Sessions, Franken heat up the hearing room on Russia

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On the roster: Sessions, Franken heat up the hearing room on Russia - Trump flips stance on bipartisan health insurance plan - With McCain, Cochran Senate moves ahead on budget - Poll: Tied race for Alabama Senate seat - The weapon of choice is a vacuum…?

SESSIONS, FRANKEN HEAT UP THE HEARING ROOM ON RUSSIA
Fox News: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions publicly and repeatedly clashed with Democratic Sen. Al Franken on Wednesday after being pressed over the accuracy of past testimony regarding his communications with the Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.  In one of several testy exchanges Sessions had with Democratic senators during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Franken, D-Minn., grilled the attorney general and suggested his explanations have changed. … After Sessions’ testimony Wednesday, the Justice Department told Fox News that Franken’s claim that they ‘declined to comment on the veracity’ of a July 21, 2017 Washington Post story that claimed Sessions met with the Russian Ambassador at the Mayflower Hotel and discussed the Trump campaign was ‘not accurate.’ Sessions continued to say Wednesday that his initial response was ‘refined directly to the suggestion of a continuous exchange of information’ between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.”

Former Obama UN Ambassador claims others unmasked in her name - Fox News: “President Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations has testified that others made so-called unmasking requests in her name, House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy said Tuesday. ‘Her testimony is they may be under my name, but I did not make those requests,’ Gowdy said of former Ambassador Samantha Power during an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier on ‘Special Report with Bret Baier.’ … The South Carolina Republican added, ‘So, we’ve got to get to the bottom of that. If there is someone else making requests on behalf of a principal in the intelligence community, we need to know that because we’re getting ready to reauthorize a program that’s really important to the country, but also has a masking component to it.’”

Mueller ramps up Russia probe, interviews Spicer - Politico: “President Donald Trump’s former press secretary Sean Spicer met with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team on Monday for an interview that lasted much of the day, according to multiple people familiar with the meeting. During his sit down, Spicer was grilled about the firing of former FBI director James Comey and his statements regarding the firing, as well as about Trump’s meetings with Russians officials including one with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office, one person familiar with the meeting said. Spicer declined to comment. His attorney, Christopher Mead, did not respond to multiple calls and emails requesting comment.”

Kushner adds new lawyer as Russia probe grows - The Hill: “Senior White House aide Jared Kushner has retained the lawyer who represented Hulk Hogan in his case against Gawker Media that eventually led to the site’s shutdown, according to a new report. Vanity Fair reported on Tuesday that Kushner has retained Charles Harder to represent him as the special counsel investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia widens.”

Senate Judiciary committee to probe Obama-era Russian nuclear case - The Hill: “The Senate Judiciary Committee has launched a probe into a Russian nuclear bribery case, demanding several federal agencies disclose whether they knew the FBI had uncovered the corruption before the Obama administration in 2010 approved a controversial uranium deal with Moscow.”

THE RULEBOOK: RULED BY PASSIONS
“The government of the Union, like that of each State, must be able to address itself immediately to the hopes and fears of individuals; and to attract to its support those passions which have the strongest influence upon the human heart.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 16

TIME OUT: BUTTERFLY CROSSING
Nat Geo: “Each fall, millions of monarch butterflies leave their summer breeding grounds in the northeastern U.S. and Canada and travel upwards of 3,000 miles to reach overwintering grounds in southwestern Mexico. But unlike birds or wildebeest that also embark on epic migrations, these individual butterflies will never return. … Once [in Mexico], the monarchs huddle together by the millions on the branches of oyamel fir trees. … After waiting out the winter, these individuals head … back north … where they mate and lay eggs on milkweed plants. …the new butterflies take to the skies again and fly another few hundred miles north before finding another patch of milkweed and repeating the process. It might take the monarchs as many as four to five generations to complete the journey all the way back up to Canada… Then, when fall rolls around again, the monarchs make use of air currents to wing all the way back to Mexico…”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -20.8 points
Change from one week ago: down 0.4 points

[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]

TRUMP FLIPS STANCE ON BIPARTISAN HEALTH INSURANCE PLAN
AP: “A bipartisan Senate deal to curb the growth of health insurance premiums is reeling after President Donald Trump reversed course and opposed the agreement and top congressional Republicans and conservatives gave it a frosty reception. Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., announced their accord Tuesday after weeks of negotiations… In remarks Tuesday in the Rose Garden, Trump called the deal ‘a very good solution’ that would calm insurance markets… Although top Democrats and some Republicans praised the Alexander-Murray compromise agreement, Trump backed off after a day of criticism from many in the GOP. … In an evening speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation, he said that ‘while I commend’ the work by the two senators, ‘I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies.’”

He’s not alone though, Ryan also against bill - Axios: “House Speaker Paul Ryan’s press secretary, Doug Andres, told Axios Wednesday that despite the bipartisan push behind the Alexander-Murray health bill, ‘The speaker does not see anything that changes his view that the Senate should keep its focus on repeal and replace of Obamacare.’ Why it matters: This is a huge setback for the bill. Even if the measure can get 60 votes in the Senate, it still needs to pass the House. With Ryan against it, the odds of it passing aren’t looking good. Go deeper: Sen. Alexander told Mike Allen Trump ‘engineered’ his health bill. Minutes later, Trump said he’d never support bailing out insurance companies.”

WITH MCCAIN, COCHRAN SENATE MOVES AHEAD ON BUDGET

WaPo: “The White House’s push for tax cuts made crucial progress on Tuesday as Senate Republicans rallied behind a budget proposal the party needs to pass to keep alive its hopes of enacting sharp reductions in tax rates later this year. Senate Republican leaders earned a series of much-needed victories Tuesday, first with the return of ailing Sen. Thad Cochran (R - Miss.) and later with an announcement from Sen. John McCain (R - Ariz.) that he would back the budget resolution in order to help passage of tax cuts. Senate Republicans are now hopeful they can agree on a final budget resolution later this week… Even with the breakthroughs on Tuesday, many hurdles remain. Republicans still haven’t written a tax cut plan, they haven’t identified trillions of dollars in tax deductions they plan to eliminate, and they haven’t sorted out how to ensure that the majority of any tax cuts don’t benefit primarily the wealthy.”

And moving forward on budget is key for tax reform talks - AP: “The nonbinding budget plan would permit Republicans to pass follow-up tax cuts later this year that would cost up to $1.5 trillion over the coming decade. The plan cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate on a party-line vote of 50-47. The plan breaks with longstanding promises by top Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan that the upcoming tax drive won’t add to the nation’s $20 trillion debt. Once the budget plan passes through the GOP-controlled Congress, the House and Senate can then advance a follow-up tax overhaul measure without fear of a filibuster by Senate Democrats.”

Mnuchin remains hopeful tax reform will get done this year - The Hill: “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday said it would be ‘extraordinary’ if the Republican Party is able to pull off tax reform by the end of the year. ‘It took Ronald Reagan over two years on a bipartisan basis to get tax reform done,’ Mnuchin said during an interview on Fox News’ ‘Special Report with Bret Baier.’ ‘If we get it done this year, it will be extraordinary.’ ‘Our objective is to get it on the President’s desk by December to get him to sign it this year,’ Mnuchin added, but cautioned that there’s ‘no artificial deadline.’”

McConnell plans to implement longer work weeks - Politico: “The Senate majority leader is preparing to hold the chamber in session for more rigorous workweeks, including Fridays and possibly even weekends, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The Senate GOP discussed a more aggressive schedule at Tuesday’s party lunch and the majority of the conference agreed. The Senate has come under criticisms from conservatives for its light workweeks, typically spanning from Monday evening to early Thursday afternoon. … This week’s schedule is likely to be the first test of the new effort to work more. The Senate’s session is likely to bleed into Friday to complete the budget, and Republicans expect the trend to continue deep into the fall.”

Q POLL FINDS NORTHAM WITH ‘LIKELY VOTER LEAD’ IN VA.
Quinnipiac University: “With strong support from women and non-white voters and a double-digit lead among independent voters, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam holds a 53 - 39 percent likely voter lead over Republican Ed Gillespie in the Virginia governor's race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. … Today's result compares to a 51 - 41 percent likely voter lead for Northam in a September 19 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University. … Women likely voters back Northam 61 - 31 percent, with 2 percent for [Cliff Hyra]. Men are divided as 47 percent back Gillespie and 44 percent back Northam, with 2 percent for Hyra. Independent voters back the Democrat 53 - 39 percent, with 3 percent for Hyra. Democrats back Northam 93 - 2 percent, with 2 percent for Hyra. Republicans back Gillespie 92 - 5 percent, with 1 percent for Hyra. White likely voters are divided with 48 percent for Gillespie, 47 percent for Northam…”

Gov. Walker confirms he will run for reelection - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “In a new campaign video, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker rides his Harley, touts his record and makes clear he wants to run for a third term in 2018. … The 1-minute video and an accompanying digital ad campaign are the clearest signs yet that the GOP governor will seek re-election. … A number of Democrats are lining up against Walker, including: state schools Superintendent Tony Evers; Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik; Rep. Dana Wachs of Eau Claire; Sen. Kathleen Vinehout of Alma; political activist Mike McCabe; and former state Democratic Chairman Matt Flynn.”

POLL: TIED RACE FOR ALABAMA SENATE SEAT
Fox News: “Republican Roy Moore, the anti-Republican establishment candidate, is tied at 42 percent apiece with Democrat Doug Jones in the U.S. Senate race in deep-red Alabama. A Fox News Poll also finds that among just the 53 percent of Alabama registered voters who are extremely or very interested in the race, Jones has a one-point edge over Moore (46-45 percent). The special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is December 12. The competitiveness of the race is striking.  Donald Trump won Alabama by 28 points in 2016, yet the Steve Bannon-backed Moore defeated the president’s favored candidate, incumbent Luther Strange, in the GOP primary. ‘This race exemplifies the difficulty the Republican Party has now,’ says Republican pollster Daron Shaw, who conducts the Fox News Poll with Democrat Chris Anderson. ‘There is an element of the party that has had it with the establishment, had it with politics as usual, had it with political correctness…’” 

Bannon continues criticism of GOP establishment despite Trump’s request - AP: “Former presidential strategist Steve Bannon doubled down on his criticism of the GOP establishment at a Tuesday night fundraiser for a challenger to Arizona’s incumbent Sen. Jeff Flake. Bannon heaped disdain on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other incumbent Republicans, saying they failed President Donald Trump by not backing his agenda and are openly critical of their own president. … Senate candidate Kelli Ward held a campaign kickoff in Scottsdale, Arizona, headlined by Bannon and talk show host Laura Ingraham.”

Hatch raises big money despite reelection uncertainty - Roll Call: “Sen. Orrin Hatch raised $936,992 in the most recent fundraising quarter amid speculation about whether he will seek an eighth term. After re-election in 2012, the Utah Republican said this term would be his last. But Donald Trump’s election and the prospect of tax reform made the Senate’s most senior Republican reconsider. Hatch became a loyal ally of the Trump administration and backed Trump in May of last year.  Hatch’s October quarterly report to the Federal Election Commission also showed his campaign committee has $4.75 million in the bank.”

Feinstein’s 2018 fundraising lagging compared to 2012 - McClatchy: “Sen. Dianne Feinstein is facing what very well could be her first competitive race in more than two decades, but you wouldn’t know it from her latest fundraising report. The veteran California Democrat raised just over half a million dollars between July 1 and Sept. 30, according to a portion of her campaign finance report that was released by her campaign. That’s less than Feinstein raised in the comparable period of her 2012 reelection campaign, which she won easily.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
National Archives reminds Trump admin to follow document preservation laws - Politico

AUDIBLE: OOPS!
“I was paying enough attention there that I dumped a Dr. Pepper on Senator Cruz…” – Sen. Ben Sasse R-Neb., apologizing to Attorney General Jeff Sessions for causing a distraction during Sessions’ hearing on the Hill today.

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THE WEAPON OF CHOICE IS A VACUUM…?
WRC-TV: “A thief has repeatedly broken into a coin-operated vacuum cleaner at a gas station in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars, the gas station owner says. Tahir Muneer, the owner of the Landover Hills Exxon, said the thief has hit his location at least 15 times in three years. … Muneer said sometimes the thief uses a grinder to cut through the special locks or uses a drill to get to the cash box. When that doesn’t work, the gas station owner said the man uses the vacuum itself to suck out the quarters. The thief has been captured on security cameras making off with the money. … Police said they know who the thief is, but they have not been able to catch him.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

This article was written by Fox News staff.