With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: The first Georgia governor’s debate in Atlanta on Tuesday night captured the tension between the Old South and the New South.
In February, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp called executives at Delta Air Lines “corporate cowards” when they cut business ties with the National Rifle Association after a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. The Republican championed a push by the legislature to retaliate by eliminating a tax break on jet fuel that saves the state’s largest private employer $40 million a year.
During the debate last night, however, Kemp announced that he’s changed his mind. Now he’s in favor of restoring the tax break because he doesn’t want to put Georgia at a competitive disadvantage to other states.
When he came out against Delta, Kemp was locked in a competitive GOP primary. At the time, he was airing commercials that depicted him pointing a gun at a young man who wanted to date his daughter and threatening to round up undocumented immigrants in his truck and deport them himself. This approach won him President Trump’s endorsement and allowed Kemp to topple the early favorite for the nomination, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, in a July runoff.
Now Kemp is facing a neck-and-neck general election with Stacey Abrams, who could become the nation’s first black female governor. She’s an outspoken liberal on a host of issues, but she’s consistently supported the tax break for Delta and has positioned herself as the more pro-business candidate in the race. So Kemp is sandpapering his rough edges, increasingly highlighting his own background in business and trying to appeal to white-collar Republicans who remain uneasy with the way he won the primary.
-- The opening question during the debate, though, was to Abrams: Does she regret burning the Georgia state flag during a protest in 1992? Her answer was no. “As a college freshman, I along with many other Georgians … were deeply disturbed by the racial divisiveness that were embedded in the state flag with that Confederate symbol,” she said, noting that Kemp voted a decade later to change the state flag. “I took an action of peaceful protest.”
And most of the media coverage of last night’s matchup focuses on the clash between Abrams and Kemp over voter registration and whether he’s trying to make it harder for African Americans to participate in politics. “This farce about voter suppression … is absolutely not true,” he said. “Voter suppression isn’t only about blocking people,” she responded, “it’s also about creating an atmosphere of fear.”
-- But if you watched the full hour, both candidates appeared more eager to talk about economic issues than social ones. And each has good reasons to do so:
Abrams needs historic African American turnout for a nonpresidential election, and she’s on track to get it, but that’s just not enough. She cannot win in this red state without Republican-leaning voters around Atlanta crossing over to vote for her. The smartest strategists on both sides think that, if both sides can drive their bases to the polls, a close race will come down to college-educated white women who are uneasy with Trump and live in the suburban counties of Gwinnett and Cobb.
The business community strongly favored Cagle over Kemp in the GOP primary. Atlanta is a hub of Fortune 500 companies, from Coca-Cola and Home Depot to UPS and SunTrust Banks. Outgoing Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who is popular, also supported Cagle, though he endorsed Kemp after the primaries.
Notably, both candidates praised Deal during last night’s debate.
-- The defining moment of Deal’s eight-year tenure was when he vetoed a “religious liberty” bill in 2016. The state’s corporate leaders mobilized hard against the measure, which they feared would sanction discrimination against the LGBT community, hurt the state’s business-friendly reputation and scare respectable groups from holding conferences in Atlanta. The bill was the top priority for social conservatives, however, who used churches to mobilize evangelical activists and were aghast at Deal’s veto.
Kemp has said that he could support a version of a “religious liberty” bill if he wins. Abrams hammers him for this in front of white-collar audiences. In August, both Kemp and Abrams pitched the Georgia Chamber of Commerce for their endorsement during back-to-back speeches at a conference in Macon. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported from the event that “she drew her biggest applause … when she highlighted her opposition to religious liberty measures.”
The Georgia Chamber, which typically endorses Republicans, has not supported either candidate in the governor’s race, even as it’s weighed in on a host of down-ballot contests. This was a tacit win for Abrams.
The Atlanta area’s bid for Amazon’s HQ2 has also been top of mind for a lot of other civic leaders. Some have expressed concern publicly that the GOP’s divisive rhetoric on social issues could hurt their chances to land the project — and thus miss out on tens of thousands of new jobs.
After the Kemp-supported effort to kill Delta’s tax break succeeded in the legislature, Deal responded by issuing an executive order that suspended the collection of sales tax on jet fuel. But under the law in Georgia, the legislature is now required to review the order during an impending special session. That’s why it’s a live issue in the governor’s race.
-- Deal follows a recent tradition of Republican governors in the South who have prioritized pragmatic business interests over ideological conservative activists when the two constituencies come into conflict. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, for instance, demanded changes to a “religious liberty” bill before agreeing to sign it — and he’s now coasting to reelection. Outgoing Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, a former corporate executive, clashed with his own party in the legislature to try expanding Medicaid. Before she became U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, as South Carolina’s governor, ordered the Confederate battle flag removed from the state capitol, citing the state’s business climate as one of her reasons for doing so in the wake of a white supremacist’s massacre at a black church in Charleston.
-- Even though the pool of undecided voters is small — less than 10 percent — many voters still feel like Abrams is too far left and Kemp is too rigid for their tastes. That helps explain why the Republican candidate promised to raise wages for teachers, and the Democrat pledged to raise salaries for cops.
-- Abrams has made Medicaid expansion the centerpiece of her campaign, and she sells it more as a smart economic move that will create jobs than a moral imperative. Kemp, who called Abrams “radical” and “extreme,” said she’s advocating for “a government takeover of health care” that will raise taxes and jeopardize existing benefits when the federal money dries up. Abrams responded that Mike Pence, when he was governor of Indiana, expanded Medicaid.
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll this year found that 3 in 4 Georgians favor expansion, including 51 percent of Republicans and 79 percent of independents. The same poll found only 57 percent supported Medicaid expansion during the 2014 governor’s race, when Jimmy Carter’s grandson Jason tried unsuccessfully to challenge Deal by running on it. (Abrams hopes Medicaid can help her make inroads with poor rural whites, who have seen hospitals close, even if they still say they don’t like “Obamacare.”)
-- In talking about Medicaid, Abrams has tried to follow the playbook that Democrat Terry McAuliffe used successfully in the 2013 Virginia governor’s race to win the critical Fairfax Chamber of Commerce endorsement over Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who like Kemp positioned himself as a conservative ideologue to lock up the GOP nomination over a more moderate lieutenant governor. The Macker couldn’t expand Medicaid because Republicans controlled the legislature, and they were determined to deny him a political victory.
But Ralph Northam, his lieutenant governor, was finally able to expand Medicaid this spring after winning last year’s election to replace him. Partly that’s because Democrats made huge gains in the legislature. Partly it’s because GOP lawmakers from rural areas realized their constituents were being harmed by their obstinacy, so they came around. And partly it’s because they don’t loathe Ralph — who almost switched parties a decade ago after voting twice for George W. Bush — the way they did Terry, a former DNC chair and Bill Clinton’s best friend.
During last night’s debate, Abrams was pressed on her promise to expand Medicaid on Day One. The moderator noted that the GOP will almost certainly continue to control the legislature even if she wins and wondered how she could deliver. Abrams responded, much like Northam did during his debates last summer with Ed Gillespie, by noting her ability to work across the aisle and the good relationships she forged with Republican legislators during her years as minority leader in the state house. “I’m the only candidate with a plan,” she said.
-- Trump tweeted his support this morning for Kemp by saying Abrams will “destroy the state” if she wins:
Brian Kemp will be a GREAT Governor of Georgia. Stacey Abrams will destroy the State. Sooooo important, get out and VOTE for Brian!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 24, 2018
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The Red Sox beat the Dodgers in the first game of the World Series. Dave Sheinin reports: “As if anyone needed another reminder of how completely the game has been taken over by bullpens, it came in Boston’s 8-4 victory on the sport’s biggest stage when the two best left-handed starters of this generation, Boston’s Chris Sale and Los Angeles’s Clayton Kershaw — albeit a diminished version of each — were gone before the first outs were recorded in the fifth inning and left having given up a combined 12 hits and eight earned runs.”
-- “Red Sox victory in Game 1 of World Series is a long strategic nightmare for the Dodgers,” by Thomas Boswell: “This World Series is about two things: left-handed pitching and wasting America’s time. The first will probably decide whether the Los Angeles Dodgers or Boston Red Sox are world champions. The second will decide how many of us are still awake. On Tuesday night in Fenway Park, and on-and-on deeper into the night until two minutes past midnight, Boston handled the central problem the Dodgers pose for them. Can the Red Sox cope with wave after wave of excellent left-handed pitchers — the only known weakness (and not much of a flaw at that) this 108-win team has?”
GET SMART FAST:
A single ticket purchased in South Carolina won the record-breaking Mega Millions jackpot of $1.5 billion. The winning numbers were 5-28-62-65-70, with a Mega Ball number of 5. (Alex Horton and Fred Barbash)
Retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced that she suffers from dementia and is “no longer able to participate in public life.” In a letter, the 88-year-old Ronald Reagan appointee — and the first woman on the high court — said she wanted to “be open about these changes, and while I am still able, share some personal thoughts.” (Robert Barnes)
The Health and Human Services Department said it will partner with states to increase aid to infants and mothers affected by the opioid epidemic. The number of newborns suffering from drug dependency — a condition formally known as neonatal abstinence syndrome — quadrupled between 2000 and 2012. (Lenny Bernstein)
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced that his office has opened an inquiry into sexual abuse by Catholic priests, belatedly joining a growing list of other state and local law enforcement officials opening investigations into the church. His announcement comes after Cardinal Donald Wuerl resigned as Washington’s archbishop earlier this month. (Peter Jamison and Michelle Boorstein)
The SEC is investigating the circumstances surrounding the departure of a top Goldman Sachs banker, James Katzman after he blew the whistle on what he perceived as a range of unethical practices and corporate wrongdoing. (New York Times)
Men hold three-quarters of the U.S. jobs requiring only a high school diploma and pay at least $35,000 a year. New data indicates that blue-collar women are missing out on a key pathway to the middle class. (Danielle Paquette)
Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a searing critique of Silicon Valley during a speech at the European Parliament in Brussels. Without mentioning any company by name, Cook expressed alarm about social media’s ability to “deepen divisions, incite violence, and even undermine our shared sense of what is true and what is false.” He also warned of a growing “data industrial complex” that allows companies to “know you better than you may know yourself.” (Tony Romm)
- A track and field star at the University of Utah, Lauren McCluskey, was shot to death by her ex-boyfriend, police said. The suspect, Melvin Rowland, was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. McCluskey’s mother said Rowland harassed her daughter after the pair broke up. (Matt Bonesteel)
European researchers said they discovered the remains of a 2,400-year-old Greek trading vessel near Bulgaria. It’s believed to be one of the oldest shipwrecks ever discovered — and it remains almost completely intact, thanks to nearly nonexistent levels of oxygen on the floor of the Black Sea. (Rick Noack)
-- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would revoke the visas of the Saudi agents accused of killing Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Kareem Fahim, Tamer El-Ghobashy, Chico Harlan and John Hudson report: “Pompeo said he is also working with the Treasury Department on whether to impose other sanctions against those responsible for the journalist’s death. ‘These penalties will not be the last word on this matter from the United States,’ Pompeo said . . . 'We will continue to explore additional measures to hold those responsible accountable.'”
-- Trump told reporters that Riyadh’s account of Jamal's death was “the worst coverup ever.” “They had a very bad original concept, it was carried out poorly, and the coverup was the worst in the history of coverups,” Trump said. “In terms of what we ultimately do, I’m going to leave it very much — in conjunction with me — I’m going to leave it up to Congress.”
-- In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump said Saudi Arabia had bungled the Khashoggi case from “beginning to end.” The Journal’s Peter Nicholas, Courtney McBride and Margherita Stancati report: “Mr. Trump gave a harsh assessment of Saudi Arabia in light of Mr. Khashoggi’s death, saying he said he was convinced King Salman didn’t know about the killing in advance. Asked about Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s possible involvement, Mr. Trump said: ‘Well, the prince is running things over there more so at this stage. He’s running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him.’”
-- Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s speech on Khashoggi's death appeared aimed at undermining the influence of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Kareem Fahim reports: “Erdogan addressed his comments — his appeals for justice, his demands for answers — not to Mohammed, but to his father, King Salman. If it was a conspicuous display of respect for the Saudi monarch, it was also an attempt to drive a wedge between the king and the crown prince, whom Erdogan considers a rival and ideological opponent, as well as a threat to Turkey’s interests and ambitions in the Middle East . . . There was debate about whether Erdogan aimed to marginalize Mohammed or prod Salman to pick a new successor, but in either case, he was trying not to damage Turkey’s overall relationship with Saudi Arabia . . . And it was the latest sign of Erdogan’s willingness to use Khashoggi’s case — prolong it even — to serve his larger strategic goals.”
-- Erdogan promised he would deliver the “naked truth” about Khashoggi in his speech, but for the most part he failed to deliver, The Post’s Editorial Board argues: “[Erdogan appeared] less interested in revealing what really happened to the Saudi journalist than in leveraging the murder for political gain. That only sharpens the argument for an impartial international investigation. … The most important question is who ordered the operation. As we have written before, much of the publicly available evidence points to [MBS]. At this point, the burden should be on the Saudis to prove he is not responsible — and in the meantime, the crown prince should be treated as a pariah.”
-- Leaders in the Arab world fear the controversy over Khashoggi’s death could trigger regional conflict. Karen DeYoung and Souad Mekhennet report: “[W]hat worries the Arabs most, regional officials and experts say, is what they see as the danger to their own stability and security should Saudi Arabia’s status — and its close ties with the United States — be seriously undermined. … However they feel about the crown prince, said an official from another country in the region, under the current U.S. administration, Saudi Arabia is the ‘pillar’ around which the Arab relationship with the United States is anchored.”
-- Some U.S. business leaders traveled to a glitzy summit in Riyadh dubbed “Davos in the Desert," which is being hosted by MBS himself (he received a standing ovation there.) Kevin Sullivan is there for us: “Marquee-name sponsors and chief executives, including Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone and AOL founder Steve Case had pulled out in protest. …But thousands still came, in a wave of black Mercedes-Benzes and Chevrolet Suburbans, through the conference center’s enormous stone archways and past elegant fountains, with security agents manning a machine gun mounted atop a Dodge Ram pickup. … On Tuesday, Mohammed posed for selfies with delegates, and sat with Jordan’s King Abdullah during a panel discussion.”
-- Many U.S. attendees tried to keep a low profile. “Bankers kept their name tags obscured behind ties. Many tried to keep a low profile and avoided talking to the news media,” the New York Times’s Alan Rappeport reports. “Some were not in the mood for conversation; others likened the decision about whether to attend to a Hobson’s choice. … 'It’s awkward,’ said [one American attendee, who said she] considered not attending, but decided that she was not prominent enough to make a statement by skipping the conference. ‘One year from now, somebody is going to ask where the revenue is,’ said Henry Biner, an executive at the Boston-based P/E Investments. ‘We’re not going to put our relationships on the line for this.’”
-- Some tech start-ups that have received Saudi-linked funds are being urged to more closely vet their investors. Jeanne Whalen and Elizabeth Dwoskin report: “So far in public, the tech community is largely staying quiet — reflecting the difficulty of undoing some investments and the traditionally discrete nature of the Valley’s many non-public companies and funds, industry experts say. A clutch of startups that have received large sums from funds tied to Saudi Arabia, including the messaging app developer Slack and office-space provider WeWork, declined to comment for this article.”
MORE ON THE MIDTERMS:
-- Newly released records cast doubt on Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum’s explanations for how he obtained tickets in 2016 for the Broadway musical “Hamilton.” The Tampa Bay Times’s Lawrence Mower reports: “Among the records released Tuesday: photos, a video and dozens of text messages between Gillum . . . former lobbyist Adam Corey and an undercover FBI agent. They appear to contradict Gillum's explanation for the expenses, which have been made an major issue by his Republican rival, Ron DeSantis. Gillum's campaign has maintained — and continued to do . . . that Gillum's brother, Marcus, handed him the ticket the night of the show. But text messages at the time of the trip show Gillum was told the tickets came from ‘Mike Miller,’ an FBI agent looking into city corruption who was posing as a developer.”
-- A GOP super PAC plans to air ads in a Virginia House race previously considered a lock for Republicans. Mike DeBonis reports: “The Congressional Leadership Fund will air ads targeting voters in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, which is held by retiring Republican Thomas Garrett. The race pits distillery owner Denver Riggleman against journalist Leslie Cockburn … Most forecasters have called the race a stretch for Democrats. … But the decision of a top Republican group to spend its resources in the race reflects the expanding battlefield that has benefited Democrats by forcing national Republican groups to spread their dollars among many more districts.”
-- A new poll shows Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison has fallen behind in his bid to become Minnesota’s attorney general. John Wagner reports: “Republican Doug Wardlow leads Ellison, a six-term congressman and deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, 43 percent to 36 percent, according to the Star Tribune/MPR News Minnesota Poll. The poll shows eroding support for Ellison during a stretch when he has faced allegations of abuse by a former girlfriend. Ellison, one of the more liberal members of Congress, has vigorously denied the allegations. In a September poll, Ellison was leading Wardlow, an attorney who served one term in the Minnesota House, 41 percent to 36 percent.”
-- “In the closing stretch of the 2018 campaign, the question is no longer the size of the Democratic wave. It’s whether there will be a wave at all,” the AP’s Steve Peoples, Thomas Beaumont and Lisa Mascaro report. “Top operatives in both political parties concede that Democrats’ narrow path to the Senate majority has essentially disappeared, a casualty of surging Republican enthusiasm across GOP strongholds. At the same time, leading Democrats now fear the battle for the House majority will be decided by just a handful of seats.”
-- Trump’s no-go zones, by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman in the New York Times: “In some House races, the president has been forced to appear in second cities — Topeka instead of Kansas City, or Rochester instead of Minneapolis — because [House] incumbents are attempting to convince their suburban electorate that they are independent of Mr. Trump. … The White House has very much taken notice of who has spurned Mr. Trump — [Erik] Paulsen [of the Minneapolis suburbs] and Representative Kevin Yoder of Kansas are mentioned frequently by West Wing officials. . . . Trump’s desire to fill arenas often overrides the preference of the candidate he is ostensibly there to help. When he visited Pennsylvania earlier this month to endorse Representative Lou Barletta’s Senate campaign, for example, the president chose to appear in Erie rather than Pittsburgh, even though Mr. Barletta’s campaign indicated their preference was Pittsburgh, according to officials close to the congressman …
“Gov. Rick Scott, running for the Senate [in Florida], has drawn notice in the White House for his willingness to appear with Mr. Trump at official events but refusal to stand with the president at his beloved rallies. The president is planning a trip to Fort Myers next week, and may return to Florida once more before the election, but it is unclear if Mr. Scott will appear at the rally, which will feature the Republican nominee for governor, Ron DeSantis. … One senior Republican official with ties to both Mr. Trump and Mr. Scott predicted the governor would likely use his role leading the cleanup after Hurricane Michael as cover to avoid coming to any political events — but this official acknowledged that if it were not for the storm, the governor would likely come up with another excuse to sidestep the risk of standing beside the ever-unpredictable president.
“The president’s destinations also reflect the competing impulses of his advisers. The White House political director, Bill Stepien, and his colleagues are eager to claim credit for saving as many House seats as they can, no matter how small a market they must send the president to … But the manager-in-waiting for Mr. Trump’s 2020 campaign, Brad Parscale, and his allies are eager to flex the president’s political strength ahead of his re-election bid, and collect as many cellphone numbers and emails as possible — and thus prefer overflowing big-city venues such as the home of the N.B.A.’s Rockets in Houston."
-- Michael Bloomberg is donating millions to Democrats and visiting early-primary states as he weighs a 2020 presidential bid that would play to the party’s center. Michael Scherer reports: “Half a decade after leaving elected office, Bloomberg, 76, remains a political aberration — an extremely wealthy activist mogul who refuses definition even as both political parties adopt ever-brighter shades of blue and red. And that makes his political ambitions nearly as difficult to predict as Donald Trump’s 2015 decision to pursue the Republican nod. … [T]he list of obstacles to Bloomberg’s presidential ambitions includes bullet points that could potentially turn off just about every piece of the traditional Democratic coalition. … But if he moves forward, a Bloomberg campaign would not run within the Democratic Party as it exists, exactly. His campaign would effectively be an effort to reshape it, and there is clear recent precedent for electoral success by a billionaire who starts a campaign distant from his party’s precepts.”
THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- U.S. Cyber Command has begun targeting Russian operatives and warning them the United States is tracking their activity. Ellen Nakashima reports: “[The] operation is the first under a new presidential order easing restrictions on offensive cyberspace actions against foreign networks and represents Cyber Command’s initial foray into safeguarding U.S. elections … The news comes as [John Bolton] warned officials in Moscow this week that he considered Russian interference in the American election process ‘intolerable.’ The digital alerts, which could take the form of text or direct messages, pop-ups or emails, are implicit warnings meant to stay below the level of an armed attack, so as not to provoke the Russians into counterattacking . . . Their targets include military hackers and ‘trolls’ financed by Russian oligarchs.”
-- Bolton, the national security adviser, reiterated Trump’s commitment to withdraw from a landmark arms control treaty with the former Soviet Union. Anton Troianovski reports: “He also echoed Trump’s assertions that Russia is violating the pact, suggesting that no progress was made to ease the impasse during Bolton’s two days of talks with top Russian officials including [Vladimir Putin] . . . The Kremlin denies any violations and says scrapping the 31-year-old [treaty] would be a dangerous development that could spark a new arms race.”
-- Bolton said Trump and Putin would meet next month in Paris. Both leaders plan to attend France’s ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. It will be their first meeting since the Helsinki summit. (Anne Gearan)
-- Meanwhile, Mike Pence declined to rule out the possibility of deploying nuclear weapons in space, telling The Post that “peace comes through strength” — even as he maintained that the current ban on their use is in the “interest of every nation.” Robert Costa reports: “'What we need to do is make sure that we provide for the common defense of the people of the [USA] and that’s the president’s determination here,' Pence [said], when asked if nuclear weapons should be banned from orbit . . . The new positioning comes as the Trump administration moves to potentially exit a major nuclear weapons pact with Russia and possibly bolster U.S. military operations in the heavens by forming a 'Space Force.'”
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN:
-- The White House has rejected a spate of judges tapped to serve on the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, prompting concern it is politicizing a traditionally nonpartisan entity whose appointees determine whether an injured veteran is entitled to lifetime benefits. Lisa Rein reports. “[This summer], the White House rejected half of the candidates selected by the board chairwoman to serve as administrative judges, who make rulings on the disability claims. The rejections came after the White House required them to disclose their party affiliation and other details of their political leanings … Such questions had not been asked of judge candidates in the past[.] As part of the process, the candidates were asked to provide links to their social media profiles and disclose whether they had ever given a speech to Congress, spoken at a political convention, appeared on talk radio, or published an opinion piece in a conservative forum [or] a liberal one … The rejected applicants are three Democrats and an independent. Of the four accepted by the White House, [three] are Republicans, and one has no party affiliation but has voted in GOP primaries.”
-- The Trump administration has aggressively sought to bypass lower courts in a bid to get its issues heard more quickly by a refortified conservative Supreme Court. Robert Barnes reports: “[Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco] have repeatedly gone outside the usual appellate process to get issues such as the travel ban, immigration and greater authority for top officials before the justices. They were rewarded Monday night when the court, in an unsigned opinion, put a hold on a planned deposition of [Wilbur Ross]. Besides the controversy over Ross, [Justice Department] lawyers have petitioned the court to lift a stay on [Trump’s] travel ban while considering its merits, asked the justices to limit discovery in trials in lower courts involving immigrants, and succeeded at least temporarily in stopping a trial brought by young people over climate change. [And] the administration recently told a federal appeals court it would go directly to the Supreme Court if the judges did not rule by the end of the month on a case challenging the administration’s position on [DACA]."
-- HHS is conducting a review of its refugee resettlement program as it considers a staff shake-up. Politico’s Dan Diamond reports: “A top official at [HHS], which runs the refugee resettlement program, is conducting what she called a ‘top to bottom’ review of the program, three months after the [migrant family separations] paralyzed the agency. That includes examining the leadership of Scott Lloyd, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement [.]”
Several inside sources tell Politico that Lloyd's mismanagement made it much harder to reunify parents with their children: “For instance, Lloyd directed his staff to stop keeping a spreadsheet tracking separated families. As the crisis mounted, and HHS scrambled to determine how many migrant children had been separated from their parents, [Secretary Alex] Azar learned that Lloyd's office had yet to review hundreds of case files to understand the scope of the problem, despite being instructed to do so. Azar began reviewing case files personally that night."
-- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s closed-door House testimony has been indefinitely postponed — again. Karoun Demirjian reports: “Rosenstein had been expected to speak with the leaders of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform panels on Wednesday afternoon, but the chairmen of those panels said that the amount of time they had budgeted for the session was not enough 'to ask all the questions' they had planned."
-- The FBI said it was unable to locate any photos of James Comey and Robert Mueller “hugging and kissing” each other. It was responding to a FOIA request submitted last month by BuzzFeed News after Trump claimed that he could provide “100” such images. Salvador Hernandez and Jason Leopold report: “Trump made the unusual claim on Sept. 5 during an interview with the Daily Caller, where he accused Mueller of leading an ‘illegal investigation’ because of supposed conflicts of interests.” “He’s Comey’s best friend,” Trump said in the interview. “And I could give you 100 pictures of him and Comey hugging and kissing each other. You know, he’s Comey’s best friend.”
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- “How the migrant caravan became so big and why it’s continuing to grow,” by Kevin Sieff and Joshua Partlow: “[Edith Cruz] and her cousin had just opened a small business selling tortillas when they were confronted by a gang, threatened with death if they didn’t hand over half of their profits. She looked at the Facebook post: ‘An avalanche of Hondurans is preparing to leave in a caravan to the United States. Share this!’ Within three hours, her bags were packed. … Although the caravan’s origin story remains somewhat opaque, the answer from many migrants here is that they had wanted to leave for months or years, and then — in a Facebook post, a television program, a WhatsApp group — they saw an image of the growing group and decided.”
-- A second migrant caravan from El Salvador is taking shape. NBC News’s Julia Ainsley and Mariana Atencio report: “The El Salvadoran caravan is still forming, but its members have plans to begin their journey northward toward the U.S. next week . . . [An internal U.S. government report] indicates that DHS is tracking the communications of caravan members, including a 230-member WhatsApp group that intends to leave on Oct. 31. … [T]he report indicates the early members of the caravan are immigrant families traveling with children.”
-- Trump acknowledged there is “no proof” that people of Middle Eastern descent had joined the caravan, as he previously claimed. From John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez: “‘There’s no proof of anything. But there could very well be,’ Trump said in remarks in the Oval Office on Tuesday afternoon. His remarks came after several administration officials, including Vice President Pence, sought to back up the president in the face of skepticism about his claim this week.”
-- Trump’s tweetstorms about the caravan sparked a government-wide scramble to explain where the president was getting his information and whether to act on it. The New York Times’s Julie Hirschfeld Davis reports: “Like many of the president’s tweetstorms, this one appears to have been inspired at least in part by a report on Fox News — the morning show ‘Fox and Friends,’ a Trump favorite, to be precise — and included attacks on Democrats, immigrants and foreign countries. It drew a chorus of partial responses from a variety of Trump administration agencies charged with carrying out its contents, including a series of colliding statements: ‘We refer you to [fill in the blank name of the agency that has already referred me to you],’ or please ask the White House.”
-- A Campbell's Soup executive, former Secretary of the Senate Kelly Johnston, stirred controversy by promoting a conspiracy theory about the caravan on social media. Taylor Telford reports: “In [a] tweet, Johnston suggested that George Soros’s Open Society Foundations had orchestrated the migration of thousands of people and was even controlling ‘where they defecate.’ Johnston accused the group of having ‘an army of American immigration lawyers waiting at the border.’ … In an email to The Post, Campbell’s said it does not support the views Johnston expressed in the tweet.”
-- Amazon met in June with ICE officials to discuss its facial-recognition technology, which it pitched to the agency as a way to target or identify immigrants. Amazon founder and CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Post. Drew Harwell reports: Emails"show that officials from ICE and Amazon Web Services talked about implementing the company’s Rekognition face-scanning platform to assist with homeland-security investigations. An Amazon Web Services official who specializes in federal sales contracts … wrote that the conversation involved ‘predictive analytics’ and ‘Rekognition Video tagging/analysis’ that could possibly allow ICE to identify people’s faces from afar — a type of technology immigration officials have voiced interest in for its potential [use along the U.S. border]. ICE, which does not currently have a contract with Amazon, said in a statement that its [DHS investigations] unit has used facial-recognition technology to assist in ‘criminal investigations related to [fraud], identity theft and child exploitation crimes.’”
One week after the ICE meeting, hundreds of anonymous employees wrote in a letter to Bezos saying they “refuse to build the platform that powers ICE, and we refuse to contribute to tools that violate human rights.”
RACE IN AMERICA:
-- A senior VA official removed a portrait of the Ku Klux Klan’s first grand wizard from his D.C. office after agency employees expressed outrage. Lisa Rein reports: “David J. Thomas Sr. is deputy executive director of VA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, which certifies veteran-owned businesses seeking government contracts. His senior staff is mostly African American. Thomas said he took down the painting Monday after a Washington Post reporter explained that its subject, Nathan Bedford Forrest, was a Confederate general and slave trader who became the KKK’s first figurehead in 1868. He said he was unaware of Forrest’s affiliation with the hate group … A basic Google search of Forrest’s name returns various biographies detailing his role in the Confederacy and the white-supremacist strains of its aftermath.”
-- A white supremacist group launched a new round of racist robo-calls against Gillum in Florida. Felicia Sonmez and Tim Craig report: “[The robo-call] features a man impersonating Gillum in a minstrel dialect, while jungle sounds and chimpanzee noises can be heard in the background. ‘Well, hello there! I is the negro, Andrew Gillum, and I be askin’ you to make me governor of this here state of Florida,’ the minute-long call begins … The speaker compares ‘the white man’s medicine, which is very expensive, ’cause it uses science and whatnot,’ with ‘the medicine of my African race,’ which involves ‘puttin’ de chicken feets under your pillows during the full moon’ and ‘don’t hardly cost nothin’ at all.’ … The two Florida Democratic Party county chairs who received the robocall Tuesday morning said they believe it is targeting black Democratic leaders in the state and is aimed at keeping Gillum’s supporters away from the polls.”
-- Trump doubled down on describing himself as a “nationalist,” ignoring the historically fraught significance of the word, a day after he embraced the label during his rally in Houston with Ted Cruz. Felicia Sonmez reports: “‘No, I never heard that theory about being a nationalist,’ Trump told reporters in the Oval Office when asked whether his use of the word was intended as a dog whistle to white nationalists. ‘I’ve heard them all. But I’m somebody that loves our country.’ … [Trump’s] full-on embrace of [the label] two weeks before the midterm election has raised questions about whether he is seeking to stoke racist and anti-immigrant sentiment.”
-- White nationalist leader Richard Spencer’s wife, Nina Koupriianova, accuses him in divorce filings of being “physically, emotionally, verbally and financially abusive.” She claims she was “being hit, being grabbed, being dragged around by her hair, being held down in a manner causing bruising, and being prevented from calling for help.” (BuzzFeed News)
TRUMP'S ECONOMIC AGENDA:
-- In his Wall Street Journal interview, Trump escalated his criticisms of Fed Chairman Jerome Powell. The Journal’s Michael C. Bender, Rebecca Ballhaus, Peter Nicholas and Alex Leary report: “Mr. Trump acknowledged the independence the Fed has long enjoyed in setting economic policy, while also making clear he was intentionally sending a direct message to Mr. Powell that he wanted lower interest rates. ‘Every time we do something great, he raises the interest rates,’ Mr. Trump said, adding that Mr. Powell ‘almost looks like he’s happy raising interest rates.’ … Mr. Trump said it was ‘too early to say, but maybe’ he regrets nominating Mr. Powell.
“Mr. Trump repeatedly described the economy in personal terms. He referred to economic gains during his time in office as ‘my numbers,’ saying, ‘I have a hot economy going.’ He described his push for growth as a competition with former President Obama’s record, saying that increases under his Democratic predecessor were skewed because of low-interest rates.”
-- House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) said he will work with the White House “over the coming weeks” to develop the middle-class tax cut Trump proposed out of the blue last weekend, The Wall Street Journal’s Richard Rubin reports.
-- Bigger picture: “The mystery tax cut is only the latest instance of the federal government scrambling to reverse-engineer policies to meet Trump’s sudden public promises — or to search for evidence buttressing his conspiracy theories and falsehoods,” Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker write. “The Pentagon leaped into action to both hold a military parade and launch a ‘Space Force’ on the president’s whims. The Commerce Department moved to create a plan for auto tariffs after Trump angrily threatened to impose them. And just this week, Vice President Pence, the Department of Homeland Security and the White House all rushed to try to back up Trump’s unsupported claim that ‘unknown Middle Easterners’ were part of a migrant caravan in Central America — only to have the president admit late Tuesday that there was no proof at all.”
-- Trump falsely accused Puerto Rican officials of trying to use hurricane relief funding to pay off their debts — saying in a tweet that, “The U.S. will NOT bail out long outstanding & unpaid obligations with hurricane relief money!” “In fact, neither Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló — or a federal board that oversees the territory’s finances — have argued that federal disaster relief funds should be used to directly pay off debts,” John Wagner and Arelis R. Hernández report. “Rosselló and other local leaders have actively advocated against such a move. Trump’s tweet came as the federally appointed control board approved a five-year fiscal plan Tuesday. The plan projects that $82 billion in anticipated federal disaster funds will bolster the island’s economy, better positioning it to pay off debts in the future. ‘The president is confusing the oversight board’s position with that of the government of Puerto Rico,’ said Sergio Marxuach of the Center for a New Economy, the leading think tank on the island."
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The Saudi crown prince participated in this apparently staged moment with Khashoggi's son:
Spare a thought for Khashoggi's son, banned from leaving Saudi Arabia, who had to go and do this today pic.twitter.com/HyTA896LwF— Tom Gara (@tomgara) October 23, 2018
Once again, Trump appeared to leave his advisers in the lurch. From a Post reporter:
After everyone from the White House press secretary to the vice president has vouched for his claim that "Middle Easterners" have infiltrated the caravan, Trump tells reporters he has no proof of “Middle Easterners” in there, but that there “very well could be.”— Ashley Parker (@AshleyRParker) October 23, 2018
From a New York Times reporter:
The one perennial for everyone working for him - after they have seen their credibility damaged on his behalf, he will saw off the tree limb they’re standing in for him. https://t.co/dVxDbRyNiZ— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) October 23, 2018
Trump also appeared to contradict himself on immigration:
Just tossing this out there - doesnt this undermine your repeated claim that Dems are for open borders and crime? https://t.co/2CkWdvH7gI— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) October 24, 2018
The Senate minority leader condemned violence committed “across the political spectrum”:
Make no mistake: Despicable acts of violence and harassment are being carried out by radicals across the political spectrum—not just by one side. Regardless of who is responsible, these acts are wrong and must be condemned by Democrats and Republicans alike. Period. pic.twitter.com/gopVUDO5dc— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) October 23, 2018
The communications director for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) shared this photo:
Senator Hatch got a new T-shirt to wear to the gymnasium for sport. pic.twitter.com/8bKLxaypEK— Matt Whitlock 🇺🇸 (@mattdizwhitlock) October 23, 2018
A New York Times reporter commented on the top caravan-related stories on Facebook:
Not a shocker, but the top performing stories containing "caravan" on Facebook in the last 24 hours come from:— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) October 23, 2018
1. Fox News (also the #1 performing link overall)
3. Fox News
4. Ben Shapiro
5. Daily Caller
6. Ben Shapiro
7. Daily Caller
8. News & Guts
A veteran NBC News reporter provided this important reminder:
Crisis management?— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) October 23, 2018
Right now the administration does not have Ambassadors in Mexico, Saudi Arabia or Turkey, and no nominees for those posts
Jim Comey reacted to a FOIA request about photos of him and Bob Mueller:
California's senators proposed a World Series bet against their colleagues from Massachusetts:
But Sen. Kamala Harris's communication director broke with her boss:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- BuzzFeed News, “Top Obama Allies Are Ready To Support A Deval Patrick Presidential Campaign” by Darren Sands: “The perils of the road to the presidency — and a life and business he loves — may ultimately keep Deval Patrick away from the Democratic primary. It’s just that he’s running into an awful lot of reasons to think that maybe they shouldn’t.”
-- New York Times, “#MeToo Brought Down 201 Powerful Men. Nearly Half of Their Replacements Are Women,” by Audrey Carlsen, Maya Salam, Claire Cain Miller, Denise Lu, Ash Ngu, Jugal K. Patel and Zach Wichter: “A New York Times analysis has found that, since the publishing of the [Weinstein exposés], at least 200 prominent men have lost their jobs after public allegations of sexual harassment. … In the year preceding the Weinstein report, by contrast, fewer than 30 high-profile people made the news for resigning or being fired after public accusations of sexual misconduct. The downfall of the Fox host Bill O'Reilly in April 2017 turned out to have been just a foreshock of the changes to come.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Megyn Kelly apologizes for blackface comments,” from Politico: “NBC host Megyn Kelly apologized to colleagues Tuesday for questioning on her show why dressing up in blackface for Halloween would be considered racist. ... ‘What is racist? You do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was OK as long as you were dressing up as a character.’ Despite the panelists on her show gently pushing back, Kelly returned to the topic later, referencing an incident from last year in which a Real Housewives [star] was accused of darkening her skin as part of a Diana Ross costume. 'I don’t know, I thought, like, ‘Who doesn’t love Diana Ross?’ She wants to look like Diana Ross for one day. I don’t know how that got racist on Halloween.’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Texas Republicans offer all-expenses-paid trip for Pelosi to campaign for Dems,” from Fox News: “The campaign for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott poked fun at the state’s Democratic Party Tuesday, offering to pay for a visit by [Nancy Pelosi] so she can ‘witness firsthand’ the success Republican policies have had under Abbott. Texans for Greg Abbott sent the letter offering an all-expenses-paid trip for Pelosi. … ‘This campaign visit would provide Leader Pelosi with the opportunity to witness firsthand how our commitment to freedom and limited government has resulted in tremendous success and prosperity for the people of Texas,' the letter read.”
Trump will deliver a speech at the White House on the opioid crisis. He will then travel for a campaign rally in Mosinee, Wis.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“[T]he President of the United States says it’s ok to grab women by their private parts.” — Bruce Michael Alexander, who was arrested for allegedly groping a woman on a Southwest Airlines flight. (Allyson Chiu)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It will be noticeably cooler and breezier than yesterday in Washington. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Temperatures swing back lower today with a wind chill as well. We’ll start in the 40s this morning, reaching highs in the mid-50s this afternoon under mostly to partly sunny skies. Winds gust from the north-northwest to near 30 mph.”
-- A fellow Republican intends to challenge Virginia Senate candidate Corey Stewart next year for chair of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. Antonio Olivo reports: “Martin E. Nohe, a veteran supervisor who also chairs the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, said Tuesday he will run for Stewart’s seat regardless of the outcome of the Senate race. Nohe, who was first elected in 2003, said Stewart’s larger political ambitions in recent years have been a distraction for Virginia’s second-most populous jurisdiction.”
-- D.C. officials are considering measures to crack down on traffic law violators following a recent increase in fatal collisions. Luz Lazo reports: “The District is shaking up its Vision Zero strategy following a rash of fatal collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists since the summer — and mounting criticism from residents and advocates who say the city’s commitment to the program started three years ago with a goal to end traffic deaths by 2024, is failing. As an immediate measure, D.C. police are readying a three-day citywide safety blitz starting Thursday, during which they will target speeding and impaired drivers at multiple locations. … The city also is considering banning right turns on red at 100 locations[.]”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert criticized Trump for calling himself a “nationalist”:
Jimmy Kimmel introduced the “Trump Tell-All Book of the Month Club”:
The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA Action launched a $2 million ad campaign highlighting Mitch McConnell’s comments blaming entitlement campaigns for the rising federal debt:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) launched a new campaign ad with his mother:
And Colorado residents encountered a surprising traffic jam: