With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA:
PALO ALTO, Calif. — President Trump’s bellicose rhetoric toward North Korea is making it harder to marshal domestic support for potential United States intervention.
This is a widespread concern among fellows at the Hoover Institution, a right-leaning think tank on the campus of Stanford University.
Trump has tweeted that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is “wasting his time” by trying to negotiate with Pyongyang, suggesting that only military force can curb Kim Jong Un.
Kori Schake, a defense policy expert at Hoover who held important jobs during both Bush administrations at the Pentagon, Foggy Bottom and National Security Council, thinks it is very important to open a direct dialogue with the regime in Pyongyang.
“Negotiations are useful intelligence tools. I have enormous confidence in American intelligence agencies to find out interesting stuff in negotiations,” she said. “But the main reason I favor negotiations is that
we may actually have to go to war on the Korean Peninsula. If we do, my mom is not going to be able to get to a place of supporting that unless she thinks her government has done everything possible to avert it. I don’t see how any American administration ever gets to war without negotiations because of the importance of carrying the American public along — most especially if it is a war of choice.”
California is thousands of miles closer to Asia than Washington, D.C., so the problems of the Pacific Rim have always felt closer on the West Coast, but the hard truth that the Bay Area could soon be in the range of a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile adds a sense of urgency to the discussion about how to respond.
The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency concluded this summer that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, crossing a key threshold, and estimated that the communist country’s atomic arsenal now includes up to 60 nukes.
I spent the past two days here for a roundtable with a group of journalists who cover foreign policy and national security. North Korea preoccupied nearly every conversation.
Schake, who published a book with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last year when he was a fellow at Hoover, said that the North Koreans are behaving in a rational way by racing ahead with their program in the face of Trump’s threats. She added that she is “serenely unrepentant” about joining other conservative luminaries in speaking out against Trump during the 2016 campaign.
“If I was the North Koreans, I would be doing the exact same thing that they’re doing,” said Schake, who was the senior policy adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “The administration is being sloppy in the precision of their language about this, and the precision of their language about this matters enormously.”
To put it diplomatically, Trump has not watched his words carefully. After the president gave Kim the nickname “Rocket Man” and imposed a new round of sanctions, the 33-year-old dictator called Trump “a mentally deranged U.S. dotard.” Posing for a group photo with military brass the week before last, Trump told reporters: “You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.” Asked to clarify, Trump said: “You’ll find out.”
-- Stanford political science professor Amy Zegart, a senior fellow at Hoover, has been conducting research on what makes threats most effective. As part of a fascinating project on the future of drone warfare, she surveyed a group of 259 senior foreign military officers and asked each to rank seven factors that would be most important in making a threat credible. She was shocked to discover that domestic political support for military action beat out other factors like the size of a country’s military or its willingness to risk mass casualties by a pretty wide margin.
“If we bring that back home to the current administration, the implications are that the more fractured your populace is, the less popular your administration is and the less public support you have for military action, the less credible your threat will be,” said Zegart, who is writing a book with former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice that will come out next year about how business leaders can manage political risk. “Whether it’s a drone or a battalion, that’s a generalizable ranking of credibility. … This is a big change in how we think about warfare.”
By that standard alone, Trump’s threats must not be terribly credible.
Three recent polls underscore Trump’s domestic challenges vis-à-vis North Korea:
1. A Washington Post-ABC News survey conducted late last month showed that 7 in 10 Americans agree that North Korea poses a “serious threat” to the United States, but there is little appetite for intervention: 23 percent think the United States should strike North Korea first; 67 percent say there should be U.S. military action only if North Korea attacks the United States or its allies. Eight in 10 of those surveyed think the United States would risk starting a larger war in East Asia if it launched a first strike, including 69 percent citing a “major risk.”
Only 37 percent of adults trust Trump either “a great deal” or “a good amount” to responsibly handle the situation with North Korea, while 42 percent trust the commander in chief “not at all.” By comparison, 72 percent trust U.S. military leaders, including 43 percent saying they trust them “a great deal.” While 11 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of independents say they trust Trump to act responsibly in dealing with North Korea,
more than three-quarters of Republicans say they trust the president, although just over half trust him “a great deal.”
Bigger picture, not specific to North Korea, our poll found that twice as many Americans believe Trump is doing more to divide the country than to unify it, 66 percent vs. 28 percent. Even at the lowest points of their presidencies, no more than 55 percent of Americans ever believed Barack Obama or George W. Bush was doing more to divide than unite the country.
2. An Associated Press-NORC poll released last Wednesday found that just 8 percent of Americans think Trump’s war of words with Kim is making the North Korea situation better. Not only do 65 percent of Americans think Trump’s comments have made the situation worse, 45 percent think the president has made it “MUCH worse.” Six in 10 independents and even 4 in 10 Republicans say Trump’s comments have made matters worse.
3. A Quinnipiac University poll published last Thursday found that 57 percent of Americans lack confidence in Trump’s ability to handle the Korea situation. Two-thirds of those surveyed think the U.S. should negotiate with North Korea, while the other third says negotiations are a waste of time. A 54 percent majority thinks the situation can be resolved diplomatically, while 29 percent expect the United States will need to use military force.
