President Trump continues to repel many suburban voters, who have once again taken it out on down-ballot Republicans – just as they did in 2018 and 2017 – from the outskirts of Philadelphia to Washington and Cincinnati to Indianapolis.
The presidential election is one year away. A lot can change in that time, and the ramifications of the ongoing impeachment inquiry are unpredictable. It’s always risky to over-read the results of off-year elections, but Republican gains in these same races in 2015 foreshadowed Trump’s victory a year later. The sustained Democratic gains across suburbs from coast to coast – unless reversed – will require Republicans to run up their scores even higher in rural areas, which is possible but difficult.
-- For the first time in a generation, largely because of suburban voters who wanted to send a message to Trump, Democrats won control of both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly. In the Richmond suburbs, Democrat Ghazala Hashmi toppled a Republican senator to become the first Muslim woman ever elected to the state legislature. That, plus the pick-up of a Loudoun County Senate seat long held by the GOP, gave them their Senate majority.
Tim Hugo, the last remaining Republican legislator in the Northern Virginia suburbs outside D.C., was also ousted. He called himself “Delegate Pothole” and refused to talk about anything other than local issues. In Richmond, he’s No. 3 in the House GOP leadership, but the word “Republican” appeared nowhere on his campaign website and he avoided mentioning it at voter forums. This was a solidly red district just six years ago, even as the demographics had shifted over time. Not in the Trump era. Despite an influx of big money on his behalf from banking, energy and pharmaceutical interests, Hugo still lost by seven points.
-- Democrats wildly exceeded even their own high expectations in the collar counties around Philly, a particularly ominous sign for Trump. “Democrats will hold all five seats on the Delaware County Council, a Republican stronghold since the Civil War, and also assumed a majority on the legislative body in Chester County. In Bucks County, Democrats captured the Board of Commissioners for the first time since 1983,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. “And in Philadelphia, a third-party insurgent candidate weakened an already marginalized GOP by securing one of the at-large City Council seats reserved for minority parties — a seat Republicans have held for decades. …
“In Delaware County, the results for Republicans were catastrophic. All three Republican Council candidates and all four Republicans running for Common Pleas Court judgeships lost there. Incumbent Republican District Attorney Katayoun Copeland was ousted by Democrat Jack Stollsteimer, whose campaign received the support of liberal billionaire George Soros. None of the losing Delaware County GOP candidates spoke during their watch party at the Springfield Country Club. Republicans and their allies had warned in the days before the election that a victory by Stollsteimer would increase crime in the county … In brief remarks, Delaware County GOP chair Tom McGarrigle said local residents should be scared …
“Stacy Maillie felt safe voting for Democrats. A nurse and a registered Republican, she voted Democratic after a 12-hour shift in the emergency room. ‘I’m not happy with our current state of the Republican Party,’ Maillie said after voting at Springfield Township High School. "I think it’s too divisive and I think that the Democratic Party is more tolerant and inclusive. I just find that the current Republican Party has become more extreme.’”
Trump narrowly won the Keystone State in 2016 by 44,000 votes out of more than 6 million ballots cast. But the returns in Bucks County might be even more foreboding for Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, one of three remaining House Republicans who represents a district that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. He won last year by three points, but Democrats see his district as a top pick-up opportunity in 2020.
-- Kentucky is getting the most attention today because the incumbent Republican governor is trailing, despite an election-eve visit by Trump, who carried the state by 30 points three years ago. The Associated Press has not called the race, and Bevin has not conceded, but Democrat Andy Beshear declared victory and leads by about 5,000 votes with all the precincts reporting.
One of the reasons Beshear pulled off such a potential upset is because he overperformed in the suburbs. “In 2015, Bevin won Campbell County south of Cincinnati handily. On Tuesday, Beshear not only carried the county with ease, he nearly doubled the number of Democratic votes there, compared to the Democratic nominee of four years ago,” the AP notes. “Beshear also found another 74,000 Democratic votes in urban Jefferson County, home of Louisville.”
Campbell County is just across the border from Ohio. The key for Democrats to win the Buckeye State is to put up these kinds of numbers across what are known as the Three Cs: Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.
-- Trump is accelerating a generational realignment between the two parties, as Republicans become more dependent on non-college-educated, working-class whites and Democrats make gains with professionals who not long ago happily got behind GOP standard-bearers like Mitt Romney. Sadly, no exit polls were conducted in Virginia or Kentucky so we cannot provide the kind of detailed demographic analysis we’d like to. But it doesn’t take a political science degree to see what’s going on.
-- Even in solidly red states that won’t be competitive in the presidential race, there were additional proof points of the ongoing suburban revolt. Consider what happened in the suburbs north of Indianapolis: “In a historical shift in the state's most staunch Republican Party stronghold, three Democrats claimed upset victories in Hamilton County's city council races on Tuesday night,” the Indianapolis Star reports. “Every council seat in both cities has been held by Republicans for at least decades and veteran politicos cannot remember the last time a Democrat sat on the councils of either government, even when the two were towns.”
“This is a major step for the Democratic party in Hamilton County,” Joe Weingarten, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, told the local paper. “It is slowly turning blue and all I can say is wait until next year. The demographics are changing here with younger, higher income, better educated people moving in. This is not the Hamilton County of 30 years ago.”
-- In other Indiana news: Pete Buttigieg’s chief of staff will replace him as the mayor of South Bend. James Mueller beat his Republican opponent, a government teacher at the local high school, with about 65 percent of the vote, per the South Bend Tribune. Mueller will take office in January.
-- Democrats are going to fully control Virginia’s government for the first time since 1993. The complexion and ideology of the party in the commonwealth has changed a lot during the intervening 26 years. Virginia was the only Southern state Trump lost in 2016, but the state had been considered a Republican stronghold from 1968 until Barack Obama put it in play in 2008. Bob McDonnell was the last Republican to win a statewide race in Virginia, and that was 10 years ago. When Trump took office, however, Republicans had a 66-34 majority in the General Assembly. Now Democrats hold a 55-45 majority and will be in the driver’s seat for redistricting after next year’s census.
During interviews outside polling places in Northern Virginia, voters said they wanted to send a message to the White House. Brandy Lloyd, 50, a tech worker, said she usually supports Republicans but voted a straight Democratic ticket. “Seeing what’s happening in Washington, I think it’s time for a change,” she told Paul Schwartzman at a polling place in Leesburg. “I’m not too thrilled with the direction the Republican Party is taking our country,” added David Goodwin, 41, a tech salesman who leans Democratic but often crosses party lines, after voting a straight Democratic ticket. “What the last national election taught me was party doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot. You’ve got to look at the person.”
Notably, Trump didn’t hold any rallies in Virginia, even though he lives just a few miles away. One poll this summer put Trump’s approval rating in the state below 30 percent. The president has golfed at his course in the commonwealth a few times this fall, but leading Republicans in the state didn’t want him to make any public appearances. Vice President Pence stumped in Virginia Beach on Saturday. “If you didn’t see this coming, you’ve been living under a rock,” said Dan Scandling, who was chief of staff to former congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va.). “Virginia has been trending this way for years. Being so close to Washington — and add in the anti-Trump phenomenon — it was only a matter of time.”
-- Some of the legislative races in Virginia remain too close to call. “The result enables another remarkable rebirth: Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, just nine months after nearly resigning over a blackface scandal, stands poised to be one of the most consequential Virginia governors in recent times,” Greg Schneider and Laura Vozzella report. “House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) won an expensive race against Democrat Sheila Bynum-Coleman but will have to relinquish the leadership position after only two years. At a gathering in his hometown, Cox thanked supporters, took selfies and accepted hugs, but avoided answering questions from reporters about losing the majority. ‘Not right now,’ he said, and soon left the party through a back door. …
“One powerful Republican who did not win reelection was Del. Chris Jones (Suffolk), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Jones lost to Democrat Clinton Jenkins in a district that was redrawn this year under a federal court order aimed at correcting racial gerrymandering. …
“Gun policy dominated the election cycle after a May 31 mass shooting in Virginia Beach, where a gunman killed 12. A recent Washington Post-Schar School poll found it to be the top issue among Virginia voters, and national gun-control groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety poured enormous resources into state campaigns to test messages ahead of next year’s national races. Northam called a special session of the General Assembly in July to take up gun-control measures, but the Republicans in charge adjourned after only 90 minutes without debating any bills. That outcome was a hot topic in Virginia Beach, where a cluster of close races stood to have a major impact on who would hold majorities in the legislature. Democrat Missy Cotter Smasal ran hard on the topic in a solidly Republican district against GOP Sen. William R. DeSteph Jr., a licensed gun dealer. DeSteph appeared to edge her out.
“In Hampton Roads, the most-watched race was a rerun: Del. David E. Yancey (R-Newport News) faced Democrat Shelly Simonds two years after their 2017 contest resulted in a tie, which was decided by a random drawing on live national television. This time Simonds won decisively, in a district that was also redrawn under court order. John Calver, 74, a retired director of trades training at Thomas Nelson Community College, is friends with both Yancey and Simonds. But at the Warwick Moose Lodge, he cast a ballot for Simonds, largely because of gun policy and health care.”
-- Juli Briskman, the cyclist who gave Trump the finger two years ago in a photo that went viral and got her fired from her job as a government contractor, ousted a Republican member of the suburban Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. Loudoun used to be solidly red but has trended purple. “A single mother of two, Briskman, who began her campaign for supervisor eight months ago, said she was intent on basing her campaign on issues and not the incident involving her finger,” Paul writes. “But she acknowledged that her notoriety helped her raise $150,000 for the race. If a voter expressed opposition to the president, Briskman said she would mention, ‘I’m the woman who flipped off the motorcade and lost my job. And they would say, ‘Oh yeah, that woman!’’ As it turns out, Briskman’s district includes a certain golf course owned by a certain president. ‘Isn’t that sweet justice?’ she asked, her cackle suggesting that she knew the answer to her own question.”
-- Phyllis Randall won a second term as chair of the Loudoun Board of Supervisors. She beat former Republican Party of Virginia chairman John Whitbeck. “Randall, the county’s first African American board chair, ran on a combination of national and local issues, drawing on Loudoun’s growing diversity, frustration over recent racist incidents in schools and opposition to Trump,” Antonio Olivo and Patricia Sullivan report. “Randall will lead a board next year whose GOP majority will be shaved by three seats, flipping to a 6-to-3 Democratic majority. … In the 2011 election, Republicans won all nine seats.”
-- Also in the suburbs of Washington, Prince William County entered a new political era when Democrat Ann Wheeler was elected chair of the Board of County Supervisors, beating Republican John Gray to succeed conservative firebrand Corey Stewart. “Wheeler’s victory — on a night when Democrats won five of the eight board seats, flipping the 6-2 GOP majority — reflects the changing attitudes of the steadily growing county of 463,00 residents, Virginia’s second-most-populous jurisdiction,” Antonio and Rebecca Tan report. “The outspoken Stewart stirred passions over illegal immigration and gun control when he took the helm of the board in 2006, launching a headline-grabbing political career that included failed bids for governor and U.S. Senate.
“Gray, 68, had hoped to follow in his footsteps but faced a huge backlash — including from fellow Republicans — over a series of tweets he posted that, among other things, denigrated Muslims and immigrants. … Wheeler, 58, who according to unofficial results won by a wide margin, campaigned to increase affordable housing and public transportation, ramp up school funding to raise teacher pay and expand the county’s pre-kindergarten program. She will be the first Democratic board chair since 1999 in Prince William, which has had a GOP majority on the board for more than two decades.”
“The Republican Party is toast in Virginia for the next 10 years,” said Stewart. “Republicans will cease to be a serious political power.”
-- Widening the aperture: Tuesday underscored Trump’s fragility in 2020 if Democrats nominate an electable candidate. Publicly, Republicans are trying to throw Bevin under the bus – saying he deserves the blame for losing – and point to Tate Reeves’s victory in the Mississippi governor’s race. Bevin was, indeed, a polarizing incumbent who had burned many bridges. And the GOP won every statewide race in Kentucky. But the story is that Trump wasn’t enough to get Bevin across the finish line in a neck-and-neck race that Bevin tried to make into a referendum on the impeachment inquiry.
At his rally in Kentucky on Monday night, the president said: “If you lose, they will say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. You can’t let that happen to me, and you can’t let that happen to your incredible state.”
“It was a rough night,” said Scott Reed, the chief political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in an interview with Bob Costa. “The Republican Party is lacking message discipline, and that needs to be addressed. There is a lot of positive news around President Trump’s governing on the economy, on regulations and judges, and it seems to be overwhelmed by the drama.”
“Republicans look at that and say, ‘Anything could be competitive if the Democrats are going to be on their games like they were with Beshear here,’” added former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum (R). “You’re seeing Democrats building on what they did in 2018, running more moderate candidates and making sure those candidates are financed.”
-- A night of firsts: Republican Daniel Cameron, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), was elected as Kentucky’s first African American attorney general. He will replace Beshear.
-- Regina Romero will be the first woman and first Latina to serve as the mayor of Tucson. Meanwhile, more than 7 in 10 voters opposed an initiative that would have made the city Arizona’s only “sanctuary city.” From the Arizona Daily Star: “Arizona legislators threatened lawsuits and to withhold tax money to Tucson if the initiative passed. Several local politicians either declined to endorse the proposition, or came out against it, as did the seven-member Tucson City Council. At least $335,000 had been spent to fight the measure, as of September, with much of that money coming from donations from Tucson business owners and residents.”
-- A Somali refugee was elected to the city council in Lewiston, Maine, despite intense online harassment. Antonia Noori Farzan reports: Safiya “Khalid, a Democrat, was unsettled by the fact that someone had posted her address on social media. But she was also worried that the hate-fueled attacks would become a distraction. So she deleted her Facebook account, asked friends to look out for worrisome comments, and went back to pounding the streets with her leaflets and her clipboard. On Tuesday night, she won her race by a significant margin. The victory, she told supporters, showed that ‘community organizers beat Internet trolls.’ At 23, Khalid may be the youngest person to ever serve on the Lewiston City Council, as well as the first Somali immigrant. …
“Somali refugees started migrating to Lewiston, a former mill town, in the early 2000s, drawn by the abundance of cheap housing, good schools, and low crime rate. Today, Khalid says, roughly a third of the city’s population is Somali. Khalid embraced her new home, working for the area’s best-known employer, L.L. Bean, as she made her way through Lewiston High and the University of Southern Maine. While still in college, she unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the school board. Her desire to hold public office, she told The Post on Tuesday, came from watching city leadership remain stubbornly white as the city grew increasingly diverse.”
In St. Louis Park, Minn., 23-year-old Nadia Mohamad became the first Muslim woman and first Somali elected to the city council. In Syracuse, N.Y., Chol Majok, a 34-year-old who fled violence in South Sudan, became the first refugee elected to public office in that college town. A Muslim woman was also elected to the Fairfax County School Board in Virginia for the first time.
-- The incumbent mayor of Flint, Mich., was ousted by a state representative. Sheldon “Neeley won by less than 300 votes,” per the Flint Journal. “As of Tuesday night, Weaver still had not conceded. She said she will ‘not rule out a recount.’ The incumbent said she’s not surprised by the low voter turnout, but she is disappointed. … The trust hasn’t been restored in Flint yet, according to Neeley. In order to restore that trust, Neeley previously said he would begin publicizing the city’s financial registries again. Neeley would also require a financial audit within the first 90 days of taking office.”
-- Former U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman holds a six-point lead in the five-way race for Aurora mayor. “Coffman lost his bid for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives last year, after having defended the seat five times in previous election cycles. In January, the Republican said he would run for Aurora mayor,” the Denver Post reports.
-- Scranton, Pa., elected its first female mayor: “Paige Cognetti will serve out the term of former mayor Bill Courtright, which ends in January of 2021. Courtwright was forced to resign on July 1 after entering a plea deal on three federal charges including bribery, conspiracy, and extortion. Cognetti, a registered Democrat, ran as an independent candidate,” per the Scranton ABC affiliate WNEP. “Another first, she will be the first mayor-elect to give birth. Their first child is due in December.”
NOTABLE REFERENDUM RESULTS:
-- New York City became the latest, and biggest, city to adopt ranked-choice voting. From Vox: “Voters in the city overwhelmingly approved Ballot Question 1 on Tuesday, enabling voters to begin using ranked-choice voting in local primary and special elections beginning in 2021. … Instead of picking just one candidate on the ballot, voters rank their top five in order of preference.”
-- “San Francisco’s upcoming ban on the sale of e-cigarettes will remain in place, as voters soundly rejected a ballot measure Tuesday that would have overturned the prohibition approved by the Board of Supervisors in June. Proposition C was losing by 4-1,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports. “Juul spent nearly $19 million to promote Prop. C through the Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulation — a campaign committee — before abruptly withdrawing its financial support in late September amid scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers critical of the company’s marketing tactics to youth.”
-- In Washington State, voters appear to have narrowly rejected a measure that would have reinstated the use of affirmative action in state employment, contracting and admissions to public universities. From the Seattle Times: “Supporters of affirmative action have said the policy is necessary to combat discrimination that determines who gets access to universities, government jobs and public contracts. But throughout the campaign, opponents of affirmative action — led by a group of Chinese immigrants — said the policy gives the government the power to discriminate.”
-- Voters in Mecklenburg County, N.C., which includes Charlotte, rejected a sales tax increase for the second time in five years, the Charlotte Observer reports.
-- Voters in two separate Detroit suburbs, in Oakland County, rejected ballot proposals to allow more marijuana facilities within their borders, per the Detroit News.
-- Voters in Jersey City, New Jersey’s second-biggest city, approved restrictions on the use of services like Airbnb. From NJ.com: “Jersey City voted overwhelmingly ‘yes’ on Municipal Question 1 and upheld the new regulations, delivering a huge blow to Airbnb, which spent more than $3 million on the election. … The Vote Yes campaign garnered more than 69% of the vote, according to preliminary vote totals from the Hudson County Clerk’s Office. The legislation in question allows homeowners who are on-site to share their home 365 days a year but institutes an annual 60-day cap for short-term rentals if the property owner is not on-site.”
THE IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY:
-- The House Intelligence Committee will hold the first open hearings of the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry next week, with three diplomats who’ve provided key closed-door testimony in the Ukraine controversy set to appear: William Taylor, acting ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Ukraine, will testify Nov. 13. Former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will testify Nov. 15. (Developing.)
-- Senate Republicans are considering using Trump’s impeachment trial to scrutinize former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter as some allies push to call them as witnesses while others consider the suggestion a risky political ploy. Rachael Bade and Robert Costa report: “The ongoing discussions are a revealing glimpse into the fault lines in the GOP ahead of a possible trial of Trump in the upper chamber, where there are varying appetites among Senate Republicans for the type of political combat relished by the president and his most hardcore defenders. … That effort gained steam on Capitol Hill last week at a private lunch where Republican Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and John N. Kennedy (La.) raised the idea of summoning Hunter Biden … Yet many Senate Republicans have reservations about such a strategy, fearing it would look overtly political and that it may not be appropriate, or even possible, to include such witnesses in an impeachment trial. ‘I think that’s a sideshow,’ Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said of calling in Hunter Biden. … But Paul’s position on the Bidens has been echoed by Trump’s loyalists in the conservative media, ramping up the pressure campaign on Senate Republicans to be more aggressive in defending the president. …
"At the center of the deliberations is is Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Although he’s a staunch Trump ally, Graham has been criticized by some of the president’s supporters for not doing more to protect him. Some Trump supporters, for example, advocate having Graham do his own investigation of Hunter Biden in front of the judiciary panel — including hauling in State Department officials who found Biden’s dealings inappropriate. … In an interview Tuesday, Graham said he had not thought about the idea of calling either of the Bidens as witnesses in Senate trial, but he said he was ruling out his own committee as a venue. … When told his position might disappoint some conservatives, Graham pointed to other committees, including the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, suggesting they might be able to conduct such an investigation. ‘Let’s look and see what’s out there,’ he said. ‘The first decision I want to do is not turn the whole country upside down.’”
-- A consulting firm hired by Burisma Group mentioned that Hunter Biden served on the Ukrainian gas company’s board as the firm tried to get a meeting with the State Department. From the Wall Street Journal: “The documents—email exchanges between State Department staff members made public this week—show that the consulting firm, Washington-based Blue Star Strategies, used Hunter Biden’s name in a request for a State Department meeting and then mentioned him again during the meeting as part of an effort to improve Burisma’s image in Washington. … It isn’t clear whether the younger Mr. Biden knew his name was being used by Blue Star in its contacts with State Department officials on Burisma’s behalf in early 2016. A lawyer for Mr. Biden didn’t respond to a request for comment.”
-- Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., significantly revised the testimony he gave nearly three weeks ago to House impeachment investigators. He now says he told a Ukrainian official that U.S. assistance to the country would be likely to resume only if Kyiv opened investigations requested by Trump that could be damaging to Joe Biden. Shane Harris and Aaron C. Davis report: “In a ‘supplemental declaration’ provided to the House impeachment inquiry Monday, Sondland wrote, ‘I now recall speaking individually’ with a Ukrainian official and in that conversation saying ‘that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.’ Sondland’s new statement adds to testimony by other national security officials that describes an effort directed by Trump and his personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani to link nearly $400 million in security assistance to investigations that could politically benefit the president.”
Sondland cleaned up his sworn testimony only after other witnesses contradicted and undermined his claims: “In his opening statement to the House last month, Sondland said he had no knowledge of whether the White House was also holding up security assistance to press for the investigations. … The following week, [Taylor] challenged Sondland’s claim. Taylor testified that Sondland, in a meeting with Ukrainian officials in Poland in September, had conditioned the release of the funding on an investigation targeting the Bidens. … After the first revelations of such an exchange in Taylor’s testimony, Sondland attorney Robert Luskin wrote to The Washington Post on Oct. 23, saying that his client ‘does not recall’ such a conversation. Sondland now says the testimony of Taylor and others ‘refreshed my recollection about conversations involving the suspension of U.S. aid.’” (Read Sondland’s supplemental declaration here.)
The transcripts released yesterday highlight how much power Giuliani, as a private lawyer whose focus was the president’s personal and political interests, has had in crafting official U.S. foreign policy: “In a meeting with Trump in the Oval Office on May 23, Volker, Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry tried to persuade Trump to engage with Ukraine’s new president, [Volodymyr] Zelensky, whom they had just met after his inauguration. Trump would hear none of it, Sondland testified. ‘The president was railing about Ukraine …’ Sondland testified. ‘He didn’t even want to deal with it anymore. And he basically waved and said: ‘Go talk to Rudy, he knows all about Ukraine.’ Sondland, Volker and Perry were disappointed about having to work with Giuliani because it was abnormal and was another impediment to scheduling a Trump meeting with Zelensky, Sondland said. ‘Until Rudy was satisfied, the president wasn’t going to change his mind,’ he said.”
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham dismissed Sondland’s statements, as well as those made on Oct. 3 by former U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, whose deposition was also released Tuesday: “Ambassador Sondland squarely states that he ‘did not know, (and still does not know) when, why or by whom the aid was suspended.’ He also said he ‘presumed’ there was a link to the aid — but cannot identify any solid source for that assumption,” Grisham said in a statement.
The impeachment inquiry committees announced they have formally requested that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney appear on Saturday. He is not expected to comply.
-- A senior adviser to Vice President Pence is likely to comply with a request to testify on Thursday. From CNN: “Jennifer Williams would be the first person on Pence's national security team to appear and has knowledge of how much the vice president knew about the efforts by [Trump on Ukraine], as well as 2016 election interference, according to a source familiar with her thinking. Williams, along with other senior administration and national security officials, was listening to the phone call on July 25 … Williams, a longtime State Department staffer, is detailed to Pence's office as special adviser on European and Russian affairs and was one of two Pence aides on the call. The other was Gen. Keith Kellogg, the vice president's national security adviser, who has not yet been called to testify.”
-- New post from our Fact Checker team: “Trump’s false claim about what the Ukrainian president said about the U.S. ambassador."
-- Looking ahead: A Senate impeachment trial would test Supreme Court Justice John Roberts's skills as a neutral arbiter. Robert Barnes and Seung Min Kim report: “Roberts steps into a precarious spot after a spat with Trump last year over the president’s derogatory remarks about federal judges and sharp criticism from both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate about Supreme Court rulings. It is an ill-defined role, dictated by rules and precedents developed by the Senate. [McConnell] briefly described the process Tuesday and offered a prediction. ‘If it were today, I don’t think there’s any question, it would not lead to a removal’ of Trump, he told reporters. The trial would be an unfamiliar moment in the spotlight for Roberts, 64, whose evocation of the judge as impartial umpire drew praise at his 2005 confirmation hearing. His nomination by President George W. Bush capped off a career as a Republican operative in the White House, a lawyer with many appearances before the Supreme Court and an appellate judge. Trump’s impeachment proceedings would be the first trial over which Roberts has ever presided."
-- Trump and his allies demanded that the name of the federal whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry be revealed. News organizations resisted. Paul Farhi reports: “One online publication, Real Clear Investigations, offered a lengthy, if unconfirmed, account about the whistleblower’s identity last week. But its reporting was largely ignored. Outside of a few conservative news sources such as RedState.com and Breitbart and personalities such as Rush Limbaugh, the story didn’t get much traction.”
-- "There’s nothing that prevents me from saying it now," said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), referring to the whistleblower's name during a Fox News interview. "Nothing stops me. There's no law that stops me from doing it other than that I don't want to make it about the one individual."
-- A Monmouth University poll found that Republicans are the least likely to say they have heard a lot about Trump’s call with Volodomyr Zelensky and the impeachment investigation. Philip Bump reports: “While 64 percent of respondents overall said they had heard a lot about Trump asking Zelensky to investigate [Joe Biden], 55 percent of Republicans said they had. Another third of Republicans said they had heard a little about it. It’s worth noting here one possible reason for that difference. Fox News is the most trusted network among Republicans, according to Suffolk University polling — and Fox News has also been much less likely to cover key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry.”
-- Justice Department officials are trying to release in the coming weeks a potentially explosive inspector general report about the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign. Devlin Barrett, Robert Costa and Matt Zapotosky report: “One person involved in the discussions said the target date for the report’s release has been Nov. 20, but another indicated that the Justice Department is unlikely to deliver it by then and that it is more likely to come after Thanksgiving because of the complicated and contentious mix of legal, classification and political issues at play. The report’s findings will mark a major public test of Attorney General William P. Barr’s credibility, given his past suggestions of significant problems with the investigative decisions made by former FBI leaders involved in the case.
“The findings by Inspector General Michael Horowitz also will set the stage for the separate but related investigation led by U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is investigating how U.S. intelligence agencies pursued allegations that Russian agents might have conspired with Trump associates during the 2016 campaign. Officials have recently said that investigation is pursuing potential crimes.
“Barr has spent weeks working on the declassification decisions, as Horowitz scrutinized large volumes of classified information to assess how the FBI launched and pursued the investigation and related cases … But a number of key figures in the probe have yet to receive draft sections of the inspector general’s findings, suggesting that the public release is still at least a week away … It is possible, too, that as draft language of the report is shared with different people, the entire process could become bogged down by disputes about the accuracy of certain passages.” (Lindsey Graham plans to meet today with Barr to talk about the planned rollout of this report, but Horowitz is not expected to be included.)
-- Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime confidant and political strategist, was excused from court during jury selection for his criminal trial after he complained of suffering food-poisoning-like symptoms. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “Stone waived his constitutional right to be present in court for all phases of his trial before being excused Tuesday afternoon, after completing a morning session of jury selection. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Washington got Stone’s assurance that he waived his right ‘knowingly, voluntarily and intentionally.’ Juror selection was mostly completed Tuesday. Opening statements are set for Wednesday after 9:30 a.m., assuming Stone is well enough to proceed. Juror selection was briefly delayed Tuesday morning when a person in the courtroom audience experienced seizure-like symptoms. Paramedics responded, and the person later walked out of the courtroom to receive further medical attention.”
-- The Washington Post, in partnership with Scribner and artist Jan Feindt, will release an illustrated version of the Mueller report.
-- More than a decade ago, Trump made phone calls from his cellphone to a woman who says he sexually assaulted her. Joshua Partlow reports: “The excerpts from Trump’s Verizon cellphone bills over a three-month period in 2007 and 2008 show that Trump exchanged calls with Summer Zervos on at least six occasions, including on a day that Trump’s private calendar has shown that he was staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel. That hotel stay is a key part of Zervos’s defamation lawsuit against Trump in New York State Supreme Court. Zervos says that Trump forced himself on her with unwanted kissing and groping while she visited him for lunch in his hotel room. … Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s lawyer in the case, told the Associated Press then that Zervos’s claims were ‘entirely meritless and not corroborated by any documents.’”
-- Some of Trump’s businesses show new signs of financial decline. David A. Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell, Joshua Partlow and Josh Dawsey report: “Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, which prides itself on indulgent luxury, is trying to keep up by cutting costs. In a presentation to investors, obtained by The Post, the company described leaving jobs open, cutting back on gifts for high rollers and children, and buying cheaper housekeeping supplies. As Trump concludes the tumultuous third year of his presidency, it is becoming clear that the political environment he helped create is having consequences for the real estate empire he and his family built. … At the Chicago hotel, former employees said they saw the decline up close. It began in 2015, when Trump’s rise as a hard-right politician began to alienate the rich, urban customers to whom the hotel catered. … Overall, the hotel’s food-and-beverage business declined sharply: In 2016, that line of business produced $3.2 million in profits. Last year, it had a $679,000 loss, according to the documents filed with the county.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Pence's office weighed in on an effort to reroute foreign aid money to Christian groups, ProPublica found: “Last November, a top Trump appointee at the U.S. Agency for International Development wrote a candid email to colleagues about pressure from the White House to reroute Middle East aid to religious minorities, particularly Christian groups. ‘Sometimes this decision will be made for us by the White House (see… Iraq! And, increasingly, Syria),’ said Hallam Ferguson, a senior official in USAID’s Middle East bureau, in an email ... ‘We need to stay ahead of this curve everywhere lest our interventions be dictated to us.’ The email underscored what had become a stark reality under the Trump White House. Decisions about U.S. aid are often no longer being governed by career professionals applying a rigorous review of applicants and their capabilities. Over the last two years, political pressure, particularly from [Pence’s] office, had seeped into aid deliberations and convinced key decision-makers that unless they fell in line, their jobs could be at stake. … The Trump administration’s efforts to influence USAID funding sparked concern from career officials, who worried the agency risked violating constitutional prohibitions on favoring one religion over another. They also were concerned that being perceived as favoring Christians could worsen Iraq’s sectarian divides.”
-- The leaders of seven federal agencies issued a joint statement to warn Americans about attempts by foreign nations to interfere in the 2020 presidential election. "Our adversaries want to undermine our democratic institutions, influence public sentiment and affect government policies," the joint statement said. "Russia, China, Iran, and other foreign malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting process or influence voter perceptions." The signatories are Barr, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, acting Homeland Security secretary Kevin McAleenan, acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire, FBI Director Christopher Wray, U.S. Cyber Command commander and NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone, and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs. The agencies said the interference could be accomplished via social media campaigns, disinformation operations or cyberattacks on local infrastructure. The statement added that there is no evidence that election infrastructure has been compromised to prevent voting or manipulate vote counts. (Read the interagency statement here.)
-- Chad Wolf will lead DHS. But, first, the Senate must confirm him for another job. Nick Miroff reports: “Wolf, the current acting DHS undersecretary for strategy, policy and plans, was nominated for that job in February but has not been confirmed. [McConnell] aims to hold a vote for Wolf early next week for the undersecretary job, according to an administration official, a senior GOP aide and a congressional staffer monitoring the succession plan. … Once confirmed for the undersecretary role, Wolf could be placed in the top job at DHS, the people said, allowing the White House to install him through what essentially amounts to a bank shot.”
-- U.S. Customs and Border Protection held more than 50 Brazilian migrant families for weeks in a tent-like facility near the Mexican border, far longer than typical, to allow officials to deport them. Maria Sacchetti reports: “Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the families were in custody from 15 to 25 days in El Paso before they were deported to Belo Horizonte via a charter flight on Oct. 25. Brazilian officials declined further comment. U.S. officials acknowledged that the families were among a group of nearly 70 Brazilian nationals expelled last month, including one criminal suspect who had been held separately. Federal authorities declined to say how long the migrants were detained in CBP custody or why they did not release the families to specialized holding facilities or to sponsors in the United States when their detention dragged on. … A list compiled by advocates for immigrants showed that nearly 30 of the detainees were minors, including several infants and toddlers.”
-- A tight-knit fundamentalist Mormon community in Mexico is mourning the three women and six children killed by gunmen in Mexico. Derek Hawkins, Brittany Shammas and Kayla Epstein report: “Relatives and friends of the extended LeBaron family mourned the lives lost in an outpouring of social media posts and exchanges on the messaging service WhatsApp. Many changed their profile pictures to an image of a black ribbon inscribed with the text ‘Oremos por LeBaron-La Mora’ -- let’s pray for LeBaron-La Mora. ‘I think we all woke up this morning hoping it was just a bad nightmare,’ said Leah Staddon, who told The Post she was related to all three women. ‘We’re all still in shock that this happened.’ … In recent years, the families have faced threats and violence from organized-crime groups vying for power in the region. In 2009, a prominent member of the clan, Benjamin LeBaron, 31, was shot dead in northern Mexico. He had publicly denounced the drug traffickers after they abducted his younger brother and demanded a $1 million ransom. (The family refused to pay.) The killers left a message saying they were retaliating for LeBaron’s activism. … Mexican officials said cartel gunmen might have mistaken the SUVs for those of rival traffickers. But relatives of the victims said the gunmen knew they were firing on civilians.”
-- Two men pleaded guilty to acting as illegal agents of the government of Iran on charges stemming from the surveillance of a Jewish center in Chicago and Americans who are members of an exiled Iranian opposition group. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “Majid Ghorbani, 60, an Iranian citizen and U.S. permanent resident living in Costa Mesa, Calif., pleaded guilty Monday to one count of violating U.S. sanctions, according to court records. Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar, 39, a dual Iranian-U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty Oct. 8 to one count of conspiracy and one count of acting as an undeclared agent of the Iranian government, court filings show.”
-- The arrival of Russian mercenaries adds deadlier firepower and modern tactics to Libya’s civil war. Sudarsan Raghavan reports: “Hundreds of Russian mercenaries, many highly trained and well-armed, are fighting alongside renegade Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter as he seeks to oust the country’s United Nations-backed government, according to Libyan military commanders and fighters, as well as U.S. military and other Western officials. … They represent the latest escalation in Libya’s proxy war, which has drawn in European and Arab countries — notably the United Arab Emirates and Egypt — despite an international arms embargo.”
-- The Yemeni government and southern separatists signed a peace deal after a power struggle between them nearly fractured a Saudi-led coalition battling northern rebels in Yemen. Sudarsan Raghavan reports: “The deal was hailed by the Saudi government and Western powers as paving the way to finding a broader political solution to end Yemen’s nearly five-year-long civil war. In a televised signing ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that ‘this agreement will open, God willing, broader talks between Yemeni parties to reach a political solution and end the war.’ … Some Yemen observers expressed caution, noting that other agreements between warring factions in the country have struggled to take root on the ground.”
-- Biden called Elizabeth Warren out of touch after she accused him of running in the “wrong presidential primary.” From CNN: “‘It's representative of an elitism that working and middle class people do not share: 'We know best; you know nothing'. 'If you were only as smart as I am you would agree with me,’’ Biden wrote [in a Medium post]. ‘This is no way to get anything done,’ he added. ‘This is no way to bring the country together. This is no way for this party to beat Donald Trump.’ Biden's comments come following Warren's announcement of her ‘Medicare for All’ funding plan on Friday. The Biden campaign dismissed her plan as ‘mathematical gymnastics,’ to which Warren responded by defending key figures in her plan as having been authenticated by former members of the Obama administration. … Biden did not name Warren but emphasized his record as a career Democrat -- a potential dig at Warren, a former registered Republican who switched parties in the 1990s.”
-- Warren attacked Twitter for blocking organizations that are fighting climate change from running ads on the site while allowing companies like ExxonMobil to advertise on the same topic. From CNBC: “Her criticism comes a week after Twitter said it would no longer allow political ads on its service, a policy that blocks ads from politicians, ads that refer to an election or candidate or ads related to politically-sensitive issues. … Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey responded to Warren with a tweet on Tuesday, saying that the company will announce the specifics of its new ad policies on Nov. 15. … This was Warren’s first time to publicly go after Twitter’s stance on political ads.”
-- Buttigieg has tried to distance himself from his past work as a consultant, but McKinsey employees are giving more donations to his campaign than to any other 2020 Democratic candidate. From the WSJ: “Through the third quarter of 2019, Mr. Buttigieg’s campaign received roughly $55,000 from about 165 employees of McKinsey and its related organizations, a Wall Street Journal analysis of Federal Election Commission data shows. That was easily the most of any Democratic candidate, with Sen. Kamala Harris of California coming in a distant second at about $19,000. … The proportion of money Mr. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., has raised from McKinsey employees is tiny compared to his overall fundraising haul of $51.5 million so far. But it opens him up to questions about his work at McKinsey from 2007 to 2010 and some of the firm’s more controversial actions and clients.”
-- Minneapolis won’t be on the hook for any costs from Bernie Sanders’s Sunday night rally at the University of Minnesota, forestalling the kind of controversy that came out of Trump’s recent campaign rally there. From the Star Tribune: “The event was estimated to cost $40,275, according to a facilities agreement with the university. The Sanders campaign has said it would cover all the expenses. Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder said the department had nothing to do with the Sanders rally, which was handled by the university’s police department. City of Minneapolis spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said no other city departments, such as traffic control, incurred any costs from the event. Sanders’ event came a few weeks after a political firestorm between Mayor Jacob Frey and the Trump campaign over costs associated with Trump’s October rally in downtown Minneapolis.”
-- A new Politico Magazine profile of Kamala Harris concludes that her campaign's failure to launch is that she's just not a very good candidate: “Interviews with more than 50 people inside and around her campaign … reveal how a candidate with so much promise, range and charisma has slid so far. Many of her dilemmas are self-creations. Harris undermined her national introduction with costly flubs on health care, feeding a critique that she lacks a strong ideological core and plays to opinion polls and the desires of rich donors. She was vague or noncommittal on question after question from voters at campaign stops. She leaned on verbal crutches instead of hammering her main points in high-profile TV moments. The deliberate, evidence-intensive way she arrives at decisions ... often made her look wobbly and unprepared.
"Harris today has another explanation for her inability to get voters to see her as the next president: what she’s calling the 'donkey in the room.' Before a few hundred people on a chilly October night in the Des Moines suburb of Ankeny, surrounded by hay bales and framed by the Iowa flag, she wondered aloud: ‘Is America ready for that? Are they ready for a woman of color to be president? I’m ready for it,’ Harris mused, assuming the voice of an ostensibly more enlightened voter. ‘But I don’t know if other people are.’”
-- The Nationals have become the latest proxy for the nation’s sharp divisions in the Trump era. David Nakamura reports: “Over 14 seasons in Washington, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman earned the nickname ‘Mr. National’ as the face of the city’s professional baseball team. But on Monday, his Wikipedia page was briefly vandalized to stick him with a new moniker: ‘Mr. Nationalist.’ If Zimmerman was the target of an anonymous editor angered by the ballplayer’s praise of President Trump at a White House ceremony earlier in the day, catcher Kurt Suzuki got it worse. Bill Palmer, a liberal political analyst, tweeted that the Hawaii native should be ‘banned from baseball’ for donning a red ‘Make America Great Again’ hat that Palmer called ‘a form of racist hate speech and an implicit threat of violence.’ … The fallout over the politicized nature of the team’s visit to the White House has become the latest flash point in the all-encompassing culture wars that have defined Trump’s divisive presidency."
-- Multiple freshman Democrats are vying to fill the House leadership role vacated by Rep. Katie Hill’s (D-Calif.) sudden departure. From Politico: “Reps. Susie Lee (D-Nev.) and Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), both Democrats from districts won by [Trump], are running to become freshman representative, one of two leadership spots reserved for first-term Democrats, according to candidacy letters obtained by Politico. … The nearly 60-member freshman class will meet Nov. 13 to elect their new representative via a secret ballot. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), the other freshman member of Democratic leadership, will help run the election, according to Democratic aides.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Virginia's former governor was over the 🌑 as election results came out:
Beshear's campaign manager is a former aide to Steve Bullock, the Montana governor tryng to get traction in the crowded Democratic presidential field:
Sondland was greeted at the Portland airport last night by protesters:
Legal analysts made fun of how much Sondland had to clean up from his initial testimony:
A University of Texas law professor pushed back on one of the talking points now emanating from the pro-Trump crowd:
Words that will live in infamy:
Immigration reporters noted the irony of Republicans' reaction to the news that several Americans were killed in the same Mexican areas where the U.S. is detaining migrants and asylum seekers:
There may have been no witnesses at the Capitol on Tuesday, but a cute dog did make an appearance:
And Kamala Harris added a new furry aide to her campaign staff:
And it turns out Alan Greenspan, Andrea's husband, is just like us:
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“Oh, and by the way, given all the things my father has been called, particularly a ‘racist,’ it sure sounds odd that he’d let his son vacation with a black man or hang out with Michael Jackson, doesn’t it? If he’s a racist, he’s sure not very good at it,” Donald Trump Jr. writes in his new book “Triggered.” (Bloomberg News)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert wondered why Gordon Sondland decided to amend his Ukraine testimony:
Jimmy Kimmel took a look at Trump's poor polling numbers, but he quipped that the president isn't worried because "the last time he came in second, it turned out fine":
Trevor Noah looked at the invaluable work that inmates are doing as firefighters in California:
Noah also reminded us of this messy Obama-era scandal: