A Week After the Midterms, Trump Seems to Forget the Caravan

For weeks before the midterm elections, President Trump warned ominously about the threat from a caravan of migrants streaming from Central America toward Mexico’s border with the United States. It was a fearsome mix of criminals and “unknown Middle Easterners,” Mr. Trump claimed darkly, one that constituted a genuine national emergency.

But since the election last week, Mr. Trump has tweeted about the caravan exactly once — to issue a proclamation preventing those who cross the border illegally from applying for asylum in the United States. Fox News, which faithfully amplified Mr. Trump’s warnings about the migrants, has gone similarly quiet on the subject.

There was little dispute, even before Election Day, that Mr. Trump was exploiting the caravan for political purposes. But analysts, historians and veterans of previous administrations said there were few comparable instances of a commander in chief warning about what he called a looming threat, only to drop it as soon as people voted.

While the caravan has faded from television screens, the costs of Mr. Trump’s response to it have not. Nearly 6,000 active-duty troops remain deployed from the Gulf Coast to Southern California, where they are putting up tents and stringing concertina wire to face a ragtag band that is still not near the border.

Now that the political utility of troops on the southern border to face a fictitious caravan invasion threat is over,” said Adm. James G. Stavridis, a former commander of the military’s Southern Command, “let’s hope the president will stand down the troops so they can be with their families — especially over the holidays.”

But some officials in the Defense Department worry that Mr. Trump could do the opposite — seek an exception to the Posse Comitatus Act, the 1878 law that prohibits the government from using active-duty troops to enforce laws inside the country’s borders.

.. voters who made up their minds in the last three days before the election said they voted for Democrats over Republicans 53 percent to 41 percent. That coincides with the period in which Mr. Trump redoubled his focus on the caravan, rejecting the advice of aides who wanted to air a commercial promoting the healthy economy.

.. At one campaign rally after another, Mr. Trump said the election came down to “the caravan, law and order, and common sense.” In Mesa, Ariz., on Oct. 19, he said: “You got some bad people in those groups. You got some tough people in those groups. And I’ll tell you what — this country doesn’t want them. O.K.? We don’t want them.”

.. A day earlier, he tweeted about the “assault on our country at our Southern Border, including the Criminal elements and DRUGS pouring in.”

Mr. Trump posted footage of an undocumented immigrant on trial for killing a police officer, and his campaign organization produced an ad featuring migrants trying to scale a wall to dramatize the stakes of the election.

“I’ve never before seen an American president, after going all over the country about this national crisis, then the day after an election shrug,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University.

The closest parallel that Mr. Brinkley drew was to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who seized on — and mischaracterized — two murky encounters between American and North Vietnamese warships in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964 as a pretext to accelerate America’s engagement in the Vietnam War. Still, he said, Mr. Trump’s response was of a different order.

It was a dangerous form of xenophobia, aimed solely for electoral purposes and had nothing to do in the end with real national security,” Mr. Brinkley said.

For the troops, so far, it has mostly been an expensive field trip. The cost of the deployment is not known, but budget officials believe it could reach $200 million if all 15,000 troops that Mr. Trump pledged are ultimately sent.

.. Defenders of Mr. Trump said the troops would take little notice of his sudden lack of emphasis on the caravan.

“Knowing the troops, knowing how busy they are, they’re not focused on him,” said Jack Keane, a retired four-star general who is a former vice chief of staff of the Army. “They’ve got a job to do.”

But other former military officers said the soldiers were well aware of the political motivation behind their mission. Lacking much else to do, they will quickly pick up on Mr. Trump’s loss of interest in the caravan, and it will add to their already depleted morale.

Saudis Plan To Pin Khashoggi Slaying on ‘Rogue’ General

.. from the top down. Trump’s favorite publisher, American Media Inc., issued an obsequious glossy magazine pushing MBS’ allegedly transformative, enlightened vision onto American supermarket shelves. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, among other journalists, portrayed MBS as an Arab reformer Americans had longed for.

That rapturous reception, along with MBS’ consequence-free decimation of Yemen – one of the most extreme humanitarian crises on earth – and the crown-prince-to-prince relationship with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner that MBS cultivated may help explain why Riyadh believed it could get away with murdering Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry made sure to tweet out a photo of MBS and Pompeo, all smiles.

.. Bin Salman “pledged that the work of the Saudi public prosecutor will produce a full and complete conclusion with full transparency for the world to see,” Pompeo said in a statement late Tuesday, adding: “My assessment from these meetings is that there is serious commitment to determine all the facts and ensure accountability, including accountability for Saudi Arabia’s senior leaders or senior officials.”

Earlier Tuesday, Trump tweeted that MBS, with Pompeo present, “totally denied any knowledge” of the grim events in the Saudi consulate on October 2. And that followed on Trump’s stated reluctance to cut off substantial and long-standing Saudi arms deals with the U.S., though The Daily Beast reported Tuesday that the administration is considering some measure of punishment over the Khashoggi disappearance, potentially including sanctions.

Riedel said much depended on the willingness of the Trump administration to accept whatever explanation the Saudis end up offering for the killing of a dissident.

“The key to this cover-up is it puts a delta between MBS and the crime,” he said. “The argument MBS didn’t know doesn’t pass the laugh test.”

Show How You Feel, Kavanaugh Was Told, and a Nomination Was Saved

When White House aides raised the issue with Judge Kavanaugh, he adamantly denied it and told them he did not even remember her.

.. They did what had never been done in a Supreme Court confirmation and put him on television to be interviewed, choosing Mr. Trump’s favorite network, Fox News.

Judge Kavanaugh, joined by his wife, seemed flat and mechanical as he retreated to the same talking points denying the allegations. Mr. Trump, who styles himself a master of television, thought his nominee came across as weak. Getting the clip of him denying the charges into the media spin cycle was important, but it was not enough.

.. The tide seemed to turn, oddly enough, when a third woman emerged with even more extreme allegations. Michael Avenatti, a brash and media savvy California lawyer who has been careening from one Trump administration brush fire to another, produced a statement from a woman alleging that Judge Kavanaugh in high school attended parties where women were gang raped. The woman, Julie Swetnick, said she was herself gang raped at one such party, though not by the judge.

Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, rushed to the floor to insist that “Judge Kavanaugh should withdraw from consideration.”

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a key swing Republican, was so troubled that she took a copy of Ms. Swetnick’s statement, highlighted and marked up, to a meeting of Republican committee chairmen. Senator John Cornyn of Texas went through it point by point with her to debunk it.

.. The Republican senators got into a lengthy conversation about Mr. Avenatti and how he could not be trusted and concluded that Ms. Swetnick’s claims did not add up. Why would she as a college student repeatedly go to high school parties where young women were gang raped? No one came forward to corroborate the allegation, and news reports surfaced about past lawsuits in which Ms. Swetnick’s truthfulness was questioned.

“This was a turning point,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “That allegation was so over the top, it created a moment that was scary, quite frankly. But that moment was quickly replaced by disgust.

The involvement of Mr. Avenatti, who represents Stephanie Clifford, the former porn star known as Stormy Daniels, particularly galvanized Republicans, reinforcing the idea that the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh were a political setup. One Republican congressional official called Mr. Avenatti’s involvement “manna from heaven.” From the other side, a Democratic congressional official called it “massively unhelpful.”

the notion that Mr. Avenatti tipped the scale was “wishful thinking” by Republicans who were bent on confirming Judge Kavanaugh at all costs.

.. credited Ms. Swetnick’s story with forcing Republicans to request an abbreviated F.B.I. investigation. “If it would have just been Dr. Ford,” he said, “I don’t think the investigation takes place.”

.. But Judge Kavanaugh’s angry outburst rallied Republicans. He went so far in expressing rage that he blamed the allegations on a plot to take “revenge on behalf of the Clintons” and he sharply challenged two of the Democratic senators about their own drinking.

During a break, Mr. McGahn told him he had to dial it back and strike a calmer tone. When he returned to the committee room, Judge Kavanaugh moderated his anger and apologized to one of the senators.

.. When Mr. Durbin asked Judge Kavanaugh to turn around and ask Mr. McGahn to request an F.B.I. investigation into the charges against him, Mr. Graham erupted in a ferocious, finger-wagging lecture. Other Republican senators began channeling their inner Trump and lashing out on Judge Kavanaugh’s behalf as well.

.. Ms. Collins said she would find it hard to vote yes without a sworn statement from Judge Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge denying that he saw what Dr. Blasey described.

.. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Judiciary chairman, got a fresh statement from Mr. Judge within three hours to satisfy her.

.. the three joined other Republican senators in Mr. McConnell’s office to discuss what the F.B.I. investigation should look like. The three undecided Republicans settled on four people they wanted to hear from

Ms. Ramirez, Mr. Judge and two others identified by Dr. Blasey as being elsewhere in the house at the time she was allegedly assaulted.

.. That night Mr. Graham went to dinner at Cafe Berlin with Ms. Collins, Mr. Flake and Ms. Murkowski. They discussed whether a limited F.B.I. investigation might assuage them.

The list of four witnesses they selected, however, later struck Democrats as so constrained that they demanded a more expansive investigation. In the end, the F.B.I. interviewed 10 people, but not many others Democrats recommended.

.. Ms. Murkowski was struggling with what to do. She asked the committee staff to question Judge Kavanaugh’s friends about their understanding of terms from his yearbook like “boofing” and “Devil’s Triangle” to see if they matched his.

.. “The tactics that were used completely backfired,” said Mr. McConnell. “Harassing members at their homes, crowding the halls with people acting horribly, the effort to humiliate us really helped me unify my conference. So I want to thank these clowns for all the help they provided.”

.. Less helpful may have been Mr. Trump’s decision to mock Dr. Blasey during a rally in Mississippi

.. White House aides insisted that the president’s outburst fortified Republicans.

.. Trump and other Republicans accused sex-crime victims protesting Kavanaugh as protesters paid by George Soros
.. The GOP Senate whip, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), called the victims a “mob” and echoed the bogus claim that they were paid protesters. They deny victims’ very existence; they are non-persons — props sent by opponents to ruin a man’s life.
.. Graham snorted that he’d hear what “the lady has to say” and then vote Kavanaugh in.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he’d “plow right through” (more like plow over) Ford’s testimony and confirm Kavanaugh.

Republicans’ defense of Kavanaugh — that Ford and others were props of a left-wing plot and therefore lacked agency of their own — evidences the party’s attitude toward women.

.. You cannot say a party that embraces a deeply misogynistic president who bragged about sexually assaulting women and mocked and taunted a sex-crime victim; accepted a blatantly insufficient investigation of credible sex crimes against women in lieu of a serious one that the White House counsel knew would be disastrous; repeatedly insulted and dismissed sex-crime victims exercising their constitutional rights; has never put a single woman on the Judiciary Committee (and then blames its own female members for being too lazy); and whips up male resentment of female accusers is a party that respects women.

.. What’s worse is that Republicans who would never engage in this cruel and demeaning behavior themselves don’t bat an eye when their party’s leaders do so. Acceptance of Trump’s misogyny — like their rationalization of the president’s overt racism — becomes a necessity for loyal Republicans.

..  One either agrees or ignores or rationalizes such conduct, or one decide it’s a small price to pay (“it” being the humiliation of women) for tax cuts and judges. It’s just words, you know.

.. The Republican Party no longer bothers to conceal its loathing of immigrants, its contempt for a free press, its disdain for the rule of law or its views on women. Indeed, these things now define a party that survives by inflaming white male resentment. Without women to kick around, how would they get their judge on the court or their guys to the polls?

Trump Decries Law Enforcement Tactic of ‘Flipping’ Criminal Defendants

In Fox News interview, president also attacks Attorney General Jeff Sessions: ‘What kind of man is this?’

 Mr. Trump voiced disdain for “flipping,” saying that people lie to prosecutors about “whoever the next-highest one is,” so that they can get more lenient terms.

“I’ve seen it many times,” he said. “I’ve had many friends involved in this stuff. It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal.”

.. Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor, said that Mr. Trump’s comments amount to “an absolutely outrageous statement and to any prosecutor would just be shocking to hear.”

“It’s hard to overstate how fundamental” to prosecutions cooperating witnesses are, Mr. Zeidenberg said. Noting the president praised his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, for not seeking a plea deal in his tax- and bank-fraud trial, he said, “He doesn’t talk like a president. He talks like a crime boss.”

.. “Trump’s idea would effectively demolish one of the basic and valuable tools of criminal law enforcement in the U.S.,” said Stephen Gillers, a professor at the New York University School of Law.

.. Mr. Trump said that Mr. Cohen, who has described himself as the president’s “fixer,” was a lawyer who “didn’t do big deals” but “did small deals.”

“Not somebody that was with me that much,” he said.

.. “For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers,” he said. “Everything is wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go….It’s not fair.”

.. In the Fox News interview, Mr. Trump suggested that Democrats still have great sway over the Justice Department, which is now led by his appointees. He suggested that his annoyance with Mr. Sessions stems in part from the Justice Department’s failure to prosecute his 2016 election opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, over her email practices when she served as secretary of state.

.. “Even my enemies say that ‘Jeff Sessions should have told you that he was going to recuse himself, and then you wouldn’t have put him in.’ He took the job, and then he said I’m going to recuse myself,” Mr. Trump said.