With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: In Cleveland last weekend, I completed a personal quest to visit all 30 major league baseball stadiums.
As the Washington Nationals begin what will hopefully be a long run in the playoffs tonight, I’ve been thinking about what I learned during the five-year journey.
The country has been in a slump. Las Vegas experienced the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history this week. More evidence continues to emerge of a massive foreign plot to meddle in last year’s presidential election.
The world is a tinderbox. President Trump told reporters after meeting with military brass at the White House last night that, “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.” Asked what he meant, he replied: “You’ll find out.”
But the most existential threat facing the Republic, greater than war with North Korea or Iran, is a loss of faith in institutions. Polarization and tribalism seem to be tearing the country apart. The president’s attacks on NFL players who don’t stand for the national anthem are just the latest front in a raging culture war.
With so many reasons to worry that the center may not hold in American life, baseball steps into the breach. If you’re ever losing faith in this country, go to a game. It may cure you. The national pastime reminds us that there’s nothing wrong with America that can’t be fixed by what’s right about America. Our persistence. Our diversity. Our ability to deliver in the clutch. “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules, and reality of the game,” the French cultural historian Jacques Barzun said in 1954.
Baseball offers the comfort of continuity against the backdrop of upheaval. “It’s our game … America’s game,” the poet Walt Whitman wrote in the 19th century. “It has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere; it belongs as much to our institutions; fits into them as significantly as our Constitution’s laws; is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.”
— Baseball’s appeal transcends the political, racial, geographic, socioeconomic, generational and educational lines that cleave America. A Washington Post-University of Massachusetts Lowell poll conducted this August illustrates the degree to which the game belongs to everyone. The national survey found that 45 percent of Americans consider themselves professional baseball fans. That’s behind pro football, at 60 percent, but it’s larger than fandom for pro basketball (39 percent), pro ice hockey (22 percent), pro soccer or pro auto racing (24 percent each). Consider these numbers from the cross tabs, which WaPo pollster Emily Guskin pulled for me:
- Similar shares of Republicans (45 percent), Democrats (49 percent) and independents (43 percent) are fans of pro baseball.
- 48 percent of whites say they are baseball fans, along with 40 percent of nonwhites.
- 45 percent of urbanities, 48 percent of suburbanites and 39 percent of rural residents are all baseball fans.
- Similar shares of people with differing household incomes are fans: 44 percent of those who make under $50,000 like the sport, along with 42 percent of those with incomes between $50,000 to $100,000 and 49 percent of those with incomes of $100,000 or more are fans of the game.
- 44 percent of those under 50 are baseball fans, along with 47 percent of those who are 50 and older.
- 44 percent of those who haven’t earned a college degree are MLB fans, as are 48 percent of college grads.
— Nationals games attract a who’s who of powerful people from across the ideological spectrum. You almost always spot people like conservative columnist George Will or former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, both season ticket holders. (One of the roughest sacrifices required to launch this newsletter was giving up my season tickets because I could no longer go to night games during the week.)
While I’ve gone to games with governors and congressmen at stadiums across the country, the interactions I remember most vividly are with perfect strangers who struck up conversations with me during a pitching change or the seventh-inning stretch: A first-generation Mexican immigrant in Oakland told me during a Memorial Day game about how much he loves this country and prizes his citizenship. A soldier in Kansas City who just got home from his second tour in Afghanistan told me about one of his buddies who didn’t make it back. An aspiring stand-up comedian tried to make me laugh during a White Sox game in Chicago by practicing a routine. These are the kinds of everyday Americans who fill the stands day after day.
— Humphrey Bogart was right when he said that a hot dog at a ballpark is better than a steak at the Ritz. But there are foods available at stadiums now that would have been unimaginable a generation ago. It’s not just peanuts and cracker jacks. I’ve enjoyed pierogies in Pittsburgh, poutine in Toronto, Frito pie in Houston, garlic fries in San Francisco, a cheesesteak in Philly, Skyline Chili in Cincy, a Cuban sandwich in Tampa, a lobster roll in Boston, pork rinds in Detroit, barbecue brisket in K.C., ahi tuna tacos in San Diego, crab dip in Baltimore, a meatball parm in the Bronx and pork rib tips in Minneapolis. I rounded out the culinary side of my baseball tour with a bratwurst burger in Cleveland. These regional differences a re worth celebrating. The range of tasty food is a great metaphor for the virtues of federalism.
— Many of my stadium visits have dovetailed with fruitful reporting trips. I watched the Reds play in Cincinnati last fall after spending an afternoon with Trump supporters drinking $1 beers in Middletown, Ohio. Several independent voters told me at PNC Park in Pittsburgh last September that they voted for Bill Clinton both times, but they couldn’t get behind Hillary Clinton. On election night, I flashed back to both of those experiences as I set out to explain what happened.
After interviewing John Lewis at a Juneteenth celebration and watching Tom Price stump for Karen Handel in Georgia’s Sixth District, I checked out a Braves game at the new SunTrust Park this spring. I saw the Rockies play on the way to the Koch network’s political seminar in Colorado Springs. I went to Angel Stadium in Anaheim after interviewing Vietnamese Americans in Orange County’s Little Saigon. I dropped by an Astros game during a National Rifle Association convention in Houston. I saw the Red Sox at Fenway while covering Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. I attended a Brewers game at Miller Park when the National Governors Association annual meeting was in Milwaukee. I caught a Cardinals game in St. Louis while covering the fallout from Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Mo., three years ago.
On a Friday night in Phoenix, during the 2015 Netroots convention, I fell asleep midway through a Diamondbacks game at Chase Field. My work had kept me up for more than 24 hours. An usher woke me after the rest of the crowd had filed out of the stadium.
Luckily, I wasn’t asleep at Citi Field in Queens when a home run ball came my way. I caught it! (I also got a foul ball last weekend at Progressive Field in Cleveland.)
— Baseball offers an escape from the gridlock and dysfunction that have come to define our civic culture. But it can also bring people together. One of the most memorable nights I’ve had at Nationals Park was this June’s Congressional Baseball Game when leaders from parties came together in solidarity after House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was critically wounded during batting practice with his GOP colleagues.
— Baseball is like life. The season can be a grind, but it’s fun and worthwhile. Even the most elite athletes only get a hit like a third of the time. But they keep swinging. As Babe Ruth said, winners never let the fear of striking out keep them from playing. “No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games,” said Tommy Lasorda, who managed the Dodgers when I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles. “No matter how bad you are, you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.”
Baseball has its challenges, just like America. Labor strife ruined the 1994 season, and the steroid scandal added lots of asterisks in the aughts. Attendance has declined over the years, and the games still go on too long.
But our national pastime has also gotten its groove back. This year, major league baseball players collectively broke the single season record for home runs. The game has increasingly acquired some Latin flair as new players come up from down south.
We all love a comeback story, and baseball offers a good one almost every year. It wasn’t clear that Cleveland would make the playoffs earlier in the season. Then the Indians won a record-breaking 22 straight games. Now they’re a top contender to win the World Series. Maybe that’s what America needs right now. As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— The Trump administration is expected to announce today a major rollback of the ACA’s contraception coverage mandate. William Wan and Juliet Eilperin report: “The action … will allow a much broader group of employers and insurers to exempt themselves from covering contraceptives such as birth control pills on religious or moral grounds. It represents the latest twist in a seesawing legal and ideological fight that has surrounded this aspect of the 2010 health-care law nearly from the start. … The action by the Trump administration is almost certain to spark fresh litigation. The National Women’s Law Center — which estimates that in 2013 alone, the contraception requirement saved women $1.4 billion in oral contraceptive costs — has vowed to challenge the administration in court.”
— The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons won the Nobel Peace Prize. The group was recognized for “its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.” (Michael Birnbaum)
GET SMART FAST:
- Tropical Storm Nate traveled Thursday through the western Caribbean, bringing heavy rains — but thankfully not much else — to Nicaragua and Honduras. Nate doesn’t appear menacing right now, but forecasters warned the system could rapidly intensify. It’s expected to make landfall in the United States on Sunday. (Brian McNoldy and Angela Fritz)
- Embattled GOP Rep. Tim Murphy announced Thursday that he will resign on Oct. 21 — an about-face that came just one day after Murphy, who came under fire after reports that he encouraged his mistress to get an abortion, said he planned to serve out the remainder of his term. (Politico)
- It turns out GOP leaders feared fallout from how Murphy reportedly treats his staff more than his extramarital dallying – though some pointed to longtime chief of staff Susan Mosychuk as the problem. (Politico)
- Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) is officially in the race to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and Gov. Bill Haslam (R) is officially out. Blackburn announced her run in an online video, while Haslam issued a statement on Twitter saying he won’t run. (Tennessean)
- Texas Attorney General Kevin Paxton is being investigated for alleged bribery after he accepted a six-figure donation from a CEO whose company was under fraud investigation by the state. (Dallas Morning News)
Former congressman William J. Jefferson (D-La.) will be released from prison after a judge vacated the majority of his bribery and fraud convictions. The decision is the latest example of how the Supreme Court’s ruling on former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell (R) is affecting corruption cases. (Rachel Weiner)
Intelligence agencies in Latvia are investigating a nationwide cellphone and emergency hotline outage that lasted for 16 hours and occurred during Russia’s massive war games. (Michael Birnbaum)
The GAO concluded the IRS did not have to award Equifax — which failed to prevent a huge data breach — a no-bid contract. GAO officials reported the original winner of the bid could have begun work on the project as the dispute between Equifax and the IRS was being settled. (Politico)
The dean of USC’s medical school was forced to resign over sexual harassment allegations. The university had settled with his accuser for $135,000. (LA Times)
The University of Florida announced it would allow white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak on campus later this month. The event will be Spencer’s first appearance at a university since he led the torch rally at U-Va. the day before violence broke out in Charlottesville. (Susan Svrluga)
- A young Japanese political reporter died from overwork at age 31. Authorities determined that her grueling work schedule — which included 159 hours of overtime in a single month — triggered the heart failure that knocked her dead three days after elections ended in the country. Sadly, hundreds — if not thousands — of people in Japan are thought to die by “karoshi,” or overwork, each year. (Eli Rosenberg)
AFTER VEGAS, A PUSH FOR “BUMP STOCK” BANS:
— The NRA said Thursday that it will back regulations on “bump stock” devices used in the Las Vegas massacre, a move that gives political cover to the Republican lawmakers who have expressed openness this week to restricting such devices that turn semiautomatic weapons into fully automatic ones. “The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semiautomatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,” top NRA officials said in a statement.
— Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White House “welcomed” the NRA’s position, adding that Trump wants to be part of the “conversation” about cracking down on the devices.
— “The growing willingness to address the issue within the GOP stands in contrast to the party’s usual opposition to measures to restrict firearm use …,” Mike DeBonis, Elise Viebeck and Ed O’Keefe report. “[And] Republican support for a bump-stock ban was building ahead of the NRA’s announcement, raising questions about whether the NRA had already communicated its support for the policy to the GOP behind closed doors. … More than a dozen Senate Republicans said they were open to the possibility. Even some of Congress’s most conservative lawmakers — as well as some of its most avid gun-rights supporters — said the restrictions were worth consideration.”
- All week, Republicans have been quick to profess their ignorance about “bump stocks”: “I didn’t know what a bump stock was until this week,” Paul Ryan said, noting that fully automatic weapons have been outlawed for many years. “This seems to be a way of going around that, so obviously we need to look how we can tighten up the compliance …”
- “Never heard of it,” Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) told reporters, but suggested openness to something that would outlaw the devices.
- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that the sheer carnage of Sunday’s attack has fueled lawmakers’ concern: “Look at Las Vegas. That’s how I account for it,” McCain told reporters. “Americans are horrified by it. They’re horrified, and they should be. I mean, it’s the biggest killing in American history.’”
- Here’s a full rundown of where lawmakers stand on the bump-stock ban.
— “The question is whether these Republicans are just positioning themselves for political cover or whether they are seeking a legitimate outcome,” Paul Kane writes. “But even the most organized, well-intended efforts at gun restrictions in recent years have faded away in the weeks after the nation moves on from each tragedy, losing political momentum … Perhaps that’s why two junior Republicans, Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), have taken a different route and are gathering bipartisan signatures for a letter asking the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to ban these devices through a regulatory decision. They believe that if this goes through Congress, it will get bogged down in the details of trying to define which devices get outlawed, and the outcome will be in doubt.”
THE LATEST FROM LAS VEGAS:
— The motive behind Stephen Paddock’s rampage remains a mystery, and law enforcement officials are under pressure to find it. The New York Times’s Jennifer Medina, Alexander Burns and Adam Goldman report: “No grandiose manifesto has been found. No account of Mr. Paddock behaving dangerously or holding extremist views has emerged from neighbors or relatives. Unlike past killers, Mr. Paddock did not dial up the police to explain his actions. … Mr. Paddock left a trail of clues that are, so far, more cryptic than revealing: There was a note in his hotel room whose exact contents the authorities have yet to reveal. Sheriff Lombardo said that it contained numbers that were being analyzed for their relevance, and that it was not a manifesto or suicide note. …
“Mr. Paddock may have scouted other locations, including Fenway Park in Boston, Lollapalooza in Chicago and the Life is Beautiful music festival in Las Vegas, before finally checking into a suite at the Mandalay Bay that had clear sight lines to Route 91[.] … Officials involved in the Las Vegas investigation have said they expect it will take an exhaustive search into Mr. Paddock’s past, spanning multiple states and decades of his life, to deduce what brought him to the windows of the Mandalay Bay hotel[.]”
— Investigators have already scoured every corner of Paddock’s homes, computers and finances in search of a motive. Mark Berman, Matt Zapotosky, Sandhya Somashekhar and William Wan report: “A real estate broker who helped Paddock sell multiple properties in California more than a decade ago said the future gunman expressed dislike for taxes and the government — even selling off a series of buildings in California to move his money to the low-tax havens of Texas and Nevada. But the agent … said they never knew Paddock to be political or ideological. … As of Thursday afternoon, the only new information to publicly emerge from searches of Paddock’s electronic equipment were details of his possible travel plans.”
— The mystery has encouraged a wave of online conspiracy theories, forcing YouTube to alter its search results for users looking for updated news. The Wall Street Journal’s Jack Nicas writes: “For example, the fifth result when searching ‘Las Vegas shooting’ on YouTube late Tuesday yielded a video titled ‘Proof Las Vegas Shooting Was a FALSE FLAG attack — Shooter on 4th Floor.’ The video said there were multiple shooters in Sunday’s mass shooting, a claim dismissed by law enforcement. Posted by a channel called the End Times News Report, it amassed more than 1.1 million views in about 27 hours.”
IRAN DEAL IN DOUBT:
— Trump is slated to announce next week that he will “decertify” the nuclear deal with Iran, saying it is “not in the national interest” before punting the issue to Congress. Anne Gearan and Karoun Demirjian report: “The move would mark the first step in a process that could eventually result in the resumption of U.S. sanctions against Iran … But Trump would hold off on recommending that Congress reimpose sanctions, which would constitute a clearer break from the pact[.] The decision would amount to a middle ground of sorts between Trump, who has long wanted to withdraw from the agreement completely, and many congressional leaders and senior diplomatic, military and national-security advisers, who believe the deal is worth preserving with changes if possible. Trump is expected to deliver a speech, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 12, laying out a larger strategy for confronting the nation he blames for terrorism and instability throughout the Middle East. … Officials cautioned that plans could still change[.]”
— During an event with senior military leaders last night, Trump cryptically said, “You know what this represents. Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.” Pressed by reporters on what “the storm” meant, the president would only say, “You’ll find out.”
— Trump’s decision on the deal could cause a “major breach” with European allies. Karen DeYoung and Carol Morello report: ““After the Paris climate decision … this could push multilateralism to the breaking point,’ said a senior official from one of the three European signatories to the Iran deal. None of the three — Britain, France and Germany — believes Iran is in violation, and each has said publicly it will not renegotiate the nuclear agreement. U.S. imposition of sanctions affecting banks that even indirectly do business in Iran would doubtless influence those countries’ companies, they say, and would be considered an unfriendly act.”
If Congress does decide to restore pre-deal sanctions, “Iran could then call for a meeting of the majority-ruled committee of signatories and declare that the U.S. has violated the deal, an assertion with which the Europeans think they would be hard put to disagree,” our colleagues write. “That would put them on the same side as two other signatories — China and Russia — that are sure to support Iran, leaving the United States as a minority of one.” “What do we do? What do we say?” asked one European official. “It would be a big crisis.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN WOODS:
— Robert Mueller’s team met this summer with “Russia dossier” author and former MI-6 officer Christopher Steele. CNN’s Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Pamela Brown report: “The intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, and the FBI took Steele’s research seriously enough that they kept it out of a publicly-released January report on Russian meddling in the election in order to not divulge which parts of the dossier they had corroborated and how. This contrasts with attempts by [Trump] and some lawmakers to discredit Steele and the memos, [which they described as a ‘complete work of fiction.’]”
— While writing a report on election interference using its platform, Facebook executives cut all references to Russia. The matter was debated internally, but the final report, which was released on April 27, only said that “malicious actors” had manipulated Facebook to influence voters. (The Wall Street Journal)
— Russian government hackers stole details of U.S. cyber capabilities from an NSA employee who was running Russian anti-virus software on his computer. Ellen Nakashima and Jack Gillum report: “The employee had taken classified material home to work on his computer, and his use of Kaspersky Lab antivirus software enabled Russian hackers to see his files … The theft of the material enabled the Russian government to more easily detect and evade U.S. government cyberespionage operations, thwart defensive measures and track U.S. activities[.] It is the latest in a series of damaging breaches of the NSA in recent years and is among the first concrete indications of why the U.S. intelligence community believes that Kaspersky Lab software operates as a tool for Russian espionage.”
— White House officials believe John Kelly’s personal cellphone was compromised — a breach that possibly occurred as early as December and before he served as DHS secretary. Politico’s Josh Dawsey, Emily Stephenson and Andrea Peterson report: “The discovery raises concerns that hackers or foreign governments may have had access to data on Kelly’s phone while he was secretary of Homeland Security and after he joined the West Wing. Tech support staff discovered the suspected breach after Kelly turned his phone in to White House tech support this summer complaining that it wasn’t working or updating software properly. Kelly told the staffers the phone hadn’t been working properly for months, according to the officials. A White House spokesman said Kelly hadn’t used the personal phone often since joining the administration.”
THE TRUMP AGENDA:
— Trump supporters’ low-dollar donations to the RNC have given the GOP a huge financial advantage over the Democrats and could fundamentally change the party. Matea Gold reports: “In giving to support Trump, his backers are pouring tens of millions of dollars into the coffers of the [RNC], which has raised more from small-dollar contributions at this point in the election cycle than the national party has collected in more than a decade. … [The RNC] has pulled in nearly twice as much as its Democratic counterpart this year. “
— Trump personally intervened this summer to stop GOP lawmakers in Iowa from attempting to revitalize the state’s ACA exchange. Juliet Eilperin reports: “Trump read about the request in a newspaper story and called the federal director weighing the application. Trump’s message in late August was clear[:] … Tell Iowa no. Supporters of the Affordable Care Act see the president’s opposition even to changes sought by conservative states as part of a broader campaign by his administration to undermine the 2010 health-care law.”
— The administration plans to propose cutting legal immigration in half over the next decade in exchange for a DACA replacement. Politico’s Josh Dawsey, Andrew Restuccia and Matthew Nussbaum report: “The principles would likely be a political non-starter for Democrats and infuriate Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi[.] … [Trump aide Stephen Miller, who is crafting the plan,] was upset after Trump’s dinner last month with Schumer and Pelosi and has been working since to bring the president back to the tougher stance he took during his campaign.”
— FEMA’s has removed statistics about Puerto Ricans’ access to drinking water and electricity from its main website. Jenna Johnson reports: “FEMA spokesman William Booher noted that both measures are still being reported on a website maintained by the office of Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, www.status.pr. According to that website, which is in Spanish, 9.2 percent of the island now has power and 54.2 percent of residents have access to drinking water. Booher said that these measures are also shared in news conferences and media calls that happen twice a day, but he didn’t elaborate on why they are no longer on the main FEMA page.”
— Jeff Sessions reversed a policy that protects transgender workers from discrimination, according to a memo sent to agency heads and U.S. attorneys. BuzzFeed News’s Dominic Holden reports: “[Sessions reversed] a federal government policy that said transgender workers were protected from discrimination under a 1964 civil rights law … [the directive] says ‘Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.’ It adds that the government will take this position in pending and future matters, which could have far-reaching implications across the federal government and may result in the Justice Department fighting against transgender workers in court.”
— The administration told the Supreme Court yesterday that it should not consider Trump’s previous travel ban, which has now been replaced. Robert Barnes reports: “Opponents of the ban, who had persuaded two appeals courts to block the executive order, said the court should continue to review the cases. Even if not, they said, the lower-court rulings should stand. The justices asked for the new briefing about whether the issue was moot since [Trump] announced a replacement travel ban last month. The court canceled an oral argument on the issue scheduled for next week. … Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco said the new proclamation means that temporary measures under review at the Supreme Court have been superseded.”
— Trump is expected to scrap the Obama-era Clean Power Plan by arguing that his predecessor’s proposal to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions overstepped legal boundaries. Brady Dennis reports: “In a copy of the proposed repeal, first reported by Bloomberg News, the EPA does not offer an alternative plan for regulating emissions of carbon dioxide, which the Supreme Court has ruled that the agency is obligated to do. Rather, the agency said it plans to seek public input on how best to cut emissions from natural-gas and coal-fired power plants.”
— Trump also plans to nominate coal lobbyist Andrew R. Wheeler, who has ties to climate change deniers, to serve as the EPA’s second-in-command. (The New York Times’s Lisa Friedman)
THE CONGRESSIONAL AGENDA:
— The House passed its version of a 2018 budget, setting the stage for a vote on the GOP tax plan. Mike DeBonis and Kelsey Snell report: “The House budget resolution includes major spending cuts demanded by the party’s conservative wing, but the party’s focus is now on passing a tax bill that could add as much as $1.5 trillion to the budget deficit. … The Senate is proceeding on a separate track toward passing its own budget, which would have to be reconciled with the House version in the coming weeks. … [House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black (R-Tenn.)] said Thursday that she did not expect a bicameral accord until early November.”
— The fifth-ranking House Democrat, Rep. Linda T. Sánchez (Calif.), called on Nancy Pelosi to step down as minority leader. Ed O’Keefe reports: “The comments by [Sanchez] … are the most explicit by a senior congressional Democrat and a member of the California congressional delegation about Pelosi’s political future. … ‘I do think it’s time to pass a torch to a new generation of leaders, and I want to be a part of that transition,’ Sánchez said … Pressed to clarify her comments, Sánchez went further and said House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) and House Assistant Minority Leader James E. Clyburn (S.C.) … also should prepare to step down … Sánchez said that the leadership change did not need to happen immediately but by after next year’s elections.”
— Meanwhile, Republican leadership continues to take hits from all sides — internally and externally — potentially throwing its tax plan and their majority into jeopardy. The New York Times’s Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns write: “Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are making no attempt to mask their fear, predicting that failure to pass a tax overhaul in the coming months will lead to a wipeout in next year’s midterm elections. For the first time, some senators are contemplating whether their advantages on the electoral map next year could crumble amid a wave of primary challenges and other departures, putting their two-seat majority in jeopardy next year. Republicans are increasingly mystified by their own grass roots, an electorate they thought they knew, and distressed that a wave of turnover in their ranks could fundamentally change the character of Congress.”
— And now Senate Republicans can’t even reach unanimity on repealing the estate tax, a longtime conservative rallying cry. GOP Sens. Mike Rounds (S.D.) and Susan Collins (Maine) seemed hesitant of a repeal this week, and John McCain (Ariz.) has opposed past repeal attempts. Other senators have also said that it’s not a priority, which could lead to its elimination from the final tax plan. (The Wall Street Journal’s Richard Rubin)
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (AND WOMEN):
— Steven Mnuchin has flown on military aircraft seven times since March at a cost of more than $800,000 — including a $15,000 round-trip flight to New York to meet with the president at Trump Tower. The New York Times’s Alan Rappeport reports: “The inquiry into Mr. Mnuchin’s air travel … found he broke no laws in his use of military aircraft but lamented the loose justification provided for such costly flights. Mr. Mnuchin has made nine requests for military aircraft since assuming his position . . . An Aug. 15 trip [that] Mr. Mnuchin took to see Mr. Trump at Trump Tower in New York to discuss tax reform and tariffs cost $15,112.50. According to an internal email … Mr. Mnuchin needed to use the plane [for a] classified telephone conversation … Amtrak tickets between New York and Washington can often be had for under $100 each way, though private conversations can and are often overheard.”
— THE DOMINOES KEEP FALLING: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has repeatedly used a fleet of taxpayer-funded executive aircraft to travel for official business. Drew Harwell and Michael Laris report: “Chao has flown on the government’s Gulfstream IV and two leased Cessnas seven times in the past eight months, including during day trips to cities about an hour’s flight from Washington, as well as longer official sojourns to France and Italy for which flights cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.”
— Meanwhile, the Secret Service has spent at least $137,505 on golf cart rentals to protect Trump this year during the time spent at his private clubs in New Jersey and Florida. USA Today’s Julia Fair reports: “According to federal purchase orders … the agency paid $61,960 in a Sept. 29 contract to rent golf carts at the Trump International Golf Club in Florida. That’s the biggest purchase order for golf carts so far . . . The agency signed contracts for golf carts at Trump’s clubs as early as February, but they never exceeded about $18,000.”
— John Kelly summoned Rex Tillerson to the White House on Wednesday, along with their ally Jim Mattis, to help manage Trump’s fury over reports that Tillerson called the president a “moron.” NBC News’s Carol E. Lee, Kristen Welker, Courtney Kube and Andrea Mitchell report: “Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, was fuming in Phoenix, where he was traveling[.] … Pence was incensed upon learning from the NBC report that Tillerson’s top spokesman had said he once privately questioned the value of Nikki Haley[.] … Four senior administration officials said Trump first learned on Wednesday that Tillerson had disparaged him after a July 20 national security meeting at the Pentagon. Trump vented to Kelly Wednesday morning, leading Kelly to scrap plans to travel with the president to Las Vegas[.] … Tillerson scrambled to pull together a statement, while his spokesman publicly apologized for his comments about Pence and Haley[.]”
— The strategy session is the latest example of Kelly’s attempts to bring order to a chaotic White House, The Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey writes in a profile of Kelly: “The new chief of staff is often painted as an outsider, but he does have a deep well of experience to draw on to put the White House on firmer ground. He has been a fixture in Washington power circles long enough make the speaking rounds at top Beltway institutions[.] … He has forged ties among members of the House and Senate . . . And his time in the military taught him to create order from chaos, a skill badly needed in a White House roiled by competing factions and populated by outsiders who have no idea how to get things done in Washington.”
— Ivana Trump, the president’s first wife, revealed that she was offered an ambassadorship to the Czech Republic, her native country — but she turned it down. She also told CBS’s “Sunday Morning” that she and the president still talk weekly and that she encourages his Twitter habit. (Emily Heil)
MAN BEHAVING BADLY:
— The New York Times published its bombshell exposé of sexual harassment claims against Hollywood producer and major liberal donor Harvey Weinstein. Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey report: “An investigation by The New York Times found previously undisclosed allegations against Mr. Weinstein stretching over nearly three decades, documented through interviews with current and former employees and film industry workers, as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses he has run, Miramax and the Weinstein Company. During that time, after being confronted with allegations including sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact, Mr. Weinstein has reached at least eight settlements with women[.] … Among the recipients, The Times found, were a young assistant in New York in 1990, an actress in 1997, an assistant in London in 1998, an Italian model in 2015 and [colleague Lauren] O’Connor shortly after[.]”
Weinstein offered the following apology in a statement to the Times: “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.”
— Following the story’s publication, Weinstein announced that he would take a leave of absence from his studio. (Stephanie Merry)
— BUT, BUT, BUT: Weinstein’s attorney quickly told the Hollywood Reporter that he will be moving ahead with a lawsuit against the Times. “The New York Times published today a story that is saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein,” wrote Charles Harder, who has also represented Hulk Hogan and Melania Trump. “It relies on mostly hearsay accounts and a faulty report, apparently stolen from an employee personnel file, which has been debunked by nine different eyewitnesses. We sent the Times the facts and evidence, but they ignored it and rushed to publish. We are preparing the lawsuit now. All proceeds will be donated to women’s organizations.”
— Senate Democrats who had received campaign contributions from Weinstein rushed to say that they would donate the funds to charity. (The Daily Beast)
— “I have been having conversations about Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment for more than seventeen years,” writes New York magazine’s Rebecca Traister. “The night before 2000 election, I was working on a story — perhaps my first seriously reported story — about O, the violent reimagining of Othello that Miramax’s Dimension division was then sitting on[.] … After Weinstein failed to respond to my calls for comment, I was sent, on Election Eve 2000, to cover a book party he was hosting[.] … Weinstein didn’t like my question about O, there was an altercation; though the recording has alas been lost to time, I recall that he called me a c–t and declared that he was glad he was the ‘f—ing sheriff of this f—ing lawless piece-of-s–t town.’ … I remembered what it was like to have the full force of Harvey Weinstein — back then a mountainous man — screaming vulgarities at me, his spit hitting my face.”
— AND BY THE WAY: Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the publication of the “Access Hollywood” tape. Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to sleep with women during a 2005 conversation caught on a hot microphone, saying that “when you’re a star, they let you do it.” (Read David Fahrenthold’s original scoop.)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump endorsed Republican Ed Gillespie in Virginia’s gubernatorial race and accused his opponent of supporting a gang:
Ralph Northam,who is running for Governor of Virginia,is fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs & sanctuary cities. Vote Ed Gillespie!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 6, 2017
Time magazine’s new cover highlighted America’s many mass shootings:
CNN’s Jake Tapper addressed Trump’s question of why the Senate Intelligence Committee isn’t investigating American “Fake News Networks”:
Obama’s former foreign policy adviser also weighed in:
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) even managed to work in a “Princess Bride” reference:
GOP strategist Rick Wilson posed this question to Trump supporters:
1/ I really, genuinely want to hear from Trump fans 1) what a Congressional “fake news” investigation looks like.
— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) October 5, 2017
Trump bragged about the stock market:
Stock Market hits an ALL-TIME high! Unemployment lowest in 16 years! Business and manufacturing enthusiasm at highest level in decades!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2017
But David Frum, a former speechwriter to George W. Bush, seemed skeptical:
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) reacted to the news that Trump is planning to decertify the Iran deal:
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) annotated the GOP tax plan:
Conservative pundit Ann Coulter criticized Jimmy Fallon, who became emotional on his show this week discussing the shooting in Las Vegas, his hometown:
New idea for Jimmy Kimmel! He and John Boehner show up at a WWE style arena and have a cry-off.
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) October 5, 2017
Jimmy Fallon responded to negative comments from Coulter and others with a fundraising push:
And former Gov. Mike Huckabee visited his daughter at the White House:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— BuzzFeed News, “Here’s How Breitbart And Milo Smuggled Nazi and White Nationalist Ideas Into The Mainstream,” by Joseph Bernstein: “A year and a half ago, Milo Yiannopoulos set himself a difficult task: to define the alt-right. It was five months before Hillary Clinton named the alt-right in a campaign speech, 10 months before the alt-right’s great hope became president, and 17 months before Charlottesville clinched the alt-right as a stalking horse for violent white nationalism. The movement had just begun its explosive emergence into the country’s politics and culture. At the time, Yiannopoulos [was] the tech editor of Breitbart. In summer 2015 … he convinced Breitbart upper management to give him his own section. And for four months, he helped Bannon wage what the Breitbart boss called in emails to staff ‘#war.’ It was a war, fought story by story, against the perceived forces of liberal activism on every conceivable battleground in American life.”
— Politico, “Inside Tim Murphy’s reign of terror,” by Rachael Bade, Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan: “Ironically, Murphy’s swift collapse came not because of text messages he sent to a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair, encouraging her to have an abortion[.] … In fact, fears among senior Republicans about a potential wave of negative stories on how Murphy ran his congressional office were what ultimately pushed him out the door. … According to these aides, [Murphy’s chief of staff] regularly engaged in brutal verbal abuse of lower-ranking aides, from calling aides ‘worthless’ and their work ‘garbage’ to asking derisively, ‘Do you or do you not have a f—ing college degree?’”
— The New York Times, “Catalonia Separatism Revives Spanish Nationalism,” by Patrick Kingsley and Raphael Minder: “Nationalism has always been a tricky thing for Spain. The dictator Gen. Francisco Franco died in 1975. Only three years afterward did the country embrace a democratic Constitution. But nationalism is still associated with Franco, whose authoritarian rule centralized Spain after a bloody civil war that was one of the defining ideological conflicts in 20th-century Europe. Today, as Europe approaches the third decade of a new millennium, nationalism is back, for better or worse — with its warm cloak of identity as well as its concomitant dangers.”
Trump will participate in an event for Hispanic Heritage Month in the afternoon and then sign the “National Manufacturing Day Proclamation.” He also has two meetings with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and the U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman.
Pence and the second lady will travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico today to review the islands’ post-Maria recovery and to meet with some of those affected by the storm.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— It will be sunny and muggy in the District today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Sunshine should dominate over any periodic clouds, but we may sweat just a bit in the moderate mugginess (dew points 60 or higher). High temperatures in the low to mid-80s — about 10 degrees above average — could feel like upper 80s during the midafternoon hours.”
— D.C. officials have decided against appealing a court’s decision to block the city’s concealed gun restrictions to the Supreme Court. Ann E. Marimow and Peter Jamison report: “The city’s decision not to risk appeal to the Supreme Court comes as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is expected to issue an order as soon as Friday enforcing a ruling that struck down the District’s requirement that people seeking licenses to carry concealed weapons must demonstrate a ‘good reason’ — such as a credible fear of violence — for carrying a gun in public.”
— Construction of the Purple Line will force lane closures and increased traffic congestion that could affect tens of thousands of motorists in the Maryland suburbs. (Katherine Shaver)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Seth Meyers previewed Pence’s trip to Puerto Rico, where he will “survey the damage caused when Donald Trump made landfall”:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) discovered that he and Larry David, who portrayed Sanders on SNL, are distant cousins:
The vice president pledged that America would return astronauts to the moon:
House Democrats’ campaign arm launched an attack ad against Paul Ryan:
And Las Vegas food trucks delivered free meals to hospitals who have attended to shooting victims: