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The Daily 202: Trump bowing to CIA on JFK files is a reminder of how the presidency changes people

October 27, 2017 11:08 AM
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The Daily 202: Trump bowing to CIA on JFK files is a reminder of how the presidency changes people

THE BIG IDEA: The world looks different when you sit behind the Resolute desk.

At the request of the CIA, FBI and others in the national security community, President Trump made a last-minute decision to delay the release of thousands of pages of classified documents related to the John F. Kennedy assassination.

The president allowed the National Archives to publish about 2,800 records that the agencies did not object to making public. But about 300 additional records — the ones historians were most interested in seeing — will stay secret for now.

Federal agencies have known since 1992 that the midnight deadline was coming up. It was created by Congress, in a law signed by George H.W. Bush, after Oliver Stone’s “JFK” movie in 1991 suggested a broad conspiracy to kill the president that included the CIA, the FBI and the military.

But they were sending requests to the White House to withhold documents as late as midday yesterday. Trump acquiesced under the pressure.

Even as he holds back some of the juiciest stuff, the president wants credit from his base for releasing the documents. “I am ordering today that the veil finally be lifted,” Trump said in a statement. “At the same time, executive departments and agencies have proposed to me that certain information should continue to be redacted because of national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns. I have no choice — today — but to accept those redactions rather than allow potentially irreversible harm to our nation’s security.”

Trump is probably the most conspiracy-minded president in U.S. history. At the very least, he is the most likely to buy into far-fetched conspiracy theories since Richard Nixon. He catapulted to stardom on the right by falsely claiming that Barack Obama is from Kenya — not Hawaii. He’s wrongly claimed that his predecessor didn’t attend Columbia University. He insisted that Obama personally bribed New York’s attorney general to investigate Trump University. He accused Obama of “bugging” Trump Tower after taking office.

He said there’s something “very fishy” about Vince Foster’s suicide. He suggested that Antonin Scalia may have been a victim of foul play after the Supreme Court justice died in his sleep. He said the IRS audits him because he’s a Christian. He’s peddled the dangerous falsehood that vaccines are connected to autism. He has never backed off his assertion that he watched TV footage of thousands of Muslims celebrating in New Jersey on 9/11 after the collapse of the World Trade Center.

He suggested before the final primaries in 2016 that Ted Cruz’s Cuban-born father, Rafael, was somehow involved in the Kennedy assassination and knew Lee Harvey Oswald. After the Texas senator refused to endorse him at the Republican National Convention, he revived the silly claim again last summer.

Against that backdrop, no one can deny that the president’s impulse is to get all these files out. His longtime adviser and friend Roger Stone wrote a book alleging that Lyndon Johnson had Kennedy killed, and he’s been lobbying the president to open all the files.

Trump has already shown that he wants to make public anything that might back up his conspiracy theories or reflect poorly on what his supporters derisively call “the deep state.” Remember, after losing the popular vote last November by 2.9 million votes, the president began insisting that 3 million to 5 million undocumented immigrants voted illegally. When every expert called that claim preposterous, Trump didn’t back down. Instead, he created a taxpayer-funded commission to look into it.

But the president was reminded again yesterday that it’s really hard to tell national security officials “no” when they’re warning you of potential dangers to the country and its intelligence apparatus if certain information goes out.

For example, CIA officials say that they pushed to withhold documents to protect their assets, the identities of current and former officers, intelligence-gathering methods and sensitive partnerships that remain in effect today. “Every single one of the approximately 18,000 remaining CIA records in the collection will ultimately be released, with no document withheld in full,” the agency said in a statement, adding that the redacted information in the 18,000 pages represents less than 1 percent of all CIA information in the Kennedy collection.

To varying degrees, every president finds himself persuaded by these kinds of arguments — no matter how spurious. The best example of this came in 2014 when Barack Obama’s White House aggressively worked behind the scenes to limit how much the public got to see of a Senate Intelligence Committee report documenting the CIA’s brutal interrogations of terrorism suspects. The effort to conceal the findings of the investigation was completely at odds with the spirit that animated Obama’s 2008 campaign. (He also never closed Gitmo.)

In the national security realm, Trump has already backed away from several commitments he made during the campaign. He escalated in Afghanistan after promising withdrawal. He explicitly endorsed NATO’s Article V after initially refusing to. He didn’t pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal, instead settling for a middle-ground compromise pushed by his advisers. The list goes on.

The presidency has a way of warping a person’s perspective. George W. Bush said no more nation building during the 2000 campaign. After invading Afghanistan and Iraq, he did more of it than anyone since Harry Truman unveiled the Marshall Plan.

This is a tale as old as the presidency. A generation of presidents never tried to remove J. Edgar Hoover as FBI director because they worried what dirt he might have on them.

President Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday. (Al Drago/Bloomberg News)

Trump’s decision to acquiesce to the CIA will only add to the cloud of public suspicion that hangs over the official story line — even 54 years later — that Oswald acted alone.

Secrecy corrodes public trust in government. The government’s refusal to be fully transparent and forthright has contributed to a climate in which few citizens trust institutions. The feds have long had an over-classification problem, erring on the side of marking files secret that really don’t need to be. It has become even worse since the 9/11 attacks.

A poll conducted last week by SurveyMonkey for FiveThirtyEight found that only 33 percent of Americans believe that one man was responsible for the Kennedy assassination, while 61 percent think that others were involved in a conspiracy.

“In pretty much every demographic, most respondents believed that Oswald didn’t act alone,” Harry Enten notes. “A majority of men, women, white people, people of color, registered voters, non-registered voters, old people, young people, Democrats, Republicans and so on all believe that more than one person was involved in Kennedy’s assassination. This is one of the few questions in this polarized age on which you can even find agreement among Hillary Clinton voters (59 percent believe in a conspiracy) and Trump voters (61 percent). … African-Americans (76 percent) and Hispanics (72 percent) are far more likely than whites (56 percent) to believe that Oswald didn’t act alone. The government, of course, has a history of lying to the black community, which may be why African-Americans are more likely to think the government isn’t telling the whole story about Kennedy’s death and other major news stories.”

“Researchers had hoped the release would shed new light on Oswald’s movements and contacts in the months before he shot Kennedy. Historians were particularly eager for new details of Oswald’s six-day trip to Mexico City, where he met with Cubans and Soviets two months before the assassination. None of those documents appeared to be in the batch released Thursday. Nor were there revelations on Watergate burglars E. Howard Hunt and James McCord, both of whom were longtime CIA operatives of interest to assassination theorists.”

“Even the CIA publicly acknowledged in 2014 that John McCone, its director at the time of the assassination, participated in a ‘benign cover-up,’ according to a paper by agency historian David Robarge. His article said McCone was ‘complicit in keeping incendiary and diversionary issues off the commission’s agenda.’ The agency historian wrote that McCone purposely did not tell the commission about CIA-Mafia plots to kill (Fidel) Castro, some of which had been planned at the Mexico City station. ‘Without this information,’ Shenon concluded in a 2015 Politico story, ‘the commission never even knew to ask the question of whether Oswald had accomplices in Cuba or elsewhere who wanted Kennedy dead in retaliation for the Castro plots.’”

The White House insists that Trump remains committed to disclosure. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president has directed the agencies “to minimize redactions without delay,” and that redactions will only be made on the remaining documents “in the rarest of circumstances.”

John F. Kennedy waves from his car in Dallas shortly before being killed Nov. 22, 1963. (Jim Altgens/AP)

This is a picture of a file, dated Nov. 24, 1963, quoting Hoover as he talks about the death of Oswald, that was released for the first time last night. (Jon Elswick/Associated Press)

-- The timeline: After a U.S. Special Forces unit was ambushed in Niger, four of the soldiers were separated from their 30-person unit, the New York Times’s Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Eric Schmitt report. “Their squadmates immediately alerted commanders that they were under attack — then called for help nearly an hour later … and ground forces from Niger’s army and French Mirage jets were both dispatched. About two hours later, the firefight tapering off, French helicopters from nearby Mali swooped in to the rescue on the rolling wooded terrain. But they retrieved only seven of the 11 Americans. The four others were inexplicably left behind, no longer in radio contact and initially considered missing in action by the Pentagon, a status that officials say raises the possibility they were still alive when the helicopters took off without them …”

-- The Pentagon briefed senators on the ambush, but some lawmakers aren't satisfied. Karoun Demirjian reports: “Several senators said after the Thursday briefing that military officials were unable to tell them why it took so long to find [Sgt. La David] Johnson. On other matters, however — including how the ambush happened in the first place — lawmakers came away with differing impressions. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said he was confident ‘there were not significant steps that could have been taken to prevent this assault.’ But [Sen. John] McCain [R-Ariz.] argued that ‘whenever there’s a failure, it could be prevented,’ saying that the soldiers’ deaths were caused by both bad luck and bad strategy.”

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) arrives at court for his federal corruption trial Oct. 23 in Newark, N.J. (Seth Wenig/AP)

-- The House narrowly passed the Senate-approved budget, clearing the way for the GOP to pass $1.5 trillion in tax cuts without Democratic support. Mike DeBonis reports: “Leaders are aiming to pass tax legislation through each chamber before Thanksgiving, with the differences to then be hashed out before year’s end, and then send a bill to President Trump for his signature. … No Democrats voted for the budget Thursday, and 20 Republicans declined to support it. A key holdout bloc consisted of Republican lawmakers from states with high local tax burdens who have resisted the GOP’s plan to eliminate, or at least scale back, the income-tax deduction for state and local taxes.”

-- But the real fight is just starting. Mike DeBonis and Damian Paletta report: “[L]awmakers have not resolved basic questions about how the tax overhaul would affect the wealthy, the middle class or lower-income earners. Still unresolved were several questions: whether the legislation would moderate the expected benefits for the wealthy; whether it would cap or eliminate popular middle-class tax breaks like the state and local tax deduction or the tax benefit of 401(k) retirement plans; and how dramatically it would expand a child-care tax credit that helps working-class families. Also on the table were several critical questions about how the corporate tax code would change."

The problem in a nutshell: “I know, and [Republican leaders] know, that there were people that voted yes only to keep the process going forward but who disagree with the fact that we don’t have a deal yet,” said Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.).

-- Meanwhile, the White House is reportedly mulling an increase in the federal gas tax to pay for infrastructure projects. Ashley Halsey III reports: “That news was conveyed to House members Wednesday in a meeting by Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn. … After campaigning on a promise he would lure private capital to invest in infrastructure, Trump in late April said he would be open to bumping up the federal gas tax, which has not seen an increase since 1993. … With strong Republican opposition to a gas tax increase — even as more than two dozen states, including many red ones, bumped up their own gas taxes — highway and transit funding has been bolstered with what critics have dismissed as fiscal gimmicks.”

-- Paul Farhi spoke with nine women who experienced or were aware of sexual harassment by journalist Mark Halperin: “Dianna Goldberg was a young researcher at ABC News in 1994 when she asked a colleague, Mark Halperin, for some information about a story. He readily agreed to help her and asked her to come to his office. Close the door, he said when she arrived. Come over here, he said, seated at his desk. Sit down and I’ll give you the information, he said. He motioned to his lap. ‘What?’ she remembers thinking. ‘I don’t want to sit on your lap.’ … She reluctantly agreed and sat down briefly. Halperin, she recalled on Wednesday, had an erection.”

The other women Farhi spoke to described conduct that “ranged from relatively trivial unwelcome contact — grabbing and holding women’s hands, for example — to inappropriate late-night phone calls and aggressive and repeated sexual propositioning. Several of the accusers recounted episodes in which he rubbed his erect penis against them — a claim specifically denied by Halperin in an interview. One woman said he appeared wearing only an open robe when a young campaign operative was summoned to deliver information to his hotel room. … ‘It was not okay,’ [one woman who worked with Halperin at ABC said]. ‘It was unwanted and unwarranted. It was like the guy just thought it was all a perk of the job, that he could shoot as many fish in a barrel as he liked.’”

-- Two additional women have come forward with their own allegations against the veteran journalist. The Daily Beast’s Andrew Kirell and Asawin Suebsaeng report: “'MeToo,’ conservative author and reporter Emily Miller wrote [on] Twitter, directly responding to the CNN report . . . I was ANOTHER junior ABC employee he sexually assaulted.' Without specifically describing her encounter with the pundit, Miller elaborated: ‘I did not report Halperin to ABC because I thought I was the only one, and I blamed myself, and I was embarrassed and I was scared of him.’ Another journalist, who currently appears as a commentator across multiple networks, joined the chorus on Thursday, [saying Halperin] made unwanted advances at her while they worked together at ABC News more than a decade ago.”

-- The backlash was swift. NBC News said in a statement Halperin would be “leaving his role as a contributor until the questions around his past conduct are fully understood.” HBO has dropped a planned miniseries on Trump’s election based on an untitled book by Halperin and co-author John Heilemann. And Penguin Press canceled its publication of the book.

-- #Youtoo?: “The sound you hear is a million men shaking in their wingtips and cowboy boots — men who are experiencing, perhaps for the first time, the kind of enveloping unease and fear that they’ve triggered in women, to some degree, for years,” Dan Zak and Monica Hesse write. “The flip side of the #MeToo campaign, in which legions of women on social media have revealed their experience with abuse, is something like #YouToo?, in which every day another prominent man is frogmarched into the spotlight for his behavior. Heads of state. Creators of entertainment. The publisher of ArtForum magazine. Journalists … who are the gatekeepers of what we see and how we understand it. Allegations are coming by the bushel, and we are in a moment of figuring out how to sort them … [but the] discussion has gotten really loud. It’s pretty hard to ignore.”

Harvey Weinstein arrives at the Weinstein Company and Netflix Golden Globes afterparty in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

-- The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove reports spotlights the relentless tactics Lisa Bloom utilized as a member of Harvey Weinstein’s legal team: “Ronan Farrow was stunned and disgusted early this year when famed feminist lawyer Lisa Bloom phoned him, in the midst of his investigation for NBC News of widespread allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein, and offered to share opposition research on one of Weinstein’s accusers. ‘I don’t know if you’ve talked to Rose McGowan, but we have files on her and her . . . history,’ Bloom told Farrow, according to knowledgeable sources inside and outside NBC. … [N]o sooner had Farrow divulged to Bloom his interest in Weinstein than executives at NBC and Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency, Farrow’s professional representatives, began to receive a barrage of calls and letters, as the movie mogul … sought to wield every ounce of leverage to stop Farrow’s investigation.”

-- Actresses Selma Blair and Rachel McAdams recounted their experiences with director James Toback, who has been accused of sexual harassment by more than 200 women. Vanity Fair’s Krista Smith and Julie Miller write: “Blair, 45, and McAdams, 38, tell remarkably similar stories about Toback’s modus operandi — the requests to meet him in hotel rooms, flattery about their acting skills, the promise of a role in the movie Harvard Man, which opened in 2001. … Explained McAdams, ‘I was 21 and in the middle of theater school when I met [Toback]. Theater school was a very safe space.’ But Toback, she said, ‘used the same language during my audition — that you have to take risks and sometimes you’re going to be uncomfortable and sometimes it’s going to feel dangerous. And that’s a good thing — when there is danger in the air and you feel like you are out of your comfort zone.’”

-- On Capitol Hill, suspicion of bad behavior is rampant. But the power structure and reporting process has made such transgressions hard to reveal and even harder to resolve, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Elise Viebeck report: “Briony Whitehouse was a 19-year-old intern in 2003 when she boarded an elevator in the Russell Senate Office Building with a Republican senator, who she said groped her until the doors reopened. She never reported the incident to her bosses for fear of jeopardizing her career. … ‘At the time, I didn't know what to do, so I did nothing at all,’ said Whitehouse[.] … ‘Because this happened so early on for me, I just assumed this was the way things worked and that I'd have to accept it.’ … ‘We've worked with a number of women who, after these experiences, stopped working on Capitol Hill,’ [employment attorney Debra] Katz said. ‘They were done. They felt so betrayed.’”

-- Even if Whitehouse had chosen to file a complaint, the steps to do so can be onerous on Capitol Hill. Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Elise Viebeck add: “Under a process put in place in 1995, a claimant has 180 days after an alleged incident to give written notice to the Office of Compliance. Even to file a complaint, the accuser has to call the office to get an online password to access the form. Next, they must go through a counseling process that typically lasts 30 days. … After counseling, an accuser must go through mediation for roughly another 30 days. During that time, the OOC notifies the claimant's employing office and appoints a professional mediator to try to resolve the complaint. If mediation is unsuccessful, the accuser may ask for an administrative hearing or file a case in federal civil court. The allegation and the case remain confidential, except in limited circumstances.”

-- Attempts to improve the outdated system have received pushback, our colleagues write: “Like Hollywood, … the Capitol Hill environment is dominated by powerful men who can make or break careers. Congress has resisted efforts to improve the culture by making anti-harassment training mandatory in their offices. ‘It is not a victim-friendly process. It is an institution-protection process,’ said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who has unsuccessfully pushed to overhaul how harassment cases are handled. ‘I think we would find that sexual harassment is rampant in the institution. But no one wants to know, because they'd have to do something about it.’”

-- Scott Brown’s comments at a party on the island of Samoa may have been worse than the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand initially acknowledged. The Guardian’s Eleanor Ainge Roy and Julian Borger report: “One woman told the Guardian that Brown allegedly stared at her body when she was introduced to him. She did not want to be identified, but said: ‘The first time I met him, he looked at my chest immediately.’ She alleged that another female colleague had a similar experience. ‘I felt immediately uncomfortable and it didn’t feel right,’ she added. A male ex-peace corps volunteer described a strained atmosphere developing at the party as the ambassador shouted at guests to be quiet and listen to him. ‘It was very culturally insensitive,’ said the man. … ‘At least twice, maybe three times, he was telling everybody, “Stop talking, be quiet, listen to me.’”

“After the photo op, my husband and I were whisked out the door. At the curb, a woman who introduced herself as a friend of the Bush family was waiting to drive us back to the hotel. Once we were on our way, I told David what had happened. … Our driver, who was stopped at a light, sat there for a moment, then leaned back and looked at us. ‘I do trust you will be … discreet,’ she said. Her comment wasn’t menacing. But in that moment I thought: She has heard this before. The people around President Bush are accustomed to doing damage control. There must be many of us, I remember thinking. And now I know there are.”

-- Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in a White House speech on Thursday, pledging full resolve in dealing with the epidemic. Jenna Johnson reports: “’Addressing it will require all of our effort, and it will require us to confront the crisis in all of its very real complexity,’ Trump said … [accompanied by Melania Trump] and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie[.] … With Trump's declaration, the federal government will waive some regulations, give states more flexibility in how they use federal funds and expand the use of telemedicine treatment …”

Trump also did something he rarely does: spoke about his older brother, Fred — a former airline pilot who struggled with alcoholism and died when he was just 43. “I had a brother, Fred. Great guy, best-looking guy, best personality — much better than mine,” Trump said — a rare jab that drew laughter from the audience. “But he had a problem. He had a problem with alcohol. And he would tell me: ‘Don’t drink. Don’t drink.'" He continued: “To this day, I’ve never had a drink[.] . . . And I have no longing for it. I have no interest in it.”

“In sharing his experience on Thursday afternoon, the usually boastful president briefly revealed a more reflective side of himself, trying to connect with those … who have lost a loved one because of addiction,” Jenna writes. “Fred Trump’s death more than 30 years ago seems to have shaped the way the president thinks about substance abuse and addiction. His emphasis on abstinence appears rooted in what has worked for him personally — but it is also rooted in the 1980s, when then-first lady Nancy Reagan urged schoolchildren to ‘just say no.’ [But] scores of researchers since that era have concluded it doesn’t work very well[.] … [Trump] acknowledged that millions of Americans are already addicted[.] … But he kept coming back to the idea of never starting in the first place[.]” “The fact is, if we can teach young people — and people generally — not to start, it’s really, really easy not to take them,” Trump said.

-- Democrats argued that the emergency declaration did not go far enough to address the crisis. John Wagner, Lenny Bernstein and Jenna Johnson report: “[T]he president stopped short of declaring a more sweeping national state of emergency that would have given states access to funding from the federal Disaster Relief Fund, as they would after a tornado or hurricane. Officials who briefed reporters said that such an emergency declaration would not be a good fit for a longtime crisis and would not offer authorities that the government doesn’t already have.”

-- Eight complete border wall prototypes were displayed for the first time in San Diego. But unveiling of the 30-foot structures comes as the future of Trump’s border wall proposal remains in doubt — and without funding. Wall Street Journal’s Alicia A. Caldwell reports: “’These prototypes are vitally important for the future of border security …’ [said Customs and Border official Ron Vitiello] … He said testing of the prototypes at the border and a second set of mock-ups at another nearby location will start soon, and could take three to four months to complete. But the fate of the proposed wall [is] in doubt. Congress hasn’t approved funding, California is challenging the project in court and some who live on the border object to the wall."

-- Meanwhile, the wall will not be a “solar” one — at least, from the looks of the prototypes. Tracy Jan reports: “Instead, the 30 by 30 foot structures … feature concrete, steel or a combination of both. Five are solid. Three have slats to see through to the other side. Beauty, though, is in the eye of the beholder. One is painted royal blue. Another is stamped with a brick pattern, topped with sloped metal grating. All would evoke a prison feel if replicated for miles on end …” Some have also criticized the price of the prototypes, which cost between $300,000 and $500,000 each.

-- A 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy (who was brought to the country illegally when she was 3 months old) was detained by ICE authorities in Texas after stopping her at a checkpoint on her way to receive an emergency gallbladder surgery. The New York Times’s Vivian Yee and Caitlin Dickerson report: “The girl, [Rosamaria Hernandez], was being transferred from a medical center in Laredo to a hospital in Corpus Christi around 2 a.m. on Tuesday when Border Patrol agents stopped the ambulance she was riding in, her family said. The agents allowed her to continue to Driscoll Children’s Hospital, the family said, but followed the ambulance the rest of the way there, then waited outside her room until she was released from the hospital. By Wednesday evening … immigration agents had taken her to a facility in San Antonio where migrant children who arrive alone in the United States from Central America are usually held, even though her [parents] live 150 miles away in Laredo. Her placement there highlighted the unusual circumstances of her case … [It] is rare, if not unheard-of, for a child already living in the United States to be arrested — particularly one with a serious medical condition.”

-- A federal judge ordered the Pentagon not to block fast-tracked citizenship applications that it promised to some 2,000 foreign-born U.S. Army Reserve soldiers, Spencer S. Hsu reports: “The order Wednesday came in an ongoing lawsuit over the department’s year-old effort to kill a program designed to attract foreign-born military recruits who possess medical or language skills urgently needed in U.S. military operations. In exchange for serving, those recruits were promised a quicker route to citizenship. [U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle] issued a rare preliminary injunction saying that while the lawsuit can move ahead, the government cannot in the meantime withhold a form that three named Army plaintiffs and other military members in similar situations need to start the vetting for citizenship."

-- Trump has largely narrowed his Fed chair choice down to two people – either former investment banker Jerome “Jay” Powell or Stanford economist John Taylor. Damian Paletta and Robert Costa report: “Powell is a Fed governor who has supported current chair Janet L. Yellen’s cautious pace of raising interest rates. Taylor, a conservative economist … is considered more hawkish on fighting inflation, and many economists believe he would move more quickly to raise interest rates than Powell. He has also criticized Yellen for going too far in trying to help stimulate the economy, warning that it could lead to out-of-control inflation that the United States saw in the 1970s and early 1980s."

-- Time magazine's new cover story takes a dive into the "Demolition Crew," the three Cabinet officials it says are "undoing American government as we know it:" HUD Secretary Ben Carson, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Massimo Calabresi writes: “Quietly, the Administration has taken thousands of actions, affecting everyone from the poorest day laborer to the richest investment banker. And it's touting its work. ‘No President or Administration has deregulated or withdrawn as many anticipated regulatory actions as this one in this short amount of time,’ says White House communications director Hope Hicks.”

-- Trump’s nominee for senior adviser for environmental policy once wrote that Texas would be “better off” as an independent republic. CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and Nathan McDermott report: “Kathleen Hartnett White, the nominee to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality, authored the essay for a 1995 edition of the now-defunct Texas Republic magazine marking the 150 year anniversary of Texas statehood, [which she called] ‘not a happy occasion.’ If confirmed, White would oversee environmental policy across the government. In her 1995 essay, White singled out ‘onerous’ environmental regulations such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act as examples of federal overreach on states' rights. White further argued that the federal income tax, unfunded mandates, federal money with conditions, and direct federal regulation are all examples of ‘federal domination’ White specifically identified federal environmental laws as ‘graphic examples of federal shackles on basic state rights in Texas …’”

-- While advising Trump in 2016, former CIA director James Woolsey pitched a $10 million contract to two businessmen to help discredit a U.S.-based Turkish cleric whom Turkey’s president accused of instigating a failed coup. Reuters’s Nathan Layne reports: “Just eight days after formally joining Trump’s campaign … Woolsey met on Sept. 20, 2016 with businessmen Ekim Alptekin and Sezgin Baran Korkmaz over lunch at the Peninsula Hotel in New York, they said. Woolsey and his wife, Nancye Miller, proposed a lobbying and public relations campaign targeting [Fethullah Gulen]. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan … wants [him] extradited to Turkey to face trial. In an email memo … Woolsey and Miller sketched a plan to ‘draw attention to the cleric’s possible role in the coup attempt’ and encourage an official investigation into his activities. Alptekin, an ally of Erdogan, had already agreed through one of his companies to a $600,000 contract with the consulting firm of Michael Flynn to research Gulen.”

-- The New York Times’s Katie Rogers and Karen Yourish explored how much White House officials could have saved taxpayers by flying commercial: “[I]t cost taxpayers $172,283 for [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin to fly to Florida, Kentucky, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia on a military plane. It could have cost $3,402 — about 50 times less — if he had flown commercial.”

-- Rachel Siegel profiled E. Scott Lloyd, the White House official who attempted to block an undocumented teenager from getting an abortion: “Lloyd built a career as a champion of religious values, holding strong antiabortion views that have now thrust him into the center of a national controversy. His past work has also made him a target of critics who argue he is ill-prepared for his current role as director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement[.] … Lloyd has personally intervened to try to persuade unaccompanied minor girls not to have abortions, according to an HHS official. … The official declined to say whether those girls had been blocked from getting the procedure, as in the case of the 17-year-old detained in Texas and identified in court papers as ‘Jane Doe.’”

-- Former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and former DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz both denied knowledge of any payments to Fusion GPS, the firm behind the infamous dossier. CNN’s Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb report: “The interviews happened before this week's disclosure that the Clinton campaign and DNC paid for the research. Senate investigators may seek to further question the two top Democrats and dig deeper on the origins of the so-called Trump dossier … Sitting next to Podesta during the interview: his attorney Marc Elias, who worked for the law firm that hired Fusion GPS … Elias was only there in his capacity as Podesta's attorney and not as a witness.

“Asked about her interview before [congressional investigators], Wasserman Schultz reiterated she had no awareness of the dossier. ‘I didn't have any awareness of the arrangement at all,’ she told CNN. ‘I'm certainly not going to discuss with you what I talked to any committee about.’"

-- Twitter has banned the Kremlin-backed outlets RT and Sputnik from advertising on its platform. Elizabeth Dwoskin reports: “Twitter said its decision to block advertising from the sites stemmed from the conclusion of the U.S. national intelligence report in January that said that the Kremlin used the sites Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik, along with a far-flung network of ‘quasi-government trolls,’ to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. … Twitter's move may put some pressure on Google and Facebook to pull similar advertising from their sites.”

-- Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general tasked with overseeing Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, said in an interview that he believes American voters are too “savvy” to be swayed by Russian disinformation campaigns. “I think what people need to keep in mind is that there’s a distinction between people trying to sway American elections and succeeding in swaying American elections,’ [he said]. ‘… You know, American citizens are pretty savvy, and they decide who to vote for. I don’t think they’d be influenced by ads posted by foreign governments.” (WTOP)

-- The Fix’s Aaron Blake says he is “skeptical” of that argument: “We have just come off an election in which conspiracy theories and fake news ran through social media like viruses. And we all have that relative who passes along a dubiously spun news report claiming the other party's politician said something that they didn't really say. People are unable to distinguish fact from fiction in these cases, but they know when they are being influenced by an ad that might have been paid for by a foreign entity (and which they likely don't even realize came from a foreign entity)?”

-- Trump jumped into the Virginia governor’s race again on Thursday, saying in a pair of tweets that Ed Gillespie will protect “our great statues” and “heritage.” Fenit Nirappil reports: “’Ed Gillespie will turn the really bad Virginia economy #’s around, and fast. Strong on crime, he might even save our great statues/heritage!’ Trump tweeted at 10:07 a.m., an apparent reference to new Gillespie ads that call for preservation of the state’s Confederate monuments. Four minutes later, Trump added, ‘Ed Gillespie will be a great Governor … His opponent doesn’t even show up to meetings/work, and will be VERY weak on crime!’ … Gillespie’s Democratic opponent, Ralph Northam, is a former Army doctor and pediatric neurologist … Northam later shared a video of him treating patients at a free health care clinic in southwest Virginia, adding ‘While I was treating patients at the RAM clinic, Donald Trump was golfing in Sterling. You tell me who doesn’t show up for Virginians.’”

-- Over the course of his campaign, Gillespie has spent a surprising amount of time away from the spotlight, Marc Fisher writes: “Gillespie has led something of a stealth campaign this fall, issuing few of the advisories that other campaigns use to let TV stations, newspapers and other media outlets cover their efforts to win votes. Even as [Northam’s] campaign issues hour-by-hour listings of his appearances, Gillespie, more than any other recent gubernatorial candidate, Republican or Democrat, often avoids reporters, ignores their questions, and advertises his whereabouts mainly to invited audiences. … In an effort to learn where Gillespie was campaigning Wednesday, Washington Post reporters arrived outside his house in the darkness of the early morning and drove along with the cars that left his cul-de-sac.”

-- Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) became the first Republican senator to oppose Roy Moore’s Senate bid in Alabama. David Weigel reports: Flake “said that Moore represented exactly the politics that had ruined his party. ‘A guy who says that a Muslim member of Congress shouldn’t be able to serve?’ Flake said. ‘That’s not right.’ Flake, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has frequently criticized religious discrimination. But he is the only Republican in the Senate to criticize it in the context of Moore’s campaign.”

-- Politico Magazine, “How the GOP Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Spending,” by Michael Grunwald: “During the Barack Obama presidency, congressional Republicans constantly denounced out-of-control spending; in 2011, they almost forced the government into default to extract significant spending cuts from the White House. Now they’re reverting to their habits during the George W. Bush era, when Republicans oversaw a major spending spree on the military, homeland security and even prescription drug coverage. The GOP has already punted on three belt-tightening opportunities in the Trump era.”

-- The Wall Street Journal, “Facebook Steps Up Efforts to Sway Lawmakers,” by Julie Bykowicz: “The Menlo Park, Calif., company has invested more than $8.4 million this year on its 36-member federal lobbying team—putting it on track to spend more on federal lobbying than in any previous year. The company recently added Republican-led Hamilton Place Strategies and other communications strategists to its team and posted an ad seeking a crisis communications specialist. … Facebook was soliciting advice as to how best to respond to the Russia ad controversy—and how to communicate with Republicans in particular[.]”

-- The Atlantic, “Trump’s Critics Can Sense the GOP Slipping Away From Them,” by David Graham: “Many of these figures seem to still be operating under, or to have recently recognized the faults of, the assumption that Trump is an ephemeral aberration. As Tom Edsall writes, the Republican Party is now the party of Trump. One reason for that is that Republicans tend to more closely identify with the party than Democrats do with theirs, but another is that Trump sensed where GOP primary voters were—angry about immigration, sour on free trade, open to racist rhetoric both subtle and blunt, hostile toward Wall Street—while his rivals were pushing immigration reform, free markets, and inclusion.”

Pence will travel to the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota for a briefing and tour with Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND) and Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND). (While there, he will see the launch facility for the only land-based ICBM in the U.S.) He will also give a speech to the base’s airmen.

-- D.C. will be very sunny today, but we are expected to get a storm starting Saturday night. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Lookin’ good with sunshine. Perfection by afternoon hours! Temperatures top out in the mid-60s to around 70.”

-- Chief baseball officer Joe Torre seemed to confirm that the Nationals were hurt by a missed call in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs. Dan Steinberg reports: “[T]he controversy concerned whether, with two outs and two strikes, Javier Baez should have been allowed to run to first on a passed-ball swinging strike three, since his bat made contact with catcher Matt Wieters. … ‘You know, the whole rule interpretation — there’s rules, and then there’s instructions to the umpires,’ Torre [said in a radio interview]. … ‘However, the rule states … that when contact is made — in other words, when the bat came around and hit the catcher’s mask — it’s a dead ball,’ Torre went on. ‘It’s a dead ball. And that’s the one thing that should have taken precedence.’”

-- Barry Svrluga argues in a new column that the Nationals should hire Joe Girardi as their new manager. Girardi was let go from his role managing the Yankees yesterday.

-- Democrats and Republicans dumped more than $500,000 each into the race for Virginia attorney general. Patricia Sullivan reports: “The Republican Attorneys General Association donated $550,000 to John Adams (R), who is trying to unseat first-term incumbent Mark R. Herring (D) on Nov. 7. The Republican group has now contributed about $4.1 million to Adams, a conservative Richmond lawyer. The Democratic Attorneys General Association was planning to announce later Thursday that it has pumped an additional $725,000 into Herring’s campaign fund — a $500,000 donation made last week and $225,000 this week — bringing its total cash contribution to $2.25 million.”

-- The man who allegedly crashed through an NSA gate in 2015 was convicted of conspiracy, carjacking and destruction of government property. He now faces up to 30 years in prison. (Lynh Bui)

-- A woman accused of throwing a cup full of urine at a Metro bus driver pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault. The exchange – which occurred after the driver told the woman to “have a nice day” – was captured on surveillance footage. (Keith L. Alexander)

Citizens in Puerto Rico delivered a generator to an elder-care facility, saying "there is no FEMA here:"


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