Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the House Republican Conference chair, spoke up during a meeting at the White House on Wednesday afternoon to remind Trump that the terrorists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001, “came from 7,000 miles away,” according to three people familiar with the exchange.
Trump’s takeover of the GOP has been well documented, but this exchange offered a revealing window into the fundamental differences that remain between how Trump and traditional conservatives see the world.
Cheney didn’t say this, but she could have also pointed out to the president that the distance from the White House to the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden was killed, is 7,037 miles.
Saying Americans don’t need to worry about bad guys who are 7,000 miles away represents a repudiation not just of the Washington consensus that has existed since 9/11 – but since the Japanese sneak attack against Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
After the trauma of the Great War – that was before they had the sense to number them – the American people were leery of getting involved as the Axis powers marched across Europe and Asia. The “America First” movement of that era turned a blind eye to Adolf Hitler. After that approach failed and World War II still came, the Greatest Generation recognized how essential American leadership is to global stability.
Americans have always, collectively, had relatively short historical memories. And those who don’t remember the past are always doomed to repeat its mistakes. After the quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, the electorate once again grew leery of deploying troops overseas. Trump, born a year after World War II ended, got elected in 2016 after promising to end the “endless wars” and embracing the “America First” slogan that had gone out of vogue three quarters of a century earlier.
On Wednesday, Trump pointed to his 2016 victory as an electoral mandate for his decision to retreat. “We have a situation where Turkey is taking land from Syria. Syria’s not happy about it. Let them work it out,” Trump said during one of several public appearances. “They have a problem at a border. It’s not our border. We shouldn’t be losing lives over it.”
Trump clearly wants to wash his hands of the whole situation. “They know how to fight,” he said of the Kurdish fighters who fought side by side with U.S. forces to put down the Islamic State. “And by the way, they’re no angels.”
Trump added it’s “fine” by him that Russian troops are occupying positions held just days ago by Americans. “They’ve got a lot of sand over there. So, there’s a lot of sand that they can play with,” the president told reporters. “Let them fight their own wars.”
Cheney’s comment in the Cabinet Room came after she voted for a resolution broadly condemning the troop withdrawal. It passed 354 to 60. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, joined by other Democrats, walked out of the meeting about Syria after Trump called her a “third-grade politician.” But the meeting became tense at several other moments as well, Seung Min Kim and Mike DeBonis report.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) read aloud comments made by Jim Mattis on NBC’s “Meet the Press” over the weekend that “ISIS would resurge” if the United States doesn’t keep up the pressure in the region. Trump cut Schumer off to say that Mattis is the “world’s most overrated general” and that he wasn’t “tough enough.” Schumer and Pelosi also pressed Trump to explain his strategy for the region, per Seung Min and Mike. When he responded that his “plan is to keep the American people safe,” Pelosi retorted: “That’s not a plan. That’s a goal.” When Democratic leaders walked out, Trump repeatedly called out, “See you at the polls.”
THE GROUND TRUTH:
-- “U.S. officials acknowledged this week the difficulty of preventing an Islamic State resurgence in Syria once the bulk of American forces withdraw, as the military scrambles to assemble a plan for battling the militants from afar,” Missy Ryan reports from the Pentagon. “The Pentagon had hoped to keep a small number of troops in the area to contain what it says is a still-potent militant threat. The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, stressed that the planning has not reached its final stages. They said the discussions centered on arrangements that would permit the United States to continue some level of air attacks and surveillance from outside Syria, relying in part on an expanded footprint in Jordan, and transferring Special Operations forces to Iraq.
“The challenges start with obtaining adequate intelligence about Islamic State activities now that the partnership with the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is in danger of shattering. … ‘It’s a lot more complicated having to do this over the horizon,’ a U.S. official said, using a term for military operations conducted from outside a targeted country. Ensuring that the militants don’t regroup, the official said, would now be ‘a lot harder.’”
-- Vice President Pence arrived today in Turkey’s capital on a mission to persuade President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to halt the military offensive that set off the hasty U.S. troop withdrawal. Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are scheduled to meet with Erdogan in the next few hours. Kareem Fahim, Erin Cunningham and Dan Lamothe report: “Erdogan has rebuffed appeals for a cease-fire and chided Western allies for suggesting he negotiate with ‘terrorists,’ as he refers to the Syrian Kurdish militias … Erdogan said Wednesday that Turkey would ‘never declare a cease-fire’ and vowed to forge ahead with plans to enforce a buffer zone as deep as 20 miles into Syrian territory. The swath of territory would stretch more than 280 miles from the northern city of Manbij to the Syrian border with Iraq.”
-- Pence and Pompeo are there a day after the White House released a letter Trump sent to Erdogan on Oct. 9 urging the Turkish leader to make a deal with the Syrian Kurdish militias instead of invading. “You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering people,” Trump wrote. “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” The letter was written on the day that Turkey’s military operation started.
-- Turkish officials told the BBC and other news outlets that Erdogan threw the letter in the trash.
-- “On Wednesday, the U.S. military said two F-15E jet fighters carried out an airstrike to destroy an ammunition-storage facility, latrines, tents and other parts of the Syria headquarters of the American campaign to destroy Islamic State after pulling its forces from the base,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Col. Myles Caggins, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition overseeing the fight against Islamic State, said the airstrikes were intended to ‘reduce the facility’s military usefulness.’ The decision to target the base, which included warehouses used to train-and-equip the Kurdish-led fighters, came after Turkish-backed forces moved on the facility on Tuesday.
“As the Turkish-backed forces moved closer to the LaFarge Cement Factory facility south of Kobane, the Kurdish-backed forces set fire to their part of the base and fled, Col. Caggins said. The U.S. used Apache helicopters and F-15 jet fighters to intimidate the Turkish-backed fighters and deter them from getting closer to the base, U.S. officials said. After the show of force, the U.S. military pulled its forces out of the base and carried out what it called a ‘pre-planned precision airstrike’ before Turkish-backed fighters could take control of the facility.’”
-- The U.S. military has also withdrawn from Raqqa, the former de facto capital of the Islamic State, Caggins tweeted.
-- Bigger picture: “The blow to America’s standing in the Middle East was sudden and unexpectedly swift,” Beirut bureau chief Liz Sly reports from the region. “Within the space of a few hours, advances by Turkish troops in Syria this week had compelled the U.S. military’s Syrian Kurdish allies to switch sides, unraveled years of U.S. Syria policy and recalibrated the balance of power in the Middle East. As Russian and Syrian troops roll into vacated towns and U.S. bases, the winners are counting the spoils. The withdrawal delivered a huge victory to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who won back control of an area roughly amounting to a third of the country almost overnight.
“It affirmed Moscow as the arbiter of Syria’s fate and the rising power in the Middle East. It sent another signal to Iran that Washington has no appetite for the kind of confrontation that its rhetoric suggests and that Iran’s expanded influence in Syria is now likely to go unchallenged. It sent a message to the wider world that the United States is in the process of a disengagement that could resonate beyond the Middle East …
“Images shared on social media underscored the indignity of the retreat. Departing U.S. troops in sophisticated armored vehicles passed Syrian army soldiers riding in open-top trucks on a desert highway. An embedded Russian journalist took selfies on the abandoned U.S. base in Manbij, where U.S. forces had fought alongside their Kurdish allies to drive out the Islamic State in 2015. ‘Only yesterday they were here, and now we are here,’ said the journalist, panning the camera around the intact infrastructure, including a radio tower and a button-powered traffic-control gate that he showed was still functioning. ‘Let’s see how they lived and what they ate,’ he said, before ducking into one of the tents and filming the soldiers’ discarded snacks.
“On Arab news channels, coverage switched from footage of jubilant Syrian troops to scenes of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s lavish receptions by the monarchs of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Washington’s most vital Arab allies in the Persian Gulf. The visits had been long planned, but the timing gave them the feel of a victory lap.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Democratic congressman from Baltimore and chair of the House Oversight Committee, died this morning at Gilchrist Hospice Care, a Johns Hopkins affiliate in Baltimore. He was 68. Jenna Portnoy reports: “After undergoing an unspecified medical procedure, the Democratic leader did not return to his office this week, the Baltimore Sun reported. A statement from his office said that he had passed away due to ‘complications concerning longstanding health challenges.’ ... Born to a family of Southern sharecroppers and Baptist preachers, Mr. Cummings grew up in the racially fractured Baltimore of the 1950s and 1960s. … In 1996, he won the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives that Kweisi Mfume (D) vacated to become NAACP president. Mr. Cummings eventually served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and as ranking Democrat and then chairman of what became the House Oversight and Reform Committee. …
“The first two years of the Trump administration were agonizing for Mr. Cummings, who was battling ill health, including complications of heart surgery, as well as political frustration.Mr. Cummings said his efforts to work with Trump and members of the GOP majority in the House were fruitless. … As ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, Mr. Cummings became a leading voice against the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, a change that critics contended would discourage participation by documented and undocumented immigrants alike. …
“Cummings was born in Baltimore on Jan. 18, 1951. His father worked at a chemical factory, his mother at a pickle factory and later as a maid while raising seven children. … Although they struggled to feed their family, his parents would can apples and peaches and give half the preserves to people in need. The proprietor of a Baltimore drugstore where Mr. Cummings worked paid his application fee to Howard University … At Howard, he served as student government president, and he received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1973. He received a law degree from the University of Maryland three years later and practiced law, mostly in private practice, for nearly two decades. … In 2008, he married Maya Rockeymoore, a policy consultant. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.”
-- European and British negotiators struck a Brexit deal, raising the prospect that Britain could be out of the E.U. by the end of the month. Michael Birnbaum, William Booth and Quentin Ariès report: “Negotiators working through the night in Brussels agreed on the draft Thursday morning after Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed on despite lingering questions about warring Brexit factions in London. The agreement would still need approval by European leaders and the British Parliament. ‘We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control — now Parliament should get Brexit done on Saturday so we can move on to other priorities like the cost of living, the NHS, violent crime and our environment,’ Johnson tweeted, referring to the National Health Service. … Earlier in the day, the leader of the key Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party, Arlene Foster, said she could not back the current proposal. Johnson chose to push forward despite failing to get the party on board, raising the prospect that it could quickly fall apart in London, as a previous deal did under Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May.”
THE IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY:
-- Michael McKinley, a former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told House impeachment investigators Wednesday that he quit his job last week out of concern about the mistreatment of career U.S. diplomats and the alarming allegations related to efforts to pressure Ukraine’s president into investigating Trump’s political rivals. “I was disturbed by the implication that foreign governments were being approached to procure negative information on political opponents,” McKinley said. “I was convinced that this would also have a serious impact on Foreign Service morale and the integrity of our work overseas.”
“McKinley said his concerns culminated with the recall of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, a punitive action he and many other rank-and-file diplomats viewed as wholly unjustified,” Carol Morello and John Hudson report. “McKinley wanted Pompeo or the department to issue a ‘supportive statement’ for Yovanovitch but it never happened, and McKinley told investigators he did not want to be part of a department that did not support its diplomats … The split has been bitter, as shown by the absence of a statement from Pompeo expressing gratitude for McKinley’s 37 years of service. … McKinley, a career diplomat and Latin America specialist, has served in several senior diplomatic posts, including as ambassador to Afghanistan, Colombia and Peru. He was serving as ambassador to Brazil last year when Pompeo recruited him as a policy adviser and a conduit between his office and the career service.”
-- McKinley’s testimony exposed deep discontent with Pompeo’s politicization of the State Department, Morello writes in a worthwhile sidebar.
-- Mitch McConnell told Republican senators to prepare for an impeachment trial to begin as soon as Thanksgiving. Rachael Bade and Erica Werner report: “While McConnell briefed senators on what would happen during a Senate trial, House GOP leaders convened what they expect will be regular impeachment strategy sessions. In their closed-door weekly luncheon, McConnell gave a PowerPoint presentation about the impeachment process and fielded questions alongside his staff and [Lindsey Graham], who was a manager for the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton. … McConnell said the Senate would likely meet six days a week during the trial. … ‘There’s sort of a planned expectation that it would be sometime around Thanksgiving, so you’d have basically Thanksgiving to Christmas — which would be wonderful because there’s no deadline in the world like the next break to motivate senators,’ Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said.”
-- Trump’s former top Russia expert on the National Security Council, Fiona Hill, saw Trump’s E.U. ambassador, Gordon Sondland, as a potential national security risk because he was so unprepared for his job. From the New York Times: Hill “did not accuse Mr. Sondland of acting maliciously or intentionally putting the country at risk. But she described Mr. Sondland, a hotelier and Trump donor-turned-ambassador, as metaphorically driving in an unfamiliar place with no guardrails and no GPS... [Hill] also said that she raised her concerns with intelligence officials inside the White House … In her testimony, Ms. Hill described her fears that Mr. Sondland represented a counterintelligence risk because his actions made him vulnerable to foreign governments who could exploit his inexperience.” Sondland also allegedly used unsecured personal devices to conduct official business.
-- Amid the cascading impeachment inquiry, Sondland is overseeing a nearly $1 million renovation of his government-provided residence. Taxpayers are footing the bill. Current and former officials say the renovations are both extravagant and unnecessary, Michael Birnbaum, Shane Harris and John Hudson report: “The State Department also has allocated more than $100,000 for an ‘alternate’ residence for Sondland for September and October, while work is performed. … The renovations at the E.U. ambassador’s residence, which include $33,000 for handmade furniture from Italy, appeared driven by Sondland’s lavish tastes rather than practical needs, people familiar with the matter said. … Two former U.S. officials said Sondland delighted in the trappings of being an American ambassador in Brussels. ‘He got addicted,’ one former official said. ‘The way you’re treated as a senior U.S. official, there’s nothing like it in terms of adrenaline and ego boost.’”
-- Energy Secretary Rick Perry told the Wall Street Journal that he called Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, this spring at Trump’s direction to address the president’s concerns about alleged Ukrainian corruption. Perry “said he contacted Mr. Giuliani in an effort to ease a path to a meeting between Mr. Trump and his new Ukrainian counterpart. He said Mr. Giuliani described to him during their phone call several concerns about Ukraine’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election, concerns that haven’t been substantiated. Mr. Perry also said he never heard the president, any of his appointees, Mr. Giuliani or the Ukrainian regime discuss the possibility of specifically investigating [Joe Biden]. ... Mr. Giuliani, in an interview, confirmed the spring phone call and said he was telling Mr. Perry to be careful with regards to the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky.”
-- David Correia, the fourth defendant in a campaign finance case involving business associates of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, was arrested Wednesday morning at a New York City airport. Devlin Barrett reports: “Correia has been charged with participating in a scheme to use foreign money to build political support for a fledgling recreational marijuana business in Nevada and other states, according to an indictment unsealed last week that also charged Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman with conspiracy and making false statements to campaign finance regulators. The other defendants were quickly arrested by the FBI, but Correia had been traveling in the Middle East and returned to the United States to surrender to authorities at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
“Correia made a brief court appearance Wednesday, where a judge ordered him released on $250,000 bond. He and the other person charged in the case, Andrey Kukushkin, are due back in court Thursday. Parnas and Fruman were originally expected to appear in court Thursday, as well, but their hearing has been pushed back to next week. Fruman was released on bond Wednesday, but Parnas remains in jail.”
-- The federal investigation of Giuliani includes a counterintelligence probe, CNN reports: “The counterintelligence part of the investigation indicates that FBI and criminal prosecutors in Manhattan are looking at a broader set of issues related to Giuliani … than has been previously reported. Kenneth McCallion, a New York attorney, says that investigators first approached him earlier this year to ask about Giuliani's ties to [Parnas and Fruman]. … McCallion says FBI counterintelligence agents in February or March asked questions about some of Giuliani's Ukrainian business dealings. The counterintelligence probe hinges in part on whether a foreign influence operation was trying to take advantage of Giuliani's business ties in Ukraine and with wealthy foreigners to make inroads with the White House.”
-- Parnas and Fruman were pursuing a Florida weed license, reports the Miami Herald, which adds that their plans were unsuccessful due to their inability to prove that they had the cash necessary to purchase a stake in any one of the state’s 22 licensed marijuana companies.
-- House Republicans continue criticizing the impeachment process while fully participating in the probe. Paul Kane writes: “Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) even plans to force a procedural vote on whether to censure Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, for his conducting a ‘Soviet-style’ investigation. … But Democrats have also struggled to explain just how normal their process has been, how it is following precedents and will almost certainly lead to the type of open hearings that Republicans are demanding. Those participating in the closed-door depositions generally say that these interviews are very professional and that both sides have operated under rules that were approved in January.”
-- Man in the news: Politico’s Daniel Lippman profiles John Eisenberg, the National Security Council’s top attorney, who Fiona Hill and others went to with their concerns about the Ukraine imbroglio before the July 25 call: “He keeps such a low profile that, for a while, the president didn’t even know his name, repeatedly referring to him as ‘Mike.’ Colleagues describe Eisenberg as a taciturn presence who is reluctant to share details of his family or personal life. … As lawyers often do, Eisenberg took notes in meetings with Trump, a standard practice that ‘drove the president absolutely bonkers,’ according to one former White House official. ‘His sense was people were taking notes because they were going to write a book or testify against him,’ the former official said."
The 52-year-old attended Stanford University before Yale Law School. He was previously a partner in the D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis. Bill Barr, Pat Cipollone and Brett Kavanaugh are alums of the firm. Politico reports that he was making more than $1 million a year at the firm before joining the Trump White House: “Eisenberg is ‘extremely paranoid,’ in the words of one of his former colleagues at the NSC … Eisenberg is ‘a classic lawyer,’ another former NSC colleague recalled: He never says anything when he can nod his approval and never puts anything in emails if he can say it to your face. …
“Some of Eisenberg’s former colleagues are concerned that he will be blamed for the Ukraine scandal … Eisenberg has also been the lead lawyer on discussions about finding suspected leakers of national security information in the White House … Eisenberg would give the legal OK for the White House Communications Agency to look into NSC staffers’ accounts when they were suspected of leaking … One former NSC official said it would make sense if it was Eisenberg who thought of putting the transcripts into the [code-word classified computer] system in the first place.”
-- Eisenberg’s new boss, national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien, outlines his plan to streamline the NSC in an op-ed for today’s newspaper by reducing the number of non-political staff: “During the Obama administration, the NSC ballooned to well over 200 policy staffers. By comparison, a mere 12 NSC policy staffers helped President John F. Kennedy deal with the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. As President Jimmy Carter handled multiple crises in the late 1970s, the NSC staff totaled just 35 professionals. During the first term of the George W. Bush administration, with two major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan underway, the policy staff was about 100 people. After consulting several of my predecessors and analyzing the NSC’s current configuration, I have determined that the agency can and should be streamlined … With that in mind, we will be able to reduce 174 policy positions to under 120 by early 2020."
-- Elizabeth Warren confronted a cascade of pointed criticism from a trio of more moderate Democratic rivals, as they sought to capitalize on a debate that saw the leading liberal candidate face intense scrutiny amid worry by her opponents that her momentum, money and energetic crowds are obscuring a hard look at her ideology. Matt Viser anchors our ledeall from Columbus, Ohio: “Joe Biden lobbed some of his most biting charges at her, questioning her honesty and saying her Medicare-for-all health plan ‘is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous.’ South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) stepped forward more assertively against Warren in the wake of persistent questions about Biden’s own strength as the more moderate standard-bearer. ‘Last night she was more specific and forthcoming about the number of selfies she’s taken than about how her plan is going to be funded,’ Buttigieg said on CNN. ‘Show your math and say how you’re going to pay for Medicare-for-all,’ Klobuchar said in a separate interview. ...
“Biden on Wednesday also faced a striking problem for a former vice president with decades of Democratic connections: a lack of money. He only had $9 million cash on hand at the end of the third quarter … That was less than a third of the stockpile enjoyed by Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg, and the gap elevated fears of allies about his ability to compete if a contentious primary fight runs deep into next spring. Biden on Wednesday dismissed concerns about his financing, and he pointed toward the advantage Warren and Sanders had in transferring money from their Senate accounts. He gave no hint to any cutbacks in spending, which included nearly $1 million for private charter flights in the third quarter. (Warren on Wednesday was spotted flying in coach on a commercial airline.) ...
“Biden and his allies also ramped up their criticism of an answer Warren gave during the debate in which she said, ‘I think we ought to get out of the Middle East. I don’t think we should have troops in the Middle East.’ She later clarified that she meant only combat troops. ‘I was surprised last night in the debate one of my colleagues said we should remove all troops from the Middle East,’ Biden said at a Wednesday afternoon event in Davenport, Iowa. ‘We can be strong and smart at the same time.’ Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), who has endorsed Biden, said after the debate that Warren’s comment showed Biden was ‘clearly the stronger candidate in terms of being able to be commander in chief. She’s really not prepared for that role.’”
-- About 8.3 million people watched the debate live on CNN. That roughly matches the number of people who saw the 2008 debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton right before Super Tuesday, but the debate still didn’t perform much better than this campaign’s lowest-rated primary debate: CNN’s Detroit forum that drew 8.2 million. (NYT)
-- Warren’s campaign says it's reviewing “other revenue options” for Medicare-for-all after she was pressed four times on the debate stage about whether her plan will raise taxes on the middle class. From CNN: This leaves open the possibility that Warren may ultimately diverse on Sanders on how the plan will be paid for. "'She will only support pay-fors that meet the principles she has laid out in multiple debates,' a Warren campaign aide said in a statement ... The campaign aide also said that the total cost of Medicare for All is unknown and that estimates vary by trillions of dollars. They did not provide details on what 'other revenue options' the campaign is studying, and declined to comment on whether Warren may eventually put out her own details on paying for Medicare for All.”
-- Despite falling behind Warren and Biden in the polls, Sanders scored one of the biggest coups of the primary season by securing the endorsements of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Sean Sullivan and Chelsea Janes detail how he did it: “Ocasio-Cortez ... visited Sanders in his hometown of Burlington, Vt., and the two sat down for breakfast, joined by Sanders’s wife, Jane, and his campaign manager, Faiz Shakir. Ocasio-Cortez’s visit ‘was a very key step in the process’ of earning her endorsement, Shakir said later. … A third member of the Squad, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), has opened the door to endorsing Sanders. Sanders’s campaign announced Wednesday that he will join Tlaib for a tour of her Detroit district later this month. … The emergence of Warren as a liberal alternative to Sanders … created uncertainty about what Ocasio-Cortez would do. Both Sanders and Warren aggressively courted Ocasio-Cortez, collaborating on legislation with the congresswoman, dining with her and showing support for her on social media."
-- Don’t count Marianne Williamson out. In an op-ed for our paper, the lifestyle guru said that there’s “no way” she’s dropping out after watching Tuesday’s debate: “Last night’s debate was a lot of things, but it was not exciting. It contained no magic. If anything, it reduced some very nice people to behavior their mothers probably raised them not to engage in. ... Apparently, the strategy is to engage the American people by showing them the worst of who we are. … I think the process of democracy demands, and the American people deserve, something far more real. We will not defeat outrageous lies with tepid, corporatized, compromised truths. We will not defeat a political cult leader with the same old tried but clearly no longer true. Offering people the stale alternative of political leftovers, prepackaged as bromides with all the vitality and richness of spoiled food, is an inadequate response to the challenge that confronts us.”
-- Chelsea Clinton ruled out running for Congress next year, batting down speculation that she would seek to replace retiring Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.). (Colby Itkowitz)
-- Tom Steyer reported raising $50 million last quarter, but that includes a $47.6 million loan he made to his campaign. (Brittany Renee Mayes, Kevin Schaul, Anu Narayanswamy, Michelle Ye Hee Lee)
-- George Conway, husband of counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, donated the maximum allowable contribution of $5,600 to Trump's longshot primary challenger Joe Walsh. Walsh, a former Illinois congressman, only raised $129,000 in the quarter, per CNN.
-- Retired Marine combat pilot Amy McGrath raised $10.7 million in her first quarter as a Democratic challenger to McConnell in Kentucky. She has outpaced the Republican lawmaker in fundraising since entering the race. However, based on the latest poll numbers posted by the FEC, McConnell has more campaign cash in the bank. And he'll also have super PACs. (AP)
THE OVERSHADOWED DOMESTIC AGENDA:
-- The parents of the British teenager killed in a traffic accident in the U.K. met with Trump at the White House, only to be told that the woman accused in the crash – the wife of an American diplomat who fled the U.K. instead of facing authorities – was in the same building and ready to meet with them. Jennifer Hassan and Josh Dawsey report: Harry Dunn “was killed Aug. 27 when his motorcycle was struck by a car that police say was driven by 42-year-old American Anne Sacoolas, who was driving on the wrong side of the road at the time. … White House officials were skeptical of having Dunn’s parents and Sacoolas in the West Wing at the same time, but Trump was keen on having a ‘hug and make up moment,’ according to a person with knowledge of the discussions. Trump believed he could solve the problem, the official said. …
"Dunn’s parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, described the meeting, explaining that they had no idea they were meeting with the president and had been invited to the White House to meet with ‘a senior official.’ Dunn’s parents say Trump offered his condolences before quickly alerting them that Sacoolas was in the building. ‘It took your breath away when he mentioned it the first time,’ Dunn’s father said. The British government was scrambling to learn what happened in the White House and was not aware that Trump was going to pull such a move, a senior official said. There was initial trepidation, this person said, about even having the meeting. Trump said that Boris Johnson asked him to set up the meeting.”
-- Follow the money: The president’s trade talk moves markets and has made some futures traders billions. Did they know what he was going to say before he said it? From Vanity Fair: “Traders in the Chicago pits have been watching these kinds of wagers with an increasing mixture of shock and awe since the start of the Trump presidency. They are used to rapid fluctuations in the S&P 500 index; volatility is common, of course. But the precision and timing of these trades, and the vast amount of money being made as a result of them, make the traders wonder if all this is on the level. Are the people behind these trades incredibly lucky, or do they have access to information that other people don’t have about, say, Trump’s or Beijing’s latest thinking on the trade war or any other of a number of ways that Trump is able to move the markets through his tweeting or slips of the tongue? Essentially, do they have inside information?”
-- U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan plans to retire in January following months of complaints from Trump that the Postal Service is losing too much money and should be charging Amazon more for deliveries. Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey report: “Trump had told aides repeatedly earlier this year that he would like to remove Brennan from her post, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. But officials on Wednesday characterized Brennan’s departure as a normal retirement and said she would assist in the search for a replacement. Brennan, a former letter carrier who is the first woman to head the postal agency, had resisted Trump’s push to double the rates charged to Amazon and other firms to ship packages — a drastic move that could cost the companies and post office customers billions of dollars.” [Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Post.]
-- The Supreme Court sounded divided over whether Lee Boyd Malvo, one of the “Beltway Snipers” who terrorized the Washington region at age 17, deserves a resentencing hearing because his youth wasn’t weighed before he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Robert Barnes reports: “The court’s liberals and conservatives were on opposite sides about the reach of two of the court’s precedents: a 2012 ruling that said states may not mandate life without parole for juvenile killers, and a subsequent decision that said the ruling was retroactive. Malvo, who along with his adult mentor John Allen Muhammad killed 10 people in the Washington region in random sniper attacks, believes his Virginia sentences qualify. But even his lawyers say a victory for him would probably have more value for others. Malvo also received six life sentences for Maryland murders, and he could be prosecuted in other states.”
-- A jury awarded $450,000 to the father of a Sandy Hook victim in a defamation case. Susan Svrluga reports: “In the years since 6-year-old Noah Pozner was killed, Lenny Pozner has tried to stop people from spreading lies about the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and from harassing him and other grieving families for proof that the event happened. In June, Pozner won a defamation case against editors of a book that claimed no one died at the Newtown, Conn., school. A summary judgment found James H. Fetzer and Mike Palecek defamed Pozner with statements that his son’s death certificate was a fake. On Tuesday, a Wisconsin jury determined the amount that Fetzer must pay Lenny Pozner for making defamatory statements.”
-- Many in the black community are applauding the swift arrest of the white officer who killed a black woman, Atatiana Jefferson, in her home as a sign of change, but caution remains as recurring and troubling themes emerge. From the AP: “These include the release of police body camera footage and details from an arrest warrant showing that Jefferson had a gun — moves that are being perceived as attempts to place blame on the victim.”
-- Striking workers outside a General Motors transmission plant in Toledo, Ohio, celebrated a tentative contract deal that demonstrated the muscle the United Auto Workers union still has over Detroit’s manufacturers. From the AP: “Details of the four-year pact weren’t released, but GM’s latest offer to end the monthlong strike included wage increases and lump-sum payments, top-notch health insurance at little cost to workers, promises of new products for many U.S. factories and a path to full-time work for temporary workers. That’s a big difference from what GM wanted going into the talks: to slash total labor costs at its factories, which are about $13 per hour higher than at foreign automakers in the U.S.”
-- Chicago parents are preparing for a teachers’ strike that will shut down classes in the nation’s third-largest school district. From the AP: “Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during a news conference that the district’s 25,000 teachers represented by the Chicago Teachers Union would almost certainly walk out on Thursday based on union leaders’ reaction to bargaining talks this week. Union members representing each school are set to meet Wednesday afternoon to make a final decision, but union members have already said they will recommend moving forward with a strike. … District officials said this time they will keep all buildings open during school hours, staffed by principals and employees who usually work in administrative roles. Breakfast and lunch will be served, but all after-school activities and school buses are suspended in the district serving more than 300,000 students.”
-- A new bipartisan bill would require automakers to build cars and trucks with passive detection systems that prevent the vehicle from operating if the driver is impaired. Fredrick Kunkle reports: “Such devices, known as ignition interlocks, are in widespread use for those charged or convicted of drunken driving; they require the driver to exhale into a Breathaylzer-like device and prevent the car from starting if a person’s blood alcohol level is above the legal limit. But researchers and engineers have been working to develop newer technology that would obtain instantaneous and precise readings of every driver’s blood alcohol level when the driver attempts to start the vehicle. Safety advocates hope the technology will become as standard as air bags. Limited road testing has been underway in Maryland and Virginia. The Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone Act … co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) would provide additional funding for continued research and road-testing of passive detection systems and set a timeline of about four years to put the technology on the market.”
-- The House’s new plan to revamp the federal law governing higher education includes some hits and misses. Here's smart analysis by Danielle Douglas-Gabriel:
- Hit: The bill would revise income-driven repayment in a way that would make forgiveness more generous and deliver more help to struggling borrowers.
- Hit: The bill would award performance bonuses to schools enrolled in a program that assists low-income students with child-care costs.
- Miss: The bill would boost the maximum Pell Grant award for low-income students by $500, but that still would only result in the grant covering about 31 percent of the cost of public college.
- Miss: The bill fails to address onerous consequences of falling severely behind on loan payments.
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
From one of our reporters at the Capitol:
A former NYPD commissioner who pleaded guilty to eight federal charges called for the arrest of Adam Schiff:
This is how the White House press secretary spun the meeting between Trump and Pelosi:
A Post columnist noted that that may have not been how things went down:
Trump shared this image of him and Pelosi in an attempt to discredit her. It might have backfired:
The Speaker's daughter said no one should mess with her mom, especially on National Boss Day:
Others focused on another aspect of the photograph:
Pelosi ended up making the picture her Twitter header:
A Time reporter had this to say about Tom Steyer's spending:
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"I still ask the FBI: Where is the server?" Trump said in the Oval Office on Wednesday. Trump was referring to Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee server during the 2016 election. “How come the FBI never got the server from the DNC? Where is the server? I wanna see the server. Let’s see what’s on the server.” (Dan Zak)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Jimmy Kimmel isn't sure what Trump was trying to prove with the letter he sent Erdogan:
The right-wing Club for Growth unveiled an attack ad against Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), accusing him of being a “Democrat secret asset” who is “plotting to take down President Trump with impeachment.” This is intended as a warning flare to other Republicans who lack Romney's stature (he's also not up for reelection until 2024) who might consider speaking out against the president. The group says it will air the 30-second spot on Fox News in Utah:
Mass protests in Barcelona, over the sentencing of Catalan separatists, have raged on for three nights in a row:
The U.K.'s Sky News launched a "Brexit-free" news channel after three years of constant Brexit coverage: