THE BIG IDEA: Several House Democrats facing tough reelection fights next year in districts that Donald Trump carried in 2016 are expressing openness to impeachment for the first time, a major tipping point that reflects their palpable outrage over the president’s purported conduct toward Ukraine and will intensify pressure on their colleagues who hold safer seats to follow suit.
The latest is freshman Rep. Haley Stevens of Michigan. She picked up an open seat in the Detroit suburbs last fall that Republicans had held for decades. Trump won the district three years ago by 4.4 percentage points. In a statement sent after 7 a.m., Stevens said she did not get to this point lightly – “but rather out of a sober obligation to stand up for the rule of law and our national security.”
“Over the last several days, I have been deeply alarmed by reports of serious abuse of power by President Trump,” Stevens wrote. “The President is alleged to have used the power of his office to pressure a foreign head of state for his own personal political gain. Furthermore, the Director of National Intelligence continues to illegally withhold information about this matter from Congress. If investigations confirm recent reports, these actions represent impeachable offences that threaten to undermine the integrity of our elections and jeopardize the balance of power within the federal government.”
Stevens’s announcement follows a new Washington Post report that Trump ordered his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold back almost $400 million in military aid for Ukraine at least a week before a phone call in which the president is said to have pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden’s son. That’s according to three senior administration officials.
Trump confirmed this morning at the United Nations that he withheld military aid from Ukraine but insisted that he did so because he wanted other European countries to chip in. “But very importantly, Germany, France, other countries should put up money, and that’s been my complaint from the beginning,” the president told reporters at the United Nations.
We’ve been hearing lots of metaphors from plugged-in Democratic strategists we’ve spoken with over the past 24 hours like “the dam is breaking” and “the train is leaving the station.” Or, as Democratic pollster Geoff Garin put it, “The horse is out of the barn. Saddle up.”
Stevens is the third Michigan congresswoman to express support for moving toward an impeachment inquiry in a period of just 12 hours. As of 10 a.m., 148 House Democrats have now publicly expressed support for at least opening an impeachment inquiry into whether Trump committed “high crimes and misdemeanors.” (Follow our running whip count here.)
Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who represents a district that Trump carried by 6.7 points in 2016, which stretches from the northern Detroit suburbs to the state capital in Lansing, submitted an op-ed to The Washington Post last night with six other House freshmen who have extensive national security experience. They agreed that, if the allegations against Trump are true, “we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense.” And they’re calling on their colleagues to use all congressional authorities, including impeachment hearings, to “address these new allegations, find the truth and protect our national security.”
Slotkin, who toppled Republican incumbent Mike Bishop in the midterms, is a former CIA officer who was personally involved in briefings for both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Fluent in Arabic, she was a Middle East analyst for the agency and deployed to Iraq for three tours over five years. Then she became the director for Iraq policy on the National Security Council, moved to the State Department and finally the Pentagon. (I profiled her in a 2017 Big Idea.)
The other signatories are Reps. Gil Cisneros of California, Jason Crow of Colorado, Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia. “We have devoted our lives to the service and security of our country, and throughout our careers, we have sworn oaths to defend the Constitution of the United States many times over. Now, we join as a unified group to uphold that oath as we enter uncharted waters and face unprecedented allegations against President Trump,” the seven wrote. (One of the members, Crow from the Denver suburbs, endorsed impeachment in July. But the others had all previously held off.)
Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), the widow of the legendary John Dingell, has her finger on the pulse of the caucus better than all but a handful of her colleagues. She’s been exceedingly cautious on impeachment – arguing that it would “tear the country apart” – until last night. “This country is divided. We cannot be divided on the rule of law. As an elected official my oath is to protect national security and the Constitution,” she tweeted at 10:22 p.m. “After recent revelations, I support an impeachment inquiry because we must follow the facts and hold the President accountable.”
Because of Rep. Justin Amash, an independent from the other side of Michigan who left the GOP on July 4 after endorsing impeachment, Democrats can afford to lose 18 or so votes and still pass any article of impeachment. Republicans who control the Senate would then most likely acquit Trump during an ensuing trial in that body. Nancy Pelosi, though, wants something as close to unanimity in her caucus as possible and she’s been afraid to endanger her front-line members like Stevens.
Many prominent impeachment skeptics in the Democratic caucus have been friends and loyalists of the speaker who hold solidly blue seats but defer to her political judgment. That’s why it’s a huge deal that Pelosi loyalists have moved toward impeachment over the past 24 hours. The most prominent of these is Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.
In a lengthy statement last night, she said Trump’s “reckless abuse of power” is a “turning point.” She explained that her thinking changed and impeachment “may be the only recourse Congress has” to hold Trump accountable. “Congress must meet this pivotal moment in our nation’s history with decisive action,” she wrote.
Anyone who knows DeLauro knows she doesn’t put that statement out before checking with Pelosi. And another member from Connecticut who is close to Pelosi, Rep. John Larson of the Hartford area, piled on, as well. “The Director of National Intelligence must comply with the law on Thursday,” he tweeted. “If not, the Trump Administration has left Congress with no alternative but for the House to begin impeachment proceedings, which I will support.”
-- Thursday is shaping up to be a huge day on Capitol Hill. Acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire is scheduled to testify in open session on Thursday before the House Intelligence Committee and in closed session before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Pelosi has given the administration until Thursday to turn over the whistleblower’s complaint, which set in motion this firestorm. Under federal law, any matter deemed of “urgent concern” by the inspector general – which this has been – is supposed to be shared with Congress. But the Trump administration is refusing to comply with that legal requirement.
Separately, three House Democratic chairmen threatened to subpoena documents pertaining to Ukraine that the administration has thus far declined to voluntarily hand over if they don’t get answers by Thursday. In a joint statement, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (N.Y.), Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (Calif.) and Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (Md.) gave Mike Pompeo until then to let their panels know if he intends to comply with a request they sent to the State Department two weeks ago.
-- More on the internal power dynamics: “Pelosi has been quietly sounding out top allies and lawmakers about whether the time has come to impeach,” Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis report. “She was making calls as late as Monday night, and many leadership aides who once thought Trump’s impeachment was unlikely now say they think it’s almost inevitable. … [A]n official familiar with her thinking warned that just because she was considering impeachment didn’t mean it would happen right away. …
“Senior Democratic officials cautioned that no steps have been finalized, and there were still questions about timing and how to conduct the proceedings. Some Democrats, for example, want [Schiff] to have a role in whatever impeachment process moves ahead. Democratic leaders are also discussing the possibility of a special select committee that would combine House Judiciary with other panels such as Intelligence. …
“In the meantime, House leaders are planning to hold a vote on a resolution to either condemn Trump’s actions or express the sense of the House that the administration turn over the whistleblower complaint, a move liberals are already dismissing as insufficient. The language has not been finalized. … Impeachment dominated a meeting of chiefs of staff for lawmakers in competitive districts on Monday … [T]he session grew heated and angry, pitting those congressional aides who thought it was time to back impeachment against those who worry about the political fallout.”
-- Just as DeLauro and Larson came out in tandem, many other House Democrats have taken the impeachment plunge in pairs. I wrote in July about how both House members from New Hampshire endorsed an impeachment inquiry on the same afternoon. It happened again Monday in Minnesota. Two moderate Democrats from suburban districts in the Twin Cities, who both defeated Republican incumbents last year, issued strongly worded statements: Dean Phillips and Angie Craig.
-- Fresh details continue to trickle out about Trump’s role in freezing the money appropriated by Congress to help Ukraine defend itself against a revanchist Russia: “Officials at the Office of Management and Budget relayed Trump’s order to the State Department and the Pentagon during an interagency meeting in mid-July,” per Karoun Demirjian, Josh Dawsey, Ellen Nakashima and Carol Leonnig. “They explained that the president had ‘concerns’ and wanted to analyze whether the money needed to be spent. Administration officials were instructed to tell lawmakers that the delays were part of an ‘interagency process’ but to give them no additional information — a pattern that continued for nearly two months, until the White House released the funds on the night of Sept. 11. … There was concern within the administration that if they did not spend the money, they would run afoul of the law … Trump on Monday repeated his denial of doing anything improper …
“Trump’s allies have frequently said he has been better about distributing military aid, and specifically lethal aid, to Ukraine than his predecessor. Yet according to Democratic and Republican aides, no administration has withheld funds as long and as mysteriously as the Trump administration did this year since the United States began helping Ukraine fend off Russian-backed separatists in the country’s eastern provinces. …Withholding aid from foreign governments is something the president has frequently requested, such as with Central American countries when he said they were not doing their part to help the United States with immigrants amassing at the southern border. …
“Former national security adviser John Bolton wanted to release the money to Ukraine because he thought it would help the country while curtailing Russian aggression. But Trump has said he was primarily concerned with corruption. … Besides Bolton, several other administration officials said they did not know why the aid was being canceled or why a meeting was not being scheduled.”
MORE ON THE L’AFFAIRE UKRAINE:
-- Senate Republicans mostly dodged and deflected questions about the whistleblower complaint. Felicia Sonmez, DeBonis and Erica Werner report: “So far only one Republican in the Senate, Mitt Romney of Utah, has voiced concern about the president’s alleged actions … As they returned to the Senate on Monday, most Republicans instead dodged questions about the whistleblower complaint or said that it is an issue for the Senate Intelligence Committee to address. Some, such as Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), cast doubt on the allegations against Trump. … Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) disputed the use of the word ‘whistleblower’ to describe the person who revealed Trump’s phone call with (Volodymyr) Zelensky. … Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) mainly kept his focus on Biden, but he also suggested that Trump should release more details about his call with Zelensky. …
“Even Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), co-founder of the bipartisan Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus, steered clear of addressing the allegations directly. In a statement, Grassley chided Democrats and the media for ‘rampant speculation’ but made no mention of Trump. … Later, in an exchange with reporters, Grassley declined to say whether he believes it is appropriate that Trump brought up Biden in his phone call with Zelensky.
“Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who also sits on the Intelligence Committee, said he believes Trump was wrong to have raised Biden in his call with Zelensky. But he dismissed calls for the president’s impeachment and said that so far no evidence has emerged of a quid pro quo offer by Trump of military aid in exchange for investigating Biden. ‘He simply raised the issue of Biden, and I don’t believe he should have done it,’ Rubio said. ‘But that in and of itself is not an impeachable offense, as some people claim. Now, the second thing you raise, [a quid pro quo], he denies, and so do the Ukrainians. If alternative information emerges, we have a different set of circumstances, but that’s not before us right now.’”
-- A counterpoint: “I think this is the most serious charge against the president, far more serious than what Bob Mueller dug or dragged up against him,” said Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano. “If you are the President of the United States and you are making a conversation that you know your intelligence community is listening to, of course you’re not going to articulate a quid pro quo. You’ll just make the quid pro quo happen.” (Daily Beast)
-- Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, who is challenging Trump for the Republican nomination next year, accused Trump of committing “treason” with his conduct toward Ukraine. “Talk about pressuring a foreign country to interfere with and control a U.S. election,” Weld said Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “It couldn’t be clearer, and that’s not just undermining democratic institutions. That is treason. It’s treason, pure and simple, and the penalty for treason under the U.S. code is death. That’s the only penalty. … The penalty under the Constitution is removal from office, and that might look like a pretty good alternative to the president if he could work out a plea deal.” (John Wagner)
-- A taste of the commentary in today’s papers:
- Peter Baker in the New York Times: When Trump was accused of collaborating with Russia to influence the 2016 election, he traveled the country chanting “No collusion!” This time, he is basically saying, so what if I did?
- The Post’s Editorial Board: “In Ukraine, Trump’s allies are corrupt oligarchs and Russian stooges.”
- Post columnist Eugene Robinson says Trump is basically begging for impeachment, so just give it to him already. “Let me put the question another way to Republican senators: If Trump is willing to do this to Biden, what makes you think he would hesitate someday to do the same to you?”
- Conservative Jonah Goldberg writes in the Los Angeles Times: “The most noxious part of Ukraine-Biden whistleblower affair is Team Trump thinks we’re all idiots.”
-- In Trump’s attacks on Biden, Democrats see a worrisome reprise of 2016. Matt Viser and Isaac Stanley-Becker report: “Biden’s campaign released videos last weekend to supporters and memos to reporters attempting to debunk the unsubstantiated claims Trump is promoting about Biden, his son Hunter and Ukraine’s freshly minted celebrity president. … But in a worrisome sign for Democrats anxious about reliving the party’s woes in 2016, the campaign’s counterattack is being drowned out by a pro-Trump network on social media and cable news that kicked into gear over the weekend, leveling accusations against Biden that have scant factual basis. The skirmish illustrated how ill-equipped Democrats, busy battling one another in the fight for the nomination, are to compete with Trump’s online megaphone, which includes not just his own Twitter feed and that of the Republican National Committee’s leadership, but also a regiment of conservative talking heads and highly active Internet trolls who have closed ranks around the president.”
-- To wit: Trump kept his focus on Biden at the U.N. on Monday. Sitting next to the Polish president, he claimed to reporters that, if Biden was a Republican, the media would have him in “the electric chair by right now.” Anne Gearan, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker report: “‘The one who’s got the problem is Biden,’ Trump said. … At the United Nations, visiting diplomats were baffled by the sudden interjection of a complex Trump scandal that they found mystifying. ‘It puts foreign leaders in a difficult if not impossible position,’ said Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. ‘How do you manage this complicated person who doesn’t play the game by the rules, and how do you somehow protect this important relationship? Everybody’s a bit wary.’”
WHILE YOU WERE IN YOUR MORNING MEETINGS:
-- Bernie Sanders proposed a wealth tax plan that’s more ambitious than what Elizabeth Warren calls for. “Billionaires should not exist,” the democratic socialist from Vermont tweeted this morning. “Warren’s plan calls for levying a 2 percent tax on wealth above $50 million, as well as a 3 percent tax on wealth above $1 billion,” Sean Sullivan and Jeff Stein note. “Sanders’s plan introduces a new 1 percent wealth tax on those earning over $32 million, and then increases that rate in a series of steps until it reaches 8 percent for those with more than $10 billion.”
-- The requirements to qualify for the November debate, announced by the Democratic National Committee, will imperil several more presidential campaigns. “Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro, and businessmen Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer are among those who could fail to qualify for the November debates if they do not improve their polling in the coming weeks," Michael Scherer reports. "Under the new November rules, candidates will have to demonstrate they have 165,000 unique donors, an increase of 30,000 from the October qualification levels. They will also have to meet a new polling criteria, either by scoring 3 percent in at least four national or state polls approved by the party, or by receiving at least 5 percent in two approved single-state polls from Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada.”
THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:
-- The Office of the Special Counsel found that safety inspectors who worked on training requirements for Boeing 737 Max pilots were “underqualified” and that the Federal Aviation Administration misled Congress about the issue. Michael Laris reports: “The findings of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel … have added to questions about the effectiveness and transparency of safety oversight at the FAA, which has come under scrutiny after two new 737 Max jets it had certified as safe crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia, killing 346 people. … Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner wrote that the ‘FAA’s official responses to Congress appear to have been misleading in their portrayal of FAA employee training and competency.’ … The FAA’s Office of Audit and Evaluation ‘determined’ that safety inspectors for the Max ‘had not met qualification standards. Specifically, these [inspectors] had not received formal classroom training as required by’ two FAA orders, Kerner wrote.”
-- Federal prosecutors in California are conducting a criminal probe of e-cigarette maker Juul, the Wall Street Journal reports: "The investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office of the Northern District of California is in its early stages ... The Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration and several state attorneys general are investigating its marketing practices. … The San Francisco company has said it never marketed to teens and that its products are intended for adult cigarette smokers who want to switch."
-- Playing hardball with money already approved by Congress, Trump's appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency are threatening to cut highway funding for California over its alleged “failure” to submit complete reports on its implementation of the Clean Air Act, the Sacramento Bee reports.
-- White House infighting, buoyed by a lack of presidential leadership, is thwarting action to address gun violence. From Politico: “On one side is Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser, and Attorney General William Barr. Both are urging the president to back new firearms restrictions — including expanded background checks for gun sales — insisting he can be the leader who succeeds on an intractable issue that has bedeviled his predecessors and that he can win back moderate suburban voters in the process ... On the other side, a group that includes Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son and an avid hunter, and a top aide to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, is telling Trump he risks losing support from his conservative base if he pushes too aggressively on new gun control legislation ... Then there’s Trump, who has heard all of these arguments privately but publicly hasn’t committed to any plan.”
-- Rural public housing is falling apart under the Department of Agriculture’s watch, an NBC News investigation by Suzy Khimm found: “The residents of the Okeechobee Center in Belle Glade have mold creeping up their walls and ceilings riddled with holes. One mother reported roaches crawling over her infant’s face. Sewage was found leaking onto the ground outside the squat concrete buildings. These broken-down homes were built with money from U.S. taxpayers. The Okeechobee Center is part of the country’s biggest federal housing complex for farmworkers, and is supported by federal subsidies that help cover some poor families’ rent. Though the property is privately owned, it is supposed to be closely overseen by [USDA], which requires that the homes be ‘decent, safe and sanitary.’ But federal safeguards failed to prevent the property from descending into disrepair ... and now, as low-income housing like the Okeechobee Center is falling apart, the Trump administration wants to eliminate federal funding that could help fix it.”
-- The Trump administration will end the “catch and release” immigration policy that allowed immigrants claiming asylum to live in the United States while they waited for a court hearing, acting secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan said. From NPR: “In a statement issued by DHS, the agency outlined how it intends to carry out its new policy starting next week. ‘If migrant family units do not claim fear of return, they will be quickly returned to their country of origin, in close collaboration with Central American countries,’ the statement read. ‘If they do claim fear, they will generally be returned to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).’ … McAleenan said the end of ‘catch and release’ is a reaction, in part, to the record number of 144,000 migrants apprehended or encountered at the southern border in May. He said that 72 percent were unaccompanied children or families.”
-- A team of USA Today reporters spent a week documenting the complex issues along the U.S.-Mexico border: “The week began with the death of a father and daughter. It will end with five more recorded deaths of migrants in the U.S. and untold deaths of others along the way. In that time, a young mother will become disillusioned by life in the U.S. and consider returning home. Federal authorities will release thousands of migrants, who will board buses and planes and scatter to cities across the United States. A shelter director will struggle to keep migrants in his care from being kidnapped or raped. A family in El Salvador will bury their loved ones. And still, each day, more migrants begin their journey north.”
-- A new project by the Guardian and the Marshall Project reveals how the United States built the world’s largest immigrant detention system. From “DETAINED”: “Immigrants, including asylum seekers and legal migrants, wait an average of more than four weeks to be released, though some have been held inside for years or even decades. Up to 2,500 are children and parents fleeing war and violence in their home countries. Thousands have alleged sexual and physical abuse inside the facilities. Forty years ago, this system did not exist. A modest system holding fewer than 3,000 migrants a day at the end of the 1970s, detention has now morphed into a sprawling machinery ensnaring immigrants across the country.”
-- Sen. Dan Sullivan (R), who is seeking reelection in Alaska, plans to once again vote to uphold Trump’s emergency declaration at the border, even though Sullivan's constituents will lose out on $102 million in construction projects as a result. He says he'll try to get Congress to reappropriate the money. “While I do not agree with the decision to defer any military construction in Alaska, it should be noted that the Democrats’ obstruction to fund much needed border security has forced the Trump administration to undertake these measures," Sullivan said in a statement to National Journal.
-- A Mexican congressman climbed the U.S. border fence to illustrate why he believes Trump’s wall is “totally absurd.” From ABC News: “Braulio Guerra, a congressman from the state of Queretaro, tweeted photos and a video of himself perched atop a 30-foot tall fence that separates the Mexican border city of Tijuana from the U.S. ‘I was able to scale it, climb it, and sit myself right here,’ Guerra said in the video. ‘It would be simple for me to jump into the United States, which shows that it is unnecessary and totally absurd to build a wall.’ He adds, ‘It's easy, and it shows how unnecessary this project, this political rhetoric from Donald Trump, is.’"
-- The asylum agreement between the U.S. and El Salvador implies that any asylum seeker who is not from El Salvador could be sent back to that country and forced to seek asylum there, per the Intercept: “Although officials have said that the agreements would apply to people who passed through El Salvador or Guatemala en route, the text of the agreements does not explicitly make that clear. ‘This agreement is so potentially sweeping that it could be used to send an asylum-seeker who never transited El Salvador to El Salvador,’ said Eleanor Acer, senior director of refugee protection at the nonprofit organization Human Rights First. … Last week, the Salvadoran newspaper El Faro reported that the country’s agency that reviews asylum claims only has a single officer. Meanwhile, though homicide rates have gone down in recent months — since outsider president Nayib Bukele took office in June — September has already seen an increase in homicides.”
-- Chilling: An Army private at Fort Riley, Kan., has been arrested on charges of providing instructions on how to make bombs to people he met online, including an undercover FBI agent. Devlin Barrett reports: “Pfc. Jarrett William Smith, 24, was charged with distributing information related to explosives and weapons of mass destruction. In a criminal complaint, FBI officials said Smith provided bombmaking recipes in Facebook conversations. … The FBI was alerted to Smith’s alleged statements on Facebook and used a confidential informant as well as an undercover agent to engage in online discussions with him. Over time, FBI officials said, Smith offered bombmaking formulas to them both.
“Investigators found Smith had talked about joining a far-right Ukrainian paramilitary group in 2016 but ended up joining the U.S. Army a year later. In his group conversation, Smith wrote last month that he was looking for more ‘radicals’ like himself and talked about possibly killing far-left protesters known as ‘antifa,’ or possibly destroying cell towers or a local news station, authorities have alleged. That same month, he also talked about using a vehicle bomb to attack the headquarters of a major news network, according to the criminal complaint, although authorities did not identify the network in court papers. …
“After receiving a number of recipes, the undercover agent wrote to Smith: ‘Got a liberal texas mayor in my sights! Boom with that IED and that dude’s dead.’ FBI officials said Smith replied: ‘There ya go.’ The undercover agent asked, ‘You got anyone down in Texas that would be a good fit for fire, destruction, and death?’ Smith, according to the complaint, replied: ‘Outside of Beto? I don’t know enough people that would be relevant enough to cause a change if they died.’ … FBI agents arrested Smith on Saturday, and officials say that after his arrest he made several incriminating statements acknowledging he had shared bombmaking recipes with others.”
-- Facebook removed an “I Love America” page run by Ukrainians and featuring patriotic themes, rippling flags and pro-Trump memes. Craig Timberg reports: “Facebook took action against the page — which had 1.1 million followers — and several affiliated ones after a report in Popular Information, a politically themed online newsletter, detailed the page’s Ukrainian management and remarkable reach. The report said ‘I Love America’ was founded in 2017 but had moved heavily into pro-Trump content and conservative memes in recent weeks, building a huge audience in the process. Data showed the ‘I Love America’ pages collectively generated tens of millions of ‘interactions,’ a metric capturing how many people like, share or comment on a post, on par with several of the largest American news sites. ‘I Love America’ also reposted memes from Russian sources, such as the Internet Research Agency, the St. Petersburg troll farm that faces criminal charges stemming from its efforts to manipulate the 2016 presidential election.”
-- A West Palm Beach Marine Corps Reserve unit canceled its plans to celebrate the corps' 244th birthday at Mar-a-Lago due to bad optics, per the Palm Beach Post, even though no tax dollars would have been spent at the president’s club.
-- Abortion restrictions are costing states millions of dollars in taxpayer money, and it's going to reproductive rights groups they're trying to destroy. Dan Keating reports: “In the past four years, taxpayers in states trying to restrict abortion access have paid almost $10 million in attorney fees for abortion providers. That price tag is likely to keep growing as more abortion restrictions are challenged, including three in federal courts today. In an effort to overturn Roe v. Wade, these states are passing laws that severely limit or prohibit abortion, hoping that the courts will uphold them. But when, instead, those new laws are thrown out, the state has to pay the legal expenses for the abortion advocates. That puts taxpayers in the position of having to pay for the attorneys on both sides of abortion battles that often last for years.”
-- Daily 202 alumna Joanie Greve, now at the Guardian, reports from Topsham, Maine, on the continuing fallout for Susan Collins of her decisive vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh: “To some Maine voters – and especially Collins’ would-be Democratic opponents – the renewed focus on Kavanaugh has opened up a fresh opportunity to unseat Collins from her crucial Senate seat. … But Republicans are responding to Democratic enthusiasm by powering an even more impressive fundraising operation for Collins, who has not yet officially announced her intention to run for re-election. … Collins’ critics have been keen to point out how much of her money has come from outside Maine, arguing it represents her ideological drift away from the center of the political spectrum.”
-- The Florida police officer who arrested two 6-year-old children at their school was fired. Allyson Chiu reports: “Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón said Dennis Turner, who had been suspended after the incidents Thursday at a charter school, did not follow the department’s policy requiring approval from a supervisor for any arrest of a minor younger than 12. … The charges against the children have been dropped and state attorney Aramis D. Ayala said Monday that her office never intended to prosecute. …. Prosecutors said Monday that they intervened before either of the children were taken to a juvenile detention center. But the arrests have renewed scrutiny on policing in schools, which advocates and studies say often unfairly targets students of color and those with disabilities, landing the young people in handcuffs for routine misbehavior.”
-- John Gray, the Republican candidate for chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors in Virginia, deleted offensive tweets from his account, but his political opponent, Democrat Ann Wheeler, found them and shared them. Antonio Olivo reports: “Now, as Gray seeks the highest office in the rapidly diversifying county of 456,000 people, he finds himself doing exactly what he had hoped to avoid: Explaining why, in 2016, he tweeted the falsehood that Islam sanctions domestic abuse; why he wrote ‘a funny tweet’ that same year that said African Americans would stop ‘rioting’ and take a knee if someone played the national anthem; and why, in 2017, he called former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson ‘a moron’ for wishing Indians a happy Diwali. … In July, he posted a suggestion that Muslim hookah-bar owners should be forced to sell alcohol, even though doing so would be against their religion. Gray later said he regretted that tweet, which was intended as a reference to a legal battle involving a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple based on his religious beliefs."
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Britain’s Supreme Court ruled today that Prime Minister Boris Johnson suspended Parliament illegally. William Booth and Karla Adam report from London: “Opponents of the U.K. leader argued that the five-week suspension, just ahead of the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline, had the effect of preventing lawmakers from scrutinizing the executive. The case could have major implications for Brexit, as well as for the balance of power in Britain. … The ruling follows a three-day court hearing last week at the highest court, which was hastily convened to weigh contrasting judgments from English and Scottish courts on Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament until mid-October. … Johnson, who is in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, told the Daily Telegraph on Monday that he would not resign if the court ruled against him, insisting that he was correct to suspend Parliament so the government could focus on its domestic agenda. ‘It is absolutely absurd to be totally fixated on Brexit,’ he said.”
-- Johnson is also under growing fire for his relationship with a young woman and alleged misuse of public money. From the Times: “In an article published this weekend, The Sunday Times of London reported that, when Mr. Johnson was mayor of London, his office directed tens of thousands of pounds in government money to a fledgling entrepreneur and close friend whose apartment he often visited during working hours. The entrepreneur, Jennifer Arcuri, an American and a former model, was 27 when she first crossed paths with Mr. Johnson in 2012. In the ensuing years, she was given coveted spots on trade missions with the mayor to Tel Aviv, New York, Singapore and Malaysia. … On a plane to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Mr. Johnson repeatedly refused to answer reporters’ questions about the article, including whether he was in a sexual relationship with Ms. Arcuri at the time.”
-- British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Johnson of an “alleged abuse of power," but he's facing down a rebellion in his own ranks. William Booth reports: Corbyn won “enough support from his party members to continue his strategy of strategic ambiguity on whether to leave the European Union. In chaotic show of hands in a packed hall at Labour’s annual conference, delegates rejected a motion calling for the party to immediately declare itself against Brexit, as many grass-roots activists had rallied for. Instead, the party will follow Corbyn’s cautious plan to try to win the next general election and only then decide — by a special party conference — whether it will campaign to remain in or leave the E.U. in a new referendum.”
-- In a must-read op-ed highlighting the growing threat to journalists across the world, New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger reveals that a U.S. government official once alerted the newspaper that the Trump administration could be sitting on information regarding the potential arrest of a Times reporter based in Egypt: “The current administration … has retreated from our country’s historical role as a defender of the free press. Seeing that, other countries are targeting journalists with a growing sense of impunity. … To give you a sense of what this retreat looks like on the ground, let me tell you a story I’ve never shared publicly before. Two years ago, we got a call from a United States government official warning us of the imminent arrest of a New York Times reporter based in Egypt named Declan Walsh. Though the news was alarming, the call was actually fairly standard. Over the years, we’ve received countless such warnings from American diplomats, military leaders and national security officials. But this particular call took a surprising and distressing turn.
“We learned the official was passing along this warning without the knowledge or permission of the Trump administration. Rather than trying to stop the Egyptian government or assist the reporter, the official believed, the Trump administration intended to sit on the information and let the arrest be carried out. The official feared being punished for even alerting us to the danger. Unable to count on our own government to prevent the arrest or help free Declan if he were imprisoned, we turned to his native country, Ireland, for help. Within an hour, Irish diplomats traveled to his house and safely escorted him to the airport before Egyptian forces could detain him.”
-- Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist, had one question for the global leaders assembled at the United Nations: “How dare you?” Kayla Epstein and Juliet Eilperin report: “Thunberg chastised leaders for praising young activists like herself while failing to deliver on drastic actions needed to avert the worst effects of climate change, and she warned that if the world continued with business as usual, her generation would face an insurmountable catastrophe. … ‘I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean,’ said Thunberg, who traveled for two weeks on a solar-powered sailboat to reach the United States this month. … She and 15 other young people filed a legal complaint with the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child arguing that major countries — Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey — have known about the risks of climate change for decades but have failed to take sufficient action to curb their emissions. … ‘For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear,’ Thunberg added. ‘How dare you continue to look away and come here and say you’re doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight?’”
-- Israeli President Reuven Rivlin summoned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz to work out a deal that would weld their two parties into a unity government. Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash report: “ ‘We have taken a significant step forward tonight, and now the first challenge is to establish a channel of direct communication between the sides,’ Rivlin said in a statement after the meeting. The three had agreed not to reveal the nature of the conversation ‘at this time,’ the statement said. The discussions come as the country waits for Rivlin to kick off the next phase of Israel’s protracted political process: to announce which candidate he has chosen to make the first attempt at forming a governing coalition.”
-- U.S. and Afghan forces carried out a deadly raid on al-Qaeda in southern Afghanistan, destroying an apparent weapons cache. Susannah George reports: “Launched late Sunday, the operation was aimed at al-Qaeda targets in the Musa Qala district in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province. A fierce firefight broke out as U.S. and Afghan ground forces surrounded a compound … The exchange of fire dragged into the early hours of Monday, and when the ground troops were unable to move into the compound, a U.S. airstrike was called in. The U.S. official said it was possible that civilians were inside the compound at the time of the strike. He added that allegations of civilian deaths are under investigation.”
-- The U.N. announced the creation of a Syrian constitutional committee to rewrite the country’s constitution. Sarah Daouch and Asser Khattab report: “In a statement, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said the ‘Syrian-owned and Syrian-led’ constitutional committee will be facilitated by the United Nations in Geneva, and he thanked Russia, Turkey and Iran for their diplomatic efforts. Russia and Iran are allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey supports the opposition in Syria’s civil war.”
-- A coalition of Latin American countries decided to impose sanctions on Nicolás Maduro’s cronies in an attempt to further isolate and oust the Venezuelan president. Carol Morello reports: “Egged on by the United States and the opposition government recognized by more than 50 democracies, the foreign ministers invoked a NATO-like treaty called the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, also known as the Rio Treaty. It is rooted in the principle that a threat to one member threatens all members. … No one was specifically named besides the reviled Maduro, but the diplomats said their vote means they will identify those deemed complicit with Maduro’s government, investigate and prosecute them, and ultimately seize their assets and sentence them to prison.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) declined to weigh in when reporters approached him at the Capitol, saying he wants a briefing first, prompting criticism that he's failing to live up to his own rhetoric from just a year ago:
A moment ago I asked @BenSasse about the whistleblower complaint, Trump’s conversation w/ Ukrainian prez.— Elizabeth Landers (@ElizLanders) September 23, 2019
“I’m not doing any interviews right now” - he notes that he’s on senate intel committee “so we have our own briefings on these topics...and we haven’t gotten them all yet.”
Biden encouraged the release of the Ukraine call transcript:
So release the transcript of the call then. https://t.co/pWD7xmVLQO— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 23, 2019
But a former Obama speechwriter was skeptical about Trump’s motives if he releases the Ukraine call transcript:
This is a trap. I would bet that Trump is focusing on the transcript because he knows it isn’t great, but not nearly as incriminating as the entire whistleblower complaint.— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) September 23, 2019
We need the full whistleblower complaint ASAP and Democrats should accept nothing less. https://t.co/vRtoYalpOM
A presidential biographer encouraged Republicans to be more like the late Maine senator Margaret Chase Smith:
For Republicans, this is a Margaret Chase Smith moment: Stand up for country over party. History will reward you.— Jon Meacham (@jmeacham) September 24, 2019
An election law professor at U.C. Irvine appealed to morals:
No one knows if a House impeachment followed by a Senate acquittal (or lack of even a trial by McConnell) would help or hurt Trump.— Rick Hasen (@rickhasen) September 24, 2019
No one knows anything.
So why not do what is right, whatever one thinks that is?
The New Yorker satirized Pelosi's hesistance on impeachment:
David, Goliath, and Nancy Pelosi. pic.twitter.com/DaY5P2yXqp— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) September 23, 2019
A popular meme was used to illustrate Pelosi's internal debate over the procedures:
pelosi considering impeachment pic.twitter.com/g0q3mwO22g— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) September 24, 2019
The Onion, a satirical newspaper, had a funny take on the Ukraine firestorm:
A conservative commentator lashed out against Greta Thunberg, prompting Fox News to apologize:
A journalist at CNN pointed out that the young activist has been mocked by other hosts on the network:
Laura Ingraham compared her to Children of the Corn on her show tonight.https://t.co/H8uwV25bxe— andrew kaczynski🤔 (@KFILE) September 24, 2019
A video of the climate activist starting at Trump as he entered the room went viral:
Someone stole the former Virginia governor's car in D.C., but he got it back:
Thank you to the DC Police. Quite a day. Went in for lunch...came out and car was stolen. @DCPoliceDept was right on it. Car recovered immediately. Thank you for a job well done.— Terry McAuliffe (@TerryMcAuliffe) September 24, 2019
“Police said the vehicle was found parked and unoccupied on K Street NW, just west of North Capitol Street. The site is a little more than a half-mile from where the vehicle was parked initially. It was not immediately clear who took the Explorer or why. … A spokesman for the former governor said McAuliffe was on his way to a party connected to his new book … According to the spokesman, Jake Rubenstein, the only thing that upset McAuliffe was that whoever took the car ‘didn’t think to grab a few copies’ of the book,” per Martin Weil.
And Trump's first White House press secretary is desperate for votes to stay on "Dancing with the Stars":
Utterly tragic email from Sean Spicer: “PS- today is my birthday and all I'm asking for this year is your votes.” pic.twitter.com/wT2Bb4Z9ow— Dana Milbank (@Milbank) September 24, 2019
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I think I’m gonna get a Nobel Prize for a lot of things — if they gave it out fairly, which they don’t,” Trump said at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, after a Pakistani journalist told him he would deserve the award if he could work out a solution to the dispute between India and Pakistan over the territory of Kashmir. “They gave one to Obama immediately after his ascent to the presidency, and he had no idea why he got it … You know what? That was the only thing I agreed with him on.” (Reis Thebault)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert joked that U.N. General Assembly attendees were perhaps not too thrilled to listen to Trump give a speech again:
On the world stage, Trump spoke of taking over the United States:
Trump refers to the beginning of his presidency as "when I took over the United States." pic.twitter.com/PNJVRFu3iC— Oliver Willis (@owillis) September 23, 2019
Protesters blocked traffic in D.C. to demand action on climate change:
A 5-year-old girl was rescued from the tracks at a subway station in the Bronx on Monday after her father jumped in front of the train while holding her. Commuters pulled her out alive. It's a miracle:
The online magazine Ozy put together an interactive county-by-county map that details voter turnout over the past four elections. Here it is in GIF form, and you can find the complete data set here: