The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Trump travels to hurricane-ravaged Florida, Georgia




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President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness school deans call for lifting country-specific visa caps Bolton told ex-Trump aide to call White House lawyers about Ukraine pressure campaign: report Federal prosecutors in New York examining Giuliani business dealings with Ukraine: report MORE will touch down in Florida and Georgia today to be briefed on the damage wrought by Hurricane Michael, the Category 4 storm that leveled parts of the Florida Panhandle last week.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who is in a tight Senate battle against Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonBottom Line Bottom Line Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity MORE (D), called the damage “indescribable and unprecedented.”

At least 19 people are dead. That number is expected to climb as search and rescue efforts continue.

The Associated Press reports from Mexico Beach, Fla.:

    “Some victims stranded by the storm managed to summon relief by using logs to spell out ‘HELP’ on the ground … officials said someone from another county was using an aerial mapping app, noticed the distress message and contacted authorities.”

Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base, home to dozens of F-22 stealth fighters, was destroyed (The New York Times). Tyndall is home to the 325th Fighter Wing, which flies the F-22 Raptor, the most sophisticated fighter in the Pentagon's arsenal. Although many of the warplanes were evacuated, aerial photos of hurricane damage appeared to show that aircraft left behind in hangars took a beating in the storm (The Pensacola Journal).

"It basically is a total wipeout. And it's hard to imagine it ever being able to recapture the exact identity it once had. It'll be rebuilt. It'll all be rebuilt at some point. But it's going to take a long time." – Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio Rubio10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable George Conway hits Republicans for not saying Trump's name while criticizing policy Furious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria MORE (R-Fla.) on NBC’s “Meet the Press”

For Trump, the visit presents a test for the commander in chief just three weeks before midterm elections. The president has at times struggled to show empathy or hit the right notes about sensitive or emotionally charged events.

The Hill: Disasters become big chunk of U.S. deficit.

In addition to the hurricane, the president this week is juggling a handful of other complex issues at home and abroad:

> The bizarre tale of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist who entered the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey last week and has not been heard from since, has consumed Washington.

Pressure is mounting on the White House to retaliate against Saudi Arabia, as Turkish officials believe Khashoggi was killed inside the facility by a Saudi entourage. The Saudis have denied those claims and say Khashoggi left the facility.

In an interview last night on “60 Minutes,” Trump said that “nobody knows what happened” to Khashoggi but that he would call King Salman of Saudi Arabia to discuss the matter.

Trump also warned that there would be “severe punishment” if the Saudi government is  found to have murdered the journalist.

“There's a lot at stake. And maybe especially so because this man was a reporter. There's something — you'll be surprised to hear me say that, there's something really terrible and disgusting about that if that was the case so we're going to have to see. We're going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment." – Trump

The Saudis appear to have responded through an unnamed official quoted by the state-run Saudi Press Agency (The Telegraph, U.K.):

“The Kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether by threatening to impose economic sanctions, using political pressures, or repeating false accusations.” – Saudi official

The Associated Press: Saudi Arabia lashes out as its stock market dives.

The Trump administration bet heavily on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a reformer in Saudi Arabia and the response to these potentially explosive developments is being closely scrutinized.

The Hill: Five things to watch in escalating Saudi Arabia controversy.

The Hill: Senators pledge action in response to Khashoggi’s disappearance. 

> In the same “60 Minutes” interview, Trump was asked whether his Pentagon chief, James MattisJames Norman MattisUS leaves dozens of 'high value' ISIS detainees behind amid Syria retreat: report White House officials stand by Syria withdrawal, sanctions delay amid bipartisan pushback Sunday shows — Officials rush to Trump's defense on Syria, sanctions MORE, might be leaving the Pentagon soon.

“I don't know. He hasn't told me that. ... I have a very good relationship with him. I had lunch with him two days ago. It could be that he is. I think he's sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth. But General Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave.” – Trump

The Trump administration has churned through officials in its first two years, both at the Cabinet level and in the West Wing. Washington was rattled last week by the announcement that Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyFive ways Trump's Syria decision spells trouble Tulsi Gabbard rips Trump's Syria decision: 'Kurds are now paying the price' Trump defends Turkey in wake of fierce GOP criticism MORE, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, would be leaving that post at the end of the year.

“I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Everybody. People leave. That's Washington." – Trump

> And what’s on tap this week for the markets? Stock futures are pointing down for Monday’s open.

The president has been fuming at the Federal Reserve and chairman Jerome Powell, blaming the recent market swoon on the Fed’s rate hikes.

The economy is a touchstone for Republicans ahead of the midterm elections, but the recent volatility in the stock market has injected new uncertainty into the economic landscape and has ignited debate about whether a slowdown is around the bend.

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. stocks have been an anomaly in the global markets. Not anymore.

The Hill: Lawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump’s attacks on the Fed.


*** LOOKING AHEAD AT THE PROSPECT OF DIVIDED GOVERNMENT *** Trump is making overtures to congressional Democrats about working together next year, report Jordan Fabian and Mike Lillis. Bipartisan dealmaking would be a seismic shift in the president’s approach to Congress — a switch that would be required if Democrats control the House and the president wants to sign major legislation ahead of his campaign for reelection in 2020 (The Hill).


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: West Wing turnstile: To succeed outgoing White House Counsel Don McGahn, Trump is leaning toward naming Washington lawyer Pat Cipollone (The Washington Post).

> U.N. ambassador candidates: To step into Haley’s shoes at the United Nations later this year, the White House is eyeing female candidates who possess security clearances and the potential to clear Senate confirmation without too much drama. Two names in the mix: Jamie McCourt and Kelly Knight Craft (Politico).



> Administration’s continued vacancies: The United States has no ambassadors in Saudi Arabia or Turkey (The Associated Press). In addition, Trump has yet to nominate candidates for ambassadorial posts in 20 nations, including Austria, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, Pakistan, South Africa, Singapore and Sweden. At the same time, 46 ambassadorial nominees are still awaiting Senate confirmation.

Job approval: The president’s job approval has improved, according to the most recent ABC News poll.

Immigration: The administration is weighing a new (and controversial) immigration policy focused on separated families (The Washington Post). Trump says family separations deter illegal immigration (Reuters).

Release of U.S. pastor: On Saturday at the White House, Christian pastor Andrew Brunson, released from Turkey after being detained as an alleged spy, said he will debrief U.S. officials about his experiences there, but in the hours after being freed, wants to “take some time to pray and see what God wants for the next part of our lives."

Trump denies the administration agreed to a secret deal to ease sanctions imposed on Turkey in return for Brunson’s release.



 Brunson prayed with the president on Saturday.




CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: After a couple of weeks focused on protecting the GOP majority in the House, Trump heads out west, where he’ll return his attention to campaigning for Senate Republicans.

Later this week, the president will hold rallies in Montana, Arizona and Nevada, as Republicans increasingly feel optimistic they’ll build on their 51-49 majority in the Senate, even if most of the data points toward Democrats taking over the House.

The Washington Post: Stark political divide points to a split decision in midterm elections.

McClatchy: Nervous Democrats wonder if Election Day disaster could strike again.

> In Montana, the president would like nothing more than to oust Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterRed-state Democrats worry impeachment may spin out of control Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group Senate Democrats hesitant to go all-in on impeachment probe MORE (D), who voted against the GOP tax bill, voted against Supreme Court nominees Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughThe impeachment controversy drags Supreme Court into the politics of the Trump era Supreme Court can prove its independence — or its partisan capture Overnight Health Care — Presented by Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing — Planned Parenthood plans M campaign for 2020 | Dem candidates embrace aggressive step on drug prices | Officials propose changes to encourage 'value-based' care MORE and Neil Gorsuch, and was critical in sinking Trump’s pick for Veterans Affairs secretary, Adm. Ronny Jackson.

Trump won Montana in 2016 by more than 20 points. Tester leads Republican Matt Rosendale by 3 points in the RealClearPolitics average, but there haven’t been any surveys of the state since the Kavanaugh confirmation fight, which boosted GOP Senate candidates in other red states.

> In Arizona and Nevada, Trump will aim to help Republicans beat back challengers in the only two states where Senate Democrats have pickup opportunities.

In the Arizona race to replace outgoing Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeHow to survive an impeachment Are Senate Republicans certain that Trump can return to office? Jeff Flake calls Trump's language 'authoritarian' MORE (R), polls show Reps. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Republicans wrestle with impeachment strategy Overnight Health Care — Presented by Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing — Planned Parenthood charges into 2020 | PhRMA CEO warns against Pelosi drug pricing bill | Medicaid work requirements costing states millions MORE (R) and Kyrsten Sinema (D) in a dead heat. The same is true in Nevada, where Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (R) and Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenHillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections Senators introduce legislation to boost cyber defense training in high school Key endorsements: A who's who in early states MORE (D) are running neck and neck.

More from campaigns and politics … Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSupport drops for Medicare for All but increases for public option Hillicon Valley: Warren takes on Facebook over political ads | Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservatives | Civil liberties groups sound alarm over online extremism bill Feehery: Trump may be down, but he's not out yet MORE (D-Mass.) releases results of DNA test (The Boston Globe) … Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) faces a pivotal moment in Texas Senate race after a historic fundraising haul (The Hill) … Crackdowns on potential voter fraud fuel worries about ballot access in November (The Washington Post) … How America’s urban-rural divide is changing politics (The Hill) … House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthy10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable Furious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Five ways Trump's Syria decision spells trouble MORE’s (R-Calif.) family benefited from a U.S. program for minorities based on disputed ancestry claims (The Los Angeles Times) … Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpWhite House condemns violent video Backlash erupts at video depicting Trump killing media, critics WHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets MORE has emerged as a GOP fundraising force (The Hill) … Electoral battle for Hispanics intensifies in Florida (The Hill).

Election Perspectives

David Taylor: Riding high on optimism, can Democrats deliver at the ballot box?

Salena Zito: A GOP red tide pushes back against the Dems’ blue wave.

David Atkins: Resistance is the right strategy, even if it costs Democrats the Senate.

Bret Stephens: Democrats are blowing it again.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.): How a Democratic House would act as a check on an erratic president.

Ed Rogers: Liberal freak-out over Trump, Kanye West alliance shows they’re afraid.

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley & Alexis Simendinger Suggestions? Tips? We want to hear from you! Share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


Memorializing Matthew Shepard, by Ryan Thoreson, opinion contributor, The Hill. Just over 20 years after he was killed in a homophobic attack in Wyoming, Shepard will be interred on Oct. 26 at Washington National Cathedral.

Trump attacks the Fed, but the economic damage is his fault, by the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board


The House and Senate are out of Washington until after Election Day.

The president and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpMelania Trump breaks ground on new White House tennis pavilion Overnight Health Care — Presented by Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing — Buttigieg unveils aggressive plan to lower drug prices | Supreme Court abortion case poses major test for Trump picks | Trump takes heat from right over vaping crackdown Kroger to stop sales of e-cigarettes at stores MORE fly this morning to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida’s Panhandle to review the state’s needs in the wake of Hurricane Michael last week. From there, the Trumps will fly to Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, 18 miles southeast of Macon, to do the same in the Peach State in the afternoon.

Vice President Pence will have lunch with the U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerOn The Money: Economy adds 164K jobs in July | Trump signs two-year budget deal, but border showdown looms | US, EU strike deal on beef exports Chinese, US negotiators fine-tuning details of trade agreement: report The Trump economy keeps roaring ahead MORE in the White House Ward Room. In the evening, he campaigns in Washington for Jay Webber, a GOP New Jersey state representative running in an open seat against Democrat Mikie Sherrill for the 11th Congressional District, and Pennsylvania’s John Chrin, who is challenging Rep. Matt CartwrightMatthew (Matt) Alton CartwrightAssault weapons ban picks up steam in Congress The 11 House Dems from Trump districts who support assault weapons ban WHIP LIST: The 228 House Democrats backing an impeachment inquiry MORE (D-Pa.). 

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump attacks Sessions: A 'total disaster' and 'an embarrassment to the great state of Alabama' Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Washington Times after story on her 'high-dollar hairdo' Trump's tirades, taunts and threats are damaging our democracy MORE and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinTrump attacks Sessions: A 'total disaster' and 'an embarrassment to the great state of Alabama' Mueller rejoins DC law firm Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it MORE will make a Justice Department announcement at 10 a.m. about efforts to reduce transnational crime, at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. This evening, Sessions speaks to the Heritage Foundation about separation of powers. The speech at 7:15 p.m. will be livestreamed HERE

The Treasury Department’s counselor to the secretary, Craig Phillips, speaks at 11 a.m. to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s convention at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C.


Keep Medicare Part D working for seniors by preserving the tools that give them choice and control, keeping drug prices and premiums affordable. Learn more.


> Urban demonstrations: In an environment in which GOP politicians assail “angry mobs” as a talking point in Washington, citizen demonstrations were marred by violence last week in New York City and Portland, Ore., challenging participants and police. On Saturday in Oregon, police made no arrests. In New York on Friday, police arrested protesters (Portland Oregon). ... Meanwhile, the Trump administration has proposed tough new rules on demonstrations in Washington (The Hill).

> Pentagon and cyber: A stunning federal report reveals extensive cyber vulnerabilities within U.S. weapons systems and points to massive systemic failure to consider cybersecurity in creating some of the country’s most powerful weapons (The Hill).

> Home sharing in Washington: The tensions between the D.C. government and Airbnb over regulating new restrictions for home sharing companies as well as property owners is a microcosm of the startup company’s national clash with the hotel industry (The Hill).

> Bankruptcy: Sears Holdings Corp., an iconic American brand since the 1880s, filed for Chapter 11 on Monday, hoping to reorganize and dig out of debt. The company has not reported a profit since 2011. It has plans to shutter another 142 stores by the end of the year and downsize the number of employees needed for a remaining 700 stores (Reuters).

> Oh baby: Newlyweds Prince Harry and American Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are expecting a baby in the spring, Kensington Palace said in a statement this morning (NBC News). The couple announced their engagement in November 2017 and were married in May.

> Bridge to the future: At 4 a.m. today, Washington’s Arlington Memorial Bridge, a major link in and out of the city, went from six lanes to three for construction that won’t be finished until 2021. On weekends and federal holidays, the bridge constricts to two lanes.  ⚠  Another warning to harried commuters! (WTOP)





And finally … This is going to be another one of those weeks when we all need some serious inspiration, an escape, more caffeine … something.

Click on this 48-second video of professional wakeboarders Dominik Hernler, Felix Georgii and Parks Bonifay having a glorious time this month in an abandoned quarry in Australia, and see if this does the trick on Monday morning.

Awed by the short version? Check out the two-minute highlight reel of the same adventure, posted to YouTube HERE.