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If there is a blue wave, women will drive it

The unprecedented number of women running for Congress this year could significantly change the makeup of the House. In the Senate, it's a different story.

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Enter the Playbook election challenge

Compete against the nation’s top political minds by picking the winners of competitive House, Senate and gubernatorial races.

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State Department revokes Hillary Clinton's security clearance at her request

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's security clearance has been revoked at her request, the State Department told lawmakers, according to a letter made public Friday.

Clinton's clearance was withdrawn on Aug. 30, according to a letter from the State Department to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), which he released.

Five others associated with Clinton, including longtime aide Cheryl Mills, also had their clearances revoked on Sept. 20, according to the letter. The aides were known as "research assistants," which allowed them to keep their clearances after their time at the department concluded.

The move comes almost a year after Grassley asked the department to investigate and review whether Clinton's aides still had security clearance.

Clinton in 2016 was investigated for her use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state. No charges were filed against Clinton, who was running for president at the time of the probe.

This summer, President Donald Trump revoked former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance, and the White House has said he is reviewing several other clearances of former top officials. Clinton's name was not on the list of those said to be under review.

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Bipartisan Hill anger with Saudis flares after Khashoggi

A defense contractor pressing for a U.S.-Saudi weapons sale visited Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker’s office recently. And as the Tennessee Republican tells it, he gave the man a stark warning: “Look. Do not push this.”

“If it came to a vote in the Senate, it would fail," Corker recalled telling the contractor about the chance that lawmakers would halt the Saudi arms deal he was pursuing. That was before journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the Middle Eastern kingdom’s government, vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Now Khashoggi’s disappearance and alleged murder is pushing Capitol Hill's long-simmering frustrations with Riyadh to a boiling point. Whether that fury manifests in a formal rejection of a U.S.-Saudi weapons sale remains to be seen. But interviews with more than a dozen senators reveal bipartisan pressure to hold the Saudis accountable — while the White House tries to keep a lukewarm distance from the case.

Weapons sales “are certainly going to be a huge concern if” the Saudis are proven responsible for Khashoggi’s vanishing, said Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a member of GOP leadership.

“Saudi Arabia needs to clear this up immediately,” Gardner said. “Obviously, there’s a way that this can end very badly, and that is if Saudi is indeed responsible for this — as, at least reports I am seeing, would point to that direction.”

That aisle-crossing anger over Khashoggi is again testing GOP willingness to break from President Donald Trump, whose administration has urged an investigation by the Saudi government that’s believed to be culpable. Trump has shown little interest in punishing Saudi Arabia, saying that Khashoggi “is not a United States citizen” and “I don’t like the concept” of halting arms sales after vowing to “get to the bottom of” what happened to the journalist.

“We’ve got some people who are pretty animated by all of this. And some probably less so. We’ve got extremes,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Senate Republican, who said he was waiting for more information before taking a firm position on arms sales.

“It’s important to have allies in that part of the world,” Thune added. “But I do think there are lines that get crossed from time to time that require a response.”

The last time the Senate took up a portion of Trump’s $110 billion Saudi arms deal, the sale survived on a 47-53 vote. Two of the five Democrats who voted against blocking that sale said in interviews this week that they could reexamine that stance based on the outcome of an investigation into Khashoggi’s apparent abduction.

“I certainly think if it’s determined that the leader of Saudi Arabia had this journalist murdered, that everything should be on the table in terms of our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said.

One Republican senator who voted against blocking arms sales last year after wrestling with the decision also raised an alarm about Khashoggi, insisting on anonymity to be candid: “Something like this could be a tipping point for me and for others.”

Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the Saudi regime, was last seen entering the government’s Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2. Saudi officials have denied any improper behavior, claiming that he left the building later that day. But Turkish intelligence sources have alleged that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate in a Saudi-government-approved assassination.

Corker said this week that available evidence points to Saudi responsibility for Khashoggi’s vanishing and alleged murder. He led 21 fellow senators in both parties this week in asking Trump for a U.S. inquiry into Khashoggi's death that could end in sanctions, but State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters that "we don’t know the facts of this case just yet. So I think they’re getting ahead of themselves at this point."

The House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and top Democrat Rep. Eliot Engel of New York urged Trump on Friday to take several steps in response to Khashoggi's disappearance, including a review of Saudi nationals holding diplomatic and consular credentials in the United States. "[M]urder and other blatant violations of international norms and agreements cannot be done with impunity," they told Trump.

A joint Saudi-Turkish investigation is underway, and multiple U.S. companies have pulled out of a major investment conference set for later this month in Riyadh. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, however, told CNBC Friday that he still plans to attend and described the Saudis as “a very good partner.” And Trump told reporters on Friday that he would discuss Khashoggi’s disappearance with the Saudi king “pretty soon.”

Some of his fellow Republicans, though, are reassessing Washington’s long-held view of Riyadh as a staunch U.S. ally. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), who voted to block the arms deal last year, asked Mnuchin to bow out and avoid "the erroneous and counterproductive message that all is well."

“We need to figure out what the hell went on and get to the bottom of it,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who admitted that her opinion on Saudi Arabia has changed for the worse after Khashoggi disappeared.

Ernst added that “I’ll reserve any discussion of” blocking arms sales “until we get more facts,” but that “something needs to be done.”

U.S.-Saudi politics don’t easily fall along party lines, given that the kingdom has aligned against Washington’s longtime antagonists in Iran. But tension over Saudi policy is rising in both parties thanks to U.S. support for the Saudi-backed side in the violent Yemeni war – creating a harsh climate for arms sales that Corker recalled telling the defense contractor about even before Khashoggi went missing.

As the journalist’s disappearances draws global attention to Saudi Arabia, some top Democrats are calling for a significant reordering of America’s relationship with Riyadh.

“I know what I’m thinking: I’m thinking we’ve got to cut off the assistance from going from Saudi Arabia to Yemen,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “People are fed up with the Saudis. If we don’t make it clear to them, shame on us.”

“This is a brazen assault on the freedom of the press and a slap in the face to the United States, if this murder occurred, as it seems it did,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who’s planning to again partner with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on forcing a vote on the next Saudi arms sale that’s formally sent to Congress.

That sale could sit in limbo for longer than expected, given the informal hold imposed in June by New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the Democrats’ senior member on the Foreign Relations panel. Once any new Saudi arms deal comes before Congress, any measure disapproving of it would get privileged consideration in the Senate but not in the House. That could put more pressure on the Trump administration to resolve lawmakers’ concerns with U.S.-Saudi ties while Republicans still control the House, giving them power to slow down any blockade attempts.

“Obviously, we’ve got common adversaries and common interests. But there are limits,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, who helped write a bill that allowed 9/11 survivors to proceed with a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia. “We just don’t know the facts yet. We know what the allegations are … we should not jump to conclusions.”

And even if congressional outrage over Khashoggi fades amid a crush of campaign-season energy, the GOP has a healthy number of skeptics about using weapons sales to broadcast discontent with Saudi Arabia.

“Everybody’s concerned about it. It’s like a mystery novel or spy thriller,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a former Intelligence chairman. But blocking arms deals “would be a mistake at this point,” Roberts said. “This is the crown prince, he’s new: apparently a pretty rough customer.”

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Papadopoulos to speak with House investigators

George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign aide whose overseas interactions set in motion a series of events that triggered the FBI’s Russia investigation in 2016, is slated to interview with House investigators on Oct. 25, his lawyer Caroline Polisi confirmed Friday.

The voluntary interview, part of a GOP-driven investigation into the FBI’s handling of the Russia probe, will come less than two weeks before the midterm elections and is likely to provide more fodder for Republicans who have accused former officials at the bureau of letting anti-Trump sentiment fuel the investigation. The probe is being led by a task force run by Republican leaders of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees.

In his appearance, Papadopoulos is all but certain to echo the concerns Republicans have raised. Though he pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI and expressed remorse to a judge in order to win a reduced two-week sentence, he’s since lashed out at the bureau and Western intelligence agencies whom he accuses of setting him up.

Papadopoulos’ defense team, which handled his guilty plea has rejected that contention and said there wasn’t even a whiff of misconduct by prosecutors or law enforcement officials — his lawyers would’ve readily called out the bureau for misconduct if they saw evidence, Papadopoulos’ lawyer Thomas Breen argued after his client’s sentencing last month.

But Papadopoulos and his wife, Simona Mangiante, have raised increasingly pointed questions about whether encounters with suspect figures overseas as well as an outed FBI source suggest a Western conspiracy to entrap him and implicate the Trump campaign.

Papadopoulos was tapped as part of Trump’s campaign foreign policy team in the spring of 2016 after a stint on the campaign of Ben Carson. Papadopoulos met in London with a Russia-linked professor, Joseph Mifsud, who allegedly informed him that Russians had thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Papadopoulos later revealed aspects of that conversation to an Australian diplomat, who passed on the tip to U.S. officials.

When the FBI questioned Papadopoulos about his interactions with Mifsud, he admitted he misled them about the timing of the exchange. The FBI has asserted that it missed a chance to question Mifsud because of Papadopoulos’ false statements. The judge in the matter, U.S. District Court Judge Randy Moss, agreed to shorten Papadopoulos’ sentence to two weeks after suggesting he felt genuine remorse about his lies. It’s unclear when his sentence will begin.

Since his sentencing, though, Papadopoulos has been on a tear against Western intelligence agencies who, he’s argued, tried to entrap him. He’s suggested that despite what special counsel Robert Mueller’s team asserted in court, Mifsud was really linked to western agencies and that the British and Australian intelligence services were in league to sabotage Trump. He also pointed to his campaign-year brushes with Stefan Halper, who was outed earlier this year as a longtime FBI source.

“The attempt to discredit my wife and I before my testimony on capitol hill has reached a fever pitch. Someone is nervous,” Papadopoulos tweeted Thursday. “I think America was smart enough to realize that someone who has never knowingly met a Russian official in their life never could have colluded. Fake news.”

His recent comments were at odds with Breen, who told reporters last month that there was no evidence Papadopoulos was set up.


“Our firm would in a second stand up if we saw prosecutorial or governmental misconduct. We have seen no such thing,” Breen said in response to a question from POLITICO at a brief news conference after the sentencing. “We have seen no entrapment. We have seen no set-up by U.S. intelligence people. … Everything we saw, they’ve been on the square.”

Polisi said Papadopoulos is still in talks with other congressional committees about providing testimony but is primarily focused on testifying to the House panels for now.

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