Trump’s busy Twitter day

While Vice President Mike Pence set out for Georgia in the wake of Hurricane Michael, President Donald Trump had an empty schedule on Tuesday and filled it with a flurry of eyebrow-raising activity on Twitter.

Trump, who returned the previous evening from a trip to Florida to survey hurricane damage, sent out rapid-fire posts throughout the morning, touching on everything from the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi to the heritage of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass). He even threw in a “WITCH HUNT” for the first time in weeks. The president tagged Fox News in several posts, suggesting he was live-tweeting while he watched his favorite news network.

Here are some the president composed to christen the day:

Renewing his attacks against one of his most vocal critics, Trump mocked Warren, using one of his favorite nicknames for her, after she took a DNA test to prove Native American ancestry. Warren also received criticism from a Cherokee leader, who said a DNA test does not prove tribal heritage.

Following reports that a group of hundreds of Honduran migrants had entered Guatemala en route to the United States, Trump demanded the Honduran government stop its citizens or risk losing U.S. aid. The president has long advocated curtailing foreign aid, and Vice President Mike Pence urged the Honduran, Guatemalan and Salvadoran governments last week to stop their citizens from entering the United States.

Trump has drawn criticism for not adequately confronting the Saudi government over reports that it assassinated Khashoggi, one of its citizens. His tweet and mounting criticisms come as several reports detail ties between Trump and Saudi businessmen.

The president has repeatedly used a steady surge in the stock market as a sign of improved economic health under his administration, though his critics credit the growth to initiatives started under President Barack Obama.

The adult-film actress Stormy Daniels sued the president for defamation after he denied her story of a man threatening her not to speak openly about an affair she says she had with Trump. The suit was dismissed and the president called her “Horseface,” reflecting his history of mocking women’s appearances.

Bruce Ohr is a Justice Department official who had contact with a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, known for his report suggesting that the Russian government had compromising information on Trump. The president has attacked Ohr in the past as an example of disloyalty within the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has repeatedly claimed ignorance of what happened to Khashoggi after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Trump drew criticism after calling for Saudi Arabia, along with Turkey, to conduct the investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Trump’s tweets included his usual endorsement of Republican candidates, who face a wave of Democratic challengers in the upcoming midterm elections.

Heitkamp apologizes after ad mistakenly named women as sexual assault survivors

North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp apologized Tuesday after her campaign erroneously included names of several women without their permission in an open letter from sexual assault survivors criticizing her Republican opponent, Rep. Kevin Cramer.

Her campaign ran an open letter to Cramer in a local newspaper criticizing recent comments he made about the #MeToo movement and sexual assault survivors. The ad was signed by more than 100 women. But a conservative blog on Tuesday posted Facebook comments from several women who said their names were included without their knowledge or permission, and Heitkamp acknowledged the mistake and apologized.

“We recently discovered that several of the women’s names who were provided to us did not authorize their names to be shared or were not survivors of abuse,” Heitkamp said in a statement. “I deeply regret this mistake and we are in the process of issuing a retraction, personally apologizing to each of the people impacted by this and taking the necessary steps to ensure this never happens again.”

The ad, which ran in the local newspaper, was an open letter attacking Cramer after he told the New York Times that women in his family “cannot understand this movement toward victimization. They are pioneers of the prairie. These are tough people whose grandparents were tough and great-grandparents were tough.”

“We are here to let you know that we have all suffered from domestic violence, sexual assault or rape — and that yes, we expect somebody to believe us when we say it. Because it happened,” the open letter to Cramer reads. “As North Dakotans who have experienced this absolute terror firsthand and survived these crimes — we are all prairie tough.”

The letter was signed by more than 100 women. But Say Anything, a conservative political blog in North Dakota, discovered Facebook posts from at least three women claiming they had not given the campaign permission to use their names, and were misidentified as sexual assault survivors.

“A lot of these people listed, including me, did not give anyone permission for our names to be posted. I don’t even support Heidi Heitkamp and I am not a domestic abuse survivor,” one woman wrote on Facebook, according to a screenshot posted by the blog.

“I NEVER gave my consent or permission, written or verbal, to be involved in anything like this: for, against, or personally affected,” another woman wrote in a Facebook comment.

Heitkamp, the most endangered Democratic incumbent running for reelection in November, faces an uphill climb to win reelection. Republicans aiming to defeat her attacked her campaign for the letter Tuesday.

Michael McAdams, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, called the letter “desperate” in an email Tuesday.

“Eager to save her failing campaign, Heidi Heitkamp has stooped to a new low,” McAdams said.

Nevada brothel owner and Republican state legislature candidate dies

LAS VEGAS — Nevada authorities say a brothel owner and Republican candidate for the state legislature, who gained popularity for an HBO series about his business, has died.

Nye County sheriff Lt. David Boruchowitz said an employee at Dennis Hof’s Love Ranch brothel outside of Las Vegas summoned authorities a little before 11 a.m. Tuesday after Hof was found unresponsive and not breathing.

Boruchowitz says there is no sign of foul play.

Hof was the Republican nominee this year for a heavily GOP legislative district. Ballots have already been printed in the race and it wasn’t immediately clear how elections officials would handle Hof’s death.

Hof owned a handful of brothels in Nevada, the only state that allows them to legally operate.

DeVos accuses senator of sending ‘completely false’ tweet

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos lashed out at Sen. Patty Murray today on Twitter, accusing her of sending a "completely false" tweet and acting "unbecoming and irresponsible."

DeVos’ tweet came in the form of a reply to a tweet Monday night by Murray (D-Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate HELP Committee.

Murray said in her tweet that DeVos wants to "weaken student protections so— an unmarried mother may be denied admission, a woman could be thrown out for using birth control & an LGBTQ student could be subjected to cruel punishment at school. This is unacceptable." Murray linked to a press release from her office criticizing draft Department of Education proposals for overhauling Title IX rules for schools handling sexual harassment allegations.

DeVos, in turn, tweeted today: "This is completely false and you know it, @PattyMurray. It’s also unbecoming and irresponsible of a U.S. Senator to sow fear and falsehood. Our efforts will restore #DueProcess and support all students, including survivors."

DeVos has said the Obama-era rules the department is replacing “failed too many students” and lacked due process for the accused.

DeVos and Murray have frequently sparred since DeVos was nominated to the position last year. DeVos’ handling of civil rights issue has been a particularly contentious issue. DeVos has said the department has taken steps to streamline and more fairly handle claims, while Democrats have accused her of stripping away students’ civil rights.

Julián Castro on 2020 presidential run: ‘I’m likely to do it’

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro said he will likely run for president in 2020, joining the growing number of prospective Democrats vying to be their party’s nominee.

"I’m likely to do it," Castro told Rolling Stone in an article published Tuesday. "I’ll make a final decision after November, but I’m inclined to do it."

Castro, who also served as San Antonio mayor, throughout the midterm elections has campaigned for a number of candidates in battleground states across the nation, including in Nevada, Florida and Arizona.

Most recently, Castro was in Iowa this past weekend stumping for Democrat J.D. Scholten, who is going up against Rep. Steve King in the state’s 4th Congressional District.

Castro is one of several Democrats who is flirting with a presidential campaign.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris are seen as likely candidates, in addition to former Vice President Joe Biden and attorney Michael Avenatti.

Currently, only Rep. John Delaney has officially announced that he is running for president.

Trump sanctions Iran over alleged child soldier recruitment

The Trump administration on Tuesday hit Iran with another round of sanctions, accusing the country of recruiting child soldiers as young as 12 to fight for the regime of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria.

The sanctions primarily target the Basij Resistance Force, a domestic arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps focused on recruiting young Iranians to advance the country’s aims. Basij has an expansive network of recruiting efforts in every province of the country, and has attracted young boys from Afghanistan to its cause as well, according to a Treasury Department news release.

The administration’s Tuesday action specifically names a litany of Iranian banking and industrial institutions with ties to Basij, blocking their U.S. property and barring U.S. persons from engaging with them. The institutions are involved in economic activity ranging from investments to heavy industry and have networks stretching across the globe, according to senior administration officials.

The sanctions are the latest efforts from the Trump administration to ratchet up pressure on Iran following President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal earlier this year. The administration has already imposed sanctions on a variety of Iranian exports and will hit the Iranian oil industry with a new round of penalties in November.

The administration said Tuesday’s sanctions are meant to illustrate human rights abuses committed by Iran’s Islamic regime, which marks its 40th anniversary this year. Iran is a key ally of Assad, Syria’s president.

"The recruiting of 12-year-olds is unacceptable," a senior administration official said. "It’s disgusting. It’s deplorable. Sending children to Syria from either Iran or Afghanistan to fight and very sadly to die is despicable. And we think it’s incredibly important that the world understands what it is that they’re doing.”

The Trump administration’s condemnation of Iran for human rights abuses come as Trump has caught flack for his muddled response to the alleged assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whom Turkish intelligence say was murdered by a Saudi hit squad in the country’s consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi’s disappearance has captured international attention as a shocking violation of diplomatic convention.

Trump has not yet called for sanctions on Saudi Arabia, putting him at odds with some members of his own party in Congress. The president has also rejected calls to cancel $110 billion worth of arms deals the U.S. has with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, a major U.S. ally, has long played a critical role in American efforts to counter Iranian power in the region.

When asked how Khashoggi’s disappearance would impact Saudi Arabia’s role in Trump’s Iran strategy, a senior administration official said the U.S. has several allies in the region and is taking the Khashoggi situation seriously.

“We have a longstanding relationship with Saudi Arabia that is very significant to us, but that doesn’t mean we’re in any way ignoring or downplaying this episode, and we continue to believe those who are found responsible for it have to be held accountable. And I think that’s got to be our bottom line,” the official said.

Donors to dark-money groups still mostly hidden despite court ruling

A series of court orders in September appeared poised to force so-called dark-money groups — which raise and spend unlimited sums from anonymous donors — to reveal some of their funders for the first time.

But a month later, those donors are mostly still out of sight, and they could remain hidden as the dispute awaits a possible hearing at the Supreme Court.

A major disclosure deadline passed Monday with few political nonprofits unveiling any donors, even after a court threw out a years-old regulation that let the groups keep their funding sources private — and after the Federal Election Commission told the organizations to reveal anyone who gave money after the ruling for political spending at the end of September.

“The statute itself is pretty clear, you’re supposed to report all contributors who gave for political purposes. What that means in practice is another question,” said Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the good-government group Campaign Legal Center. “Many groups are likely anticipating that the FEC isn’t going to second-guess their assertion that they received no reportable contributions.”

The Campaign Legal Center tracked 18 political nonprofits that spent money on the midterms between the court ruling and the end of September and could thus have donations to disclose. It found that 14 of those groups disclosed no information with the FEC on Monday.

Four groups did disclose donors. But of those four, two revealed donations from other nonprofits — so the original person who donated the funds was still not clear. Latino-focused Mi Familia Vota said it received $45,523 from an organization called Arizona Winds during the third quarter. And union-affiliated Working America disclosed $69,500 in donations from the nonprofit For Our Future Action Fund.

The two other groups that disclosed, Unite Here Arizona and Working People Rising, are also union-affiliated groups that reported donations from unions and from PACs that disclose the source of their funds. None of the groups named individual donors in their disclosures.

Some others, such as the Heritage Foundation-affiliated Heritage Action, opted to file reports that included no information on donors but included notes asserting they were following the rules. “The independent expenditures disclosed on this report were paid for from general treasury funds,” Heritage Action’s report stated. “No reportable contributions were made.”

Others skipped filing with the FEC altogether or filed reports with no donors listed and no explanation.

Until the court ruling, these groups had to disclose political spending but did not have to reveal their donors, making them targets of constant criticism from campaign-finance reformers.

In August, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia threw out those rules, saying the groups needed to name anyone who gave more than $200 if they wanted to run ads urging voters to support or oppose a particular candidate. The Supreme Court declined an emergency request to invalidate the court ruling, but it still could take the case up later.

The ruling set off a scramble among campaign lawyers and political nonprofits to figure out how to keep their donors private.

Any efforts to keep donors out of sight were aided by the FEC’s interpretation of the court ruling, which said the groups only needed to report donations received after Aug. 4 that went toward independent expenditures on or after Sept. 18. That meant they did not need to disclose all donations for the 2018 election cycle.

And the FEC told dark-money groups that it would exercise “prosecutorial discretion” for the Oct. 15 deadline, an indication that the commission might not take legal action if it found evidence that a political nonprofit hadn’t complied with the new ruling right away.

Political nonprofits only have to issue disclosures once every three months, the new guidance said, so the next deadline to name donors won’t be until Jan. 15, two months after the November election — meaning voters might not get to see who funded ads for and against candidates until well after they go to the polls.

Meanwhile, some campaign-finance experts say dark-money groups can just change the way they raise and spend money to avoid disclosing donors altogether. Political nonprofits that run so-called issue ads, which focus on policy issues instead of individual candidates, don’t have to reveal their donors.

“Many groups will be able to avoid disclosing their donors by switching to electioneering communications or issue ads, or by giving lump sums to super PACs,” said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance attorney at Akerman LLP.

But some groups will likely want to raise money and spend it in the heated midterm elections, Kappel added, and “if they solicit funds for that specific purpose, the contributions will have to be disclosed in January.”