Team Clinton borrows Don Jr.'s Russia defense

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On the roster: Team Clinton borrows Don Jr.’s Russia defense - Flake departure may help GOP salvage seat - Dems raising and recruiting bigly. But where? - Cuts to retirement savings tax shelter still on table - A modest life is a happy life, but $1.56 mil doesn’t hurt

So here we are. The former spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s campaign is taking essentially the same position as Donald Trump Jr. about efforts to get help from Kremlin-tied operatives to help win the presidency.

Whoooo boy…

Brian Fallon, who was the top talker for Clinton’s campaign, responded to news that the campaign’s lawyer had lied about paying an American firm with close ties to Vladimir Putin’s regime to dig dirt on now-President Trump much the way Trump’s son did to the revelation that he eagerly agreed to a meeting with Putinists to get dirt on Hillary. 

Fallon denied any knowledge of the lie, but then made it clear that he didn’t see anything wrong with dumping Kremlin-canted information into reporters’ inboxes. “…if I had gotten handed it last fall, I would have had no problem passing it along,” Fallon bragged. 

When we think back to the revelation of Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russians peddling dirt on Clinton, there was a similar course of events. First, he denied participating in the meeting, then seemed to regret having participated and finally declared himself smart for having done so.

With this latest debacle, Team Clinton has swiftly vindicated the younger Trump and the central argument of their campaign about Russia canoodling which is that they may have done unsavory things, but that everybody else does it too. 

To say that this substantially undercuts Clinton and her remaining devotees’ credibility in accusing Trump of Russia collusion just scratches the surface, but let’s back up for a moment and put in perspective what we are dealing with. 

We have known for some time about the existence of the Russia-sourced dossier on Trump’s business and personal life that was compiled during his 2016 candidacy. CNN first reported in January that a prominent Republican supporting one of Trump’s primary rivals commissioned the firm Fusion GPS to put together a dirt pile on Trump. After Trump won the nomination, Democratic figures picked up the case expanded the efforts to include the work of a former British spy. 

The big news today is not that Democrats were involved in producing this scandal-soaked report on Trump’s vulnerabilities to Russian influence, but that the effort was tied directly to Clinton’s campaign and the national party. 

When we look back at how Democrats got to their current pitiful condition the misjudgment and obliviousness of Clinton’s campaign and its proxies at the DNC will deserve special consideration. 

We don’t know how much Team Clinton knew about Fusion GPS’s ties to Putin, particularly the efforts to roll back sanctions against Russian oligarchs imposed on friends of Moscow’s murderous regime. But it could have hardly been a secret that the firm had Russia connections. After all, that’s why they hired them.

We don’t know which parts of the dossier are credible and which parts are not. That long ago became the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But we do know that nothing about this revelation should bring more than cold comfort to Republicans worried about what Mueller might have on Trump. 

Trump defenders are pushing hard on a narrative that the whole investigation is the fruit of this dossier. That is far from the truth. Both Trump’s former campaign chairman and former national security adviser would have likely been bound for the dock regardless of if the dossier had ever existed.

It didn’t take a former member of MI-6 to sniff out Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn

But what this revelation and Fallon’s response does do is bolster the case of the most cynical of Trump supporters who say that whatever Team Trump did with Russian figures is permissible because Clinton would have done as bad or worse if given the chance.

“It seldom happens in the negotiation of treaties, of whatever nature, but that perfect SECRECY and immediate DESPATCH are sometimes requisite.” – John JayFederalist No. 64

Fox News: “A huge trove of Jewish documents and manuscripts, thought to have been destroyed in the Holocaust, has been discovered in Lithuania. More than 170,000 pages of rare materials, including a postcard from famed modernist painter Marc Chagall and letters from the writer Sholem Aleichem, were found in the Martynas Mazvydas National Library of Lithuania, earlier this year. The discovery, announced Tuesday by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York, is of immense historical importance. ‘When a find like this comes along, it’s monumental,’ David Fishman, professor of Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary and author of the book, ‘The Book Smugglers’ told Fox News. ‘It’s the most important find since the Dead Sea Scrolls.’ Fishman explained that discoveries such as this can offer valuable insight into the lives of East European Jews before the Holocaust. ‘Not only were the Jews annihilated, but also the record of their history was destroyed,’ he said.”

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Trump net job-approval rating: -20.6 points
Change from one week ago: up 0.2 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.]

[Watch Fox: New Fox News poll on President Trump’s approval and much more will be released on “Special Report with Bret Baier” tonight at 6 pm ET.]

FiveThirtyEight: “Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, an ardent critic of President Trump, announced Tuesday that he will not run for re-election in 2018. Flake, a Republican, was arguably the most vulnerable senator of either party who was up for re-election next year… So how does Flake’s exit change Arizona’s 2018 Senate election? Big picture: It doesn’t. Arizona is likely to remain the Democrats’ best opportunity to pick up a Republican-held seat. But Flake’s retirement could make that pickup more or less likely — we just don’t know which yet. The general election between the likely Democratic nominee, U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, and whomever the Republicans nominate starts as a tossup. At this time, the only notable Republican running against Sinema is Kelli Ward, a former Arizona state senator who has closely aligned herself with Trump. Sinema led Ward in an August HighGround Public Affairs survey 32 percent to 31 percent, with 38 percent of voters undecided.”

McConnell-tied Super PAC comes out swinging against Ward - The Hill: “A Republican super PAC with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday took a shot at former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward (R), arguing that she will not be the Republican nominee in the wake of Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-Ariz.) decision to not run for reelection. … ‘Sen. Jeff Flake will be remembered for a distinguished and impactful career in Congress, as well as his independent streak and genial manner,’ Senate Leadership Fund president Steven Law said in a statement. ‘The one political upshot of Sen. Flake’s decision today is that Steve Bannon’s hand-picked candidate, conspiracy-theorist Kelli Ward, will not be the Republican nominee for this Senate seat in 2018.’”

Arpaio still considering run for Flake’s seat - WashEx: “Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio says he’s still considering a Senate campaign in Arizona… Arpaio … previously said he was considering a primary challenge against Flake. ‘It’s still out there, I haven’t made a decision,’ he told the Washington Examiner on Tuesday, shortly after Flake’s announcement. The former sheriff said he met twice recently with Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist who has sought to recruit anti-establishment Senate candidates.”

Flake says he’s had ‘enough’ - WaPo: “There is a sickness in our system — and it is contagious. … Nine months of this administration is enough for us to stop pretending that this is somehow normal, and that we are on the verge of some sort of pivot to governing, to stability. Nine months is more than enough for us to say, loudly and clearly: Enough. The outcome of this is in our hands. We can no longer remain silent, merely observing this train wreck, passively, as if waiting for someone else to do something. The longer we wait, the greater the damage, the harsher the judgment of history.”

Jay Cost: But as for you Sen. Corker… - WaPo: “Flake always opposed Trump, and he can say that he finally decided to issue the full-throated denunciation Trump had coming. [Bob Corker?] His late awakening shouldn’t win him any points. … Corker is a different story altogether, deserving neither praise nor sympathy. He helped facilitate Trump’s march to the Oval Office, and has only recently grown squeamish over the president’s antics. But why now? After all, Trump is doing exactly what we never-Trumpers warned he would do — and what Trump himself telegraphed that he’d do. For onetime Trump backers like Corker to suddenly act surprised and dismayed by the president’s bad behavior reeks of hypocrisy.”

NYT: “Democratic congressional challengers have posted very impressive fund-raising tallies so far this year. In the last quarter, nearly three dozen Republican incumbents were outraised by at least one Democratic challenger — an astonishing number against sitting members of Congress. … But there’s an important pattern under the big numbers that will shape the battleground in the 2018 midterm elections. So far, nearly all of the biggest Democratic recruiting struggles have been in working-class areas. And Democrats might have too many challengers successfully fund-raising in the most affluent districts. Democrats have debated extensively about whether they ought to focus on winning back working-class Trump voters or on expanding their gains in diverse, well-educated Sun Belt suburbs. This can be a false choice: They can do both to some extent, especially in congressional elections where individual candidates can run campaigns well suited to their districts.”

Kraushaar: Why Northam scares liberal Democrats - National Journal: “A former George W. Bush voter, [Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam] is running as a moderate Democratic pragmatist in the spirit of Bill Clinton—or recently-elected Gov. Roy Cooper, one of the most-prominent Democrats to win during last year’s Trump wave in neighboring North Carolina. And despite all the Democratic angst about the race tightening, his own campaign’s polls have shown him consistently ahead. The average of public polling shows that he’s leading by a healthy 6-point margin. The real reason you’re hearing so much wailing from Democrats is because they fear that Northam could pave the way for a moderate revival within the party—that a victory would prove that the party’s candidates can win without being held hostage by the increasingly progressive base.” 

GOP establishment locks arms with Roy Moore for fundraising - Politico: “Roy Moore has campaigned as Mr. Anti-Establishment. Now, he and the establishment are starting to link up. The Alabama Republican’s Senate campaign on Tuesday signed a joint fundraising agreement with the Republican National Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Alabama Republican Party, according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission. … Moore has pledged to oppose Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, among other things. But the fundraising pact is a formal behind-the-scenes step by the establishment to support Moore, after unsuccessfully spending millions to defeat him in Alabama’s primary.”

WSJ: “Republicans are still weighing adjustments to a popular retirement savings program, the chief of the House tax writing committee said Wednesday, contradicting President Donald Trump’s statement this week that it would be unchanged in the forthcoming tax overhaul proposal. Ahead of next week’s release of the House GOP tax overhaul bill, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R., Texas) also said House Republicans were still discussing changes to the state and local tax deduction, and said he was hopeful that they would reach a compromise with lawmakers from high-tax states. Mr. Brady’s remarks at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor indicated that many aspects of the tax code were still in play just days before Republicans plan to release their proposal for rewriting it. Mr. Brady said Tuesday that he planned to unveil the tax bill Nov. 1 if Republicans adopt a budget as planned on Thursday.”

Deficits, schmeficits -
 WaPo: “House conservatives have warned for years about the threat posed by the national debt, and for months they pushed to include a path to ambitious spending cuts in budget legislation. On Thursday, most of them plan to vote for a Senate-written budget that not only fails to make way for spending cuts but also explicitly envisions adding up to $1.5 trillion to the existing $20 trillion national debt to accommodate a tax overhaul.”

Senate fight on domestic spying up next -
 WaPo: “The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday voted 12-3 to advance a bill that renews a powerful surveillance authority enabling the government to collect foreign intelligence on U.S. soil. Though the committee’s bill imposes a new procedural requirement for the FBI to review and use Americans’ emails and other communications collected under the authority, it does not require a warrant as many privacy-minded lawmakers wanted. Nor does it require that a federal court find that the American whose communications is searched may be engaged in criminal activity or is an agent of a foreign power. Instead, during a closed session, the committee voted unanimously to include a proposal from Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) as an amendment to the reauthorization of the law, Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, according two individuals close to the committee.”

Congress votes to roll back provision making easier to sue banks USA Today: “The Republican-led Senate narrowly voted Tuesday to repeal a banking rule that would let consumers band together to sue their bank or credit card company to resolve financial disputes. Vice President [Mike Pence] cast the final vote to break a 50-50 tie. The banking industry had been lobbying hard to roll back the regulation from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The bureau had moved to ban most types of mandatory arbitration clauses found in the fine print of agreements consumers often enter into when opening a checking account or getting a credit card. The vote reflects the effort of the Trump administration and congressional Republicans to undo regulations that the GOP argues harms the free market. The measure now moves to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature.”

Senate passes hurricane relief, flood insurance package - 
Bloomberg: “The Senate sent President Donald Trump a $36.5 billion hurricane relief bill Tuesday that gives Puerto Rico access to $4.9 billion in low-interest Treasury loans, amid concerns that recovery efforts from the recent disasters will require significantly more funding. The measure, passed 82-17, also would replenish the troubled National Flood Insurance Program, which runs out of money as early as this week. The vote followed a failed push by Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas to insert more disaster recovery aid into the bill for his state, hit hard by flooding from Hurricane Harvey in late August. Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida also pushed unsuccessfully for up to $3 billion more for his state’s citrus industry.”

DEA faces subpoena over ‘pill dumping’ - The Hill: “Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) on Wednesday threatened to subpoena the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for data on ‘pill dumping’ in West Virginia that could be contributing to the state’s opioid crisis.  Walden said the agency is taking too long to comply with the Energy and Commerce Committee’s May 8 request for information regarding drug suppliers pumping millions of opioids into the state West Virginia. … The agency has responded to some, but not all, requests for information, Walden said, adding that some responses have been inadequate. ’I’m going to be very blunt: my patience is wearing thing,’ he said.”  

Daily Beast: “Alexander Nix, who heads a controversial data-analytics firm that worked for President Donald Trump’s campaign, wrote in an email last year that he reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about Hillary Clinton’s missing 33,000 emails. Nix, who heads Cambridge Analytica, told a third party that he reached out to Assange about his firm somehow helping the WikiLeaks editor release Clinton’s missing emails, according to two sources familiar with a congressional investigation into interactions between Trump associates and the Kremlin. Those sources also relayed that, according to Nix’s email, Assange told the Cambridge Analytica CEO that he didn’t want his help, and preferred to do the work on his own. If the claims Nix made in that email are true, this would be the closest known connection between Trump’s campaign and Assange. … After publication, Assange provided this statement to The Daily Beast: ‘We can confirm an approach by Cambridge Analytica and can confirm that it was rejected by WikiLeaks.’”

Manafort faces money-laundering probe in collaboration with Russia probe - WSJ: “The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office is pursuing an investigation into possible money laundering by Paul Manafort, said three people familiar with the matter, adding to the federal and state probes concerning the former Trump campaign chairman. The investigation by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York is being conducted in collaboration with a probe by special counsel Robert Mueller into Mr. Manafort and possible money laundering, according to two of these people.”

House Republicans open two investigations into Obama era - NYT: “House Republicans on Tuesday announced investigations into two of President Trump’s most frequent grievances, unveiling new inquiries into actions of the Obama administration connected to Hillary Clinton. In the first of two back-to-back announcements, the top Republicans on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees said they would formally examine the Obama Justice Department’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails. Less than an hour later, Republicans from the Intelligence and Oversight Committees said they were opening a separate inquiry into the administration’s approval of a 2010 agreement that left a Russian-backed company in control of much of the United States’ uranium. … But the uranium deal and the Justice Department’s handling of the Clinton case have been regular targets of Mr. Trump’s, first on the 2016 presidential campaign trail and now in Washington.”

Trump visits Dallas for Harvey recovery update and RNC fundraiser WFAA

Poll: Majority of White Americans say their race is discriminated against NPR

Priebus to rejoin former Wisconsin law firm Politico

Twitter will add labels to election ads going forward - Reuters

“I haven’t decided to run. But I’ve decided I’m not going to decide not to run. We’ll see what happens.” – Former Vice President Joe Biden discussing a potential 2020 presidential run in an interview with Vanity Fair.

“With respect to 401 K’s. That’s where middle America lives. They don’t do Roth’s. This is just a scheme to add more tax dollars to the coffers. My guess is many of the people on the Hill don’t know how to work a grocery store. They don’t know that volume decreases prices, therefore people buy more, expanding the economy for goods and services. But hey the good ole boys want to increase the price of goods and services, thereby decreasing the trade of goods and services. Let it be said that trends start in California, but DC is the last to know.” – Doreen Howard, Newmarket, N.H.

[Ed. note: You are quite right, Ms. Howard, that D.C. is often the last to know. And you are also quite right that employer-based tax shelters for retirement are hugely popular with middle-class voters. As it stands, workers are allowed to contribute up to $18,500 a year tax free. That bumps up to $24,000 for folks over 50. That makes the proposal to lower the cap to as little as $2,400 sound very dramatic. The current estimate is that the government misses out on about $115 billion a year in revenue because of these tax shelters, so it’s reasonable to ask how much of the $1.5 trillion Republicans are looking to offset in revenues could be raised by dropping the caps. The investment firm Vanguard estimates that 94 million Americans hold assets in excess of $7 trillion in 401(k)’s or similar vehicles. That sounds like a lot of money, but relatively few Americans are getting anywhere close to the current caps. In fact, American workers are far behind where they need to be in their retirement savings in general. The issue for these accounts and the tax plan may not be their unpopularity but that the real revenues that the bill’s authors are looking for might not really be there.]

“I was just thinking, after listening to Senator Corker’s remarks, about term limits.  If term limits were imposed do you think that there would be more of this kind of what do I have to lose attitude?  Is this just something that is specific to this President in that he loves picking fights and now has some Senators who aren’t scared to talk back? Would the feeling of a time limit on their time in office overshadow all of this and cause them to work harder on getting things done? Just curious your thoughts.” – Jeff Cox, Broken Arrow, Okla.

[Ed. note: I think there’s a lot of truth to that, Mr. Cox. If Americans want more straight talk from their lawmakers, more lame ducks might mean more honesty. For those concerned about the way term limits might make it harder for the legislative branch to stand up to the executive, your point certainly cuts in the other direction.]

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NPR: “[At] Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel [in 1922], a courier came to the door to make a delivery. The courier either refused a tip or [Albert Einstein] had no small change, but Einstein wanted to give the messenger something nonetheless. So on a piece of hotel stationery, Einstein wrote in German his theory of happiness: ‘A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.’ … He told the bellhop to save the notes — they just might be valuable in the future. And indeed they were. In an auction in Jerusalem on Tuesday, the note on happiness sold to an anonymous European bidder for $1.56 million. … The seller of the Imperial Hotel notes is reportedly a grandson of the Japanese bellboy’s brother who lives in Germany. It turns out Einstein’s theory of valuation was right on the money: ‘They are very, very happy,’ [a spokeswoman for the auction house] told the Times.”

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.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.