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Trump embraces 'nationalist' title at Texas rally

Trump embraces 'nationalist' title at Texas rally

HOUSTON (CNN) - President Donald Trump declared himself a "nationalist" during his rally here on Monday night, officially tagging himself with the label that has long defined his populist rhetoric and protectionist policies.

"A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly not caring about the country so much. You know, we can't have that," Trump said, prompting boos from the crowd.

"You know what I am, I'm a nationalist," he added, as the crowd erupted in "USA! USA!" chants. "Use that word."

The comment marked the first time Trump has directly associated himself with the political ideology, which has long defined his outlook and the protectionist trade policies he has implemented in an effort to boost domestic manufacturing.

The remark came during a nearly hour-and-a-half-long rally in the arena that is home to the Houston Rockets, where the President rallied his base in this deeply red state 15 days before the midterms, stoking fears about illegal immigration, painting Democrats as criminal accomplices and basking in the glory of his accomplishments.

With his visit ostensibly aimed at boosting Sen. Ted Cruz's re-election bid, the President took the stage after an introduction from his former political nemesis by addressing the elephant in the room.

"You know, we had our little difficulties," Trump said to laughter from the nearly full house at the 18,000-capacity Toyota Center in downtown Houston.

He and Cruz, Trump said, had begun the 2016 presidential campaign as allies, rallying conservatives together in Washington early in the campaign. But eventually, Trump said, the two men decided it was "time" to begin hitting each other.

"And it got nasty," Trump said.

But since he was elected, Trump said, Cruz has been one of his top allies in Congress.

"And then it ended and I'll tell you what, nobody has helped me more with your tax cuts, with your regulation, with all of the things ... including military and our vets, than Sen. Ted Cruz," Trump said as he predicted that "in just 15 days the people of Texas are going to re-elect a man who has become a really good friend of mine."

It was a stark change from the spring of 2016, when Trump was whipping that same base of support into a frenzy against "Lyin' Ted."

Earlier Monday the President had given the senator from Texas a pair of much kinder monikers.

"To me, he's not Lyin' Ted anymore. He's Beautiful Ted. He's Texas -- I call him Texas Ted," Trump said as he left the White House en route to Houston.

"No, Ted Cruz and I had a very, very nasty and tough campaign. It was a very competitive -- it was a very tough campaign. Once it ended and we got together -- and, by the way, very late into the campaign we lasted. People were shocked. I said, 'Don't worry, it's only a question of time,' " Trump said.

To the dismay of some Republicans in tighter races, Trump was stumping in Texas to help ensure Cruz fends off a challenge from Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke, whose energized campaign has unnerved some Republicans.

Trump's Texas rally is just the latest stop in the President's blitz of campaign appearances leading up to the midterm elections November 6, coming on the heels of a swing through Western states late last week.

And the President largely stuck to the closing argument he has developed over the last week to galvanize his supporters into supporting down-ballot Republicans, with illegal immigration at the heart of his message.

With a caravan of several thousand migrants making its way from Central America toward the US border, the President has upped his rhetoric, warning voters -- without evidence -- about criminal elements embedded in the caravan and saying earlier on Monday (also without evidence) that "Middle Eastern" people were among them.

Delivering his latest screed against Democrats and the immigration policies for which he holds them responsible, Trump repeatedly tied the Democrats to crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

"The Democrats have launched an assault on the sovereignty of our country, the security of our nation and the safety of every American," Trump said, blaming them entirely for "the crisis on our border."

After falsely accusing Democrats of wanting to "give aliens free welfare and the right to vote" and of wanting "open borders," the President stressed the importance of expanding Republican majorities in Congress in order to change immigration laws.

"We don't have enough votes. As an example, with the Senate we need 60 votes. We have 51. We need 60 votes. So they don't allow us to do it. They're killing and hurting innocent Americans," Trump said, before diving back into MS-13 crimes, accusing "Democrat immigration policies" of allowing members of the gang and drugs to illegally enter the US.

At one point, Trump graphically detailed MS-13's brutality, saying the gang preferred to use knives instead of guns.

"They like cutting people up, slicing them," the President said. "Killing them, slicing them."

Trump next will rally supporters in Wisconsin and North Carolina and then round out the week in Illinois.

Monday's rally came as he continues to grapple with one of the most consequential diplomatic crises of his presidency, the fallout from the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed by Saudi agents in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.

Saudi Arabia admitted for the first time on Friday that Saudi officials had killed Khashoggi, but claimed it was an accidental death resulting from a fistfight -- an explanation at odds with the Turkish government's account and other key facts.

Trump has turned away from that issue during rallies, however, instead focusing on his accomplishments as President and warning his supporters that Democratic gains in Congress would spell disaster for the country.

He did not address the Khashoggi issue during his rally on Monday night.

New York Times: Kelly grabbed Lewandowski by the collar in February

New York Times: Kelly grabbed Lewandowski by the collar in February

(CNN) - Chief of staff John Kelly grabbed former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski by the collar and tried to have him removed from the White House one day last winter, The New York Times repo ... Continue Reading
Trump's got a new tax plan but no details

Trump's got a new tax plan but no details

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Donald Trump repeated Monday that he plans to offer a new tax cut plan before the midterms, even though no one seems to know what it will look like or how it might get through a Congress that only barely managed to pass his signature plan last year.

"We're putting in a resolution sometime in the next week-and-a-half or two weeks," Trump told reporters on his way to a campaign rally in Houston for Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, his latest stop in a nationwide barnstorming tour to keep both chambers of Congress in Republican control.

The GOP has tried to make tax cuts and the booming economy a key selling point to voters. The President said the new plan would focus on middle-class Americans, as opposed to businesses, which were one of the main beneficiaries of his first tax cut.

"This is not for business. This is for middle. That's on top of the tax decrease that we've already given," he added.

Yet he acknowledged there would not be time for Congress to vote through new tax cuts before the November 6 vote.

"I'm going through Congress. We won't have time to do the vote. We'll do the vote later. We'll do the vote after the election," he said.

That's after he told reporters on Saturday that Republicans would unveil a new package "sometime just prior, I would say, to November."

The president, who didn't offer any specific details on his proposal over the weekend, left many in Washington befuddled over the surprise remark.

"Trump may be getting ahead of himself on this one," said Kyle Pomerleau, an economist at the Tax Foundation, a non-profit think tank in Washington.

Representatives from the Treasury Department and the White House Council of Economic Advisers did not respond to repeated requests for comment by CNN. A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan referred questions to the White House.

Rob Damschen, a spokesman for Rep. Kevin Brady, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee - the lead taxwriting body in Congress -- referred questions to the White House on details of the president's remarks.

"I can tell you there is continued interest in building on the success of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and constantly improving the tax code for hardworking families and America's small businesses," Damschen said in a statement.

A senior GOP congressional source told CNN that "there's no serious plan at the moment" with Congress out of session, but added maybe there is a "little discussion."

Lindsay Walters, a White House spokeswoman, said the President would like to see yet another tax cut for the middle class as part of the Trump administration's so-called "tax reform 2.0" plan. The first piece of the second wave of tax change was passed in September by the House, which included making individual tax cuts currently set to expire in 2025 permanent. The Senate has yet to take up the legislative proposal.

"As part of Tax Reform 2.0, the first elements of which were passed the House in September, the President would like to see an additional tax cut of 10% for middle-income families," Walters said in a statement.

The President's sudden mention of a tax plan echoed Trump's push in April 2017 to generate a tax cut proposal ahead of his 100th day in office, resulting in the release of a much-criticized one-page outline -- though that summary was later written into the tax bill passed in December.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an interview with The New York Times on Sunday that he had been actively working on a plan with Brady, that would be unveiled "shortly."

"This is specifically focused on the middle class and not beyond that," Mnuchin said in the interview.

He did not offer any further details of what such a tax plan would entail or how it would be paid for.

Mnuchin noted that any plan in the works would be "different" than a bill that passed the House in September to make individual tax cuts permanent.

A big unknown is how the Trump administration plans to pay for yet another tax cut. Last year's $1.5 trillion tax cut is anticipated to add $1 trillion to the nation's deficit. The administration insists that the tax cuts will pay for themselves.

Last week, the Treasury Department released figures showing the federal budget deficit grew by 17% in the 2018 fiscal year, to $779 billion.

Jason Furman, an economist and professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, offered a ballpark estimate following the President's remarks, suggested a 10% income tax cut might cost nearly $2 trillion over the next decade.

The former top economic adviser under President Barack Obama noted, however, the exact details will depend on the details.

Kamala Harris stumps for 2018 candidates in Iowa -- as 2020 nears

Kamala Harris stumps for 2018 candidates in Iowa -- as 2020 nears

ANKENY, Iowa (CNN) - Sen. Kamala Harris of California launched a seven-stop tour of Iowa on Monday to galvanize the early vote for down-ballot Democratic candidates -- as prospective 2020 presidential ... Continue Reading
Supreme Court blocks deposition of commerce secretary over census question

Supreme Court blocks deposition of commerce secretary over census question

(CNN) - The Supreme Court blocked a deposition of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Monday in a case challenging the decision to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 census.The action is a ... Continue Reading
Mueller drills down on Roger Stone's WikiLeaks contacts

Mueller drills down on Roger Stone's WikiLeaks contacts

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Special counsel Robert Mueller's scrutiny of Roger Stone includes investigating whether Stone had backchannels to WikiLeaks during the 2016 election beyond the New York radio host and political activist whom Stone claims was his primary go-between, according to people familiar with the matter.

Investigators' queries to people connected to Stone, a longtime ally of President Donald Trump, suggest Mueller's team is skeptical of Stone's explanation that Randy Credico was his main intermediary, according to people familiar with interviews conducted by investigators. The scrutiny also includes probing Stone's relationship with right-wing journalist and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi about whether he also acted as a go-between with Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a source said.

The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal previously reported about Mueller's interest in Corsi's possible interactions with WikiLeaks.

Additionally, investigators are looking into whether Stone shared information that he believed was from WikiLeaks with members of Trump's presidential campaign, according to a source familiar with the probe. Investigators have been provided recordings of Stone claiming he talked to Trump regularly early in the 2016 presidential campaign, CNN has learned. Later, after various document dumps from WikiLeaks, Stone claimed in separate communications he should receive credit for coordinating with the group, the source said.

The queries about whether Stone may have shared information with the Trump campaign are a strong indication that Mueller's team is still actively investigating the possibility that someone close to Trump engaged in collusion with the Russians.

"We have said over and over again that he shared nothing with the campaign because he had nothing to share," said Grant Smith, an attorney for Stone. "He received nothing from anybody. At what point does this old record get worn out from being played over and over again?"

"I never discussed WikiLeaks stuff with Trump and would never have said I should get credit for coordinating with WikiLeaks since I did no such thing," Stone said.

A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment. A lawyer for the President declined to comment.

In an interview with the Associated Press last year, Trump denied that he knew about WikiLeaks before the shadowy website started releasing hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The President said, "When WikiLeaks came out ... never heard of WikiLeaks, never heard of it. When WikiLeaks came out, all I was just saying is, 'Well, look at all this information here, this is pretty good stuff.'"

Stone's associates questioned on contacts

While Stone said he has not been contacted by Mueller's team, many of his associates have been called in for interviews or testimony before the grand jury. Witnesses said the main focus of their interviews has been Stone's contact with WikiLeaks and Assange. Some of them are still actively cooperating with Mueller's team and have handed over troves of communications involving Stone, according to sources familiar with the matter.

A key area of inquiry is whether Stone actually received information from WikiLeaks and who helped facilitate that information-sharing. Investigators' questions to Corsi about his communications with WikiLeaks and Stone indicate they are trying to determine whether Stone had other go-betweens with WikiLeaks.

Corsi has participated in hours of interviews with Mueller's team and testified before the grand jury, according to sources familiar with the situation. Corsi's lawyer declined to comment.

At one point, Corsi appeared to provide cover for one of Stone's most inflammatory tweets: His summer 2016 claim that "it will soon (be) the Podesta's time in the barrel." It was later seen as an indication Stone may have had advance warning that then-Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's hacked emails would soon be public.

In March 2017, Corsi -- who was then the Washington bureau chief for InfoWars -- wrote, "Having reviewed my records, I am now confident that I am the source behind Stone's tweet." In his article, Corsi claimed his own research inspired Stone's Twitter missive. Stone has since said he was referring to the business dealings of both John Podesta and his brother, DC lobbyist Tony Podesta.

Stone has suggested that the special counsel may be interested in Corsi's own relationship with Trump rather than Corsi's interactions with Stone. But a person familiar with the situation said investigators were mainly interested in Corsi's interactions with Stone and whether he acted as Stone's backchannel.

Stone told CNN, "Corsi told me he was never in communication with WikiLeaks or Assange, I believe him and know of no evidence to the contrary."

Corsi's own attorney denied to CNN back in September that his client was in touch with Assange, WikiLeaks or Guciffer 2.0, US intelligence has determined that the online persona Guccifer 2.0 was a front for Russian intelligence and Russian officers who hacked Democrats and passed the stolen material on to WikiLeaks during the campaign.

Stone's own words fuel questions

Stone has been under scrutiny for his contact with Guccifer 2.0 and comments he made in 2016 that appeared to suggest he had advance knowledge of material from WikiLeaks before it was released.

"I actually have communicated with Assange," Stone said in a speech in Florida on August 8, 2016. "I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation but there's no telling what the October surprise may be."

The Atlantic reported Stone and WikiLeaks exchanged direct messages on Twitter, but both have denied that they were in direct contact about the release of Clinton emails.

Stone told CNN that "although my claims were dramatized for effect before a partisan audience, they were not fabricated and I clarified in a dozen interviews that my 'communication' with Assange had been through a third party." He added, "I had no advance knowledge of the source or content of the material WikiLeaks would ultimately release."

Meanwhile, Stone's claim that he used Credico as that third party has been met with inconsistencies as well as denials from Credico. The radio host, who is open about his friendship with Assange, has denied funneling information back-and-forth to Assange on Stone's behalf.

"I am a decoy, the patsy to divert attention," Credico told CNN. "Or he just didn't have one (an intermediary) and his ego was too big to admit that."

Stone also suggested to reporters and associates that he had other links to WikiLeaks. A source familiar with the matter said Credico told the grand jury that Stone mentioned having another link to WikiLeaks.

"I did tell Credico I had an additional source who also told me the material was coming and that the revelations would address the Clinton Foundation," Stone told CNN.

When he appeared before the House Intelligence Committee last year, Stone testified that he had no direct contact with Assange during the election and instead relied on a go-between.

In a letter following his committee appearance, Stone's lawyer identified his intermediary as Credico.

"Mr. Stone noticed Credico had traveled to London on at least two occasions and conducted two landmark interviews with Julian Assange on WBAI," Stone's lawyer wrote, referring to the New York progressive radio station where Credico worked.

But Stone's timeline doesn't align with public events.

Stone claims that Credico's interviews with Assange inspired Stone to use Credico as a backchannel, according to the letter from Stone's attorney. But Credico didn't interview Assange until August 25, 2016, weeks after Stone started touting an intermediary. Stone now says that he knew Credico had ties to WikiLeaks even before the Assange interview.

As first reported by CNN, in multiple radio interviews between Credico and Stone -- now in the special counsel's possession -- Credico also asked Stone about the backchannel and expressed doubt that any such backchannel exists.

In yet another discrepancy, the letter from Stone's lawyer to the House committee also insists that Stone had only ever asked Credico to confirm information that Assange had shared publicly in media interviews or via social media.

But on September 18, 2016, Stone asked Credico to ferret out other information from Assange that Stone believed would be damaging to Hillary Clinton. "Please ask Assange for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30...," a portion of the email from Stone to Credico says about Clinton emails from 2011.

"My testimony before the House Intelligence Committee was entirely truthful and there is no credible evidence to the contrary," Stone told CNN, maintaining that Credico was his primary backchannel and that he has associates who will corroborate his account.

"From the beginning, I wanted to protect the identity of Credico, because I knew that his support for Julian Assange and the journalistic independence of WikiLeaks would not be popular in the progressive left circles where he made a living," Stone said. "I turned over Randy Credico's name to the House Intelligence Committee only reluctantly."

Stone's lawyer said there were "no inconsistencies in what we sent to the House."

While Stone has proclaimed his innocence, he has said he believes Mueller's team could bring charges against him to try to force him to cooperate against Trump.

Prosecutors may also be confronted with the possibility that Stone, a braggadocios self-proclaimed "dirty trickster," did not actually have access to a legitimate backchannel providing him information from WikiLeaks.

"He may have had somebody, I don't know," said Credico. "Who can tell with this guy?"

UPDATE: This story has been updated to add more detail about previous reporting from the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to reflect when Trump did his interview with the Associated Press.

The 2018 Trump factor: It's all about him

The 2018 Trump factor: It's all about him

HOUSTON (CNN) - President Donald Trump knows the November election is all about him. He worries his supporters do not.

"Pretend I'm on the ballot," he says at most every rally, trying to awaken his supporters to the urgency of the fight for control of Congress.

Two weeks before Election Day, a new air of uncertainty hangs over the 2018 campaign that revolves almost entirely around the Trump factor.

A month ago, the President seemed all but resigned that Republicans would lose the House, two people who speak to him frequently tell CNN. But his outlook has brightened in recent days, increasingly insisting he can awaken his coalition to stop -- or slow -- a Democratic wave, they say.

"If anyone can save the House, he thinks he can," a Republican congressman close to the President said. "He's the only one who believes it's really possible."

While most presidents distance themselves from midterm elections to avoid nationalizing the races, Trump is doing the opposite. He's all in, firing up loyal supporters and fierce critics alike.

"This will be the election of the caravan, Kavanaugh, law and order, tax cuts and common sense," the President said to booming applause inside Houston's Toyota Center on Monday, boiling down his closing argument for Republicans in one crisp sentence.

Here in Houston, the rally on Monday night is his 29th of the year. It follows a familiar pattern of much of his 2018 campaign travel: visiting red states filled with Trump admirers, hoping to minimize political harm by energizing his detractors.

But even in Texas, several Republican strategists expressed a palpable level of anxiety at what the President might say during his unscripted rally. Trump's sharp rhetoric on immigration, two officials said, could awaken Hispanic voters or independents in key congressional races in the state.

"We were hoping he would go to West Texas for this rally," a Republican strategist said, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid being seen criticizing the President or the White House.

An analysis of Trump's travel shows where he is -- and isn't -- welcome. In deep-red Montana, for example, he's staged three rallies to try to defeat Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in a race even most Republicans see as no easy task.

Yet he's all but steering clear of Florida -- holding no big rallies so far this fall, despite campaigning there just months ago during the GOP primary. Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who's locked in a tight race to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, has asked Trump to stay away, a GOP official said.

But as in many states, Trump remains a central theme of the race, as illustrated in dueling TV ads from Nelson and Scott.

"When President Trump asks for something that's good for him and bad for Florida, I know what I'll do. I'll say no," Nelson said in a recent ad. "And we all know what Rick Scott will do. He'll say yes."

Scott responded: "I'll work with President Trump when he's doing things that are good for Florida and America. And when I disagree, I have the courage to say so."

So far, the President has agreed not to campaign in Florida, but he did visit the Gulf Coast this month to survey hurricane damage. A Republican official said Trump keeps asking about the race, saying he wants to do a rally in the final week for either the Senate or governor's race.

The last time Trump spent so much time hopscotching from one roaring arena to another, he was on a victory tour, thanking voters who helped turn states from blue to red in his triumph over Hillary Clinton. But statewide GOP candidates are trailing in most of those new Trump states, including Pennsylvania and Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.

While the near-nightly Trump show is back, this time his rallies are no longer regularly seen live on cable television. Even his beloved Fox News had taken a pass for weeks -- until Monday night, when the Houston rally aired from start to finish.

His devoted fans are still filling every arena to the brim, but White House aides said he has repeatedly expressed frustration that his speeches are not being televised.

That's not to say, of course, that Trump isn't still the central character of the midterm election campaign.

The President appears in nearly 20% of all political ads this year, according to an analysis of data from Kantar Media/CMAG, based on the top 100 most competitive House and Senate races.

So far this year, at least $55 million has been spent on pro-Trump ads, the analysis found, with $61 million on anti-Trump ads.

The White House is increasingly confident about keeping control of the Senate, largely cause of the blessing of geography, with the majority of competitive seats in red states. To most places, Trump's message lingers far longer than he does because Republicans turn his rallies into 30-second commercials blasting the Democratic candidate.

"Phil whatever the hell his name is, this guy will 100% vote against us every single time," Trump says in an ad, attacking Phil Bredesen, the former Democratic governor running for the open Senate seat in Tennessee against Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn.

While Trump has said he will accept no blame if Republicans lose control of the House, he will have to deal with the consequences of a Democrat-controlled House investigating the White House.

Such talk has been all but suspended for now in the West Wing, two aides said, with the President not interested in discussing what happens beyond Election Day. He has previously told allies that Democrat-led impeachment or investigations could strengthen his hand going into 2020.

Whatever the outcome on November 6, the midterm election campaign has solidified Trump as the indisputable leader of the Republican Party. Even old rivals like Cruz now depend on Trump's coalition for their own survival.

"I think it energizes people," Cruz told CNN on the eve of Trump's visit to Houston. "I think it's going to help drive turnout. And this election is a turnout election."

Asked whether Trump was the biggest factor, Cruz replied: "The President is certainly a factor in the election, but I think the biggest factor in Texas is the economic boom we're seeing."

CIA Director Gina Haspel traveling to Turkey for Khashoggi investigation, source says

CIA Director Gina Haspel traveling to Turkey for Khashoggi investigation, source says

(CNN) - CIA Director Gina Haspel is traveling to Turkey to address the investigation into the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to a source familiar with her plans.

Haspel's travel plans come following new skepticism from President Donald Trump about the investigation results from Saudi officials Friday that Khashoggi was killed in an argument turned fistfight at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

"I am not satisfied with what I heard," Trump told reporters at the White House Monday afternoon.

Trump added that "there's no reason for" the one-month timeline outlined by Saudi intelligence for the full report on Khashoggi's death, which he saw as an unnecessarily long period.

Trump implied that he would have more information on Khashoggi in the next day or so from officials returning from Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

"We have tremendously talented people that do this very well," Trump said. "They're coming back tonight and tomorrow and I will know very soon."

The CIA did not respond to requests for comment on Haspel's travel plans.

Reuters was first to report that Haspel would go to Turkey.

Trump's reaction to the Saudis' proffered explanation has changed from his initial response Friday, when he said he believed Saudi officials' story on Khashoggi's death and praised it as a good "first step."

"I do. I do," Trump said Friday when asked about his confidence in the explanation. "Again, it's early. We haven't finished our review, our investigation. But I think it's a very important first step."

"It's a big first step. It's only a first step, but it's a big first step," he said.

Several Democratic and Republican lawmakers pushed back on the story Friday night, with Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker warning against assuming that the Saudis' "latest story holds water." The Tennessee Republican also stressed that the US must assess Khashoggi's death under the Global Magnitsky Act, which sanctions human rights offenders.

Trump then spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday, and said Monday that he also had spoken with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the matter.

Trump makes it easier for employers to pay workers for health coverage

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Trump rallies to push Montana Senate toss-up into the red

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Michael Avenatti is ordered to pay $4.8 million to former law partner

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Donald Trump regrets nothing

Donald Trump regrets nothing

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Treasury's Mnuchin meets with Saudi Crown Prince amid outcry over Khashoggi

Treasury's Mnuchin meets with Saudi Crown Prince amid outcry over Khashoggi

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Former White House lawyer: Mueller probe isn't a witch hunt

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Georgia Tech student sues Sen. David Perdue after cell phone flap

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Counterterrorism official contradicts Trump: No sign ISIS or 'Sunni terrorist groups' are in caravan

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The Forecast: Republican Gov. Scott Walker is an underdog

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Bolton says Russian meddling had no effect on 2016 result

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Trump's making the migrant caravan a political issue. Here are the facts.

Trump's making the migrant caravan a political issue. Here are the facts.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Donald Trump, in a series of tweets on Monday, claimed he would declare a "national emergency" over an issue that has frequently piqued his attention -- migrant caravans moving toward the United States through Central America and Mexico.

His tweets come just weeks ahead of the 2018 midterm elections and he has emphasized immigration as a key issue, without evidence accusing Democrats of pushing for overrun borders in what appears to be a naked fear campaign aimed at turning out his supporters. Immigration was a key issue in the 2016 presidential race.

Crowds of migrants, estimated to be in the thousands on Monday, resumed their long journey north on Sunday into Mexico as part of a migrant caravan originating in Central America.

Currently migrants are at the Central Park Miguel Hidalgo in the center of Tapachula. Organizers plan for them to begin moving north, reaching the northern city of Huixtla, which is about 20 miles north, and resting there.

The President, in his tweets, also made several questionable claims concerning immigration and the caravan. Among them: that "unknown Middle Easterners" are "mixed" in with the caravan, that he would be cutting off foreign aid over the caravan, and that Mexican authorities failed to stop migrants from coming into Mexico.

Asked later Monday about his assertion about "unknown Middle Easterners" in the caravan, Trump said: "Unfortunately, they have a lot of everybody in that group."

"We've gotta stop them at the border and, unfortunately, you look at the countries, they have not done their job," he said. "They have not done their job. Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador -- they're paid a lot of money, every year we give them foreign aid and they did nothing for us, nothing."

Here's what we know:

Are there "unknown Middle Easterners" "mixed" into the migrant caravan?

Trump tweeted "criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed" into the migrant caravan moving toward the United States. He called this a "national emergy" (sic).

It's unclear what "unknown Middle Easterners" Trump appears to be referring to in his tweet, since there have been no reports, in the press or publicly from intelligence agencies, to suggest there are "Middle Easterners" embedded in the caravan.

A senior counterterrorism official told CNN's Jessica Schneider that "while we acknowledge there are vulnerabilities at both our northern and southern border, we do not see any evidence that ISIS or other Sunni terrorist groups are trying to infiltrate the southern US border."

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday afternoon that the administration "absolutely" has evidence of Middle Easterners in the caravan, "and we know this is a continuing problem."

However, she did not provide the specific evidence supporting that claim.

During a White House conference call with surrogates regarding the caravan, a Homeland Security official said the administration is looking into a claim from Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales that his country has been able to capture around 100 terrorists. However, the official did not offer any evidence of the Middle Eastern people who Trump claims are hiding among migrants in the caravan.

"We are looking into that claim from the President Morales on the numbers," Jonathan Hoffman, the DHS official, said. "It is not unusual to see people from Middle Eastern countries or other areas of the world pop up and attempt to cross our borders."

Earlier this month, Morales claimed foreign individuals linked to terrorism were captured in the country during his administration, which began in January 2016.

"We have arrested almost 100 people highly linked to terrorist groups, specifically ISIS. We have not only detained them in our territory, they have also been deported to their countries of origin. All of you here have information to that effect," Morales said during a Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America event attended by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

There's no direct link or correlation between Morales' statement and Trump's assertion about the caravan on Twitter.

The Department of Homeland Security also did not provide any evidence to bolster the President's claim about "unknown Middle Easterns" in the caravan when asked for it by CNN on Monday.

A department official told CNN that in fiscal year 2018, Customs and Border Protection "apprehended 17,256 criminals, 1,019 gang members, and 3,028 special interest aliens from countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria and Somalia. Additionally, (Customs and Border Protection) prevented 10 known or suspected terrorists from traveling to or entering the United States every day in fiscal year 2017."

The Department of Homeland Security did not specify any Middle Eastern countries.

Pressed about the President's assertion that there are "unknown Middle Easterners" mixed in with the caravan, a State Department spokesperson said they understand there are several nationalities in the caravan and referred us to Department of Homeland Security for more information.

Will the administration cut off foreign aid? Can they?

Trump tweeted that because "Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S.," the United States "will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them."

It's unclear where the administration will propose to make the cuts the President appears to be talking about, and CNN has reached out to the White House and the DHS for further information.

However, the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act prohibits the President from withholding -- or impounding -- money appropriated by Congress.

New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said Monday that his office has reached out to the Government Accountability Office to ensure that the President does not violated the act.

"Fortunately, Congress -- not the President -- has the power of the purse, and my colleagues and I will not stand idly by as this Administration ignores congressional intent," Engel said in a statement.

Trump has made the threat of cuts to foreign aid going to Latin American countries over migrant caravans several times over the last year.

Under the Trump administration, and with the approval of the Republican-controlled Congress, there have already been significant cuts to foreign aid to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras -- the three countries he mentioned Monday -- and the administration plans to continue making cuts in fiscal year 2019.

Were authorities from Mexico unable to stop the migrant caravan from heading into the US?

Trump tweeted Monday that "Mexico's Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States."

There are some 7,500 people marching north as part of a migrant caravan through Mexico, caravan organizer Dennis Omar Contreras told CNN. He said the organizers did a count of participants Monday morning.

He said the migrants will leave Mexico's Tapachula for the town of Huixtla, which is located more than 20 miles northwest of their Monday morning location.

While Mexican authorities said before the caravan's arrival that anyone who entered the country "in an irregular manner" could be subject to apprehension and deportation, many migrants from the caravan appear to have circumvented authorities.

CNN crews witnessed migrants jumping off a bridge at the Mexico-Guatemala border and riding rafts to reach Mexican soil.

Mexican authorities say more than 1,000 Central American migrants officially applied for refugee status in Mexico over the past three days.

It's unclear how authorities will respond to the thousands of other migrants who are marching north.

Will the President declare a national emergency over the caravan?

It's unclear exactly what executive action, if any, the President will take following his tweet saying that he has "alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National (emergency)."

Previous administrations have ordered troops to the US southern border, and Trump issued a similar memorandum earlier this year ordering National Guard troops to be deployed to the US-Mexico border. The memo came around the same time another, smaller migrant caravan was moving toward the US through Central America.

Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Davis, a spokesman for the Defense Department, told CNN that "beyond the National Guard soldiers currently supporting the Department of Homeland Security on our southern border, in a Title 32, U.S. Code, section 502(f) duty status under the command and control of the respective State Governors, the Department of Defense has not been tasked to provide additional support at this time."

The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Customs and Border Protection, referred questions about the national emergency to the White House, which did not answer to several questions for comment.

Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and the former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, told CNN that the President's use of the term national emergency, and his potential subsequent declaration, is "a subjective judgment."

"It is certainly true that the numbers that have been reported in this group are larger than anything that we've seen before this from these countries concentrated in one group," she said.

However, she added that the reaction is "disproportionate to what's happening."

"I'm not saying it's not a genuine problem, but it's not like this is organized insurrection, in the way that its been characterized," she added.

CNN's Catherine Shoichet, Sarah Westwood, Ryan Browne, Jennifer Hansler, Geneva Sands, Dakin Andone, Patrick Oppmann, Natalie Gallón, Kevin Liptak and Jessica Schneider contributed to this report.

Tracking Trump's changing claims on jobs from Saudi arms deal

Tracking Trump's changing claims on jobs from Saudi arms deal

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