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    Before he cut the $100,000 checks, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti brought the Democratic Party chairmen from Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada backstage to meet late night television host Jimmy Kimmel and superstar hip-hop producer DJ Khaled. Garcetti may not be the best-known 2020 presidential prospect, but he will not be forgotten by those who lead Democratic politics in the states most responsible for picking the party's next presidential nominee. After the star-studded California fundraiser late last month that featured 10 state-party chairmen, followed by a private dinner, Garcetti issued $100,000 checks to each of their state parties. It was the money, more than the celebrity, that impressed New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley. 'Obviously, to those who are helpful, we are extraordinarily grateful,' Buckley told The Associated Press. 'So many of our states are battling epic elections.' Many of the Democratic Party's most ambitious have begun building relationships on the ground in the states most responsible for picking the next presidential nominee, although few are doing it as brazenly as the Los Angeles mayor. Most are more quietly endearing themselves to local candidates with phone calls, emails and donations up and down the ballot across Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, the states expected to host the first four presidential primary contests in roughly 15 months. The early-state relationships require a delicate balance for those who want to stand out in a crowded field next year without neglecting the high-stakes midterm elections this fall. Control of Congress and state houses across the nation is up for grabs in just three weeks. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey has raised more than $7 million and campaigned across 21 states for other Democratic candidates this midterm season, according to an aide. He also attended a family reunion with extended relatives in Iowa last week before and after stumping for dozens of down-ballot candidates for offices like secretary of agriculture and state auditor. Booker, who is openly contemplating a 2020 bid, campaigns for South Carolina Democrats on Thursday. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is in the midst of her own re-election campaign, as well as a midterm blitz to help other Democrats nationwide win their races. While she has not yet campaigned for Democrats in neighboring New Hampshire, she was among the first elected officials to call gubernatorial candidate Molly Kelly on the night of her primary election victory. Warren has also designated staff to help candidates in the early states, including former staffers now working for state parties in New Hampshire and South Carolina. In Iowa, congressional candidates J.D. Scholten and Cindy Axne got a campaign boost from former Housing Secretary Julian Castro last weekend; Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is expected to rally supporters behind Scholten later this month. Iowa Democrat Deidre DeJear, the party's nominee for secretary of state, has attracted support from several presidential prospects, none more helpful than California Sen. Kamala Harris. They met in Los Angeles at an April event sponsored by The Links, a service organization dedicated to black professional women. Their bond has grown since. On the day of her June primary, DeJear got a phone call of encouragement from Harris before narrowly winning her race, becoming Iowa's first black nominee for statewide office from a major political party. The California senator attended a fundraiser for DeJear in Washington and later this month plans to make her first trip to Iowa to rally young voters on DeJear's behalf. 'Having big names in Iowa really can drive people to early vote, drive people to volunteer — it's just an extra level of excitement,' said Cynthia Sebian-Lander, DeJear's campaign manager. 'What we need to do is use these visits as a way to talk about our down-ballot candidates and the importance of voting in every single race.' Beyond Iowa, Harris has raised more than $1 million over the first 15 days of October to help Democratic candidates, according to an aide. She has traveled to 10 states and plans to travel to South Carolina late this week. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who has spent much of the year working to help elect female candidates across the country, has sent out nine emails to raise money for Nevada Senate candidate Jacky Rosen. Gillibrand took 20 minutes during the recent Supreme Court debate to address Nevada Democrats, via teleconference. 'What you're doing in this campaign could flip the Senate,' the New York Democrat said in a video projected on the wall. 'I think that Jacky's seat is one of the most important, if not the most important seat.' While it may seem early, political veterans note that off-year elections can be critical in the multistage process of running for president. While President Donald Trump ignored laying such groundwork and found success, relationships in the early states are expected to matter — particularly in a field that could attract as many as two dozen candidates. In addition to the young senators, the early prospects range from former Vice President Joe Biden to attorney Michael Avenatti to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Garcetti is using his southern California connections to try to separate himself from the pack. Already a frequent visitor to early voting states, he got the idea for a glitzy Los Angeles event after raising $100,000 for the South Carolina Democratic Party. Garcetti ultimately helped raise $1.5 million at the late-September fundraiser in Los Angeles with Kimmel and Khaled that also attracted top California moneymen such as LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, sports and entertainment executive Casey Wasserman and former Disney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner. Ten state parties received $100,000 checks, a group that included the early states and midwestern battlegrounds like Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison said he's encouraged to see the energy surrounding the early-state action. 'I think this going to be a free for all,' he said. ___ Thomas and Summers reported in Washington. AP writer Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.
  • A federal judge dismissed Stormy Daniels' defamation lawsuit against President Donald Trump on Monday, saying the president made a 'hyperbolic statement' against a political adversary when he tweeted about a composite sketch the porn actress' lawyer released. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, sued Trump in April after he said a composite sketch of a man she said threatened her in 2011 to keep quiet about an alleged affair with the real estate mogul was a 'con job.' Trump tweeted that the man was 'nonexistent' and that Daniels was playing the 'fake news media for fools.' He retweeted a side-by-side photo comparing the sketch with a photo of Daniels' husband. In an order handed down Monday, U.S. District Judge S. James Otero said Trump's statement was protected speech under the First Amendment. 'If this Court were to prevent Mr. Trump from engaging in this type of 'rhetorical hyperbole' against a political adversary, it would significantly hamper the office of the President,' the judge wrote. 'Any strongly worded response by a president to another politician or public figure could constitute an action for defamation. This would deprive this country of the 'discourse' common to the political process.' Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, vowed to appeal the decision and said he was confident it would be reversed. 'There is something really rich in Trump relying on the First Amendment to justify defaming a woman,' Avenatti said. But the president's lawyer immediately hailed the ruling as a 'total victory' for Trump. 'No amount of spin or commentary by Stormy Daniels or her lawyer, Mr. Avenatti, can truthfully characterize today's ruling in any way other than total victory for President Trump and total defeat for Stormy Daniels,' Trump's attorney, Charles Harder, said in a statement. The judge's ruling also entitles Trump to collect attorneys' fees from Daniels, but the amount that Daniels would need to pay will be determined later, Harder said. The defamation claim is separate from another lawsuit that Daniels filed against Trump, which is continuing. Daniels was paid $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement signed days before the 2016 election and is suing to dissolve that contract. Daniels has argued the agreement should be invalidated because Trump's then-personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, signed it, but Trump did not. Lawyers for Trump and Cohen now say the deal that paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet was invalid, and they won't sue her for breaking it. Trump's attorney said the president never considered himself as a party to the agreement and doesn't dispute Daniels' assertion that the contract isn't valid. While Trump and Cohen want the court to toss out the litigation as moot, Daniels' lawyer wants to keep the case alive, hoping to compel Trump to answer questions under oath about what he may have known about the deal. Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign finance violations alleging he coordinated with Trump on a hush-money scheme to buy the silence of Daniels and a Playboy model who alleged affairs. ___ Associated Press writer Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.
  • The Latest on President Donald Trump's visit to areas hit by Hurricane Michael (all times local): 6:30 p.m. President Donald Trump has heard from Georgia farmers whose crops were wiped out by Hurricane Michael. Trump on Monday visited a farm near Macon where fourth-generation farmer Kevin Rentz grows cotton and peanuts. Rentz said he lost 100 percent of his cotton crop. He says they're still digging up peanuts but the problem is finding someplace to take them, given the power outages. Another farmer, Clay Pickle, said he went from his 'best crop to no crop in six hours.' Pickle says cotton was his best crop. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says damage to pecan groves in southwest Georgia will be felt for generations. Perdue says pecan trees typically bear nuts about seven years after planting but don't become profitable for about a decade. Perdue called the situation 'heartbreaking.' ___ This item has been corrected to show the farmer's last name is Pickle, not Pirkle. ___ 4:20 p.m. President Donald Trump has arrived in Georgia to survey damage by Hurricane Michael. The president and first lady Melania Trump arrived at Robins Air Force Base on Monday afternoon. State and local officials were to brief the president at the base. The White House says Trump then plans to visit a farm and meet farmers who lost crops after the powerful storm raced through Georgia last week on its way to the Carolinas and Virginia after first dealing a crushing blow to the Florida Panhandle. Trump flew to Georgia from Florida, where he surveyed hurricane damage in several Panhandle communities by air, land and foot. ___ 1:45 p.m. President Donald Trump is marveling at the hurricane damage he's seen while touring devastated Florida Panhandle communities. Trump and his wife, Melania, visited a FEMA aid distribution center Monday in the city of Lynn Haven. People there were signing up for temporary housing and picking up clothing, diapers, water and other supplies. Trump says someone described Hurricane Michael to him as being 'like a very wide - extremely wide - tornado.' He also marveled at how massive trees were 'just ripped out of the earth.' Said Trump: 'This is really incredible.' The president and first lady also help distribute cases of bottled water and chatted with residents. A woman in a green Philadelphia Eagles T-shirt thanked the first lady for her anti-bullying campaign. ___ Noon President Donald Trump got a bird's-eye view of Florida Panhandle communities shattered by Hurricane Michael. The president initially saw uprooted trees and houses with blue tarps covering damaged roofs after taking off from Eglin Air Force Base by helicopter. But the severity of the damage worsened as Trump approached the town of Mexico Beach. Reporters trailed him in a separate helicopter. A water tower lay on its side. Eighteen-wheelers were scattered in a parking lot like children's toys. Many houses had no roofs or had been ripped from their foundations. Trump also saw Tyndall Air Force Base, which was heavily damaged by Michael. The president is back on the ground near Panama City after the nearly hour-long aerial tour. ___ 11 a.m. President Donald Trump is praising Florida Gov. Rick Scott for his response to Hurricane Michael. Scott greeted Trump when he arrived in Florida on Monday to get his first up-close look at the devastation the storm caused along the Florida Panhandle. Trump says 'the job they've done is Florida has been incredible.' He also thanked Scott and told him he's a 'great governor.' Scott says he's gotten everything he's asked for from the federal government. The Florida Panhandle took a direct hit from Michael. More than 190,000 homes and businesses in Florida remain without electricity. Trump praised electric company crews for helping restore some power. Trump and his wife, Melania, were headed out on an aerial tour of affected areas. ___ 10:45 a.m. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have arrived in Florida to survey damage in the state as well in Georgia from Hurricane Michael. Trump landed Monday at Eglin Air Force Base near Valparaiso. The White House has not identified the communities Trump will visit. The president tweeted before leaving the White House that he will meet with law enforcement and government officials aiding the massive recovery effort. He said 'maximum effort is taking place, everyone is working very hard. Worst hit in 50 years!' The Florida Panhandle took a direct hit from Michael. More than 190,000 homes and businesses in Florida remain without electricity, along with about 120,000 homes and businesses in Georgia. The death toll stood at 17, including one confirmed death in Florida.
  • President Donald Trump suggested Monday that 'rogue killers' could be responsible for the mysterious disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an explanation offering U.S. ally Saudi Arabia a possible path out of a global diplomatic firestorm. The Saudis continued to deny they killed the writer, but there were indications the story could soon change. While Trump commented at the White House, Turkish crime scene investigators finally entered the Saudi consulate to comb the building where Khashoggi was last seen alive two weeks ago. Trump spoke after a personal 20-minute phone call with Saudi King Salman and as the president dispatched his secretary of state to Riyadh for a face-to-face discussion with the king. Late in the day, there were published reports that the Saudis were preparing to concede that Khashoggi, a U.S.-based Saudi contributor to The Washington Post, had been killed in an interrogation gone wrong. Before Monday Trump had focused less on possible explanations for Khashoggi's likely demise than on possible punishment if the Saudis were found culpable. 'The king firmly denied any knowledge of it,' Trump told reporters as he left the White House for a trip to survey hurricane damage in Florida and Georgia. Trump said he didn't 'want to get into (Salman's) mind,' but he added, 'it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. I mean, who knows? We're going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial.' Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government and in particular Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was last seen entering the consulate on Oct. 2 to get paperwork for his upcoming marriage to a Turkish woman. Turkish officials have said he was killed and dismembered. In a sign of new cooperation between Turkey and Saudi Arabia that could shed light on the disappearance, Turkish investigators wearing coveralls and gloves entered the consulate Monday. It remained unclear what evidence they might be able to uncover. Earlier Monday, a cleaning crew with mops, trash bags and what appeared to be bottles of bleach walked in past waiting journalists. Trump administration officials told The Associated Press that intelligence collected by the U.S. is inconclusive as to what actually happened to Khashoggi. With such a lack of clarity, the administration has not ruled out any possible scenario. The officials were not authorized to comment publicly on the matter and requested anonymity. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, hurriedly sent to Riyadh, expected to get more clarity during talks with Saudi leaders Tuesday. The White House expects credible answers quickly after Pompeo wraps up his trip with a stop in Ankara for meetings with senior Turkish officials. The State Department has urged a thorough investigation into Khashoggi's disappearance and called on Saudi Arabia to be transparent about the results — advice broadly tracking messages from allies in Europe. Germany, Britain and France issued a joint statement over the weekend expressing 'grave concern' and calling for a credible investigation to ensure those responsible for the disappearance 'are held to account.' Trump quoted the King on Monday as saying that neither he nor his son, Crown Prince Mohammed, had any information about what had happened to Khashoggi. The prince, ambitious, aggressive and just 33 in a kingdom long ruled by aging monarchs, has considerable weight in Saudi government actions. He and Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, have forged close ties. Just last week, Trump vowed to uncover the truth about what happened to Khashoggi and promised 'severe punishment' for those responsible. But he has said repeatedly that he does not want to halt a proposed $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia — as some in Congress have said he should — because it would harm the U.S. economically. Saudi Arabia has pledged to retaliate economically for any U.S. punitive action. That would be an unprecedented breach in a decades-old, deep economic and security relationship that is key to Washington's policies in the Middle East. A Saudi-owned satellite channel later suggested the world's largest oil exporter could wield that production as a weapon against America. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin still plans to attend a previously scheduled Saudi conference this week to address terrorist financing, but those plans could change as the investigation progresses. CNN reported that the Saudis were going to admit the killing had occurred but deny the king or crown prince had ordered it. The New York Times reported that the Saudi royal court would soon put out a narrative that an official within the kingdom's intelligence services — who happened to be a friend of Prince Mohammed — had carried out the killing. According to that narrative, the crown prince had approved an interrogation or rendition of Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia, but the intelligence official was tragically incompetent as he eagerly sought to prove himself. Both reports cited anonymous people said to be familiar with the Saudi plans. Trump said he could not confirm such reports. 'I've heard that report but nobody's knows if it's an official report. So far it's just the rumor, the rumor of a report coming out,' he said. Turkey has wanted to search the consulate for days. Permission apparently came after a late Sunday night call between King Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In statements after the call, both praised the creation of a joint Saudi-Turkish probe. The Turkish inspection team included a prosecutor, a deputy prosecutor, anti-terror police and forensic experts, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported. Certain areas of the consulate were to remain off-limits, although officials would be able to inspect surveillance cameras, Turkish media reported. The furor over Khashoggi has dealt a serious setback to Prince Mohammed's aggressive pitch for the kingdom as a destination for foreign investment. Several business leaders and media outlets have backed out of the upcoming investment conference in Riyadh, called the Future Investment Initiative. They include the CEO of Uber, a company in which Saudi Arabia has invested billions of dollars; billionaire Richard Branson; JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Jamie Dimon and Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford. ____ Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.
  • President Donald Trump gazes out over his rally crowd and lets loose a stream of insults with a theatrical flourish and playful grin. He jabs at Cory Booker the 'disaster' mayor, Elizabeth Warren the 'Pocahontas' pretender and 'sleepy' Joe Biden. 'I want to be careful,' Trump tells the crowd, feigning a confession. He doesn't want to hit his potential challengers too badly, he says, because then the Democrats may find 'somebody that's actually good to run against me. That would not be good.' The venue may be Council Bluffs, Iowa, or Erie, Pennsylvania, or Topeka, Kansas, but the formula is largely the same. Start with a few derisive nicknames, mix in some dreamy-eyed reminiscences of Election Night 2016, spice things up with an unexpected quip or zinger out of left field and you've got Trump's recipe for a successful campaign rally. Trump's rallies once were the cornerstone of an unconventional, star-powered presidential campaign that eschewed traditional organizing and defied every expectation. Now they're being deployed with gusto as Trump and his team work frantically to defy polls and precedent and save his Republican majority in Congress in November's midterm elections. The rallies — more than two dozen so far to boost GOP candidates — never fail to delight Trump's supporters. 'Look at this,' says Brenda McDonald, 58, of Woodbury, Minnesota, gesturing to the thousands of people standing ahead of and behind her in a line that wound around buildings and snaked through alleys for at least a mile when Trump's rally tour stopped in her state on Oct. 4. 'Have you ever seen rallies like this before?' she asked. Trump has been aggressively campaigning across the county to try to boost vulnerable Republicans before the Nov. 6 elections, when the stakes couldn't be higher. A Democratic takeover of Congress would stymie his agenda and mire his administration in endless investigations, including possible impeachment proceedings. Trump's team believes his appearances fire up his loyal base, countering the wave of Democratic enthusiasm that polls suggest will lead to significant Democratic gains, especially in the House. But after more than 350 rallies since he first began his presidential run, some things have changed. Trump's supporters remain as enthusiastic as ever, standing for hours in hot sun or driving rain and exploding into thundering applause when he takes the stage. They wave the same signs, wear the same hats, and chant the same 'Build that wall!' and 'Lock her up!' refrains that they did during the early days of Trump's campaign. But the once insurgent candidate, who told his supporters the system was rigged against them, is now president. And he's been delivering on many of his campaign promises, in spite of lackluster approval ratings. Trump's 2016 rallies had the feel of angry, raucous, grievance sessions, as Trump's 'deplorables' gathered in the face of charges they were racist, bigoted and could never win. Gone now is the darkness, the crackling energy, the fear of potential violence as supporters and protesters faced off, sometimes trading blows. The mood now is calmer, happier, more celebratory. Trump's rallies have gone mainstream, complete with a new playlist featuring Rihanna, 'Macho Man' by the Village People and Prince's 'Purple Rain.' Trump's campaign, which was notably stingy during his own election effort, has been investing heavily in his recent tour, covering all the costs of organizing and paying for the rallies, including footing the Air Force One bills, according to the campaign. 'Of course, President Trump's favorite way to connect with and charge up voters is with rallies hosted by the Trump Campaign,' the campaign said in a statement. And they believe the money is well spent. Trump's events often dominate local news for days. Trump's rally in Johnson City, Tennessee, for instance, earned more than $270,000 worth of local television coverage that night and the morning after, according to data compiled by the media tracking company TVEyes and shared by GOP officials. That's not counting front-page stories in local papers and coverage when the rally was announced. The Republican Party has been sending cameras to the rallies, so they can quickly post footage that can be spliced into ads. Officials say they've tracked notable polling bumps they attribute to Trump's visits. But while the rallies are about boosting GOP candidates, they're also always about Trump, who has been using them to test-drive messaging for his 2020 campaign. At rally after rally, Trump has cycled through a short list of buzzed-about potential rivals, labeling each with a derisive nickname, just as he did when he cleared the unwieldly Republican field in 2016. The insults have been among Trump's biggest applause lines in recent days, along with his attacks on Democrats for their treatment of his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, as the Senate investigated sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. Trump's crowds seem most entertained when he veers into offensive, 'politically incorrect' territory. He's bragged about how easily he could pummel Biden, the former vice president, or Booker, the New Jersey senator and former Newark mayor, or Warren, the Massachusetts senator whom Trump denigrates for her claims of Native American heritage. And he's mocked the Senate testimony of California professor Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school. Those moments add spontaneity and a tinge of sinister mischief that keep Trump's speeches interesting, even as they grow increasingly formulaic. Indeed, the rallies, at times, take on the feel of a high school reunion, with Trump taking the role of star football jock, reliving his glory days, play by play. In laborious detail, Trump takes his audience through Election Night 2016, re-enacting cable news anchors calling state after state in his favor, adding dramatic commentary. 'Was that the most exciting evening of our lives?' Trump asked his crowd in Erie, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday. 'Was that the most exciting night? Was that the greatest?' The risk, as he prepares for the 2020 campaign, is whether Trump's supporters will tire of the shtick. They say it won't happen. 'I'm just totally, madly in love with him,' said Peggy Saar, 64, of Rochester, Minnesota, as she attended her first Trump rally earlier this month. She said Trump was galvanizing people like her to vote in the midterms. 'I was never this active,' she said. 'I was never this involved.' And person after person pointed to the crowd as evidence Trump was generating enthusiasm for GOP candidates even though he's not on the ballot. 'I think the fact he's still turning out these crowds of people, two years in, it's absolutely amazing,' said Richard Eichhorn, 72, of Stockholm, Wisconsin. 'I think it's huge.' __ Colvin reported from Johnson City, Tennessee; Topeka, Kansas; and Council Bluffs, Iowa. Associated Press writers Kyle Potter in Rochester, Minnesota, Zeke Miller in Southaven, Mississippi, and Catherine Lucey in Erie, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report.
  • Actor Alec Baldwin followed up his latest parody portrayal of President Donald Trump with a serious call Sunday night for voters to use the Nov. 6 midterm elections to peacefully 'overthrow' the government. After reprising his role as Trump on 'Saturday Night Live,' Baldwin flew to New Hampshire, where he was the keynote speaker at the New Hampshire Democratic Party's annual fall fundraising dinner. 'The way we implement change in America is through elections. We change governments here at home in an orderly and formal way,' he said. 'In that orderly and formal way and lawful way, we need to overthrow the government of the United States under Donald Trump.' The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday night. Baldwin said on issue after issue, Republicans are destroyers, not builders. 'There is a small cadre of people currently in power who are hell-bent on continuing a malicious immigration policy that has set this country up for human rights violations charges by the global community. This cadre has looted money from the federal treasury and deposited it directly into the bank accounts of their most ardent political supporters,' he said. He said Republicans 'shrug' when it comes to gun violence, 'spit in the face' at the rest of the world at the notion of changing outdated energy policies and offer neither hope nor solutions to people of color 'who seek a decent seat at the American economic table but instead are issued a prison term, or worse, a bullet.' The recent confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh showed that Republicans view women as undeserving as the same constitutional protections as men, Baldwin said. 'They themselves are sons, husbands, fathers, and yet when the time arrived in the thick of the #metoo movement to set politics aside and establish that women's rights were more important than political expediency, they failed and it was ugly,' he said. Several of the political leaders and candidates who spoke before Baldwin praised survivors of sexual assault who were moved to tell their stories during Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, saying they should inspire others to speak up and advocate for issues they care about. 'People raising their voices and sharing their experiences is what has been critical for our democracy and our capacity to move forward throughout our history,' U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan said. 'As difficult as the Kavanaugh battle was, those moments have been incredibly important and will continue to be as we move forward.' Congressional candidate Chris Pappas echoed that sentiment. 'If we're not hoarse by the time the election rolls around, we're not doing our jobs or we're not paying attention,' he said. 'It's about raising our voices and what we're all about as a country.' In 2016, U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster went public with her own account of a renowned heart surgeon reaching up her skirt during a business luncheon more than 40 years ago, when she was a young staffer on Capitol Hill. 'I want to say to everyone, to the survivors who have come forward and those who have not, I believe you and you are not alone,' Kuster said Sunday. Baldwin's appearance in the state that holds the first presidential primary came hours before the premiere of his new talk show. 'The Alec Baldwin Show,' which airs on ABC at 10 p.m., will feature one-on-one conversations with celebrities and cultural icons. But Baldwin said it won't be overtly political. Asked Sunday if he'd consider running for office himself, he didn't rule it out but joked that his wife would likely divorce him.