-- Michael Auslin, a former history professor at Yale University who came to Hoover from the American Enterprise Institute, believes that American leaders must do much more to explain to the electorate why our security guarantee for South Korea is so important to maintain global security. “If we as the foreign policy community writ large make the assumption that it’s self-evident that we have to continue protecting South Korea’s $1.3 trillion economy against a North Korean nuke, we may well find ourselves faced with a political backlash from the hinterlands,” Auslin warned. “North Korea is not the Soviet Union. Pyongyang is not Moscow. We do not face a politically existential threat to the United States from North Korea.”
He expects a demonstration shot from Kim — potentially with a mushroom cloud over the Pacific Ocean — and he fears an accidental launch. But he also believes that the U.S. must end the “denuclearization fantasy” and accept that the regime will be a member of the nuclear club.
“In post-Iraq America, I cannot see that preventive war is a politically palatable solution,” said Auslin, whose new book is called “The End of the Asian Century.” “I cannot believe that any administration would be able to go to war over nuclear tests and ICBM tests. … It seems to me that’s an extraordinarily high bar that cannot be cleared. … I don’t think we’re going to war. I don’t think we can negotiate away these weapons.
It may be heresy to say so, but I believe we are faced with learning to live in a North Korean nuclear world. With learning to love the North Korean nuke. So how do ensure a stable nuclear dynamic? What do we do that encourages them to not interpret every action by us as the beginning of a decapitation strike or a preemptive move?”
-- Military historian Victor Davis Hanson worries that America is going soft. “If North Korea were to send a missile to take out Portland … I think the United States would retaliate in kind,” said Hanson, a Hoover senior fellow who writes regularly for National Review. “But if you were to say, as General Mattis has said on occasions, that his purpose is to kill the enemy and occupy and defeat them, then it starts to bother people because we feel in our postmodern society we’ve evolved morally and culturally beyond that. We think that we don’t have to settle disputes by force of arms. When we find these people around us — whether it’s Saddam Hussein or Manuel Noriega or Slobodan Milosevic — we’re not comfortable. They remind us that we’re still reptilian. … So
I don’t think the West is capable of a large conventional ground war and defeating the enemy in a way we saw in the past.”
He defended Trump’s harsh words toward North Korea. “I hate to say it, but I think lunacy is always an advantage in nuclear poker,” said Hanson, who has written a 720-page book about World War II that comes out today. “I can’t think of a single war in history that was triggered by a too-provocative word. … Most wars break out because of existential differences. To the degree that they start earlier than they might have, it’s usually because of the opposite: that there’s not a word that reflects deterrence.”
-- Against this backdrop, the saber-rattling continues from both sides:
North Korea’s deputy U.N. ambassador warned yesterday that the situation on the Korean Peninsula “has reached the touch-and-go point and a nuclear war may break out any moment.” Kim In Ryong told the U.N. General Assembly’s disarmament committee that his country’s nuclear and missile arsenal is “a precious strategic asset that cannot be reversed or bartered for anything.”
“The entire U.S. mainland is within our firing range and if the U.S. dares to invade our sacred territory even an inch it will not escape our severe punishment in any part of the globe,” Kim said, per the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, South Korean and U.S. troops began five days of naval drills overnight that will involve 40 ships, including the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier. South Korea’s navy says the drills will include live-fire exercises and anti-submarine training. As a show of force, the Pentagon sent two F-22s and two F-35s for an air show in Seoul today. Last week, the United States flew two B-1B supersonic bombers from its air base in Guam to South Korea.
A SPEECH FOR THE AGES:
-- John McCain delivered a stinging rebuttal of Trumpism and a clarion call for American leadership as he accepted the Liberty Medal in Philadelphia last night. Battling brain cancer, the war hero and Arizona senator became emotional as he relayed some of the wisdom he’s accumulated during more than half a century of public service. Speaking at the National Constitution Center, with Independence Hall in his line of sight, the 2008 Republican nominee for president declared:
“The international order we helped build from the ashes of world war, and that we defend to this day, has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. …
To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’
for the sake of some
half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems
is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.
“We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did.
We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”
“The award was presented by Joe Biden, the former vice president who served 22 years in the Senate with McCain,” Paul Kane reports. “Biden paid tribute to McCain’s commitment as a captured Navy pilot refusing early release from his Vietnamese captors, to his bipartisan work in the Senate. Biden ended on a deeply personal note discussing his late son Beau’s admiration for McCain when Beau Biden went to Iraq on a tour of duty with the Army as a judge advocate general in 2008. Beau Biden died of glioblastoma in 2015, the same form of brain cancer that McCain was diagnosed with in July.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
Harvey Weinstein arrives at the Oscars in 2015. (Vince Bucci/Invision/AP)
-- A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that a solid majority of Americans now consider sexual harassment in the workplace to be a “serious problem.” Caitlin Gibson and Emily Guskin report: “In a 2011 Post-ABC poll, 47 percent of Americans said they felt that sexual harassment in the workplace was a serious problem. That number has now risen to 64 percent. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say men who sexually harass female coworkers usually get away with it. The new poll was conducted in the days after a sexual abuse controversy surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein made national headlines. … One-third of women say that they had experienced sexual advances from male coworkers or a man who had influence over their job, and one-third of this group of women say their male coworker’s behavior constituted sexual abuse. The trend shows little sign of fading with younger generations[.]”
-- A Taliban attack on a police compound south of Kabul killed at least 15, including the local police chief. Antonio Olivo and Sayed Salahuddin report: “The commando-style raid in Gardez, about 80 miles south of Kabul, also injured about 100 people after two car bombs exploded outside a facility that serves as a command center for local police and a main training site for police recruits. It was the latest in a surge of Taliban attacks that included a suicide bombing last month that killed five people near a Shiite mosque in Kabul.”
Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees celebrates while rounding the bases after hitting a 3-run home run against the Houston Astros during Game Three of the ALCS. (Elsa/Getty Images)
-- The Yankees routed the Astros 8-1, but they still trail in the ALCS 2-1. They will play again in New York tonight, while Game 3 of the NLCS will take place in Chicago between the Cubs and the Dodgers. (Dave Sheinin)
GET SMART FAST:
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who vanished from his combat outpost in Afghanistan in 2009 before being captured by the Taliban — and later recovered in a controversial prisoner swap — pleaded guilty on Monday to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. He is expected to be sentenced Oct. 23. (Dan Lamothe)
California firefighters have made significant progress in containing the past week’s wildfires, but certain areas remain at high risk of burning as the death toll from the fires rose to 41. (Scott Wilson)
The Supreme Court has accepted a second major digital privacy case, agreeing to hear a dispute between Microsoft and the federal government involving email storage overseas. The move comes just one month before justices are slated to hear a case involving prosecutors’ access to data stored in cellphone tower records. (Robert Barnes)
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) declared a state of emergency in advance of a planned speech by alt-right leader Richard Spencer, allowing the governor to activate the Florida National Guard in the event of any violence. University officials said they have done “extensive planning” for the event and intend to spend $500,000 on security. (Lori Rozsa and Susan Svrluga)
Former governor Phil Bredesen (D-Tenn.) confirmed he is considering a Senate bid to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). “In the days ahead, I’m going to do some research, talk with people and carefully think this through,” he said Monday. “I’ll make a decision quickly.” (AP)
A journalist who led the Panama Papers investigation that exposed corruption in Malta — and earned a reputation as a “one-woman WikiLeaks” for her reporting —
was killed Monday in a car bomb explosion. Malta’s prime minister condemned her death as a “barbaric attack” and said he had asked police to reach out to foreign security services to aid in the investigation. (The Guardian)
When Joshua Boyle’s Taliban-linked captors told him that Donald Trump had been elected president, he thought it was a joke. Boyle, who received limited information about the outside world while being held captive for five years in Afghanistan, said, “It didn’t enter my mind that he was being serious.” (Newsweek)
A truck driver could face life in prison after he pleaded guilty to a botched human-smuggling operation that resulted in the deaths of 10 undocumented immigrants. He was arrested in July after police found 39 people crammed into a tractor-trailer outside a Walmart in San Antonio. (Mary Hui)
For the first time, scientists have used gravitational wave detectors and telescopes to witness a “kilonova,” or the collision of two collapsed stars. Detecting the cosmic phenomenon involved thousands of researchers, 70 laboratories, and telescopes on every continent — and heralds an exciting new era in astrophysics. (Sarah Kaplan and Ben Guarino)
Passengers have accused an AirAsia crew of setting off panic after they reacted hysterically to a technical issue midflight. As the plane rapidly descended, flight attendants reportedly began screaming “emergency, emergency!” while others broke into tears. (Eli Rosenberg)
-- Trump and Mitch McConnell appeared together at a news conference in the Rose Garden during a day in which the president unloaded on a variety of topics (My colleague Aaron Blake called it “Trump's dumbfounding, expansive press conference")
. Despite earlier bashing Senate Republicans in a Cabinet meeting for “not getting the job done” and saying he could understand Steve Bannon's desire to wage war on GOP senators, Trump then made nice with the Senate majority leader, saying they have a common goal in passing a tax code rewrite and getting rid of Obamacare (eventually). (Amber Phillips has more on some of the pair's “kumbaya claims” in the context of their recent feuding).
“In one breath, Trump praised his former White House chief strategist [Bannon] . . . In another, he signaled that he might persuade him to back down,” reports Sean Sullivan.
“'I like Steve a lot. Steve is doing what Steve thinks is the right thing,' Trump said while standing next to McConnell . . . 'Some of the people that he may be looking at, I’m going to see if we talk him out of that, because, frankly, they’re great people.'
Trump said following a lunch with the GOP leader that the two men are “closer than ever before” while McConnell “sidestepped” the question of Bannon's role in the 2018 midterms, saying his goal was to maintain the majority and “to nominate people who can actually win, because winners make policy and losers go home.”
But the president didn't stop there. He made several other controversial remarks, including:
He claimed that Obama and his other predecessors didn’t always call the families of fallen soldiers: “[I]f you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls, a lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it. … But in addition I actually wrote letters individually to the soldiers we’re talking about and they’re going to be going out either today or tomorrow.”
Multiple Obama officials refuted Trump’s account, calling the claim — among other things — “a f---ing lie.” Trump quickly backtracked his comment, adding, “President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals.” (Philip Bump)
He dismissed sexual harassment claims against him as “fake news”:“All I can say is it's totally fake news. It's just fake. It's fake. It's made-up stuff, and it's disgraceful, what happens, but that happens in the — that happens in the world of politics.” (Anne Gearan)
He blamed Cuba for the sonic attacks on American diplomats in Havana (something his State Department has not done): “I think Cuba knew about it. I do believe Cuba is responsible, yes.” He didn’t clarify whether he believes that Raúl Castro’s regime itself perpetrated the attacks. (David Nakamura)
He pleaded with Hillary Clinton to run for president again: “Oh, I hope Hillary runs. Is she going to run? I hope. Hillary, please run again!” He added that Clinton’s defense of NFL players’ right to kneel during the national anthem epitomized why she lost the presidential election. (Anne Gearan)
-- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) seemed to take sides (against his GOP colleagues in the Senate) at an Indiana GOP dinner last night, complaining about gridlock on the Hill. “But if you're not strong enough to say you're going to repeal Obamacare and then vote that way, you don't deserve to stay in the office” McCarthy said “he meets often with President Donald Trump and admires him. ‘Yeah, he's a disrupter. That's exactly what we need.’”
-- Bannon’s war continues: He’s set to appear at an event today with Kelli Ward(R) , the challenger to Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), which is being headlined by Laura Ingraham.
AND THE REAL ENEMY IS . . .:
New Post national political reporter Michael Scherer has a fresh piece out this morning illustrating Trump's tactic of picking consecutive foils like Clinton against which he pits himself. “Most days bring another round, often at dawn, like plot points a 24-7 miniseries. In just the last few weeks, Trump has started, without any clear provocation, fights with football players who kneel before the national anthem, departments stores who declare 'happy holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas,' and late-night television hosts for their 'unfunny' and repetitive material.
Then there are the individual targets: Clinton, of course, but also “Liddle” Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, North Korea's "Little Rocketman” Kim Jong Un, ESPN anchor Jemele Hill, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, and a shifting array of reporters, newspapers and networks, whom he calls the 'fake news.'”
President Trump speaks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (AND WOMEN):
-- Trump addressed the nation’s opioid crisis on Monday, telling reporters he will “be looking into” his nominee for drug czar following revelations that Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) helped guide legislation that hobbled the DEA. Ed O'Keefe, Scott Higham and Lenny Bernstein report: “Trump defended Marino as ‘a very early supporter of mine’ and ‘a great guy.’ He said that he had seen the reporting in question and that the White House would review the information. [Trump] also said he had not yet spoken with Marino about the … report, but if he determines that Marino’s work was detrimental to the administration’s goal of combating opioid addiction, ‘I will make a change.’”
Trump also told reporters he will [finally] declare the opioid epidemic as a national emergency next week. “[Such a] declaration could allow the administration to remove some bureaucratic barriers and waive some federal rules governing how states and localities respond to the drug epidemic,” our colleagues write. “One such rule restricts where Medicaid recipients can receive addiction treatment.”
-- Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who is running for Senate and co-sponsored the measure caught flak from her campaign foe. Elise Viebeck reports: “James Mackler, the Senate race’s Democratic front-runner, criticized Blackburn over her involvement in a bill that undercut the DEA as opioid deaths were on the rise in Tennessee. … ‘That Congresswoman Blackburn would champion legislation like this while Tennesseans face an opioid epidemic is all one needs to know about her priorities,’ he said.”
-- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross faced scrutiny over revelations that he moved more than $2 billion in assets over to trusts for family members in the months leading up to Trump’s inauguration. Forbes’s Dan Alexander reports: “Ross revealed the existence of those assets, and the timing of the transfer, when Forbes asked why his financial disclosure form listed fewer assets than he had previously told the magazine he owned.
The hidden assets raise questions about whether the Secretary of Commerce violated federal rules and whether his family owns billions in holdings that could create the appearance of conflicts of interest. … Ross says he followed all rules. But how someone could apparently hold $2 billion in assets, without producing big income that would show up on a financial disclosure report, raises more questions than answers.”
-- Mark Esper, Trump’s nominee to become secretary of the Navy and the top lobbyist for Raytheon, has given roughly half a million dollars through the company’s PAC to the Senate committee members that will determine his confirmation. Boston Globe’s Christopher Rowland reports: “The $473,000 to committee members . . . is just one slice of more than $11 million in Raytheon PAC contributions Esper has orchestrated to incumbents and various candidates for federal office. The contributions inject questions of political influence and conflict of interest into the debate over his nomination, and they lie at the core of concerns voiced by Senator Elizabeth Warren and watchdog groups about Esper’s nomination.”
-- The White House waved off a bipartisan congressional request for information on staffers’ use of private email accounts. Politico’s Kyle Cheney reports: “In a terse letter to Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) — leaders of the House oversight committee — [Trump's] congressional liaison Marc Short declined to indicate whether any administration officials had used personal email accounts or messaging services, despite reports suggesting such communications were common in the West Wing.”
-- The Senate confirmed Callista Gingrich as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican in a 70 to 23 vote Monday, with roughly two dozen Democratic senators voting in her favor. (Politico)
Mike Pence arrives at the Republican National Convention. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
-- MIKE PENCE IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Jane Mayer takes a deep, deep look a the second-in-command in this week's New Yorker: “Pence, who has dutifully stood by the President, [and who musters] a devotional gaze rarely seen since the days of Nancy Reagan, serves as a daily reminder that the Constitution offers an alternative to Trump. The worse the President looks, the more desirable his understudy seems. … 'The President considers him one of his best decisions,' [said] Tony Fabrizio, a pollster for Trump, told me. Even so, they are almost comically mismatched. 'You end up with an odd pair of throwbacks from fifties casting,' [Bannon] joked, comparing them to Dean Martin, the bad boy of the Rat Pack, and 'the dad on ‘Leave It to Beaver.’”
This particular anecdote has drawn the ire of LGBT activists: “
A staff member from Trump’s campaign recalls him mocking Pence’s religiosity. He said that, when people met with Trump after stopping by Pence’s office, Trump would ask them, ‘Did Mike make you pray?’ Two sources also recalled Trump needling Pence about his views on abortion and homosexuality. During a meeting with a legal scholar, Trump belittled Pence’s determination to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legal scholar had said that, if the Supreme Court did so, many states would likely legalize abortion on their own. ‘You see?’ Trump asked Pence. ‘You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.’
When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, ‘Don’t ask that guy — he wants to hang them all!’”
THE TRUMP AGENDA:
-- Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner reportedly hosted three Senate Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.) — at their D.C. home last night to discuss overhauling the tax code. Politico’s Burgess Everett and Annie Karni report: “All three are up for reelection next year in states where [the president] is popular. Heitkamp, Manchin and Joe Donnelly of Indiana are the Senate Democratic votes viewed as most gettable on a tax bill by the administration[.] …
GOP Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and several other Republican senators [were] also expected to attend.”
-- Trump is expected to meet tomorrow with Senate Finance’s Republicans and Democrats in a continued bid to win Democratic support for his tax plan. Damian Paletta and Ed O'Keefe report: “Some White House officials believe Democrats — even centrists up for reelection in conservative states next year — can’t be counted on. But others believe the support from even one or two could make the difference between failure and success. Trump on Monday said it was possible that ‘three or four’ Democrats might end up supporting the tax cut plan, but he also said it’s possible every Senate Democrat votes in opposition. …
Senate Democratic aides said it remains unclear how much the White House wants to negotiate, complaining that they so far remain cut out of discussions as House and Senate GOP leaders draft legislation.”
-- The Trump administration is preventing an undocumented, pregnant teenager detained in a Texas refugee shelter from getting an abortion. Politico’s Renuka Rayasam reports. “
For the last seven months, [HHS] has intervened to prevent abortions sought by girls at federally funded shelters, even in cases of rape and incest and when the teen had a way to pay for the procedure. … The agency has instead forced minors to visit crisis pregnancy centers, religiously affiliated groups that counsel women against having abortions … [and] in some cases, a senior HHS official has personally visited or called pregnant teens to try to talk them out of ending their pregnancies.
“The ACLU estimates that several hundred pregnant minors are currently in federal shelters throughout the country. Most are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and immigration experts believe many are victims of rape and sexual violence, either in their home countries or during the perilous journey here.”
-- Prototypes for a potential border wall are underway, but many Mexican citizens are highly skeptical. Joshua Partlow writes: “Even these big warning slabs of concrete, the teeming construction site, and police and helicopters patrolling both sides of the border weren’t enough to stop a half-dozen would-be migrants from hopping the existing fence this month and landing smack in the middle of the project, according to U.S. border officials. Maybe the fence-hoppers were unlucky, or had chosen an ill-advised hide-in-plain-sight strategy, but either way, their experience is suggestive of how many Mexicans feel about Trump’s wall:
No matter how it’s built, it’s not going to work.”
-- Trump traveled to a Greenville, S.C., golf resort Monday to fundraise for Gov. Henry McMaster (R), stepping back onto the campaign trail for the first time since Alabama’s special election. John Wagner reports: “As was the case in Alabama last month, Trump’s trip South to support an establishment candidate was driven partly by loyalty: During Trump’s presidential campaign,
[McMaster] — then the lieutenant governor — was the first statewide elected official in the country to throw his support behind [Trump] . . . Now … Trump’s decision to get involved in the South Carolina race underscores the difficult political calculus for the White House on how to deploy the president. Governor’s races in two states — New Jersey and Virginia — will be decided next month, and Trump has not yet set foot in either place to stump for his party’s nominee …”
-- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced yesterday a limit on the agency’s ability to reach legal settlements with outside groups suing for regulatory reform. Juliet Eilperin reports: “Ending the practice known as ‘sue and settle’ has long been a top priority for conservatives and business groups. In recent years, especially under the Obama administration, the EPA and other agencies resolved litigation over delays in issuing rules by agreeing to specific timelines to act and reimbursing plaintiffs’ attorney fees. In a news briefing, Pruitt said he was taking action to ensure that consent decrees ‘are not used in an abusive fashion to subvert due process’ and to exclude the public from weighing in. … Pruitt said his action will not bar the EPA from reaching settlements with outside litigants but that he wanted to block any agreements ‘changing a discretionary duty to a nondiscretionary duty.’”
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) speaks to supporters in Jackson, Miss. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)
ON CAPITOL HILL:
-- Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) did not make his expected return to D.C. yesterday, which could cost Republicans a critical vote in upcoming budget battles. Damian Paletta and Sean Sullivan report: “[Cochran’s] office said Monday that he had developed a urinary tract infection and has again delayed his return. … No timetable was given. The Senate plans to vote this week on a budget resolution that would pave the way for a sweeping tax cut plan, and they need a majority of the Senate to support the plan for it to proceed to the next step. …
[L]osing Cochran’s vote means they can afford to lose the support of only one other GOP member if they still want to pass the budget resolution[.]”
-- Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told CNN that he stands by his negative comments about the president:
“My thoughts were well thought out,” Corker said. He added, “Look I've been expressing concerns for some time and it's built over time.”
-- The judge in Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption trial denied a request from his defense team to dismiss all 18 counts against the New Jersey Democrat. Politico’s Matt Friedman reports: “The judge had signaled before court broke last Wednesday that he was sympathetic to the defense’s argument that would have gutted most of those counts — the ‘stream of benefits’ theory, in which a public official's actions can be defined as bribery if those actions can be linked to gifts received over a lengthy period. … The defense argued that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2016 decision overturning the corruption conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell invalidated the ‘stream of benefits’ theory. Walls didn’t agree. … He said higher courts in recent cases have continued to rely on the stream of benefits theory.”
-- The chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee said that Trump told him to work on an Obamacare deal with the Democrats. Politico’s Jennifer Haberkorn reports: “[Sen. Lamar] Alexander said Trump told him by phone Oct. 14 he’d like to see a bill that funds the Obamacare cost-sharing subsidies that he abruptly cut off last week. In return, he wants to see ‘meaningful flexibility for the states in providing more choices,’ Alexander (R-Tenn.) said. ‘He said he wanted to make sure that in this interim period while we’re still arguing about the long-term direction of health care, that people aren’t hurt — those were his words,’ Alexander said of Trump.”
-- Democratics Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.) and Tim Kaine (Va.) are proposing legislation that would create a “public option” for non-elderly workers. Paul Kane reports: “The proposal … is politically significant because it tries to build on the existing law rather than the tear-it-all-down proposal of a national health-care system that is being offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).”
-- The campaign of GOP Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore blamed Democrats for the thousands of seemingly fake Twitter followers he gained over the weekend. David Weigel reports: “[M]ultiple Twitter users noticed that Moore’s account had nearly doubled its follower count, from slightly more than 26,000 to more than 47,000, in less than a week.
At least 1,100 of the new followers had Russian names and Twitter bios, often consisting of pure gibberish such as ‘Master of Plastic Shackles’ and ‘to be a little girl' . . . By early Monday afternoon, 6,000 of the new followers had been purged, with the campaign telling the Advertiser that it had asked Twitter for help. Shortly thereafter, the campaign issued a statement asking if Democrats had been behind the bot surge.”
-- Meanwhile, Moore’s opponent, Democrat Doug Jones, announced yesterday that his campaign had raised $1.3 million last quarter. (HuffPost)
A tank belonging to Iraqi army is seen in Dibis area on the outskirts of Kirkuk. (Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters)
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Trump said Monday that the United States is “not taking sides” after Iraqi forces retook the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk on Sunday, adding the U.S. had a “very good relationship” with the central government and with Kurds. Loveday Morris and Karen DeYoung report: “[But] after Trump spoke, the Kurdistan government’s representative in Washington, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, called the U.S. position ‘bewildering,’ and she echoed Irbil’s charges that Iran was already benefiting from the upheaval. ‘How can you not take sides?’ Rahman said. “This is Iranian-backed militia, using American weapons, to attack an ally of the United States. I’m bewildered by the U.S. government position … trying to downplay what’s been happening in Kirkuk.’ She and her government are particularly disappointed, she said, ‘in light of what the administration has been saying since Thursday,’ when Trump announced new sanctions on the Revolutionary Guard and described 'Iran’s role as a destabilizer in the Middle East.’”
-- The conflict in Kirkuk could be the first of many that foreign policy experts warned would occur as ISIS loses power in the region, Adam Taylor writes.
-- The Pentagon said that dozens of ISIS fighters were killed by U.S. airstrikes on training camps in Yemen. Alex Horton reports.
-- The recent attack on Somalia’s capital underscores the resilience of the Islamist militant group al-Shabab. Alex Horton and Carol Morello report: “The group frequently targets public spaces in Somalia’s capital with the goals of undermining the central government’s legitimacy and pushing back against its cooperation with the United States and a coalition of African allies. While U.S. officials and other observers say Saturday’s bombing does not necessarily signal al-Shabab’s resurgence, it does highlight the group’s ability to absorb setbacks and survive to execute brazen attacks.”
MORE WEINSTEIN FALLOUT:
-- Actress Alyssa Milano’s suggestion that women use the hashtag #MeToo to share experiences of sexual harassment or assault spurred hundreds of thousands of responses. Samantha Schmidt reports: “Milano took to Twitter on Sunday with [the] idea, suggested by a friend, she said. … Within hours, tweets with the words ‘me too’ began appearing in droves. By 4 a.m. Monday, more than 200,000 #metoo tweets were published by Twitter’s count. The stories came pouring forth on Facebook as well with nearly 80,000 people said to be ‘talking about this’ by the wee hours Monday. … The #MeToo Twitter campaign was at least the second of its kind since decades of sexual abuse allegations emerged against film producer Harvey Weinstein.”
-- A1 of today’s New York Times: “Harvey Weinstein’s Fall Opens the Floodgates in Hollywood,” by Jim Rutenberg, Rachel Abrams and Melena Ryzik: “[T]he outcry accompanying Mr. Weinstein’s downfall seems louder and more impassioned — perhaps because Mr. Weinstein’s accusers include stars like Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow. ‘I think this is a watershed moment,’ said the producer Gail Berman, who had top jobs at Paramount Pictures and the Fox network. …
At issue now is whether or not Hollywood can continue its old way of doing business, with self-styled ‘outlaw’ executives and auteurs getting away with sexual misconduct as lawyers and publicists protect them.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump went after Democrats on overhauling the tax code and the Iran deal:
The Democrats only want to increase taxes and obstruct. That's all they are good at!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2017
Dem Senator Schumer hated the Iran deal made by President Obama, but now that I am involved, he is OK with it. Tell that to Israel, Chuck!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2017
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) led the charge against Trump’s nominee to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy following a Post investigation:
A Washington Examiner reporter pointed out this moment between Trump and McConnell:
Closer than ever before pic.twitter.com/yLoeLn5cyr— Gabby Morrongiello (@gabriellahope_) October 16, 2017
A senior writer at the National Review refuted Trump’s claim that not all presidents made calls to the families of fallen soldiers:
This is absolutely false. https://t.co/hnxKoUjvF6— David French (@DavidAFrench) October 16, 2017
Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey gave this retort:
POTUS 43 & 44 and first ladies cared deeply, worked tirelessly for the serving, the fallen, and their families. Not politics. Sacred Trust.— GEN(R) Marty Dempsey (@Martin_Dempsey) October 17, 2017
Former Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer attacked Trump directly for the assertion:
Trump is a deeply disturbed ignoramus who is a pathological liar, but Mitch McConnell is cool with it cuz tax cuts or something https://t.co/8GwjnD3t9b— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) October 16, 2017
Obama’s official photographer offered this not-so-subtle commentary:
The President and First Lady console Paul and Janet, parents of Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Monti, who had just been awarded posthumously with the Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan. This was the first of 52 Medals of Honor, the nation’s highest award for military valor, that President Obama bestowed during his two terms. I also photographed him meeting with hundreds of wounded soldiers, and family members of those killed in action.
A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on
From the former attorney general:
Stop the damn lying - you’re the President. I went to Dover AFB with 44 and saw him comfort the families of both the fallen military & DEA. pic.twitter.com/HhE4KbTBkJ— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) October 17, 2017
Vox’s Dylan Matthews recalled this story:
Obama visited wounded troops at Walter Reed so often that hawks worried it was making him too anti-war https://t.co/9kDo2Xbcdd— Foppish Vox Hipster (@dylanmatt) October 16, 2017
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined the #MeToo conversation to speak out against sexual harassment and assault:
We will never end the harassment and abuse of women, especially in the workplace, unless we speak out and stand together. #MeToo— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) October 16, 2017
This line from the Liberty Medal speech by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) brought a standing ovation:
The speech earned praised from Barack Obama:
I'm grateful to @SenJohnMcCain for his lifetime of service to our country. Congratulations, John, on receiving this year's Liberty Medal.— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 16, 2017
The feminist author Jessica Valenti expressed horror at this anecdote from the New Yorker’s Pence profile:
The abortion rights group NARAL responded to Trump’s claim that sexual assault allegations against him are “fake news”:
He literally bragged about commiting sexual assault ON TAPE. https://t.co/7bOEo71ka9— NARAL (@NARAL) October 16, 2017
CNN’s Jake Tapper marked this historic moment:
On this day in 1968: pic.twitter.com/tr9zjWB0Vq— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) October 16, 2017
Bill Clinton offered his thoughts to those affected by the California wildfires:
Our hearts are with our friends in California, who have lost so many and so much in the devastating fires.— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) October 16, 2017
The Trump Organization gave its thanks to Don Jr. and Eric Trump on National Boss Day:
The "thanks" actually goes the other way! We are so fortunate to have such an incredible team. We appreciate you all so much! 🥇🤛 https://t.co/H116dwOkfn— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) October 16, 2017
And horror author Stephen King provided this valuable reminder:
Remember not to tweet after midnight. It turns you into a gremlin.— Stephen King (@StephenKing) October 17, 2017
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- New York Times, “Deep in Trump Country, a Big Stake in Health Care,” by Patricia Cohen: “Marjorie Swanson was the first in the family to get a job at Baxter Regional Medical Center after moving to this rural Ozark town from [in 1995]. A year later, her husband was hired by the maintenance department. Six months ago, their daughter snagged a job as a pharmacy technician and shares the night shift with her fiancé, who works in housekeeping … ‘Without our hospital, I’d probably be working at McDonald’s,’ said Ms. Green[.] Health care has long been an economic bedrock in Baxter County, with a population of 41,000. But its significance has grown since the Affordable Care Act passed. The health sector accounts for one in nine jobs nationwide, but one in four here — roughly equal to the share employed by the county’s manufacturers and retailers combined.
“Losing that Medicaid money now might not put Baxter Regional out of business, but it could compel the independent, nonprofit hospital to merge with a larger system and cut back its services and work force
. And that could be as devastating as slashing jobs at a steel plant in a factory town.”
-- Foreign Policy, “Here’s the Memo the Kremlin-Linked Lawyer Took to the Meeting With Donald Trump Jr.,” by Elias Groll: “Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya arrived at a June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. armed with a set of talking points arguing American officials were hoodwinked into slapping human rights sanctions on Russia in 2012 and that efforts to expand those measures would hurt relations between Washington and Moscow.”
-- Esquire, “The secretive family making billions from the opioid crisis,” by Christopher Glazek: “You’re aware America is under siege, fighting an opioid crisis that has exploded into a public-health emergency. You’ve heard of OxyContin, the pain medication to which countless patients have become addicted. But do you know that the company that makes Oxy and reaps the billions of dollars in profits it generates is owned by one family?”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“GOP Congressional Candidate Says She Was Abducted By Jesus-Like Aliens,” from >HuffPost: “A Republican congressional candidate from Florida has made some out-of-this-world claims. Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, one of nearly a dozen candidates hoping to win the U.S. House seat currently held by retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, claims she was abducted by aliens who reminded her of Jesus Christ, according to newly resurfaced interviews. ‘I went in. There were some round seats that were there, and some quartz rocks that controlled the ship ― not like airplanes,’ Rodriguez Aguilera said … In the interviews, Rodriguez Aguilera claims she was taken at the age of 7 by three tall, blond space people who have communicated with her telepathically at times since. She said the aliens reminded her of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Toronto School District to Remove ‘Chief’ from Job Titles because It’s a Microaggression,” from
“Toronto School District to Remove ‘Chief’ from Job Titles because It’s a Microaggression,” from>National Review: “The Toronto District School Board has announced that it will remove ‘chief’ from all job titles out of concern that the word is a microaggression against indigenous peoples. ‘[‘Chief’] may not have originated as an Indigenous word, but the fact is that it is used as a slur in some cases, or in a negative way to describe Indigenous people,' school spokesman Ryan Bird said … ‘With that in mind, as it has become a slur in some cases, that’s the decision the administration has made to be proactive on that.’”
Trump has a morning meeting with Jim Mattis followed by a working lunch and joint news conference with Greece’s prime minister. He will also participate in a Diwali ceremony and give a speech at the Heritage Foundation’s President’s Club Meeting.
Pence is in Buffalo today to attend a political reception alongside the ethically embattled Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) and discuss overhauling the tax code.
And on Nov. 7,
The Post’s podcast “Can He Do That?” will host a live taping at the Warner Theatre. Political reporters Bob Woodward, David Fahrenthold and Karen Tumulty will join host Allison Michaels to discuss Trump’s first year in office.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Gregg Popovich, coach of the San Antonio Spurs, spoke with T>he Nation’s Dave Zirin after Trump claimed that Obama had not called the families of fallen soldiers: “This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner — and to lie about how previous presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers — is as low as it gets.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- The D.C. will have a cool morning and lots of sun today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “While frost is reserved for the far north and west suburbs, we all get a brisk start to the day. Fortunately, winds are calm and the sun is bright. A cloud or two may pop up in the afternoon, with highs mainly in the lower 60s.”
(The Capital Weather Gang also declared the official arrival of fall yesterday.)
-- D.C. is pitching four possible neighborhoods to house Amazon’s second headquarters. Jonathan O'Connell reports: “One proposal incorporates properties on both sides of the Anacostia River. Much of the land is around Nationals Park and the new D.C. United stadium, set to open next year, along with some property across the river in Anacostia. … Another proposal would incorporate parcels behind Union Station, in NoMa and the area around Union Market. … Two other proposals may require further shoehorning. The third location envisions putting 8 million square feet completely on Hill East, land the District owns south of RFK Stadium along the Anacostia. … A final proposal envisions developing a handful of currently occupied sites in the U Street and Shaw neighborhoods alongside Howard University.”
-- Virginia state Sen. Jennifer T. Wexton outraised her rivals last quarter for the Democratic nomination to face off against incumbent GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock. (Jenna Portnoy)
-- The attack ads in Virginia’s attorney general race are getting increasingly heated, as incumbent Democrat Mark Herring and Republican John Adams prepare for their final debate on Friday. (Patricia Sullivan)
-- The $500 million Museum of the Bible, opening just south of the Mall next month, includes surprisingly few direct references to literal interpretations of the Bible or even of Jesus. (Michelle Boorstein, Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
"The Daily Show” launched a #FreeMcConnell campaign:
The Post fact-checked two attack ads in Virginia's gubernatorial race:
The pope criticized countries for leaving the Paris climate deal:
An explosion occurred in a Louisiana oil rig:
The Duchess of Cambridge waltzed with Paddington Bear:
The Post eulogized AOL Instant Messenger — and looked back on some unfortunate screen names: