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The Daily 202: Sherrod Brown’s 11-year passion project yields a modern-day ‘Profiles in Courage’

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) rides the Senate subway underneath the Capitol. (Andrew Harnik for The Washington Post)

with Mariana Alfaro

With Mariana Alfaro.

THE BIG IDEA: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) cold-called Arod Taylor, a retired dentist living in California. Of the 60 people he interviewed for his new book, a list that includes many Democratic luminaries, the senior senator from Ohio said his hour-long chat with Taylor may have been the most fun.

Taylor’s father was a colorful, and liberal, one-term senator from Idaho who, from 1945 to 1951, sat at the same desk in the Senate chamber that now belongs to Brown, who won his third term last year. Glen Taylor was a singing cowboy who struggled financially. To make ends meet, he worked as a country musician in a western band, a construction worker, a sheet metal worker in a munitions plant, a toupee maker and a carpenter.

He lost gadfly bids for Congress in 1938, 1940, 1942, 1954 and 1956. But he won in 1944, and that earned him a place in history. He crusaded for civil rights, despite representing fewer than a thousand African American constituents, and championed collective bargaining rights, even though there’s never been a strong organized labor presence in Idaho.

In 1948, as the vice-presidential nominee for the Progressive Party, Glen Taylor and his family visited Birmingham, Ala., where he was arrested by Bull Connor’s deputies for attempting to enter a church through a door marked “Coloreds Only.” As a sitting senator, Taylor was booked into the same Birmingham jail from which Martin Luther King Jr. would write his famous letter 15 years later.

“His son at first wondered, ‘Why are you digging up things about my dad?’ Because he was a pretty controversial guy,” Brown said in an interview. “He was always accused of being a communist and red-baited and all that. So his son was probably a little reluctant at first, but he told me the story about what happened at the Birmingham jail.”

-- Glen Taylor is one of the eight progressive Democratic senators profiled by Brown in “Desk 88,” a book he’s been working on as a side project for 11 years. All of them sat at the same mahogany desk over the course of the 20th century. Some are well known, from Robert F. Kennedy and George McGovern to Al Gore Sr. and Hugo Black. Others have faded from memory, such as William Proxmire, or have become footnotes, like Theodore Francis Green and Herbert Lehman, outside of the states they once represented. All eight have interesting stories, and Brown brings them all to life.

After Brown defeated a GOP incumbent in 2006, the senator’s wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Connie Schultz, ordered 10 books online as a gift so that he could learn more about the history of the chamber he was joining. Brown decided to write his own book in 2008. He has pursued the research as a hobby whenever he could squeeze in the time.

“I read literally 160 books. I read, entirely, probably 140 or 150 of them and then parts of another 20,” he told me between votes last week. “I write mostly in longhand. I started writing 11 years ago. I would sometimes be sitting somewhere in an airport or something. I don't carry a laptop with me, so it wasn’t a rush project.”

-- Some of the former senators were much easier to research than others. “I started asking people if they knew who Glen Taylor was,” Brown remembered. “I think four people did out of 110 or something who I asked. I just kind of quit asking. It was fun to research him, but there was only one book he wrote and one biography of him. I don't have a whole research team. I’ve got nobody. I don't spend a lot of time online doing research, but I found out enough about him. And then I reached his son, which was just fortuitous.”

Arod Taylor helped put meat on the bones of a 24-page chapter. The son recalled traveling around Idaho in a beat-up Ford as a young boy. He’d sing songs to warm up the crowd, and as his dad spoke, his mom would walk around with a collection plate to take donations to keep them on the road.

The elder Taylor’s political conversion came in 1932 when he stumbled upon the autobiography of King Camp Gillette, the multimillionaire inventor of the razor by the same name who considered himself a “utopian socialist.” Reading “The People’s Corporation” prompted Taylor, who never had more than six years of formal schooling, to study economics during the depths of the Depression. Then one crisp fall day in 1936, Taylor accidentally wandered into a political rally in a small theater where the governor was campaigning for Senate. He realized politics was like acting, and he was hooked.

After the 1946 midterms, Taylor stood up on the Senate floor to object to the seating of fellow Democrat Theodore Bilbo, a rancid racist who had encouraged violence against blacks in his home state of Mississippi as he sought reelection and took gifts from defense contractors during World War II. Citing contemporaneous news accounts that said Taylor could be played by Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper, Brown paints a vivid picture:

“Holding the floor for an hour — amid catcalls and interruptions from southern Democrats and some of their conservative Republican allies — the third-year senator laid out his case: ‘We are not only on trial collectively, we are on trial individually,’” he writes. “Minority Leader Alben Barkley resolved the stalemate by asking that Bilbo’s credentials be tabled without action while he underwent [cancer] surgery. Bilbo was never sworn in for a third term. He died in a New Orleans hospital eight months later at the age of sixty-nine.”

Taylor agreed to be Henry Wallace’s running mate in 1948 when he challenged Harry Truman from the left. Wallace had been FDR’s vice president but was dropped for Truman in 1944. A few months after he got arrested, segregationist Southerners who walked out of the Democratic National Convention met in Birmingham to nominate Strom Thurmond as the standard-bearer of the Dixiecrats. Brown credits the Wallace-Taylor challenge with pushing Truman to embrace a host of liberal ideas and paving the way for then-Minneapolis Mayor and future senator Hubert Humphrey to insert a strong voting rights plank into the official Democratic platform that year.

After being labeled a communist, including by a hostile local press, Taylor lost the Democratic primary by fewer than a thousand votes when he ran for reelection in 1950. A Republican subsequently won the general. The book is not just hagiography. Brown faults Taylor for marginalizing himself with a quixotic national campaign and giving too much fodder to his detractors. But he praises the one-term wonder for being “way ahead of his time.”

“At one time, I stated on the floor of the Senate that I was going to vote my convictions, as though I never expected to come back,” Taylor said in his farewell address, delivered from behind the desk where Brown now sits. “All I can say is that I did vote my convictions, and I did not come back.”

-- Brown, who turned 67 on Saturday, insists he has no regrets about not running for president, and he’s staying neutral for now in the 2020 nominating contest. “I just didn't have the desire to do it,” he said. “You have to really, really want that job. Nobody has ever heard me say I want to be president of the United States. I never thought I did. I thought really seriously about it in January and February, and I thought there was a path, but I don't look back. And I'm going to have influence in this presidential by din of where I'm from and what my message is. I think we win this race if Democrats talk about the dignity of work.

He suggested that his Republican colleagues can learn something from the political courage displayed by several of the former senators he’s written about, especially with a potential impeachment trial looming. In some cases, the men Brown profiles sought to atone after blunders early in their careers. Black, for example, was a KKK member who wound up ensuring that Brown v. Board was unanimously decided by the Supreme Court. Kennedy was a staffer for red-baiting Joe McCarthy but evolved in later years.

“We've all had those moments when we've failed, I'm sure, but a whole political party has failed now in not doing what they should do,” Brown said in an interview. “I hear so many Republicans talking about how [President] Trump's a liar, Trump's a racist and 'We know something's going on with the Russians,' but they won't say it publicly.”

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-- Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) will retire after 14 terms. The former chairman of the Homeland Security Committee announced on Facebook this morning that he won’t seek reelection so he can spend more time with his wife and children. The 75-year-old said he will support Trump’s reelection and wasn’t worried about losing his own reelection, emphasizing that he has more than $1 million in his campaign account. But his retirement is a reflection of the conventional wisdom among House Republicans that they’re unlikely to win back the majority next November. (John Wagner)

Days before the first public impeachment inquiry hearing, GOP lawmakers called for former vice president Joe Biden's son Hunter and a whistleblower to testify. (Video: The Washington Post)


-- The key impeachment question is: What did Trump want from Ukraine — and what exactly did he do? Greg Jaffe sets the table for this week’s televised hearings: “In the nearly 3,000 pages of interviews from the House impeachment inquiry released last week, President Trump often seems like a supporting character in someone else’s drama. Aides struggle to please him. They fret about his fits of rage and do their best to anticipate his ever-shifting impulses and desires. Trump is an unseen and mercurial presence. ‘President Trump changes his mind on what he wants on a daily basis,’ said Gordon Sondland, the Trump megadonor-turned-diplomat who sought to help Ukraine’s new leader — desperate for American aid and an Oval Office meeting with Trump — understand what the president actually wanted from him. …

To answer that question, Republicans and Democrats have cited the rough transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky — a conversation that witnesses have described as ‘improper,’ ‘shocking’ and a confusing mishmash of conspiracy theories, empty threats and non sequiturs. Republicans have made the rough transcript and the chaotic nature of the Trump presidency a central part of their defense. … Democrats are counting on using the testimony of those around Trump — a mix of aides, sycophants and serious-minded civil servants — to make clear exactly what Trump was demanding of the Ukrainian president on the July 25 call.

Senior U.S. officials working on Ukraine often seemed to live in a state of dread and confusion over what the president might do or tweet. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was clinging to her job in Kyiv this spring, amid a smear campaign organized by Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, when State Department officials told her to leave her possessions behind and come home on the first possible plane. Her bosses in Washington didn’t fear for her safety; rather, they feared Trump. …

Most officials suspected Trump’s rage traced back to the conspiracy-theory conversations he was having with Giuliani regarding alleged — and unsubstantiated — Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. … Giuliani often called Trump on his personal cellphone, so there was no record of when he called or what he talked about with the president … Even the highest-ranking officials were flying blind. Whenever Giuliani popped up on the television in John Bolton’s West Wing office, the national security adviser would turn up the volume to try to learn what he might be telling Trump, said Fiona Hill, who oversaw Russia and Ukraine policy in the White House. Meanwhile, Bolton issued orders to his aides to steer clear of Giuliani and his schemes. …

Less clear is whether Trump ordered a hold on the $391 million in military aid to shake down the Ukrainians. Senior U.S. officials first learned of the freeze during a July 18 video conference in which an off-camera staff person from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget said there was a hold on the aid, but would not say why. ‘I and others sat in astonishment,’ recalled acting ambassador William B. Taylor Jr., who had dialed in from Ukraine. … Top officials at the Pentagon and State Department spent much of July and August struggling to figure out why Trump had frozen the aid and how to get it flowing. The answers were vague and unsatisfying. …

That leaves Sondland as the witness who had the most frequent and direct conversations with Trump about Ukraine. Sondland, though, has proved to be an unreliable narrator, subject to massive memory gaps, frequent misstatements and a tendency toward self-aggrandizement. He boasted to White House officials of frequent meetings with Trump but seems to have been exaggerating. … In his sworn testimony, Sondland struggled to recall his meetings with the president and other top U.S. officials, prompting flustered Democrats to wonder whether he was drunk or on some kind of medication that causes memory lapses. … Taylor replied that Sondland seemed sober. …

In September, Sondland told top Ukrainian officials that their military aid wouldn’t flow until Zelensky announced on television that he would investigate the Ukrainian gas company that employed Biden’s son. The Ukrainians pondered putting Zelensky on CNN. Sondland, eager to please Trump, suggested Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program. Meanwhile, senior U.S. officials in Kyiv and Washington worried the entire scheme was illegal. … Notably, Sondland, the witness from the closed-door round of questioning who spoke most directly with Trump about Ukraine, isn’t on either party’s witness list.”

-- Here’s what's on deck for this week:

  • Trump said he’ll release the transcript of an April call he had with Zelensky on Tuesday.
  • Taylor and George Kent, a top State Department official, will testify in public on Wednesday.
  • Yovanovitch, the deposed ex-ambassador, will testify in open session on Friday.

-- One of Giuliani’s indicted associates says he was told by the president’s lawyer as far back as the spring to give the Ukrainians an ultimatum on aid, the New York Times reports: “The associate, Lev Parnas, told a representative of the incoming government [during a trip to Kyiv] that it had to announce an investigation into [Joe Biden] and his son, or else Vice President Mike Pence would not attend the swearing-in of the new president, and the United States would freeze aid, the lawyer said. … Mr. Pence did not attend the inauguration. … The dispute represents the clearest indication yet that Mr. Parnas, who was indicted along with [Igor] Fruman last month on campaign finance charges, has turned on Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani. … Mr. Parnas’s account of the meeting, if corroborated, would reveal the earliest known instance of American aid being tied to demands for Ukraine to take actions that could benefit Mr. Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign. It would also represent a more extensive threat — to pull Mr. Pence from the inaugural delegation — than was previously known. ...

But Mr. Parnas’s account, while potentially significant, is being contradicted on several fronts. None of the people involved dispute that the meeting occurred, but Mr. Parnas stands alone in saying the intention was to present an ultimatum to the Ukrainian leadership. Another participant in the meeting, Mr. Parnas’s business partner, [Fruman], said Mr. Parnas’s claim was false; the men never raised the issues of aid or the vice president’s attendance at the inauguration, lawyers for Mr. Fruman said. Mr. Giuliani denied Mr. Parnas’s contention that he had delivered the warning at the direction of Mr. Giuliani.”

-- White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s last-minute effort to join a lawsuit that would determine whether senior administration officials can testify in the impeachment inquiry rattled allies of the former national security adviser. Tom Hamburger, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey report: “The suit was filed by Bolton’s former deputy, Charles Kupperman, who is asking a federal judge to determine whether a congressional subpoena takes precedence over a White House order not to comply with the inquiry. Bolton is willing to testify if the judge rules in favor of the House ... People close to Bolton and Kupperman said the two were flabbergasted by Mulvaney’s surprise request to join the lawsuit because they and others on the national security team considered Mulvaney a critical player in the effort to get the Ukrainian government to pursue investigations into Trump’s political opponents. Their objection is twofold: Bolton views Mulvaney as a key participant in the pressure campaign, a situation that the then-national security adviser referred to derisively as ‘a drug deal,’ according to congressional testimony by his aides … And they believe Mulvaney’s goal is to avoid testifying by joining a suit involving officials whose attorney has argued they may be limited in what they can share with Congress because of their role advising the president on national security matters.”

-- Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley claims in a new memoir that former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and former White House chief of staff John Kelly tried to recruit her to “save the country” by undermining Trump. She says she refused. Anne Gearan reports: “‘Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the president, they weren’t being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country,’ Haley wrote. ‘It was their decisions, not the president’s, that were in the best interests of America, they said. The president didn’t know what he was doing,’ Haley wrote of the views the two men held. Tillerson also told her that people would die if Trump was unchecked, Haley wrote. Tillerson did not respond to a request for comment. Kelly declined to comment in detail, but said that if providing the president ‘with the best and most open, legal and ethical staffing advice from across the [government] so he could make an informed decision is ‘working against Trump,’ then guilty as charged.’ … 

The former South Carolina governor, widely viewed by Republicans as a top potential presidential candidate in 2024, has repeatedly sought to minimize differences with Trump while distancing herself from his excesses. Tillerson and others had an obligation to carry out the president’s agenda because he had been elected, not them, Haley wrote. If they disagreed strongly enough, she said they should quit. … Haley said Kelly stalled and put her off when she wanted to get in to see Trump. When she went around him, he complained. Kelly also made it clear that he thought Trump’s decision to make Haley a full member of the Cabinet, and have her attend National Security Council meetings, had been ‘terrible,’ and that he would ensure the next U.N. ambassador did not carry that rank, she wrote. … Haley’s successor, Kelly Knight Craft, who assumed the U.N. job in September, does not carry the same rank Haley did.”

As part of her promotional tour for the book, Haley said she opposes Trump’s efforts to seek foreign help for political investigations but said his actions vis-a-vis Ukraine are not impeachable: “It’s hard for me to understand where the whole impeachment situation is coming from, because what everybody’s up in arms about didn’t happen,” Haley said. “Do I think the president did something that warrants impeachment? No, because the aid flowed.”

-- Democrats spent Sunday dismissing GOP efforts to call the anonymous first whistleblower and Hunter Biden to testify as part of the inquiry. Felicia Sonmez, Joel Achenbach and Paige Winfield Cunningham report: “Republicans do not want to focus on the much-discussed July 25 phone call ... or even on events of recent months. Instead, they are seeking to broaden the investigation to include actions taken years ago by the Bidens. On NBC News’s ‘Meet the Press,’ Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) argued that ‘it’s unfair to treat Trump under one standard and Joe Biden under a different standard.’ He claimed that a variety of American elected officials from both parties have in recent years sought to use leverage over Ukraine to advance some kind of agenda. … House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a statement Saturday that Democrats would evaluate the requests but that the impeachment probe ‘will not serve . . . as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations’ into the Bidens or the 2016 campaign, or to retaliate against the whistleblower.”

-- Speaking on Fox News, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the Democratic inquiry a “calculated coup” that’s being “orchestrated” by Schiff. “We are watching him orchestrate a takedown of a president, after we just celebrated 30 years of taking down the Berlin Wall,” McCarthy said. McCarthy also announced that Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) is taking a “leave of absence” from the House Intelligence Committee so that McCarthy can give a spot to the pro-Trump firebrand Jim Jordan.

-- There is growing buzz on Capitol Hill that Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) is angling to replace Mulvaney, per the Washington Examiner: “The conservative Republican congressman in recent days accompanied Trump to New York to attend a mixed martial arts fight and then joined the president a couple of days later for a campaign rally in Lexington, Kentucky — trips and locales with no connection to the Republican congressman’s western North Carolina House district. … Trump recently declined in a Washington Examiner interview to say he was happy with Mulvaney's performance. This, as well as the trips and Meadows's frequent presence in the White House, is leading some Republican aides and lawmakers in the House to believe the congressman is auditioning to become chief of staff.”

-- Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway caused a scene after she named an alleged whistleblower on the air, seemingly breaking the network’s policy of identifying the person. From the Daily Beast: “Right-wing media outlets have touted an online report purportedly sharing the identity of the person. Mainstream media outlets and social media platforms, meanwhile, have refrained from spreading the person’s name. Fox News had reportedly also instructed its employees to not name the alleged whistleblower. … During Sunday’s broadcast of Fox News media analysis show MediaBuzz, Hemingway—who is also the senior editor of right-wing website The Federalist—took part in a panel discussion on whether or not the press should reveal the alleged whistleblower’s name and identity. After noting that the New York Times had provided a lot of identifying details on its report about the whistleblower, Hemingway went on to point to the online article naming the person while explaining that the whistleblower’s name’s ‘already out there.’ … Host Howard Kurtz, clearly startled, immediately shot back that he didn't know if that person was actually the whistleblower.”

-- We are going to focus on substance, not stunts, this week. For reporters covering Trump, the impeachment hearings will present the trickiest test yet, warns Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan: “Journalists have done a lot right — they have pointed out lies, dug out what’s really happening, skillfully explained and analyzed. But on Wednesday — as televised impeachment hearings begin in the House of Representatives — journalists need to be on their game. The stakes don’t get much higher when it comes to fulfilling their core mission: informing citizens of what they really need to know. … Journalists and pundits love to ponder about how the public is reacting to news, though they aren’t much good at it. … Avoiding that would be a public service. … Don’t let stunts hijack the coverage. If we know anything about Trump’s reaction when things get tough, it’s that he and his allies will haul out some attention-grabbing performance art and its distractions. Trump will act out — because that’s what he does. … Beware mealy-mouthed and misleading language.”


-- Bolivian President Evo Morales resigned amid an increasingly violent uprising that he labeled a “coup” after the country’s military pulled its support. Anthony Faiola and Rachelle Krygier report: “Morales’s stunning fall after nearly 14 years in office came hours after the Organization of American States said it had found ‘clear manipulation’ of the vote last month in which the elder statesman of the Latin American left claimed victory. The dizzying pace of developments Sunday made an ignominious ending for the region’s longest-serving leader. Bolivia’s first indigenous president won credit for fighting poverty and transforming cities with state investment even as criticism of his authoritarian tendencies rose. Ultimately, the 60-year-old socialist who once commanded landslide victories at the polls found himself isolated: The heads of the armed forces and national police both called on Morales to step down on Sunday, and the country’s main labor union asked him to resign if that’s what it took to save a nation rapidly plunging into mob rule. … Late Sunday, Morales tweeted that a police official had publicly called for his detention. ‘The coup mongers are destroying the rule of law,’ Morales wrote. …

​​​​“Gen. Vladimir Calderón, the head of Bolivia’s national police, denied in an interview with the local media that arrest warrants had been issued for Morales or his ministers, adding that forces had been deployed to try to restore order amid widespread reports of looting and violence. ... Morales’s resignation did not stop the violence — socialist officials denounced the ransacking of Morales’s home late Sunday. The former head of Bolivia’s electoral tribunal, Maria Eugenia Choque, was detained, police said. ... Also stepping down were Vice President Álvaro García Linera, Chamber of Deputies President Victor Borda and Senate President Adriana Salvatierra, leaving the country without a constitutional leader. Borda resigned after protesters set his house in the mountain city of Potosi ablaze and kidnapped his brother. It was unclear who will take charge. Under the Bolivian constitution, elections after such a crisis must be held within 90 days.”

-- The shooting of a pro-democracy protester by Hong Kong police unleashed a chaotic chain of events on Monday, as thousands of demonstrators clashed with riot police in the city’s financial district and violent confrontations erupted at university campuses, plunging the Asian financial hub further into turmoil. Anna Kam, Casey Quackenbush and Ryan Ho Kilpatrick report: “Tensions soared across the city. In the afternoon, police fired tear gas as a melee of protesters and office workers packed streets and flyovers in the downtown area. ‘Disband the police!’ they shouted. Protesters threw debris into the road, brought traffic to a halt, and set fires. Later, a man was doused with liquid and set alight.

There had been calls for a general strike on Monday, the latest step in months of anti-government unrest that has convulsed the former British colony and posed a direct challenge to Chinese rule. But the immediate spark for the escalation came when a police officer fired live rounds in the Sai Wan Ho neighborhood early in the day, critically injuring a 21-year-old protester who appeared to be unarmed. Police confirmed that one man had been shot by an officer. … Yet far from blunting the democracy movement, the intensifying crackdown has prompted protesters to adopt more aggressive tactics. With the deeply divided city descending into disorder, there has been no sign that Beijing might change tack or allow the Hong Kong government to offer a political compromise.”

-- Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced that the U.S. will leave up to 600 troops in northeastern Syria to prevent an Islamic State resurgence. Karen DeYoung reports: “Milley, speaking on the ABC News program ‘This Week,’ said the number of troops that would remain was ‘probably in the 500-ish frame. Maybe 600.’ He did not mention Syrian oil but said ‘there are still ISIS fighters in the region and unless pressure is maintained … then there’s a very real possibility that conditions could be set for a reemergence of ISIS.’ … A separate U.S. force of about 150 remains in southern Syria, on the Jordanian border.”

-- Iran said an open case involving an ex-FBI agent who disappeared in 2007 on an unauthorized CIA mission was a “missing person” filing, not a sign that the man is being prosecuted. From the AP: “Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi’s comments come as a new Iranian acknowledgement of the case involving Robert Levinson renewed questions about his disappearance. The U.S. is offering $25 million for information about what happened to Levinson, who disappeared from Iran’s Kish Island on March 9, 2007. [Trump] meanwhile called for Iran to turn over Levinson, whom he described as ‘kidnapped.’ … Iran’s Revolutionary Court typically handles espionage cases and others involving smuggling, blasphemy and attempts to overthrow its Islamic government. Westerners and Iranian dual nationals with ties to the West often find themselves tried and convicted in closed-door trials in these courts, only later to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations. For years, U.S. officials would only say that Levinson, a meticulous FBI investigator credited with busting Russian and Italian mobsters, was working for a private firm on his trip.”

-- A general was the leading suspect in the biggest anti-corruption case in Mexico, where he stood accused of abetting billions of dollars in oil theft. He’s nowhere to be seen. Kevin Sieff reports: “Judge Angélica Lucio Rosales looked out at the crowd of lawyers and family members in the federal courtroom, unimpressed. ‘Where is General Trauwitz?’ she asked. When Eduardo León Trauwitz, 53, missed the previous hearing, his lawyers said he was in the hospital. This time, they said, he was out of the country. In a case that has come to be seen as a test of Mexico’s ability to crack down on corruption, it was a remarkable illustration of the challenges ahead: Even getting the accused to appear in court is not easy.”

-- A World War II submarine was missing for 75 years until last June, when high-tech undersea drones solved the mystery. Tim Elfrink reports: “Tim Taylor was about to end the mission. His team had scoured the seabed off Japan with autonomous underwater vehicles, which are essentially high-tech drones, without a hit. His ship now needed repairs, and a $7 million drone had just reported an error on its latest dive. All that remained was to download the data from that drone before heading hundreds of miles back to shore. That’s when they spotted it: An anomalous reading on the ocean floor, more than 1,400 feet deep. The next day, another submersible with high-definition cameras went to investigate. The images it beamed back left no doubt about what Taylor’s team had found: A hulking ship lay rusting in the pitch-black water. As the camera rounded the bow and panned to the bridge, an eerily preserved plaque came into view: USS Grayback.”

2020 WATCH:

-- Donald Trump Jr. is relishing his role as a political combatant heading into 2020. From the Journal: “And while he says he is focused solely on the president’s re-election, his efforts have fueled speculation among supporters about his own political ambitions. … Mr. Trump Jr. demurs when asked about his political future, saying his sights are set on 2020. He did more than 70 events around the country ahead of the 2018 midterms and will do far more this time. While he is a valuable stand-in with conservative voters, his appeal may be more limited in the suburban areas where the president is struggling. Still, he said he’s willing to campaign anywhere.”

-- Trump keeps promoting books by members of his inner circle, creating some sort of presidential book club. One question, though, is: Does he really read any of the titles he has spoken so highly of? From the Times: “He has been upfront about the lack of time and attention he can give to reading, and he has gone back and forth between publicly declaring his love of reading but also telling the world he does not read much. ‘Every time I do about a half a page,’ Mr. Trump said last year about trying to read a book about Andrew Jackson, ‘I get a phone call that there’s some emergency, this or that.’ People who have observed him over the years are skeptical of his interests in the literary realm. ‘He doesn’t read at all. I’m not overstating things here,’ said Timothy L. O’Brien, who wrote ‘TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald.’ ‘He lacks the patience, curiosity and self-awareness to be a good reader, and that’s why aides and advisers know the best way to communicate complex thoughts to him is with pictures and charts, or simply verbally.’”

-- A public library in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, says someone keeps hiding books that explore politics through a progressive lens or criticize Trump. From the Times: “They wind up misfiled in out-of-the-way corners where readers will be sure not to find them. ‘I am going to continue hiding these books in the most obscure places I can find to keep this propaganda out of the hands of young minds,’ the mystery book relocator wrote in a note left for [Bette] Ammon, the library director, in the facility’s comment box. ‘Your liberal angst gives me great pleasure.’ … The incidents over this past year — including a missing book that was discovered only this week — were not the first time books have mysteriously disappeared. Thirty years ago, the library lost so many books on human rights to theft that they had to be placed in a locked cabinet. The latest works to be targeted cover a wide range of topics, from gun control and women’s suffrage to LGBTQ issues and how people of color fare in the criminal justice system. About half the books specifically deal with [Trump].”

-- Trump’s trade wars are hurting farmers, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is trying to keep them happy as many wonder whether the president will roll out a third bailout in 2020. Annie Gowen and William Wan report: “Over the last year, Perdue has emerged as President Trump’s key evangelist in bruising trade wars, traveling the country to give folksy pep talks to frustrated farmers who have seen their incomes drop and exports hit hard by tariff disputes. … Two economists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture … said a third round of payments for farmers increasingly is seen as inevitable, particularly if a trade deal with China is not reached soon. The amount has not been determined. Perdue said Thursday he was ‘hopeful’ that the pending trade deal would ‘supplant any type of farm aid needed in 2020.’ But a third round of aid could be crucial to shoring up Trump’s support in rural America as the election looms, analysts say. … Internally, [Perdue has] been praised for his relentless promotion of the administration’s agenda. … But patience is waning for Perdue’s sunny bromides in rural America, where farm bankruptcies and loan delinquencies are rising.”

-- Top Democrats urged Facebook to ban political ads on its platform, but upstart, anti-Trump candidates are objecting, arguing that Facebook creates a more level playing field for challengers than TV does. Isaac Stanley-Becker reports: A review of campaign ads from federal, statewide and state legislative races during the 2018 midterm election found that “voters are more likely to see Facebook ads than television ads from challengers. … [The report] also discovered that Facebook advertising was less negative than messaging on television. … Even as they criticize Facebook, national Democrats rely on the platform to build email lists, solicit small-dollar donations and compete with the conservative media juggernaut that has managed to catapult Trump-friendly stories into a dominant position in Facebook’s News Feed. … While local Democrats say they understand the case for change, they also lack the resources to navigate a web of new regulations.”

-- The Kentucky governor's race has become a case study in the real-world impact of disinformation spread through social media, a preview of what election-security officials fear could unfold if the 2020 presidential election comes down to the wire. From the Times: “A few hours after polls closed in Kentucky last Tuesday, a Twitter user writing under the handle @Overlordkraken1 posted a message to his 19 followers saying he had ‘just shredded a box of Republican mail-in ballots.’ It was clear that the Kentucky governor’s race was going to be excruciatingly close, and that the Republican incumbent, Matt Bevin, could be headed to defeat. … For those eager to cry fraud as a reliably red state leaned blue, the fact that @Overlordkraken1 did not appear to be in Kentucky — Louisville was misspelled in the location tag on his tweet, for one thing — was not going to get in the way of a useful narrative. Nor was Twitter’s decision to suspend his account. … The talk has only intensified in the days since, though it has yet to be matched by any evidence of actual election rigging. … Such divisive rhetoric after close elections has always risked shaking public faith in essential democratic institutions. But in a profoundly polarized country where narrow margins are hardly uncommon, sophisticated networks of social media users — human and bot — can quickly turn partisan rancor into grave threats, rapidly amplifying disinformation and creating an initial veneer of vast discord that can eventually become self-fulfilling.”

-- Despite winning the endorsement of prominent African American clergy members in Massachusetts during past races, Elizabeth Warren is still struggling to win over the support of black voters for her presidential campaign. From the Journal: “As her relationships with Boston’s black clergy show, Ms. Warren’s faith—which she doesn’t often delve into publicly, beyond occasional mentions of teaching Sunday school—is one way she has been able to connect with black voters in Massachusetts. She has tried to replicate that connection ahead of 2020. … Rev. Miniard Culpepper of Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Boston said Ms. Warren would come to church carrying her own Bible. ‘It makes a statement,’ Rev. Culpepper said. ‘Doctors carry their stethoscope. Politicians carrying a Bible says a lot about what they believe and their values and their morals.’”

-- Amazon spent $1.5 million on Seattle City Council races. Kshama Sawant, a socialist opposed by the company, won the race. Hannah Knowles reports: Sawant “has backed a tax on large companies and pushed successfully to make Seattle the first major city with a $15-per-hour minimum wage. But Sawant’s campaign for reelection this year pitted her against Amazon, Seattle’s largest private employer, more conspicuously than ever. … Sawant’s faceoff with big tech was on full display over the weekend as she declared victory, from a podium in front of a bright orange banner with the words ‘TAX Amazon’ in giant print. … Some say Amazon’s money backfired in the council race as people leery of corporate money supported Sawant’s cause and as her campaign drew national attention from the likes of Sens. [Warren] and Bernie Sanders (Vt.) … Sawant, too, frames her close race — she pulled ahead late last week — as sending a message with national resonance, about a ‘bold, left-leaning and in fact socialist' campaign’s ability to prevail against business interests.’” (Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Post.)


Trump celebrated the Marines: 

On the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, many on Twitter resurfaced this 2015 tweet by a current Trump administration official:


QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Of the women on the stage — I’m focusing here on my fellow women senators, Senator [Kamala] Harris, Senator [Elizabeth] Warren and myself — do I think that we would be standing on that stage if we had the experience that [Pete Buttigieg] had? No, I don’t. Maybe we’re held to a different standard,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said on CNN.



John Oliver delved into another method used to quell public dissent: 

“The Daily Show's” Michael Kosta talked to a psychologist about why members of the alt-right are so angry:

Bernie Sanders attacked billionaire Mike Bloomberg after news broke that he might join the race: 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) criticized billionaire Michael Bloomberg's possible presidential run on Nov. 9. (Video: Reuters)