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Wake Up To Politics - October 11, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from the WUTP Delaware Bureau in Newark, Delaware. It’s Thursday, October 11, 2018. 26 days until Election Day 2018. 754 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Trump faces pressure over Khashoggi disappearance

A bipartisan group of 22 senators, led by Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) and ranking member Bob Menendez (D-NJ), on Wednesday formally requested a probe into allegations that the Saudi government is responsible for the disappearance and possible death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Under the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016, their letter triggers a 120-day window for the Trump administration to investigate the allegations and report back to the Foreign Relations Committee on whether the sanctions will be imposed against Saudi Arabia for human rights violations.

In their letter, the senators wrote that Khashoggi's disappearance "suggests that he could be a victim of a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights," which would fall under the purview of Magnitsky Act sanctions.

President Trump on Wednesday called Khashoggi's disappearance "a very serious situation for us and this White House," but later resisted calls to cut off arms sales to Saudia Arabia if the kingdom is found to have murdered Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist. "I think that would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country," he said of ending the arms sales in a Fox News interview.

The Khashoggi disappearance has called into question the Trump White House's ties to the Saudi government, particularly White House senior adviser Jared Kushner's relationship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

According to the Washington Post, U.S. intelligence intercepts show the crown prince ordering an operation to lure Khashoggi to Saudia Arabia from his Virginia home in order to detain him.

The Rundown

Midterms central: The central theme running through both parties' closing arguments ahead of the midterms: "aggressively stoking fears about the opposing party on health care and the rule of law," the Washington Post reports.

--- A new Quinnipiac poll out this morning shows Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) comfortably leading his Democratic challenger, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), 54% to 45%, among likely voters. As across the country, the poll showed a widening gender gap in the race, with men backing Cruz, 62% to 37%, and women favoring O'Rourke, 52% to 46%.

--- "GOP closes in on Heitkamp knockout — and control of the Senate" (Politico)

Trump and DOJ: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had been scheduled to meet with the House Judiciary Committee today amid demands from Trump allies that he answer questions about a report that he discussed wearing a wire to secretly record President Trump. However, the meeting has been postponed, according to CNN. "It is disappointing Rod Rosenstein will not be answering questions before Congress tomorrow—to put it mildly," House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) said in a statement Wednesday.

--- Per the New York Times, former FBI general counsel James Baker told congressional officials in private testimony last week that he took Rosenstein's comment about wearing a wire seriously when it was made to him. When the Times first reported on the comment, the Justice Department said Rosenstein was being sarcastic.

--- According to the Washington Post, Trump talked recently with Attorney General Jeff Sessions' own chief of staff, Matt Whitaker, about replacing Sessions.

Recommended read: "My Private Oval Office Press Conference With Donald Trump, Mike Pence, John Kelly, and Mike Pompeo" by Olivia Nuzzi (New York Magazine)

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White House schedule

POTUS: At 11:30am, President Trump participates in a signing ceremony for the Save Our Seas Act of 2018, which reauthorizes the Marine Debris Program and urges the executive branch to work with foreign countries to find a solution to the global marine debris problem.

At 11:45am, he participates in a signing ceremony for the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act, which creates a new independent entity to "identify the copyright owners for a song's composition and to pay them the digital royalties they are owed when their music is played on Spotify, AppleMusicand other streaming services," according to The Tennessean. The legislation marks the first major reform to U.S. music copyright laws.

Pro-Trump performers Kanye West and Kid Rock will attend the ceremony, according to Variety. West is also expected to have lunch with the president today and meet with White House senior adviser Jared Kushner; "topics of discussions will include manufacturing resurgence in America, prison reform, how to prevent gang violence, and what can be done to reduce violence in Chicago," per White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

Congress schedule

Senate: The Senate meets at 11am today. At 12:10pm, the chamber is expected to vote on confirmation of Jeffrey Bossert Clark to be Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, followed by a cloture vote advancing the nomination of Eric S. Dreiband to be Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. Both Clark and Dreiband are currently partners at top D.C. law firms, Kirkland & Ellis and Jones Day, respectively.  

House: The House is on recess through the midterm elections.

Today's Trivia

Question of the day: Today is the anniversary of the debut of "Saturday Night Live." Which White House official hosted the show in the first season, the first political figure to host?

Send your answer to trivia@wakeuptopolitics.com along with your city and state by the end of the day. The first and last correct respondents will be mentioned in tomorrow's newsletter!

Yesterday's answer: President John Adams appointed his son, John Quincy Adams, to be ambassador to Prussia. The first respondent: Celia Rabinowitz of Keene, New Hampshire... The last respondent: Kimberly Lindas of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Thanks to all who answered!

*All times Eastern