With Mariana Alfaro
THE BIG IDEA: Revenge is a dish best served funny.
That seems to be Jim Mattis’s view.
“I earned my spurs on the battlefield,” he said at a charity gala in New York on Thursday night. “Donald Trump earned his spurs in a letter from a doctor.”
Ten months after Mattis resigned in protest, Trump described his former secretary of defense as “the world’s most overrated general” and “not tough enough” during a meeting with congressional leaders on Wednesday afternoon.
In a speech disguised as self-deprecating comedy at the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, the retired four-star Marine general made light of this. “I’m not just an overrated general. I am the greatest, the world’s most overrated,” he quipped. “I’m honored to be considered that by Donald Trump because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress. So I guess I’m the Meryl Streep of generals. And, frankly, that sounds pretty good to me. … You do have to admit: Between me and Meryl, at least we’ve had some victories.”
— During a raucous rally in Dallas that took place simultaneously, Trump said it was actually wise for him to allow Turkish forces to invade and attack the Kurds. The president celebrated the temporary cease-fire in Syria that his envoys negotiated earlier in the day, which has reportedly not held into Friday. “Sometimes you have to let them fight a little while,” he said. “Like two kids in a lot, you’ve got to let them fight and then you pull them apart. … Without a little tough love — you know what tough love is, right? — they would’ve never made this deal.” Trump boasted that “not one drop of American blood” has been shed. “He received some of his loudest applause when he vowed to stop ‘endless wars’ and vowed to ‘bring our soldiers back home,’” Philip Rucker and Jenna Johnson report from the packed arena.
— Bill McRaven, a retired four-star admiral, is less oblique than Mattis about Trump. He wrote an op-ed for today’s New York Times with the headline: “Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President.” The former Navy SEAL and Special Operations commander who oversaw the killing of Osama bin Laden and the capture of Saddam Hussein recalls attending a change of command ceremony last week at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Another retired four-star general grabbed him by the arm, shook him and shouted, “I don’t like the Democrats, but Trump is destroying the Republic!”
McRaven agreed. “Those words echoed with me throughout the week,” he wrote. “We are not the most powerful nation in the world because of our aircraft carriers, our economy, or our seat at the United Nations Security Council. We are the most powerful nation in the world because we try to be the good guys. … But, if we don’t care about our values, if we don’t care about duty and honor, if we don’t help the weak and stand up against oppression and injustice — what will happen to the Kurds, the Iraqis, the Afghans, the Syrians, the Rohingyas, the South Sudanese and the millions of people under the boot of tyranny or left abandoned by their failing states?”
— Mattis and McRaven are the latest in a string of retired four-star military officers to speak out against Trump in just the past week:
“There is blood on Trump’s hands for abandoning our Kurdish allies,” retired four-star Marine general John Allen said Sunday. The former commander of American forces in Afghanistan and the former special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS under Barack Obama told CNN that the unfolding crisis in Syria was “completely foreseeable” after Trump “greenlighted it.” The White House denies that Trump did so. “This is what happens when Trump follows his instincts and because of his alignment with autocrats,” said Allen, who opposed Trump during the 2016 campaign. “I said there would be blood but could not have imagined this outcome.”
Trump’s decision to withdraw “could not come at a worse time,” said Joseph Votel, a retired four-star Army general who headed Central Command’s military operations in Syria until last spring. “The decision was made without consulting U.S. allies or senior U.S. military leadership and threatens to affect future partnerships at precisely the time we need them most, given the war-weariness of the American public coupled with ever more sophisticated enemies determined to come after us,” Votel wrote in a piece for the Atlantic last week with Elizabeth Dent, who worked on anti-ISIS efforts at the State Department from 2014 to 2019. “It didn’t have to be this way. The U.S. worked endlessly to placate our Turkish allies … Yet Ankara repeatedly reneged on its agreements with the U.S.”
Votel recalled first meeting Kurdish commander Mazloum Abdi on the ground in May 2016: “From the start, it was obvious he was not only an impressive and thoughtful man, but a fighter who was clearly thinking about the strategic aspects of the campaign against ISIS and aware of the challenges of fighting a formidable enemy. He could see the long-term perils from the civil war, but recognized that the most immediate threat to his people was ISIS. After a fitful start in Syria, I concluded that we had finally found the right partner who could help us defeat ISIS without getting drawn into the murkier conflict against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.”
— Trump populated his inner circle with generals when he took office. He said they looked the part and came “out of central casting.” They’re all gone now: Michael Flynn, H.R. McMaster, John Kelly, Mattis. Others who were never onboard with Trump have drawn the president’s ire. Last November, Trump lashed out at McRaven when “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace asked about his comment that Trump referring to the free press as “the enemy of the people” is the greatest threat to democracy. Rather than respond to the substance of this critique, Trump called McRaven a “Hillary Clinton fan” and an “Obama backer.” Then he said the four-star admiral should have caught bin Laden earlier.
— Mattis closed his speech with a serious tone as he praised America’s “Kurdish allies” and quoted Abraham Lincoln about the danger of “corrosion from within.” The 69-year-old lamented the “national paralysis” that has “supplanted trust and empathy with suspicion and contempt.”
“We have scorched our opponents with language that precludes compromise and we have brushed aside the possibility that the person with whom we disagree might actually sometimes be right,” he said. “We owe a debt to all who fought for liberty, including those who tonight serve in the far corners of our planet, among them the American men and women supporting our Kurdish allies.”
— Mattis hinted at Trump’s testy relationship with the brass during the comedy portion of his routine in New York. “I think the only person in the military that Mr. Trump doesn’t think is overrated is Colonel Sanders,” Mattis said, an allusion to the president’s fondness for Kentucky Fried Chicken and other fast food.
It’s worth noting that Trump used his speech at the Al Smith dinner in 2016 to rip into Hillary Clinton. At the time, many in the room expressed surprise that he wasn’t very good natured about the ribbing. Notably, Mattis referred to the president as “Donald Trump” in his speech and didn’t use the honorific “President Trump” that he usually does.
— Critics are faulting Mattis for not going far enough. They say it’s wrong to trivialize his critique by making it funny. “I’m just not in the mood to find this hilarious,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) tweeted at Mattis. “You are not a TV personality,” “Tell us what you think. Tell us what you know. The Republic depends on people like you speaking clearly, quickly, forcefully. All hands on deck.”
From a professor at the U.S. Naval War College who used to be a Senate Republican staffer:
I don’t think anyone should be chuckling at Mattis’s brush off of Trump’s insult. It’s his facile way of dodging the reality that he knows a lot about what happened in this White House, including what are now obviously impeachable acts directly related to his time as SECDEF.
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) October 18, 2019
From a former National Security Agency lawyer who is now a Brookings senior fellow:
I know he’s speaking at a dinner meant for jokes, but this is just an absurd and undignified way for Mattis to make his first public critiques of the president. After indefensible silence, this will surely undercut the gravity of any future words he might have on the subject. https://t.co/BvV8iw8WYM
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) October 18, 2019
— Many of these same critics also faulted Mattis last month for not being more forthcoming in his memoir. “Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead” is not a tell-all about Trump. It’s a reflection on four decades in the Marine Corps – with references to Trump only in the first and final pages. The book is chock full, however, of implicit and illuminating contrasts between Mattis’s management style and Trump’s. The one I wrote a Big Idea about is reading. “If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren’t broad enough to sustain you,” Mattis writes. “Any commander who claims he is ‘too busy to read’ is going to fill body bags with his troops as he learns the hard way.” Trump has repeatedly said that he’s too busy to read.
“There is a period in which I owe my silence,” Mattis said in August. “It’s not eternal. It’s not going to be forever.”
— The unprecedented level of turnover in the Trump administration, combined with the acrimonious nature of many departures, has created a sizable contingent of former appointees who don’t feel that they owe Trump loyalty. It seems like a safe bet that we’ll see more on-the-record score-settling, not less, during the 12 months leading up to the 2020 election. To wit: Lisa Rein obtained an early copy of David Shulkin’s blistering new book, “It Shouldn’t Be This Hard to Serve Your Country,” an account of his tumultuous 15 months as Trump’s first Veterans Affairs secretary before he got fired via tweet. The book, which comes out Tuesday, describes how a trio of rich men who are fixtures at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club — but had no experience in the federal government — were his keepers. He says vets are paying the price as profiteers seek to privatize the system.
“The memoir describes Marvel Entertainment Chairman Ike Perlmutter, a friend of the president who brokered Shulkin’s introduction to Trump, as forming an unorthodox shadow Cabinet with two associates that called many of the shots in the agency’s day-to-day operations,” Rein reports. “After Trump’s election in 2016, Shulkin was preparing to resign as Obama’s undersecretary for veterans’ health when he received an urgent, mysterious call from Michael Cohen, the president’s now-jailed fixer. Cohen patched him through to a voice with a thick Israeli accent, who summoned him to Mar-a-Lago that night … After a grilling by Perlmutter and two associates … Shulkin was riding the elevator to the 26th floor of Trump Tower. …
“Political appointees who worked for him held secret meetings without him, often at the White House. … And the Mar-a-Lago crowd, as they came to be known in VA circles, was hovering. Perlmutter called multiple times a day seeking information and giving direction, the book says. Shulkin bristled but complied. ‘In just about every conversation I had with him … the president asked if Ike was “happy” or “helping,”’ Shulkin writes. … One of the associates, Marc Sherman, who acts as a representative for the three, did not respond to requests for comment. … The White House personnel office, which the book describes as inept and obstructionist, rejected many of his candidates for senior-level staff, instead foisting ‘like-minded partisans’ on him.”
Shulkin won’t be the last member of Trump’s Cabinet to write a tell-all. John Bolton, recently fired as national security adviser, has agents shopping a book deal.
FIRE HAS NOT CEASED:
— “Sporadic fighting continued Friday in a Syrian border town, less than 12 hours after Turkey agreed to halt its offensive against Kurdish forces,” Sarah Dadouch and Asser Khattab report from the region. “Smoke could be seen rising from the town, Ras al-Ayn, in footage broadcast by CNN early Friday. Journalists for the Associated Press reported shelling and the sound of gunfire. … A civilian near Ras al-Ayn said the bombardment continued through the night and into Friday morning. … The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces is ‘committed to the cease-fire, but the [Turkish-backed] factions and the Turkish army are targeting SDF positions, especially Ras al-Ayn hospital,’ a spokesman for the SDF said. … The U.N. refugee agency said Friday that 2,300 refugees have arrived in Iraq from Syria so far since the beginning of the offensive, with more than 700 crossing the border overnight.
“Speaking to journalists outside a mosque where he performed Friday prayers in Istanbul, [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan said Turkish forces will not be leaving the agreed-upon safe zone, which he said is 32 kilometers deep and 444 kilometers long (20 miles by 276 miles). He said he will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, the fifth and last day of the cease-fire. Erdogan added that no clashes are occurring in the area anymore, despite witness accounts to the contrary.”
Foreign Policy magazine has this troubling account: “Turkish Proxies Appear to Be Using White Phosphorus in Syria. Munitions carrying white phosphorus have allegedly caused horrific burns.”
— The Turkish government is celebrating, and top officials in Ankara believe Trump let himself get rolled: “The agreement, announced by Vice President Pence after hours of negotiations, appeared to hand Turkey’s leader most of what he sought,” Kareem Fahim, Karen DeYoung and Seung Min Kim report. “The deal delivered Erdogan concessions he had been unable to win during years of negotiations with the United States and vindicated, in some way, his decision to pursue military action instead. … Afterward, a Turkish official briefed by participants in the talks said the Turkish side was surprised and relieved at how easy the negotiations were. ‘We got everything we wanted,’ said the official, an adviser to the Foreign Ministry … The request for a temporary cease-fire seemed to be ‘face-saving, for the U.S. side,’ the official said. ‘It was as easy a negotiation as we’ve ever had,’ the official said.”
— This recalls a passage from Trump’s 1987 book “The Art of the Deal”: “The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead.”
— More coverage:
— Mitt Romney harshly criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria after his fellow Senate Republicans blocked a vote on a House-passed resolution condemning the move. “The cease-fire does not change the fact that America has abandoned an ally, adding insult to dishonor,” the 2012 Republican nominee said in a floor speech. “The administration speaks cavalierly, even flippantly, even as our ally has suffered death and casualty. Their homes have been burned and their families have been torn apart. …The decision to abandon the Kurds violates one of our most sacred duties. It strikes at American honor. What we have done to the Kurds will stand as a bloodstain in the annals of American history.”
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WHILE YOU WERE IN YOUR MORNING MEETINGS:
— A career State Department official overseeing Ukraine policy told congressional investigators this week that he had raised concerns in early 2015 about then-Vice President Joe Biden’s son serving on the board of a Ukrainian energy company but was turned away by a Biden staffer, according to three people familiar with the testimony. John Hudson, Rachael Bade and Matt Viser report: “George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, testified Tuesday that he worried that Hunter Biden’s position at the firm Burisma Holdings would complicate efforts by U.S. diplomats to convey to Ukrainian officials the importance of avoiding conflicts of interest … Kent said he had concerns that Ukrainian officials would view Hunter Biden as a conduit for currying influence with his father … But when Kent raised the issue with Biden’s office, he was told the then-vice president didn’t have the ‘bandwidth’ to deal with the issue involving his son as his other son, Beau, was battling cancer…”
THE LATEST ON IMPEACHMENT:
— Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney admitted during a news conference that Trump withheld nearly $400 million in military aid in part to pressure Ukraine to pursue an investigation that could benefit him politically — acknowledging a quid pro quo that is at the heart of an impeachment inquiry and that the president and his allies have vigorously denied for weeks. Mulvaney defended the president’s actions as commonplace and appropriate. “I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy,” Mulvaney said.
The acting chief of staff spoke as Trump’s ambassador to the European Union gave what would become a nine-hour deposition. Gordon Sondland told House investigators that the president had outsourced U.S. policy on Ukraine to Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, a decision he said he disagreed with but carried out anyway. Giuliani was pushing the Ukrainians to investigate interference in the 2016 election. “I would not have recommended that Mr. Giuliani or any private citizen be involved in these foreign policy matters,” Sondland said.
Mulvaney brushed aside the concerns expressed by Trump’s own ambassador and said there’s nothing wrong with deputizing a private attorney to conduct public diplomacy. “You may not like the fact that Giuliani was involved. That’s great; that’s fine,” Mulvaney said, responding to Sondland from the White House briefing room. “It’s not illegal. It’s not impeachable. … The president gets to set foreign policy, and he gets to choose who to do so, as long as it doesn’t violate any law.”
— “Mulvaney told reporters that Trump wanted the government in Kyiv to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory that a hacked Democratic National Committee computer server was taken to Ukraine in 2016 to hide evidence that it was that country, not Russia, that interfered in the presidential election,” Karoun Demirjian and John Hudson report. “‘Did [Trump] also mention to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server?’ he said. ‘Absolutely, no question about that. But that’s it, and that’s why we held up the money.’ Mulvaney denied that the aid was also contingent on a Ukrainian investigation of former vice president Joe Biden, or Biden’s son Hunter, another potential quid pro quo that congressional Democrats are looking into as part of the impeachment inquiry.”
“Later, after Trump’s lawyer and other Republicans distanced themselves from Mulvaney, the White House scrambled to walk back his comments, issuing an official statement blaming the media for misconstruing his words … ‘Let me be clear,’ Mulvaney’s written statement said, ‘there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election. There was never any connection between the funds and the Ukrainians doing anything with the server … There was never any condition on the flow of the aid related to the matter of the DNC server.” …
“In a sign of how potentially damaging Mulvaney’s remarks were, Jay Sekulow, another of Trump’s personal attorneys, released a statement that said: ‘The President’s legal counsel was not involved in acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s press briefing.’ … Even before Sekulow issued his statement, a Justice Department official took issue with Mulvaney’s original remarks: ‘If the White House was withholding aid in regards to the cooperation of any investigation at the Department of Justice, that is news to us.’ Mulvaney’s comments alarmed and incensed some Republicans, who have supported Trump but were unaware whether the White House was intentionally shifting its defense strategy. ‘Totally inexplicable,’ said one GOP lawmaker, speaking on the condition of anonymity to be candid. ‘He literally said the thing the president and everyone else said did not happen.’”
— Flashback to April 2018: When he was running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mulvaney confessed the following during a speech to lobbyists and executives from the banking industry: “We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress. If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.” Other presidents might make an official resign after saying publicly that lobbyists had to give campaign contributions to get access. Trump promoted him to become his top aide.
— Despite the attempted walkback, Mulvaney’s comments on the Ukraine quid pro quo could not have been clearer, says The Washington Post’s Editorial Board.
— Mulvaney also announced that Trump has decided to hold next year’s G-7 summit at his own resort in Doral, Fla. This potentially runs afoul of the emoluments clause of the Constitution because it will require foreign governments to pay money to the company that Trump owns. Even if it’s not unconstitutional, it is certainly without precedent in modern American history. Toluse Olorunnipa, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell report: “Trump’s Doral resort — set among office parks near Miami International Airport — has been in sharp decline in recent years, according to the Trump Organization’s own records. Its net operating income fell 69 percent from 2015 to 2017; a Trump Organization representative testified last year that the reason was Trump’s damaged brand. Now, the G-7 summit will draw hundreds of diplomats, journalists and security personnel to the resort during one of its slowest months of the year, when Miami is hot and the hotel is often less than 40 percent full. It will also provide a worldwide spotlight for the club.
“‘What about Doral?’ Trump asked aides earlier this year, according to [Mulvaney], who announced the move. Mulvaney said a nationwide search conducted by Trump’s administration led to the conclusion that the president was right. The administration examined 10 sites before choosing this one, according to Mulvaney … Mulvaney did not say what other sites were vetted — just that they were all worse. … Mulvaney said the White House was not going to release information about the selection process. ‘If you want to see our paper on how we did this, the answer is absolutely not,’ he said.”
“[The move] appears to signal the collapse of promises made by the president and Eric Trump, his son and the day-to-day leader of Trump’s businesses, at the start of the Trump presidency — when they pledged to create separation between the president’s private business and his new public office. ‘There are lines that we would never cross, and that’s mixing business with anything government,’ Eric Trump said in 2017. The Trump Organization on Thursday said it was ‘honored’ to have been chosen by its owner, the president, for this event. … But the company did not respond to questions about how much money it will make.”
— “Mulvaney embraced a classic Trumpian tactic: saying the quiet — and potentially illegal — part out loud,” Toluse Olorunnipa writes in a debrief. “For 39 minutes, … Mulvaney turned the press briefing room into a sort of confession chamber … A prep session held in Mulvaney’s office ahead of the news conference with White House lawyers and press staff, as well as State Department officials, focused mostly on G-7 questions, according to two officials familiar with the meeting. ‘No one expected him to go out there and say what he said,’ one of the people said with regard to his Ukraine comments.”
— Miami is grappling with rising seas and stifling heat. But climate change won’t be on the G-7 agenda, Mulvaney said. (Andrew Freedman, Josh Dawsey and Juliet Eilperin)
— In past years, other countries have picked G-7 locations in efforts to boost tourism to small towns, make a statement about the history of a locale or simply because they were isolated enough that it made them easier to secure. (Siobhán O’Grady and Miriam Berger)
— Energy Secretary Rick Perry, one of the “three amigos” put in charge of Ukraine policy by the White House, announced he will leave his job by the end of the year. From the AP: “Perry’s long-rumored departure comes as he is under scrutiny over the role he played in the president’s dealings with Ukraine, the focus of an ongoing impeachment inquiry. In a letter to Trump, Perry made no mention of Ukraine and exalted policy successes that have led to increased production and exports of oil and natural gas. … Trump said Perry ‘has done a fantastic job’ at Energy, ‘but it was time’ for him to leave. … He was traveling with Trump to Texas when he notified the president of his decision aboard Air Force One. … Trump said he already knows who will succeed Perry, but declined to identify the person. …
“House Democrats have subpoenaed Perry for documents related to a Ukrainian state-owned energy company as well as his involvement in a July call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The lawmakers set a Friday deadline. Trump has said Perry teed up the July 25 call … A spokeswoman for Perry has said he wanted Trump to speak with the Ukrainian leader on energy matters related to U.S. efforts to boost Western energy ties to Eastern Europe. The Associated Press reported this month that a circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted their connections to Trump and [Giuliani] as they sought to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s state-owned gas company last spring. … The plan hit a snag after Zelinskiy’s election, but Perry took up the effort to install a friendlier management team at the company, Naftogaz. Perry attended Zelinskiy’s May 2019 inauguration as the administration’s senior representative and met privately with Zelinskiy.”
— Jay Goldberg, a longtime friend and former lawyer for Trump, told MSNBC that Giuliani has a book of his Ukraine contacts that hasn’t yet been subpoenaed and, if it is, could be harmful to the president. “Yes, there’s a book that he kept of all the contacts he made while in Ukraine. It hasn’t been subpoenaed thus far, it hasn’t come to light,” Goldberg told host Ari Melber. Goldberg said he’s seen the book. He said he didn’t believe there was enough in it to impeach and convict Trump, but he sidestepped the question when asked if the book will make it look like Giuliani broke the law. Goldberg also said he advised Trump in March not to hire Giuliani as a personal attorney and said it’s time for the president to cut ties with the former New York mayor because he’d “gone off the rails.” “Somehow he got seduced into the likelihood of high publicity and he lost his sense of balance,” Goldberg said. (Colby Itkowitz, Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner)
— Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) broke with the White House over its dealings with Ukraine. “You don’t hold up foreign aid that we had previously appropriated for a political initiative,” the senior appropriator said. “Period.” (HuffPost)
— Trump sent Attorney General Bill Barr to Rome in search of answers to an unfounded conspiracy theory. Italian intelligence officers insist there’s nothing to investigate. From the Intercept: “High-level Italian intelligence officials have repeatedly told cabinet members and a parliamentary oversight committee that the intelligence services did not have a relationship with Joseph Mifsud, a mysterious ex-diplomat who was a professor at a Rome university in 2016 … According to the theory, Mifsud was an Italian intelligence operative used by the CIA or the FBI to entrap the Trump campaign adviser by pretending to act as a Russian agent and offering to share information about Russia’s efforts to tip the election in Trump’s favor … The Italians did not view Mifsud in such elevated terms … The professor ‘was considered to be of no value or use’ by Italian intelligence … ‘They viewed him as a fool and saw no point of contacting him. They didn’t even debrief him after he was in the news.’”
— Nancy Pelosi said she was telling Trump that “all roads lead to Putin” in the picture released by the White House that has gone viral, in which the Speaker is seen pointing her finger at the president. Pelosi declined to put a timeline on the impeachment process, saying it will be based on the facts. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told his members that the House could vote before Thanksgiving. (Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim)
— Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) will serve as the acting chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee until Democrats choose a permanent chair. Maloney will fill in for the late Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, who passed away early Thursday. (AP)
— Interesting point: An impeachment trial would make it hard for the Democratic senators running for president to leave Washington in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses. From BuzzFeed News: “An impeachment trial would consume every senator’s schedule. Under the Senate’s current rules, all senators must be in session Monday through Saturday, starting at around noon each day. The trial may last several weeks — Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial lasted five — thus taking several candidates off the campaign trail the month before the primaries start. That’s a major problem for the six senators running to be the Democratic nominee for president — Cory Booker, Michael Bennet, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. Bennet, who is struggling in polls and has missed qualifying for the last two presidential debates, said Thursday he didn’t know whether he’d still be able to campaign during the demands of a trial or if he’d have to put it on hold. … Mitt Romney, who ran for president twice as a Republican, shrugged and laughed when asked about juggling a presidential campaign with a six-days-per-week impeachment trial. ‘It would be disruptive, that’s all I can tell you,’ he said.”
THE OVERSHADOWED DOMESTIC AGENDA:
— NASA will hold its first all-female spacewalk today, months after cancelling it because it didn’t have two spacesuits in the right size. Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are scheduled to venture outside the International Space Station to replace a power controller that failed over the weekend. This will be the 221st spacewalk at the ISS since 1998. (WSJ)
— The Senate failed to block Trump from redirecting taxpayer money to fund his border wall, raising the specter of another government shutdown fight in November. Erica Werner reports: “The vote was 53 to 36, as the Senate attempted to override Trump’s veto of legislation nullifying his national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. That fell short, as expected, of the two-thirds needed to override a presidential veto. But 10 Republicans voted with Democrats on the measure, reflecting the unease many within the GOP have with Trump’s approach. The budget fight is expected to get even messier. Trump is not interested in signing other domestic spending bills until there is agreement on the border wall, according to a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential deliberations. Funding for many federal agencies expires Nov. 21, and an impasse would lead to a sizable government shutdown, bigger in scope than what happened less than one year ago. The official said Democrats essentially have two options: Give the president the wall money he has asked for, or the president will again use executive authority to get the funds from other accounts.”
— At least seven more people told the Vatican that they were sexually abused as boys by former D.C. archbishop and cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked this year amid sexual abuse allegations. Michelle Boorstein reports: “In addition, six allegations of sexual abuse by seminarians and former seminarians also were sent to Rome, according to this last person. In an interview, an accuser told The Washington Post that many of the boys knew one another. They often would travel together with McCarrick on fundraising trips to churches and the homes of donors nationwide, where the abuse allegedly would occur. The accuser and his family met McCarrick at a church function when the man was a young child. As adults, some would speak about their alleged abuse to one another in the barest of terms. It wasn’t until late last year, however, after allegations involving two other boys became public, that the man said he and other accusers contacted officials. … McCarrick’s attorney, Barry Coburn, declined to comment on the new accusations.”
— The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 33 deaths among 1,479 lung injuries associated with the use of e-cigarettes. Hannah Knowles reports: “The cases span every state but Alaska, as well as the District of Columbia and one U.S. territory. … Announcing the latest increase in illnesses, the CDC reiterated its conclusion that products containing THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, are a main culprit and should be avoided. About 78 percent of patients say they used vaping products containing THC, according to the CDC, and nearly a third of patients reported using only THC products. Ten percent said they vaped only nicotine, although doctors caution that people may be reluctant to admit to using marijuana.”
— The landmark opioid epidemic trial could be averted if a meeting among drug company CEOs, state attorneys general and the lawyers for 2,600 cities and counties ends in a settlement. Lenny Bernstein, Scott HIgham, Sari Horwitz and Aaron C. Davis report: “With a federal jury already sworn in and opening arguments in the high-stakes trial scheduled for Monday, U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster has summoned all sides to his courtroom. His involvement could signal that negotiations are progressing to a potential settlement that could avert a two-month trial. … All sides have much to gain from a negotiated settlement, which Polster has encouraged for nearly two years. For states, cities and counties, a deal would speed badly needed cash and medication to communities that have been paying for drug treatment, emergency services and law enforcement related to the crisis. An agreement would avert years of delays connected to multiple trials and subsequent appeals. The companies would end thousands of lawsuits that are costing them millions of dollars in legal fees and continuous negative publicity. Trials in open court also could bring out additional damaging information about how they handled narcotics. … Under the current settlement proposal, the distributors would pay $18 billion over 18 years, to be divided among states, counties, cities and other groups.”
— The Census Bureau’s request to collect citizenship data based on state driver’s license and ID records raises privacy and accuracy concerns among civil rights organizations and census experts. Tara Bahrampour reports: “The Census Bureau has contacted several states requesting the information. It said in a statement Tuesday that it requested the data recently as part of its effort to comply with a presidential executive order to gather citizenship information from existing government records for the 2020 Census. It is not unusual for the bureau to use data from states on a range of subjects. But relying on citizenship data from state DMV records would be problematic on several levels, said Andrea Senteno, regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).”
— In one of his last official acts before passing away, Elijah Cummings signed two subpoenas seeking documents related to a temporary end to a policy change that allowed some immigrants with severe health issues to remain in the U.S. From CNN: “Hours before his passing, staffers drove the subpoenas to Baltimore for Cummings’ signature, said a Democratic committee aide. ‘Chairman Cummings felt so strongly about the children, that he was going to fight until the end,’ said the aide. … Last week, Cummings wrote in a memo to members that he planned to subpoena acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli and acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matthew Albence to testify on October 17 and produce documents. Both agreed to voluntarily testify.”
— A sudden increase in the number of Mexican families and asylum seekers trying to cross into the U.S. has raised fears of a new border crisis. Nick Miroff, Mary Beth Sheridan and Kevin Sieff report: “Mexico surpassed Guatemala and Honduras in August to again become the single-largest source of unauthorized migration to the United States, according to administration officials … In recent weeks, thousands of Mexican adults and children have been camping out in queues at U.S. border crossings, sleeping in tents while awaiting a chance to apply for safe refuge. Most concerning to U.S. authorities is the percentage of Mexicans declaring a fear of persecution or harm, a claim that typically prevents their rapid deportation. Their requests for asylum are adding to the backlog of nearly one million pending cases in U.S. immigration courts, and by law, the United States must process their claims. Neither the government of Mexico nor the Trump administration has publicly acknowledged the sudden change.”
— An ailing 37-year-old Mexican immigrant died in Immigrations Customs Enforcement custody after officials waited more than seven hours to transfer him to a hospital, a case that raises new questions about the man’s treatment. From BuzzFeed News: “The undocumented immigrant man in ICE custody at the McHenry County Adult Correctional Facility in Illinois, Roberto Rodriguez-Espinoza, died on Sep. 10 at a local hospital where doctors treating him issued a preliminary cause of death as a subdural hematoma — the eighth death of the last fiscal year ending on Sept. 30. … Documents show that officials waited more than seven hours to take Rodriguez-Espinoza to the hospital after he first began exhibiting symptoms. … [A] University of Washington faculty member, told BuzzFeed News that the licensed practical nurse appeared to make a medical diagnosis in the case, an action that is beyond the scope of their license. ‘That should be investigated,’ he said.”
— Roylan Hernandez-Diaz, a Cuban immigrant, died by suicide in his Tennessee detention cell after spending more than four months imprisoned while attempting to receive asylum. Teo Armus reports: “Hernandez-Diaz, the second detainee to die in ICE custody this month, has a backstory that points to several new realities in the immigration system: An influx of Cubans, who are stuck in detention due to policy changes during the Obama administration. An increasing reliance by ICE on rural jails in Louisiana, where detainees charge they have been kept for months on end. And reports of deaths, suicide attempts, and hunger strikes from those detainees.”
— Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he fears the “erosion of truth” but will continue allowing politicians to lie in ads on his platform. Tony Romm reports: “‘People worry, and I worry deeply, too, about an erosion of truth,’ Zuckerberg told The Washington Post ahead of a speech Thursday at Georgetown University. ‘At the same time, I don’t think people want to live in a world where you can only say things that tech companies decide are 100 percent true. And I think that those tensions are something we have to live with.’ … Zuckerberg framed the issue as part of a broader debate over free expression, warning about the dangers of social networks, including Facebook, ‘potentially cracking down too much.’ He called on the United States to set an example for tailored regulation in contrast with other countries, including China, that censor political speech online. And Zuckerberg stressed Facebook must stand strong against governments that seek to ‘pull back’ on free speech in the face of heightened social and political tensions.”
— New York City voted to shut down the troubled Rikers jail complex and replace it with four smaller jails by 2026. (NYT)
— The Parkland school shooter’s death penalty trial is set to begin in January, according to a new court order. Nikolas Cruz faces 34 counts of premeditated and attempted murder. (CNN)
— A new Pew Research Center survey found that 65 percent of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade.
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
— Heavy gunfire consumed the streets of Culiacan on Thursday afternoon, as Mexican security forces struggled to fend off members of the Sinaloa cartel, once led by notorious drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. “Members of the cartel deployed across the city with military-grade weapons, a remarkable, live-streamed glimpse into their ability to overwhelm the state,” Kevin Sieff and Steve Fisher report. “Mexican officials briefly detained Ovidio Guzman, one of El Chapo’s sons who has emerged as a leading figure in the cartel after his father was arrested in 2016. But as the members of the cartel took to the streets, apparently freeing dozens of prisoners and turning the city into an urban war zone, Mexican authorities decided to release Ovidio Guzman. Security Minister Alfonso Durazo told Reuters that Guzman was released to protect lives. The decision to detain and then almost immediately release one of Mexico’s most wanted drug traffickers — who has also been indicted by the U.S. Justice Department — [was] a shocking display of weakness for Mexico’s government, revealing how entrenched the country’s leading drug cartel remains, even after the arrest of El Chapo.”
— Eight migrants from Cameroon who survived a shipwreck off the coast of Mexico have been locked in an old facility that formerly produced sterile flies for agriculture purposes. The survivors – who are being held in Mexico due to Trump’s changes to asylum policy – have reportedly not received medical or psychological care. (Animal Político)
— The past three months in Afghanistan have been the deadliest for civilians in a decade, according to a U.N. report. Between July and September, 1,174 civilians were killed and 3,139 were wounded, bringing the number of civilian casualties this year to more than 8,000. (Susannah George)
— Thousands have taken to the streets in Lebanon to protest corruption. Sarah Dadouch reports: “Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, as well as many other cities in the small Mediterranean country, swelled with chants of protesters and the flames of burning tires and bonfires as thousands flooded the streets to rally against government corruption. ‘The people want to bring down the regime,’ people yelled over and over, pumping their fists in unison. ‘The people are exhausted,’ one protester muttered under his breath. The famous Arabic phrase, born out of the Arab Spring in 2010, was accompanied by chants of religious unity against the tyranny of the political class. ‘Bring down, bring down capitalism,’ a woman standing atop a man’s shoulders yelled into the crowd. The swelling crowd repeated it back. A few protesters were reported injured, and the Red Cross said it dispatched five teams to move out the injured from the center of town. Reuters later reported, citing the National News Agency, that two foreign workers choked to death from a fire that spread to a building near the protests. The report could not be immediately confirmed.”
— The Penske Media Corporation, a U.S. media giant that owns entertainment heavy-hitters like Variety, Rolling Stone and Deadline, hosted a private yachting trip to Saudi Arabia almost one year to the day after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by the Saudi government. From the Daily Beast: “Invitations to the event, to which some executives traveled by private jet, were sent out to top figures in the media and advertising business this summer. … It was a yachting event called Red Sea Week, hosted primarily by the Robb Report, a PMC brand that caters to ultra-luxury readers and features a Saudi Arabian edition. The four-day party and conference brought together some of the largest yachts in the world, during a time when many luxury yachts are based in the Mediterranean Sea. Red Sea Week is part of a major initiative by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called the Red Sea Project, which seeks to boost luxury tourism to Saudi-owned islands located between the Arabian Peninsula and the African continent.”
— The U.K. and the E.U.’s new Brexit deal sets up a potentially close vote in Parliament. Michael Birnbaum, William Booth and Quentin Ariès report: “The 27 ambassadors to the E.U. have been asked to stick around Brussels over the weekend so they can handle any fallout from the British Parliament votes. U.K. law requires Johnson to seek an extension if a deal is not approved by Saturday; E.U. leaders would probably grant one to avoid the potential economic chaos of a sudden break without a managed transition. But they are also ready to be done with Brexit. Nobody in the E.U. capital seemed especially excited about the signal event of landing a deal. Nobody extolled. Even [British Prime Minister Boris] Johnson seemed to prefer to talk about his party’s plans for health care and railroads — anything but Brexit.”
— China’s economy recorded its slowest rate of growth in more than 27 years. Anna Fifield reports: “‘The trade war might be taking a toll on the Chinese economy but there is little evidence yet of a major direct hit on overall growth,’ said Eswar Prasad, an economics professor at Cornell University and former China director with the International Monetary Fund. The world’s second-largest economy grew by 6 percent in the three months to the end of September, the weakest quarterly figure since 1992. Still, the National Bureau of Statistics said that the growth rate for the first nine months of 2019 now stood at 6.2 percent, within the government’s target range of 6.0 to 6.5 percent for the year as a whole.”
— China has detained two Americans working for an education organization, alleging that they illegally moved people across borders. Their families say the charges are “bogus.” (Anna Fifield)
— The government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro won a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council. Rachelle Krygier reports: “The Maduro government, no longer recognized as legitimate by the United States and around 50 other countries, had sought a return to the 47-member panel to counter an image of international isolation — and thwart investigations into its own alleged abuses. Venezuela and regional rival Brazil beat out Costa Rica for the two Latin American seats up for election. Costa Rica had declared its candidacy only this month in an effort to deny Venezuela a three-year term, but the support of China, Russia, Cuba and other allies gave the socialist state the win. … Human rights watchdogs had urged U.N. members to reject the Venezuelan bid. ‘With the seat, Venezuela will try to undermine scrutiny of its abuses and the abuses of its allies,’ said Louis Charbonneau, U.N. director at Human Rights Watch. ‘The council’s fact-finding missions and commissions of inquiry have done outstanding work. The votes on some issues can be close, so we don’t need countries like Venezuela who try to undermine the good work.’”
— A Hong Kong court ruled against allowing same-sex unions in the city. From the Times: “The decision by the territory’s Court of First Instance upheld a government policy prohibiting such unions. It comes five months after Taiwan’s government became the first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriages, stirring hope that such recognition would spread to other places in the region. The court found that the evidence in the case was not ‘sufficiently strong or compelling’ enough to require defining marriage ‘as including a marriage between two persons of the same sex.’”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
A Post reporter who covers Trump’s private businesses notes that the president’s club at Doral could use the revenue that the G-7 will bring:
How bad does @realdonaldtrump’s Doral need this business? Look what’s happened there during his presidency. In ONE YEAR, from ‘16-‘17:
—revenue fell 13.8%
—Net operating income fell 62% pic.twitter.com/RTr9OST3wd
— David Fahrenthold (@Fahrenthold) October 17, 2019
From George W. Bush’s former White House press secretary:
Holding the G-7 at a Trump property is one of the most foolish, unseemly things the WH could do. The President enjoys waiving red flags in front of bulls, but this fight isn’t worth it.
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) October 17, 2019
Another alum of the Bush administration, who now writes for the Atlantic, fact-checked a claim on Fox News:
— David Frum (@davidfrum) October 17, 2019
The deputy White House press secretary spoke at length to Fox News and then said he was too busy to answer questions from assembled journalists:
The @WhiteHouse principal deputy press secretary, @hogangidley45, just spoke at length to @foxnews — but says he has no time to answer even a single question on #Turkey or any other subject from the rest of us. pic.twitter.com/mXYZ8p6fz8
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) October 17, 2019
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg continues to whitewash and sandpaper the true origin story of his social network:
The fake origin story of Facebook written for Mark Zuckerberg by the team of GOP political operatives who runs their DC office versus contemporaneous coverage of Facebook’s origins. pic.twitter.com/dUo7Yw4PrT
— Matthew “Scary Halloween Themed Pun” Yglesias (@mattyglesias) October 17, 2019
Trump told a room full of Texans that their state profited from devastating hurricanes:
“You made a fortune on the hurricane,” Trump tells Texas of federal recovery money.
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) October 18, 2019
And tributes flowed to the late Elijah Cummings:
It’s going to be difficult to sleep tonight & I know for many nights to come. My dear friend Rep. Elijah Cummings is gone. I’m going to miss him. He called me his mentor, but I considered him the finest public policymaker I ever worked with. Love you forever! #ElijahCummings
— Maxine Waters (@RepMaxineWaters) October 17, 2019
— Max Marcilla (@MaxJMarcilla) October 17, 2019
His Committee seat may be empty today, but we will long remember our colleague Congressman Elijah E. Cummings. pic.twitter.com/6m9bsa20IX
— T&I Committee Republicans (@TransportGOP) October 17, 2019
As I pestered @RepCummings about a 2016 Senate run, he finally asked: what’s life expectancy of a black man?
My dopey Irish Catholic face gave away my ignorance.
69, he said. He stayed in House & became a man Trump feared.
He passed 3 months shy of 69. https://t.co/SC6odx6lUj
— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) October 18, 2019
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“The timeline will depend on the truth line,” Nancy Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol, in reference to her impeachment timeline.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Trevor Noah went on a lightning round of Trump scandals:
His team also compiled some of the administration’s more notable flip-flops on Syria policy:
Daily Show does better oppo than anyone https://t.co/VRkNmKYrRl
— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) October 17, 2019
Jimmy Kimmel thinks Trump just doesn’t care anymore:
Here are some of the most historic moments in Rep. Cummings’s political career: