with Mariana Alfaro

In 2016, for the first time since America ratified the 17th Amendment in 1913 and began directly electing senators, whichever party carried a state in the presidential race also won the Senate contest there. Politics has been growing increasingly nationalized for decades, but President Trump supercharged these trends and accelerated a once-in-a-generation realignment. Sen. Doug Jones is almost certain to lose because he is a Democrat in Alabama while Sen. Susan Collins trails in the polls because she is a Republican in Maine, and many GOP strategists have written off Sen. Cory Gardner because he is a Republican in Colorado.

In other words, whether Republicans maintain Senate control is inextricably linked to how Trump fares 13 days from now. A fresh Washington Post-ABC News poll from North Carolina illustrates this: Republican Sen. Thom Tillis and Democrat Cal Cunningham are locked in a toss-up race. Revelations of illicit texts and an extramarital affair with a political consultant do not appear to have meaningfully hurt Cunningham because voters say they care more about which party controls the Senate and the incumbent’s support for Trump than the challenger’s moral character.

Cunningham’s 49 percent support among likely voters is identical to that of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. In our poll, 92 percent of Biden supporters back Cunningham and 92 percent of Trump supporters back Tillis. Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats and Republicans in the Tar Heel State say that control of the Senate is “extremely” or “very” important in their vote.

There is less ticket-splitting now than in any era since Reconstruction. Collins, a moderate Republican, won reelection six years ago with 69 percent of the vote, two years after Barack Obama garnered 56 percent in Maine. But then Trump came down the golden escalator, and she cast a pivotal vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court after Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony that the judge sexually assaulted her when they were both teenagers. Kavanaugh vigorously denied this.

Many prominent Republicans have privately become more pessimistic about their hopes of holding the Senate in two weeks because Trump is currently faring worse than they had expected in states with competitive Senate races, from Arizona to Iowa and Georgia. It is also why GOP strategists are feeling confident that competitive races will break their way in red states that Trump is poised to carry, including Montana, South Carolina, Kansas, Alaska and Texas, even as Democrats wage well-funded campaigns. 

On the other hand, Democrats feel hopeful that Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) will survive what polls show is a toss-up race with GOP challenger John James so long as Biden wins Michigan. But Democratic strategists say that Peters, who is not well known and has run a lackluster campaign, will probably lose reelection if Trump finds a way to pull out a repeat victory in the Wolverine State.

Republicans hold a 53-to-47 seat majority. Democrats need to pick up a net four seats to seize control of the upper chamber. If Biden wins, they need to gain three because a Vice President Kamala Harris could cast a tie-breaking vote.

Historically, with the political atmosphere the way it is, it would be expected that GOP incumbents would be trying to distance themselves from Trump. But most Republican senators in tough races have been nervous to publicly break with the president because they recognize how closely their fortunes are tied together. They are fearful of being on the receiving end of the kind of Trump tweetstorm that greeted Collins last week over her opposition to confirming Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

Strikingly, Trump has devoted more tweets recently to attacking Republican senators who crossed him, such as Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.), than their Democratic challengers. This is consistent with the president’s long-held belief that it is better to be feared than loved. It has been central to his governing style, and it has more often than not worked for him vis-a-vis Capitol Hill.

The fact that more Senate Republicans have not distanced themselves from Trump helps explain why the president is so convinced that he could prod them to vote for a coronavirus relief deal and stomach whatever concerns they might have about a $2 trillion package still being negotiated with Democrats by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

“Prospects for an economic relief package in the next two weeks dimmed markedly on Tuesday after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) revealed that he has warned the White House not to strike an agreement with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before the Nov. 3 election,” Jeff Stein and Erica Werner report. “Republicans have voiced concerns that a stimulus deal could splinter the party and exacerbate divisions at a time when they are trying to rally behind the Supreme Court nominee. … Trump has in recent days downplayed or dismissed conservative opposition to spending trillions more on a stimulus, saying he wants to spend even more money than Pelosi’s latest $2.2 trillion proposal. Many Republicans had already balked at spending more than $1 trillion on this round of relief.”

But Trump was dismissive when he was asked Tuesday about McConnell’s resistance to calling a vote on a package so big. “He’ll be onboard if something comes,” the president said on Fox News. “Not every Republican agrees with me, but they will.”

The coronavirus

Unprecedented vaccine trials are on track to begin delivering results.

“In a matter of weeks, one of the most closely watched human experiments in history will start to report early results, with data on prospective coronavirus vaccines possibly coming this month or in November from the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and the biotechnology company Moderna,” Carolyn Johnson reports. “Amid the turmoil, chaos and misinformation that have defined the U.S. response to the pandemic, progress toward a vaccine, or vaccines, has been steady, reassuring and scientific. Political meddling has so far been largely deflected. Drug companies, working closely with the U.S. government and fueled by an infusion of more than $10 billion of taxpayer money, have developed, tested and scaled up a half-dozen potential vaccines at unprecedented speed. And on Thursday, independent advisers to the Food and Drug Administration will convene their first full-day meeting to lay the groundwork for their coming consequential deliberations on whether to recommend specific vaccines for public use. Those votes are not binding, but the FDA typically follows the recommendations of its advisory committees.”

  • New results from a once-promising therapy show the difficulty of treating covid-19. In one study, the drug, tocilizumab, reduced risk of death in ICU patients, but two others found negligible results with slightly different patients. (Ben Guarino)
  • Two other peer-reviewed studies show a sharp drop in mortality rates among covid-19 patients, suggesting that physicians are getting better at helping patients survive when they contract the virus. (NPR)
  • Fourteen percent of Maryland residents will be eligible for a covid-19 vaccine when one becomes available. Health-care workers, first responders, older adults in congregate settings, incarcerated people and people with comorbidities and underlying conditions will be eligible to get inoculated in the first of two phases. (Lola Fadulu)
The pandemic has left 299,000 more people dead in the U.S. than would be expected in a typical year.

The CDC says two-thirds of them are from covid-19 and the rest are from other causes. New federal data show the virus has taken a disproportionate toll on Latinos and Blacks, as we've written about extensively, but researchers also found, more surprisingly, that the contagion has struck 25- to 44-year-olds very hard. "Their ‘excess death’ rate is up 26.5  percent over previous years, the largest change for any age group. It is not clear whether that spike is caused by the shift in covid-19 deaths toward younger people between May and August or deaths from other causes,” Lenny Bernstein reports. “The United States is in the midst of another sharp increase in coronavirus infections, this one centered in the upper Midwest and Plains states. The seven-day rolling average of cases, considered the most accurate barometer, is near 60,000 per day. At least 220,000 people have died of covid-19 so far … (Experts say) the total is likely to reach 400,000 by the end of the year."

The opioid crisis is getting worse, but drug overdoses are overshadowed by the pandemic.

“After a one-year drop in 2018, U.S. opioid overdose deaths increased again in 2019, topping 50,000 for the first time,” the AP reports, citing CDC data. “That accounted for the majority of the 71,000 fatal overdoses from all drugs. … Ohio, a battleground state in the presidential contest, is on track to have one of its deadliest years of opioid drug overdoses. More residents died of overdoses in May than in any month in at least 14 years … During Trump’s first two years in office, 48 of the 59 Ohio counties with reliable data saw their overdose death rates get worse … 

What that looks like on the ground is mothers donating to GoFundMe accounts and Facebook campaigns so other mothers can bury their children who’ve overdosed. Some parents even reserve a casket while their child is still alive so they are prepared for what they believe is inevitable. Others become legal guardians of their grandchildren.”

DHS, which led the way in past health crises, has been far less visible.

“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has a history of helping to lead the U.S. response to public-health threats such as swine flu and Ebola, standing with the nation’s top medical experts to emphasize that the threat to the nation is severe. But during the months-long coronavirus pandemic that has affected much of American society, one of the country’s largest federal agencies has instead publicly promoted immigrants, anarchists and smugglers as more dangerous to the United States than a virus,” Maria Sacchetti reports. Acting Secretary Chad Wolf rarely mentions the coronavirus on Twitter. He and his deputies routinely peel off their masks during public events to speak to indoor audiences. “I don’t know what role, if any, DHS is playing,” said Janet Napolitano, President Barack Obama’s first DHS secretary and a former governor of Arizona. “They’re kind of MIA."

  • Overwhelmed by coronavirus cases, North Dakota is asking infected residents to do their own contact tracing. (Fargo Forum)
  • Women make up nearly 70 percent of front-line health-care workers and have a higher risk of being infected, according to a U.N. report, which says women are disproportionately burdened because many have had to take on additional caregiving responsibilities. They are also more likely to become victims of domestic violence during lockdowns. (Antonia Farzan)
  • The University of Michigan was hit with an emergency stay-at-home order after health officials in Washtenaw County, Mich., recorded hundreds of new cases linked to the Ann Arbor campus. The order mostly restricts students to their residences unless they are getting food, doing an essential job or attending class. But the football team is exempt. (Tim Elfrink
  • The pandemic is driving city dwellers to Montana, creating a property gold rush. (Lisa Rein)
  • Next year's National Cherry Blossom Festival parade in Washington has been canceled. (Martin Weil)

Quote of the day

“Before the plague came in, I had it made,” Trump said Tuesday at a rally in Erie, Pa., referring to the coronavirus. “I wasn’t coming to Erie. I have to be honest. There was no way I was coming. I didn’t have to.”

The election

Biden's campaign has three times as much cash on hand as Trump's.

“Biden’s campaign committee entered October with an estimated $180 million compared with Trump’s $63 million, according to federal filings made public Tuesday night — a dramatic reversal in financial resources that unfolded in recent months as Democratic donors in September poured a record amount of money into supporting Biden,” Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy report. “An increasing number of donors have met the maximum amount they can contribute to the Trump campaign, and the campaign in recent months has maintained a virtual fundraising schedule that has been less aggressive than Biden’s. … At least 31.4 million people nationwide have already voted in the general election, with at least 15.8 million of those in battleground states … The Biden campaign recently told its donors that it is projecting to raise $234 million more before Election Day, but it urged supporters not to take the fundraising for granted."

Tensions run high at early-voting sites. 

“The first days of early voting have unfolded with dozens of accusations of inappropriate campaigning and possible voter intimidation in at least 14 states,” Joshua Partlow reports. “At one polling place at a church in Hendersonville, Tenn., last week, a Trump supporter drove by repeatedly in a large truck-and-trailer rig with Trump flags and music blaring from speakers, ‘creating a lot of havoc,’ said Lori Ashley, the administrator of elections for Sumner County. … In Albuquerque, a convoy of vehicles, some with Trump flags, honked and yelled near a voting site on Saturday, the first day of early voting, according to a video submitted to news station KRQE. … Inside a polling place in the Coral Ridge Mall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a group of people not wearing masks got into a shouting match Monday with others nearby, according to Stephanie Lillo, 30, a voter who witnessed the disturbance.”

  • “Authorities in Florida and Alaska on Tuesday were investigating threatening emails sent to Democratic voters that claimed to be from the Proud Boys, a far-right group supportive of Trump, but appeared instead to be a deceptive campaign making use of a vulnerability in the organization’s online network,” Isaac Stanley-Becker and Craig Timberg report.
  • Voters in Tennessee were challenged at the polls for wearing Black Lives Matter shirts. A poll worker in Memphis was fired after he intimidated and interfered with these voters. (Kim Bellware)
  • The Miami police said a fully uniformed officer wearing a Trump 2020 face mask inside a polling station violated department policy.
  • About the same number of registered Democrats and Republicans were among the 366,436 Floridians who voted on the first day of early voting. (Amy Gardner)
  • More people have already voted early in Texas, 4.7 million, than the number of people who voted for Trump in the state in 2016. (Cook)
After the 2016 election, our opinion desk asked readers to share why they voted for Trump.

They checked back in with voters whose responses they published four years ago to find out whether the president could count on their support again. Here is what they had to say: “In 2016 … I held my nose and voted for Donald Trump. This time, I won’t be holding my nose,” said Jay Maynard, 60, of Fairmont, Minn. “However much or little you ascribe blame for the current restlessness of the country to Trump, he’s definitely not the solution,” said Max Mordell, 34, of Cincinnati. “It’s easy to say, ‘I’m a conservative,’ and vote that way when the person I supported was humble and thoughtful. … These times are not those,” said Lesley Newman, 57, of Scottsdale, Ariz.

“All of the mindless chatter about his tweets and political incorrectness is childish and ridiculous,” said Phil McNeish, 61, of Roanoke, Va. “I’m still glad the Clintons are not in the White House, but I will be voting for Biden in November,” said Howard Gaskill, 80, of Georgetown, Del. “They have not given me any reason to vote for Biden except that Trump is bad. And that’s not enough,” said Shoanna Crowell, 49, of Boston.

Angry at Lesley Stahl, Trump threatened to preemptively release their interview.

“Trump lashed out at ‘60 Minutes’ host Lesley Stahl and threatened to release their interview after he cut off their conversation at the White House on Tuesday because he didn’t like the aggressive tone of her questions,” Josh Dawsey, Colby Itkowitz and Jeremy Barr report. "The president posted a short clip of a maskless Stahl speaking to two mask-wearing men and wrote, ‘Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes not wearing a mask in the White House after her interview with me. Much more to come.’ A little more than an hour later, Trump threatened to post their interview before the news program is scheduled to air it Sunday night on CBS News. … Trump and Pence were meant to do the signature walk-and-talk portion of the ‘60 Minutes’ interview together, but after cutting off his sit-down with Stahl, the president did not return for that segment. A person at CBS familiar with the interview said the footage of Stahl without a mask that Trump tweeted was taken ‘immediately following the interview with the CBS team,’ all of whom had been tested …

“According to a person with knowledge of what happened during the interview, Trump was unhappy that Stahl asked him tough questions regarding his rhetoric about Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the size of the crowds at his rallies and his disputes with Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert. Stahl also told him during the interview that allegations about Biden’s son Hunter were not verified and that the Obama administration did not spy on the Trump campaign. Many of the questions were about the coronavirus pandemic and his handling of it … Three aides, who were not authorized to speak publicly, said the president overreacted, and one suggested that he might actually boost the ratings of a tough interview. A senior White House official said Trump had told aides he wanted to go after Stahl and brainstormed ideas after the session with a group of aides in the Oval Office.”

Trump and Biden are preparing very differently for their final debate.

“Biden is keeping an unusually light public schedule. In the past four days, he has traveled outside his home state of Delaware just once, to North Carolina on Sunday," ” Amy Wang, Sean Sullivan and Dawsey report. "Biden’s surrogates have kept a robust travel schedule in his place: Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), his running mate, campaigned in Florida on Monday, and [Obama] is scheduled to hold his first public event for Biden in Philadelphia on Wednesday. … Trump has not undertaken the same kind of formal preparation as before the first debate …

Trump wants and plans to bring up Hunter Biden during the debate, though some of his advisers would prefer that he focus on the economy and Joe Biden’s record … Biden’s advisers, for their part, see little to be gained by engaging publicly in the details of Hunter Biden’s alleged emails and texts beyond what they have already said … But ignoring the matter altogether is not an option either, … leaving some uncertainty about how Biden will address it Thursday night.”

The FBI notified Congress last night that it has “nothing to add at this time” to a statement made by Trump’s director of national intelligence disputing the idea that Russia orchestrated the discovery of a computer that may have belonged to Hunter Biden. “FBI Assistant Director Jill C. Tyson sent the letter to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a Trump ally and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, in response to his demand for more information about the computer following a series of reports by the New York Post,” Devlin Barrett reports. "Appearing Monday on Fox Business Channel, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said ‘there is no intelligence that supports’ the idea that the purported Hunter Biden laptop and the emails on it ‘are part of a Russian disinformation campaign.’ The letter notes that the FBI faced a severe backlash for its handling of the 2016 investigations surrounding then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and makes clear it is seeking to avoid the kind of criticism heaped upon it by the Justice Department’s inspector general, among others, for the FBI’s decision to notify Congress less than two weeks before Election Day that it had reopened an investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server.”

Swing states that may decide the election are vulnerable to USPS slowdowns.

“Consistent and timely delivery remains scattershot as the agency struggles to right operations after the rollout, then suspension, of a major midsummer restructuring. In 17 postal districts representing 10 battleground states and 151 electoral votes, first-class mail is on time 83.9 percent; that’s 7.8 percentage points lower than January and nearly 2 percentage points below the national average. By that measure, more than 1 in 6 mailings arrive outside the agency’s one- to three-day delivery window,” Jacob Bogage and Christopher Ingraham report. “The slowdowns, which have raised alarms and suspicions among voters, postal workers and voting experts, have particular implications for states with strict voter deadlines. Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia, for example, do not accept ballots that arrive after Election Day regardless of postmark. Of the states that do, there is generally a short qualifying window: In North Carolina, where polls have Trump and Biden in a dead heat, postmarked ballots must arrive within three days of the election. …

“In Detroit, where Democrats are relying on heavy turnout to carry the rest of Michigan, only 70.9 percent of first-class mail was on time the week that ended Oct. 9, compared with 92.2 percent at the start of the year. In Wisconsin — which struggled mightily with a vote-by-mail primary in August — on-time delivery fell to 84.3 percent in the Lakeland district, which encompasses most of the state. … Timeliness also varied widely in postal districts in Pennsylvania and Florida. … Some postal workers say ballot-handling directives from higher-ups have been chaotic. Letter carriers in Michigan say supervisors press them to focus on package delivery toward the end of their shifts, leaving ballot collection lower on the priority list. In Pennsylvania, clerks are preparing to handstamp ballot envelopes in the final stretch of the 2020 campaign, to steer them away from overwhelmed processing plants.” 

The Trump presidency

More than 500 children have lost their parents because of Trump's family-separation policy. 

“Lawyers appointed by a federal judge to identify migrant families who were separated by the Trump administration say that they have yet to track down the parents of 545 children and that about two-thirds of those parents were deported to Central America without their children, according to a filing Tuesday from the American Civil Liberties Union,” NBC News reports. “The Trump administration instituted a ‘zero tolerance’ policy in 2018 that separated migrant children and parents at the southern U.S. border. The administration later confirmed that it had actually begun separating families in 2017 along some parts of the border under a pilot program.”

Trump paid more in taxes to the Chinese government than income tax in the United States.

“Trump and his allies have tried to paint [Biden] as soft on China, in part by pointing to his son’s business dealings there,” the New York Times reports. “But Mr. Trump’s own business history is filled with overseas financial deals, and some have involved the Chinese state. He spent a decade unsuccessfully pursuing projects in China, operating an office there during his first run for president and forging a partnership with a major government-controlled company. And it turns out that China is one of only three foreign nations — the others are Britain and Ireland — where Mr. Trump maintains a bank accountThe foreign accounts do not show up on Mr. Trump’s public financial disclosures, where he must list personal assets, because they are held under corporate names. … The Chinese account is controlled by Trump International Hotels Management L.L.C., which the tax records show paid $188,561 in taxes in China while pursuing licensing deals there from 2013 to 2015. … Until last year, China’s biggest state-controlled bank rented three floors in Trump Tower, a lucrative lease that drew accusations of a conflict of interest for the president."

Trump’s lawyers continue to delay complying with a congressional subpoena for the tax returns. “Douglas Letter, general counsel for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said Trump ‘has refused to cooperate at all, unlike all of the modern prior presidents. That is why we are here.’ He urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to act before the start of a new Congress in January to enforce the subpoena for the president’s records,” Ann Marimow reports.

A major Trump fundraiser pleads guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent for China.

“Elliott Broidy pleaded guilty Tuesday to acting as an unregistered foreign agent, admitting to accepting millions of dollars to secretly lobby the Trump administration for Malaysian and Chinese interests,” Spencer Hsu reports. “In a plea deal, Broidy, who helped raise millions for President Trump’s campaign before serving as the Republican National Committee’s national deputy finance chair, agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for a recommendation of leniency at sentencing and to forfeit $6.6 million. Justice Department officials called Broidy and his co-conspirators’ secret work on behalf of the ringleader of a Malaysian government scandal and a Chinese security official a case study of foreign governments’ efforts to influence U.S. policy while hiding behind politically influential proxies. … Broidy acknowledged working for the benefit of a senior Chinese security minister to return outspoken Chinese exile Guo Wengui to his home country from the United States, prosecutors said."

Senior government officials are suspect of Trump's motives in pushing to fast-track a 5G contract.

“Senior officials throughout various departments and agencies of the Trump administration tell CNN they are alarmed at White House pressure to grant what would essentially be a no-bid contract to lease the Department of Defense's mid-band spectrum – premium real estate for the booming and lucrative 5G market – to Rivada Networks, a company in which prominent Republicans and supporters of Trump have investments,” Jake Tapper reports. “The pressure campaign to fast track Rivada's ‘Request for Proposal’ by using authorities that would preclude a competitive bidding process intensified in September, and has been led by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who was acting at Trump's behest … Trump was encouraged to help Rivada by Fox News commentator and veteran GOP strategist Karl Rove, a lobbyist for, and investor in, Rivada. Untold billions are at stake. A government auction of 70 megahertz of spectrum in August went for more than $4.5 billion. The Rivada bid would be for 350 megahertz of spectrum -- five times that amount. … Rove denied to CNN that Rivada is seeking an RFP or any non-competitive process. …

"Denials notwithstanding, informed sources (say) that the White House is unquestionably pressuring the Pentagon to approve what would likely be, in the words of one senior administration official, ‘the biggest handoff of economic power to a single entity in history,’ and to do so without full examination of the impact on national security and without a competitive bidding process. Craig Moffett, a highly regarded Wall Street analyst of the telecommunications sector, concluded in a October 7 research paper: 'The whole story smacks of cronyism at best and reeks of 'the swamp' at worst.' … 

"Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, has been arguing against anything but free market competition … For years, Trump seemingly agreed with Kudlow. Yet something changed come election time … and the President began pushing Meadows to help Rivada. Informed sources speculate that Trump may have been trying to curry favor with Rove, who has never been a reliable member of the MAGA team but remains a powerful fundraising force and strategist in GOP politics. … FCC officials have also been stunned at the White House's push, both at its attempt to do this using other agencies instead of their independent commission, and the attempt to do so without respecting the normal independent bidding process.”

Trump’s DOJ sued Google, but it’s the government’s power to police big tech that will be on trial.

“The Justice Department on Tuesday alleged that Google engaged in unlawful, anticompetitive tactics to grow its search and advertising empires into dominant digital forces, enriching itself and amassing unrivaled market share that makes it impossible for smaller companies to compete and thrive,” Tony Romm reports. “At stake is no less than Washington’s power and political willingness to watch over Silicon Valley, so the government’s gambit against Google stands to test whether roughly century-old antitrust rules are sufficiently powerful to keep the country’s technology giants in check. On Capitol Hill, some lawmakers quickly seized on the government’s antitrust action to call again for Congress to rein in big tech companies.”

A top Trump political appointee at the State Department allegedly drank alcohol excessively on the job.

“A high-ranking State Department official who is close to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo drank alcohol excessively on ‘numerous’ occasions while working, even raising a red flag among foreign counterparts, multiple State Department officials told the agency’s watchdog for an unpublished report,” HuffPost reports. “The investigation was concluded in May and submitted to Pompeo’s team, but it is not expected to be officially released. It largely addresses a period between the fall of 2017 and the summer of 2019, when Cam Henderson served in a less senior role. Last August, Henderson became the chief of protocol, an important post that oversees delicate diplomatic events and matters of rank. The revelation about her behavior and apparent impunity adds to the impression that the State Department has become less professional and more politicized under [Trump]. … 

“Two department officials also described alcohol-related issues with Henderson to The Washington Post for an August story. … Pompeo tapped Henderson to succeed Sean Lawler without seeking Senate confirmation, breaking with normal practice. Henderson has been deeply involved in Pompeo’s controversial practice of holding ‘Madison dinners,’ swanky taxpayer-funded events featuring the secretary and his wife that some lawmakers and officials at the State Department view as politically motivated ― more about Pompeo’s future presidential ambitions than any diplomatic purpose. … Henderson is a longtime GOP operative who worked for years with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie … A State Department spokesperson strongly defended Henderson and attacked the inspector general … No part of the State Department’s response directly refuted the idea that Henderson regularly drank to excess on the job.”

Other news that should be on your radar

  • Pope Francis called for the creation of civil union laws for same-sex couples in what amounts to his clearest support to date for the issue. (Chico Harlan and Michelle Boorstein)
  • A new Stanford study found no crime increases in cities that adopted “sanctuary” policies, despite Trump’s claims. (Nick Miroff)
  • Northern California faces days of “critical” fire risk, with more deliberate power shut-offs and strong, dry winds that will keep danger elevated. (Andrew Freedman)
  • NTSB investigators found no definitive cause of the fire that killed 34 aboard a California dive boat over Labor Day weekend last year. (Scott Wilson)
  • Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancee and a pro-democracy group he founded sued Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, alleging that he ordered the Washington Post contributing columnist's torture and murder to “permanently silence” his advocacy for democratic reform in the Arab world. (Spencer Hsu and Kareem Fahim)
  • An anonymous grand juror who considered possible charges in the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor said that prosecutors did not walk the jury through Kentucky’s homicide laws or explain why they decided that two officers who shot Taylor were justified in doing so. (Marisa Iati)

Social media speed read

Kamala Harris’s husband celebrated her birthday: 

And Eric Trump shared a fake photo: 

Utah’s Democratic and Republican candidates for governor jointly recorded a PSA about the need for a peaceful transition of power:

Videos of the day

Seth Meyers reminisced about the time when Americans didn’t have to worry if there’d be a peaceful transition of power: 

Stephen Colbert said Trump could actually benefit from the debate’s mute button: