The Hill’s Morning Report — As midterms near, both parties remain on edge

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Ohio Senate candidates Rep. Tim Ryan (D) and Republican J.D. Vance will debate tonight in an increasingly tight race in a state that has been considered reliably red in recent years. The Hill’s Julia Manchester writes that while the GOP has historically had an advantage in Ohio, recent polling shows Ryan closing the gap with Vance.

A Wednesday Marist Poll survey shows Vance leading Ryan 46 percent to 45 percent, while a Spectrum News-Siena College survey released last week showed Ryan leading Vance 46 to 43 percent.

The debate is scheduled to air at 7 p.m. CST and will be hosted by station WJW-TV, owned by Nexstar, The Hill’s parent company.

On Friday, Nexstar will host a debate between Georgia Senate candidates Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and Republican Herschel Walker, but questions remain about whether Walker will attend following scandals that rocked his campaign this past week.

The woman who asserts that Walker, who campaigns as staunchly anti-abortion, paid for her abortion in 2009 told The New York Times that he urged her to terminate a second pregnancy in 2011. She allegedly refused, ending their relationship, and gave birth to their son.

“As a father, he’s done nothing. He does exactly what the courts say, and that’s it,” the woman told the Times. “He has to be held responsible, just like the rest of us. And if you’re going to run for office, you need to own your life.”

The Hill has not independently verified the account.

Walker denied knowing about the 2009 abortion until it was reported by the media. New text messages between Walker’s wife and ex-girlfriend show that his wife had tried to act as a mediator between the two parties, according to published accounts. Meanwhile, conservative activist Christian Walker, Herschel Walker’s son, “denounced his father as a liar and hypocrite and criticized him for having multiple children” (NBC News).

The Washington Post: Republican Sens. Rick Scott (Fla.), Tom Cotton (Ark.) to rally in Georgia for embattled Herschel Walker.

Axios: Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) criticizes Herschel Walker following scandal.

The Washington Post: A month before the midterms, abortion is in focus as the GOP backs Herschel Walker.

The New York Times: “Saved by Grace”: Evangelicals find a way forward with Herschel Walker.

In the final weeks before November’s elections, strategists and political observers on both sides of the aisle reacted to the drama of Georgia’s Senate contest by bracing for dreaded October surprises, wary of factors that could reshape the already unpredictable outcome in key races, reports The Hill’s Max Greenwood.

“In ’18 – and a lot of other midterm years – you knew what was going to happen. There was a very consistent throughline,” Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist, told The Hill. “You knew a wave was coming. Now, we don’t know. And it’s the cause of much heartburn.”

The polling site FiveThirtyEight still reports that Democrats are slightly favored to win the Senate.

The New York Times: Four weeks out, Senate control hangs in the balance in tumultuous midterms.

Politico: The battle for the Senate majority remains a nail-biter.

It took a while, but Republicans are coming home for Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, putting him squarely in striking distance of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) in the state’s Senate contest, writes The Hill’s Al Weaver. Over the last month, Republicans have grown increasingly hopeful over Oz’s chances as attacks on Fetterman’s campaign strategy amid his stroke recovery and stance on crime have helped vault the former TV doctor back into contention.

“I feel a lot better about Pennsylvania than I did four or five weeks ago. That’s for sure,” one Pennsylvania-based GOP operative told The Hill, adding that there was a “panic” that set in amongst state and national Republicans and extended into the world of former President Trump.

The Jan. 6 committee will hold its ninth and likely final hearing on Thursday at 1 p.m., and committee members are expected to discuss Trump’s central role in attempting to overturn the 2020 election.

No live witnesses are scheduled for the hearing, which will consist of video evidence and member presentations, including footage from a Danish film crew shot for a documentary about Roger Stone. It’s looking increasingly unlikely that the panel will issue subpoenas to Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence, and members must decide whether to enforce subpoenas they’ve issued to GOP members of Congress who have proved uncooperative (The New York Times).

Committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said Sunday that Ginni Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas who recently spoke with the panel, may not be featured at Thursday’s hearing (MSNBC).

Also on the table: when to turn investigative files over to the Department of Justice and whether to make criminal referrals. As for the future of the committee? Its chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and vice chairwoman Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) are at odds. Thompson says this hearing will be the commission’s last, while Cheney says more hearings are possible (The New York Times).

USA Today: Nearly 4 in 10 Americans hold Trump “responsible” for the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, poll shows.

Other legal woes are mounting for Trump, including in the Justice Department’s investigation into the mishandling of government records at Mar-a-Lago, writes The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch. While the former president scored early wins in the process — with a judge granting his request for a special master to review the documents — legal experts say he may not fare as well as his case is pushed before new judges.

“All indications are that the appellate litigation continues to move in the government’s direction,” said Brad Moss, a national security law expert.

After an appellate court removed more than 100 classified records from special master review and later agreed to an expedited schedule to review the DOJ’s challenge to the special master’s approval, Trump’s legal team appealed to the Supreme Court. Thomas gave the Justice Department a week to respond.

Politico: Trump’s legal drama is nowhere in the campaign ad wars.

Beyond Mar-a-Lago, the former president is the subject of a Georgia investigation to determine if he and others tried to interfere in the 2020 election. The prosecutor in that criminal probe is seeking testimony from former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, former Trump White House national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann, among others.

All parties are scheduled to testify next month after the midterms (Axios).


Related Articles

The Hill: Here are seven governors’ races to watch. 

The New York Times: The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to grant nearly unfettered authority over elections to state legislatures.

The Hill: A new political rival is emerging for Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis: The media.  

The Washington Post: New Florida records raise more questions about DeSantis’s migrant flights.

The New York Times: Judges in Ohio and Arizona on Friday blocked state bans on abortion as opponents challenge restrictive state laws. … Meanwhile, Barnard College in New York next year plans to offer medication abortion to students (The Hill). 


LEADING THE DAY

GLOBAL NUCLEAR RISKS

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been described as boxed in, without an off-ramp and “desperate” as the war he started with Ukraine in February racks up heavy casualties, a growing list of Russian military miscalculations and ominous warnings coming from the capital cities of two nuclear powers.

This morning, Ukraine reports that multiple explosions rocked Kyiv and other cities at rush hour, apparently the result of revenge missile strikes following Saturday’s bombing of a strategically important bridge that links Russia and Crimea (Reuters). Kyiv reported at least five deaths and 12 wounded after today’s attacks, the worst in months and a clear escalation.

Putin today will convene a meeting of Russia’s security council (CNN). Some train and car traffic, halted on Saturday, has resumed on the damaged bridge but the humiliating event underscored Russia’s recent setbacks and prompted Putin on Sunday to blame Ukraine and to rage about what he called an “act of terrorism” (Reuters).

The agenda of Putin’s council meeting today was not immediately clear, but as The Hill’s Laura Kelly reports, the bombing of the Kerch Strait Bridge is seen as personal for the Russian president. Ukraine did not claim credit. The blast was thought to be the result of a truck bomb that exploded as fuel-laden train cars traveled on the bridge along a parallel track.

Russian missile strikes immediately following the fiery bridge event also hit civilian areas in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, with at least 12 killed and at least 49 injured, including six children. Ukrainians said on Sunday they were preparing for more Russian reprisals (The New York Times).

President Biden’s recent comments during a Democratic fundraiser about taking seriously Putin’s nuclear threats as a warning of “Armageddon” were reinforced by the White House on Sunday even as the president’s advisers repeated there is no new Western intelligence pointing to orders by Putin or planning by Russia to use tactical nuclear weapons against Ukrainian or other targets.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby, drawing a distinction between imminent threats and potential risks, said during an interview with ABC’s “This Week” that “the president was reflecting the very high stakes that are in play right now.”

“When you have modern nuclear power and the leader of that modern nuclear power willing to use irresponsible rhetoric the way that Mr. Putin has several times in just the last week or two, as well as the high tension in Ukraine over just the course of the last few days,” Kirby said. “So, the president, I think, was accurately reflecting the fact that the stakes are very high right now” (The Hill).

Biden stands firmly behind Ukraine and is willing to send the country additional U.S. weapons systems, aid and ammunition, Kirby added. Ukraine has made such requests.

Russia’s missile strikes deep into Ukraine today will intensify calls for allies to provide Ukraine with additional air defense systems, reported The Washington Post, which published a series of photographs from Kyiv following the latest attacks.

The Hill’s The Memo, Niall Stanage: Biden’s “Armageddon” warning raises fresh questions.

The Hill: Putin is “a cornered animal,” retired Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told ABC News on Sunday.

The New York Times: Russia’s domination of Central Asia and the Caucasus region is unraveling as the Kremlin focuses on the war in Ukraine — and border violence is flaring.

The Hill: Sunday talk shows: U.S. grapples with fraught Russia, global challenges.

North Korea, a longtime aspirant to join the world’s nuclear club, on Monday said its most recent barrage of missile launches were a simulation of “an actual war” that would use nuclear weapons aimed to “hit and wipe out” potential South Korean and U.S. targets. The staged launches were in reaction to recent military drills conducted by North Korea’s enemies, state media reported Monday.

“Through seven times of launching drills of the tactical nuclear operation units, the actual war capabilities … of the nuclear combat forces ready to hit and wipe out the set objects at any location and any time were displayed to the full,” North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said (Reuters).

North Korea fired two ballistic missiles early on Sunday, marking its seventh launch in recent days and adding to alarm in the U.S., Japan and South Korea. Officials in Seoul fear the uptick in missile launches signal that North Korea is closer than ever to resuming nuclear testing for the first time since 2017 (Reuters).

Kim Jong Un, following a path set by his grandfather in 1948 and then his father, appears determined to pressure his neighbors and the United States with aspirations to control the Korean Peninsula, employing missile tests, nuclear threats and military exercises.

Although U.S. analysts say North Korea’s only ally, China, which serves as a lifeline to Pyongyang, has potential leverage to intercede with North Korea over its nuclear ambitions, Beijing has shown no inclination to intervene despite risks posed to the Asia Pacific region (Al Jazeera and Foreign Affairs).

In contrast, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who urged Putin in February to negotiate with Ukraine, by September posed to the Russian president “questions and concerns” about his aggressive aims against his neighbor, Putin conceded (The Guardian).

In other world headlines, cables vital for Germany’s rail network in the north were intentionally cut on Saturday morning, causing an almost three-hour halt to all rail traffic. The incident is being investigated and raised alarm bells after what NATO and the European Union last month called acts of sabotage in the Baltic Sea against Nord Stream natural gas pipelines (Reuters).

Bloomberg News: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gets a tough lesson in what it means to run his country.

The Washington Post: Norway is portrayed as both hero and villain in Europe’s energy crisis.

Barron’s: The United Nations General Assembly will convene an emergency meeting at 3 p.m. today to discuss Russia’s latest annexation of parts of Ukrainian territory.


IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

TECH 

As this week begins, the on-off-on (maybe) Elon Musk purchase of Twitter for $44 billion is, let’s say, still unsettled. There’s a stay in Musk’s lawsuit against Twitter and if the deal doesn’t close involving armies of lawyers, the court case is back on for November.

Most Americans do not use Twitter, and studies show that those who do tend to lean to the left. From a social media perspective, those who believe Musk is destined to own Twitter at some point are keenly interested in what he’ll do with the company, considering his iconoclastic business style, personal history on the platform and outspoken cheerleading for free speech (not necessary factual speech) (The Hill and NPR).

One certainty is that the entire Musk-Twitter saga is going to be studied for years in business schools (Reuters).

Musk’s possible purchase of Twitter also raises the question of Trump’s potential future on the platform. Twitter banned the former president in 2021 in the wake of violence at the Capitol and Trump’s falsehoods. Some speculate Musk, if Twitter’s owner, would reinstate Trump (The Hill).

The Washington Post: Chicago scientists are testing an unhackable quantum internet in their basement closet.


OPINION

■ Joe Biden knows how to use Donald Trump, by Ezra Klein, opinion columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3fUSGGp

■ The Libertarian Party is collapsing. Here’s why, by Andrew Koppelman, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3rHzrmx


WHERE AND WHEN

🌎 Happy Indigenous Peoples Day in the United States!

The House meets at 10 a.m. on Tuesday for a pro forma session. Members are scheduled to return to the Capitol on Nov. 14.

The Senate convenes Tuesday at 11 a.m. to begin procedural consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2023. Senators also are scheduled to return for work on Nov. 14.

The president will return to the White House from his home in Wilmington, Del., at 2:50 p.m.

Vice President Harris heads to Princeton, N.J., this morning to speak to a Democratic National Committee fundraising event at a private residence at 11:25 a.m. The vice president will fly to New York City this afternoon and pretape an episode of “Late Night with Seth Meyers” at 4:15 p.m. before returning to Washington this evening.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group hold annual meetings in Washington today through Sunday.


🖥 Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv, on YouTube and on Facebook at 10:30 a.m. ET. Also, check out the “Rising” podcast here.


ELSEWHERE

CYBERSECURITY 

Cyberattacks are on the rise, and the federal government is considering whether to help private insurance companies cover costs related to severe cyber incidents, writes The Hill’s Ines Kagubare. Officials from the Treasury Department and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency recently asked industry stakeholders to weigh in on a need for a federal insurance response to “catastrophic” cyber incidents and if so, how such a program should be implemented.

PANDEMIC & HEALTH

By 2023, half of Medicare beneficiaries will sign up for private Medicare Advantage plans, The New York Times reports, but most large insurers in the program are accused of fraudulent practices to inflate their profits by billions of dollars. The evidence appears in lawsuits, inspector general audits and among investigations by watchdogs. Why does it matter? Aside from the interests of patients and consumers, a program devised to help decrease healthcare spending instead became substantially more costly than traditional Medicare, defying the original intent, the Times reports. The culprits: eight of the 10 biggest Medicare Advantage insurers (two-thirds of the market), according to federal audits. UnitedHealth, Humana, Elevance and Kaiser, four of the five largest players, have been accused in federal lawsuits of efforts to overdiagnose to make patients appear as sick as possible in order to collect higher rates from the government.

💉 The Hill’s Data Dive:

Despite GOP resistance to vaccines, the vast majority of seniors in Republican-led states have been vaccinated, The Hill’s Daniel de Visé reports. Their vaccination levels are approaching the national average for older Americans, suggesting that the anti-vaccine movement is largely a priority for the young.

In the five deepest red states, as measured in the 2020 presidential election, COVID-19 vaccination rates among seniors range from 86 percent to 91 percent, according to public health data. The national average in that age group is 92 percent. The same trend holds for seniors seeking first and second booster doses, leading officials to theorize that seniors ultimately put health above politics.

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,062,564. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 345, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


THE CLOSER

And finally … Beatles memorabilia fetches big prices — and new discoveries can be surprising. How about a gravy-stained tablecloth circa 1966 from a long-gone San Francisco catering and restaurant company that served the Fab Four ahead of what turned out to be their final official concert at Candlestick Park?

That signed cloth, featuring a sketch by John Lennon (also known for some of his later art), signatures of Ringo Starr and George Harrison, and doodles by folk singer Joan Baez, is being auctioned online in Los Angeles through Oct. 19 with an estimated value of up to $25,000, reports The Washington Post. The tablecloth was displayed in 1966 by the caterer at his business for six days before it was stolen and then mysteriously returned to the original owner’s family last year by a woman in Texas.

The tale of the dinner doodling (with a photo from that 1966 evening) appears in Goldmine Magazine and San Francisco Chronicle.


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