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Wake Up To Politics - October 17, 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.

"Horseface," Saudi Arabia, and more: Quiet schedule turns into noisy day for Trump

President Donald Trump had no events on his public schedule Tuesday. That didn't stop him from making his voice heard, weighing in on everything from Jamal Khashoggi to Stormy Daniels between two wide-ranging interviews and 20 tweets.

Saudi Arabia: Trump continued to buck pressure from Congress and the international community to distance himself from Saudi Arabia amid reports that the kingdom is responsible for the suspected murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But the president refused to place blame on Saudi Arabia just yet,
tweeting that he spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and noting that he "totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate," where Khashoggi was last seen more than two weeks ago.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Trump compared the global condemnation of Saudi Arabia to the contentious confirmation of his Supreme Court pick, Justice Brett Kavanaugh. "I think we have to find out what happened first," he said. "Here we go again with, you know, you're guilty until proven innocent. I don't like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I'm concerned."

The New York Times later reported on Tuesday that the four suspects identified by Turkey in its Khashoggi investigation were linked to Prince Mohammed's security detail, including one who is a frequent companion of his, establishing a direct link between the crown prince and what happened to the Washington Post columnist. According to the Wall Street Journal, Saudi operatives "beat, drugged, killed and dismembered" Khashoggi at the Istanbul consulate; the kingdom is reportedly expected to label the murder an accident, denying that Mohammed ordered the interrogation to go that far.

The Trump administration is signaling that it would likely accept such an explanation, with the president repeatedly parroting the crown prince's denials and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praising Saudi leaders for their "thorough, transparent, and timely investigation" after emerging from a meeting with them on Tuesday, smiling.

Stormy Daniels: Trump also tweeted on Tuesday about his legal victory against adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who had sued the president for defamation after he dismissed her claims that she had been threatened not to speak about her alleged affair with him. Celebrating that a federal judge had thrown out the lawsuit and ordered Daniels to pay his legal fees, Trump said: "Great, now I can go after Horseface and her 3rd rate lawyer in the Great State of Texas." The nickname was the latest in a string of comments the president has made about the appearance of various women.

In the AP interview, Trump was asked if it was appropriate for the president to call a woman a "horseface." He replied: "You know what? You can take it any way you want."


  • Trump also tweeted repeatedly about Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), early in the morning and late at night, continuing to attack her claims of Native American heritage ("a complete and total Fraud!")
  • He continued to go after the Federal Reserve in a Fox Business News
     interview ("My biggest threat is the Fed, because the Fed is raising [interest] rates too fast, and it's too independent")
  • He also weighed in on the 2020 campaign in both interviews, telling Fox Business that he thinks it's "good" that former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg may run for president. "I think the Democrats will eat him up," he said. "You know, you have a lot of people running. I’m hearing names that are shockingly bad, but they’re nasty." In the AP interview, he said he sees "no talent" in the field of prospective Democratic challengers.
  • He also told AP that he would not accept the blame if Republicans lose control of the House next month, accused his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen of lying when he implicated the president under oath in campaign finance violations ("totally false"), confirmed his pick for White House counsel (Washington litigator and former Justice Department official Pat Cipollone, a "a very fine man"), and again cast doubt on climate change (there are "scientists on both sides of the issue").

The Russia investigation

A new report from Bloomberg this morning...

"Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections as he faces intensifying pressure to produce more indictments or shut down his investigation, according to two U.S. officials."

"Specifically, Mueller is close to rendering judgment on two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry: whether there were clear incidents of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and whether the president took any actions that constitute obstruction of justice, according to one of the officials, who asked not to be identified speaking about the investigation."

"That doesn’t necessarily mean Mueller’s findings would be made public if he doesn’t secure unsealed indictments. The regulations governing Mueller’s probe stipulate that he can present his findings only to his boss, who is currently Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The regulations give a special counsel’s supervisor some discretion in deciding what is relayed to Congress and what is publicly released."

2018 Central

TX-SEN: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) faced off in their second debate on Tuesday night, with the latter ditching his positive campaign to taking a number of blows at the incumbent. "He's dishonest," O'Rourke said of Cruz during the debate. "That's why the president called him Lyin' Ted and it's why the nickname stuck, because it's true." Cruz fired back, repeatedly warning of what would happen if O'Rourke and Democrats took control of Congress. "With Congressman O'Rourke leading the way, [there'll be] two years of a partisan circus and a witch hunt on the president," he argued.

--- "Watched the debate last night & Beto O'Rourke, who wants higher taxes and far more regulations, is not in the same league with Ted Cruz & what the great people of Texas stand for & want," President Trump tweets this morning. He is set to campaign for Cruz at a rally next Monday.

--- A new CNN poll showed Cruz maintaining a decisive lead in the race, 52% to 45%.

ND-SEN: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) ran a newspaper ad on Sunday criticizing her challenger, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), for his comments on the #MeToo movements; the ad was crafted like an open letter to Cramer, appearing to include the names of 120+ survivors of sexual abuse. But Heitkamp was forced to apologize on Tuesday after several of the women said that they had been included without their permission or that they were not survivors of abuse at all, an embarrassing error for the vulnerable Democrat's campaign. "I deeply regret this mistake and we are in the process of issuing a retraction, personally apologizing to each of the people impacted by this and taking the necessary steps to ensure this never happens again," Heitkamp said in a statement.

"Green wave": "Democratic challengers outraised Republican House incumbents in 92 House districts in the last three months — a staggering mismatch that boosts the odds of a GOP washout in November," Politico reports. "There is no historical precedent for financing this broad and deep for congressional challengers."

--- CNN's David Wright tweets: "Across 28 House races rated 'toss-ups' by CNN, Democratic candidates raised $69.57 million, and Republican candidates raised $21.39 million. Every Democrat outraised their GOP opponent in these contests. 26 of those 28 seats were held by Republicans in 2016."

--- Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman tweets: "Perhaps most staggering: Dem challengers outraised GOP incumbents in 38 House seats @CookPolitical currently rates as Likely or Solid R."

2020 Central

Recent headlines...

  • "Julian Castro says he's 'likely' to challenge Trump in 2020" (CNN)
  • "Warren readies for 2020 run" (Politico)
  • "Harris advisers plot 2020 strategy" (Politico)
  • "Michael Avenatti Is Making Concrete Moves to Run for President in 2020 Against Trump" (The Daily Beast)
  • "Cory Booker makes 2020 Iowa debut" (Washington Post)

There may still be three weeks left until the 2018 midterms, but the 2020 presidential campaign has already begun...

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White House schedule

POTUS: At 11am, President Trump meets with workers on "Cutting the Red Tape, Unleashing Economic Freedom." At 11:30am, he hosts a Cabinet meeting. At 4pm, he presents the Medal of Honor to retired Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Major John Canley, for "conspicuous gallantry" during the Vietnam War.

VP: At 5pm, Vice President Mike Pence participates in an event for Georgia Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, who has faced criticism this week for aggressively purging Georgia's voter rolls and freezing tens of thousands of voter registrations.

FLOTUS: First Lady Melania Trump travels to a Philadelphia hospital today to meet "families affected by neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) and staff," as part of her #BeBest campaign. Trump will also tour a neonatal intensive care nursery and deliver welcoming remarks at a conference on NAS hosted by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Congress schedule

Both houses of Congress are on recess.

Trivia desk

Yesterday's answer: Before Beto O'Rourke, the previous record for largest fundraising haul by a Senate candidate in a single quarter was held by... Rick Lazio, the Republican Senate nominee in 2000, who was defeated by Hillary Clinton. Lazio raised $22 million in the third quarter of that election; O'Rourke raised $38 million last quarter.

Great job to everyone who answered! The first five were... Dane Trotti, Ethan Stone, Jessica Auburger, Joe Bookman, and Shlomo Schorr.

*All times Eastern*