**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: Checkout time - Philly archbishop: Clinton team emails ‘contemptuously anti-Catholic’ - I’ll Tell You What: Caw, caw - Judge sends criminal complaint against Christie to prosecutor - Click…
Donald Trump wants his supporters to join him in a fight against the New York Times for publishing the accusations of two women who claim the celebrity billionaire assaulted them long ago.
But that’s not the story that matters most.
The biggest Trump story today isn’t in the staid grey font of the NYT, but rather the big, blocky letters of People magazine. The writer on the Trump beat for America’s leading glossy celebrity mag described an assault by Trump at his home in Florida while she was there to do a story on his one-year anniversary with his current, then-pregnant wife in 2005.
She wrote that when she and Trump entered a separate room when his wife stepped out for a wardrobe change and, in the reporter’s description: “pushing [her] against the wall and forcing his tongue down [her] throat.”
The Republican nominee denies the charge, but this is the most damning allegation yet.
Trump understandably is focused instead on two other, older allegations from other women who spoke to the NYT. Not only does it let Trump focus on a favorite enemy of conservatives, but the charges are less egregious.
Trump’s lawyer has sent the Times a letter demanding a retraction, but has not, so far, filed suit. That’s understandable, too. If Trump really sues the Times and a judge accepts the case, the paper would get a chance to dig even deeper in Trump’s life in order to defend itself.
But no threatening lawyer letters for People so far. Neither are there any for the Palm Beach Post, which shared the allegations of another woman who claimed Trump groped her at his Florida home. Or against Seattle’s KING for reporting on the allegations of a 2013 participant in one of Trump’s beauty pageants that Trump groped and harassed her. Or against the Guardian for its report on the other pageant contestant who says Trump barged in on her while she was naked changing clothes and simply stared. Or against CBS-LA for airing the claims of a former contestant who said he ogled naked women in the changing rooms and that participants were encouraged to flirt with him. Or Buzzfeed for writing about five Miss Teen USA participants who say Trump walked in on them undressed.
Certainly, there would be less fecund legal ground for action against the outlets publishing the claims made by the beauty pageant participants. He could hardly send a threatening letter to himself for having bragged to Howard Stern in 2005 about doing exactly what they claim: “You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. And you see these incredible-looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that,” he said.
Now, you may not believe any of it. Or you may not care whether or not Trump harasses or even assaults women. You may say that Hillary Clinton is so much worse of a choice that Trump could have groped and pawed every model, pageant contestant and reporter who crossed his path and still be more fit than her for office.
But if you feel that way, you were already going to vote for Trump in the first place. Your vote would be no more swayed by this than the lady with the “I’m with her” bumper sticker on her Subaru. Neither vote is in play.
For the persuadable voters in the middle of the political spectrum, this is pure sodium hydroxide.
What you are watching is the very predictable middle phase of the doomed gambit by Trump to “fight fire with fire” on the stories of abusing women in the wake of the revelation of that Trump bragged to a fellow celebrity that he could grab the women he met by their genitals and kiss them and “get away with” it because he was a “a star.”
The key question of the night during Sunday’s debate was whether Trump had actually done the things he had bragged of doing. Pressed on the point, Trump said no.
And just as predictably as Alicia Machado’s emergence after the first debate is the arrival of women who say Trump lied on stage and did assault them over the years. You could almost feel the floor open up under Trump when he finally declaratively said that no, he did not do the things he said he did.
Whether their claims are true or false doesn’t really matter any more than whether the hacked emails from Democratic officials are real or fake. The claims are there and growing by the day and will be obsessively covered since they contain the kind of prurient subject matter which drives the very same celebrity/tabloid media in which Trump made his fame.
Trump is howling about the NYT, but it’s People that’s doing him in.
Which brings us to the decision by Trump to bring back Bill Clinton’s accusers from the 1990s to the second presidential debate, women the campaign is still pushing out for coverage. There was an appealing irony to the counterattack. Hillary Clinton says she is for women’s rights, but she helped tear down her husband’s accusers.
Trump’s campaign manager even mockingly brought up Clinton’s regrettable claim that all alleged sexual abuse victims have the right to be heard. Tearing apart women or defending rapists in court, Trump & Co. argued was hardly the conduct for a feminist icon seeking to be the first female president. In this “Scandal” episode of a strategy, Clinton would have to back away from the war on Trump because of her own scandals and hypocrisy.
But would the tabloids back away? Would the same outlets that made Trump famous even before his reality television career back away?
Now, Team Trump is going to have to try to destroy the women who have accused him of misconduct, and those who will continue to do so. But when they do, they will be dousing their own heat in what they promised would be a firefight. And we have new promises from the Trump campaign to go farther down the path with more accusations against the former president that went unreported during the 1998 impeachment.
This campaign has turned a flame thrower not on Clinton, but on itself. The bucket brigade of media and political supporters who will try to keep Trump from immolating won’t be enough.
And you can read all about it at the grocery store checkout stand.
THE RULEBOOK: A NATION OF LAWS, NOT MEN
“A President of the Union, on the other hand, though he may even pardon treason, when prosecuted in the ordinary course of law, could shelter no offender, in any degree, from the effects of impeachment and conviction.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 69
TIME OUT: ‘MAKE ME A HOME OUT IN THE WIND’
Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature today for “new poetic expression” in the form of song, but Dylan’s native state of Minnesota has long remembered one of their own. MPR: “A small crowd gathered at the corner of 5th and Hennepin in downtown Minneapolis today to watch Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra sign the huge brilliantly colored Bob Dylan mural that he and his team of five painters created over the past two weeks. Entitled “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” the piece features three photo-realistic images of Dylan; one as a young troubadour early in his career, a second from years later, and finally a third more current image of the singer wearing what's become his trademark white hat. As with other Kobra murals, the images are overpainted with an eye-catching kaleidoscopic pattern that makes it visible from blocks away.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions
Average of national head-to-head presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +9 points
[Polls included: NBC News/WSJ, Fox News, Quinnipiac University, Fairleigh Dickinson University and CBS/NYT.]
Average of national four-way presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump vs. Johnson vs. Stein: Clinton +7 points
[Polls included: The Atlantic, NBC News/WSJ, Fox News, Quinnipiac University and The Atlantic.]
PHILLY ARCHBISHOP: CLINTON TEAM EMAILS ‘CONTEMPTUOUSLY ANTI-CATHOLIC’
Philadelphia Inquirer: “…Archbishop Charles Chaput on Thursday called on Hillary Clinton to repudiate ‘anti-Catholic’ emails some of her campaign staffers circulated among themselves. The hacked emails were among those that were released this week by Wikileaks and have become ammunition for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. In his weekly column, Chaput took aim at the Democratic Party as a whole and President Obama and Clinton in particular, recounting a visit in 2008, when he was bishop of Denver, from two members of Catholics United, whom he goes on to call ‘obvious flacks for the Obama campaign and the Democratic party.’ … The archbishop then cites the hacked emails, calling them ‘contemptuously anti-Catholic.’”
G-Men reportedly fuming over Hillary non-prosecution - Fox News: The decision to let Hillary Clinton off the hook for mishandling classified information has roiled the FBI and Department of Justice, with one person closely involved in the year-long probe telling [Fox News] that career agents and attorneys on the case unanimously believed the Democratic presidential nominee should have been charged. … “No trial level attorney agreed, no agent working the case agreed, with the decision not to prosecute -- it was a top-down decision,” said the source, whose identity and role in the case has been verified by [Fox News]. A high-ranking FBI official told Fox News that while it might not have been a unanimous decision, “It was unanimous that we all wanted her [Clinton’s] security clearance yanked.”
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: CAW, CAW
As Donald Trump fights to stay alive amid ongoing scandals, Hillary Clinton and company are trying to prove they’re not a bunch of anti-Catholic, arguably anti-Christian, politicos. “Perino & Stirewalt: I’ll Tell You What” hosts Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt break down the already surprising October. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE.
Endorse. No, wait, un-endorse, wait… - WaPo: “Stung by a fierce backlash from Donald J. Trump’s ardent supporters, four Republican members of Congress who had made headlines for demanding that Mr. Trump leave the presidential race retreated quietly this week, conceding that they would still probably vote for the man they had excoriated just days before. From Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the only member of the Republican leadership in either chamber who had disavowed Mr. Trump, to Representative Scott Garrett of New Jersey, who is in a difficult re-election fight, the lawmakers contorted themselves over Mr. Trump… The quick reversals back to Mr. Trump’s camp vividly illustrated Republicans’ predicament as they grapple with a nominee whom some of their core supporters adore, a Democratic candidate their base loathes — and a host of voters who believe that Mr. Trump is self-evidently unsuited for high office.”
Ryan’s refusal to defend Trump could cost him the speakership - AP: “Ryan’s announcement this week that he won’t defend his party’s volatile presidential nominee and that GOP candidates should choose their own paths to victory - with or without Trump - has impelled some Republicans to suggest they may not back his re-election as speaker…”
JUDGE SENDS CRIMINAL COMPLAINT AGAINST CHRISTIE TO PROSECUTOR
WNBC: “A judge has found probable cause for a complaint of official misconduct against Gov. Chris Christie related to the George Washington Bridge lane closures. Judge Roy McGeady issued the ruling Thursday. The case now goes to the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office, which will decide whether to bring the issue to a grand jury for possible indictment. There was no immediate comment from Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal. Grewal was appointed to the position by Christie in January when John Molinelli retired. The governor nominated him to permanently retain the position last month, and it wasn't immediately clear if Grewal would recuse himself from the case due to the potential perception of conflict of interest.”
THE JUDGE’S RULING: FENCING MATCH
In election year rife with inconvenient truths revealed by hacked emails and purloined documents, Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano underscores the primacy of the First Amendment in answering the question: “Can the government hold the press liable –criminally or civilly – for the publication of known stolen materials that the public wants to know about?” Read more here.
AUDIBLE: REVERSAL OF FORTUNE
“The reality is the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable for increasing numbers of people.” – Minnesota Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, once a top booster of ObamaCare, addressing concerns about the state’s collapsing health insurance market.
Michael Wolff explains Trump as shock jock - THR
Liberty University students rally against school president, a prominent Trump backer - Lynchburg News & Advance
Trump pulls back in Va. - WSJ
In Pa. poll, Hillary takes a 9-point lead over Trump - Bloomberg
Poll: Hillary 7-points ahead in Wisc. before debate - Marquette University Law School
Tom Bevan explains that Trump voters in Wisconsin are energized, but there just aren’t enough of them to win - RCP
Trump holds steady lead in Mo. poll - Monmouth University
Clinton camp eyes Utah, Arizona and Georgia as possible wins - The Hill
Trump apologizes to Serbs for U.S. bombing during 1990s - Newsweek
Harry Enten says a Trump comeback at this point would be unprecedented - FiveThirtyEight
Dubya hard at work for GOP Senate candidates - National Journal
RNC not spending television ad money on Trump - Politico
Oops: Dem governor declares Obamacare ‘no longer affordable’ - AP
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I’m a recent subscriber to the halftime report and podcast and am grateful for your hard work and analysis. I’ll tell you what, the last couple days I have seen lots of social media activity for Evan McMullin. Do you give him a legitimate chance to take Utah and maybe Johnson to win New Mexico and neither Trump nor Hillary get to 270. If so, how do you foresee things playing out in the House? I’ve been chewing on this like you have a bag of meat. Thanks.” – Warren Rayburn
[Ed. note: We see not only McMullin’s surge in Utah, but also the rise of Gary Johnson in New Mexico. Liberty-minded Western conservatives have been a key part of the Republican coalition since before Barry Goldwater. The GOP nominee’s problems in these areas, including in Goldwater’s Arizona, are telling indeed. But consider the social psychology here too. The worse Trump does nationally, the less pressure traditionally Republican voters will feel to toe the line. If the race is over in their minds then they are excused from supporting a candidate from whom they’ve long harbored reservations.]
“Have liked you and enjoyed your sense of humor for a long time, and expect I will again someday. But I wish you’d explain to me why you appear to be cheering for Clinton. I don’t think we had a good choice in this election, but of two bad choices, I think Clinton’s worse. Also want to know what your evidence is that Russia controls Assange and Wiki Leaks. This seems to be the Democrat (frantic) explanation of the leaked emails, but is there any proof?” – Susan Williams, St. Louis
[Ed. note: Ms. Williams, I take no rooting interest in this election – whatsoever. The job of every analyst is to remove, insofar as is possible, their own personal views from their observations and forecasts. The position of the U.S. intelligence community is that the Kremlin is behind the political hacking that has so much shaped this election. It also increasingly seems to be the Kremlin’s position. As public confidence in our institutions declines, understandably, we ask troubling questions this year: is the FBI corrupt? Did the attorney general accept a bribe? And now, is the intelligence community shilling for Clinton? If those things were true, and corruption of that magnitude had so infiltrated our criminal justice and national security apparatuses we would already be living under true tyranny. And if that’s the case, what election would matter anyway? If the game were rigged to that degree, wouldn’t the elections all already be fixed? I’m not prepared to believe that and I do know from my own experience many men and women in the justice system and the national security community who would sooner die than see such perversions.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
Click2Houston: “A Houston couple says they were victims of a former Houston Emergency Center 911 operator who has allegedly confessed to hanging up on callers seeking emergency help because ‘she did not want to talk to anyone at that time.’ The former emergency operator, Crenshanda Williams, 43, is charged with two counts of interference with an emergency telephone call, a class A misdemeanor that carries a punishment of up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine for each count upon conviction…[O]n March 13, a security guard called 911 to report two motorists driving recklessly…In describing a recording of the call, investigators say Williams remained on the line after terminating the call and can be heard to say, ‘Ain’t nobody got time for this. For real.’”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace." He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.