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Wake Up To Politics - October 30, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, October 30, 2018. 7 days until Election Day 2018. 735 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Breaking: Trump to seek an end to birthright citizenship by executive order

President Donald Trump is planning to sign an executive order that would seek to remove the right of U.S. citizenship for children of non-citizens born on U.S. soil, he confirmed in an interview with Axios.

Such a move would be the most dramatic yet by a president whose time in office has been marked by his hardline immigration agenda. It would almost certainly face an immediate court challenge, with opponents likely to cite the Fourteenth Amendment in arguing that anyone born on U.S. soil has a right to citizenship, even if their parent is a non-citizen or an undocumented immigrant.

Birthright citizenship was instituted in the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." But Trump told Axios that he could make a change with only an executive order. "It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't," he said, although that stance is questioned by many legal scholars.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump hinted that he would attempt to end birthright citizenship -- frequently decrying "anchor babies," children born to undocumented immigrants in the United States. "We're the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States...with all of those benefits," the president said in the Axios interview. "It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. And it has to end." Despite Trump's claim, many other countries have birthright citizenship policies, including Canada.

An excerpt of the Axios interview, which took place on Monday, was released this morning; it will be released in full on Sunday, as part of a new HBO series.

--- Immigration: The latest hint as to President Trump's immigration plans come as he has sought to make immigration a central issue in his closing message before the midterm elections. On Monday, the Defense Department announced plans to deploy 5,200 troops to the southern border by the end of the week, to stare down a caravan of about 3,500 Central American migrants that is making its way to the U.S.-Mexico border. "This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you," Trump tweeted about the caravan Monday. The troop deployment will be the largest U.S. active-duty mobilization along the southern border in decades.

Midterms Central

Big picture: A sampling of the latest headlines...

  • "Dems regain momentum in final days of battle for House" (Politico)
  • "GOP scrambles to save suddenly vulnerable House candidates in Trump districts" (Washington Post)
  • "To Rally Voters, Democrats Focus on Health Care as Their Closing Argument" (New York Times)
  • "Candidates sidestep Trump in midterm closing message" (Associated Press)FL-GOV: President Trump tweeted about the Florida gubernatorial race on Monday, labeling Democrat Andrew Gillium as a "thief" without evidence in what some said was a racially-tinged attack. "In Florida there is a choice between a Harvard/Yale educated man named @RonDeSantisFL who has been a great Congressman and will be a great Governor - and a Dem who is a thief and who is Mayor of poorly run Tallahassee, said to be one of the most corrupt cities in the Country!" he tweeted.

    Although it is unclear what the president was referring to in labeling Gillum a "thief," the Tallahassee city government has been the focus of an FBI corruption probe during Gillum's mayorship. The Florida Ethics Commission is also investigating a trip Gillum took to Costa Rica with a lobbyist; in addition, text messages surfaced last week showing that Gillum accepted a "Hamilton" ticket from someone he believed to be a Florida real estate developer, but who was actually an undercover FBI agent.

    --- "Latest documents claim Gillum paid for fundraising trip with official office account" (Politico)

    TX-SEN: Republican Sen. Ted Cruz's lead over Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke in the Texas Senate race is narrowing, a new Quinnipiac University poll found. Cruz now leads O'Rourke among likely voters, 51% to 46%, a margin that is comfortable but considerably smaller than his 9-point lead (54% to 45%) in Quinnipiac's poll earlier this month.

    --- "Beto O’Rourke Once Supported an El Paso Real Estate Deal. Barrio Residents Remember." (New York Times)

    GA-GOV: Former President Jimmy Carter, 94, has waded into the contentious gubernatorial race in his home state of Georgia, writing a letter to Republican nominee Brian Kemp urging him to step down as secretary of state. Democrat Stacey Abrams has accused Kemp of attempting to suppress the black vote in the state by putting a hold on more than 53,000 voter registrations applications because of discrepancies with other records.

    Trump on the trail: The Trump re-election campaign announced the president's schedule for his final midterm push, a whirlwind tour that will include 11 rallies in eight states. Trump is set to hold two rallies each in Florida, Missouri, and Indiana, as well as one each in West Virginia, Montana, Georgia, Ohio, and Tennessee. Per Bloomberg, in states where there are both competitive House districts and contested Senate races, Trump is visiting areas where his support is strongest instead of swing districts, a sign that he is focusing on races for the Senate instead of the House.

    --- Meanwhile, Trump's approval rating dipped to 40% in Gallup's weekly tracker for the week ending on Sunday, a rare 4-point drop from the week before. Much of the week was dominated by Trump's much-criticized response to a series of pipe bombs sent to his opponents and a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

    One week to go...

The Russia investigation

Mueller probes Stone conference calls: "Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators are examining comments by Roger Stone—a longtime adviser to Donald Trump—about WikiLeaks during a series of conference calls he hosted in 2016, according to a witness in the probe and another person familiar with the matter.

"In at least two August conference calls advertised online to the public and promoting himself as 'the ultimate political insider,' Mr. Stone told callers about WikiLeaks’ plans to release information that he said would affect the 2016 presidential campaign before the election..." (Wall Street Journal)

Trump/Mueller interview: "President Donald Trump’s legal team has prepared written responses to several dozen questions from Special Counsel Robert Mueller but say they won’t submit them until after next week’s elections and only if they reach a broader agreement with Mueller on terms for the questioning.

"Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, said in an interview Monday that the answers relate only to whether Trump colluded with Russia during his presidential campaign. He said the legal team is still unwilling to answer any questions concerning obstruction of justice by the president." (Bloomberg)

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White House schedule

POTUS: President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump travel to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania today, as the city mourns the 11 victims of a shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue over the weekend. First Daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, who are both Jewish as well as formal White House advisers, will also be on hand.

Trump's visit comes despite an open letter written by some progressive Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh, who said he would not be welcome in the city. Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto, a Democrat, told reporters Monday that he would urge the president to hold off on visiting. "If the president is looking to come to Pittsburgh, I would ask that he not do so while we are burying the dead," he said. Funerals begin today for the 11 victims.

The Pittsburgh visit will give Trump another chance to act as consoler-in-chief, a part of his role as president that he has struggled with in the past 21 months. Some critics have blamed Trump's divisive rhetoric for leading, in part, to events such as Saturday's shooting; in turn, he and his aides have blamed the media for inciting division.

--- "Trump and aides struggle to balance midterm attacks with empathy after synagogue massacre" (Washington Post)

VP: Vice President Mike Pence travels to Birmingham, Alabama today to participate in a National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) event.

Congress schedule

Both houses of Congress are on recess.

*All times Eastern