With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: If Democrats win the House in two weeks, it’s a safe bet that one of the oversight hearings they schedule for early next year would focus on President Trump’s use of unsecured cellphones.

The matter would not likely be pursued with anywhere near the gusto that congressional Republicans investigated Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state. Leaders of the minority party have higher priorities. But Democratic lawmakers made clear Thursday morning that they will not ignore a New York Times report that Trump has refused to stop using iPhones in the White House, despite repeated warnings from U.S. intelligence officials that Chinese and Russian spies are routinely listening in on his conversations.

“We need an investigation to definitively determine whether Trump has compromised classified information,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who accused the president of “putting personal convenience ahead of America’s national security.”

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who represents D.C. suburbs like Alexandria, reiterated his previous calls for an inquiry into Trump’s cellphone use. “When Trump took office, I warned Republicans about the dangers of his cell phone usage,” he tweeted. “No oversight was conducted under their watch. … His selfishness is jeopardizing our national security.”

“This is a big problem, if true,” added Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee who made his fortune in cellphones. “The intelligence community works hard to defend us against foreign espionage. The last thing we need is for the President to be jeopardizing national security through sheer carelessness.”

The Times story cites anonymous White House officials saying that they can only hope Trump refrains from discussing classified information when he is talking to friends on his iPhone. “American spy agencies . . . learned that China and Russia were eavesdropping on the president’s cellphone calls from human sources inside foreign governments and intercepting communications between foreign officials,” Matthew Rosenberg and Maggie Haberman report. “The officials said they have also determined that China is seeking to use what it is learning from the calls — how Mr. Trump thinks, what arguments tend to sway him and to whom he is inclined to listen — to keep a trade war with the United States from escalating further.”

-- Trump pushed back on the report in a 6:54 a.m. tweet. The president also described the story as “boring,” which is also the word he used earlier this month when responding to the Times’s deep dive on his tax schemes and how much money he inherited from his father.

A few minutes later, Trump appeared to link the nastiness in the country right now to stories like this one:

-- Ironically, Trump and a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry both used the term “fake news” to dismiss the story. Referring to the Chinese cellphone maker, China’s flak trolled America’s largest company in a statement sent to Reuters: “If they are really very worried about Apple phones being bugged, then they can change to using Huawei.”

-- Former Trump White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman said the story jives with her experience:

-- Three other nuggets from the story:

Russia is not believed to be running as sophisticated an influence effort as China because of Mr. Trump’s apparent affinity for President Vladimir V. Putin, a former official said …

“In what amounts to a marriage of lobbying and espionage, the Chinese have pieced together a list of the people with whom Mr. Trump regularly speaks in hopes of using them to influence the president. Among those on the list are Stephen A. Schwarzman, the Blackstone Group chief executive who has endowed a master’s program at Tsinghua University in Beijing, and Steve Wynn, the former Las Vegas casino magnate who used to own a lucrative property in Macau. The Chinese have identified friends of both men and others among the president’s regulars, and are now relying on Chinese businessmen and others with ties to Beijing to feed arguments to the friends of the Trump friends. The strategy is that those people will pass on what they are hearing, and that Beijing’s views will eventually be delivered to the president by trusted voices.

One official said the Chinese were pushing for the friends to persuade Mr. Trump to sit down with [Chinese President Xi Jinping] as often as possible.

-- Reminder: Trump and Xi are scheduled to meet one-on-one at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires next month. (David J. Lynch and Gerry Shih have a good story in our paper today about how attempts by U.S. and Chinese officials to reach a trade deal have been repeatedly impeded by the Trump administration sending mixed signals.)

-- Are there any implications for the midterms? It seems certain that Trump’s iPhone use will not persuade any voters to change their minds about whether to support or oppose certain congressional candidates. If anything, it could distract from the Democratic Party’s preferred closing argument that’s focused on pocketbook issues. But the story could nonetheless become a rallying cry for the progressive base and underscore the immense political value for liberals that could come with seizing the lower chamber, including subpoena power and the ability to schedule oversight hearings.

-- “But her emails” was a common refrain on social media.

From Hillary Clinton’s former spokesman:

Obama’s former chief liaison to the Cabinet, and the executive director of the Obama-Biden transition team, tried to get the hashtag #LockHimUp going and linked the story to GOP attacks in the Arizona Senate race: 

A Democratic operative:

-- Conservative national security hawks who have previously been critical of the president also expressed alarm:

A National Review writer called the revelations “appalling, if true”: 

The editor at large of the Weekly Standard recalled his days in George H.W. Bush’s White House, where he was chief of staff to Dan Quayle:

The legendary conservative radio host turned NBC analyst called the Times story “kind of a big deal”:

-- An additional insight on why Trump doesn’t use a secure line: He doesn’t trust his own staff.

From the director of the Aspen Institute’s Cybersecurity and Technology Program:

An intelligence reporter for NBC News:

The executive producer of HBO’s “Veep” quipped:

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- The Red Sox beat the Dodgers in Game 2, giving them a 2-0 lead in the World Series as the teams head to Los Angeles. Dave Sheinin reports: “The Red Sox now face as many as three games at Dodger Stadium, beginning with Game 3 on Friday night. Then again, they are 5-0 on the road this postseason, so they probably aren’t quite quaking at the prospect. After a 108-win regular season, they are 9-2 overall this postseason, having outscored opponents by a combined 68-41.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. The Dow plunged more than 600 points, officially wiping out all of 2018's gains and capping what appears to be the worst month in eight years. Wednesday's sell-off was largely blamed on the tech industry and by a weaker-than-expected housing report. Tuesday's sell-off was blamed on the Trump tariffs. (Thomas Heath)
  2. An extreme Category 5 “Super Typhoon” tore into the Northern Mariana islands, leveling buildings, collapsing walls and tearing rooftops completely off houses in the U.S. commonwealth. The typhoon is tied for the strongest storm anywhere in the world in 2018, and forecasters warned residents to prepare for “extreme destruction.” (Allyson Chiu, Chris Mooney and Juliet Eilperin)
  3. Virginia’s attorney general said his office is investigating the state’s two Catholic dioceses over any possible sex abuse or coverups within the church. Democrat Mark Herring's announcement comes on the heels of D.C. and 12 other states that have launched similar inquiries in response to a sprawling Pennsylvania grand jury report this summer. (Michelle Boorstein and Laura Vozzella)
  4. “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos’s defamation lawsuit against Trump has been quietly advancing. Days after Stormy Daniels’s libel case against the president was dismissed, Zervos’s lawyer was arguing before New York appellate judges why their lawsuit should be allowed to proceed. So far, Trump’s lawyers have been unable to kill or stall the case. (Elise Viebeck)

  5. The Interior Department approved a company’s plan to drill for oil in Alaska’s federal waters. If the development by Hilcorp Energy moves forward, it would be the first oil and gas production facility in federal waters in Alaska, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in the announcement, a major victory for the oil industry and a blow to conservation groups that fear a possible leak in a sensitive and pristine natural environment. (Darryl Fears)

  6. The FBI has arrested Robert Rundo, the California leader of a violent neo-Nazi group, after he attempted to flee the country. Rundo’s “Rise Above Movement” has been linked to a spate of violent activity and protests — and shortly before he tried to escape the U.S., four group members were indicted on charges of attacking counterprotesters at last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. (New York Times)
  7. At least seven children died and several others were sickened by an adenovirus outbreak at a New Jersey rehab center. Health officials said there are at least 18 confirmed cases of the virus among pediatric patients this month. (Lindsey Bever)
  8. A federal advisory panel voted to recommend that homeless people receive “routine” hepatitis A shots — seeking to thwart a recent outbreak of the contagious liver disease believed to be tied to crowding and poor hygiene. It’s the first-ever routine vaccination the panel has recommended for homeless people. (Lena H. Sun)
  9. A new study finds that at least one-quarter of college students reported experiencing “clinically significant event-related distress” in the aftermath of the 2016 election. Researchers said this type of distress is significant because it could increase their likelihood of developing PTSD down the road. (Isaac Stanley-Becker)
  10. NBC may soon take “Megyn Kelly Today” off the air. Kelly is in talks with NBC News executives to find a new role at the network following widespread criticism for her comments about blackface. Kelly started her show Wednesday by apologizing for the remarks. (CNN)

AMERICA ON EDGE:

-- After multiple pipe bombs were sent to prominent Democrats and CNN, the president lashed out last night at the media for incivility during a campaign rally in Wisconsin. Josh Dawsey and Felicia Sonmez report: “Trump appeared to make a show of behaving civil throughout his remarks to supporters in [Mosinee]. He was relatively subdued as he spoke, interrupted himself several times to point out that he was ‘trying to be nice’ and took no responsibility for his own role in contributing to the country’s civic discourse. ‘No nation can succeed that tolerates violence or the threat of violence as a method of political intimidation, coercion or control,’ Trump said as he opened his remarks. ‘We want all sides to come together in peace and harmony. . . . The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative — and oftentimes, false — attacks and stories.'

“In an apparent swipe at Democrats, Trump denounced those who ‘carelessly compare political opponents to historical villains’ and who ‘mob people in public places or destroy public property.’ The president, who has frequently used nicknames such as ‘Lyin’ Ted’ or ‘Crooked Hillary’ to mock his rivals, called for those in the political arena to ‘stop treating their opponents as morally defective'. … At one point, the crowd began chanting, ‘CNN sucks!’ but soon stopped, as Trump continued speaking.”

-- Law enforcement officials are scrambling to find the would-be bomber and prevent any more such packages from reaching their targets. Devlin Barrett, Mark Berman and Cleve R. Wootson Jr. report: “The hunt for a serial mail bomber began late Tuesday night when Secret Service personnel conducting standard mail screenings found a pipe bomb inside a plain manila envelope with a bubble-wrapped interior addressed to [Hillary Clinton]. A similarly packaged bomb was found hours later in mail addressed to Barack Obama. Neither bomb got close to its intended target, and neither contained a written message, according to law enforcement officials, but the twin discoveries led to other undetonated devices being found elsewhere, including in the mailroom at CNN’s New York headquarters and a district office of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.). . . . FBI Director Christopher A. Wray issued an appeal for the public’s help to catch the bomber and warned people not to touch suspicious packages.

Officials said the packages used as a return address the office of Wasserman Schultz, who chaired the Democratic National Committee during part of the 2016 campaign. One such package used an incorrect address for former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr., and it was 'returned' to her office in Sunrise, Fla., where it was intercepted . . . On Wednesday night, the FBI issued a statement saying investigators found ‘two additional packages, both addressed to Rep. Maxine Waters, that are similar in appearance’ to the other five.”

-- A similar package was discovered this morning at the office of actor Robert DeNiro, a frequent Trump critic. Police swarmed a block in Lower Manhattan to investigate the suspicious package.

-- Earlier in the day, Trump had condemned all the attempted violence and called upon Americans to unite, but “a common theme among the targets was unmistakable: Each has been a recurring subject of Trump attacks,” Philip Rucker writes. “In the home stretch of the fall campaign, [Trump] has called Democrats ‘evil’ and argued they are ‘too dangerous to govern.’ He has denounced Obama’s presidency and demonized . . . Hillary Clinton, inspiring chants of ‘Lock her up!’ at his rallies. The president has also used his bully pulpit to taunt [Waters] as a ‘low I.Q. individual,’ impugn former CIA director John Brennan and fan conspiracy theories about liberal philanthropist George Soros. And he has called the news media ‘the enemy of the people,’ singling out CNN’s reporting as ‘fake news.’ This week, these targets of Trump’s rhetoric became the intended targets of actual violence.”

-- “[E]ven a moment when political leaders on both sides find common rhetorical ground cannot erase the reality of the times in which we now live,” Dan Balz writes. “This is a time of the politics of the apocalypse — an all-or-nothing view of the difference between winning and losing an election and of holding power or not holding it. There is no middle ground on what winning or losing means. This has been on the rise for a long time. But it has intensified of late. No one really knows how to roll it back. Politicians say that it is time for the country to come together. But on whose terms?”

-- Some on the far right were quick to suggest the attacks might have been a “false flag” by Antifa or another leftist group. Abby Ohlheiser and Avi Selk report: “Within minutes of the news of the suspicious packages, the ‘false flag’ narrative began circulating in pro-Trump spaces like the r/The_Donald subreddit. Rising posts linked to articles about Bill Ayers, one of the founders of the radical Weather Underground organization, which claimed responsibility for a series of bomb attacks in the 1970s. Another rising post said, ‘FALSE FLAG. When you hear the MSM screaming about attempted violence by Trump supporters two weeks before Midterms just remember what leftists are capable of.’ Later on Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh promoted the false-flag theory, suggesting that a ‘Democratic operative’ was more likely to have sent the devices than a Republican. ‘Republicans just don’t do this kind of thing,’ Limbaugh said on his radio show.” 

-- The attempted violence against George Soros comes amid escalating political attacks on the billionaire philanthropist. Michael Kranish reports: “On Facebook, Soros figures prominently in ads paid for by conservative organizations and GOP committees, according to an archive of politically themed ads … One of the biggest efforts is by Judicial Watch, a conservative group that is raising funds through a campaign it calls ‘Expose Soros.’ One of its Facebook ads featured a black-and-white photo of Soros circled in red. … One of [the National Republican Congressional Committee’s] video ads attacks a Democratic candidate for the House from Minnesota, Dan Feehan, an Iraq War veteran. The ad seeks to tie Feehan to ‘billionaire George Soros’ who ‘bankrolls the resistance.’ It shows Feehan wearing a badge that says he is ‘paid for by George Soros.’ The video concludes with a picture of Soros and Feehan amid blazing fires. The NRCC released another ad Wednesday, which accused Feehan of being tied to the ‘radical George Soros.’”

-- The package sent to CNN appeared to feature a parody of an ISIS flag that has circulated among right-wing circles on the Internet. NBC News’s Ben Collins reports: “The print-out appears to show a parody flag that replaces Arabic characters with the silhouette of three women in high heels, and a middle inscription reading ‘Get ‘Er Done’ — which is the catchphrase of standup comedian Larry the Cable Guy. … The ‘Get ‘Er Done’ flag was originally created in 2014 by the right-wing parody site World News Bureau, for an article titled ‘ISIS Vows Retribution For Counterfeit Flags.’ It has since been shared as a meme on right-wing websites and forums.”

KHASHOGGI FALLOUT:

-- Saudi Arabia acknowledged journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death was premeditated, contradicting its earlier statements. Tamer El-Ghobashy reports: “The Foreign Ministry did not say what led the prosecutor to draw that conclusion, only that it was based on information shared by Turkish investigators working with Saudi officials in Turkey. According to the statement, the Saudi prosecutor will continue its investigation based on the new information.”

-- CIA Director Gina Haspel listened to the audio that purportedly captured Khashoggi's interrogation and killing during her trip to Turkey this week — giving a top U.S. intelligence official access to the same evidence Turkey used to accuse Saudi Arabia of premeditated murder. “A person familiar with the audio said it was ‘compelling’ and could put more pressure on the [U.S.] to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the death of [Khashoggi],” per John Hudson, Souad Mekhennet and Shane Harris. "‘This puts the ball firmly in Washington’s court,’ said [former CIA official Bruce Riedel]. 'Not only will there be more pressure now from the media but Congress will say, ‘Gina, we would love to have you come visit and you can tell us exactly what you heard.’'' 

  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continued to deny having knowledge of the case. Speaking at a business forum in Riyadh, he called Khashoggi’s killing a “heinous crime” and said his country is doing “everything it can” to bring the perpetrators to justice.
  • Turkish officials doubted his commitment to a full investigation: “[MBS] is one of the suspects,” one senior official said. “Members of his royal guard were part of the killing squad. The U.S. nor the rest of the world should really accept this.”

-- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with MBS for the first time since Khashoggi’s death. Their discussion came as Turkish investigators returned to the grounds of the Saudi Consulate, in an “apparent hunt” for the journalist's remains, report Erin Cunningham and Loveday Morris

-- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Saudi Arabia “would not have murdered” Khashoggi “without” U.S. protection. Reuters reports: “'No one would imagine that in today’s world and a new century that we would witness such an organized murder and a system would plan out such a heinous murder,’ Rouhani said … ‘I don’t think that a country would dare commit such a crime without the protection of America.’”

-- Washington operative Ali Shihabi has been defending the Saudis since the Khashoggi news broke. From Politico's Nahal Toosi: “The reaction from many quarters was scathing. ‘Keep cashing those checks, Ali,’ wrote Karen Attiah, who edited Khashoggi’s columns for The Washington Post. ‘I cannot for the life of me understand how you sleep at night.’ … The global outrage over Khashoggi’s murder has forced many Washington lobbyists and public relations pros to cut ties with the Saudi government. But not Shihabi, a Saudi national who may be the country’s most effective defender in the U.S. capital. The Saudi ambassador left Washington earlier this month and reportedly may not return, but it matters less given that many already consider Shihabi, who is close to the Saudi leadership, to be the kingdom’s unofficial envoy.”

THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Special counsel Bob Mueller has obtained evidence suggesting that right-wing conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, an associate of longtime Trump ally Roger Stone, may have known WikiLeaks would release emails from John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. NBC News’s Ken Dilanian and Anna Schecter report: “Mueller's team has spent months investigating whether [Corsi] learned before the public did that WikiLeaks had obtained emails hacked by Russian intelligence officers — and whether he passed information about the stolen emails to [Stone], multiple sources said. Mueller's investigators have reviewed messages to members of the Trump team in which Stone and Corsi seem to take credit for the release of Democratic emails, said a person with direct knowledge of the emails.”

-- “Mueller appears to be locked in a dispute with a mystery grand jury witness resisting giving up information sought in [his] ongoing probe,” Politico’s Josh Gerstein and Darren Samuelsohn report. “It's unclear exactly what the two sides are fighting over, but the case appears to resemble a separate legal battle involving an associate of [Roger Stone], Andrew Miller, who is fighting a Mueller subpoena. Miller's lawyers are using the case, slated to be argued at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals early next month, to mount a broad legal assault on Mueller's authority as special counsel. In the more shadowy case, which involves an unknown person summoned before a grand jury this summer, the D.C. Circuit on Monday set a separate round of arguments for Dec. 14.”

-- Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos will give closed-door testimony today on Capitol Hill. Karoun Demirjian reports: “It is the first time that Papadopoulos, who was recently sentenced for lying to the FBI, will speak to any of the congressional panels examining aspects of Russian interference in U.S. politics. Lawmakers have wanted to interview him for more than a year but were unable to do so while he was cooperating with Mueller.”

THE MIDTERMS:

-- “A federal judge on Wednesday ordered Georgia election officials to stop summarily tossing absentee ballots because of mismatched signatures, delivering a crucial win to voting-rights advocates — and to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams,” Amy Gardner reports: “The ruling resulted from two lawsuits filed earlier this month after election officials in a single Atlanta suburb, Gwinnett County, rejected hundreds of absentee ballots with signature discrepancies, missing addresses or incorrect birth years. The plaintiffs … argued that allowing nonexpert election officials to judge the validity of signatures without giving voters the chance to contest the decisions amounted to unconstitutional voter suppression. U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May agreed, and she ordered Secretary of State Brian Kemp to instruct all local election officials to stop rejecting absentee ballots over the mismatched signatures. Instead, such ballots will be marked ‘provisional,’ and the voter will be given the right to appeal the decision or confirm his or her identity.”

-- A new NBC News-Marist poll found Abrams and Kemp virtually tied in Georgia’s gubernatorial race. NBC News’s Carrie Dann reports: “In a head-to-head contest among registered voters in Georgia, both [Abrams and Kemp] receive 47 percent support. Among likely voters, Kemp gets 49 percent to Abrams’ 47 percent, but that result is well within the poll’s margin of error. When libertarian Ted Metz is included on the ballot, Kemp’s lead shrinks to 1 point among likely voters — Kemp gets 46 percent, Abrams gets 45 percent and Metz gets 4 percent.” [If neither candidate gets 50 percent, there's a runoff in December.]

-- “The final debate in the Florida governor race devolved into an extraordinary, highly personal brawl,” Tim Craig reports. “At different times during the hour-long debate, [Republican Ron DeSantis] suggested Gillum would allow child molesters to roam Florida communities, while [Democrat Andrew Gillum], who is seeking to become Florida’s first black governor, accused DeSantis of being supported by neo-Nazis. Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, also charged that DeSantis, a former congressman, was ‘disqualified’ to lead the state because he can’t be trusted to tell the truth. DeSantis in turn said Gillum was a liar and the corrupt mayor of a crime-ridden city.”

-- DeSantis has sought to keep attention on reports that Gillum received a “Hamilton” ticket from an undercover FBI agent. John Wagner reports: “‘This is what local corruption looks like,’ DeSantis said during an appearance on Fox News … ‘He claims he’s not under investigation,’ DeSantis [said]. ‘Why the heck would law enforcement send an undercover agent to line his pockets if he wasn’t under investigation? Of course he is.’ … In [their debate], Gillum continued to play down the revelations. ‘I take responsibility for not having asked more questions,’ he said. ‘But let me tell you, I’m running for governor. In the state of Florida, we have many issues. And tickets to ‘Hamilton’ ain’t one of them.’”

-- Democratic congressional candidates are using the fear of a late Republican surge to motivate their supporters. Matt Viser reports: “Katie Hill, who has emerged as one of the party’s most promising first-time congressional candidates, looked out at a group of about 100 supporters days ago and revealed that new polling indicated a four-point swing against her in what for decades has been a conservative stronghold, driven by consolidation by Republican voters into the camp of her opponent. … The problem for Democrats: Their candidates are awash in attention, the money is pouring in and volunteers are eager to help. But in many of these seats, voters who live in the districts are proving more difficult to win over than Democrats once hoped.”

-- Joe Biden’s consistent presence on the campaign trail has renewed questions of whether the Democrats needs a fresher face to lead them in the Trump era. Paul Kane writes from Florida: “[Biden] hit the campaign trail [in Florida] for Gillum and [Sen. Bill] Nelson, the 76-year-old moderate seeking a fourth term and running against Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R). Those two races are serving as a beta test for the Democrats, and also could go a long way toward understanding Biden’s future in the party. … Should Gillum lose, and particularly if Nelson wins, Democratic donors and party elders may fear backing a younger, untested 2020 contender.”

-- Over a two-week period, Snapchat has registered more than 400,000 people to vote in this year’s midterm elections — a herculean feat accomplished simply by adding an additional button on each users’ profile page. Company officials said the biggest boosts in registration were seen in key battleground states such as Texas, Florida and Georgia. (New York Times)

-- “Trump will hold at least 10 midterms rallies between Oct. 31 and Election Day, with the possibility of bumping it up to two rallies each day in two different states,” Axios reports. “The White House and Secret Service are still working out the logistics. A source familiar with the rallies said the first will be held in Florida next Wednesday and Vice President Mike Pence will join on a couple of the stops.”

-- Three Democratic senators are seeking information on whether the White House is reimbursing taxpayers for Trump’s campaign-related travels. Seung Min Kim reports: “Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) argue there have been multiple instances throughout Trump’s presidency when he traveled out of town for an official event but engaged directly in political activity, such as calling for the election of a certain candidate. It amounts to a ‘frequent blurring of the lines’ between official and campaign events, the senators say, and they’re asking the White House to hand over documents that may shed light on how it has compensated taxpayers for political expenses.”

-- The stock market tumble could further complicate one of Trump’s favorite talking points on the campaign trail. Damian Paletta and Danielle Paquette report: “The financial swoon threatens to undermine a market rise for which Trump has frequently claimed credit and to highlight controversial aspects of Trump’s agenda, including tariffs many companies are blaming for their struggles and a tax cut that polls suggest the public views as inadequately helpful for the middle class. Trump has increasingly looked to shift focus away from economic indicators he once touted and toward immigration and other issues — and assign blame elsewhere for any economic setbacks.”

-- Trump falsely claimed ensuring insurance coverage for those with preexisting conditions was a priority for Republicans, not Democrats, heading into the midterms. “Republicans will totally protect people with Pre-Existing Conditions, Democrats will not! Vote Republican,” Trump tweeted. Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner report: “The misleading statement about the 2010 health care law, which passed with only Democratic votes, reflects a strategy that Republicans are hoping will pay off Nov. 6: Repeatedly tell voters that the GOP supports one of the ACA’s most popular provisions and hope they ignore or forget eight years of votes, rhetoric, legal efforts and bureaucratic moves to gut the law.”

-- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) bluntly responded to Trump’s tweet about preexisting conditions with a tweet of his own: “Good morning, America. This is a lie.” “It is simply not true that Republicans will protect coverage for pre-existing conditions, Mr. President,” the minority leader wrote. (John Wagner)

-- “A Changing Tennessee Weighs a Moderate or Conservative for Senate,” by the New York Times’s Jonathan Martin: “Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen "came out in support of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh — after the searing Senate hearings. … Yet in the immediate aftermath of the Kavanaugh confirmation fight, Mr. Bredesen saw his polling sag as conservative-leaning voters aligned themselves with the Republicans. The race has tightened again, according to public and private surveys, but the court battle was a boon to Republicans here."

Republican Marsha Blackburn, “a hard-line conservative from exurban Nashville, has delighted in the opportunity to nationalize the race: at a debate earlier this month she referred to Hillary Clinton over 20 times. That may be why Mr. Bredesen has for months, in public and private, repeated the same assessment of his chances: if it is a contest between him and Ms. Blackburn, he will win. But should the race be framed as a Republican versus a Democrat, he will lose. And it’s why his friend [retiring Sen. Bob] Corker originally felt him out about running as an independent to avoid the party-label stigma, according to officials familiar with the conversation. But if that anger propels Ms. Blackburn to victory, 2018 will be remembered as the year Tennessee made a sharp break from its tradition of electing pragmatic leaders — a tradition that has endured even as the state has been tugged right.”

-- The RNC said a mailer it sent out that included erroneous information about Montana’s absentee voting was a mistake. Eli Rosenberg reports: “The mailer told voters in Montana, where incumbent Sen. Jon Tester (D) is engaged in a competitive fight against Republican challenger Matt Rosendale, that absentee ballots could be postmarked until the day before the election as long as they were received within 10 days of Nov. 6. But election officials told local reporters that the state’s rules stipulate that ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day, regardless of the postmark. The RNC said the error was a mistake it was working to fix."

THE IMMIGRATION WARS:

-- The White House is struggling to determine a response to the migrant caravan headed toward the U.S.-Mexico border. David Nakamura and Nick Miroff report: “Trump and his aides have convened high-level emergency meetings in an effort to mount an effective response to halt the loosely organized group of men, women and children, which is moving slowly through Mexico. The primary focus has been on pressuring Mexican authorities to disperse the migrants, but the president also has been imploring aides to develop a more forceful plan to keep the group from entering the United States, said several administration officials … Although the size of the caravan remains relatively small compared with the total number of unauthorized immigrants arrested each month at the southern U.S. border[,] … the arrival of thousands in a single group, with a phalanx of international reporters in tow, could create a humanitarian challenge and a political crisis for the White House.”

 -- The Trump administration failed to notify key federal agencies about its “zero tolerance” immigration policy before publicly announcing it earlier this year — surprising the federal officials who were tasked with carrying out the family separations, according to a new GAO report. The New York Times’s Ron Nixon reports: “The [DHS and HHS] were both caught off guard when [Jeff Sessions] announced plans to criminally prosecute anyone who crossed the border illegally, the report said. Because they did not know about the ‘zero tolerance’ policy in advance, officials at the [DHS] said, they did not take steps to prepare for the resulting family separations. Staff members at the [HHS] said their leaders told them not to prepare for an increase in children separated from their families because homeland security officials claimed that they did not have an official policy of separating parents and children …

“Many of the children were placed in government-run shelters thousands of miles away from their parents. But the report found that in some cases, officials at the [DHS] did not notify staff at the shelters that a child had been separated from his or her parents. One shelter’s officials told the [GAO] that for some of the children in its care, they had learned that the child was separated only when the child told them. … It was not until July 6, 16 days after Mr. Trump signed an executive order aimed at ending the family separations … that federal agencies developed a system to determine whether children were separated from their parents, the report said.”

-- Trump has pointed to Europe’s migrant crisis to justify hard-line immigration policies in the United States, but the comparison does not hold up, Adam Taylor writes. “The scale of the situation along the U.S. border is nowhere near the size of the problem that Europe faced in 2015 and 2016. To use just one metric, there were more than 1.3 million asylum applications in Europe in 2015, compared to 331,700 in the United States last year. Much of Europe’s turmoil on immigration also resulted from arguments among European Union member states that felt that the burden of accepting and caring for migrants was not being equally shared — and that the bloc’s policy of open borders was not up to the scale of the problem. As a single country, the United States doesn’t have to deal with such divisions.”

THE REST OF THE AGENDA:

-- Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said it was “highly unlikely” the Senate would vote on a middle-class tax cut after the election. Erica Werner reports: “Hatch said it would require ‘monumental effort’ for the Senate to pass any such proposal. He added: ‘I’ve seen miracles happen before.’ Hatch also told reporters on Capitol Hill he had few details of the proposal, which his committee would be charged with shepherding. … Asked whether there actually is such a proposal, Hatch said: ‘I think there will be.’ … He said he believed the Senate ultimately could pass such a tax cut, but ‘it would be very difficult at this particular time.’”

-- Trump is expected to propose an overhaul of how Medicare pays for certain drugs in a speech today at HHS. Politico’s Sarah Karlin-Smith and Dan Diamond report: “The proposal, which was sent to the White House earlier this month, would use Medicare’s innovation center to test three ways to lower the costs of drugs — including negotiating for some drugs that are directly administered by doctors, in hopes of keeping them in line with the lower prices paid in many other countries. … The administration is bracing for blowback, said one official, noting that hospitals and doctors — and of course the drug companies — all have reason to be unhappy about a plan that will cost much of the health sector money.”

-- Trump signed a sweeping opioids bill into law. Katie Zezima and Seung Min Kim report: “The bill addresses numerous aspects of the opioid crisis, including prevention, treatment and recovery. It knits together bills sponsored by hundreds of lawmakers, many of whom are embroiled in tough reelection battles and can now tout their support of the law in the run-up to Election Day. … Democratic Senate candidates, particularly those from states most ravaged by the opioid crisis, have promoted their efforts to stem the epidemic in an array of positive campaign ads.”

-- A federal judge declined to halt the lawsuit over the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Tara Bahrampour reports: “The Department of Justice had sought late Tuesday night to temporarily block the trial, which is due to begin Nov. 5 in New York, and any pretrial submissions, including four depositions scheduled for this week. … The Department of Justice argued that since the Supreme Court could eventually rule in the government’s favor, the trial was a waste of the government’s resources. [U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman] dismissed that argument, saying, ‘That is true of any trial that goes through the Department of Justice.’”

-- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg blamed Congress for the politicization of the judicial confirmation process. Ann E. Marimow reports: “Ginsburg did not mention [Kavanaugh]. But she alluded to the bitter process that ended this month with his confirmation by one of the narrowest margins in history. Kavanaugh had the support of only one Democratic senator. In contrast, Ginsburg noted that the late justice Antonin M. Scalia was confirmed unanimously. The Senate voted 96-3 to confirm Ginsburg. ‘What a difference in time that was from what we are witnessing today,’ she said. On the polarization, she said, ‘to me, the obvious culprit is Congress,’ and she lamented the lack of effort to ‘reach across the aisle.’”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sounded this dark note:

Trump's 2020 campaign manager issued an apology for criticizing CNN the same day as the attempted attacks:

CNN's president implored Trump to consider the “seriousness” of his criticisms against the network:

From a CNN host:

The president endorsed Mike Pence's condemnation of the attacks:

Trump's son highlighted his own experiences:

The president's daughter and senior adviser echoed his concerns:

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, who was shot at a Virginia ballpark last year, called the attacks “beyond criminal”:

Bill Clinton thanked the Secret Service for their intervention:

Two CNN reporters shared live updates as their building was evacuated:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) expressed a message of unity:

He also warned against assigning blame:

A Democratic senator and 2020 contender praised law enforcement officials:

A Post reporter noted this contrast:

From a Post columnist:

Supporters of Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis appeared to express skepticism about the attempted attacks:

From a Texas Monthly contributor:

A familiar face appeared at the Saudi investor conference:

A New York Times reporter explained how a North Dakota law is impeding Native Americans' ability to vote:

Jason Kander, Missouri's former secretary of state who recently dropped out of the Kansas City mayoral race, door-knocked for Sen. Claire McCaskill:

And Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan explained how her current job is different from her former role as solicitor general:

GOOD READS:

-- “‘We have a serious problem’: Paul Volcker is worried about something worse than inflation,” by Heather Long: “When Paul Volcker listens to [Trump] bash the Federal Reserve, he grimaces, but he is not surprised. Volcker, the tall and revered former Fed chair, has personally witnessed more egregious examples of presidents demanding that interest rates stay low. … ‘My message to Chairman Powell is be strong and follow your instincts,’ Volcker said in an interview in the apartment he bought in the 1970s on Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side. ‘Given all the other things Trump says, I wouldn’t be too concerned.’”

-- New York Times, “When Sears Flourished, So Did Workers. At Amazon, It’s More Complicated,” by Nelson D. Schwartz and Michael Corkery: “Half a century ago, a typical Sears salesman could walk out of the store at retirement with a nest egg worth well over a million in today’s dollars, feathered with company stock. A warehouse worker hired now at Amazon who stays until retirement would leave with a fraction of that. Much as Sears has declined in the intervening decades, so has the willingness of corporate America to share the rewards of success. Shareholders now come first and employees have been pushed to the back of the line. This shift is broader than a single company’s culture, reflecting deep changes in how business is now conducted in America. Winner-take-some has evolved into winner-take-most or -all, and in many cases publicly traded companies are concentrating wealth, not spreading it. Profit-sharing and pensions are a rarity among the rank-and-file, while top executives take home an increasing share of the spoils …”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Black Students Sue Texas County Over Limited Early Voting Locations,” from HuffPost: “A group of students at a historically black university in Texas is suing county officials for not providing enough early voting locations on campus, saying they are discriminating against students based on their race and age. The five students at Prairie View A&M University filed the lawsuit in federal court in Houston on Monday, the first day of early voting for the 2018 midterm elections in the state. It noted that election officials had failed to establish a single early voting location on campus during the entire first week the polls are open. While there is early voting on campus during the second week, it’s only for three days and ends at 5 p.m. . . . The suit says the limited early voting in Prairie View, home to Prairie View A&M and where 79 percent of the voting-age population is black, is illegal because nearby towns in the county with more voters who are white and less who are ages 18 to 21 have more early voting opportunities.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Roseanne Barr-less ‘The Conners’ loses 25 percent of viewers from series premiere,” from Fox News: “The second episode of ABC’s ‘The Conners’ – which is the Roseanne Barr-less spinoff of ‘Roseanne’ – lost roughly 25 percent of viewers who tuned in to last week’s premiere, according to TheWrap. ‘The Conners’ picked up a 1.7 rating and 7.9 million viewers, compared to the debut’s 2.3 rating and 10.5 million viewers, according to the Hollywood trade publication which cited fast-national Nielsen statistics. Industry insiders speculated that many of the premiere’s viewers simply tuned in to see how Barr’s pro-Trump character would be killed off and wouldn’t return for the second installment. The concerns turned out to be warranted and viewership dropped from an already underwhelming debut. The first episode of ‘The Conners’ lost 35 percent of the viewers who tuned in to watch the return of the original series in March. Last spring, ‘Roseanne’ returned from a 20-year hiatus to a massive audience, racking up 18.2 million viewers.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will give a speech on drug pricing at HHS. He will later speak at a reception for the 35th anniversary of the 1983 bombings on the Beirut barracks. He will then host a roundtable with supporters and speak at a dinner.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“It is a troubling time, isn’t it? It is a time of deep divisions, and we have to do everything we can to bring our country together.” — Hillary Clinton addresses the attempted attack on her New York home. (Devlin Barrett, Mark Berman and Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)

 

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

-- Washingtonians should expect a sunny, brisk day. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “The day starts off chilly, but with plenty of sun, temperatures steadily rise. Highs only manage to get into the low to mid-50s, about 10 degrees below where they should be. High clouds are likely to increase in the afternoon to put a filter on the sunshine.”

-- The Wizards lost to the Golden State Warriors 144-122. Stephen Curry scored 51 points in the game. (Candace Buckner)

-- A government watchdog group accused D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) of violating campaign finance rules. Fenit Nirappil reports: “The complaint filed by Public Citizen alleges that the Bowser campaign’s Oct. 14 get-out-the-vote rally featuring at-large council contenders Anita Bonds (D) and Dionne Reeder (I) constituted an improper donation to their campaigns. It’s not unusual for elected officials to campaign for other candidates. But Public Citizen, a nonprofit organization advocating to reduce the influence of money in politics, said Bowser appeared to have crossed a line by spending campaign funds on the event.”

-- The D.C. Board of Elections sent out thousands of absentee ballot envelopes that didn’t feature a reminder to include stamps. But the U.S. Postal Service said it still delivers absentee ballots without sufficient postage, instead charging the local elections agency. (Fenit Nirappil)

-- A third suspect was arrested in the fatal shooting of Makiyah Wilson. The 10-year-old died this summer while trying to buy an ice cream in Northeast Washington. (Dana Hedgpeth and Keith L. Alexander)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Late-night hosts reacted to the attempted bomb attacks:

Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) was awarded Four Pinocchios for this campaign ad, in which he promises the "honest truth":

A Utah state senator drove to Las Vegas to try marijuana for the first time ahead of a state vote to legalize medical marijuana:

A class of kindergartners learned to sign "Happy Birthday" for their school custodian:

And a high school football player in Maryland stunned the crowd with his rendition of the national anthem: