The governor and the president’s surrogates are leaning on the impeachment probe in hopes that backlash to the inquiry will pull a neck-and-neck race their way. By coincidence, Trump remains exceedingly popular in all three states with gubernatorial contests this month. The others are Mississippi and Louisiana, where the Democratic governor has been forced into a runoff.
Bevin said, in an interview here, that impeachment comes up “remarkably frequently” on the trail, whether he mentions it or not. “There's probably no issue more divisive, or more topical, in America than that,” he said. “I don't think there's any predicate for it. It's absurd, really. It's purely political.”
“Ironically, people are like, ‘Oh, you keep trying to nationalize the race,’ but the people of Kentucky nationalize the race,” Bevin added. “They care about the impeachment issue. They care about the [abortion] issue. They care about security of our borders. We're not a border state, but it is probably as topical as anything when you go out and ask people what they care about.”
-- A new Washington Post-ABC News poll, out this morning, finds that 49 percent of Americans say the president should be impeached and removed from office, while 47 percent say he should not. The split is starkly partisan: 82 percent of Democrats support impeachment; 82 percent of Republicans oppose it. Independents are about evenly divided: 47 percent favor removal, 49 percent oppose it.
-- It’s a very different story in Kentucky. The most recent public poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon, shows that two-thirds of registered voters oppose impeachment. The survey shows Bevin tied with his Democratic challenger, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, at 46 percent. Trump’s approval rating is 57 percent. Bevin’s support among Republicans has increased from 67 percent to 77 percent since the previous Mason-Dixon survey. The firm attributes this to the impeachment inquiry, which its pollsters say is having the same rally-around-the-flag effect that Brett Kavanaugh’s contentious confirmation battle last year had before the midterms in other ruby-red states.
Bevin’s approval rating has been low for much of his term after picking fights with, among many others, teachers and other public employees over their pensions. Polls have consistently shown him among the least popular governors in America. In May, the incumbent garnered just 52 percent in the Republican primary against three relatively unknown challengers.
-- Beshear argues that Bevin’s focus on impeachment is born out of desperation and an effort to distract from more important issues. “Matt Bevin has a disastrous record of trying to tear health care away from people, tearing down public education, and he bullies people,” said Beshear, whose father preceded Bevin as governor. “So, yes, he's trying to make the race about anything other than his actual record because he knows, otherwise, he will lose. … I think the people of Kentucky know that, whoever the next governor is, they're going to have no impact on that proceeding at all. … This race isn’t about what’s going on in the White House. It’s about what’s going in our houses.”
Reflecting public sentiment in the Bluegrass State, the Democrat tried to brush aside multiple questions about impeachment when I interviewed him last week after a tour of an addiction treatment center in Louisville. Asked if House investigators are treating Trump fairly, Beshear said it’s too soon to judge. He also declined to say whether he’s at all troubled by the mounting evidence of Trump’s campaign to coerce the government of Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden. When pressed, Beshear pivoted to attack Bevin for his use of the state plane and for speaking to donors at the twice-annual summit hosted by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch.
“It feels like new news comes out all the time,” he said, suggesting he cannot keep up with the coverage of the depositions while waging a statewide campaign. “I'm focused on health care. I'm focused on public education, pensions and jobs right here in Kentucky.”
I asked how much pressure he feels from his base. In places like Louisville, liberals watch MSNBC and believe the case for impeachment is already a slam dunk. “I don't even listen to that because I'm a prosecutor,” Beshear replied. “And, as a prosecutor, you have to look at these types of proceedings in a different way. I would have to see the actual evidence. I would have to see the actual facts to support any type of proceeding, but I do believe if they're going to go forward, it has to be fair. It has to be nonpartisan. They have to make sure it's not about scoring political points on cable news.”
-- Bevin’s softness with the GOP base explains why impeachment has apparently been so helpful in tightening the race. That was on display at Don Señor, a Mexican restaurant here in Mount Sterling. Speaking to about 100 GOP activists here over breakfast, Bevin attacked several of the Democratic presidential candidates by name and then lamented that, because there’s so much focus on the 2020 campaign, many people don’t even realize that the governor’s race is this November. He said a donor told him at a recent fundraiser that he looks forward to supporting him next year. “People ask: Is it fun to be governor? No, nah, not so much,” Bevin told the crowd. “But I’m grateful … to stand in the gap on your behalf.”
Then Bevin introduced Rep. Andy Barr, the Republican congressman who represents this area. He won a hard-fought and expensive campaign in the midterms over former fighter pilot Amy McGrath, who is now challenging Mitch McConnell for Senate. “Every time I talk to our president, the first thing he asks me is: How’s Matt Bevin doing? Our president needs Matt Bevin,” Barr began.
The congressman immediately segued to impeachment, and the crowd cheered as he talked about co-sponsoring the unsuccessful GOP resolution to censure House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). Barr, wearing cowboy boots and a fleece that identified him as a Friend of Coal, argued that not only did the president do nothing wrong, but that he had a responsibility to demand Ukraine investigate corruption. “This election is about Kentucky, but it’s also about stopping a coup attempt,” Barr concluded. “What happens in 2019 is also a precursor for what happens in 2020.”
Bevin, and all the statewide candidates on the GOP ticket, were in this rural town of 7,200 for Court Days, a fall festival where hundreds of people openly carried their guns and several Confederate flags flew alongside Trump 2020 flags. Darrell Mandrell, the chairman of the county GOP, which organized the breakfast, said that not too many people were stopping by the party’s booth at the festival until they put out a cardboard cutout of Trump. Many in this area are ancestrally Democrats, but he said they love Trump. Soon, a line formed of people wanting to get a picture with the cardboard Trump. “People are angry about impeachment,” Mandrell said.
-- Ralph Alvarado, the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, said the political conversation has become much more nationalized in the Trump era. “Folks watch TV,” he said in an interview. “They watch more national politics than state politics.”
-- Beshear’s cautiousness on impeachment has not stopped Bevin from running attack ads on this subject. His closing commercial features footage of the president as a narrator says: “Beshear opposes President Trump. His top supporters want to impeach our president.”
-- The governor said his opponent owes voters a clearer answer on where he stands. The incumbent said he’s been willing to ruffle feathers, like Trump, and predicted voters will reward him for doing what he promised four years ago, even if they don’t agree with him on every issue. “There's people who are happy. There's people that are grateful that the cans have no longer been kicked down the road … and I think enough to overwhelmingly reelect us,” he said. “But then there are people that are bent. They're very public and vocal. And they're the loudest, most noisy, most squeaky voices that are unhappy. And you can always find two or three for any article that anybody would ever want to write, and so they seem to speak for a larger constituency than I think they do. We'll find out.”
-- Trump has tweeted several times about the Kentucky race, and he enjoys going to places where he’s popular and will draw huge crowds. In an interview yesterday with the Washington Examiner, the president defended his behavior and said he might read aloud the rough transcript of his July 25 call with Ukraine’s president to the American people. “At some point, I’m going to sit down, perhaps as a fireside chat on live television, and I will read the transcript of the call, because people have to hear it. When you read it, it’s a straight call,” he said in an 80-minute interview with the conservative publication. Reacting to the House vote to move ahead with the impeachment process, which will result in public hearings soon, Trump said: “It’s energized my base like I’ve never seen before. … My base is much bigger than people think.”
MORE ON THE POLITICS OF IMPEACHMENT:
-- “Most Americans judge what Trump did in that case as out of line,” Dan Balz and Emily Guskin note in their story on the new Post-ABC poll. “The latest survey finds 55 percent of Americans concluding that, regardless of their views on impeachment, Trump did something wrong in his dealings with Ukraine, including 47 percent saying that what he did was seriously wrong. Fewer, 35 percent, say he did nothing wrong, with the remaining 10 percent offering no opinion. Overall, about 1 in 10 say he did something wrong but oppose impeachment.”
-- Other new national polling: A majority of Americans believe Trump has little to no respect for America’s democratic institutions and traditions, according to a national AP-NORC survey: “Sixty-one percent of Americans, including 26% of Republicans, say Trump lacks respect for democratic norms. Similar shares of Republicans are also critical of the president’s honesty and his discipline. Yet the majority of Republicans — 85% — are supportive of Trump’s job in office. Overall, 42% of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the job, in line with where he has been throughout his tenure.”
-- Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) stuck with Trump on Thursday’s vote, a telling reflection of how much even rank-and-file GOP lawmakers who are retiring next year nonetheless fear the wrath of the president’s base. Griff Witte reports from Fort Myers: “When it came to impeachment, the congressman wanted ‘to get all the facts on the table.’ He thought the ambassadors testifying in closed session were ‘professional diplomats’ and that an apparent admission from the White House lectern of a quid pro quo with Ukraine should be taken at face value. At another time, under a different president, … Rooney’s words might have seemed innocuous, banal to the point of irrelevance. But this is 2019 …
“Republican Facebook pages lit up with indignation that Rooney had failed to denounce the impeachment inquiry as ‘a witch hunt.’ Party activists traded outraged texts. Some took their case directly to the congressman, protesting what they saw as an act of supreme disloyalty to a leader they say they have come to revere more than any in their lifetimes. [Within 24 hours, Rooney announced he was retiring.] … Rooney’s toe-dip into the whirlpool of subversion had, for a brief while, appeared like it could be different, at least when viewed from Washington. … But seen from here in southwest Florida — the heart of Trump country in a state he will need to win next year to hold the White House — the president’s base is not cracking. It’s growing stronger. By outing himself as a less-than-reliable ally, Republican activists say, Rooney did the party a service as it attempts to weed out all who might waver.”
“If there’s going to be a vote, I want to know all the facts,” Rooney said in an interview. “There are a lot of people down there who don’t like that.”
-- Democrats are also coalescing: A New York Times-Siena College poll of likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa finds that 89 percent support impeaching Trump and removing him from office before the end of his term. The poll also shows Biden continuing to fade. Elizabeth Warren, the first top-tier candidate to call for impeachment, draws support from 22 percent of likely caucusgoers, while Bernie Sanders is at 19 percent, followed by Pete Buttigieg at 18 percent and Biden at 17 percent.
-- Tribalism alert: Partisan lines have hardened in the 21 years since the last impeachment vote. Paul Kane has a great illustration: “Rep. Ron Kind is truly one of a kind. The Wisconsin Democrat is one of 56 members who were also in office 21 years ago when the House last voted to start an impeachment inquiry. Yet Kind is the only lawmaker who voted to start the proceedings that led to Bill Clinton’s impeachment in December 1998 and who also voted to formally start the inquiry into President Trump. … Back in October 1998, after receiving an independent counsel report on Clinton’s efforts to cover up an affair, 31 Democrats joined all Republicans in setting up a formal process for considering impeachment.
“Kind sees that as a testament to just how dogmatic Republicans have become in their sense of loyalty to all things Trump, living in fear of betraying him and then getting punished by his supporters in a primary. ‘Yeah, the political environment has changed a little bit, hasn’t it? I mean, we really are getting close to this Fifth Avenue challenge, aren’t we? It doesn’t matter what the president may do, including kill someone,’ Kind said in an interview.”
-- A sign of the times: The National Republican Congressional Committee sent boxes to the offices of vulnerable House Democrats that said “get packing” after their vote for the impeachment inquiry resolution. But some of the packages prompted calls to Capitol Police about suspicious packages:
-- Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the widow of former House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, texted our Ovetta Wiggins that she’s “thinking carefully” about whether she should run for the seat her husband held for more than two decades. She’s the chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party, serving in that role for nearly a year. In October 2017, she launched a bid for governor before dropping out of the race less than three months later.
THE LATEST ON THE HOUSE INVESTIGATION:
-- Tim Morrison, the top Russia and Europe adviser on Trump’s National Security Council, told House investigators over eight hours of closed-door testimony that the “substance” of his conversations as recalled by Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, was “accurate.” Carol D. Leonnig, John Hudson, Karoun Demirjian and Rachael Bade report: “In particular, Morrison verified that Trump’s envoy to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, conveyed to a Ukrainian official that the military aid would be released if the country investigated an energy firm linked to the son of former vice president Joe Biden. Morrison, who announced his resignation the night before his testimony, said he did not necessarily view the president’s demands as improper or illegal, but rather problematic for U.S. policy in supporting an ally in the region. … Robert Luskin, an attorney for Sondland, said Sondland never mentioned Biden by name and did not know Burisma was linked to the vice president’s son.”
-- Lawyers representing two former top Trump White House officials were in different courtrooms simultaneously yesterday afternoon in cases that center on whether their clients can be forced to testify as part of the House impeachment inquiry. In both cases, federal judges chastised attorneys representing the Trump Justice Department. From Spencer Hsu and Ann Marimow:
At ex-White House counsel Donald McGahn’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson expressed incredulity at the DOJ’s claim that former presidential aides can never be compelled to testify by Congress, calling it a “peculiar” argument that threatens to upset the Constitution’s system of checks and balances. During three hours of questioning, the judge nominated by Barack Obama suggested the administration’s stance conflicts with precedent. Deputy Assistant Attorney General James Burnham said the White House’s claim of absolute immunity extended to top White House aides, whom he called “the alter ego of the president,” as well as former presidents and aides after they leave office.
Charles Kupperman, who served as the top deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton, filed a lawsuit to try to resolve conflicting orders from Congress and the White House and did not appear for a scheduled deposition this week. He’s awaiting a ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, who scheduled a hearing in the matter for Dec. 10. Kupperman’s attorney Charles Cooper, who also represents Bolton, did not rule out the possibility that Bolton could be added to the lawsuit if he is subpoenaed. The judge chastised a Justice Department lawyer who asked for more time to file a brief because of a holiday conflict. “When it’s a matter of this consequence to this country, you roll your sleeves up and get the job done,” said Leon, who was nominated by George W. Bush.
-- The identical twin brother of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council official who testified this week, may also be called in for a deposition. The Wall Street Journal reports: “[He] allegedly told impeachment investigators that his sibling, Army Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, an NSC lawyer handling ethics issues, had witnessed the decision to move the call’s transcript to a top secret server. House committees have contacted his lawyer, although no decision has been made … Col. Yevgeny Vindman didn’t listen in on the [July 25] call … However, Col. Yevgeny Vindman was allegedly present when his brother, at the direction of superiors, reported the call to the NSC’s general counsel, John Eisenberg … On Tuesday he told House investigators of asking his brother to join in his capacity as an NSC ethics lawyer.”
FOLLOW THE MONEY:
1. Déjà vu: Federal prosecutors in New York examining Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine dealings are wary that their probe will collide with the 2020 election and know that lobbying charges are tricky. From CNN: “As prosecutors examine possible financial crimes connected to Giuliani's Ukraine work, they could consider a range of charges. They are also weighing possible foreign lobbying violations for those efforts, but they are cautious about bringing such lobbying charges, especially without other accompanying charges. That's in part because prosecutors in the Manhattan US Attorney's office are wary about the viability of cases concerning violations of what's known as the Foreign Agent Registrations Act after having observed how other recent cases have fared. ... In recent days, Giuliani has been in advanced discussions to hire Daniel L. Stein, a white-collar criminal defense attorney who is a veteran of the Manhattan US Attorney's office, to represent him in the investigation."
-- Giuliani appears on the cover of next week's Time magazine: “Interviews with those close to the former mayor, and those who have crossed paths with him in his work for Trump, say Giuliani’s transformation has a simple source: over the past 18 months, he has violated that unwritten rule of American public life that you can pursue money or political power, but not both at once. … In the 18 months since Trump hired him as his personal lawyer in April 2018, Giuliani has become a kind of shadow Secretary of State even as he has maintained his foreign consulting business. He has often been treated as a de facto envoy of the U.S. government while abroad, at the same time receiving lucrative consulting and speaking fees from foreign officials and businessmen. His quest has been enabled by Trump, who entrusted Giuliani with Cabinet-level influence. … Giuliani says there’s nothing wrong with continuing his consulting for foreign clients while at the same time representing the President." On his confidence that Trump won’t turn on him, Giuliani told Time: “He’s 100% in my corner and loyal to me, as I am to him.”
-- Only the very best people: Giuliani headed to an Apple store's "genius bar" to unlock his iPhone shortly after Trump named him as the cybersecurity czar. From NBC News: “He was locked out of his iPhone because he had forgotten the passcode and entered the wrong one at least 10 times, according to two people familiar with the matter and a photo of an internal Apple store memo ... ‘Very sloppy,’ said one of the people, a former Apple store employee who was there on the day that Giuliani stopped by in February 2017.”
2. To limit tax liabilities, Trump has changed his permanent residence from Manhattan to Palm Beach, Fla. “In paperwork filed with the Palm Beach County clerk and comptroller in late September, Trump declared, ‘I am, at the time of making this declaration, a bona fide resident of the State of Florida,’" Reis Thebault reports. "The form, known as a ‘declaration of domicile,’ lists [Mar-a-Lago] as the president’s new home. … Trump alluded to his local unpopularity — nearly 80 percent of New York City voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 — but a person close to the president said his decision was based mainly on taxes. That would make Trump one of many wealthy individuals to seek refuge in the southern state.
“Because Trump has refused to make his tax documents public, it’s unclear how much money he stands to save in the move, but Florida notably does not have a state income tax or an estate tax. In New York, meanwhile, the state’s top tax rate is nearly 9 percent, and the city’s top rate is nearly 4 percent. The state’s top estate tax rate — applying to fortunes greater than $10.1 million — is 16 percent. … Trump is also in the middle of a legal battle with Cyrus R. Vance Jr., Manhattan’s district attorney, who subpoenaed eight years of the president’s tax returns. After a federal judge rejected Trump’s sweeping claim of immunity as ‘repugnant’ to the Constitution, he seethed on Twitter at Vance and his investigation.”
3. The Trump administration is withholding $105 million in security aid for Lebanon, Reuters reports, two days after the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri: “The State Department told Congress on Thursday that the White House budget office and National Security Council had decided to withhold the foreign military assistance. … One of the sources said the State Department did not give Congress a reason for the decision. The State Department declined to comment. … The administration had sought approval for the assistance starting in May, arguing that it was crucial for Lebanon, an important U.S. partner in the volatile Middle East, to be able to protect its borders. The aid included night vision goggles and weapons used in border security. But Washington has also repeatedly expressed concern over the growing role in the Beirut government of Hezbollah, the armed Shi’ite group backed by Iran and listed as a terrorist organization by the United States.”
-- Fresh commentary from The Post’s opinion page:
- The Post’s Editorial Board: “Impeachment is going public. Republicans will find it harder to hide.”
- David Ignatius: “In Ukraine, the quid pro quo may have started long before the phone call.”
- Dana Milbank: “Republicans convene the cult of Trump.”
- Michael Gerson: “The GOP’s defense of Trump has me sinking into cynicism.”
- Eugene Robinson: "The facts are only going to get worse for Trump."
- Jennifer Rubin: "Every Republican just ignored their oath of office."
WHILE YOU WERE IN YOUR MORNING MEETINGS:
-- Elizabeth Warren proposed a $20.5 trillion package of tax increases to pay for the Medicare-for-all plan she backs, a move that attempts to answer critics who question how she would pay for the proposal but could open her to fresh lines of attack. Annie Linskey and Jeff Stein report: “The plan is designed to hit corporations and the wealthy, including a provision requiring companies to send most of the funds they currently spend on employee health contributions to the federal government. It also would expand her signature wealth tax proposal and would make cuts to military spending.” (Read Warren’s plan here.)
-- The United States added 128,000 jobs in October as the jobless rate ticked up to 3.6 percent, outperforming analyst forecasts. (Eli Rosenberg)
EARTH IN THE BALANCE:
-- “The ice used to protect them. Now their island is crumbling into the sea,” by Brady Dennis in Quebec: “High on a bluff overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Adele Chiasson no longer ventures into her backyard for a simple reason: It is falling into the sea. ‘I’m afraid to go out there,’ the widow said one afternoon from the safety of her kitchen. She nodded toward the 70-foot-tall, red sandstone cliffs out back that creep closer with each passing year. ‘You never know when a section will fall off.’ Decades ago, when she and her husband moved to this modest house with its majestic views, they never imagined a vanishing coastline might one day drive them away. But the sea long ago claimed the ground where their children once played. An abandoned road out back has mostly crumbled into the surf below. Two of her neighbor’s homes have been moved inland. The day might come when she, too, will be forced to abandon this precarious patch of earth. ‘I might not have a choice,’ she says.
“The more than 12,000 residents of this windswept Canadian archipelago are facing a growing number of gut-wrenching choices, as extreme climate change transforms the land and water around them. Season after season, storm after storm, it is becoming clearer that the sea, which has always sustained these islands, is now their greatest threat. A Washington Post examination of the fastest-warming places around the world has found that the Magdalen Islands, as they are known in English, have warmed 2.3 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century, twice the global average. As in New England, Siberia and other global hot spots at higher latitudes, winters here are heating up even more quickly, eclipsing 3 degrees Celsius. That change has fueled freezing and thawing cycles here that wreak havoc on the famous — and famously fragile — sandstone cliffs.
“The sea ice that used to encase the islands most winters, shielding them from the brunt of fierce storms and pounding waves, is shrinking at a rate of about 555 square miles annually, data shows. That’s a swath of ice larger than Los Angeles. Even as that natural defense collapses, sea levels have been rising at a rate roughly twice the global norm in recent years, researchers say. The result is an escalating battle against erosion and flooding — one that a growing number of coastal populations face … Some parts of the shoreline have lost as much as 14 feet per year to the sea over the past decade. Key roads face perpetual risk of washing out. The hospital and the city hall sit alarmingly close to deteriorating cliffs. Rising waters threaten to contaminate aquifers used for drinking water. And each year, the sea inches closer to more homes and businesses.”
-- “This classroom on a Chesapeake Bay island taught generations of students. As the sea rises, its doors are closing,” by Marissa Lang on Fox Island, Va.: “Generations of middle and high school students have come here to learn about the fragile ecosystem of the bay. Now, the Virginia island, about six miles … off the Eastern Shore, has succumbed to the very forces these educational programs have sought to fight: a warming climate, rising sea levels and disappearing shores. … In the past 40 years, foundation officials said, water has swallowed about 70 percent of Fox Island — so named because when viewed from above, the land once resembled a fox plodding along through the waves. In 1773, when the island was first discovered, its land stretched for about 426 acres, said Tom Horton, an author and former Baltimore Sun reporter who has written eight books about the Chesapeake Bay. When the Chesapeake Bay Foundation conducted a satellite survey earlier this year, the group found there were about 34 acres left.”
-- The Keystone Pipeline is leaking 383,000 gallons of oil in its second big spill in two years. Hannah Knowles report: “With about half an Olympic swimming pool’s worth of oil covering roughly half an acre, the leak is among the largest in the state, said Karl Rockeman, who directs the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality’s division of water quality. But the spill does not appear to pose an immediate threat to public health, he added, as people do not live nearby and that the wetland is not a source of drinking water.”
-- The decision this week by several major automakers — including General Motors, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler — to back the Trump administration in a high-stakes legal fight with California over fuel-efficiency standards has fractured an industry that long prided itself for speaking with a single voice in Washington. Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and Josh Dawsey report: "It also represents a calculated political risk, sowing doubt about the industry’s climate commitments and potentially backfiring if Democrats take back the White House in 2020. The move has sparked a backlash among congressional Democrats historically allied with the auto industry and has angered some consumers, one of whom tweeted, ‘Boycott time!’ while another said, ‘GM to the planet: Drop dead.’
“Meanwhile, the Trump administration, which last year said it wanted to freeze fuel efficiency at the 2026 levels required by Obama-era regulations, has decided to propose requiring auto companies to improve fuel efficiency at a pace of 1.5 percent a year … That proposed rate is far slower than the 4.7 percent a year rate in existing federal regulations and is slower than the 3.7 percent rate that would be required in the deal struck between California and four other manufacturers.”
-- Several fires continue burning across Southern California, made worse by climate change, forcing evacuations and torching homes as forecasters warn of more dangerously dry and windy weather. Scott Wilson, Kim Bellware, Andrew Freedman and Reis Thebault report: “The Maria Fire started on Thursday evening in Ventura County, Calif., northwest of Los Angeles, and quickly exploded into a 7,400-acre blaze. … The Hillside Fire broke out early Thursday morning and quickly burned 200 acres as it raced downhill and into neighborhoods of north San Bernardino and west of Highway 18. … To the west, in Ventura County, the Easy Fire in Simi Valley approached the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library’s front door Wednesday before firefighters began to get it under control. … As the Southern California fires burned, a smoky haze draped the Los Angeles skyline. The county government warned residents of unhealthy air and advised them to stay inside and shut their doors and windows.”
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- A border chase shows the role that U.S. citizens are playing in human smuggling. Maria Sacchetti reports: “The teenagers jumped into a pair of pickup trucks and headed away from the border, speeding along through the rain-soaked night on a barren country road where few venture after dark. One of the trucks was out front, allegedly scanning the terrain for authorities. Nine migrants who court records say had promised to pay the local teens thousands of dollars for a three-hour ride to San Antonio, a city of 1.5 million people where they could disappear, were huddled in the back of the trailing white F-250. When a sheriff’s deputy appeared — spotting the unusual caravan where normally there would only be deer, turkey vultures and packs of wild hogs — authorities say the teens floored it. One of the trucks skidded into a turn and rolled over. ‘Bodies flew everywhere,’ said Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe, who was there the night of June 21, calling in ambulances from other counties and searching for victims. ... The chase and horrific crash north of this border town, across the Rio Grande from Piedras Negras, Mexico, has led to murder and human smuggling charges against six teens, a group that includes former high school football players, a track runner and a student active in church. …
"The U.S. government has assailed smugglers as the henchmen of international cartels and gangs, but more than 60 percent of people convicted of smuggling in federal courts in recent years have been U.S. citizens, the majority of them with little or no criminal history, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The smugglers who have been caught include down-on-their-luck truck drivers, single mothers, oil-field workers and high school students, according to federal court and state court records in Texas, where smuggling is also charged as a local crime. Authorities say some smuggled for a few hundred dollars, while others charged thousands. Some said they did it to buy diapers, pay for college tuition, to resolve a debt, or as a favor.”
-- The White House is planning to name Homeland Security official Chad Wolf as acting secretary. From Politico: “Wolf will replace acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan, whose last day in the job was supposed to be Thursday. McAleenan will now stay until Nov. 7 ... Trump called Wolf a few days ago and told him to expect to be appointed … Two other officials said that the White House has been speaking to reluctant GOP senators — including Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — and asking them not to oppose Wolf’s appointment to be undersecretary of the department.”
-- The Trump administration is considering adding more countries to its travel ban list. CNN reports: “An inter-agency discussion about imposing travel restrictions on countries that are not compliant with electronic documents and information sharing -- a key focus of the administration -- is underway, according to a senior administration official. Fewer than five countries are under consideration, the official said. The goal, the official said, is to ‘bring governments into compliance by using the power of access to the United States.’ The travel restrictions would be tailored to the countries, if they're added, and not impose a ban on them altogether, the official noted. … The third iteration of the travel ban directs the Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with other federal agencies, to assess the list of countries on an ongoing basis and provide a report to the President. … As of mid-September, more than 31,000 people have been denied entry to the United States due to Trump's travel ban, a State Department official testified.”
-- Tania Romero, a Honduran mother of four who was recently arrested in Georgia, is fighting cancer. Her son, a doctoral student at Yale, is fighting her deportation. From the Times: Cristian Padilla Romero’s “campaign has been directed at fellow students, professors, members of Congress and the public at large. … An online petition he began on Tuesday has gathered about 20,000 signatures. A GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $21,000. His mother’s plight appeared in an article in The Yale Daily News and on national immigrant advocacy social media feeds. … At Yale, Mr. Padilla Romero’s classmates have been strategizing with him, calling members of Congress in Connecticut and Georgia and sending queries to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that is moving to deport his mother, to demand her release. … Though Ms. Romero knew she was in the country illegally, she did not learn she had an outstanding deportation order until 2018 … While she is not in urgent need of special medication, he said, she requires regular medical attention and is not receiving it.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump confirmed the Times's reporting that he's become a Florida resident:
The Democratic governor of the Empire State wished him "good riddance":
A chorus of historians, including this professor from Princeton, challenged the GOP's talking point that this is a "Soviet-style" impeachment inquiry:
A Politico reporter explained why Morrison has a motive to say he doesn't think Trump's conduct toward Ukraine was illegal:
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) punched back hard when Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said the House fact-finding mission is like a cult. She has some credibility on this front:
A congressman who declared his independence from the GOP on July 4 encouraged his former colleagues to step out of their echo chamber:
A conservative commenator took issue with the words that Trump and Republicans use to describe the investigation, and a former top CIA official agreed:
Ted Cruz reminisced on his time campaigning in Iowa, where he defeated Trump in the 2016 caucuses:
Trump's son and his girlfriend tried their hand at literal Halloween costumes:
And Mitt Romney's grandson dressed up as the Utah senator's alter ego:
Hillary Clinton had this take on the Nationals winning the World Series:
And the team's longest-serving player got to carry the World Series trophy on the charter flight from Houston to Dulles:
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.), resigning amid allegations that she had an extramarital affair with a male subordinate in her office (which she denies) and after admitting that she had an improper relationship with a female campaign staffer, condemned “misogynistic culture” during her final speech as a member of Congress. "I will never shirk my responsibility for this sudden ending to my time here," she said. "But I have to say more, because this is bigger than me. I am leaving now because of a double standard."
As she left the Capitol, a fellow freshman gave her this shirt:
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Barack Obama is being widely praised by thought leaders on the right and the left after telling a group of young people that participating in cancel culture is not activism. “This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly,” the former president said at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago. “The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws.” Here's a clip:
At the same conference, Michelle Obama spoke about her childhood on the South Side of Chicago:
Pelosi made an earnest case on Stephen Colbert's show last night for the Democratic impeachment inquiry during a 12-minute sit-down:
Colbert also took a look at yesterday's impeachment vote:
Seth Meyers said Pelosi kept her cool while the vote happened:
Meanwhile, Trevor Noah took a look at the international news that the public may not be paying close attention to:
Hong Kong protesters were met with tear gas as they took to the streets again on Halloween night:
And, 30 years after the Berlin Wall fell, archivists are still trying to piece together documents torn up by East German secret police known as the Stasi: