Feeling the pulse
Fresh controversies break out at a stupefying rate in the Donald Trump era. With the midterm elections near, each is examined for how it might tilt the result. Will lingering anger from the Brett Kavanaugh fight propel more Democrats or Republicans to the polls? Did Trump turn even more women against him by calling Stormy Daniels "Horseface"?
But other issues are perennials — health insurance, Medicare and Social Security — and are a big part of the parties' conversation with 2018 voters.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that if Republicans win enough seats, they might try again to repeal Obamacare. With polls showing the Affordable Care Act more popular, and its protections for pre-existing conditions virtually sacrosanct for many Americans, Democrats pounced.
"Republicans will do everything they can to take away families’ health care and raise their costs," tweeted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll Sunday showed Democrats with an 18-point advantage over Republicans on who voters trust to do a better job of handling health care
At rallies and in a USA Today op-ed last week that fact-checkers found to be mostly fact-free, Trump depicted himself and Republicans as guardians of Social Security and Medicare "from the radical socialist plans of the Democrats."
McConnell followed a more traditional Republican script in a Bloomberg News interview Tuesday. Entitlement programs, not GOP tax cuts, are responsible for soaring deficits, and spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid must be contained "to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future,” he said.
Throws this against the wall
Trump says that illegal immigration could be a winning issue again for Republicans if they talk about it more.
"Hard to believe that with thousands of people from South of the Border, walking unimpeded toward our country in the form of large Caravans, that the Democrats won’t approve legislation that will allow laws for the protection of our country. Great Midterm issue for Republicans!" Trump tweeted. "Republicans must make the horrendous, weak and outdated immigration laws, and the Border, a part of the Midterms!"
The president threatened to cut off aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala if they don't stop the migrants.
Janison: 86-ing MS-13
Trump's rhetoric about fighting MS-13 invariably gets overheated — no easy feat when talking about the brutal, murderous gang.
But when you tune it out and look at the facts on the ground, progress can be seen, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. There has been a lull in the carnage, thanks to both federal and local efforts that began more than a decade ago.
On Khashoggi, who knows?
A day after taking offense on behalf of Saudi Arabia's royal rulers that they were being presumed guilty of murdering dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump said he was "not giving cover at all" to them.
“I just want to find out what’s happening,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. Evidence against the Saudis mounted Wednesday, including a grisly audio recording Turkey says captures Khashoggi’s struggle and death inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Trump said the U.S. has asked for the recording.
For more, see Newsday's story by Candice Ferrette.
Mueller near a finish line
Soon after the elections, special counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his investigation, including the question of collusion between Russia and Trump's 2016 campaign, and whether Trump committed obstruction of justice, Bloomberg News reported.
It's not clear whether and how his conclusions will be made public. If Mueller doesn’t secure unsealed indictments, the regulations governing his probe stipulate that he can present his findings only to his boss, who is currently Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
A Mueller decision on collusion and obstruction doesn't necessarily mean he then goes away, because other lines of inquiry may still be open.
Rosenstein, in a Wall Street Journal interview, defended the investigation that Trump has denounced as a "witch hunt." Noting the cases already brought over Russian interference, Rosenstein said that "at the end of the day, the public will have confidence that the cases we brought were warranted by the evidence and that it was an appropriate use of resources.”
Trump: What women want
Though polls paint a decidedly different picture, Trump tweeted that college-educated women "will be voting for me!"
He Trump-splained his reasoning: Those women "want safety, security and healthcare protections — very much along with financial and economic health for themselves and our Country. I supply all of this far better than any Democrat (for decades, actually)."
What else is happening:
- A financial crimes enforcement official at the Treasury Department was charged by federal prosecutors with leaking confidential bank transaction records from Paul Manafort and others who have come under scrutiny in the Mueller investigation, reports Newsday's John Riley.
- Don McGahn is gone as of Wednesday as White House counsel, but not forgotten. While helping Trump win approval of his two Supreme Court nominees, he spent at least 30 hours talking to Mueller's investigators about Trump's efforts to impede the Russia investigation, The New York Times reported.
- Melania Trump's Philadelphia-bound plane was forced to return to Joint Base Andrews Wednesday because of smoke in the cabin. She resumed her trip on another aircraft and visited a hospital to learn about treatment for newborns suffering from opioid withdrawal.
- Trump was asked in Tuesday's Associated Press interview why he hasn't visited U.S. troops in an overseas war zone, as his predecessors did. "Well, I will do that at some point, but I don't think it's overly necessary," he replied. "I've been very busy with everything that's taking place here."
- The Trump administration said it is preparing to pull out of an international postal treaty that allows China to ship packages to America at discounted rates. The move opens a new front in the trade battle.
- A fourth tower in Trump-developed luxury housing on Manhattan's West Side will shed his name Thursday after condo owners won a court fight with the Trump Organization. The high-rise known as Trump Place will become simply 200 Riverside Boulevard, The New York Times reported.