in: Judge TS Ellis on Paul Manafort’s request to wear a suit instead of an inmate uniform at his court hearing Friday: "The defendant should be treated no differently from other defendants who are in custody post conviction."— Katelyn Polantz (@kpolantz) October 17, 2018
Chelsea Clinton called out Louis Farrakhan for his anti-Semitic comments:
Comparing Jews to termites is anti-Semitic, wrong and dangerous. The responsive laughter makes my skin crawl. For everyone who rightly condemned President Trump’s rhetoric when he spoke about immigrants “infesting our country,” this rhetoric should be equally unacceptable to you: https://t.co/EvFp4ULugm— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) October 17, 2018
(The former first daughter's tweet came a month after Bill Clinton was criticized by some on the right for sharing a stage with Farrakhan during Aretha Franklin's funeral.)
Twitter said it would not take action against Farrakhan's account, per a BuzzFeed News reporter:
Just in from a @Twitter spokesperson: Louis Farrakhan's tweet comparing Jews to termites is not in violation of the company's policies. The policy on dehumanizing language has not yet been implemented.— Joe Bernstein (@Bernstein) October 17, 2018
So if you want to compare Jews to rats/insects - get it in while you can!
Ironically, the Farrakhan tweet came a day before before this message from Twitter:
|￣￣￣￣￣￣￣￣￣￣￣|— Twitter (@Twitter) October 17, 2018
when you Tweet
\ (•◡•) /
A HuffPost contributor shared his countdown clock to the midterms:
-- “In the shadow of the nation’s capital is Bob Ross Inc., where everything is ‘happy,’” by Theresa Vargas: “Not far from the nation’s capital, near Dulles International Airport, there is a place where there are no debates about politics or gun violence or what divides us. … A place where if there are discussions about walls, they belong to cabins painted against scenic backdrops. A place where there are not even mistakes. Here, those are called ‘happy little accidents.’ Welcome to Bob Ross, Inc.”
-- The Atlantic, “Heidi Cruz Didn’t Plan for This,” by Elaina Plott: “[A]s Ted’s wife, the mother of their two daughters, and the family breadwinner, Heidi has helped see him through roles as Texas solicitor general, U.S. senator, and, most recently, candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. In 2015, she took unpaid leave from her job as the managing director of Goldman Sachs in Houston to campaign for her husband. Suddenly, the curtain was pulled back on the woman who professed to love one of the most polarizing figures in American politics. While Ted struggled to find character witnesses within his own party — his colleague Lindsey Graham once joked about someone murdering him on the Senate floor — Heidi collected fans wherever she went. ‘Everyone loves Heidi,’ a prominent Houston Democrat told me. ‘Every time I talk to her I think, You should be running for office, not your husband.’”
-- New York Times, “Why White Supremacists Are Chugging Milk (and Why Geneticists Are Alarmed),” by Amy Harmon: “In recent months, some scientists have spotted distortions of their own academic papers in far-right internet forums. Others have fielded confused queries about claims of white superiority wrapped in the jargon of human genetics. Misconceptions about how genes factor into America’s stark racial disparities have surfaced in the nation’s increasingly heated arguments over school achievement gaps, immigration and policing. Instead of long-discounted proxies like skull circumference and family pedigrees, according to experts who track the far-right, today’s proponents of racial hierarchy are making their case by misinterpreting research on the human genome itself.”
-- “How Julia Louis-Dreyfus quietly became the most successful sitcom star ever,” by Geoff Edgers: “On Sunday, Louis-Dreyfus will receive this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor from the Kennedy Center. Since 1998, the Twain Prize has been awarded to writers, stand-ups, and talk show hosts. There have been other television revolutionaries — Lorne Michaels, Carol Burnett, David Letterman — but, as she films the seventh and final season of HBO’s ‘Veep,’ Louis-Dreyfus’s success is unprecedented.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Ex-Republican Lawmaker Cites Trump’s ‘Flirtations’ With ‘Race-Baiting’ In Quitting GOP,” from HuffPost: “Former Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) on Tuesday said [Trump’s] ‘flirtations with misogyny’ and ‘race-baiting’ prompted him to abandon the Republican Party recently. Jolly told MSNBC that he had been a member of the GOP since he was ‘old enough to register to vote’ but that becoming a father made him rethink his ‘associations.’ ‘The inflection point for both my wife and I ― we both left the party ― was when we found out we were expecting our first child, and obviously you begin to study your associations a little differently,’ Jolly said. ‘For us, obviously, it was the imprint of Donald Trump on the Republican Party . . . his flirtations with misogyny, with race-baiting ― a man of vacuous ideology, little conviction,’ he said, explaining his decision to leave the GOP.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Employee of Dem super PAC jailed, fired after allegedly grabbing, twisting arm of Laxalt campaign manager,” from the Nevada Independent: “A 50-year-old employee of [the Democratic super PAC American Bridge] was jailed in Las Vegas and then fired after allegedly grabbing Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt’s campaign manager after a political forum. City officials say Wilfred Michael Stark was arrested Tuesday evening by city marshals on suspicion of battery, and bailed out on Wednesday. ... Laxalt’s campaign manager Kristin Davison wrote in an affidavit that she was having a private conversation with Laxalt ... when Stark ‘aggressively interrupted our conversation' ... She said she, Laxalt and staff moved into a private room, but Stark barged in, grabbed her arm and twisted it behind her back until colleagues tried to pull him off of her.”
Trump will meet with Mike Pompeo this morning. He will later sit down with the South Carolina delegation before traveling to a campaign rally in Missoula, Mont. He will then fly to Phoenix, where he will spend the night.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“There's no place for that kind of language.” — Paul Ryan rebuked Trump for referring to Stormy Daniels as “Horseface” (John Wagner)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Washingtonians should prepare for a sunny, but chilly day. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Don’t let the bright sunny skies fool you, jackets are in order and likely will be all day as highs only reach the low to mid-50s. Northwest breezes gusting to 20 mph make it just that much more brisk — like the 40s much of the day (even 30s in the morning).”
-- The Capitals beat the Rangers 4-3 in overtime. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)
-- Maryland’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Ben Jealous, proposed an ethics plan that included a rebuke of Gov. Larry Hogan. From Steve Thompson: “‘We still have no idea if his administration is making decisions to benefit his own business interests,’ Jealous said [of Hogan] at a news conference. Jealous promised to back ethics measures if elected, including requiring future governors with business interests to put them in blind trusts and statewide candidates to release tax returns.”
-- Democratic congressional candidate Jesse Colvin, who is challenging Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), was accused of failing to report income on a D.C. rental property. Arelis R. Hernández reports: “Baltimore County GOP Chairman Alfred Mendelsohn submitted [a] complaint last week to the Office of Congressional Ethics, alleging potential violations in Colvin’s public disclosure forms, which are required for candidates for federal office.”
-- Meanwhile, Harris was accused of failing to report his wife’s income as a consultant. Arelis reports: “Harris’s campaign and several GOP political committees paid Nicole Beus Harris more than $26,000 in 2017 for work she did through her firm, Indy’s Services, federal campaign finance records show. … In a letter to the Office of Congressional Ethics, Maryland Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Matthews said Harris, the sole Republican on Maryland’s congressional delegation, may have violated ethics rules requiring members to report the source of spousal income and assets.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert mocked Trump's claim he has a “natural instinct for science”:
Samantha Bee slammed Kavanaugh after Trump compared the sexual assault allegation against him to the accusations leveled against MBS in Khashoggi's disappearance:
The Fact Checker noted that many reports on Elizabeth Warren's DNA test misinterpreted the results:
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) released an ad featuring endorsements from three West Virginia sports legends:
And this play upended the Astros-Red Sox game:
Mookie Betts was about to rob José Altuve of a home run ... until a fan's hand got in the way.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 18, 2018
It was ruled an out on review. pic.twitter.com/NLzAnNJ1vj
The Red Sox went on to beat the Astros 8-6. They are now one win away from advancing to the World Series.