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POLITICO Playbook PM: Kanye drops the mic in the Oval Office

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Kanye West and President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump hugs Kanye West after West spoke for about 10 minutes in the Oval Office on Thursday. | Oliver Contreras/Pool via Getty Images

UMMM … WOW — KANYE WEST gave a command performance for the White House pool before heading to a private lunch with PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP to talk criminal justice reform. All of the cable networks carried his comments in full.

WEST, per pooler Anne Gearan of WaPo: “Trump is on his hero’s journey right now. He might not have thought he’d have a crazy m—–f—– like (me).”

TRUMP ON NORTH KOREA: “I left Singapore three months ago. We’ve made a lot of progress.” WEST: “On Day One you solved one of [Barack Obama’s] biggest troubles. We solved one of the biggest problems.”

WEST SPOKE FOR almost 10 minutes. He also said Trump gave him “a Superman cape” to do good. “I tell you what, that was pretty impressive,” Trump said.

SCOOP — ALEX ISENSTADT and JAKE SHERMAN: “Adelson drops tens of millions more to save the GOP Congress”: “Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is pumping tens of millions of dollars more into Republican Party coffers in an 11th-hour push to save their congressional majorities, according to two senior Republicans familiar with the donation.

“The contributions were made to a pair of GOP super PACs tied to congressional Republicans, Senate Leadership Fund and Congressional Leadership Fund. They are expected to be reported in public filings with the Federal Election Commission by Oct. 15.

The figures would almost certainly make Adelson, a close ally of President Donald Trump, the biggest GOP donor of the 2018 election cycle. Even before his most recent contributions, the 85-year-old mogul and his wife Miriam had given $ 25 million to the Senate super PAC and $ 30 million to the House super PAC.” POLITICO

— CASE IN POINT: HOUSE REPUBLICANS BRACE FOR IMPACT … NYT’S ALEX BURNS in Dallas: “Republicans Abandon Vulnerable Lawmakers, Striving to Keep House”: “As they brace for losses in the House of Representatives, Republican Party leaders are racing to reinforce their candidates in about two-dozen districts, trying to create a barricade around their imperiled majority.

“They are pouring money and effort mainly into moderate suburban areas, like [Rep. Pete] Sessions’s seat, that they see as critical to holding the chamber by even a one-seat margin. And they have begun to pull millions of dollars away from Republican candidates who have fallen substantially behind in once-competitive races.

“Republicans steering the House effort, who insisted on anonymity to discuss party strategy, believe that by intensifying their efforts in a smaller number of districts, they can limit Democratic gains to perhaps 20 seats on Nov. 6 — just short of the 23 seats Democrats need to take over the House.

“Party leaders are counting on a surge of energy from conservative voters to repel Democrats in many of the redder districts on the House map, so that they can concentrate their advertising on teetering purple seats.” NYT

PLAYBOOK EXCLUSIVE — HOUSE MAJORITY PAC is launching two attack ads dubbed “Barbaric Caveman” and “Evolved Caveman” against New Jersey Republican Jay Webber. The ads hit Webber on his positions on taxes, equal pay, abortion and same-sex marriage. Webber is running against Democrat Mikie Sherrill to replace retiring GOP Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen. The super PAC is spending $ 870,000 on the ads, which will run through Election Day. The first adThe second ad

WHAT’S ON PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP’S MIND … The president called in to “Fox and Friends” this morning to talk about everything from Hurricane Michael to lunch with Kanye.

— ON TRUSTING HIS W.H. STAFF: “Are there some that I’m not in love with? Yes. And we’ll weed them out slowly but surely.”

— ON THE DEMOCRATIC 2020 FIELD: “Well, so far I like every one of them. I just hope they stay healthy. And I hope they fight it out. And any one of them I’d like having. I just hope that we don’t get any star or good thinking coming out of nowhere because I see everyone that’s talking about it.”

— ON KANYE WEST: “He is respected, and he’s really a great guy. You know what he wants? He’s not asking for anything for himself. He’s not saying, ‘Hey, gee, I want to do this or that.’ He’s a private guy, and he wants to help people. And I think maybe more than anything is prison reform, because his wife, who’s terrific, Kim, she is the one that brought the attention to Mrs. [Alice] Johnson where I could look. And you have many people like Mrs. Johnson that are in jail for another 35 years on a charge that frankly — everything’s serious, but you don’t get life imprisonment because you were talking over a telephone about something.”

— ON AG JEFF SESSIONS NOT WANTING PRISON REFORM: “Well, if he doesn’t, then he gets overruled by me, because I make the decision, he doesn’t.” Trump also said the criminal justice system is “very unfair to African-Americans.”

— ON ROD ROSENSTEIN: “Well, I actually get along well with Rod. We have a witch hunt going on, which is disgraceful. And I have to tell you, I’ll take these Republican guys with Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan … and all of them, I hate to mention a few name[s] because there’s so many of them, and I want to give every one of them credit. These are tough, smart guys. They know there was no collusion. It turned out with Russia — there was collusion, but it was with Hillary Clinton, the DNC. I mean why didn’t, as an example, the FBI take the DNC server? They didn’t take it.”

CNN’S STEVE BRUSK (@stevebruskCNN): “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at law enforcement museum opening jokes about Air Force One flight with President Trump on Monday: ‘some of you may have heard about this trip’. After laughter, he says ‘it was a round trip’.”

JESUS RODRIGUEZ: “Trump: We’re ‘probably getting closer’ to finding out what happened to Khashoggi”

Good Thursday afternoon. BOOK ALERT: RUTH MARCUS, Washington Post deputy editorial page editor, is writing a book about Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation. The book is being published by Simon & Schuster.

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BREAKING — AP’S RACHEL LA CORTE: “Washington state Supreme Court tosses out death penalty”

MELANIA SPEAKS — ABC’S LUCIEN BRUGGEMAN: “Melania Trump says she is one of the most bullied people in the world; distrusts some in the West Wing”: “First lady Melania Trump told ABC News in an exclusive interview that she has told her husband there have been people in his administration she didn’t trust who worked for him. … Asked by ABC News Chief National Affairs Correspondent Tom Llamas whether there are still people in the president’s administration ‘he can’t trust,’ the first lady said yes.

“‘It’s harder to govern,’ the first lady said in a clip [that aired] Thursday on ‘Good Morning America.’ ‘You always need to watch your back.’” ABC

RACHAEL BADE: “McCarthy woos Trump’s immigration populists”

TOP-ED — SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY.) in THE ATLANTIC: “Stop Military Aid to Saudi Arabia”: “I have been deeply disappointed with those of my colleagues in Congress who don’t seem to care that Yemenis are being massacred by U.S.-backed-and-armed Saudis.

“But I’m giving them another chance. A chance to stand up to Saudi Arabia and say, “America will not tolerate these heinous acts.”

“This week, I intend to introduce another measure to cut all funding, training, advising, and any other coordination to and with the military of Saudi Arabia until the journalist Jamal Khashoggi is returned alive.” The Atlantic

THE INVESTIGATIONS … DARREN SAMUELSOHN and JOSH GERSTEIN: “Judge questions ‘highly unusual’ Manafort plea deal with Mueller”: “U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis II ordered Manafort, his lawyers and Mueller’s prosecutors back to his Alexandria courtroom for a hearing next Friday to resolve the situation and to set a sentencing date for the longtime GOP operative.

“Ellis’ latest move doesn’t appear to jeopardize the overall deal with Manafort, but has the potential to remove one of several incentives for the former Trump campaign chairman to cooperate and could lead to details of Mueller’s investigative interests being made public sooner than the special counsel may like.” POLITICO

— “Former Rick Gates attorneys sue him for $ 369,000 in unpaid bills,” by Brent Griffiths: POLITICO

HMM … ABC’S MIKE LEVINE: “Fired official Andrew McCabe accuses FBI of stalling his upcoming book”

MORE KAVANAUGH FALLOUT — “Dems face new dilemma on Trump judges: Fight or flight?” by Elana Schor and Burgess Everett: “Democrats can’t consent to too speedy a consideration of more judges because liberals, inside their caucus and outside the Beltway, are still livid about how Kavanaugh’s confirmation went. But they can’t slow things too much without keeping their red-state members off the campaign trail, a choice some may make unilaterally by skipping future votes. …

“Privately, some Democrats argue that because McConnell will be able to push through more nominees during the post-election lame-duck session, it makes little sense to prod their members to stay in session and fight a short-term, losing battle now.” POLITICO

LOOK WHO’S BACK — “Michelle Obama’s vacation is over. Now she’s claiming her own spotlight,” by WaPo’s Peter Slevin: “Michelle Obama is returning to public life feeling purposeful and invigorated. She launched, within weeks, high-profile social initiatives on voting and girls education while preparing for a mega-book tour unlike any book tour, well, ever. …

“Obama, 54, feels liberated after a decade in an unrelenting political spotlight where she was tethered to her husband’s career and a White House role marked by both opportunities and constraints alike, say those who know her well. They say she is reveling in the chance to develop meaningful pursuits entirely her own. … [H]er staff said as recently as this week she has made no decision about whether to campaign or raise money for Democratic candidates in the final weeks of the 2018 campaign.” WaPo

— Obama appeared on the “Today” show this morning and said of former President George W. Bush, “I love him to death. He’s a wonderful man. He’s a funny man.” ON ERIC HOLDER AND “IF THEY GO LOW, WE GO HIGH”: “Fear — it’s not a proper motivator. Hope wins out. And if you think about how you want your kids to be raised, how you want them to think about life and their opportunities, do you want them afraid of their neighbors? Do you want them angry? Do you want them vengeful?” The full interview

2018 WATCH — “Michigan Governor’s Race Tests Flint’s Jaded Residents,” by NYT’s Astead Herndon in Flint, Mich.: “Both candidates — the Democrat, Gretchen Whitmer of Lansing, and the Republican, State Attorney General Bill Schuette — have been longtime members of state government, a political universe almost uniformly hated among Flint’s residents. Both candidates have also attempted to make Flint and its recovery a centerpiece of their gubernatorial credentials. Yet for a community overrun by skepticism, their words can create discomfort, residents said. …

“Despite their distrust of Mr. Schuette, community leaders in Flint said Ms. Whitmer is having trouble motivating voters.” NYT

SCOOP — “U.S. lawmakers raise concerns about Trump administration’s Hungary policy,” by Daniel Lippman and Lili Bayer: “A group of 22 Democratic members of Congress have raised serious concerns about U.S. policy toward Hungary and why the State Department canceled a planned $ 700,000 grant to support independent media in that country, according to a letter obtained by POLITICO. …

“The letter points to an ‘increasingly diminished space for independent journalism in Hungary’ and the Hungarian government’s use of public funds for the ‘promotion of stories from Russian government mouthpieces, such as Russia Today and Sputnik.’” POLITICO Europe … The letter

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION — “Chemical-Safety Board Is Cutting Back Under Trump,” by WSJ’s Heidi Vogt: “President Trump has twice sought to abolish the chemical safety board, arguing it has been too ready to call for new rules, and duplicates the work of other agencies. Congress has blocked the White House effort. …

“Yet the agency, insiders and watchdogs say, is suffering under the Trump administration. ‘It’s more sort of malign neglect rather than active hostility,’ said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility … About half of the board’s investigators have quit since Mr. Trump took office … Some of those who stayed say they are having to take time more time away from investigations to talk to lawmakers to make sure funding continues.” WSJ

TRADE WARS — “Trump trade war delivers farm boom in Brazil, gloom in Iowa,” by Reuters’ Jake Spring in Luis Eduardo Magalhães, Brazil, and Tom Polansek in Boone, Iowa: “A growing trade war between the United States and China is re-ordering the global grains business. … China, the world’s largest importer of soybeans, has scaled back purchases of U.S. grain to feed its massive hog herd. It is turning instead to Brazil, which has ridden the wave of Chinese demand for two decades to become a global agricultural powerhouse. …

“Many American farmers, overwhelmingly conservative voters who helped propel Donald Trump to the presidency, are standing by their man. They believe he will eventually negotiate a better trade deal with China, whose appetite for soybeans is so vast that it cannot completely wean itself off U.S. grain. But for the time being, Trump trade policies are handing precious market share, money and momentum to Brazil.” Reuters

YIKES … WAPO’S ANTON TROIANOVSKI in Moscow: “American, Russian alive after Soyuz rocket headed to space station fails on launch”

— “U.S. Weapons Systems Are Easy Cyberattack Targets, New Report Finds,” by Wired’s Emily Dreyfuss: “DOD testers found significant vulnerabilities in the department’s weapon systems, some of which began with poor basic password security or lack of encryption. … The GAO report says that one tester was able to guess an admin password on a weapons system in nine seconds. … Testers were sometimes able to take full control of these weapons.” Wired

AFTERNOON READ — “How a Trump decision on trade became a setback for democracy in Vietnam,” by WaPo’s Simon Denyer and David Nakamura in Hanoi: “The Trans-Pacific treaty … quickly faded from American headlines as Trump launched high-stakes trade battles with China, Europe, Mexico and Canada. But the abrupt policy change has had far-reaching ripple effects, according to diplomats and activists. … The United States’ decision to construct and then exit from the TPP struck an enormous blow to its credibility in Asia, one that China was not shy about exploiting. …

“Obama had billed the TPP as a chance for the United States to write the rules of trade in the world’s fastest-growing region and to raise labor and environmental standards so U.S. companies would not be undercut. But the deal was also a thinly disguised attempt to contain China’s rise, by forming a regional rules-based order that excluded Beijing.” WaPo

MEDIAWATCH — FROM MORNING MEDIA: “NYT BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF OUT: Margaret Coker, who joined the New York Times last year as Baghdad bureau chief, has left the paper, according to a Times statement. ‘This is an internal personnel matter and at this time we cannot comment further,’ the Times statement read. Coker previously served as Turkey bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal and reported from Afghanistan and Iraq for Cox newspapers.”

CLINTON ALUMNI — DON BAER, a Clinton White House alum and chairman of Burson, Cohn & Wolfe, will be honored with a Distinguished Alumnus Award tomorrow for the 225th anniversary of the founding of UNC Chapel Hill.

SPOTTED: Bill Shine and Eric Bolling at Joe’s last night.

OUT AND ABOUT — FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON spoke at the Army-Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va., last night for the “Live Life Full” fundraiser in honor of Carson Alberg. The event raised nearly $ 300,000 for the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research. Timothy Shriver, CEO of the Special Olympics, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Carson’s parents, Ian Alberg and Mary Morrison, also spoke. SPOTTED: Terry and Dorothy McAuliffe, Dori Salcido, Kathy McKiernan, Karen Tramontano, Richard Strauss, Sally Painter, Stephen Goodin, Mary Streett, Natalie Hartman, Ed Hughes, Debi Schiff, Laura Schwartz, Donald Dunn, Kristen Welker, John Hughes, Tracy Pakulniewicz, Peter and Sara O’Keefe, Patrick Halahan and Natalie Jones, Ankit Desai and Nora Connors.

TRANSITIONS — Maunica Sthanki is now a principal at the Raben Group. She was previously Democratic counsel for the House Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee. … Didem Nisanci, a managing director at Promontory, is joining Bloomberg as global head of public policy. … Tim Broas is now a member of the Investigations, Financial Regulations & White Collar group at Bryan Cave. He previously was a partner at Holland & Hart and served as the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands in the Obama administration.

WEEKEND WEDDING — Jessica Gail, communications director for Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), recently married Capitol Police Sgt. Federico Ruiz in a ceremony by Senate Chaplain Barry Black on top of Constitution 101 overlooking the Capitol. PicAnother pic

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