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Wake Up To Politics - October 25, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, October 25, 2018. 12 days until Election Day 2018. 740 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats, CNN offices

Suspicious packages containing pipe bombs were sent to several prominent Democrats on Wednesday, setting off a high-level law enforcement investigation to find out who is responsible.

In a span of 24 hours, similar packages — containing homemade pipe bombs inside of bubble-wrapped manila envelopes — were intercepted by authorities being sent to billionaire George Soros, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), and actor Robert De Niro. The package addressed to Brennan was sent to CNN's New York bureau in the Time Warner Center, which was evacuated on Wednesday after the bomb was discovered. The packages all listed the office of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) as their return address; the package intended for Holder was sent to Wasserman Schultz instead.

All of the recipients are top critics of President Donald Trump who have been frequently targeted in his speeches and tweets. Trump condemned the mailings as "despicable" in remarks at the White House on Wednesday. "In these times, we have to unify," he said. "We have to come together, and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America."

Later, at a rally in Wisconsin, Trump said that he was tempering his remarks in light of the bomb scares. "Do you see how nice I'm behaving tonight?" he asked. "Have you ever seen this? We're all behaving very well!" Yet, Trump's speech still contained many of his familiar partisan attacks, including misleading claims about Democrats' immigration policies; he also lectured the media about civility, calling on journalists to "stop the endless hostility and constant negative and often false attacks and stories."

Trump continued to blame the media in a tweet this morning, saying: "A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News. It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description."

Earlier on Wednesday, after the network received one of the pipe bombs, CNN president Jeff Zucker criticized President Trump's anti-media rhetoric, seeming to suggest a connection. "There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the Whtie House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media," Zucker said. "The President, and especially the White House press secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that."

Democratic congressional leaders also criticized President Trump's condemnation of the mailings, pointing to his frequent attacks on the recipients. "President Trump's words ring hollow until he reverses his statements that condone acts of violence," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a joint statement.

The FBI has confirmed their interception of the suspicious packages. "This investigation is of the highest priority for the FBI," Christopher Wray, the agency's director, said Wednesday.

--- "Amid incendiary rhetoric, targets of Trump's words become targets of bombs" (Washington Post)

Inside the White House

Via the New York Times:

"When President Trump calls old friends on one of his iPhones to gossip, gripe or solicit their latest take on how he is doing, American intelligence reports indicate that Chinese spies are often listening — and putting to use invaluable insights into how to best work the president and affect administration policy, current and former American officials said.

"Mr. Trump’s aides have repeatedly warned him that his cellphone calls are not secure, and they have told him that Russian spies are routinely eavesdropping on the calls, as well. But aides say the voluble president, who has been pressured into using his secure White House landline more often these days, has still refused to give up his iPhones. White House officials say they can only hope he refrains from discussing classified information when he is on them."

--- President Trump denied the Times' report in a tweet this morning. "The so-called experts on Trump over at the New York Times wrote a long and boring article on my cellphone usage that is so incorrect I do not have time here to correct it," he said. "I only use Government Phones, and have only one seldom used government cell phone. Story is soooo wrong!"

Midterms Central

GA-GOV: A federal judge on Wednesday ordered Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to stop rejecting absentee ballots because of signature discrepancies, missing addresses, or incorrect birth years before giving voters a chance to fix the problems. Kemp is the Georgia Republican gubernatorial nominee, in addition to overseeing the election. Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams has accused Kemp of attempting to suppress the minority vote.

--- A NBC News/Marist poll released on Wednesday showed Kemp with a slight edge in the race, leading 49% to 47% among likely voters, a result within the poll's margin of error.

Health care: "House Republicans are increasingly worried that Democrats’ attacks on their votes to repeal and replace Obamacare could cost them the House. While the legislation stalled in the Senate, it’s become a toxic issue on the campaign trail for the House Republicans who backed it." (Politico)

Recommended read: "A Changing Tennessee Weighs a Moderate or Conservative for Senate" (New York Times)

The Russia investigation

Stone associate: "Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office has obtained communications suggesting that a right-wing conspiracy theorist might have had advance knowledge that the emails of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman had been stolen and handed to WikiLeaks, a source familiar with the investigation told NBC News.

"Mueller's team has spent months investigating whether the conspiracy theorist, Jerome Corsi, learned before the public did that WikiLeaks had obtained emails hacked by Russian intelligence officers — and whether he passed information about the stolen emails to Donald Trump associate Roger Stone, multiple sources said." (NBC News)

Papadopoulos: Former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos is scheduled to speak to investigators from the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees today. Papadopoulos has been cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation since pleading guilty last year to making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with Russians. He has been under scrutiny for his outreach to multiple Russian nationals about the Trump campaign, as well as his interactions with London-based professor Joseph Mifsud, who told him in April 2016 that the Russians had obtained thousands of Hillary Clinton's emails. This will be Papadopoulos's first time testifying before Congress.

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White House schedule

POTUS: At 11:30am, President Trump receives his intelligence briefing. At 2pm, he delivers remarks on drug pricing at the Department of Health and Human Services. According to Politico, Trump will "unveil a plan to overhaul how Medicare pays for certain drugs, attacking 'foreign freeloaders' that he says have driven up costs in the U.S."

At 6:15pm, he delivers remarks at a reception commemorating the 35th anniversary of the attack on Beirut Barracks. Trump will then hold two fundraisers in Washington, D.C., a 7:30pm roundtable with supporters and an 8pm dinner with supporters. According to Politico, the events will support three Republican congressional candidates: Jay Webber (NJ-11), Ross Spano (FL-15), and Carol Miller (WV-03).

VP: Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence travel to Florida today. They will visit Panama City to receive a briefing on Hurricane Michael and meet with military families impacted by the storm. Then, at 4:05pm, the Vice President will speak at an event for Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis in Jacksonville. At 7:30pm, he speaks at an event for Republican Senate nominee Rick Scott in Vero Beach.

Congress schedule

Both houses of Congress are on recess.

*All times Eastern