THE BIG IDEA:
MEXICO CITY — President Trump likes to boast that he has built a wall between this country and the United States (he has not yet).
But the dramatic changes to immigration laws implemented by his administration are having a similar effect in this country. And Mexico is indeed paying for the huge burden of housing, caring for, processing asylum seekers and, at times, deporting tens of thousands of migrants now detained in this country before they ever reach U.S. soil.
During a Monday event meant to celebrate how migrants have enriched Mexico’s culture, Francisco Garduño, head of the Mexican government’s National Migration Institute, took the microphone and demonstrated a new reality on the ground here: Some government officials have become attack dogs for Trump's immigration policies.
According to Mexican newspaper Milenio, Garduño said Mexico’s deportation of more than 300 migrants from India last week was meant to serve as a warning to all other undocumented migrants considering entering Mexico.
“This is a warning to all transcontinental migrants,” Garduño said. “No matter if they’re from Mars, we’re going to send you all the way back to India, to Cameroon, to Africa.”
The turnabout comes months after Mexican officials agreed to crack down on the flow of migrants and asylum seekers headed to the U.S. border in the wake of the Trump administration threat to impose tariffs on all Mexican imports. Mexican authorities deployed thousands of National Guard troops to its border with Guatemala and struck a deal with the Trump administration to force asylum seekers to seek refuge in the first country they enter after leaving their homelands.
The new policies are part of Trump’s crackdown on illegal border crossings known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, which have forced thousands of migrants and asylum seekers to stay on the Mexican side of the border while they await U.S. asylum hearings. With MPP also came a series of agreements with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras allowing the United States to divert asylum seekers from the southern border to these Northern Triangle countries. These third-country deals are being challenged in court but are being enforced while the legal fight plays out.
In Mexico, the deal with the Trump administration is taking a toll on local governments and non-governmental groups scrambling to feed, house and process migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. And while it's unclear the exact number of migrants and asylum seekers for which Mexico is picking up the tab, the Guardian reported earlier this month the United States has sent more than 51,000 asylum seekers to wait for asylum hearings in Mexico’s border towns. Newspaper Contra Réplica reported Mexico deported an average of 727 migrants daily in the first six months of 2019, which totaled about 130,995 migrants.
So far this year, Mexico has received over 54,000 asylum requests, up from 29,631 in 2018. In 2013, the country only received 1,296 of these requests, according to COMAR, the Mexican government’s commission for refugees. By the end of the year, Mexico could become one of the top 10 countries for receiving asylum requests.
“There’s never been this number of asylum requests,” said Adrián Meléndez Lozano, founder and director of Proyecto Habesha, a nonprofit organization created to provide access to higher education to Syrian refugees here. “This is something that the country is not prepared for, that the civil society is not prepared for ... Mexican institutions are not prepared for the size of this phenomenon.”
Incidents sparked by the massive influx have engendered international coverage. There was that viral video of a Mexican commander preparing his troops for the day by telling them: “We are in our country. We are in Mexico. We are enforcing our laws. Nobody is going to come here to trample our laws, nobody is going to come here to trample our country, our land.”
Then came reports of Mexico’s National Guard blocking migrants from reaching the northern border, including a caravan of approximately 2,000 people from Africa, Central America and the Caribbean. The group was broken up and sent to a migrant camp in the Mexican southern border city of Tapachula. And this week, a Tijuana newspaper reported the director of a migrant shelter there accused the National Migration Institute and the National Guard of racially profiling Haitian and African migrants and asylum seekers, going as far as detaining some who had the right documentation.
And the new stance could be fundamentally changing the fabric of Mexico. In a recent visit to Tapachula, Meléndez Lozano was amazed by what he saw: streets and neighborhoods largely populated by migrants and refugees from Guatemala and Honduras and from as far as India, Pakistan and parts of Africa. “Tapachula, which before this exodus or massive arrival was an unknown city, now is the most cosmopolitan city in Mexico,” Meléndez Lozano said.
But the country doesn’t have the infrastructure to deal with the challenges they pose. “I’ve worked in the past in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Lebanon,” he said. “What I saw in those countries is similar to what I see here in Mexico."
The U.N. refugee agency has increased its presence in Mexico to adapt to the influx of asylum seekers. Meanwhile, UNICEF opened offices in Tijuana and Tapachula to help manage the surge in migrant children, of which an approximate 5,000 are asylum seekers, according to Dora Giusti, who leads the child protection department at UNICEF Mexico. Giusti said UNICEF has been helping Mexico’s refugee agency ease the asylum process for children.
“It is known that COMAR doesn’t have the staff to respond to this challenge,” Giusti said. “It was this way since even before this flow of asylum seekers began.”
COMAR has also upped its presence in border towns and major cities across the country. But that’s still not enough, according to its director, Andrés Ramírez.
Currently, Ramírez's office is working to hire and train more staffers with the legal power to process and approve asylum requests. "... We need to have more help from the Mexican government," he said. "We've had minimal support this year, support that's yet to be materialized because the administrative processes take time."
Ramírez doesn't know the precise causes for Mexico’s explosive growth in asylum applications. But the government's deal with the Trump administration seems like a likely culprit.
“We know very well that the United States’s asylum approval rates, particularly for Central Americans, are very low. Mexico, on the other hand, has higher approval rates,” Ramírez said. “You don't need to be Einstein to conclude that, if Mexico, with its higher rates, rejected some of these asylum seekers, the chances of them being given asylum in the U.S. are very low.”
Treaties that might send U.S. asylum seekers to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, meanwhile, have raised red flags in all three Central American countries. On Wednesday, CNN reported that an agreement to keep migrants in Guatemala is close to being implemented.
VICE reported earlier this year that Guatemala has just four asylum officers and hasn’t resolved a case in nearly two years.
In El Salvador, Meghan López, head of the International Rescue Committee’s mission there, said there are nine people working in the office that processes asylum claims. She said 25 people have received asylum in the country, with 49 cases approved over the past five years.
“We don’t see any resources being put towards that right now. All three of the Northern Triangle governments are in fiscal crisis. They have many, many fires that they are trying to put out,” she said. “They are really trying to do as much as they can for the populations currently in their countries, and that does not afford for preparation of receiving asylum seekers.”
MORE ON THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- The White House is considering Chad Wolf to replace ex-Department Homeland Security secretary Kevin McAleenan, per CNN: “Wolf, a senior department official, previously served as chief of staff to former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. He was nominated by [Trump] in February to serve as undersecretary for the Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans at DHS, a role he currently fills in an acting capacity. He is still awaiting Senate confirmation for the position. Earlier this week, CNN reported the White House's personnel director told Trump that neither immigration hardliner Ken Cuccinelli nor Customs and Border Protection chief Mark Morgan are eligible to succeed [McAleenan] as acting Homeland Security secretary, according to a senior administration official."
-- During a speech at a shale conference in Pennsylvania, Trump said the U.S. is “building a wall in Colorado,” according to the Denver Post: “‘Do you know why we’re going to win New Mexico? Because they want safety on their border, and they didn’t have it. And we’re building a wall on the border of New Mexico and we’re building a wall in Colorado,’ the president said, drawing cheers. .. ‘We’re building a beautiful wall, a big one that really works, that you can’t get over, you can’t get under,’ Trump added, as the crowd rose to its feet in support. ‘And we’re building a wall in Texas. And we’re not building a wall in Kansas but they get the benefit of the walls we just mentioned.’ … Colorado does not border Mexico, as Texas and New Mexico do, and it’s unclear where the president’s confusion came from. The government is building fencing near the Colorado River, which may have led to the misstatement.”
-- A Honduran woman accused a U.S. immigration agent of sexually assaulting her over a period of seven years under the threat of deportation, according to a federal lawsuit. From the Guardian: “The woman, identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe, sued the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the former ICE agent Wilfredo Rodriguez on Saturday, seeking $10m in damages. … An ICE spokesman told the Associated Press he couldn’t comment on litigation but confirmed Rodriguez no longer works for the agency. Homeland security didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.”
-- ICE rescinded a nearly half-million dollar fine against Edith Espinal, an undocumented immigrant who’s been living inside a Columbus, Ohio, church in order to avoid deportation. From CNN: “ICE also withdrew fines for six other women who were living inside churches across the country to avoid deportation, according to the National Sanctuary Collective. The fines drew national attention earlier this year and spawned legislation to grant Espinal deportation relief."
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The Nationals crushed the Astros 12-3, taking a commanding 2-0 lead in the World Series. Jesse Dougherty and Sam Fortier report: “By the end of the seventh inning Wednesday night, by the time they had batted around, bullied the Houston Astros and brought themselves within two wins of a title — with five chances to get them — the Washington Nationals could take just a second to look around and breathe. They were the enemies in a stadium that was slowly emptying out. Enemies with big grins and even bigger reasons to bet on themselves. That’s what happens when you beat the home team, 12-3, in Game 2 of the World Series. That’s what happens when you carry a 2-0 lead onto a plane back to Washington. That’s what happens when you stage a six-run seventh inning that starts against star pitcher Justin Verlander and ends with you capitalizing on every last mistake. That’s what the Nationals did at Minute Maid Park. They dismembered the Astros, and in swift fashion, after Stephen Strasburg kept them floating in a tight game.”
-- “The Washington Nationals have a 2-0 lead in the World Series. If it’s typed again, will it seem more realistic?” writes Barry Svrluga. “The Houston Astros are better, deeper, more versatile, more seasoned, more hardened, blah blah blah. For two games over two nights here — including Wednesday night’s 12-3 Nats’ victory in Game 2 — they stood no chance.”
THE IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY:
-- Republicans stormed a closed-door impeachment hearing as the escalating scandal threatens Trump. Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey and Mike DeBonis report: “A group of Trump’s congressional allies escalated their complaints about the impeachment inquiry by barging into a secure facility on Capitol Hill where a Pentagon official was to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. Their intrusion, which caused the testimony to be delayed for about five hours over security concerns, came a day after the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine testified under oath that the White House had threatened to withhold military aid unless the Ukrainian government announced investigations for Trump’s political benefit. … ‘I led over 30 of my colleagues into the SCIF where Adam Schiff is holding secret impeachment depositions,’ Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said Wednesday morning on Twitter, referring to the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. ‘Still inside — more details to come.’ The lawmakers staged the dramatic protest while making process arguments that sidestepped the substance of the central allegations underpinning the impeachment inquiry. Democrats accused the protesting members of compromising security by taking their phones into the secure area, where cellphones are barred. …
“Before entering the closed-door hearing, Republican lawmakers held a news conference to decry how Schiff, the California Democrat who runs the Intelligence Committee, was carrying out the panel’s portion of the impeachment inquiry. Several complained about the private nature of the proceedings and claimed that the inquiry was part of a long-running attempt by Democrats to overturn the result of the 2016 presidential election. But none of the 13 Republicans who spoke defended Trump on the central allegation that he had pushed Ukraine to investigate Democrats while blocking military aid that had been approved for Kyiv.”
-- This came a day after Trump told Republicans to “take the gloves off.” Elise Viebeck, Rachael Bade, Mike DeBonis and Kayla Esptein report: “The demonstration came a day after members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus met with Trump at the White House, where the president urged the group to be ‘tough,’ according to Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), who attended. The unusual protest came on what was expected to be a calm day for the impeachment inquiry. Only one witness, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper, was scheduled to testify, and she was not expected to make much news. … After several speakers made their case, the group moved past a set of double doors into the secure area, out of reporters’ view, and were met by two security guards. After stopping for a time, the group barged past into the deposition room with chants of ‘let us in.’ Then all hell broke loose, according to witnesses. …
“Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) — a Trump favorite who regularly defends the president on television — started shouting about ‘injustices against the president!’ Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), who is running for Senate in his state, railed about the perceived unfairness of the Democrats’ decision to make the process private. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) snapped back at Byrne, ‘There are no cameras here, so it won’t help your Senate campaign.’ … Democrats were seething. ‘They not only brought in their unauthorized bodies, they may have brought in the Russians and the Chinese with electronics into a secure space, which will require that the space at some point in time be sanitized,’ said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), who sits on the Intelligence Committee.”
-- Trump was reportedly informed of the plan in advance, Bloomberg reported.
-- The most disingenuous aspect of Gaetz and Co.’s complaint that Schiff’s investigation is too secretive is that Republicans are actively participating in the ongoing hearings, writes Philip Bump: “The Post’s Paul Kane reported last Wednesday that Republicans who sit on the committees leading the inquiry are as engaged as Democrats, asking as many questions as they desire. Democrats control who is called in for a deposition, and only members of those three committees can participate, but any implication that Republicans broadly are excluded from the process is inaccurate. …. 1 out of every 4 Republicans in the House can participate in the inquiry hearings anyway. That doesn’t include Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is also allowed to participate. It does include Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.), the brother of the vice president. He sits on the Foreign Affairs committee.”
-- A Defense official was able to testify after a five-hour delay. John Wagner, Felicia Sonmez and Colby Iktowitz report: :aura Cooper “left Capitol Hill after a three-and-half-hour hearing that started hours behind schedule due to Republican protesters in the room. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), speaking to reporters after the hearing, called Cooper a ‘credible witness’ but said he did not believe there were ‘groundbreaking revelations’ from her testimony.” House investigators are taking a two-day break from depositions to honor the late congressman Elijah E. Cummings. They will be back at it Saturday with a closed-door testimony from Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs.
-- House Democrats are preparing to move their largely private inquiry onto a more public stage as soon as mid-November. Rachael Bade and Karoun Demirjian report: “Among the witnesses Democrats hope to question in open session are the acting ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr., and his predecessor, former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Both are seasoned diplomats who, in earlier House testimony, effectively conveyed outrage over a White House plan to withhold much-needed military aid from Ukraine, a long-standing ally battling pro-Russian separatists. … Another top priority for many Democrats is John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, who made known around the White House his visceral opposition to the campaign to pressure [Ukraine], a campaign directed in part by Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani.”
-- A U.S. judge said he will order the State Department to begin releasing Ukraine-related documents in 30 days, potentially making public sensitive records and communications at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “The decision, by U.S. District Judge Christopher R. ‘Casey’ Cooper of Washington, D.C., came in a public records lawsuit filed Oct. 1 by a government watchdog group, American Oversight. … ‘Despite the ongoing obstruction of Congress, the Trump administration will now have to start releasing records concerning its dealings with Ukraine,’ Austin Evers, the executive director of American Oversight, said in a statement."
-- Trump’s private attorney said the president could not be investigated or prosecuted as long as he is in the White House, even for shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue. Ann E. Marimow and Jonathan O’Connell report: “The claim of ‘temporary presidential immunity’ from Trump’s private attorney William S. Consovoy came in court in response to a judge’s question that invoked the president’s own hypothetical scenario. As a candidate in 2016, Trump said his political support was so strong he could ‘stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody’ and not ‘lose any voters.’ The president’s lawyer was asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit to block a subpoena for Trump’s private financial records from New York prosecutors investigating hush-money payments made before the 2016 election. The judges seemed skeptical of the president’s sweeping claims of immunity from not just prosecution but also investigation.”
-- Two of Giuliani’s associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, pleaded not guilty to charges they violated campaign finance law. Renae Merle and Devlin Barrett report: The two Soviet emigres “made a brief appearance in federal court in a case that also has led federal investigators to scrutinize Giuliani’s interactions with the pair. At the hearing, Parnas’s lawyer, Edward MacMahon, raised concerns to U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken that some of the evidence gathered in the case may be protected by attorney-client privilege or even executive privilege.”
-- Giuliani is in search of a defense attorney, per CNN: “The move … is notable because last week he said he would not be seeking a new lawyer unless he felt one was needed. His previous lawyer, John Sale, was helping him deal with congressional inquiries.”
-- Democrats said testimony provided Tuesday by Bill Taylor could prove devastating to Trump by showing he had his E.U. ambassador attempt to extort Ukraine using taxpayer money. Aaron C. Davis reports: “The testimony could pose a more immediate problem for that diplomat: Gordon Sondland. And his lawyer on Wednesday said his client either does not recall or disputes many of Taylor’s key accusations. Sworn testimony provided by Sondland, a hotelier and Trump fundraiser, and Taylor, a decorated veteran and career diplomat, now diverges on key points. Most critically, Taylor’s testimony challenges Sondland’s claim that he did not know of an alleged quid pro quo involving nearly $400 million in security aid for Ukraine. ... Responding to questions by email, Sondland’s attorney Robert Luskin wrote to The Washington Post on Wednesday that his client 'does not recall' such a conversation."
-- Defections? Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said the “picture” from initial reports of Taylor’s testimony is “not a good one.” From the Hill: “‘But I would say also that, again, until we have a process that allows for everybody to see this in full transparency, it's pretty hard to draw any hard, fast conclusions,’ Thune added. Thune noted at the time that he had not read Taylor's testimony but had seen only initial reports.”
-- Senior national security officials feared that Trump had another Ukraine back channel in the shape of one of their colleagues, Kashyap Patel, who was involved in Republicans’ efforts to undermine the Russia investigation. From the Times: “Colleagues there initially questioned the role of Mr. Patel, who took few notes in meetings and had little expertise for his initial portfolio, which covered the United Nations. Within months, senior White House officials began to suspect he had won Mr. Trump’s ear and had effectively created a back channel to the president that could warp American policy, according to congressional testimony and interviews. Colleagues grew alarmed after hearing that Mr. Trump had referred to Mr. Patel as one of his top Ukraine policy specialists and that the president wanted to discuss related documents with him, according to people briefed on the matter."
-- The New York City Bar called for Attorney General Bill Barr’s recusal in any ongoing or future review by the Justice Department of issues stemming from Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, per the New York Law Journal.
THE REST OF THE AGENDA:
-- During a congressional hearing before the House Financial Services Committee, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took a broad lashing on the planned launch of its digital currency Libra, its poor track record on privacy and diversity, and its struggles to prevent the spread of misinformation. Tony Romm reports: “Quickly, though, the hearing expanded in focus, reflecting the simmering frustrations on Capitol Hill with practically the entirety of Facebook’s business. Rep. Maxine Waters, the panel’s chairwoman, cited the news that Facebook removed from its platform a number of efforts to spread disinformation, including a Russian campaign predominantly on Facebook-owned Instagram that targeted users in swing states such as Florida. She said it showed foreign malefactors are ‘at it again,’ four years after Russians took aim at the 2016 race. She also criticized Facebook’s decision not to fact-check political ads. The matter has riled Democratic presidential candidates, who have asked — unsuccessfully — for Facebook to remove an ad purchased by [Trump’s] presidential campaign that they have said is filled with falsehoods.
“Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib later echoed those concerns that Facebook permits a ‘lower standard for truthfulness and decency’ for politicians, adding: ‘It is hate speech, it’s hate, and and it’s leading to violence and death threats in my office.’ … Republican Rep. Ann Wagner (Missouri) challenged Facebook for failing to stop child exploitation online. Rep. William Lacy Clay (Missouri) lit into Zuckerberg for advertising policies that he claimed had resulted in discrimination against diverse communities on social media." (More from my colleague Cat Zakrzewski at the Technology 202 here).
-- An internal memo on cybersecurity warns that the White House is “posturing itself to be electronically compromised once again,” Axios reported.
-- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos blasted Hollywood for not supporting a movie she likes. She also used a new term for her critics: “Bullies.” Valerie Strauss reports: “DeVos appeared at a celebration of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the only federally funded school voucher program in the country. It uses public money to provide subsidies to more than 1,000 low-income families to help pay for tuition at private and religious schools. … In her speech Wednesday, DeVos described critics who oppose her school ‘choice’ agenda as ‘bullies.’ … She also attacked Hollywood for failing to show interest in a new film called “Miss Virginia,” which tells the story of Virginia Walden Ford, a prominent black D.C. activist who fought for vouchers in the late 1990s and 2000s so her son could go to a private school. As Washington Post reporter Perry Stein wrote, the movie’s villain is a fictitious D.C. congresswoman who appeared to be based on Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), a longtime opponent of vouchers.”
-- The Chicago teacher strike entered its second week, and patience is wearing thin. Susan Berger and Moriah Balingit report: “Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who won a landslide election in April, is showing signs of impatience with the union. On Monday, she and Janice K. Jackson, chief executive of Chicago Public Schools, sent a letter to Jesse Sharkey, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, imploring teachers to return to the classroom while negotiations continued. The mayor and schools CEO emphasized concern for the health and well-being of students and said the strike was jeopardizing playoff prospects for several of the city’s top-ranked high school sports teams."
-- A broken health-care system is causing rampant burnout among doctors and nurses, a 312-page report released by the National Academy of Medicine found. William Wan reports: “The report found that as many as half of the country’s doctors and nurses experience substantial symptoms of burnout, resulting in increased risks to patients, malpractice claims, worker absenteeism and turnover, as well as billions of dollars in losses to the medical industry each year."
-- The House Ethics Committee said it is investigating Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) amid allegations she had an intimate relationship with a congressional staffer (which she denies). Colby Itkowitz and Michelle Ye Hee Lee report: “The allegations first surfaced in an article on the conservative website RedState.org. The article alleged that Hill and her husband were in a consensual three-person relationship with a woman on her campaign team. The article included text messages it said were between Hill andthe woman as well as intimate photos of them together. The article also alleged that Hill was involved romantically with her legislative director, Graham Kelly, which would violate House ethics rules. Hill, 31, confirmed that she was in a relationship with the female campaign staffer, according to the Los Angeles Times, but has denied that she had a romantic relationship with Kelly."
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Trump is trying to rebrand the U.S. withdrawal from Syria as a political promise: Let someone else be the world’s policeman. Anne Gearan reports: “Trump hopes his decision will please his most loyal political supporters, who tend to love it when he pokes a finger in the eye of the naysayers. Thus, Trump proudly owned what his critics see as a debacle born of willful ignorance. ‘Let someone else fight over this long-bloodstained sand,’ Trump said at the White House. He declared a ‘major breakthrough’ as a U.S.-backed cease-fire along the Syrian-Turkish border largely held, and claimed that he is saving American and Kurdish lives while pulling the plug on indefinite U.S. military commitments."
-- He also said the U.S. will lift sanctions on Turkey, calling the cease-fire in Syria “permanent.” Felicia Sonmez and David Nakamura report: “He took credit for the cease-fire and suggested the agreement would save tens of thousands of Kurdish lives in the region — even though one day earlier, Russia and Turkey agreed to a plan to push Syrian Kurdish fighters from a wide swath of territory just south of Turkey’s border, cementing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s preeminent role in Syria as American troops depart and U.S. influence wanes. The agreement will leave Turkey and Russia in control of territory formerly held by Kurdish forces once allied with the United States. … In his remarks Wednesday, Trump called the cease-fire ‘permanent]’ but added that the word is a ‘questionable’ one to use when discussing the region — and said sanctions on Turkey would be lifted ‘unless something happens that we’re not happy with.’ Trump also said he had spoken by phone with Kurdish general Mazloum Abdi, who he said assured him that Islamic State fighters will remain in captivity."
-- Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R) defended the president’s abrupt plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, arguing that it wasn’t a bad idea to get American troops out of the way if Turkey planned to “ethnically cleanse the Kurds.” “If Turkey was planning on coming into northern Syria and trying to ethnically cleanse the Kurds, and U.S. troops were caught in the middle, I am not completely convinced that it was a bad idea to get them out of harm’s way,” Cornyn said, per the Dallas Morning News.
-- Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte revealed details of the two visits to Rome by Bill Barr, emphasizing that Italy didn’t play a role in the events leading to the Justice Department's Russia investigation. From the Times: “‘Our intelligence is completely unrelated to the so-called Russiagate and that has been made clear,’ Mr. Conte said in a news conference in Rome ... Mr. Conte publicly acknowledged for the first time that Mr. Barr had twice met with the leaders of Italy’s intelligence agencies after asking them to clarify their role in a 2016 meeting between a Maltese professor and a Trump campaign adviser on a small college campus in Rome, Link Campus University.”
-- The European Union is considering delaying Brexit, with the end of January being its likeliest date. Michael Birnbaum and William Booth report: “Europeans had been waiting to see how far [Prime Minister Boris] Johnson’s Brexit deal could proceed in Parliament before they decided whether to delay the day of the split, which is scheduled for Oct. 31. But with parliamentary votes on Tuesday forcing Johnson to give lawmakers more time to scrutinize the terms of Britain’s departure, the control of the timing reverts to Brussels. The likeliest outcome is for E.U. leaders to delay the departure until Jan. 31, the day requested by Johnson in an unsigned letter he sent under protest on Saturday. British lawmakers forced him to ask for a delay rather than to lead Britain out of the European Union in October without any deal in place to buffer the way.”
-- The Philippines’ war on drugs has killed thousands, drawn global condemnation and enmeshed the police force in scandal. Yet President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign continues being wildly popular. Regine Cabato reports: “The reasons are manifold, but they hinge on Filipinos’ apparent willingness to overlook the human toll as long as Duterte’s government satisfies their individual economic and political interests, analysts say. For a politician who promised to eradicate criminals —‘kill them all,’ he said — Filipinos appear to judge Duterte as keeping his word.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
After Trump said he was building a wall in Colorado, a senator from Vermont took a Sharpie and outlined America's new Southern border:
Trump tried to clarify that his comments were made in jest:
(Kiddingly) We’re building a Wall in Colorado”(then stated, “we’re not building a Wall in Kansas but they get the benefit of the Wall we’re building on the Border”) refered to people in the very packed auditorium, from Colorado & Kansas, getting the benefit of the Border Wall!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 24, 2019
Trump lashed out against Republicans who don't support him:
While Republican lawmakers protested House Democrats' decision to hold impeachment hearings behind closed doors, an NBC correspondent pointed out that they did the same thing during the Benghazi investigation:
GOP Final Benghazi Report: P. 360— Heidi Przybyla (@HeidiNBC) October 23, 2019
'The Committee’s pref. for private interviews over public hearings has been questioned. ... Interviews allow witnesses to be questioned .. by a highly prepared member or staff person. " Open hearings "precludes in-depth focused questioning.'
A Politico reporter also noted this other Republican incongruence:
A reminder: House Republicans cried foul when Democrats used their cell phones on the House floor during a gun violence sit in.— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) October 23, 2019
Today, several Republicans brought phones into the SCIF.
A CNN global affairs analyst noted that Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan managed to rehabilitate their global image in the past few years:
How’s this for a reversal of fortune...— Bianna Golodryga (@biannagolodryga) October 23, 2019
5 years ago, Putin was a global pariah, weakened by a recession at home. 3 years ago, Erdogan was nearly overthrown by a coup, FaceTiming into news networks for support. Today, they’ve effectively rolled the US.
A Missouri senator wore his support for demonstrators in Hong Kong on a T-shirt:
The president sent a conservative commentator a thank you note in the form of signed tweets that were full of praise for him, including one that came from the GOP account itself:
Amazing: staff provided Trump with a print out of positive "reactions" to his rally in Dallas, Texas, that included... a tweet from the RNC's account. https://t.co/bSDffdkNCT— Jacqueline Alemany (@JaxAlemany) October 23, 2019
Next month's Democratic debate, which The Post is hosting with MSNBC, will have an all-female moderator lineup:
And after years of working in D.C., a former EPA supervisor finally made the news, except it was for unrelated environmental reasons:
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "They’ve got two things: They stick together and they’re vicious," said Trump of Democrats during a shale conference in Pittsburgh. "I love the Republicans. Ninety-four and ninety-five percent approval rating they gave me recently. But still, they don’t — they don’t stick. We got to stick together," he added. (White House handout)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Samantha Bee sent a correspondent to Ohio to talk to voters, who she joked were surprisingly not all white men:
Stephen Colbert broke down Trump's Syria speech:
Seth Meyers thinks Trump's political position is quickly eroding:
And a second Democratic 2020 hopeful graced The Post's TikTok account: