The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Trump, Obama head to swing states with Senate majority in balance

The Hill's Morning Report  — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Trump, Obama head to swing states with Senate majority in balance
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The Washington Wizards fell in the final seconds to the Miami Heat, 112-113, in Thursday’s season opener at Capital One Arena. The Washington Post’s headline said it all: “Opening Burn.”

The big guns are headed to the Southwest this weekend with the Senate majority hanging in the balance and only 18 days to go until the midterm elections.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMia Love pulls ahead in Utah race as judge dismisses her lawsuit Trump administration denies exploring extradition of Erdoğan foe for Turkey Trump congratulates Kemp, says Abrams will have 'terrific political future' MORE, fresh off a rally in Montana last night for Republican Senate candidate Matt Rosendale, heads to Mesa, Ariz., today to gin-up support for Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyArizona New Members 2019 House GOP returns to Washington after sobering midterm losses Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — First lady's office pushes for ouster of national security aide | Trump taps retired general as ambassador to Saudis | Mattis to visit border troops | Record number of female veterans to serve in Congress MORE (R), who is running neck-and-neck with Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) in the race to replace Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeVeteran political reporter says New Hampshire voters have 'hunger' to moderate political turbulence McConnell, Flake clash over protecting Mueller probe McCain would have said ‘enough’ to acrimony in midterms, says Cindy McCain MORE (R).

On Saturday, Trump will touch down in Elko, Nev., to rally voters for Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerCortez Masto named Dem Senate campaign chairwoman Nevada New Members 2019 Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February MORE (R-Nev.), whose race against Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — House, Senate leaders named as Pelosi lobbies for support to be Speaker Nevada New Members 2019 Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February MORE (D-Nev.) is also a toss-up.

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenEntrepreneur touts big solutions, endorsements in discussing presidential bid Avenatti ‘still considering’ presidential run despite domestic violence arrest Election Countdown: Florida Senate race heads to hand recount | Dem flips Maine House seat | New 2020 trend - the 'friend-raiser' | Ad war intensifies in Mississippi runoff | Blue wave batters California GOP MORE will also be in Nevada on Saturday but more than 300 miles directly south, in Las Vegas, where he’ll campaign for Rosen and the entire Democratic ticket in Nevada.

Former President Obama follows Biden to Las Vegas on Monday for a rare appearance on the campaign trail.

Arizona and Nevada represent the best pickup opportunities for Democrats in the Senate. If Republicans can hold one or both, they’ll effectively close off the Democratic path to a majority in the Senate, barring an upset in Texas or Tennessee. 

FiveThirtyEight: Democrats prospects worsen in Arizona and Nevada.

 

> In Arizona, the battle between two female House members is going down to the wire.

Recent polling shows McSally and Sinema are tied or within the margin of error of one another.

Sinema has absorbed some tough headlines in recent weeks. She was criticized for cutting remarks about Arizona dug up from her past, and for radio comments dating to 2003, when she told a broadcaster she didn’t care if he joined the Taliban. At a debate this week, McSally equated the remarks with treason.

Sinema, who was once a member of the Green Party, wouldn’t say in a local radio interview on Thursday if she’s “proud” to be a Democrat. She’s working to cast herself as a moderate in a state Trump won in 2016 and that hasn’t had a Democratic senator in more than 20 years.

Rafael Bernal reports that Democrats are banking on Arizona’s growing Hispanic population turning out in Arizona in 2018 but are fearful of a repeat of the 2016 election, when the long-awaited demographic shift failed to turn the state blue (The Hill).

 

> In Nevada, Heller has led Rosen in all three surveys released in October but his lead in the RealClearPolitics average is at only 1.7 points.

Like McSally, Heller declined to endorse Trump during the 2016 campaign and the two had a rocky relationship early on. But both candidates have moved closer to the president to appeal to his enthusiastic base of supporters and now will benefit from Trump’s vigorous commitment to electing Republicans in the Senate.

Can Trump help put Heller over the top in Nevada? Or will the Obama-Biden one-two punch energize Democrats in a state that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTexas history curriculum to emphasize that slavery played 'central role' in Civil War Election Countdown: Abrams ends fight in Georgia governor's race | Latest on Florida recount | Booker, Harris head to campaign in Mississippi Senate runoff | Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority Texas education board approves restoring Hillary Clinton in history curriculum MORE won narrowly in 2016?

Heller and Rosen will hold a debate tonight at 9 p.m. that will air on C-SPAN.

There are also competitive House races in both states that could determine who wins the majority. Bad news for one Republican in Nevada: Reid Wilson reports that the National Republican Congressional Committee has cancelled more than $1.2 million in late advertising for former Rep. Crescent Hardy’s (R) comeback bid, believing his swing district race against former Rep. Steven HorsfordSteven Alexander HorsfordNevada New Members 2019 Poll: Rosen leads Heller by 4 points in Nevada Senate race Bloomberg quietly spends millions in TV ads MORE (D) is a lost cause (The Hill).

 

> Trump keeps up his busy campaign schedule on Monday, this time with a rally for Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDemocratic strategist warns Beto should be ‘careful’ with social media presence Hillary advisers battle over whether she’ll run in 2020 O'Rourke writes blog post describing a literal run from near the capitol to near the White House MORE (R-Texas), who appears to finally be pulling away from Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), the Democratic Party’s new fundraising juggernaut.

The Trump-Cruz rally has been moved from an 8,000-seat arena to an even bigger venue, the Toyota Center, where the hometown Houston Rockets play. 

 

 

O’Rourke got his own CNN special on Thursday, saying during a town hall Q&A that he would still vote to impeach Trump (CNN). 

Vice President Pence will also be fanning out this weekend, with stops in Topeka, Kan., and Des Moines, Iowa, on Friday. On Saturday, the vice president is off to West Virginia, where Republican Patrick Morissey is trying to stage a late comeback to unseat Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump to nominate former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as next EPA administrator Schumer reelected as Senate Democratic Leader Mellman: The triumph of partisanship MORE (D).

The stakes are high across the board:

The Hill: GOP targets likely Dem committee chairmen in midterms push.

Reuters: Democratic victory in November would put Trump under the microscope. 

More from the campaign trail … Five takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate (The Hill) … Trump praises Montana congressman who body-slammed reporter (The Associated Press) … Republicans are playing hardball as they race to confirm Trump’s judicial picks before the midterms (The Hill) … Democratic Congressional candidates have raised more than $1 billion (The Washington Post) … Where CEOs rank in political spending (MarketWatch) … Democrats mount a Midwestern comeback (McClatchy) … Meet the Republicans’ best shot at a flipping a House seat (The New York Times).

 

 





LEADING THE DAY

SAUDI ARABIA & KHASHOGGI: Trump said Thursday it "certainly looks" like Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead (The Hill). The Washington Post contributing columnist, who resided in the United States in exile, has been missing since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

"It certainly looks that way to me. It's very sad," Trump told reporters hours after meeting with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Lawmakers struggle with how to punish Saudi Arabia | Trump regrets not visiting Arlington for Veterans Day | North Korea deports detained American Corker: 'A price needs to be paid' for Khashoggi's murder White House eyeing ways to remove Erdoğan foe Gülen from US: report MORE, who has just returned from conferring with the Saudi royal family in Riyadh (The Hill).

The president said “it’s bad, bad stuff,” adding the international consequences for evidence of Saudi involvement in Khashoggi’s apparent murder will be “very severe.”

The Hill: Trump changes tone on Saudi Arabia amid mounting pressure.

The Washington Post: Trump’s conservative allies on Capitol Hill mount a smear campaign against Khashoggi to help president navigate alleged murder.

Trump has repeatedly said he opposes any economic punishment against Saudi Arabia, arguing sanctions by Congress to block arms sales or apply punishment in Riyadh would damage U.S. defense contracts and economic interests.

Some Middle East experts, however, say Saudi Arabia needs the United States more than the United States needs the oil-rich kingdom.

The New York Times: Saudi rulers are considering pinning blame for murder on Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, a top intelligence official close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Initially, the Saudis insisted that Khashoggi departed the consulate on Oct. 2 without incident. If they concede the journalist – an avowed critic of the kingdom’s rulers – was slain and by someone close to the crown prince, it would underscore the pressure felt by the international backlash.

Pompeo advised Trump, who previously floated the idea that “rogue killers” murdered the missing journalist, that the Saudis need several more days to complete an internal investigation and issue a report (Reuters).

Turkish and U.S. intelligence believe audio and video evidence may implicate the royal family, and specifically the 33-year-old crown prince.

 

 

> Lobbying in the United States on behalf of the Saudi government has tripled since Trump took office (Time). 

> Niall Stanage: Saudi storm darkens for Trump.

> Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Border deployment 'peaked' at 5,800 troops | Trump sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | Senators offer bill to press Trump on Saudis | Paul effort to block Bahrain arms sale fails On The Money: Senior GOP senator warns Trump against shutdown | Treasury sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | HQ2 deal brings new scrutiny on Amazon | Senate confirms Bowman to Fed board The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Trump sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | Insurgents seek female challenger to Pelosi for Speakership | Broward County finishes machine recount MORE, after conferring with Trump and Pompeo on Thursday, announced on Twitter he has withdrawn his attendance next week at a global investment conference organized by Saudi Arabia. His decision occurred 16 days after Khashoggi was reported missing and possibly slain. Major corporate sponsors and global executives previously declared they would no longer participate (Bloomberg).



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The president threatened Mexico with military action if the government there does not stop Central American immigrants from making their way toward the U.S. border (The Hill). Trump is upset that a caravan of at least 4,000 migrants from Honduras is making its way north.

The Hill: Trump amps up immigration fight for midterms.

 

> Mexico's foreign ministry said it would ask the United Nations refugee agency for help coordinating with Central American governments related to people seeking refugee status at Mexico's southern border (Reuters).

 

> White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE and national security adviser John Bolton got into a tense shouting match outside the Oval Office on Thursday, reportedly while discussing the Department of Homeland Security and the surge of migrants trekking toward the U.S. border (Bloomberg).

Rather than downplay the loudly contentious argument, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders implicitly confirmed it and attempted to blame Democrats in a written statement that echoed the president’s recent campaign rhetoric.

“While we are passionate about solving the issue of illegal immigration, we are not angry at one another. However, we are furious at the failure of congressional Democrats to help us address this growing crisis. They should be ashamed for pushing an open borders agenda and are only doing this for strictly political reasons. Despite us having the worst laws in the world and no help from democrats, our Administration is doing a great job on the border.” — Sanders

 

> Nearly 250 migrant children remain separated from their parents following the Trump administration’s since-ended “zero tolerance” border enforcement this year, the American Civil Liberties Union reports (The Washington Post).

Federal spending and deficits: Feeling the political heat from Democrats about rising federal deficits and debt, the president vows to curb unspecified spending beginning with his next federal budget proposal, which his administration will send to Congress early next year for fiscal 2020.

Separate from Trump’s insistence on increased funding for the wall and border security this year, the two parties are accusing each other of excessive spending, while disagreeing about what’s to blame.

In particular, Republicans argue that Democrats are big spenders, saying it’s the spending that has ballooned deficits. Democrats, meanwhile, point to GOP tax cuts as the driver of surging deficits and lower revenues. In addition, progressives tell voters that GOP candidates want to cut Social Security, Medicare and benefits for the poor (The Washington Post).

West Wing turnstile: Don McGahn left his job as White House counsel on Wednesday, another departure in an unprecedented cycle of personnel turnover at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. measured at this point in any modern presidency (The New York Times).

Trump moved White House attorney Emmet Flood into the post of counsel temporarily until litigator Pat Cipollone (CNN) arrives to take over (The Hill).

****

INVESTIGATIONS: Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinAttorneys want Supreme Court to determine legality of Whitaker as acting AG Top Dems: DOJ position on Whitaker appointment 'fatally flawed' Judge upholds Mueller indictment against Russian troll farm MORE will sit for interviews with a pair of House committees next week, where he’ll have to answer for a New York Times report that he considered recording Trump and pursuing use of the 25th Amendment to have the president removed from office (The Hill). 

Rosenstein has denied the report and Trump has said the two have talked and that they are on the same page.

But House conservatives, led by Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsEthics panel reprimands Freedom Caucus chairman over handling of harassment allegations McCarthy, other Republicans back Ratcliffe to be next attorney general Jordan on leadership loss: 'We knew it was an uphill fight' MORE (R-N.C.), are not convinced, and remain eager to see Rosenstein removed from his perch overseeing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s probe.

 

 

That tweet came after two GOP-led House panels interviewed former FBI lawyer James Baker, who testified that he believed Rosenstein was serious about wearing a wire with the president (The Hill).

 

> Separately, former FBI agent Terry Albury was sentenced to four years in prison on Thursday for leaking classified information to a reporter (The Associated Press).

Albury’s lawyers argued that he saw it as his moral duty to reveal what he viewed as racial profiling in the FBI’s counterterrorism efforts.

The conviction is the latest in the Justice Department’s muscular prosecutions of suspected government leakers.

The Intercept, which appears to have worked with Albury, has the backstory here. http://bit.ly/2yqKLZ1

 

 

 

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

OPINION

Celebrity endorsements aren’t king makers but they may be tiebreakers, by Anthony J. Nownes, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2NOIStY

Khashoggi prompts Trump to reconsider human rights in foreign policy, by Elise Carlson-Rainer, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2EvnPNJ



WHERE AND WHEN

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

The president, campaigning in Arizona, holds a morning roundtable with supporters in Scottsdale, and speaks to a joint fundraising committee luncheon at noon in Scottsdale. After lunch, he will sign a presidential memorandum. From Scottsdale, Trump will head to Lucas Air Force Base for a tour and a “defense roundtable.” In the afternoon, he will fly to Mesa, Ariz., for his reelection rally at 6:30 p.m. The president will spend the night in Mesa, and will head on Saturday to Elko, Nev., for another campaign rally.

Pence has campaign stops planned today in Topeka, Kan., and Des Moines, Iowa. On Saturday, Pence will campaign in Bridgeport, W.Va.

The government’s report on existing-home sales for September will be released at 10 a.m. Analysts are watching for additional evidence that the U.S. housing market is cooling.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenElection Countdown: Abrams ends fight in Georgia governor's race | Latest on Florida recount | Booker, Harris head to campaign in Mississippi Senate runoff | Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority Entrepreneur touts big solutions, endorsements in discussing presidential bid Warren, 2020 Dems target private immigration detention center operators MORE (D-Mass.) debates GOP Senate challenger Geoff Diehl at 8 p.m. in what is expected to be a lively event, including discussion of her interest in running for president and her release of a recent DNA test detailing her ancestry (C-SPAN & C-SPAN Radio coverage).

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) debates Democratic challenger Tony Evers at 9 p.m. as part of tough contest for the incumbent (C-SPAN2 broadcasts).

Washington’s Humane Rescue Alliance on Saturday holds its annual black-tie fundraising gala, the “Bark Ball,” at the Washington Hilton hotel, 6-10 p.m. Guests, expected to include VIPs and regular folks, are invited to bring their canine pals as dates. A pawfect cause! Information is HERE.



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ELSEWHERE

>  Cyber protection: The U.K.'s National Cyber Security Centre is a relatively new agency responsible for protecting Britain from cyber threats. The U.S. has nothing like it (NBC News).

> Catholic Church: Federal prosecutors opened an investigation in Pennsylvania into allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy, following a widely read set of findings by a state grand jury covering decades of alleged abuse of minors and adults (The Associated Press).

> Lottery allure: What happens if you win the Mega Millions jackpot, perhaps tonight? Odds: 1 in 302.5 million to pick six winning numbers. Jackpot: $970 million. Note: Taxes, as a general rule, swallow nearly half of lottery winnings (The Associated Press).

 

 

 



THE CLOSER

And finally ... Winners of this week’s Morning Report QUIZ CONTEST! We tested readers’ trivia knowledge about the West and Southwest, inspired by the fact that the president is in the midst of campaigning for GOP candidates beyond the Midwest and the South, for a change.

The winning guessers this week are Travis Moore, Liz Mair, Anita Bales, Carolyn Dixon, Sandy Sycafoose and Peter J. Sprofera.

They knew that Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson (among the choices presented in The Hill’s puzzle) were born in Western states that rarely send presidents to the White House. Nixon’s birthplace was California, while Ike and LBJ began their lives in Texas.

The first woman to ever hold federal office in the United States hailed from Montana. Jeannette Pickering Rankin, who died in 1973, was elected to the House in 1916 and again in 1940.

President Obama became the fifth sitting president to visit Yosemite National Park in California in 2016, so the correct answer was “four.”  

Trump’s grandfather, Friedrich Trump, came from Germany to America at age 16 and eventually created a lodging business in Seattle before the gold rush pulled him to the Yukon.

Among the Western states of Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and North Dakota, Wyoming has the smallest population, estimated this year to be 573,720 (Milwaukee is home to more people than the entire state of Wyoming).