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Wake Up To Politics - October 15, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, October 15, 2018. 22 days until Election Day 2018. 750 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Trump sending Pompeo to Saudia Arabia amid Khashoggi backlash

President Donald Trump said on Twitter this morning that he is sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with Saudia Arabia's King Salman to discuss the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post.

"Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened to 'our Saudi Arabian citizen,'" he tweeted, seeming to emphasize that Khashoggi was not an American citizen (he was a permanent resident). "He said that they are working closely with Turkey to find answer. I am immediately sending our Secretary of State to meet with King!"

Khashoggi was last seen on October 2 entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. According to The Post, Turkish investigators have told the Trump administration that they have audio recordings from inside the consulate that show Khashoggi being interrogated and tortured, and then killed and dismembered, by Saudi agents. President Trump told reporters on Saturday that he had not yet seen evidence of the journalist's murder.

In an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday, Trump promised "severe punishment" if Saudi Arabia is found to be connected with Khashoggi's disappearance. But he hesitated to say exactly what punishment they would face, seeming to oppose ending the $110 billion in U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia. "I'll tell you what I don't want to do: I don't want to hurt jobs," he said. "I don't want to lose an order like that. And you know what, there are other ways of punishing."

The Khashoggi controversy has been a blow to White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, who forged a "close partnership" with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as "MBS." Kushner and Mohammed worked together to plan President Trump's first foreign trip, which made its first stop in Riyadh, and Kushner has promoted the Saudi heir's reformer image.

U.S. officials have reportedly obtained intelligence intercepts that show Mohammed order an operation to lure Khashoggi from his Virginia home back to Saudi Arabia in order to detain him.

Trump on "60 Minutes": Top quotes

Some top quotes from Trump's interview on "60 Minutes"...

  • On Defense Secretary James Mattis: "I have a very good relationship with him. It could be that he is [planning to step down]. I think he's sort of a Democrat, if you wanna know the truth. But General Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Everybody. People leave. That's Washington."
  • On Kim Jong Un's human rights violations: "Sure. I know all these things. I mean, I'm not a baby... Let it be whatever it is. I get along with him really well. I have a good energy with him. I have a good chemistry with him."
  • On climate change: "I think something's happening. Something's changing, and it'll change back again. I don't think it's a hoax, I think there's probably a difference. But I don't know that it's man-made. I will say this. I don't want to give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don't want to lose millions and millions of jobs. I don't want to be put at a disadvantage."
  • On mocking Dr. Christine Blasey Ford: "Had I not made that speech, we would not have won. I was just saying she didn't seem to know anything... It doesn't matter. We won."
  • On firing special counsel Robert Mueller: "I don't pledge anything. But I will tell you, I have no intention of doing that. I think it's a very unfair investigation because there was no collusion of any kind."

(Full transcript)

The Rundown

Family separation: "The White House is actively considering plans that could again separate parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border, hoping to reverse soaring numbers of families attempting to cross illegally into the United States, according to several administration officials with direct knowledge of the effort.

"One option under consideration is for the government to detain asylum-seeking families together for up to 20 days, then give parents a choice — stay in family detention with their child for months or years as their immigration case proceeds, or allow children to be taken to a government shelter so other relatives or guardians can seek custody." (Washington Post)

--- President Trump confirmed to reporters on Saturday that his administration is considering such a policy. "We're looking at everything," he said.

2018 Central: Democratic candidates for Congress lead their Republican opponents in the generic ballot question, 53% to 42%, according to a Washington Post/ABC poll released on Sunday. The poll also showed an increase in enthusiasm ahead of the midterm elections, with 77% of registered voters saying they are "absolutely certain to vote" next month (compared to 65% in October 2014). Significant increases in enthusiasm were particularly seen in Democrats (81% said they were certain to vote, compared to 63% in October 2014) and groups that generally favor them, such as voters aged 18-39 (67%, compared to 42% four years ago) and nonwhite voters (72%, compared to 48% four years ago).

--- It's not just enthusiasm: "GOP overwhelmed by Democratic cash," per Politico. Democratic candidates are benefiting from a deluge of dollars, most notably Texas Senate nominee Beto O'Rourke, who announced on Friday that he raised $38.1 million in the last fundraising quarter, a Senate campaign record.

2020 Central: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is preparing for an "all-but-certain" 2020 presidential bid, according to the Washington Post. According to the Post, Warren's pre-campaign effort "has encompassed work in all 50 states and close coordination with more than 150 campaigns." Warren also countered President Trump's standard line of attack against her ("Pocahontas") this morning by releasing the results of a DNA test that found "strong evidence" that she has some Native American ancestry, also debuting a campaign ad-style video on her "family story" and a "fact squad" website focused on her heritage, more signs that she is gearing up for a White House run.

--- CNN released its first poll of the Democratic presidential primary field on Sunday. Former Vice President Joe Biden was the frontrunner, supported by 33% of Democratic voters polled, followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (13%), California Sen. Kamala Harris (9%), and Warren (8%).

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White House schedule

POTUS: President and First Lady Trump travel to Florida and Georgia today to tour the damage dealt by Hurricane Michael. "Will be leaving for Florida and Georgia with the First Lady to tour the hurricane damage and visit with FEMA, First Responders and Law Enforcement," the president tweeted this morning. "Maximum effort is taking place, everyone is working very hard. Worst hit in 50 years!"

VP: Vice President Mike Pence has lunch with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Later, he participates in an event for Republican congressional candidates.

Congress schedule

Both houses of Congress are on recess.

Trivia desk

Today's question: Who is the only U.S. president or vice president with known Native American ancestry?

Send your answer to trivia@wakeuptopolitics.com; the first five correct respondents will be named in tomorrow's newsletter!

*All times Eastern