At the White House

'BEAUTIFUL TED': President Trump went to Houston last night to hold a campaign rally for Sen. Ted Cruz (R), whom he once dubbed "Lyin Ted" and  "a totally unstable inividual." Cruz, who gave as good as he got during the campaign by calling Trump "a braggadocious arrogant buffoon" along with other things, is locked in a tough race with Beto O'Rourke (D).

Here are some of the things Trump said, many of them unsubstantiated:

  • On the migrant caravan: “That is an assault on our country and in that caravan you have some very bad people and we can’t let that happen to our country...I think the Democrats had something to do with it."
  • On the left: Democrats are "encouraging millions of illegal aliens to break our laws, violate our borders and overwhelm our nation."
  • On voter fraud: “Illegals are voting anyway in states like California."
  • On MS-13: "They like cutting people up, slicing them. Killing them, slicing them."
  • On who he is: "A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much ... You know what I am? I'm a nationalist."

The kitchen sink: With the elections two weeks from today, Trump "has settled on a strategy of fear -- laced by falsehoods and racially tinged rhetoric --  to help lift his party to victory in the coming midterms,” our colleagues Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker, and Josh Dawsey report.

  • In one sentence: “The overall strategy, Trump advisers and political operatives said, is to paint a portrait of a chaotic, dangerous world — with Trump and Republicans as the panacea.” 
  • Not substantiated: "Go into the middle of the caravans, take your cameras...you're going to find MS-13, you're going to find Middle Eastern, you're going to find everything. And guess what, we're not allowing the them in our country." (None of this has been substantiated).
  • "A political gift": That's how Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign adviser, described the caravan. “I wish they were carrying heroin. I wish we had thought of it. It speaks to the dearth of our creativity, unfortunately,” Bennett said. “There are 7,000 people marching toward the U.S. border. One party wants to let them in. The other party wants to keep them out.” 

Per The New York Times's Alexander Burns and Astead Herndon: "In targeting the caravan, the president appears determined to end the election season with a cultural fight over national identity rather than the issues that party leaders initially wanted to run on, like tax cuts or the economy."

  • The key quote: "...Mr. Trump’s dystopian imagery has clearly left an impression with some. Carol Shields, 75, a Republican in northern Minnesota, said she was afraid that migrant gangs could take over people’s summer lake homes in the state.“What’s to stop them?” said Ms. Shields, a retired accountant. “We have a lot of people who live on lakes in the summer and winter someplace else. When they come back in the spring, their house would be occupied.”
  •  The other key quote: Burns and Herndon write that a "study published last week by the Wesleyan Media Project found that health care was the dominant subject in 2018 campaign advertising, but that about an eighth of Republican campaign commercials also discussed immigration — more than double the share for Democratic ads.” 

On the other hand: Democrats are struggling to respond to Trump’s caravan rhetoric. The Post’s Sean Sullivan and David Nakamura remind us that Democrats have been largely silent on immigration ahead of the midterms. 

  • Unsolicited advice from one Dem strategist: “People who are swing voters are not comfortable with politicians defending people in the caravan. It’s a very difficult, nuanced argument to try to get all those things across...But if Democrats switch and say the caravan is a direct result of Trump’s immigration policy, that would shut [Republicans] down completely.”

On the ground fact-check: Univision's Jorge Ramos, reporting from Mexico's Tapachula on the border of Guatemala, says that there is no "invasion" of migrants toward the United States and that it's" being overblown by people like President Donald Trump." Watch here. 

 

WELCOME TO WHITE HOUSE REPORTER ASHLEY PARKER'S INAUGURAL “ASHLEY EXPLAINS IT ALL”: All's fair in love and politics. 

  • “Like. Dislike. Like.": “That’s how President Trump — pithily, accurately, concisely — summed up his relationship with [Cruz] at the National Rifle Association last year. And when the president appeared in Houston . . . to support Cruz in his closer-than-comfortable Senate race, the two men still seemed to be in the 'like' phase of their romance.
  • But if the honeymoon portion of the relationship is over, the 'sniveling coward' (that’d be Trump, in Cruz’s past telling) and the lyin’ 'maniac' (that’d be Cruz, in the president’s previous words) have reached a detente, it is the uneasy one of wary lovers, who each know the earlier misdeeds and sins of their partner.
  • Over the weekend: Cruz refused to say if he considered Trump a true friend, saying only that he was the president and Cruz was committed to working with him.
  • And on Monday: Trump declined to say if he wished he had not, in fact, implied that Cruz’s father played a role in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. 'I don't regret anything, honestly,' Trump said. 'It all worked out, very nicely.'
 

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Global Power

ALL EYES ON ERDOGAN: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is at this moment outlining new details from the country’s investigation into the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which he called a planned murder. The Post’s Louisa Loveluck tweeted that Erdogan in his speech laid out “a careful timeline of the journalist's movements and that of his 15-man hit squad. Says hard disk was ripped out of consulate CCTV system shortly before Khashoggi arrived.” But so far, he appears to be holding back. From The Post's Middle East correspondent:

MEANWHILE: 

  • Tricky mission: The Post reported that CIA Director Gina Haspel was on her way to Turkey. “Intelligence officials are increasingly skeptical of the Saudi account and have warned [Trump] that the idea that rogue operators flew to Istanbul and killed Khashoggi without the knowledge or consent of Saudi leaders is dubious, a White House official said," our colleagues John Hudson, Shane Harris, and Josh Dawsey report. 
  • Awkward: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and there was a photo op . . . despite Mnuchin's decision to pull out of the Future Investment Initiative Conference. 
  • Sticking with the story, for now: Trump, in an interview with USA Today, called Khashoggi's death a “plot gone awry."  " . . . Trump indicated that he thought the journalist wasn’t deliberately lured into the consulate to be murdered. Saudi officials last week said Khashoggi's death followed a 'brawl' inside the building, an explanation that drew skepticism from some on Capitol Hill," USA Today's David Jackson and Susan Page report. 
  • And in Riyadh: Davos in the Desert kicked off and MBS will make an appearance. 

BACKGROUNDER: Saudi experts provided Power Up with more context on the fallout from Khashoggi's death.

  • Credibility gap: “I think the Saudis are under enormous pressure to deliver something substantive that establishes credibility about the murder of Khashoggi — their issue is that they now lack any credibility to ensure that MBS can be the central player in Saudi Arabia … Right now they are totally on their heels,” a foreign policy expert close to the Trump White House told us.
  • (In)complete story?: “Erdogan used the expression 'the naked truth,' which is presumably some Turkish language metaphor because I don’t think it’s going to be complete. And I would imagine that in the intervening hours (before his speech), all sorts of persuasion is being used on Erdogan so that it doesn’t lead to an even worse diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and Turkey — and the U.S.,” Simon Henderson, the Washington Institute's Saudi expert, told us. 
  • More: Henderson added “the Turks have know quite a few days in advance what the news is going to be — it’s just been a question of them releasing it. For all I know, they’ve already discovered the body.” 

On The Hill

SOME POLITICS ARE STILL LOCAL: In a midterm election that has become increasingly nationalized, there are still some races that will turn on decidedly local issues — and quirky ones at that. Here are a few to watch:

  • 'All about algae': My colleague Matt Viser writes that a two-pronged algae crisis has swept across Florida, prompting a state of emergency and impacting races for governor and Senate. In Sunday night's gubernatorial debate, the issue was front-and-center as Democrat Andrew Gillum made his pitch: "The only color that the people of the state of Florida care about is the blue-green algae flowing out of the east and the west side of this state. And they deserve a governor who is going to protect this environment.”
  • 'Fix the damn roads:' The Post's James Hohmann reported  in yesterday's Daily 202 that Democratic candidate for Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer has is promising to "fix the damn roads." The axiom is about more than the lousy condition of the state's byways (the state has been dubbed the "pothole capital of the United States"). As James wrote, "The slogan is designed to portray her as more of a problem solver than an ideologue."
  • 'Cut the carp!:'  In Tennessee, Viser said, Asian carp have "invaded the Tennessee River and harmed the fishing industry." Senate candidate Phil Bredesen (D), a popular former governor, is angling for votes from the state's fishermen and environmentalists and has launched a campaign called "Cut the Carp!" to fight the invasive species. In an op-ed for a local newspaper, Bredesen wrote of the carp problem, "no one in government seemed to be very interested in doing anything about it — it was just a local issue and not a big national one."
  • From Viser, on assignment in California: "One of the big things out here is the gas tax. A lot of the Republican congressional candidates are trying to knock Democrats for supporting the gas tax. [The Congressional Leadership Fund] has an ad that says: 'California already pays the highest gas prices in America. Liberal Katie Hill doesn’t think you pay enough.' They think it’ll resonate in these districts outside of L.A. where voters sit in the car hours a day."

'A CONTINUAL BALANCING ACT FOR DEMOCRATS:'  House Democrats are preparing to wage war against  Trump if they win control of the chamber in November — but they also want to work with the administration, reported The Post's Seung Min Kim this morning. 

  • Mutual collaboration: At the top of the list common ground is an infrastructure project. Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), who would be the Democratic point person on an infrastructure bill, has even had a private sit-down with White House director of legislative affairs, Shahira Knight, Seung Min reported. 
  • Subpoenas: But Democrats are readying a raft of oversight targets. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), who would likely lead the House Oversight Committee, told The Post he would prioritize ethical issues like Trump's business ties and questions about the use of taxpayer money by top officials. “I see my role as defending the truth,” Cummings said. “This is not normal. Hopefully Democrats can steer us back to some normalcy.” 
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on the balancing act: “We worked with George Bush. I disagreed with him on the war in Iraq vehemently. But we worked with him on so many other subjects, passed the biggest energy bill in the history of the country. Passed many pieces of legislation.”

In the Agencies

ATTN REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES: Most GOPers are all but ignoring the Republican tax overhaul during midterms, but the Treasury Department issued guidance on a potential fresh and more attractive talking point on Monday — the “ Opportunity Zone tax incentive.” 

  • Huh?: It’s a little known tax benefit that’s “designed to spur economic development and job creation by encouraging long-term investments in economically distressed communities nationwide.” It offers capital gains relief to investors who plan to generate development in designated  areas. Senior department officials told the Wall Street Journal the guidelines are designed to “give businesses enough flexibility and certainty to start making major investments.”
  • Sen. Tim Scott’s pet project: the South Carolina Republican went on Fox & Friends yesterday to talk up the policy. “I’ve heard of over $25 billion in projects waiting on the guidelines from Treasury, which are now out . . . so we will see real activity in these distressed communities … here’s an opportunity that people will take advantage of because they want to do good and make a profit. That is the American dream.”
  • Even Obama-era officials are on board: Steve Glickman, a former senior economic adviser under President Obama, started a new consulting firm earlier this fall to “provide advice to investors wading into the new market, helping with everything from communication the benefits of the tax breaks to government relations,” according to Bloomberg.

In the Media

  1. White northerners and a flag rooted in racism: Confederate pride and prejudice by Frances Stead Sellers via The Post
  2. What to read before reading some more: 2 rarely seen Hemingway stories coming out by Hillel Italie via The Associated Press
  3. What Missourians are reading: Claire McCaskill’s toughest fight by Nicholas Lemann via The New Yorker
  4. What to read before you scoot: Lawsuit accuses Bird, Lime and other e-scooter firms of 'aiding and abetting assault' by Peter Holley via The Los Angeles Times
  5. What amateur astronauts are reading: How many space stations does this planet need? by Kenneth Chang via The New York Times
  6. What Howard Schultz is reading: 'Simply irresponsible': Air Force spent $326,000 on coffee cups it kept breaking by USA Today's Josh Hafner