The Daily 202: U.S. came ‘much closer’ to war with North Korea in 2017 than the public knew, Trump told Woodward

This happened several times during the summer of 2017, according to Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward’s new book.

The coverage of “Rage” has focused on Trump willfully downplaying the seriousness of the novel coronavirus during the early stages of the pandemic. But perhaps the most chilling revelation in the book, which went on sale Tuesday, is just how real the danger of a nuclear confrontation with North Korea seemed to the leaders of the U.S. government three summers ago.

The schoolyard taunts from that time received plenty of attention. Kim Jong Un called Trump a “dotard.” Trump referred to Kim as “little rocket man” and promised to rain down “fire and fury” if provoked. But there were also a series of missile launches and significant tactical escalations by both sides, including a simulated air attack by the U.S. Air Force, that registered little domestic attention. 

In one of his 17 on-the-record interviews with Woodward for the book, Trump told Woodward that war with Pyongyang was “much closer than anyone would know.” The president argued that conflict was averted because of his flattering letters to and three face-to-face meetings with the 30-something totalitarian leader. Trump said Kim was “totally prepared” for war. “And he expected to go,” the president said. “But we met.”

Trump still points to North Korea as one of his greatest triumphs. “There was no war,” the president said. But he acknowledged to Woodward that Kim has not given up any of his nuclear weapons, using a real estate metaphor to explain why. “It’s really like, you know, somebody that’s in love with a house and they just can’t sell it,” he said.

Mattis did not think Trump would order a preemptive strike on North Korea, but Woodward reports that plans for decapitation strikes were dusted off and ready to go. “The Strategic Command in Omaha had carefully reviewed and studied OPLAN 5027 for regime change in North Korea – the U.S. response to an attack that could include the use of 80 nuclear weapons,” he reports. “A plan for a leadership strike, OPLAN 5015, had also been updated.”

The National Event Conference is an emergency call of the national security leadership to discuss what to do as soon as a missile is fired. Trump had delegated to Mattis the power to launch conventional interceptor missiles to try to shoot down any missiles he believed were heading toward the United States, South Korea or Japan. If the U.S. shot down a missile, Mattis feared the North Koreans would fire more toward, say, Seattle because they have the capability to hit the continental United States. “The potential we’d have to shoot to prevent a second launch was real,” Mattis said.

Mattis, who would resign in protest at the end of 2018, expected Trump would follow his recommendation on whether to use nukes. “You’re going to incinerate a couple million people,” Mattis told himself, according to the book. “No person has the right to kill a million people as far as I’m concerned, yet that’s what I have to confront.”

A communications room was set up in Mattis’s residence on Potomac Hill in Washington, and military aides built secure compartments in tent-like structures whenever he traveled at home or abroad. An SUV with a communication team always joined his motorcade. With their equipment, Mattis could see a geospatial map with an icon that tracked a North Korean missile’s anticipated flight path.

“We all knew we were on the road to conflict,” said Dan Coats, who was overseeing the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies and joined the conferences, along with then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and others.

At 5:57 a.m. on Aug. 29, 2017 – a Tuesday morning – what is called “exquisite” intelligence showed North Korea was about to launch another missile. Mattis signed on to the Event Conference from home. The military was locked and loaded. “Ready to fire,” Mattis was told. He watched the icon as the missile passed directly over Japan and dropped into the sea. “He could vividly remember an aide desperately shaking him from restless sleep,” Woodward writes. “It was a nonstop crucible, personal and hellish. There were no holidays or weekends off, no dead time.”

After finishing work for the day at the Pentagon, Mattis went several times to the National Cathedral that summer to pray for wisdom as he grew increasingly alarmed about the possibility of a nuclear exchange with North Korea that could cause millions of souls to perish. He would spend about 10 minutes in the small, candle-lit War Memorial Chapel at the rear of the cathedral and directed his security detail to let him go in alone.

“A few rows of chairs faced a modest altar and an oversized sculpture of the head of the crucified Jesus Christ, crowned by a halo of brass meant to suggest cannon shells,” Woodward explains in the most captivating chapter of his book. “To Mattis, it looked like a bursting bomb.”

Sometimes Mattis went through tall iron gates into the Holy Spirit Chapel, a wood-paneled alcove where the holy spirit was depicted as a dove. These visits, where he apparently went unrecognized, would give him strength but never complete comfort. The possibility of recommending a nuclear launch heavily weighed on Mattis’s conscience every day, and it did not feel theoretical to him back then.

“Should there be a sudden military confrontation requiring a decision, he did not want, as he often said, to be Hamlet debating with himself, wringing his hands, indecisive and melancholic,” Woodward writes. “He did not want to discover a hollow pit in his stomach saying, ‘Oh, my God, I’m not ready!’ He had to find peace before the moment came.”  

Mattis struggled with the moral implications of this kind of atomic combat, and he was already war-weary from watching young men die during 40 years in the Marines. The retired four-star general often recited Abraham Lincoln’s codes of war from the Civil War by heart. “I have been driven many times upon my knees,” Lincoln once said, “by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”

A central story line in “Rage” is Trump’s evolution from the “maximum pressure” campaign of 2017 – which was a reversal of President Barack Obama’s “strategic patience” approach – to detente during the summits of 2018 and 2019 before Kim doubled down on his nuclear program again in 2020.

Trump told Woodward that he found Kim “far beyond smart” when they first met in Singapore. “Holy shit,” the president recalled thinking to himself. He said he knew immediately they could work together, likening his diplomatic overtures to seduction: “You meet a woman. In one second, you know whether or not it’s all going to happen,” Trump said. “It doesn’t take you 10 minutes, and it doesn’t take you six weeks. It’s like, whoa. Okay. You know? It takes somewhat less than a second.”

The president also told Woodward that Kim “tells me everything,” including offering a description of how he had his own uncle killed. Trump also boasted that the North Korean dictator refers to him as “your excellency.”

One of the buzziest nuggets in the book is that Trump told the author that the U.S. government has developed a still-secret nuclear weapons system. “We have stuff that you haven’t seen or heard about,” the president said. “We have stuff that [Vladimir] Putin and Xi [Jinping] have never heard about before.” Sources confirmed to Woodward that the U.S. military has a such a weapons system but declined to say more and expressed surprise that Trump disclosed it.

Foreign policy generally and nuclear proliferation specifically have been on the backburner in this election season because of the cascading crises related to the coronavirus, recession, racial strife and natural disasters, including fires and hurricanes that experts say are made worse by human-caused climate change. “When you’re running a country, it’s full of surprises,” Trump told Woodward. “There’s dynamite behind every door.”

Relations between North Korea and the United States have continued to deteriorate over the last year. Many analysts argue that we are less safe today from the totalitarian regime than when Trump took office. State-run media announced this spring that North Korea is pursuing “new policies for further increasing the nuclear war deterrence of the country.” A few weeks later, North Korea blew up a liaison office it shared with South Korea in the Demilitarized Zone.

Trump insists he gave away nothing by flying to Asia to see Kim, despite concerns that he bestowed legitimacy on the regime. “What the fuck? It’s a meeting,” the president told Woodward. 

Based on the book, Trump has soured more on Mattis than Kim. When Mattis was still at the Pentagon, Trump got angry that the secretary opposed steel tariffs because of their adverse impact on South Korea. “My fucking generals are a bunch of pussies,” the president said in front of a Mattis subordinate, who relayed the message to his boss. “They care more about alliances than they do about trade deals.” According to the book, Mattis asked this aide to write up an email explaining what the president had said so that he would have contemporaneous documentation of Trump’s crude comment.

Trump told Woodward that Mattis was “just a PR guy” and he wondered aloud whether it’s still a good idea for the United States to station more than 30,000 troops in South Korea. “We’re losing a fortune,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “It’s a rich country. I say, so we’re defending you, we’re allowing you to exist. … Why do we care? We’re 8,500 miles away.”

Mattis quit in December 2018 after Trump abruptly announced plans to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. “When I was basically directed to do something that I thought went beyond stupid to felony stupid, strategically jeopardizing our place in the world and everything else, that’s when I quit,” Mattis said, according to Woodward.

Speaking of books about Trump, a Justice Department probe into John Bolton has reached a federal grand jury. 

“A grand jury issued subpoenas for records, including from Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Bolton’s book, ‘The Room Where it Happened,’” Spencer Hsu, Devlin Barrett and Tom Hamburger report. “Opening a grand jury case and issuing subpoenas is one of many early steps in an investigation, and leak investigations in particular can be lengthy. … The grand jury case was opened after a federal judge rejected the Justice Department’s emergency request to block the book’s June 23 publication … In pre-publication litigation, the government disclosed that national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien, whom Trump appointed to succeed Bolton, ordered an additional review of Bolton’s book after a career National Security Council staffer said he had completed required edits. … Bolton has alleged that a career White House official, Ellen Knight, effectively cleared his manuscript in April before Trump political appointees tried to stall it through the presidential election in November. … O’Brien tapped another new appointee, Michael Ellis — a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) — to conduct the additional review. [He] was not officially trained on his classification authority until the day after he completed the Bolton manuscript review, the government acknowledged.”

Going after Bolton is another example of the DOJ’s politicization. Trump and Bill Barr “use each other.”

“Trump has turned out to be the ideal vessel for Barr’s decades-long pursuit of a potent ‘unitary executive’ with few checks on his power and broad authority to swat away congressional demands. Theirs is a political marriage of perfect symmetry: a president who wants to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants — and believes he can; an attorney general dedicated to endowing Oval Office occupants with expansive power,” Manuel Roig-Franzia and Hamburger write in a lengthy profile for our Sunday magazine. “In Barr’s thinking, the president is not the head of the executive branch of government, which is a collection of dozens of agencies and sub-departments. Instead, as Barr sees it, the president and the president alone is the executive branch. … It is hard to know who benefits more from the relationship — who plays the music and who dances to the tune. …

“Stuart Gerson, a conservative former head of the Justice Department’s civil division under George H.W. Bush, sees subtle gamesmanship at play. ‘Trump is not intelligent or incisive, but Bill Barr is both. So in this situation, Trump is the tail and Barr is the dog,’ Gerson says. ‘Trump is the canvas on which Barr can paint his picture.’ … During our interview, Barr sat back comfortably on the burgundy sofa in his office, at home in the realm he has occupied at the beginning of his 40s and 70s. Asked to assess his latest turn as a public servant, a sly smile crossed his face. ‘I’d give myself high grades,’ he said. ‘But since we all have foibles, I’m not sure it’s an A-plus.’”

More on the new world order

  • Israel signed a deal establishing formal ties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain during a White House ceremony. Trump took full credit for setting the path for the agreements. The president claimed that five, six and “seven or eight or nine” Arab countries were queuing up to join. (Karen DeYoung and Anne Gearan)
  • Global views of the U.S. are plunging to new lows amid the pandemic, according to a Pew Research Center poll of 13 nations, all wealthy democracies. A median of 85 percent of respondents said the U.S. has handled the coronavirus poorly. (Adam Taylor)
  • Trump confirmed to Fox News that he wanted to assassinate Syria President Bashar al-Assad, but Mattis opposed doing so. In 2018, the president denied it had ever been considered. (Aaron Blake)
  • Top State Department officials are trying to assert a hawkish response to two watershed political moments in Russia: the uprising in Belarus and the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. But Trump has exhibited a far more tepid reaction and continues to convey a Moscow-friendly message. (Paul Sonne and John Hudson)
  • The World Trade Organization panel ruled Trump’s China tariffs violate global rules. The ruling will have no immediate impact on the ability of U.S. customs officials to collect levies, but it’s a dent in the president’s trade offensive. (David Lynch)
  • Japan’s ruling party tapped Yoshihide Suga to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is stepping down for health reasons. Suga, who has served as Abe’s right-hand man for eight years, will be officially confirmed today. (Simon Denyer)
  • U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is moving forward on his threat to override the Brexit withdrawal agreement with the E.U., causing Northern Ireland to worry decisions made in London and Brussels could upend their hard-won peace and prosperity. (Amanda Ferguson and William Booth)
  • Members of the European Parliament don’t want to spread the coronavirus by going to France for their monthly trip to Strasbourg, and the French are furious. The French demanded as a precondition for joining the E.U. the parliament ditch its seat in Brussels for one week a month and relocate to the French city. (Quentin Aries and Michael Birnbaum)

The natural disasters

Hurricane Sally threatens the northern Gulf Coast with historic flooding.

“Hurricane Sally is slogging toward the northern Gulf Coast, where it threatens to unleash ‘historic’ amounts of rain that could trigger ‘extreme life-threatening flash flooding’ through at least Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center,” Jason Samenow, Andrew Freedman and Matthew Cappucci report. “The center predicts the long-duration storm could produce as much as 30 inches of rain between southeastern Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle, with widespread amounts of 10 to 20 inches. In addition, the center is calling for an ‘extremely dangerous and life-threatening storm surge’ in coastal areas, though forecasts for surge heights have been lowered. Torrential rain and tropical storm-force winds walloped coastal Alabama and the Florida Panhandle on Tuesday, and the storm’s effects are expected to intensify as Sally comes ashore Wednesday morning near the Alabama-Florida border.” 

Hazardous smoke from the wildfires could continue to smother the West Coast for days. 

“While a brief, long-awaited rain arrived along the Oregon coast on Tuesday, clearing up the skies in some parts of the state, officials warned that dangerous smoke will remain in the air through at least Thursday,” Samantha Schmidt and Ian Livingston report. “The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has extended an air-quality advisory through noon Thursday, as several cities in the state reached their highest-ever-recorded air-quality index ratings during the past week. … The smoke that the wildfires in the American West has sent skyward has traveled across the country, causing a milky-orange haze and a dimmed sun as far east as D.C. The smoke, carried along by the jet stream, will linger on the East Coast through at least Thursday, promising surreal skies. …

“In Oregon, the unusual wildfires have displaced tens of thousands of residents and have left at least eight people dead and at about 16 people missing. There have been approximately 25 deaths in California. … Some of those fires continued to grow, while at least one, the Almeda Fire that ravaged communities in southern Oregon, reached 100 percent containment. … In California, more than 16,600 firefighters continued to face off against 25 major wildfires across the state. The blazes in California have burned more than 3.2 million acres and destroyed more than 4,200 structures. … While officials on Monday had said 10 people were reported dead in Oregon, the state medical examiner later determined that two of those fatalities were unrelated to the fires, bringing the death toll down to eight.”

The coronavirus

Trump faced tough questions from undecided voters during an ABC News town hall.

The president was pressed to defend his responses to the coronavirus, and his handling of racial justice protests and health care. “He said he would not do anything differently with regard to his response to the pandemic, despite nearly 200,000 Americans having died from the outbreak. He blamed China for the pandemic and said he saved many lives by ‘closing up the country.’ His claim he could not have done more to slow the deadly virus has been rebutted by a number of epidemiologists,” Colby Itkowitz, Josh Dawsey, Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner report“Trump blamed cities and states run by Democrats for any problems with the response to coronavirus, as well as for any crime or violence in the country. … He also promised sweeping health-care and immigration plans, after four years of not introducing a comprehensive plan on either despite promises to do so.” (Glenn Kessler fact-checks 24 dubious claims that Trump made during the hour-long town hall.)

Quote of the day

“You’ll develop herd – like a herd mentality,” Trump said during the town hall, referring to the controversial strategy of “herd immunity” as while arguing the contagion will go away after the election. “It’s going to be herd developed, and that’s going to happen. That will all happen.”

Michael Caputo, HHS’s top communication official, apologized for accusing his colleagues of “sedition.”

“At his meeting with staff members Tuesday, Caputo apologized for his remarks and the embarrassment they brought upon the agency,” Yasmeen Abutaleb and Josh Dawsey report. “He also indicated his departure might be imminent, saying he was considering a medical leave. He added that his family had been receiving threats and that his physical health was in question. … Several current and former officials said the recent controversies engulfing Caputo threatened a crucial public relations campaign to win public trust in a coronavirus vaccine that has already been highly politicized. White House officials were in discussion with HHS Secretary Alex Azar about Caputo’s future, said a senior administration official. … Caputo, a Trump loyalist, has sought to exert control over the messages coming from scientists and top health officials since the White House installed him at the agency in April.

“Democrats called for his resignation on Monday — and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) called for Azar’s resignation on Tuesday — after The Washington Post and others reported how Caputo and a top aide, Paul Alexander, attempted to interfere in the weekly scientific missives produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, known as the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports. McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, where Alexander is listed as a part-time assistant professor, also sought to distance itself from him on Monday.”

Azar overrode objections from FDA chief Stephen Hahn in his push to ease testing rules, revoking the agency’s ability to check the quality of tests developed by individual labs for their own use. “The unilateral policy change — which applies to ‘lab-developed’ tests for a wide range of diseases, including Covid-19 — had long been sought by commercial, university and public health labs in the name of greater flexibility. But Hahn viewed the move as inappropriate and ill-timed because it removed safeguards designed to prevent inaccurate tests from flooding the market during a public health crisis,” Politico reports.

  • Just over a month after the Big Ten became the first major conference to postpone the 2020 football season, the league reversed its decision and announced plans to begin playing the weekend of Oct. 24. (Emily Giambalvo)
  • Health officials around the world are facing death threats amid the pandemic. (Rick Noack and Ruby Mellen)
  • Tony Fauci, who has had a security detail for months, said most “so-called immune boosting supplements” actually do “nothing,” but he recommends people regularly take  Vitamins D and C to keep their immune systems strong. (CNBC)
  • Connecticut will start issuing $100 fines to people who refuse to wear masks. (NBC News)
  • D.C. reported a fifth day without a virus-related death – its longest stretch in two months – as it reopened the downtown convention center. (Metro team)

The contagion is killing far more minority children than White kids.

The most comprehensive U.S. accounting to date of pediatric infections and fatalities shows there have been 391,814 known cases and 121 deaths among people under the age of 21 from February to July. “Of those killed by covid-19, more than 75 percent have been Hispanic, Black and American Indian children, even though they represent 41 percent of the U.S. population, according to the CDC. The federal agency collected data from health departments throughout the country, William Wan reports. “Of the children and teens killed, 45 percent were Hispanic, 29 Black and 4 percent American Indian. … One key factor could be underlying health disparities among minority children and young adults. About 75 percent of those who died had at least one underlying condition, and the most frequent were asthma and obesity — two conditions that disproportionately occur in minority youths.”

Frustrated House Democrats are pushing for action on a new relief bill. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told her members yesterday the House would remain in session until a new agreement is struck. “But within hours, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) clarified that lawmakers would not actually remain in Washington beyond their scheduled recess date of Oct. 2, and instead would be required to be on call in case they must return. This is the same arrangement lawmakers have worked under for more than a month without any progress. White House officials have remained open to a deal but have not expressed an urgency to make concessions,” Erica Werner reports. “Frustration boiled over on a call the centrist New Democrat Coalition held with Pelosi and Hoyer on Tuesday. The coalition includes a number of freshman lawmakers who beat Republicans in 2018 and are now facing tough re-election races in GOP-leaning seats. At one point, pressed by Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) about why members shouldn’t physically stay in town to wait for a deal, Pelosi suggested Rice should poll fellow lawmakers on the issue.” 

  • Meanwhile, CNBC host Jim Cramer called Pelosi “Crazy Nancy” to her face during a live interview before later apologizing. (Felicia Sonmez)
  • Struggling hotel owners, some with close ties to Trump (himself a hotelier), are seeking a federal bailout. Some have spent years recklessly loading up on a cheap type of debt known as commercial mortgage-backed securities, which force bondholders who own the debt to make regular payments. But hotel revenue has fallen because of the pandemic, and the owners of these properties now lack the cash flow to cover the loans. (New York Times)
  • The recession is testing the limits and shortfalls of the Federal Reserve’s toolkit. The central bank’s vast emergency response has grown its balance sheet by roughly $3 trillion, pushing the bank into uncharted territory. (Rachel Siegel)
  • The Sonoma Valley’s vaunted wineries have embraced online sales and budget pricing to woo pandemic drinkers. For years, the industry has relied on foot traffic from millions of tourists to keep their doors open. (Brooke Van Dam and Steve Johnson)
  • The World Series will be played entirely at the Texas Rangers’ ballpark outside Dallas, the first time that the championship will be held entirely at one site since World War II. (AP)
  • Apple’s September new product event, held online this year, didn’t include the traditional introduction of a new iPhone. Instead, the company focused on its Apple Watch 6, its physical manifestation of a health-care play in pandemic times. The new watch includes a sensor that can detect blood oxygen levels, often called a pulse oximeter. (Reed Albergotti)

More on the election

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Joe Biden holds a narrow edge in Wisconsin.

“Trump’s law-and-order message has so far failed to translate into significant support or change the dynamic of the race there,” Dan Balz and Emily Guskin report. “The poll shows Biden standing at 52 percent to 46 percent for Trump among likely voters and by 50 percent to 46 percent among all registered voters.”

A separate Post-ABC poll finds Biden leading Trump by 16 points in Minnesota among likely voters. “Biden’s big margin in the Minnesota poll warrants caution given his narrower lead in Wisconsin. Outcomes in these two states have been close to one another in recent presidential elections, differing by no more than four points in their vote margin since 2000,” Scott Clement and Balz report

Biden visited Florida as Democrats worry about his standing in the state. 

“In a speech aimed largely at Puerto Rican voters, Biden took sharp aim at Trump over his panned responses to covid-19 and Hurricane Maria, among what Biden identified as presidential blunders he said have badly damaged Latino communities,” Sean Sullivan reports. “He cast himself as an alternative who would stand up for Latinos and help improve their lives, and he nodded to their crucial role in the upcoming election. … Biden unveiled a plan to create a federal working group for Puerto Rico to help with recovery efforts and economic advancement. … Biden is favored to win the Latino vote — in Florida and nationally — but some recent polls show his margins lagging behind Hillary Clinton’s support from Latinos in 2016, and speaking to reporters Tuesday, he acknowledged that he has work to do.”

  • “He’s a fool,” Biden said of Trump, after the president accused him of taking performance-enhancing drugs during the Democratic debates. (NBC News)
  • Biden is running an invisible digital campaign in Michigan, making some Democrats nervous. “I can’t even find a sign,” said one Michigan Biden voter who complained about not being able to find a campaign field office. (Time)
  • Scientific American, the oldest continuously published magazine in the United States, backed Biden in its first presidential endorsement in 175 years. (Kim Bellware)
  • A pro-Trump youth group is enlisting teens in a campaign likened to a troll farm. “Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix,” Isaac Stanley-Becker reports.

Race and reckoning

Louisville announced a $12 million settlement and policing changes in an agreement with Breonna Taylor’s family. 

“Louisville police killed Breonna Taylor, 26, while executing a ‘no-knock’ search warrant at her apartment during a drug raid in March that uncovered no illegal substances and has become a driving symbol in the Black Lives Matter movement. The settlement, which follows a wrongful-death lawsuit that Taylor’s family filed in May, requires police commanders to approve all search warrant applications that are submitted to a judge, said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer (D) during a news conference Tuesday afternoon. Louisville police will also have to conduct extensive risk assessments before applying for a warrant,” Tim Craig and Marisa Iati report. “The settlement does not include an admission of wrongdoing by the city or the police officers involved in the raid, Fischer said. Lonita Baker, another attorney for the Taylor family, said her clients did not plan to file additional lawsuits.” 

  • Documents show officials in Rochester, N.Y., spent months trying to suppress video footage of a police encounter that led to the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died of suffocation in March after officers placed his head in a hood and pinned him to the ground. (NYT)
  • A White bar owner in Omaha was charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of a 22-year-old Black man during protests in May. (Omaha World-Herald)
  • D.C. legalized marijuana five years ago, and although marijuana arrests have declined by more than half, African Americans still account for just under 90 percent of those arrested on pot-related charges, despite making up 45 percent of the city’s population. (Paul Schwartzan and John Harden)

ICE deported a key witness in an investigation of sexual assault and harassment at a Texas detention center. 

“The 35-year-old woman has been held in the [ICE] facility … for about a year and told lawyers about a ‘pattern and practice’ of abuse there, including that guards systematically assaulted her and other detainees in areas that were not visible to security cameras. Several guards ‘forcibly’ kissed her, and at least one touched her intimate parts, often as she was walking back from the medical unit to her barrack, according to her complaint filed with law enforcement agencies. ‘If she behaved,’ she said one guard told her, he would help her be released,’” the Texas Tribune and ProPublica report.

  • Pelosi demanded a probe of ICE after a nurse claimed the agency conducts forced hysterectomies at a detention center without informed consent. (Tim Elfrink)
  • The EPA postponed its speaker series on racism after the White House issued an order for agencies to stop “un-American” race-related training. (Politico)
  • House Transportation Committee investigators say in a new report that the Boeing 737 Max crashes were a “horrific culmination” of errors. (Ian Duncan, Michael Laris and Lori Aratani

Social media speed read

The election is so close that we’re now buying milk that does not expire until after polls close:

And the president enjoyed a Philly cheesesteak on his flight home from the ABC town hall:

Videos of the day

Seth Meyers held a mock White House press briefing: 

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Stephen Colbert had a debate proposal for Trump: 

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