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At the White House
PARALLEL WORLDS: While international leaders and Washington lawmakers are focused on getting to the bottom of Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death, Trump is traveling to battleground states to talk (and tweet) about his favorite subject — immigration.
Voters are headed to the polls in 15 days, with a lot at stake for the president. Trump's strategy has been to return to the immigration issue that helped catapult him into power in 2016. Ominously invoking a caravan of migrants headed to the southern U.S. border, Trump has threatened to close the border, cut off aid to Central American nations and of course, build his wall. He doesn't really have the power to do these things solo — but they may be enough to scare his voters to the polls.
Simultaneously, “voter interest in the midterm elections has surged to records within both parties” and Trump's approval rating has hit an all time high of 47 percent, according to a new Wall Street Journal/ NBC News Poll.
FROM KAVANAUGH TO CARAVAN: The caravan is a convenient midterm foil for Trump. Images of thousands of Central American migrants traveling toward the border make for compelling GOP campaign ads, but the reality is more complicated, personal and nuanced.
- Seeking a better life: The AP's Mark Stevenson reports on the reason migrants are leaving home. “In dozens of interviews along the journey, they have said they are fleeing widespread violence, poverty and corruption in Honduras.”
- From The Post's Kevin Sieff who in Mexico: “Back home, the gangs kill whoever they want,” 21-year-old Marjorie Milla said.
- Some of them have already been deported. More from Sieff: “They spoke in different accents, fleeing different disasters: joblessness in parts of Honduras, a mounting political crisis in Nicaragua, cities in Guatemala where they were sure their children would languish as they had. And then there were the deportees. Many of the migrants here had previously lived in the United States, for years or even decades, joining the caravan to reunite with their children, or to resume old jobs. They were undeterred by the American authorities who had apprehended them or the U.S. president who promised to keep them out again.”
- AMLO talks: “In this way we confront the phenomenon of migration, because he who leaves his town does not leave for pleasure but out of necessity,” Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador said after suggesting that U.S., Mexico, and Canada join to invest in development in Central America. Lopez Obrador told Chiapas rally goers that he'd be sending Trump a letter addressing poverty in Central America.
- Pompeo invokes violence: “We also are deeply concerned by the violence provoked by some members of the group, as well as the apparent political motivation of some organizers of the caravan.”
Families separated, again?: The Post reported last week the White House was considering a new policy — a “binary choice,” my colleagues described it — which would "detain migrant families together and give parents a choice: stay in immigration jail with their child for six months or years as their asylum case proceeds, or allow their child to be assigned to a government shelter while a relative or guardian can apply to gain custody." Senior administration officials told my colleague Phil Rucker that “they are not planning to revive the chaotic forced separations carried out by the Trump administration in May and June.”
"You have some very, very bad people in the caravan. You have some very tough criminal elements within the caravan.” pic.twitter.com/Xxx3LZP3WS— Kevin Sieff (@ksieff) October 21, 2018
The Post's Kevin Sieff contrasts some of Trump's rally cries with a photo of a young girl clutching her stuffed koala and another young girl sleeping.
KUDLOW SAYS BEIJING'S DOING “NOTHING”: In a Financial Times interview, Larry Kudlow, the director of Trump's National Economic Council, “accused Beijing of doing 'nothing' to defuse trade tensions" ahead of the G20 meeting next month in Argentina.
- More blows to come: POTUS threatened to raise tariffs from 10 to 25 percent on a remaining $200 billion of Chinese imports if no progress is made. "Trump has even threatened to impose levies on a further $267bn of Chinese goods, which would mean all imports from China would be covered by U.S. tariffs,” writes the FT.
- Stalemate: The Post's Danielle Paquette and David Lynch reported earlier this month that Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Trump agreed to meet at the G-20 in Buenos Aires “in hopes of resolving their intensifying trade conflict.”
- But Kudlow underscored the stalemate and U.S. frustration with Xi's refusal to bow to Trump's demands." We gave them a detailed list of asks, regarding technology for example, [which] basically hasn't changed for five or six months. The problem with the story is that they don't respond. Nothing. Nada," Kudlow told the FT.
- Americans are skeptical: The Chicago Council on Global Affairs released a poll showing 72 percent of respondents were "either very or somewhat concerned that such a trade war would hurt their own areas," and cast doubt on Trump's assessment of trade wars being "good and easy to win."
- “Once consumer prices start to rise, Americans will start to ask why. And the Trump administration will have to have a persuasive case that the short-term pain is worth the longer-term gain, which will come only if the Chinese make major concessions,” Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies told The Post's Adam Taylor.
On The Hill
TELLING CONTRAST: While Trump is pushing divisive anti-immigration rhetoric, The LIBRE Initiative ACTION, an arm of the Koch political network, released Spanish-language ads and mailers targeting Latinos voters. Power Up got a preview of the mailers that will go out today in the districts of Republicans Reps. Mia Love (Utah) and Rep. Will Hurd (Texas), along with the roll out of a Spanish-language ad in central and south Florida for Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who is running to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson (D).
THINGS STILL DON'T ADD UP: Despite Trump's newfound skepticism of Saudi Arabia's explanation for Khashoggi's death, many unanswered questions remain.
- Why was an autopsy expert among the 15 Saudis present at the consulate during Khashoggi's visit? New York Times: “The Saudis also offered no explanation for why a doctor specializing in autopsies was sent on the mission, rather than one who treats live patients or manages forensic evidence.”
- Will Trump ultimately take the word of his own intelligence agency or that of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his father? Washington Post: “CIA officials have listened to an audio recording that Turkish officials say proves the journalist was killed and dismembered by the Saudi team, according to people familiar with the matter. If verified, the recording would make it difficult for the United States to accept the Saudi version that Khashoggi’s death was effectively an accident. Officials agreed to speak for this article on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic.”
Why have European Union leaders, like Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, take a harder line against Saudi Arabia than Trump? Reuters: “Germany will not export arms to Saudi Arabia while the current uncertainty over the fate of journalist Jamal Khashoggi persists, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday.” Britain, France, and Germany released a joint statement condemning Khashoggi's murder and called for “urgent need for clarification of exactly what happened.”
- Where is Khashoggi's body? In an interview with Fox News, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir said he didn't know.
It all comes down to, what did MBS know and when?
- Al Jubeir insisted the operation was “rogue” and that MBS didn't know anything about it. U.S. lawmakers find that hard to believe with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called for him to step aside during an interview on Fox News Sunday. “I think we cannot continue to have relations with him. And so I think he's gonna have to be replaced, frankly,” Paul said.
- Even in the royal Saudi ranks, dissent is cracking the facade to protect MBS: The Wall Street Journal reportedthat Prince Khalid al Faisal, an envoy of King Salman who was dispatched to Ankara earlier this month, had access to a short audio recording that offers evidence that [Khashoggi] was drugged, killed and dismembered minutes after walking in to the consulate," according to two Saudi royals.
AN ABBREVIATED EVOLUTION OF THE SAUDI NARRATIVES:
- October 4: Khashoggi “left the consulate building.”
- October 5: " . . . he entered and he got out after a few minutes or one hour. I’m not sure,” MBS tells Bloomberg.
- October 15: “Rogue killers” are responsible for Khashoggi's death.
- October 15: Khashoggi's death due to an “interrogation gone wrong.”
- October 19: Khashoggi killed during a “fistfight.”
- October 21: Per Saudi's Foreign Minister, MBS had no prior knowledge of the operation.
- “We seek justice and this will be revealed in all its naked truth, not through some ordinary steps but in all its naked truth,” Erdogan said, according to the semiofficial Anadolu news agency. “The incident will be revealed entirely.”
- More drip, drip in Turkish newspaper YeniSafak (owned by a hard line Erdogan supporter): the story alleges that Khashoggi spoke to MBS on a mobile phone from inside the consulate before being killed. U.S. news outlets have not reported anything similar.
LATE NIGHT READOUT FROM W.H. PRESS SECRETARY SARAH SANDERS: “President Trump spoke with President Emmanuel Macron of France . . . The two leaders discussed the President’s upcoming travel to France. They also talked about a range of international economic and security issues, including the situation in Syria, the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
MUST-READ: My colleagues Tom Hamburger, Beth Reinhard and Justin Wm. Moyer have a deep dive on the Saudi influence machine.
- The key quote: “One of the foreign policy truisms force-fed in Washington is that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have a special, unbreakable relationship,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat and leading critic of the war in Yemen. “At least everybody who is smart and knows about foreign policy who walks into your office tells you that. But as it turns out, a lot of those people are getting gulf money.”
‘BABY STEPS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION': That’s how addiction recovery advocate Ryan Hampton, in an interview with Power Up, described sweeping legislation to tackle the opioid epidemic President Trump will sign into law this week. One of the bills, which Hampton helped craft, establishes best practices for sober living homes — standards that didn’t exist at a national level until now.
- ‘A seat at the table': Hampton authored American Fix and is in recovery from heroin addiction. He'll be at the White House on Wednesday for the signing ceremony (invitation pictured above).
- Tyler’s story: Hampton began work on the legislation, known as the Ensuring Access to Quality Sober Living Act, after one of his friends, Tyler, overdosed and died in a sober living home where no one on staff was trained to respond to overdoses.
- Hampton has sparred with the Trump administration over the Affordable Care Act and other key issues, but says efforts to solve the opioid crisis shouldn't be politicized: "In the most polarizing political environment of my lifetime, this is one issue we can see eye-to-eye on.”
- 2020 and beyond: This week’s legislation is a good start, but it’s “absolutely not” enough, Hampton said. He’s working with "Rock the Vote" to get one million people in recovery registered to vote by 2020. “Public officials are going to be forced to listen to us,” he said.
- Rural Americans are rattled by the crisis, according to a poll released last week by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "One quarter of rural Americans say opioid and other drug abuse is the biggest problem that faces their local communities...21 percent say economic concerns are the biggest problems in their areas. No other topic even comes close after that."
In the Media
- As the news cycles moves on, Floridians rebuild their lives: After Hurricane Michael, Panama City residents cope with no power, cash-only transactions and baby-wipe showers by Frances Stead Sellers, Kevin Begos and Katie Zezima via The Post
- What to read if you founded a start-up: Who will teach Silicon Valley to be ethical? by Kara Swisher via the New York Times
- What Georgia voters are reading: Voter-suppression tactics in the age of Trump by Jelani Cobb via The New Yorker
- Investigating pregnancy discrimination: Miscarrying at work: The physical toll of pregnancy discrimination by Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Natalie Kitroeff via the New York Times
- What aspiring journalists should read: With help from journalism students, Miami man freed after 12 years behind bars for murder by David Ovalle via the Miami Herald
TUSSLE IN TALLAHASSEE: In the first debate of the Florida governor's race — one of this year's marquee matchups — the candidates traded made-for-Twitter barbs in a night complete with fact checks, “Hamilton” references and a hot mic ending. Here are some of the highlights:
- Republican candidate Ron DeSantis, who famously released a campaign ad that featured him reading to his children from Trump's “Art of the Deal,” admitted, “I don’t actually read the Art of the Deal to my son. That’s not necessarily his cup of tea.”
- DeSantis said his opponent Andrew Gillum had presided over “the highest crime rate in Florida four years running” as mayor of Tallahassee. PolitiFact said rated that “Mostly True.”
- Both candidates challenged the veracity of the other's arguments, with Gillum's Twitter account sending this mid-debate shot across the bow, equating DeSantis and Trump: “Well, Ron is being Don. Neglecting all reason & facts.”
- Then, DeSantis insinuated there was something suspicious about Gillum attended the musical “Hamilton” amid a public corruption investigation in Tallahassee.
- The night ended with DeSantis caught on a hot mic delivering one of the night's most surprising lines, considering the acerbic exchanges until then: “You're a good guy,” he told Gillum.