THE BIG IDEA: President Trump reportedly suggested that U.S. soldiers shoot immigrants in the legs to slow them down if they cross the southern border, one of several ideas that the same aides who implemented his family separation policy had to explain would be illegal.
Today’s New York Times reports that Trump’s proposal to wound migrants came during a private meeting after he faced blowback last fall for suggesting publicly that soldiers should shoot migrants if they threw rocks across the border.
“Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh,” according to Michael Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis. “When he ordered wall construction sped up, [then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen] said they needed permission from property owners. Take the land, Mr. Trump would say, and let them sue us. … Today, as Mr. Trump is surrounded by advisers less willing to stand up to him, his threat to seal off the country from a flood of immigrants remains active.”
This is one in a myriad of examples of Trump pulling back from the principle of American exceptionalism. This guiding creed, which not long ago was a point of both national consensus and pride, maintains that, while imperfect, the United States is not just another country on the U.N. roster somewhere between Albania and Zimbabwe. Presidents of both parties have historically recognized the essential role that the United States plays as a special and unique beacon of freedom. We have strived to be the world’s moral backbone, a leading champion for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Even as previous leaders had to make uncomfortable compromises and partner with unsavory characters to advance the national interest, that self-conception and the welcoming attitude it entails have been steadfast.
But that’s not Trump’s worldview. He’s said so explicitly and repeatedly. More importantly, he’s demonstrated it through his actions and his embrace of false moral equivalency.
-- During an Oval Office meeting in 2017, for example, Trump told two senior Russian officials that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the presidential election because the United States does the same in other countries. That comment alarmed White House officials so much that they limited access to the summary of the meeting to an unusually small number of people. The intelligence community whistleblower alleged that the White House similarly placed the record of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president, during which he pushed for an investigation of his political opponents, into the code-word classified system reserved for the most sensitive intelligence information. That is now part of the House’s impeachment inquiry.
“White House officials were particularly distressed by Trump’s election remarks because it appeared the president was forgiving Russia for an attack that had been designed to help elect him,” my colleagues Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Ellen Nakashima reported Friday. “Another former official said Trump wasn’t the only one to conflate Russia’s interference in the U.S. elections with U.S. efforts to promote democracy and good governance abroad. The president and his top aides seemed not to understand the difference between Voice of America, a U.S.-supported news organization that airs in foreign countries, with Russian efforts to persuade American voters by surreptitiously planting ads in social media, this person said. … One former senior official said Trump regularly defended Russia’s actions, even in private, saying no country is pure. ‘He was always defensive of Russia,’ this person said … ‘He thought the whole interference thing was ridiculous. He never bought into it.’”
-- White House officials similarly restricted access to transcripts of the president’s calls with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his father, the king, in the aftermath of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. CNN reported Friday that putting the call summary into a system normally reserved for details of covert operations was highly unusual. Someone familiar with the call told the network that it contained no especially sensitive national security secrets, but a rough transcript was never circulated.
After Khashoggi was killed – one year ago today – Trump never distanced himself from Mohammed. Instead, he helped rehabilitate him on the world stage. The CIA’s assessment that MBS ordered the assassination of the Washington Post contributing columnist has not changed, but for Trump it was never worth jeopardizing arms sales. He has said the Middle East is a “vicious” place as he ensured Mohammed would not be treated like a pariah. “I’m not like a fool that says, ‘We don’t want to do business with them,’” the president said in July. On this terrible anniversary, not a single Saudi official has been found guilty or punished for their role.
-- Trump does not subscribe to the notion that our history, our lower-case-r republican values and our unique constitutional system are distinguishing features that make America exceptional. Speaking to a tea party gathering in Texas in 2015, shortly before he launched his presidential campaign, a friendly moderator asked Trump to speak about the importance of American exceptionalism. In a two-minute answer, Trump noted seven times that he does not like the term as he rejected the premise that America is exceptional. “Look, if I’m a Russian or I’m a German or I’m a person we do business with, … I don’t think it’s a very nice term,” Trump said. “We’re exceptional; you’re not? First of all, Germany is eating our lunch. So they say, ‘Why are you exceptional? We’re doing a lot better than you.’ I never liked the term.”
The same month that Trump downplayed Russian election interference during his conversation with representatives of the Kremlin in the Oval Office, he dismissed concerns that Vladimir Putin is “a killer” during a Fox News interview. “We’ve got a lot of killers,” Trump said. “What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”
-- Michael Gerson, who was the chief speechwriter in George W. Bush’s White House, lamented in his column this week that we have “an American president who doesn’t understand the meaning of America.”: “He calls for the renewal of nationalism, but in a manner that has little to do with our national values. He wants us to take pride in blood and soil rather than in a set of universal ideals. His calls for loyalty are based on geography not morality. He urges us to love America because it is powerful, and because it is ours, not because it is good. In this sense, Trump seeks to normalize American nationalism — to make it more like the Russian or Chinese varieties. He invariably defines national goals in terms of exercising military dominance, or controlling access to resources, or maintaining national sovereignty, or achieving trade surpluses. And he seems to view this as an expression of realism about the nature of power.”
-- Following Trump’s lead, prominent figures in the Trumpist movement have also begun rejecting the concept of American exceptionalism. At a July conference on the future of “national conservatism,” PayPal co-founder and outspoken Trump supporter Peter Thiel said the doctrine has distracted the right for too long. The billionaire said America has become exceptional in bad ways: exceptionally overweight, exceptionally addicted to opioids, exceptionally expensive, exceptionally un-self-aware and exceptionally un-self-critical. According to notes taken by an attendee, Thiel argued that nationalism means being extremely critical, not unreflective, of America’s weaknesses to make the country great. (Conservative Ross Douthat responded with a column: “Trump’s Message: Love It or Leave It, With a Bigoted Edge,” he wrote. “A populist-nationalist corrective to American exceptionalism would be welcome. Trump’s version isn’t it.”)
-- The Hobbesian worldview underlying Trumpism is the polar opposite of “the shining city upon a hill” that Ronald Reagan always talked about. “If there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here,” Reagan said in his farewell address 30 years ago.
-- Khashoggi was someone who had the will and heart to get here. “Jamal Khashoggi never intended to be a dissident,” The Post’s Editorial Board notes in a tribute. “For many years, he wrote for and edited newspapers in Saudi Arabia, and he served as an aide in Saudi embassies in Washington and London. What prompted him to leave the kingdom, and to begin writing columns for The Post, was the sharp increase in domestic repression under [MBS] — the ‘fear, intimidation, arrests and public shaming of intellectuals and religious leaders who dare to speak their minds,’ as Khashoggi put it in his first Post op-ed, in September 2017. … His columns also argued against Mohammed bin Salman’s reckless regional agenda — especially the war in Yemen, which the crown prince had launched while serving as defense minister.”
-- “The Trump administration portrays Khashoggi’s killing as a crime that hasn’t been solved. … But the CIA has not changed its assessment from November that Mohammed ordered Khashoggi’s killing, according to two U.S. officials,” Shane Harris and John Hudson reported in Sunday’s newspaper: “A Saudi dissident living in the United States who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing a fear of retaliation, said the Saudi government weathered the furor over Khashoggi’s killing because the Trump administration stood by Mohammed. ‘I think they got away with murder,’ the dissident said. …
“In April, Trump was forced to veto a bipartisan resolution to force an end to U.S. military involvement. It was a rare rebuke from Republicans who have stood by Trump through a seemingly endless stream of controversies. … A massive defense spending bill pending in Congress would restrict U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and require the administration to make a public report about Khashoggi’s death. If those provisions remain, Trump could be faced with having to veto military spending, one of his key policy priorities, to stand with Mohammed.”
-- The pen is mightier than the bone saw: Try as he might, MBS will not stifle debate. And The Washington Post will never forget Khashoggi. The print edition of today’s newspaper includes a special eight-page opinion section that, for the first time, is exclusively devoted to one subject. All the editorials, cartoons, letters to the editor and everything else is about Khashoggi. The op-ed page has a blank space where one of Khashoggi’s columns would appear if he was still with us. It’s surrounded by three pieces from other Arab writers.
-- Here are some of the pieces from today’s special section:
- Publisher Fred Ryan: “Why Khashoggi’s murder is too heinous for the public to forget.”
- Columnist David Ignatius: “What happened on the way to Khashoggi’s horrifying final seconds?”
- Jamal’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz: “My quest for justice continues. It’s not too late.”
- Jamal’s editor Karen Attiah: “Let the world hear Khashoggi’s last words in Arabic.”
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: “Turkey will continue its efforts to shed light on Khashoggi’s murder.”
- Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.): “Trump betrayed U.S. moral leadership with Saudi Arabia. So Congress was forced to act.”
- Columnist Jason Rezaian: “Khashoggi and I were targeted for our journalism. But I still have hope.”
- Columnist David Von Drehle: “Hollywood loves triumphant journalism stories. This isn’t one of them.”
-- More team coverage from the news division:
- Adam Taylor poses seven unanswered questions: "What happened to Khashoggi’s body? What happened to Saud al-Qahtani? Could the crown prince not have known? Has Saudi Arabia ended its policy of targeting overseas dissidents? What is the fate of Khashoggi’s family? Will there be a full international investigation into the killing? Has the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia actually changed?"
- Ishaan Tharoor in the WorldViews newsletter: “Khashoggi is dead, but his political vision lives on.”
- Tory Newmyer in today’s Finance 202 newsletter: “Wall Street returns to 'Davos in the desert' a year after Khashoggi killing.”
-- How the anniversary is playing elsewhere:
- Farea al-Muslimi, co-founder of the Sana Center for Strategic Studies, in the New York Times: “After the Saudi columnist’s murder, intellectuals, writers and activists across the Middle East are increasingly censoring themselves out of fear of their governments.”
- Columnist Will Bunch in the Philadelphia Inquirer: “What is Trump trying to cover up about his Saudi phone calls and Jamal Khashoggi’s murder?”
- Samah Hadid, a human rights advocate based in Beirut, for CNN: “Khashoggi's murder could have been a turning point. Instead it was a warning sign.”
- Masana Ndinga-Kanga, of the CIVICUS Global Alliance for Citizen Participation, on Al Jazeera: “Khashoggi paid the price for being a 'different Saudi.’ And the world failed him and his dream by welcoming back those who brutally silenced him.”
- Business Insider: “The story of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and how the world looked the other way.”
- USA Today: “A year after Jamal Khashoggi's killing, Saudi Arabian crackdown persists.”
- Reuters: “Saudi prince seeks to dodge blame for Khashoggi killing: U.N. expert.”
- BuzzFeed News: “These Journalists Are Facing Threats And Injustice For Pursuing The Truth. Press freedoms are under assault around the world. These are the most urgent cases in October.”
-- No one, though, can put it better than Khashoggi himself. Here is a chilling quote from his first column for The Post on Sept. 18, 2017: “It was painful for me several years ago when several friends were arrested. I said nothing. I didn’t want to lose my job or my freedom. I worried about my family. I have made a different choice now. I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice. To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison. I can speak when so many cannot. I want you to know that Saudi Arabia has not always been as it is now. We Saudis deserve better.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The Nationals came from behind in the bottom of the eighth inning against the Brewers last night to win the do-or-die wild-card game. From Jesse Dougherty and Scott Allen’s recap: “Juan Soto … smacked a two-out single to right field in the eighth inning, and the ball skipped through the grass before trickling off Trent Grisham’s glove. Three runners came around to score. The Washington Nationals took a 4-3 lead … The victory pushed the Nationals into the NL Division Series, a best-of-five fight with the Dodgers that will begin Thursday night in Los Angeles. … The Nationals were nearly buried when Max Scherzer gave up three runs on two homers in the first two innings. They couldn’t touch the Brewers’ bullpen almost all night.”
- Thomas Boswell: “The Nationals’ wild-card win was both thrilling and emotionally exhausting. Of course it was.”
- Barry Svrluga: “‘Finally caught a break tonight’: Nats take a tortured history and flip the script.”
- Dave Sheinin: “How the Nationals match up with the top-seeded, very scary Dodgers.”
- Sam Fortier: “Patrick Corbin will take the ball for the Nationals in Game 1 against the Dodgers.”
-- The impeachment inquiry has become a full-throated battle between the executive and legislative branches: Congressional Democrats and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo clashed, Trump questioned whether a leader of the probe should be arrested, and a senior Democrat said the president should be imprisoned in “solitary confinement.” In a letter to the chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight and Reform committees, Pompeo said five State Department officials who have been called to give depositions over the next two weeks would not appear as scheduled. The former congressman even claimed that Congress had no authority to compel such testimony.
"By the end of the day, however, at least one of the five — Kurt Volker, a former administration envoy to Ukraine — planned to appear anyway before the committees Thursday. A second official, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, would appear Oct. 11," Karen DeYoung, Josh Dawsey, Karoun Demirjian and John Hudson report. "Meanwhile, the committees were notified that the State Department’s inspector general had requested to speak with them Wednesday ‘to discuss and provide staff with copies of documents related to the State Department and Ukraine.’ … The committee chairmen responded to Pompeo with their own broadside, saying any attempt to prevent department officials from speaking to them ‘is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction.’ ... In letters to Vice President Pence and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, demanded answers by Friday to questions about what they knew, when they knew it and their roles in Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine."
-- Pompeo confirmed at a news conference in Rome today that he was on Trump’s July call with Zelensky. (John Wagner)
-- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) broke with Trump over protecting the whistleblower, saying the fact that the individual’s knowledge of Trump’s phone call came secondhand does not invalidate the whistleblower's reporting or mean that it's not accurate. “This person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected. We should always work to respect whistleblowers,” Grassley said, according to Politico. “Complaints based on second-hand information should not be rejected out of hand, but they do require additional leg work to get at the facts and evaluate the claim’s credibility.”
-- The impeachment inquiry is drawing fresh attention to Trump fixer Rudy Giuliani’s work for prominent figures in Ukraine. Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger, Paul Sonne and Josh Dawsey report: “House investigators are now seeking records about Giuliani’s past clientele in Ukraine, including Pavel Fuks, a wealthy developer who financed consulting work Giuliani did in 2017 for the city of Kharkiv. That same year, according to court filings, Fuks said he was banned from entering the United States for five years. The documents do not specify why. House committees have also requested documents and depositions from two of Giuliani’s current clients, Florida-based businessmen who have been pursuing opportunities in Ukraine for a new liquefied natural gas venture. The men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, have been assisting Giuliani’s push to get Ukrainian officials to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son and Giuliani’s claim that Democrats conspired with Ukrainians in the 2016 campaign. …How Giuliani navigates between the needs of his foreign clients and those of the president is unclear. The former New York mayor, whose private security and consulting firm does not disclose its clients, has never registered as a foreign lobbyist, saying he does not do work that would require such filings.”
-- Giuliani hired Watergate assistant prosecutor and Florida attorney Jon Sale to represent him in the impeachment inquiry. From CNN: “‘What I've already learned is this is very complex,’ Sale said when asked if Giuliani planned to comply [with the congressional subpoena]. ‘I really have to study it. I can't shoot from the hip.’ ‘Every time I turn around, Rudy's on another TV show,’ Sale continued. ‘He and I could have a conversation, and then I turn on the television and he could be doing something else.’”
-- The tense relationship between Attorney General Bill Barr and Giuliani is complicating Trump’s impeachment defense. From the Journal: “Mr. Barr was surprised and angry to discover weeks later that the president had lumped him together with Mr. Giuliani on the phone call with [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Justice Department said Mr. Trump never asked Mr. Barr to contact the Ukrainians. … Despite legal careers that intersected under Mr. Trump, people close to Mr. Barr say he and Mr. Giuliani have never been close and that he is privately mystified by what many in conservative legal circles view as Mr. Giuliani’s meddling in matters that should be handled by officials in government. Mr. Barr has privately told associates that he believes Mr. Giuliani’s behavior in general isn’t helpful to the administration.”
-- Zelensky said he never met or spoke by phone with Giuliani. “I want to tell you that I never feel any pressure and there are very many people in the west and in Ukraine who would like to influence me,” Zelensky told reporters in Kiev. He also said the text of his conversation with Trump released by the White House is similar to Ukrainian records. (Bloomberg News)
-- Trump questioned why Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee hasn’t been “brought up on charges." (Probably it's because he's committed no crime.) Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), chair of the House Financial Services Committee, responded that impeachment isn’t enough for Trump. “He needs to be imprisoned & placed in solitary confinement,” she tweeted.
-- Trump is invoking the muskets-and-ramparts idioms of America’s beginnings, a move indicative of his tendency to interpret any criticism of him as an attack on the government. Anne Gearan writes: “The ratcheting up of this rhetoric [worries] critics and scholars who warn of the dangers posed by his ‘l’etat, c’es moi’ call to arms. ‘Charging anyone with treason is a most unusual act in American history. It’s an incendiary charge which relates to the ultimate crime: overthrow of the state,’ said Michael J. Glennon, an international law professor at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. In setting out a definition and consequences for treason in the Constitution, including death, the founders were guarding against the ‘danger that the charge of treason could be made irresponsibly against political opponents,’ Glennon said, adding that cavalierly throwing around words like ‘treason’ and ‘civil war’ belies their unique meaning in American history. ‘I suppose it has an incendiary effect on some supporters, but we are dealing with dynamite here,’ Glennon said.”
-- The White House upgraded the security of the National Security Council’s codeword system in the spring of 2018 as part of an effort to prevent leaks. From Politico: “The changes included a new log of who accessed specific documents in the NSC’s system … and was designed in part to prevent leaks of records of the president’s phone calls with foreign leaders and find out the suspected leaker if transcripts were disclosed ... Prior to the upgrade, officials could see only who had uploaded or downloaded material to the system but usually not who accessed which documents. … If hiding politically embarrassing material, rather than protecting national security secrets, was the motive, experts and former officials said, it would be an abuse of the codeword system. While not necessarily an illegal act, it does run counter to an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2009 that says information can’t be classified to ‘conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error’ or ‘prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency.’”
-- Only four in 10 Republicans believe Trump mentioned Biden in his call to Ukraine, even though the president acknowledged doing so. In comparison, 85% of Democrats and 61% of independents surveyed by Monmouth University Poll said Trump ‘probably did’ mention the possibility of an investigation into the Biden family. (USA Today)
-- Trump and his allies are outspending their rivals as much as 4 to 1 on impeachment-related advertisement on Facebook, data shows. Isaac Stanley-Becker reports: “Between Sept. 20 and Tuesday morning, Trump allies funneled as much as $3 million into ads opposing impeachment or assailing House Democrats for beginning a formal inquiry, according to data analyzed by Laura Edelson, a researcher at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering. The cascade of money was answered by no more than $703,000 in spending on ads making the case for impeachment, the figures suggest.”
-- A pro-impeachment group will spend $3.1 million in an ad campaign targeting Senate Republicans over the next weeks. The group, Need to Impeach, is fueled mainly by billionaire Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, and its campaign will focus on Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Martha McSally (Ariz.), all of whom are seeking reelection next year. (Mike DeBonis)
-- Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) announced he is drafting legislation to ban immediate family members of senators, members of Congress, the president or the vice president from working for “any entity doing business in or with Ukraine.” This is an indirect shot at Hunter Biden, whose father is no longer vice president and who no longer works for a Ukrainian company. (From Michael Scherer’s guide to standout moments from Day 8 of the impeachment inquiry drama.)
-- Desperate for help with the Russia investigation, Trump saw a friend in Australia’s Scott Morrison. Siobhán O’Grady reports: “Morrison and Trump have latched onto the idea that they have a lot in common. Like Trump, Morrison defied polls in his country’s last election. Like Trump, he made key allies in coal country on the campaign trail. And like Trump, he has made his hard-line views on immigration a focal point of his administration’s policies. Last month, Morrison attended a Trump rally in Ohio, where he acknowledged it’s not a foreign leader’s job to get involved in domestic politics but said ‘we do share a lot of the same views.’”
-- Australia’s opposition is demanding that a transcript of the call between Morrison and Trump be released today. Opposition leader Anthony Albanese also wants to know what information Canberra turned over to Washington. (France 24)
-- The son of a late Deutsche Bank senior executive is helping the FBI and the House Intelligence Committee investigate the president’s relationship with the troubled financial institution. From the Times: “One sunny Wednesday in February, a gangly man in a sports jacket and a partly unbuttoned paisley shirt walked into the Los Angeles field office of the F.B.I. At the reception desk, he gave his name — Val Broeksmit — and began to pace anxiously in the lobby. Mr. Broeksmit couldn’t believe he was voluntarily meeting with the F.B.I. An unemployed rock musician with a history of opioid abuse and credit card theft, not to mention a dalliance with North Korea-linked hackers, he was accustomed to shunning if not fearing law enforcement. But two investigators had flown from the bureau’s New York office specifically to speak with him, and Mr. Broeksmit had found their invitation too seductive to resist. Now the agents arrived in the lobby and escorted him upstairs. … [He] possessed a cache of confidential bank documents that provided a tantalizing glimpse of its internal workings. Some of the documents were password-protected, and there was no telling what secrets they held or how explosive they could be.”
-- U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton told federal prosecutors that they must either charge former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe or drop their investigation into whether he lied to investigators. Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotosky report: If a decision is not reached, Walton said “he would order the Justice Department to release internal FBI documents related to McCabe’s firing by Nov. 15. … At a brief hearing in an open records lawsuit, Walton confirmed McCabe has not been indicted and that the department still is weighing charges.”
-- Mueller rejoined the law firm WilmerHale, where he is expected to resume work conducting internal investigations for large corporations. On his first day back on the job, Mueller faced a somewhat simpler puzzle than determining whether a presidential campaign colluded with a foreign government: He received a refresher on how to use the office’s computers, per the Times.
-- A federal judge wants to be assured that the White House will preserve records of all of Trump’s calls with foreign leaders. From BuzzFeed News: “A Justice Department lawyer told the judge that she couldn’t immediately commit to assuring that the administration would preserve records of all of Trump’s conversations, as well as other records about how the administration had handled those documents. The judge gave the government until Wednesday afternoon to make a decision.”
-- The Justice Department will be required to produce 500 pages of memos documenting what witnesses told former special counsel Bob Mueller’s office and the FBI during their investigation. From CNN: “The documents, known as 302s, memorialize interviews conducted by the office and form the backbone of much of the Mueller report. CNN and BuzzFeed News had sued for the documents under the Freedom of Information Act, and on Tuesday, a federal judge in Washington, DC, ordered the Justice Department to produce their first tranche of documents by November 1.”
-- “In Trump’s Washington, many administration officials have calculated that if they do not enthusiastically wade into Trump’s riptide of grievances and personal pursuits, they risk being ridiculed or sidelined by the president, as was the case with [John] Bolton," Phil Rucker and Bob Costa report. “The implicit day-to-day charge for many Trump advisers is simple, according to aides and other officials familiar with the president’s Cabinet and West Wing staff: Figure out how to handle or even polish Trump’s whims and statements, but do not have any illusion that you can temper his relentless personality, heavy consumption of cable news or thirst for political combat. Acquiescence is central to survival. Trump has bonded with aides who take his running complaints about the ‘deep state’ and ‘fake news’ seriously, along with his embrace of people and positions outside of the mainstream. The leading members of Trump’s inner circle dutifully work to address his concerns, sometimes by directing federal resources. Officials including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, for example, have worked to block Democratic lawmakers and others from obtaining access to Trump’s tax returns...”
THE DOMESTIC AGENDA THAT SHOULD NOT BE OVERSHADOWED:
-- Trump's destructive trade wars and his blind loyalty to Big Oil are combining to cripple Iowa farmers and could put the Farm Belt in play next year. David Lynch has a must-read story from Sioux Center, Iowa: “On a typical day, about 80 tractor trailers full of corn line up to dump their loads at Siouxland Energy Cooperative, the ethanol plant just outside of town. The air throbs with the noise and vibration of this industrial moonshine operation, which distills nature’s harvest into a cleaner-burning fuel. But today, the warm Iowa sun shines on an almost empty parking lot, and the machinery sits idle. After two decades, Siouxland this month halted operations following the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to exempt 31 small oil refiners from a federal law requiring them to blend ethanol in their gasoline.
“The waivers, which the Trump administration has approved almost four times as often as its predecessor, have undercut demand for ethanol and the corn used to make it, farmers said. ‘The waivers are what pushed us over the edge,’ said Steve Westra, 46, the plant manager. ‘It absolutely killed the potential for anybody to make any money at this.’ For Iowa farmers already suffering from an extended trade war with China, the ruling has made ethanol the focus of their growing ire over President Trump’s policies. The trade war has cost farmers potential Chinese orders for the corn-based fuel as well as for a byproduct that is used as animal feed. Now, the refinery exemptions are compounding the financial pain — and threatening political consequences for the president, who won this state and its six electoral votes in 2016."
Key quote: “I supported Trump in the last election. Today, if the election were held, I don’t think I could vote for him,” said Kelly Nieuwenhuis, 60, a corn and soybean farmer in Primghar, Iowa. “It’s definitely growing, the displeasure with the Trump administration.”
-- U.S. manufacturing fell deeper into a contraction last month, erasing hope of a quick turnaround for the industry and underscoring the failure of Trump to keep his promises to bring back blue-collar jobs. Heather Long reports: “September marked the worst month for U.S. manufacturing in more than a decade — since June 2009 — according to the closely watched Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index. Companies blamed Trump’s escalating trade war for many of their woes … The ISM manufacturing index was 47.8 in September, down even more than the 49.1 reading in August. Any number below 50 indicates the industry is in recession territory. … Stocks sold off quickly on the news that nearly every manufacturing sector reported trouble, with the Dow Jones industrial average ending the day with a 344-point loss. ...
“In perhaps the most alarming sign of all, employment also fell in the ISM report, an indication that manufacturers are so worried that they are laying off employees. A plastics and rubber products company said it laid off 10 percent of employees. … The World Trade Organization just downgraded its forecast for global trade growth this year and next as the trade war shows little sign of ending soon. ‘Job creation may also be hampered,’ the WTO warned. … The strike at General Motors also probably contributed to the worsening manufacturing picture in September as 46,000 workers stopped working, forcing the major automaker to halt production in its facilities.”
- “There is no end in sight to this slowdown, the recession risk is real,” said Torsten Slok, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities, in a note for clients.
- “We have now tariffed our way into a manufacturing recession in the U.S. and globally. What’s the strategy now? It better be more than the Chinese buying more soybeans,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group.
-- Louisiana’s governor is also blaming the Trump tariffs for the shuttering of a Bayou Steel Group plant, a move that threatens hundreds of American jobs. From Bloomberg News: “Scrap steel was not included in the broad steel tariffs imposed by the Trump administration last year. But the administration has hiked tariffs on a wide range of scrap metal products from China as part of its trade war. ‘Louisiana is among the most dependent states on tariffed metals, which is why we continue to be hopeful for a speedy resolution to the uncertainty of the future of tariffs,’ said [Democratic Gov. John Bel] Edwards.”
-- A protester interrupted Pompeo's photo op with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to criticize Trump's trade policies. The woman handed Pompeo a hunk of nicely aged Parmigiano-Reggiano and told the secretary of state to tell the American president that Italians "make it with our hearts." Italian dairies are worried about Trump’s looming tariffs on European food products, including wine and cheese, that would cost them billions of dollars, Stefano Pitrelli and Siobhán O’Grady report.
-- Nearly six months after taking over the Department of Homeland Security as acting secretary, Kevin McAleenan has guided the United States out of a crisis at the southern border, but he also says he has lost command of the public messaging from his department and lacks some of the authority he was promised when he took the job. Nick Miroff interviewed the acting secretary: “Increasingly isolated within the administration and overshadowed by others who are more effusive in their praise for President Trump, McAleenan said he retains ‘operational’ control of DHS — mainly the ability to coordinate work at the border among U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, and Citizenship and Immigration Services. But he acknowledged that he is losing the battle to keep DHS, which he views as a neutral law enforcement agency, from being used as a powerful tool for a partisan immigration agenda. … McAleenan was referring to recent DHS appointees who won their jobs after advocating aggressively for the president on television: Mark Morgan, the acting head of CBP, and Ken Cuccinelli, the acting USCIS director, who is rumored as a potential replacement for McAleenan. …
“McAleenan has been more forthcoming than any other administration official about the regret he carries for his central role in the ‘zero tolerance’ policy that separated more than 2,500 children from their parents last year. He told White House officials he would resign if asked to do it again, according to senior administration officials.”
A revealing anecdote: “Last month at a Coast Guard hangar in San Diego, McAleenan and Morgan addressed a group of Border Patrol agents, CBP officers and Coast Guard personnel while waiting for Air Force One to arrive and bring Trump to visit new spans of the border fence. A young Coast Guard member asked the men what brought them ‘joy’ in their jobs. McAleenan told the group about meeting a CBP veteran with 49 years of federal service who was preparing to retire next month, and the sweeping changes and improvements he had witnessed in his career. Morgan told the group he liked ‘doing hits’ on radio and TV and ‘punching back’ at Trump’s critics, mentioning his appearance the day before on the show of right-wing agitator Sebastian Gorka.”
-- The U.S. asylum system is keeping migrants at risk in Mexico. From the New Yorker: “Since [the Migrant Protection Protocols] went in effect, in Tijuana, [DHS] has extended it, city by city, to locations along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. … Close to fifty thousand asylum seekers have now been returned to Mexico, where many of them have faced extreme levels of violence. On August 3rd, cartel members arrived at a shelter in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, demanding that the pastor in charge, Aarón Méndez, hand over a group of Cubans to be ransomed; when Méndez refused, he was abducted, and he hasn’t been seen since. Later in the summer, a few miles away, a dozen asylum seekers who’d just been returned to Mexico were promptly kidnapped. … According to an analysis by Human Rights First, there have already been three hundred and forty-three reported cases involving the rape, kidnapping, and violent assault of asylum seekers in the M.P.P. program.”
-- A Virginia police officer was suspended after allegedly turning over a suspected undocumented immigrant to ICE following a traffic accident. The officer cited the driver for not having a driver’s license and turned the person over to a federal agent after discovering that the individual had an immigration violation for failing to appear at a deportation hearing. The Fairfax County Police Department has a policy that prohibits officers from confirming a person’s immigration status and detaining them solely based on violations of immigration law. (Justin Jouvenal)
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be indicted as Jerusalem begins to review a corruption case against him. Steve Hendrix reports: “The first of four pre-indictment hearings, which have been anticipated for months, convened at the Ministry of Justice Wednesday morning, signaling the determination of the country’s independent attorney general to pursue charges against its longest-serving prime minister. … The hearings that began Wednesday represent the prime minister’s last chance to head off, or reduce, the expected charges. But legal experts say the attorney general is unlikely to change course now, meaning that indictments could land in the middle of the ongoing struggle to form a new government."
-- North Korea tested a missile soon after announcing it will resume nuclear talks with the U.S. Simon Denyer and Min Joo Kim report: “South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said North Korea had fired a ballistic missile from the sea northeast of the city of Wonsan, saying it had flown a distance of 280 miles, to an altitude of about 570 miles. Japan’s government said the launch appeared to involve two ballistic missiles, and that one may have fallen inside its EEZ. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters the launch violated U.N. Security Council resolutions, adding ‘we strongly condemn and protest the act.’”
-- Hundreds were wounded in Iraq as police fired tear gas and bullets at anti-government protesters. Mustafa Salim and Louisa Loveluck report: “The protests were the largest to date against Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s fragile year-old government. Demonstrators had gathered to decry a host of problems that plague the daily life of many Iraqis, among them corruption, a lack of services and unemployment. … Iraq’s Health Ministry said that one person had died and 286 were wounded nationwide, among them 40 members of the security forces, with protests also taking place in the cities of Nasiriyah, Diwaniyah and Basra.”
-- Iran sentenced a man to death and three others to 10 years in prison on charges of "spying" for the U.S. and Britain. (Sarah Dadouch)
-- China’s Communist Party flaunted an astonishing array of new weapons, many of them nuclear, during their military parade in front of thousands of carefully selected citizens. Anna Fifield reports: “The DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile, which can be armed with 10 nuclear warheads and is on a par with U.S. and Russian missiles, made its public debut at the parade. China for the first time displayed as many as 16 examples of the DF-17, a medium-range missile that can launch a hypersonic glide vehicle and would be extremely difficult to intercept. Its inclusion in the parade in a signal that the weapon is now operational and ready to be deployed, Zhao said. There were also H-6Ns, a new version of China’s long-range strategic bomber … and JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles.”
-- Peru’s president Martín Vizcarraga dissolved Congress. Then the country’s Congress suspended him. Simeon Tegel reports: After Vizcarraga sent Congress packing, “some lawmakers refused to leave their seats, even as protesters gathered outside. They introduced a motion to impeach the president; when it became clear that they lacked the necessary supermajority, they voted instead to suspend him on the supposed grounds of incapacity, a constitutional maneuver intended for medical emergencies. They then voted to install Vizcarra’s estranged vice president in his place. Mercedes Aráoz called accepting the job ‘one of the saddest decisions’ of her life.”
-- The State Department eased its travel advisory for El Salvador to Level 2 from Level 3 days after the U.S. signed an agreement with the Central American country to send some asylum seekers in the U.S. there, per the WSJ.
-- In today’s most random news: Tom Cruise traveled to Ukraine, possibly on a scouting trip for a movie, and met with Zelensky. Siobhán O’Grady reports: “‘You’re good-looking ... like in a movie,’ Zelensky, a professional comedian, told Cruise, as the room burst into laughter. ‘It pays the rent,’ Cruise joked back. Zelensky’s office released clips of their exchange, in which Cruise can be heard saying, ‘We’re looking, we’re seeing, we’re very excited about it … very excited,’ and later mentioning that he took note of Ukraine’s cobblestone streets. Little context for their comments is available in the released clips, but Zelensky can also be heard referencing the Minsk process, an agreement that was intended to bring about a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting with Ukrainian troops since 2014. The clips don’t include any mention of Zelensky’s role in the ongoing political crisis in Washington.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Rudy Giuliani told an Atlantic reporter that he's planning on launching a "jaw suit" against D.C.'s "swamp":
Rudy Giuliani says he is looking to sue The Swamp. pic.twitter.com/3D65Mg6VaO— Elaina Plott (@elainaplott) October 2, 2019
Earlier in the day, Giuliani complained that authorities are investigating him and not Hillary Clinton, to which Clinton replied:
Yes, I am famously under-scrutinized. https://t.co/OtvP8nYwoK— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 1, 2019
Trump congratulated the Chinese Communist Party on its anniversary, and some wondered if that was the right thing to do:
I remember when careers were destroyed over who “lost” China to the communists. Now apparently that milestone is worthy of a congratulatory Tweet from the president. And a shrug from a GOP that once said they cared about such things as human rights and freedom.— Dan Rather (@DanRather) October 1, 2019
The president also said the impeachment inquiry is part of a "coup" against him, a comment that drew plenty of criticism and explanations of the difference between a coup and an impeachment inquiry:
....People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2019
From the chief strategist of Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign:
Impeachment is part of the same Constitution that allowed you to lose by 3 million and still become president. https://t.co/PMtB6EFl3o— stuart stevens (@stuartpstevens) October 2, 2019
From a former FBI speical agent who now teaches at Yale:
A coup is a violent overthrow of government. Impeachment is a peaceful, legal process laid out in the Constitution.— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) October 2, 2019
Upholding the Constitution is the same as a marriage vow — you do it through the good and the bad. If you can’t, maybe it’s just not the right fit for you. pic.twitter.com/Unu2iy51sO
From a staff writer for the Atlantic:
The president describes the constitutionally outlined process of impeachment as a “coup” because he thinks of himself as the state and disloyalty to him as treason. All the more reason to remove him from office. pic.twitter.com/SHIhCtYtZc— Adam Serwer🍝 (@AdamSerwer) October 1, 2019
One of the Democratic presidential candidates said Trump is violating Twitter's terms of service:
From a University of Virginia political scientist:
This COUP business from Trump is the same nonsense that the revisionist Nixon gang pushed for years--that Nixon wasn't really guilty of anything, he was removed from office via a "silent coup" of plotters determined to destroy Nixon's legacy and policies. Uh-huh.— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) October 2, 2019
Seb Gorka, the former White House deputy assistant, confirmed that he traveled with Pompeo to Italy, which he described as part of an effort to investigate the Obama administration:
An NBC reporter was unpleasantly surprised by a critter in the White House, leading to what may be the most exciting event to happen in the briefing room in months:
In other news: A mouse literally fell out of the ceiling in our White House booth and landed on my lap.— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) October 1, 2019
And a New York Magazine reporter noted that, despite the recent moves to impeach the president, he still had a record-breaking fundraising haul for the third quarter:
Over the equivalent period in 2011, Obama raised $70 million for his re-election campaign. So this is, uh, a lot of money. https://t.co/GCQRR1HTFZ— Eric Levitz (@EricLevitz) October 1, 2019
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If she gets elected president, then I would bet that we will have a legal challenge, and I would bet that we will win the legal challenge. And does that still suck for us? Yeah," said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in leaked comments promising to fight efforts by Elizabeth Warren to break up his company. "I don’t want to have a major lawsuit against our own government. I mean, that’s not the position that you want to be in when you’re, you know, I mean … it’s like, we care about our country and want to work with our government and do good things. But look, at the end of the day, if someone’s going to try to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight." (Craig Timberg)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert thinks the Ukraine scandal is moving faster than a “chalupa through a goose”:
Seth Meyers wanted to take our minds off Trump for a few minutes so he shared the wild story of a woman scaring off a wild cougar with a Metallica song:
And Trevor Noah thinks Rudy Giuliani should be impeached:
The Anti-Defamation League has officially included the “okay” hand sign in its “Hate on Display” database. Here’s how the common gesture became a symbol of the alt-right:
Five things Trump and Republicans have blamed for inaction on guns:
Many black voters in Milwaukee stayed home in 2016. They don’t want to be taken for granted in 2020: