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At the Pentagon
'INVASION' OR DISTRACTION?: The Pentagon is sending 5,200 active-duty troops, military helicopters and spools of razor wire to the U.S.-Mexico border. The operation, known as “Faithful Patriot,” represents a massive escalation of the American military presence there as a caravan of Central American migrants moves north, reported The Post's Dan Lamothe and Nick Miroff.
The decision again puts immigration center stage — just where President Trump wants it — exactly one week before a hotly contested battle for control of Congress. Some wonder if the administration's decision to deploy troops is more about politics than national security. Furthermore, Trump told Axios in an interview that he planned to take the dramatic step of ending birthright citizenship for children of people who aren't U.S. citizens by signing an executive order. A bruising legal battle is sure to follow.
- Unprecedented: “The activation of such a large contingent of active-duty forces at the border — as opposed to National Guard troops — has no modern precedent and appeared to be the largest of its kind in a century during peacetime,” Lamothe and Miroff wrote.
- Kevin K. McAleenan, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol commissioner, told reporters the decision to deploy troops to the southern border was made for security and not political reasons.
- But, the timing: Lamothe and Miroff reported the White House thinks a hard line immigration approach is a winning message in driving conservative voters to the polls. "The deployments thrust the military further into a political fight in which the president increasingly has sought to cast the migrants as a national security threat" so close to the election, they wrote. "Earlier Monday, Trump tweeted accusations about the caravan without citing any evidence."
- A Democratic pollster looking at early voting numbers agrees: Republican enthusiasm in border states has spiked in the last week and now seems higher than Democratic enthusiasm, the pollster told Power Up. “It seems pretty obvious why that's changed.”
- Tent cities: During an interview with Fox News's Laura Ingraham last night, Trump said the U.S. would build "tent cities" to detain immigrants seeking asylum that reach the border until their court hearing. "We're going to put up tents all over the place,” he said.
- The tweet:
Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border. Please go back, you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process. This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2018
- Some context, courtesy of Andrew deGrandpre, The Post's deputy national security editor:
Data point: When Trump's border plus-up is complete, the number of military personnel tasked with defending the United States from Central American migrants will be approximately half the size of the force fighting Taliban and ISIS militants in Afghanistan. https://t.co/5gw3v9FcBa— Andrew deGrandpre (@adegrandpre) October 29, 2018
'A MISUSE OF ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY': Power Up spoke with Gil Kerlikowske, the commissioner of U.S. CBP under President Obama, moments after the Pentagon’s announcement. Here's what he told us, edited for length:
Q: Are 5,200 military troops necessary?
A: I was confirmed in 2014, when we had 68, 000 unaccompanied children that summer and [CBP] handled it quite well. So, to say that this clearly isn’t a political stunt is misleading the public. It’s certainly a misuse of active duty military. If the National Guard, which was called out by both Obama and Trump, hasn’t been a deterrent, I certainly don’t think an additional set of armed troops for a very small group of people headed to the border, that won’t even be there for some period of time and have already made clear their intention of asking for asylum, will be.
Q: How many troops did you have at the border?
A: We had the amount of border patrol people in the Rio Grande Valley ... there were around 3,000 agents assigned there and then we brought in people from temporary duty, probably no more than 300 or 400 — and then we did some unique things. Everyone that comes and tries to enter is apprehended and needs to be processed.
Q: Can you speak to the safety of border towns?
A: The border towns from San Diego throughout New Mexico, Arizona and Texas cite lower significantly lower crime rates and greater levels of safety. El Paso and Tucson and the others have lower crime rates than a number of cities in the rest of the country. So to paint it as a war zone and national security issue — anyone who has spent more than a day on the border knows that this isn’t a national security issue. This is a broken immigration issue.
Q: What do you think your reaction once photos of thousands of troops lined up along the border are inevitably released?
A: Well, it’s coming just before the midterms — it’s clear what the intention will be. This reminds me of my days in the U.S. Army, my active duty days, when the military used to deal with anti-war demonstrators by surrounding the Pentagon, blocking the 14th Street bridge [in Washington, D.C.], with troops. I think to send a signal that we are at war [with migrants] is a huge error. And it’s one that just isn’t supported by any facts. If the U.S. handled 1.6 million people in border apprehensions in 2000, and now we are down to 300,000 or 400,000 … these are things that CBP can actually handle quite well on their own.
On The Hill
WHAT IF EVERYONE VOTED?: The charged fight over voting rights is playing out most intensely in Georgia, where Stacey Abrams (D), who is running to become the state's first African American governor, is facing Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R), who in his current job is in charge of the voter rolls. Abrams alleges Kemp is trying to suppress participation, which Kemp fiercely disputes.
- Court battle: Voting advocates last week won a ruling from a federal judge who barred county election officials from rejecting absentee ballots or applications for ballots in which signatures didn't match.
- Yet: A U.S. District Court heard another case yesterday regarding allegations that Kemp improperly prevented new citizens from joining the voter rolls.
- 'Emergency relief': Advocates want Kemp's office to inform some people "on hold" with his office they can vote next week on a regular instead of a provisional ballot. “What we are asking for is to add those 53,000 people onto the rolls,” said Nse Ufot, the executive director of the New Georgia Project, a voting rights' group founded by Abrams. Ufot was referring to the 53,000 people (on a list that AP reported is predominantly African American) whose voter registration has been held up because of voter verification issues.
- Hmm: Rolling Stone's Jamil Smith reported on leaked audio last week of Kemp expressing concern over Abrams's turnout operation, especially “if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote.”
EVEN JIMMY CARTER WEIGHED IN: Some Georgia officials — including former president Jimmy Carter — have called for Kemp’s resignation.
- Carter, in a letter he sent to Kemp released on Monday, wrote: “In Georgia's upcoming gubernatorial election, popular confidence is threatened not only by the undeniable racial discrimination of the past and the serious questions that the federal courts have raised about the security of Georgia's voting machines, but also because you are now overseeing the election in which you are a candidate,” wrote Carter, who served as Democratic governor of Georgia himself before winning the presidency in 1976.
Georgia is not the only state dealing with confusion over voting laws that could depress turnout and may swing close elections, according to Ari Berman's opinion piece in the New York Times. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld a North Dakota law that could prevent 70,000 people who don't have a "qualifying ID" from voting.
- Native Americans: For Native Americans who live on reservations and receive their mail through P.O. boxes, the ID law can be prohibitive because it requires an ID with a “current residential street address.” This, Berman wrote, “is worrisome news for Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, who is trailing her Republican opponent in the polls. She won election to the Senate in 2012 by 3,000 votes, thanks largely to 80 percent support from the two counties with large Indian reservations.”
The White House weighs in: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders responded to a question yesterday about voting complications in Georgia and North Dakota. “Certainly we don't support any type of voter suppression. What we do support is voter integrity,” Sanders said.
Outside the Beltway
THE CAMPAIGN CONTINUES:
- POTUS: The president will travel to Pittsburgh today with first lady Melania Trump, despite Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's request that Trump refrain from visiting while they are still “burying the dead” after a deadly shooting at a synagogue there.
- VPOTUS: The vice president spent all of Monday in Michigan, helping the state's Republican House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates. While outside groups have pulled out of the Michigan Senate race, Trump and Pence are both all in for Republican candidate John James who is running to unseat Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), according to a White House official.
- Obama: The former president will be campaign for Democratic candidates in both Georgia and Florida on Friday.
- A person familiar Trump's schedule briefed reporters on the remainder of his campaign stops. Trump will focus exclusively on rallying Senate battleground races in the final week, a signal that he perhaps sees the House as being more likely to fall into Democratic hands.
- The Post's Seung Min Kim has the president's full itinerary:
Trump's midterm travel:— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) October 29, 2018
Oct. 31 – Fort Myers, Fla.
Nov. 1 – Columbia, Mo.
Nov. 2 – Huntington, https://t.co/IWQ6fBECns., Indianapolis
Nov. 3 – Bozeman, Mont., Pensacola, Fla.
Nov. 4 – Macon, Ga., Chattanooga, Tenn.
Nov. 5 – Cleveland, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind., Cape Girardeau, Mo.
TRUMP OF THE TROPICS: After Jair Bolsonaro won Brazil's presidency on Sunday, we asked Anthony Faiola, The Post's bureau chief for South America and the Caribbean, for some background on the new leader and what his victory means for U.S.-Brazil relations. Here's Tony:
- A 'Pan-American bromance': "Bolsonaro, Brazil’s far-right president elect, did a live video feed on election night and shared some yuge news. President Trump — a leader the ex-army captain says he 'loves' — had called to congratulate him. It smelled like the start of Pan-American bromance."
- Compare and contrast: "In some ways, the two men are a lot alike. They are seen as political outsiders — Bolsonaro, an ex-military man, and Trump, a real estate tycoon. They defend traditional values and won the evangelical vote. But both men have been married three times. Bolsonaro has dropped some verbal bombs that blow away anything in Trump’s arsenal — the Brazilian president-elect once told a female politician she was too ugly to rape and said a dead son was better than a gay son. But both men generally seem to think that decorum is for wimps."
- Sounds familiar: "Bolsonaro worked Trumpian catch phrases — fake news, making Brazil great — into his campaign. He has lavished praise on the U.S. leader, and is now poised to be his staunchest ally in Latin America and one of his fiercest backers on the world stage. Bolsonaro wants to follow Trump’s lead and move Brazil’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He walked back a threat to pull Brazil out of the Paris accord on climate change, but Bolsonaro has joined Trump in questioning the science behind global warming. Both of them see Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro as evil incarnate."
- If he didn't tweet it, it didn't happen: In a tweet, Trump said the two men agreed in their 'excellent call' to 'work closely together on Trade, Military and everything else!'"
Trump might not keep single party power domestically, but things are looking up across the pond...:
Brazil elects Bolsonaro. Germany turns the page on Merkel. Hungary’s Orban forces out a university funded by George Soros. Trump is having a good midterm overseas.— Mark Landler (@MarkLandler) October 29, 2018
WOWZA. Check out this cease and desist sent by Pharrell Williams to Donald Trump for using “Happy” on “the day of the mass murder of 11 human beings,” as the letter puts it. pic.twitter.com/Mst83Vp0kO— Eriq Gardner (@eriqgardner) October 29, 2018