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Wake Up To Politics - October 16, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, October 16, 2018. 21 days until Election Day 2018. 749 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Khashoggi investigation continues

--- Turkish investigators were permitted to search Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul on Monday, according to the Washington Post; journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Post columnist who had been critical of the Saudi kingdom, was entering the mission when he was last seen two weeks ago.

--- According to CNN, the Saudis are preparing to acknowledge that they were responsible for Khashoggi's death. The kingdom is reportedly planning on releasing a report that would conclude Khashoggi died due to "an interrogation that went wrong." Per NBC News, this plan would absolve Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (better known as MBS) of responsibility by claiming that he had only approved interrogating Khashoggi, nothing more. However, according to the New York Times, "an autopsy specialist carrying a bone saw was among 15 Saudi operatives who flew in and out of Istanbul the day Mr. Khashoggi disappeared."

--- Saudi Arabia has so far denied Khashoggi's death, insisting that he left the consulate later in the same day that he entered; however, Turkey has reportedly turned over audio and video evidence of the journalist being tortured, murdered, and dismembered at the consulate. After speaking to Saudi King Salman for 20 minutes on Monday, President Trump seemed to accept his claims, telling reporters: "It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers, who knows?" Trump also said that he told the king: "The world is watching. The world is talking, and this is very important to get to the bottom of."

--- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is currently in Saudi Arabia, where he met with King Salman for about 15 minutes earlier today. He is also set to meet with MBS and Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir, and he will dine with MBS later tonight. Another Trump Cabinet secretary has been in the spotlight, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is currently scheduled to attend a Saudi investment conference in Riyadh later this month. A number of high-profile U.S. executives have dropped out of the conference in recent days, attempting to distance themselves from Saudi Arabia; Trump told reporters that Mnuchin will decide by Friday if he still plans to attend.

2018 Central: 3Q fundraising reports

--- Monday was the deadline for candidates and campaign committees to file their third-quarter fundraising reports to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). According to the New York Times, Democratic candidates decidedly outraised their Republican opponents in a majority of the 69 most competitive House races, with many Democrats raising "large sums from small donations online." In total, according to the Times, Democrats have raised $252 million in these races, to Republicans' $172 million.

--- "Democrats lead Republicans in the money race in many of the key Senate and House campaigns three weeks ahead of midterm elections that will determine control of Congress," the Associated Press reported. At least 60 Democratic House candidates raised more than $1 million during the third quarter, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) announced; 30 raised more than $2 million and 8 raised more than $3 million, a huge sum to spend in a single congressional district.

--- On the Senate side, many Democrats also outraised their GOP opponents, including Claire McCaskill (MO), Jon Tester (MT), and Jacky Rosen (NV). Most notably, Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke's campaign to defeat Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) raised $38 million last quarter, a Senate campaign record. Per CNN, GOP operatives are "increasingly worried about the so-called 'green wave' of money flowing to Democratic candidates in the final weeks before the midterms."

--- While some Republican candidates struggled with fundraising, President Trump pulled in $18.1 million last quarter through his campaign committee and two joint fundraising committee, FEC filings showed. According to the Washington Post, Trump has now raised a total of at least $106 million for his 2020 re-election bid; per McClatchy, he is the first president since at least the 1970's to begin raising money for his campaign committee this early in his term.

--- Three weeks to go until the midterms...

2020 Central: Warren, Trump spar over DNA test

--- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who has been criticized for claiming in the past that she was Native American (including by President Trump, who has mockingly labeled her "Pocahontas"), released a DNA test on Monday that concluded there was "strong evidence" that she has a small amount of Native American blood. Trump said in July that he would donate $1 million to a charity of her choice if Warren took a DNA test that showed she's "an Indian"; on Monday, he denied having made that challenge ("I didn't say that") and then later said he would only make the donation "if I can test her personally."

--- In a series of tweets this morning, Trump called the DNA test "bogus" and mocked the small amount of Native American blood it concluded she has (1/64 to 1/2024). He also cited a statement by the Cherokee Nation, which called the DNA test "useless" and claimed that Harvard Law School "would not have taken her" as a professor if not for her claim that she was Native American, despite the Boston Globe's finding that Warren's ethnicity was not a factor in her career advancement. Warren is "a complete and total Fraud," he declared.

--- Washington Post: "In dust-up with Elizabeth Warren, President Trump shows he’s pulling the strings in the Democratic presidential contest"

--- Per Politico, Warren is mulling a visit to the first-in-the-nation caucus state, Iowa, before the November midterms.

The Leftovers

THE DEFICIT: The U.S. budget deficit rose to $779 billion in Fiscal Year 2018, the Treasury Department announced on Monday, a nearly 17% increase from last year and the largest it has been since 2012, when the economy was recovering from a recession. While the Trump administration attributed the rise to military and domestic budget increases, the deficit increase was "driven in large part by a sharp decline in corporate tax revenues after the Trump tax cuts took effect," the New York Times reported.

MATTIS: Defense Secretary James Mattis pushed back on President Trump's assertion, made in a "60 Minutes" interview, that he is "sort of a Democrat." Mattis told reporters en route to Vietnam on Monday: "I've never registered for any political party." He also made clear that he does not plan to step down, contrary to Trump's hinting at such in the interview. "We've never talked about me leaving," Mattis said.

STORMY: U.S. District Judge S. James Otero in Los Angeles dismissed a lawsuit from adult-film actress Stormy Daniels that claimed President Trump defamed her when he suggested on Twitter that she lied about being threatened to keep quiet about their alleged affair. The judge, who said Trump's tweet was protected by the First Amendment and could be classified as the kind of "rhetorical hyperbole" normally associated with politics, also ordered Daniels to pay Trump's legal fees. As the president's legal team declared the ruling a "total victory for President Trump and a total defeat for Stormy Daniels," her lawyer Michael Avenatti tweeted that Daniels' main case against Trump (which seeks to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement she signed in 2016) would continue and that he had appealed Otero's ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

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White House schedule

POTUS: President Trump has no public events on his schedule today, for the first weekday since September 13. He will be interviewed by Fox Business News' Trish Regan at 8pm tonight, on the second night of her new show, "Trish Reagan Primetime."

VP: Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Second Lady Karen Pence, travel to Albany, Georgia today. At 2:05pm, they will visit Flint River Mills Inc., a farm animal feed company affected by Hurricane Michael. At 3pm, they will tour Pecan Ridge Plantation and speak with farmers whose crops were affected by the storm. The Trumps visited Florida and Georgia to see the damage from Michael firsthand on Monday; the president lavished praise on the federal response. "The job they've done, everybody has been incredible," he said Monday.

Congress schedule

Both houses of Congress are on recess.

Trivia desk

Today's question: Before Beto O'Rourke, who held the record for largest fundraising haul in a single quarter of a Senate campaign?

Email trivia@wakeuptopolitics.com with your answer; the first five people to email with the correct answer (as well as their city and state) will be mentioned in tomorrow's newsletter!

Yesterday's answer: The only U.S. president or vice president with Native American ancestry was... Charles Curtis, who served under Herbert Hoover. Curtis's mother was Native American, and he spent time living on the reservation of the Kaw Nation as a child.

Great job to all 49 correct respondents! Credit goes to the first five... Jessica Auberger, Linda Turnowski, Donnie Amos, Rob Browne, and Brett Cohen!

*All times Eastern*