With Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: The Russians keep coming.

Facebook announced Monday afternoon that it took down a network of Russian-backed accounts that were posing as American voters in swing states. The social media company said the operation appeared well-resourced, reflected a sophisticated understanding of the culture wars that divide Americans, and bore all the hallmarks of the Internet Research Agency, the Kremlin-backed troll farm that interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Fifty fake accounts were removed from Instagram, the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook. Only one of the accounts that was taken down was a traditional Facebook page. This reflects how America’s adversaries continue to be aggressive and entrepreneurial, evolving to maximize their impact.

Graphika, a social media analysis firm that examined the operation for Facebook, published a 30-page report about the fake pages, which were still in audience-building mode: “Multiple accounts praised Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump. Accounts from both sides of the political spectrum attacked Joe Biden; some also attacked Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.”

“The reason that networks of phony accounts are drawn to Instagram is because disinformation is increasingly visual in nature, and that’s what Instagram specializes in,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director of New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.

“The disclosure from Facebook served as more evidence of what Trump has repeatedly questioned — that Russian actors not only interfered in the 2016 election but are continuing their efforts to interfere in American democracy,” Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker report. “The task of safeguarding U.S. elections from interference by Russia and other foreign actors has been a source of tension in the Trump administration, with the president repeatedly calling the allegations of Russian involvement in 2016 a ‘hoax’ and top security officials being forced to tiptoe around the issue.”

Facebook’s announcement comes ahead of chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s scheduled testimony before Congress on Wednesday. Lawmakers have been champing at the bit to question him about what the company is doing to safeguard U.S. elections in 2020. In an interview with The Washington Post last week, Zuckerberg said Facebook is in a “much better place now” to stop disinformation, with better artificial intelligence technology to detect nefarious activity and more staff focused on the problem. But he also said the problem posed by disinformation has worsened since 2016, and he said the U.S. government deserves part of the blame. “Unfortunately, the U.S. did not have a particularly strong response to Russia after 2016 so it sent the signal to other countries that they could get in on this, too,” he said.

To wit, Facebook also announced yesterday that it disabled three disinformation campaigns that originated in Iran. They were almost certainly sanctioned by the government in Tehran.

-- Non-state actors are pursuing innovative approaches, as well. Today’s Wall Street Journal reports, for instance, that Islamic State militants have been posting short propaganda videos in recent weeks to TikTok, the social network that’s popular with teenagers right now.

“The videos—since removed, in line with the app’s policy—featured corpses paraded through streets, Islamic State fighters with guns, and women who call themselves ‘jihadist and proud,’” per Georgia Wells. “Many were set to Islamic State songs. Some included TikTok filters, or images, of stars and hearts that stream across the screen in an apparent attempt to resonate with young people. … The app, owned by Beijing-based Bytedance Ltd., features short videos that started becoming popular in the U.S. in 2018 and has been embraced by teens. It was the third-most installed app world-wide in the first quarter, behind Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp and Messenger, and about 30% of users are under the age of 18.”

-- Twitter announced yesterday that it plans to create a new policy to combat manipulated media, including deep fake videos, ahead of the 2020 election. These distorted videos are increasingly realistic and lifelike. Twitter is asking for public feedback.

-- It’s a brave new world out there, and authoritarians keep trying to turn technological tools into instruments of oppression: The Russians passed a law earlier this year that lets Vladimir Putin take all the country’s Internet traffic off the World Wide Web if he decrees that there’s an “emergency.” The latest development is that the Putin administration now plans to hold annual exercises to prepare for such a scenario by effectively turning off the Internet.

“A new posting appeared October 21 on Russia’s official government website to announce the exercise plans,” according to Meduza, a Latvia-based online news outlet that covers the Kremlin. “An executive order allowing for the exercises will take effect on November 1. Specific arrangements to test the Russian Internet’s isolation capabilities have been developed by the Communications Ministry and approved by the FSB, the Defense Ministry, the Federal Security Service, the Emergencies Ministry, and the Federal Service for Technical and Export Control.” The FSB is the successor to the KGB, where Putin was once an officer.

-- Bloomberg News posted a chilling story this morning about the expansion of the surveillance state in Moscow: “The fourth of 10 basic rules Western spies followed when trying to infiltrate Russia’s capital during the Cold War—don’t look back because you’re never alone—is more apt than ever. Only these days it’s not just foreigners who are being tracked, but all 12.6 million Muscovites, too. Officials in Moscow have spent the last few years methodically assembling one of the most comprehensive video-surveillance operations in the world. The public-private network of as many as 200,000 cameras records 1.5 billion hours of footage a year that can be accessed by 16,000 government employees, intelligence officers and law-enforcement personnel.”

-- The stories about disinformation efforts should be read against the backdrop of a major update in L'Affaire Ukraine: Current and former U.S. officials say that Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine for information he could use against political rivals came as he was being urged to adopt a hostile view of that country by its regional adversaries, including Putin.

“Trump’s conversations with Putin, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and others reinforced his perception of Ukraine as a hopelessly corrupt country — one that Trump now also appears to believe sought to undermine him in the 2016 U.S. election” Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe, John Hudson and Ellen Nakashima report. “Neither of those foreign leaders specifically encouraged Trump to see Ukraine as a potential source of damaging information about [Biden], nor did they describe Kyiv as complicit in an unsubstantiated 2016 election conspiracy theory … But their disparaging depictions of Ukraine reinforced Trump’s perceptions of the country and fed a dysfunctional dynamic in which White House officials struggled to persuade Trump to support the fledgling government in Kyiv instead of exploiting it for political purposes …

“The role played by Putin and Orban, a hard-right leader who has often allied himself with the Kremlin’s positions, was described in closed-door testimony last week by George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state … Kent cited the influence of those leaders as a factor that helped sour Trump on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the months leading up to their July 25 phone call … The efforts to poison Trump’s views toward Zelensky were anticipated by national security officials at the White House … But the voices of Putin and Orban took on added significance this year because of the departure or declining influence of those who had sought to blunt the influence of Putin and other authoritarian leaders over Trump. …

“Trump spoke with Putin by phone and met with Orban at the White House in the weeks between Zelensky’s April 21 election and his May 20 inauguration. Trump also spoke with Putin on June 28, during a global summit in Japan, and by phone on July 31, days after the call in which he solicited a ‘favor’ from Zelensky. … Trump turned to Putin for guidance on the new leader of Ukraine within days of Zelensky’s election. In a May 3 call, Trump asked Putin about his impressions of Zelensky, according to a Western official familiar with the conversation. Putin said that he had not yet spoken with Zelensky but derided him as a comedian with ties to an oligarch despised by the Kremlin.”

-- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in Russia today to meet with Putin about Syria’s future. “Erdogan’s meeting with Putin, the Syrian government’s most powerful supporter, was widely expected to center on the thorny aftermath of Turkey’s military operation and the rapidly shifting Syrian map of control, as U.S. troops withdraw and competing factions rush to fill the void,” Kareem Fahim and Sarah Dadouch report. “Putin’s role as Syria’s central power broker was bolstered after the Trump administration announced it was withdrawing its remaining troops from the north.”

-- Programming note: Today’s 202 comes to you from the great state of Texas. I’m here to cheer on the Nationals against the Houston Astros in Games 1 and 2 of the World Series. I’m on vacation for the rest of the week to focus on baseball, and then attend my college reunion, but the newsletter is in the able hands of my colleagues. I’ll be back on Monday, when hopefully Washington has won the championship.

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THE LATEST ON IMPEACHMENT:

-- Trump once again lashed out against the impeachment process during a raucous Cabinet meeting, calling on Republicans to “get tougher.” Toluse Olorunnipa and Robert Costa report: “In extemporaneous remarks that lasted more than an hour, Trump railed against what he called a ‘phony investigation’ of his dealings with Ukraine and blasted the ‘phony emoluments clause’ of the Constitution, which played a role in forcing him to scrap plans to host a global summit at his private golf club in Florida. ... Trump sought to defend himself from emoluments clause charges by making baseless accusations against his predecessors, accusing Obama and Washington of using their office to conduct private business deals.”

"Behind the scenes, Trump’s erratic and bombastic behavior is causing growing alarm among Republican lawmakers, donors and advisers who have called for a more disciplined impeachment response from the White House. … The president has told several friends in recent days that he believes Democrats are divided and somewhat scattered about how to proceed in their impeachment inquiry, according to people who have spoken with him. … Many Republicans, however, have told officials in the White House and allies in Trump’s orbit that they cannot mount effective arguments in defense of the president. ...

“As the White House has resisted calls to build a political operation to counter the Democrats on impeachment, some outside Trump allies, including former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, have mulled starting their own initiatives to boost the president. Bannon … had talks over the weekend with associates about launching a podcast that he hopes would serve as an outside war room of sorts for the embattled president. ... Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is one of the people Bannon has contacted in recent days about being a guest on the podcast. Both Lewandowski and former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie have long been discussed by Trump aides as possible hires for a White House defense effort … Regardless of outside efforts, the clamor for a more efficient and united impeachment front is expected to carry on this week, as some Trump loyalists float names for a new chief of staff and the president and top aides consider their next steps.”

-- Trump’s Cabinet meetings have become about everything except the business of his Cabinet, writes Josh Dawsey: “Under Trump, Cabinet meetings have become less about the business of his Cabinet than an opportunity for the president to invite in the assembled press to boast of his own accomplishments, lash out at his critics and to hear the praise flow forth from advisers seated around a large oval table. The gatherings, with the press in attendance, often stretch for 60 to 90 minutes. … Much of the event seemed about self-validation as Trump’s allies describe a presidency under siege — and a president frustrated with an onslaught of criticism. ‘I’m very good at real estate,’ he said, without being asked about his real estate prowess. For several minutes, he used the White House setting to talk up his resort in Florida while defending himself against claims that he uses the presidency to help his properties. … Without prompting, he informed the government’s top officers — and the assembled news media — about his prowess at filling arenas.”

-- The Post’s Fact Checker went over some of the most misleading claims Trump made during the 71-minute riff.

-- A Republican resolution to censure House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for his handling of the impeachment inquiry was tabled on a party-line vote. Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) distributed a “fact sheet” outlining what her office called a gross abuse of presidential power. The document argues Trump was involved in a “shakedown,” “pressure campaign” and a “cover up” to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on his political adversaries. (John Wagner, Brittany Shammas and Michael Brice-Saddler) 

-- Prepare for another big day in the impeachment investigation: Bill Taylor, the top official at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, is scheduled to appear for a deposition on Capitol Hill. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper, who works on Ukraine, Russia and Eurasia, is expected to appear in a closed session on Wednesday.  

-- Even as the investigation moves swiftly, House Democrats have resigned themselves to the likelihood that impeachment proceedings will extend into the Christmas season, per the New York Times: “There are risks for Democrats in the longer timeline, which could make it more difficult for lawmakers in politically competitive districts, who fear a backlash from constituents if they appear to be preoccupied with targeting Mr. Trump instead of addressing major issues such as gun safety or health care. And Democrats are all too aware that Mr. Trump has succeeded in the past in steering the subject away from allegations of misconduct on his part, as he did with the [Russia investigation]. This time, Democratic leaders hope to deny him the opportunity.”

-- Some depositions have been rescheduled because of the funeral services for Elijah Cummings. Nearly half a dozen Democrats are considering bids to replace Cummings as the chairman of the House Oversight Committee. Karoun Demirjian and Mike DeBonis report: “Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) is serving as acting chair of the committee, as its most senior Democratic member … She intends to seek the gavel on a permanent basis. … But other members of the panel say they believe they have a stronger case for becoming the face of Congress’s top watchdog panel … Reps. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) both plan to launch bids to succeed Cummings as Oversight chair. … Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus are laying the groundwork to support Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), who is African American and the third-highest-ranking Democrat on the panel, should he elect to run for the chairmanship … Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who is the second-highest-ranking Democrat on the panel and is also African American, said Monday that she was supporting Maloney due to her seniority. But, she added, ‘if something happens to her, I’m next, and I will sure try to get it.’”

-- A new CNN poll shows that half of Americans believe Trump should be impeached and removed from office, the first time that support for impeachment and removal has significantly outpaced opposition in CNN’s polling on the topic.

-- Vacancies Act drama: The White House personnel director told Trump his two top picks for Department of Homeland Security secretary are ineligible for the job. From the Journal: “Sean Doocey, head of the White House Presidential Personnel Office, informed the president that neither Ken Cuccinelli nor Mark Morgan, who head two prominent immigration agencies at the Department of Homeland Security, were legally eligible to lead the agency on an acting basis. … The federal statute that governs vacancies states that acting officials in cabinet-level positions must either be next in line for a position or hold a Senate-confirmed post. Under a third option, the official being elevated must have served for at least 90 days in the past year under the previous secretary. During the meeting Friday, Mr. Doocey briefed Mr. Trump on an opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that the past secretary was [Kirstjen] Nielsen, not [Kevin] McAleenan ... Under that interpretation, Messrs. Cuccinelli and Morgan wouldn’t qualify, as they joined the agency after Ms. Nielsen departed.”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has survived scandal and missteps to win a plurality of seats in parliament in Canada’s election. But he failed to retain his majority, leaving his government dependent on the support of smaller parties to advance his agenda. Amanda Coletta reports from Toronto: “Trudeau’s Liberal Party has won more seats than Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and CTV News projected … but fell short of the 170 needed for a majority in the 338-seat House of Commons. … The election will create Canada’s fourth minority government in 15 years, and delivers a setback for Trudeau, the 47-year-old Liberal leader who swept to power in 2015 with a stunning landslide victory.

Without a majority, Trudeau could try to pass bills on a case-by-case basis, negotiating for the support of one or more of the other parties. He could also establish a formal coalition, in which parties share cabinet seats, but such arrangements are rare in Canada. Both the third-place separatist Bloc Quebecois and the fourth-place New Democratic Party appeared to have enough seats to help the Liberals stay in power. The first test of a minority government is the Speech from the Throne, in which the leader puts forth his agenda, and it’s put to a vote. If Trudeau loses, his government collapses. The governor general, who represents the queen of England in Canada, could then call on other parties to try to form a government to avoid another election.” Trudeau is expected to remain prime minister.

-- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave up his struggle to form a governing coalition after last month’s dead-heat election, opening a possible path to power for his rival, former army chief of staff Benny Gantz. Steve Hendrix reports from Jerusalem: “Israeli President Reuven Rivlin immediately said he would give Gantz a chance to assemble a majority of lawmakers, making him the first person other than Netanyahu authorized to form a government in more than a decade. Gantz will have 28 days to do what Netanyahu could not: entice at least 61 members of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, to support his bid. Gantz’s success is far from certain. Israel’s complex political system all but ensures that the final outcome is not likely to be clear for weeks and that a third election in less than a year may be required. …

“The parties emerged from the September elections with a nearly identical number of seats, and neither was close to a controlling majority. The prime minister released a video Monday announcing an end to his efforts, two days before the deadline and on his 70th birthday … Netanyahu warned in the video that Gantz could assume power with the support of Israeli Arab lawmakers, whose party emerged as the third-largest in the Knesset, and that those parliamentarians ‘encourage terror and oppose Israel’s existence.’ In a brief statement, Gantz’s party said, ‘The time for spin is over, and it is now time for action.’”

-- Trump confirmed what we previewed in yesterday's edition: A limited number of U.S. troops will remain in Syria to man a garrison on the nation’s southern border with Jordan and to “secure the oil” elsewhere in the country. Kareem Fahim, Karen DeYoung and Susannah George report: “‘I don’t think it’s necessary, other than we secure the oil,’ Trump said of the U.S. military presence. …  A ‘small number of troops’ would also remain in southern Syria at the request of Israel and Jordan, he added … A U.S. official with knowledge of Syria operations said the proposal calls for 200 U.S. troops to remain in the oil-producing area, both to keep it out of the hands of the Islamic State and to prevent it from being claimed by the Syrian government, which is steadily recovering territory with backing from Russia and Iran. ... Videos that circulated online showed some residents in northern Syria heckling the soldiers and pelting the vehicles, most flying large American flags, with objects said to be rocks and rotten vegetables."

-- Despite Trump promising to end the “endless wars,” there are now more U.S. troops in the Middle East than when he took office and he has kept tens of thousands of others stationed elsewhere. From the Times: “Tens of thousands of American troops remain deployed all over the world, some in war zones such as Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and — even still — Syria. And the United States maintains even more troops overseas in large legacy missions far from the wars following the Sept. 11 attacks, in such allied lands as Germany, South Korea and Japan. Although deployment numbers fluctuate daily, based on the needs of commanders, shifting missions and the military’s ability to shift large numbers of personnel by transport planes and warships, a rough estimate is that 200,000 troops are deployed overseas today.”

-- The Pentagon is drawing up plans to leave Afghanistan in case Trump blindsides the military by ordering an abrupt withdrawal there. From NBC News: “The contingency planning is ongoing, the officials said, and includes the possibility that Trump orders all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan within weeks. Officials cautioned, however, that the planning is a precaution and there is currently no directive from the White House to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. One of the officials called it ‘prudent planning.’ Another official described the president's current approach to Syria as ‘a dress rehearsal’ for what could happen in Afghanistan.”

-- England is considering prosecuting a pair of British ISIS fighters known as the Beatles who’ve been linked to a cell suspected of involvement in the killing of American and British hostages in Syria. Ellen Nakashima and Souad Mekhennet report: “The Crown Prosecution Service, an independent public authority in England and Wales, has agreed to review its previous decision not to prosecute the men. The move came after the United States military took custody of the two British men, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, almost two weeks ago. … Kotey and Elsheikh were captured in early 2018. Earlier, British prosecutors had argued that they were prevented from extraditing the men because they were being detained by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, a nonstate entity, making their transfer difficult. The men, whose British citizenship was revoked over their alleged affiliation with ISIS, are believed to be part of the cell suspected of crimes, including the beheading of Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig, as well as two British aid workers.”

-- Northern Ireland legalized abortion and same-sex marriage. Amanda Ferguson reports: “Northern Ireland’s abortion laws had been some of the most restrictive in the world — the procedure was banned in almost all cases except when a woman’s life was at risk. Women could be imprisoned not only for getting an abortion in the territory but for seeking one. Caregivers, too, could be criminally charged for giving advice on obtaining an abortion. … But beginning Tuesday, all prosecutions will be dropped, including a high-profile case against a mother who bought abortion pills for her then-15-year-old daughter."

-- The warming climate is making baby sea turtles almost all girls, scientists warn. Danielle Paquette reports: “‘Males here could vanish in two or three decades,’ said Adolfo Marco, a Spanish researcher who camps every summer on Boa Vista, one of Cape Verde’s 10 islands in the Atlantic. ‘There will be no reproduction.’ … Humans don’t know why the environment shapes the gender of some lizards, crocodiles and various species of sea turtles. Even slight shifts in the land can warp their reproductive fate. Sea turtle eggs that incubate in sand below 81.86 degrees Fahrenheit produce males, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, while nests in the mid-80s create a gender mix. Anything higher than 87.8 degrees, though, is 100 percent girls.”

-- Cities around the world broke out in protests this weekend, from fires in the heart of Barcelona to tanks on the streets of Chile. Miriam Barger reports: “One overarching theme: Protesters say they are sick of the ruling elite. From Beirut to Santiago, demonstrators say political and economic institutions aren’t working for the masses or representing their interests, as slogans convey. … Another key takeaway: Public dissatisfaction is spreading in ways politicians and pundits can’t predict."

-- International observers believe there are irregularities in the results that show Bolivian President Evo Morales avoiding a runoff. Accusations of election fraud have triggered mass street protests. From the Times: “With about 95 percent of the votes counted, election officials said Mr. Morales received 46.8 percent of the votes, while his closest rival, Carlos Mesa, won 36.7 percent. To avoid a runoff, the incumbent needed a 10-percentage-point advantage."

-- Japan’s new emperor, Naruhito, completed his formal enthronement. Naruhito proclaimed his rule before roughly 2,000 guests, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. (Japan Times)

-- Never forget: Just over a year after the murder of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will attend an economic conference in Saudi Arabia next week. (HuffPost)

2020 WATCH:

-- Kamala Harris rose to Democratic stardom by weaving a narrative about fighting for consumers against big banks as California's attorney general. A new book challenges her storyline. Politico has a preview: Aaron Glantz's book, “Homewreckers,” argues that “Harris not only allowed Steve Mnuchin’s OneWest bank to get away with foreclosing on tens of thousands of state homeowners, but then tried to bury the evidence. … [The book] posits that a group of Wall Street moguls including Trump Cabinet appointees Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross, as well as White House insiders like Steve Schwarzman and Tom Barrack, took advantage of ‘a rigged system’ to transfer billions of dollars from individual homeowners into their own pockets during the Great Recession. … ‘All of these officials screwed up and dropped the ball — and hid it. The time period when all this homewrecking occurred was during the Obama presidency, and when AG’s like Kamala Harris were on the job,’ he said. ‘It happened on her watch. And she’s never been really forced to tell the other story -- and wrestle with the truth of what happened.’” Harris’s campaign responded forcefully to the charges by highlighting Harris's work pioneering the Homeowner’s Bill of Rights and her introduction of a bill that would empower state AGs to issue subpoenas to federal banks.

-- Democrats are wondering if there is anybody else who could join the race. From Jonathan Martin in the New York Times: “When a half-dozen Democratic donors gathered at the Whitby Hotel in Manhattan last week, the dinner began with a discussion of which presidential candidates the contributors liked. But as conversations among influential Democrats often go these days, the meeting quickly evolved into a discussion of who was not in the race — but could be lured in.” Here are some of the “white knights” that some Democratic leaders would like to see enter the contest at the last minute:

  • Hillary Clinton and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who have “both told people privately in recent weeks that if they thought they could win, they would consider entering the primary — but that they were skeptical there would be an opening.”
  • Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who associates say has wondered whether he should’ve run and has found Biden’s missteps “hard to watch.” But he still thinks the former vice president is the best nominee.
  • Former attorney general Eric Holder, who is reportedly considering a last-minute entry but has conceded it may be too late.
  • Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who said “the pressure on him to reconsider from labor leaders, Democratic officials and donors has ‘become more frequent.’”
  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who said “it’s nice to be rumored about” before refusing to rule out a last-minute entry.

-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called for billions of new dollars to overhaul public schools from pre-K through 12th grade. She wants America’s wealthiest to pay for it. Valerie Strauss reports: “Her plan also would eliminate use of test scores for high-stakes decisions and end federal funding for new charter schools … Warren, who has touted dozens of plans for the country, said she would pay for her education vision with a proposed ‘wealth tax…. Some economists and other Democratic candidates have said the tax would not raise as much as Warren said it would and could not pay for everything she plans."

-- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang said he won’t join a minor party or run as an independent if he’s not the Democratic nominee. Amy B Wang reports: “‘I would never do anything that would increase the chance of Donald Trump becoming president [again],’ Yang said at a Washington Post Live event. ‘The goal is to beat that man, get him out of the Oval Office.’ …  Yang lightly criticized a wealth tax — such as the one fellow candidates [Berrnie Sanders] and [Warren] have made pillars of their campaigns — saying it had already been tried in other countries, only to be repealed because implementation problems meant it didn’t generate as much revenue as expected. ‘I am not conceptually against a wealth tax,’ Yang said. ... 'I would not rule it out, but it’s not, to me, the first and best choice.’”

-- Bernie Sanders defended Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) against claims she is a “Russian asset,” calling the suggestion “outrageous.” From CNN: “‘Tulsi Gabbard has put her life on the line to defend this country,’ the Vermont independent tweeted. ‘People can disagree on issues, but it is outrageous for anyone to suggest that Tulsi is a foreign asset.’ Sanders does not name Hillary Clinton in the tweet, but his comments appear to be aimed at the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee … Clinton's team on Monday declined to comment to CNN about Sanders' tweet. … Clinton's team, after receiving bipartisan criticism, said the former secretary of state was saying that Republicans and [Trump] were grooming the congresswoman.”

-- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is getting a lot of mileage out of her performance in the last debate. From the Times: “Riding a post-debate wave of attention, Ms. Klobuchar blitzed New Hampshire and Iowa last week, attracting new supporters and donors in those two states with early nominating contests. After months stuck in the polling doldrums, Ms. Klobuchar is getting a second look. But she faces several challenges, among them that she is arguing how to win general election swing states but has yet to show how she would win the nomination first."

-- Former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro threatened to drop out of the presidential race if he doesn’t raise $800,000 by the end of October. From the Texas Tribune: “While the last fundraising quarter was Castro's best yet — he raised $3.5 million — he continued to spend heavily, pushing his cash-on-hand total down to just $672,000, dangerously low for a White House bid. While Castro's campaign says he has the 165,000 donors needed for the November debate, he has not made any headway on the additional polling requirement: 3% in any four surveys or 5% in two polls in the early voting states. The other Texan in the race, Beto O'Rourke, is in a similar position, with just one qualifying poll. While he has not issued any threats to leave the contest, his campaign announced earlier this month that it needed to raise $2 million in six weeks to fund critical efforts to advertise and organize.”

-- Data shows that the most loyal Trump allies are Republicans who watch Fox News, writes Philip Bump: “Nearly half of respondents in PRRI’s annual American Values Survey say that they disapprove of Trump and that nothing he could do would change their minds. By contrast, only about a quarter of respondents say the opposite: They’ll stick with Trump no matter what. … No part of that group is more loyal than those Republicans who watch Fox News Channel. … Only about 3 in 10 Republicans whose primary news source is something other than Fox were as solid in their support of Trump. Even Republicans without a college degree, a bastion of Trump’s support in 2016, and white evangelical Protestants were less likely to say that they expected to stick with Trump no matter what.”

-- Trump is going all-in on a trio of Southern governor’s races in November. Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports: “Trump is expected to barnstorm Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana over the next few weeks … And Vice President Mike Pence is planning a bus tour through eastern Kentucky. Behind the scenes, Trump has been quizzing aides and allies on the three contests and been in touch with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) about [Matt] Bevin’s reelection fight. He also speaks regularly with Bevin … The White House has calculated that Trump is likely to take the brunt of the blame for a loss whether he campaigns or not. So he’s decided to jump in head-first so he can take credit if Republicans win.” 

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Trump tweeted this morning that he’s the victim of what he called a “lynching”:

The chair of the Congressional Black Caucus responded:

So did other African American lawmakers:

A Post columnist reacted this way to Trump calling the Constitution's emoluments clause "phony":

Ted Cruz routinely compared Obama to an emperor and a monarch. But the Texas senator said this when asked about Trump's emoluments comments:

Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone's trial will not be boring, even if no movie clips are played:

An Obama-era Justice Department official highlighted some of the images Rudy Giuliani's indicted associate posted on Instagram:

A Post reporter imagined what Mitt Romney's alter ego would look like after his secret Twitter account was discovered:

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) slammed a GOP state senator who shared a photo of a woman in a headscarf holding a rifle that he claimed was Omar, but it was taken four years before she was born. Oley Larsen, the North Dakota state legislator, also called Omar a “terrorist” in a follow-up comment:

This whistleblower supporter was once again spotted in the capital:

American officials believe Trump is trying to distance himself from a flawed Syria decision:

A new report found that most Uber users don't tip their drivers:

Russians can now buy luxury Vladimir Putin products:

Someone witnessed a deal that looked sketchy go down on Capitol Hill, and a retired CIA clandestine officer replied:

The Houston Astros tried to discredit a Sports Illustrated report about their assistant general manager, Brandon Taubman, turning to a group of female reporters and yelling multiple times, “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so f------ glad we got Osuna!” He was referencing embattled closer Roberto Osuna, who has been accused of assaulting the mother of his child:

From the Sports Illustrated story: The Astros "traded for [Osuna], and in terms of traditional organizational capital, the price was low: the Astros gave up their own struggling closer and two middling pitching prospects for him. But the price was low for a reason: Many teams didn’t want to deal with the public backlash for acquiring Osuna. The Astros decided it was worth it. Since he got to Houston, Osuna has a 2.46 ERA and 50 saves. The Astros may win another World Series. But that doesn’t mean they get to decide when the backlash ends. ... And that’s the irony of that interaction with Taubman. None of those women were talking to him. They weren’t even talking about Osuna. Taubman brought him up."

A Houston Chronicle reporter at the scene said the Sports Illustrated writer's report is correct, and he expressed regret for not speaking out about the incident earlier:

And ticket prices for the World Series are out of the park:

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Other presidents, if you look, other presidents were wealthy, not huge wealth,” Trump said when complaining about the emoluments clause. “George Washington was actually considered a very, very rich man at the time. But they ran their businesses. George Washington, they say, had two desks. He had a presidential desk and a business desk.” (John Wagner, Brittany Shammas, Michael Brice-Saddler

 

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Stephen Colbert is back from New Zealand and dove straight into Trump’s 71-minute long Cabinet meeting:

Seth Meyers picked apart Trump’s performance in front of reporters:

“Daily Show” correspondent Dulcé Sloan pointed out that Trump might just be trying to get America to break up with him: