As part of National Security Adviser John Bolton's full overhaul of the National Security Council, he's "leading the push to abolish the role of special assistant to the president and cybersecurity coordinator," the top White House cybersecurity job, Politico reports, citing one current and two former U.S. officials. One of the former officials said there's a "60-40" chance the White House eliminates the job, potentially leaving the U.S. government rudderless heading into elections in which Russia is widely expected to meddle.
When it comes to cybersecurity, a second former official told Politico, Bolton's "not interested in it. He doesn't see the point in it. ... There's a serious concern on the [NSC] right now, particularly the [cyber team], of what the fate of their directorate is moving forward," and morale "is definitely low." The current cybersecurity coordinator, Rob Joyce, is returning to the National Security Agency, "in part because of frustration with how Bolton's team approaches cyber policy," Politico reports. "When Bolton arrived, he forced out homeland security adviser Tom Bossert, a cyber expert who supervised Joyce's team."
NSC spokesman Robert Palladino told Politico that "cyber is a key priority for the Trump administration." And if the coordinator position is eliminated, responsibility could shift to Bolton's deputy, Mira Ricardel, who reportedly supports eliminating the position, or Josh Steinman, a Michael Flynn protégé who reportedly has scant cybersecurity experience and is disliked by career staffers. Scrapping the job would also send a message to other countries "that the U.S. is taking the gas pedal off of cybersecurity as a key national security issue," warned former NSC cyber policy director Megan Stifel.
"The Obama administration was slow and ineffective in its response to Russian election interference in 2016," The Washington Post says in an editorial "But it is now on President Trump and his team to prepare for a new round of Kremlin cyberattacks — and this White House, too, is falling short." Peter Weber
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's (D-N.D.) crumbling path to reelection just took another wrong turn.
Heitkamp's campaign published an open letter attacking her opponent Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) for his disparaging comments about the "#MeToo" movement, running it as an ad in several North Dakota newspapers on Monday. Now, she's apologizing after finding out the letter outed some of its signers as abuse survivors, The Associated Press reports.
Heitkamp's reelection chances have evaporated over the past few months; the newest Fox News poll shows Cramer ahead by 12 points. She's tried to win over voters with a focus on fighting sexual assault, notably opposing Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation despite the possibility of damaging her chances in the midterms. Cramer, meanwhile, called #MeToo a "movement toward victimization" an in interview with The New York Times last week.
The controversial Heitkamp letter decried Cramer's comments, and was signed by over 125 people. But some signers soon criticized the ad's publication, saying they "either hadn't authorized it or are not survivors of abuse," AP reports. Cramer quickly slammed the mistake as "revictimization of victims" when talking with AP, and one survivor whose name was unwittingly published said she would not longer vote for Heitkamp.
Heitkamp issued a statement saying she's "in the process of issuing a retraction" of the ad and "personally apologizing to each of the people impacted by this." AP reports that a "clearly emotional" Heitkamp also said she would investigate how her campaign got these names on a Tuesday radio show. Heitkamp said she didn't see the ad before its publication, but still took responsibility for the "very flagrant error." Kathryn Krawczyk
One of President Trump's closest allies in the Senate is not buying his theory about the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday said that he believes the missing Washington Post columnist was murdered and that it was likely "orchestrated at the highest levels of government," per CBS News' Alan He.
Trump suggested on Monday that "rogue killers" may have been responsible for Khashoggi's disappearance, but Graham doesn't "think it was a rogue event." Graham said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is "the one pulling the strings right now." But Trump on Tuesday, seemingly without skepticism, promoted the crown prince's claim that he has no knowledge of Khashoggi's fate.
Khashoggi arrived at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, earlier this month and has not been heard from since. Turkish officials told the United States they found evidence he was murdered and dismembered by a Saudi security team, and gave The Washington Post scans of seven men they believe were part of the Saudi team responsible. Trump promised that "answers will be forthcoming shortly" as Saudi Arabia will "rapidly expand" its investigation. But Turkish officials told the Post that there has been a "lack of Saudi cooperation" in the investigation and that it appears the consulate was cleaned and repainted before they could examine it.
Graham said the Saudi crown prince is "very schizophrenic," and told Fox & Friends that he has "got to go." Until something new happens in Saudi Arabia, Graham added, he has "no interest in engaging with this government" because he "cannot imagine a more blatant example of contempt for a relationship than this." Brendan Morrow
Longtime Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) could be in danger of losing his re-election.
While the 13-term Republican representative is still the heavy favorite, election forecast website FiveThirtyEight lowered his odds of winning by about 10 points on Monday. Analyst Nate Silver chalked the shift up to good Democratic fundraising.
King's Democratic opponent, Liuba Grechen Shirley, raised more than King's last five opponents combined, The New York Times reported in August, and Grechen Shirley told Newsday in September that she outraised King by $25,000 in the last quarter.
Grechen Shirley now has a 26.9 percent chance of defeating King, based on FiveThirtyEight's model. For comparison, the same forecast gave President Trump a 28 percent chance of being elected in 2016.
This shift comes after the Cook Political Report moved King's seat from being "safe Republican" to "likely Republican" in September. The New York Times reported last month that Republican and Democratic strategists both felt King "might not be safe," especially after his district was redrawn in 2012 to include more registered Democrats than Republicans. Grechen Shirley, who has never held elected office, told the Times that she believes she can pull off an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-style upset.
Even if King does end up winning, as he is still likely to do, this could end up being the closest re-election of his career. FiveThirtyEight, after all, predicts he will receive 52 percent of the vote while Grechen Shirley will receive 48 percent. In 2016, King defeated his Democratic opponent by a margin of more than 20 points. Brendan Morrow
Fantasy series Grimm may have said goodbye just one year ago, but it's already gearing up for a comeback.
There's a spinoff in the works between NBC and Marvel's Iron Fist writer Melissa Glenn, Variety reported Tuesday. The untitled reboot will certainly include touches of the original show, since its executive producers, Sean Hayes and Todd Millier, and its creators, David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf, are reportedly coming on as producers.
The original Grimm followed Portland homicide detective Nick Burkhardt, played by David Giuntoli, who discovers he comes from a long line of guardians sworn to protect the mortal world from mythological creatures called Wesen. In his new role as a protector, or Grimm, Burkhardt enlists the help of his partner, played by Russell Hornsby, to maintain a balance between both realms.
Little is known about the spinoff, other than it will center around a female Grimm. No actors are attached to the show yet, but fans can reportedly expect to see some familiar faces alongside new characters.
The original series went off the air in March 2017 after six seasons. It quickly became a breakout show, and remained one of Friday's highest-rated scripted series throughout its run, reports Deadline. So get ready Grimm fans, because the story continues. Read more about the spinoff at Deadline. Amari Pollard
Ted Cruz challenger Beto O'Rourke won't send his record-breaking campaign funds to tighter Senate races
Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) seems to have raised more money than he knows what to do with. But he's still keeping it for himself.
O'Rourke, who is fighting to take Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz's Senate seat in Texas, raked in a record-breaking $38.1 million in the last fundraising quarter. Even though polls continue to predict a Cruz victory, O'Rourke isn't yet redirecting any of his efforts — or funds — to any other race.
Despite picking up steam, O'Rourke still trails Cruz by eight points, a recent poll from The New York Times/Siena College found. Similarly pessimistic polls prompted Democratic Party officials to push O'Rourke to send his overflowing funds to Democrats in tighter races, the Times reported.
O'Rourke did take a step in that direction with an $815,000 transaction to the Texas Democratic Party last month, campaign finance reports show. But that money could go further "in states where candidates just need a little extra to get over the hump," such as "Missouri, Tennessee, or North Dakota," one Democratic strategist told the Times. After all, reports have shown that a good chunk of O'Rourke's millions came from Democrats in states with competitive races of their own.
Still, O'Rourke rejected the idea of directing funds to other Senate races on Monday, telling the conservative Washington Examiner that if people "want to contribute to another campaign, of course they're welcome to do that." But as long as the remaining $22.9 million is in O'Rourke's war chest, he said, he's going to stay "focused on Texas" and "spare no expense" in the final stretch of his own campaign. Kathryn Krawczyk
President Trump loves the troops, but do they love him back?
In a new Military Times poll, 44 percent of active-duty personnel said they approve of Trump, compared to 43 percent who disapprove. It's not the warmest reception, but at least it's higher than his approval with the general public. Still, his numbers within the military have sunk — in fall 2016, 46 percent of active-duty troops told the Military Times they approved of Trump, while just 37 percent said they disapproved. Analysis suggests the biggest change since 2016 is that many troops have made up their minds, instead of saying they have "no opinion" on Trump.
Though 43 percent disapprove of Trump, that's much better than his national disapproval rating among civilians. A recent Gallup survey found that 51 percent of Americans disapprove of the president. Among military women, Trump's disapproval rating in this poll, 68 percent, is higher than it was among women in general in a recent CNN poll, 62 percent.
Interestingly, though, about 60 percent of troops in this same survey said they approve of Trump's handling of the military and, in fact, believe it is in better shape now than it was under former President Barack Obama. Troops also overwhelmingly love Secretary of Defense James Mattis, with 84 percent approving of the retired four-star Marine Corps general who Trump recently called "sort of a Democrat."
The Military Times surveyed 829 active-duty troops online between Sept. 20 and Oct. 2. The margin of error is 2 percentage points. Brendan Morrow
President Trump's latest shockingly sexist insult is already drawing a strong rebuke from at least one congressional Republican.
Trump on Tuesday referred to Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006, as "Horseface." Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) denounced the remark as "embarrassing," and called it "unbecoming of any man, let alone the POTUS." He also said it's "obvious" that this sort of language "enables teenage boys to feel they have a license to refer to girls [with] such names."
To say this is unbecoming of any man, let alone the POTUS, is a vast understatement. And to say this enables teenage boys to feel they have a license to refer to girls w such names is obvious. It’s all very embarrassing. https://t.co/dC5xxmFoGo
— Ryan Costello (@RyanCostello) October 16, 2018
Costello can't be particularly happy to be tweeting about this. He announced earlier this year that he would be retiring from Congress, saying that all he does is "answer questions about Donald Trump," reports The Hill. In fact, he cited the Stormy Daniels scandal specifically as one of the reasons he's fed up with modern politics. He explained that the constant "talking about porn stars and the president" means "it's the right time for me to perhaps consider another line of work." Brendan Morrow