  • President Donald Trump gazes out over his rally crowd and looses a stream of insults with a theatrical flourish and playful grin. He jabs at Cory Booker the 'disaster' mayor, Elizabeth Warren the 'Pocahontas' pretender and 'sleepy' Joe Biden. 'I want to be careful,' Trump tells the crowd, feigning a confession. He doesn't want to hit his potential challengers too badly, he says, because then the Democrats may find 'somebody that's actually good to run against me. That would not be good.' The venue may be Council Bluffs, Iowa, or Erie, Pennsylvania, or Topeka, Kansas, but the formula is largely the same. Start with a few derisive nicknames, mix in some dreamy-eyed reminiscences of Election Night 2016, spice things up with an unexpected quip or zinger out of left field and you've got Trump's recipe for a successful campaign rally. Trump's rallies once were the cornerstone of an unconventional, star-powered presidential campaign that eschewed traditional organizing and defied every expectation. Now they're being deployed with gusto as Trump and his team work frantically to defy polls and precedent and save his Republican majority in Congress in November's midterm elections. The rallies — more than two dozen so far to boost GOP candidates — never fail to delight Trump's supporters. 'Look at this,' says Brenda McDonald, 58, of Woodbury, Minnesota, gesturing to the thousands of people standing ahead of and behind her in a line that wound around buildings and snaked through alleys for at least a mile when Trump's rally tour stopped in her state on Oct. 4. 'Have you ever seen rallies like this before?' she asked. Trump has been aggressively campaigning across the county to try to boost vulnerable Republicans before the Nov. 6 elections, when the stakes couldn't be higher. A Democratic takeover of Congress would stymie his agenda and mire his administration in endless investigations, including possible impeachment proceedings. Trump's team believes his appearances fire up his loyal base, countering the wave of Democratic enthusiasm that polls suggest will lead to significant Democratic gains, especially in the House. But after more than 350 rallies since he first began his presidential run, some things have changed. Trump's supporters remain as enthusiastic as ever, standing for hours in hot sun or driving rain and exploding into thundering applause when he takes the stage. They wave the same signs, wear the same hats, and chant the same 'Build that wall!' and 'Lock her up!' refrains that they did during the early days of Trump's campaign. But the once insurgent candidate, who told his supporters the system was rigged against them, is now president. And he's been delivering on many of his campaign promises, in spite of lackluster approval ratings. Trump's 2016 rallies had the feel of angry, raucous, grievance sessions, as Trump's 'deplorables' gathered in the face of charges they were racist, bigoted and could never win. Gone now is the darkness, the crackling energy, the fear of potential violence as supporters and protesters faced off, sometimes trading blows. The mood now is calmer, happier, more celebratory. Trump's rallies have gone mainstream, complete with a new playlist featuring Rihanna, 'Macho Man' by the Village People and Prince's 'Purple Rain.' Trump's campaign, which was notably stingy during his own election effort, has been investing heavily in his recent tour, covering all the costs of organizing and paying for the rallies, including footing the Air Force One bills, according to the campaign. 'Of course, President Trump's favorite way to connect with and charge up voters is with rallies hosted by the Trump Campaign,' the campaign said in a statement. And they believe the money is well spent. Trump's events often dominate local news for days. Trump's rally in Johnson City, Tennessee, for instance, earned more than $270,000 worth of local television coverage that night and the morning after, according to data compiled by the media tracking company TVEyes and shared by GOP officials. That's not counting front-page stories in local papers and coverage when the rally was announced. The Republican Party has been sending cameras to the rallies, so they can quickly post footage that can be spliced into ads. Officials say they've tracked notable polling bumps they attribute to Trump's visits. But while the rallies are about boosting GOP candidates, they're also always about Trump, who has been using them to test-drive messaging for his 2020 campaign. At rally after rally, Trump has cycled through a short list of buzzed-about potential rivals, labeling each with a derisive nickname, just as he did when he cleared the unwieldly Republican field in 2016. The insults have been among Trump's biggest applause lines in recent days, along with his attacks on Democrats for their treatment of his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, as the Senate investigated sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. Trump's crowds seem most entertained when he veers into offensive, 'politically incorrect' territory. He's bragged about how easily he could pummel Biden, the former vice president, or Booker, the New Jersey senator and former Newark mayor, or Warren, the Massachusetts senator whom Trump denigrates for her claims of Native American heritage. And he's mocked the Senate testimony of California professor Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school. Those moments add spontaneity and a tinge of sinister mischief that keep Trump's speeches interesting, even as they grow increasingly formulaic. Indeed, the rallies, at times, take on the feel of a high school reunion, with Trump taking the role of star football jock, reliving his glory days, play by play. In laborious detail, Trump takes his audience through Election Night 2016, re-enacting cable news anchors calling state after state in his favor, adding dramatic commentary. 'Was that the most exciting evening of our lives?' Trump asked his crowd in Erie, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday. 'Was that the most exciting night? Was that the greatest?' The risk, as he prepares for the 2020 campaign, is whether Trump's supporters will tire of the shtick. They say it won't happen. 'I'm just totally, madly in love with him,' said Peggy Saar, 64, of Rochester, Minnesota, as she attended her first Trump rally earlier this month. She said Trump was galvanizing people like her to vote in the midterms. 'I was never this active,' she said. 'I was never this involved.' And person after person pointed to the crowd as evidence Trump was generating enthusiasm for GOP candidates even though he's not on the ballot. 'I think the fact he's still turning out these crowds of people, two years in, it's absolutely amazing,' said Richard Eichhorn, 72, of Stockholm, Wisconsin. 'I think it's huge.' __ Colvin reported from Johnson City, Tennessee; Topeka, Kansas; and Council Bluffs, Iowa. Associated Press writers Kyle Potter in Rochester, Minnesota, Zeke Miller in Southaven, Mississippi, and Catherine Lucey in Erie, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report.
  • You knew the writers at 'Saturday Night Live' weren't going to let this one go. Days after rapper Kanye West's White House visit with President Donald Trump, Alec Baldwin returned to the comedy show for the first time this season in a spoof of Thursday's headline-making meeting. >> Watch the full sketch here 'I flew here using the power of this hat!' cast member Chris Redd, playing a rambling West, proclaimed, pointing to his 'Make America Great Again' cap. >> Kanye West talks MAGA hat, mental health, Air Force One, more in Trump meeting at White House 'This guy might be cuckoo,' Baldwin, as Trump, said to himself in a voice-over. 'I've been in a room with Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong Un, and they made a lot more sense than him.' Redd's West, echoing some of Trump's real-life comments, called himself a 'stable genius' with a 'high IQ' and 'the best words.' 'Oh, my God, he's black me!' Baldwin's Trump realized in an internal monologue. >> Read more trending news  Meanwhile, Kenan Thompson, playing NFL icon Jim Brown, mused to himself: 'I played football with a leather helmet, and my brain is still working better than his.' The sketch ended with Baldwin's Trump declaring: 'I love you, Kanye. We've a lot more in common than people know. We're both geniuses, we're both married to beautiful women, and we've both definitely been recorded saying the N-word.'  Read more here.
  • Melania Trump says she loves President Donald Trump and has 'much more important things to think about' than allegations he cheated on her with a porn star, a Playboy Playmate or anyone else. Mrs. Trump, who was interviewed by ABC while touring Africa last week, said people are just spreading rumors about her marriage. 'I know people like to speculate and media like to speculate about our marriage and circulate the gossip,' she said. 'But I understand the gossip sells newspapers, magazines ... and, unfortunately, we live in this kind of world today.' She insisted allegations of her husband's infidelities are not a concern. Trump, who during the 2016 presidential campaign was heard on an old 'Access Hollywood' tape talking about groping and trying to have sex with women, has been accused of having multiple affairs. Porn star Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal have said they had sex with him years ago. Trump has denied the trysts with Daniels and McDougal but has acknowledged reimbursing his lawyer for a $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels. Mrs. Trump has generally kept quiet on the subject. Asked in the ABC interview if she loves her husband, Mrs. Trump said, 'Yes, we are fine. Yes.' She played down a suggestion the repeated rumors of his philandering had put a strain on their marriage. 'It is not concern and focus of mine,' she said. 'I'm a mother and a first lady, and I have much more important things to think about and to do.' But when asked if the repeated rumors had hurt her, she paused. Then she reiterated the 'media world is speculating.' 'Yeah, it's not always pleasant, of course,' she said. 'But I know what is right and what is wrong and what is true and not true.' Portions of Mrs. Trump's interview aired Friday on 'Good Morning America.' ABC News aired more from the interview during an hourlong special broadcast Friday night, during which she explained why she wore a jacket that said 'I really don't care, do u?' on a trip to the border to visit migrant children who had been separated from their parents. She noted that she wore the jacket getting on and off the plane, but not during her visits with children, and said it was a message to 'people and the left-wing media who are criticizing me.' Mrs. Trump said the jacket was a statement that the criticism will not stop her from doing 'what I feel is right.' She said she purposely wore the jacket on the flight back to Washington after seeing 'how the media was obsessed about it.' 'It was kind of a message, yes,' the first lady said. In another portion of the interview, which aired earlier this week, Mrs. Trump says she could be 'the most bullied person' in the world and women who make accusations of sexual assault need to 'show the evidence.' Donald Trump, on the 2005 'Access Hollywood' tape that became public late in the 2016 campaign, says when he's attracted to beautiful women, 'I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet.' He said when you're a star, women let you. 'Grab them by the p----,' Trump adds. 'You can do anything.' Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign finance violations alleging he, Trump and the National Enquirer tabloid were involved in buying the silence of Daniels and McDougal after they alleged affairs with Trump. ___ AP Media Writer David Bauder in New York and Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in contributed to this report.
  • First lady Melania Trump claimed in an interview with ABC News that aired Thursday that she was “the most bullied person in the world.” >> Read more trending news  Trump’s comments were part of an interview with ABC News reporter Tom Llamas that touched on several topics. The first lady made her comments during her tour in Africa, where she was promoting her “Be Best” program, an initiative that raises awareness about online bullying, ABC News reported. 'I could say I'm the most bullied person on the world,' Trump told Llamas, explaining why she wanted to take a stand against cyberbullying, particularly on social media. 'You're really the most bullied person in the world?' Llamas pressed. 'One of them, if you really see what people saying about me,' Trump said.

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  • Sears has filed for bankruptcy and has announced it will be closing stores nationwide. Consumer Warrior Clark Howard says the build-up to this was the worst-kept secret, following the news of K-Mart. If you are an avid shopper at Sears, Clark is suggesting you pay off your layaway now and use all of your gift cards.  “You need to look at it as companies that will not be able to survive no matter what you’re told moving forward.”  Clark says when it comes to your extended warranties and service contracts it will be up to the courts, but odds are, those will not be honored. Clark stands by his stance against those types of contracts anyways but urges all shoppers to skip from this moment forward.  LISTEN: Clark’s latest podcast Shoppers will soon start to see liquidation sales as stores begin to close. Clark is warning shoppers to be cautious of any deals they find.  “They are generally less than what they appear, the bargains that are supposed that are present are fake sales”  Clark says nobody ever both them at what the supposed retail was. He says these sales could trick shoppers into something on a “non-sale sale.”
  • A Massachusetts school employee is under investigation by the Secret Service for allegedly threatening President Donald Trump on social media. >> Watch the news report here The employee, a Fitchburg Public Schools paraprofessional who works with special-needs students, has also been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of this investigation. Her husband, a principal at Fitchburg's Longsjo Middle School, spoke only to WFXT about his wife's alleged tweet, which was captured in screen shots and shared multiple times on social media. At first, the tweet caught the attention of the local police force and subsequently of federal agents. 'People have their preferences, but sometimes you should just keep your 2 cents to yourself, you know?' said Roger Valcourt, a parent. The tweet, posted Oct, 10 which read, 'No just kill Trump,' has been generating controversy around town. Parents were shocked to learn what happened, saying both the principal and his wife are star educators. After the tweet was reported to Ashburnham police, the Secret Service launched an investigation, telling WFXT that they are aware of the incident and investigate all threats made against the president. 'I don’t know what was going through her head, I guess, but it’s not a good thing to say you want to kill the president,' said Alex Clemente, a parent. Clemente, a veteran who fought in Iraq, says the tweet went too far. 'Even though you don’t like him, you can’t say that,' Clemente said. >> Read more trending news  The employee's husband told WFXT in an off-camera interview she meant no harm, saying, 'It was lapse in judgment, a mistake. It was a bad choice of words that were taken out of context. My wife is not a malicious person, and has an impeccable work record. She’s embarrassed by this situation.' While Craig Chalifoux spoke to WFXT on the record, his wife isn't being identified because she is not facing any charges. The superintendent told WFXT that the employee has been placed on paid administrative leave, saying, in a statement, this 'is being done to protect her interests as well as the interest of the district [and] it will allow the investigation to conclude and minimize any disruption and distraction and protects her safety and security.
  • A former college football standout who briefly signed with the Atlanta Falcons was arrested Saturday by police in Columbus, Georgia, for allegedly having sex with a 12-year-old girl, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported. Justin Crawford, 23, who played running back at Georgia's Hardaway High School and West Virginia University, faces charges of incest, sodomy and enticing a child for indecent purposes, according to Muscogee County Jail records. At a preliminary hearing on Monday, Columbus Detective Mark Scruggs said Crawford’s wife, Chakeya, woke up Saturday around 5 a.m. and walked into her living room to find her husband with an erection as he stood over the child, the newspaper reported. However, she told the Ledger-Enquirer she objected to Scruggs’ account, saying her husband’s penis was exposed but not erect. She said she confronted her husband about it, that he denied any wrongdoing and she decided to go back to bed. >> Read more news stories  She took the 12-year-old to the child’s mother later, and that’s when the girl said she had been asleep in the living room when Crawford came in and had her perform oral sex on him before they had intercourse, Scruggs said. The newspaper reported that Scruggs said Crawford initially denied any sexual contact with the girl to police, but he later admitted to having oral sex and intercourse with her but claimed it was her idea. Crawford remains in the Muscogee County Jail without bond, according to jail records. As a senior in high school, Crawford rushed for 825 yards and seven touchdowns, the Ledger-Enquirer reported. He spent two years at Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he rushed for over 3,000 yards and six touchdowns, putting him in the national spotlight. He then transferred to West Virginia, where he rushed for 2,237 yards and 11 touchdowns over two seasons. Crawford signed with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent on May 1, but he was among 36 players released in September during the preseason. He was on the roster for the Atlanta Legends in the new Alliance of American Football league but was suspended by the team after being arrested, according to The Associated Press.
  • A Georgia man is in jail on assault and battery charges after he allegedly stabbed his father and punched his ex-girlfriend in the face, police said. Jonathan Allen Fain, 25, of Gwinnett County, has been charged with aggravated assault, aggravated battery, battery and possession of a firearm or knife during the commission of a felony. >> On AJC.com: Georgia man accused of taking, posting pictures of sleeping girls in underwear Fain got his ex-girlfriend to give him a ride to the Walmart on Rockbridge Road the morning of Oct. 11, according to a police report. He began yelling at her that she was taking too long shopping while they were inside, and the yelling continued while she was driving him home, the report said. She told him to get out of the car, but he wouldn’t, so she threw his wallet out the window, according to police. Fain punched the woman in the face and exited the car to get his wallet; the woman took that opportunity to drive away, the report said. Soon after, Fain arrived at his father’s house in Lilburn. They got into an argument, and at some point, Fain stabbed his father, according to the police report. When an officer arrived around 11 a.m., Fain had fled on foot into some nearby woods, the report said. Fain’s father was lying on the ground with a stab wound to his stomach. The officer found a kitchen knife with its blade missing; the blade had broken off and was still inside Fain’s father, the report said.  >> Read more trending news  Shortly after, Fain reportedly returned to the house, entering the basement. Fain surrendered when officers entered the basement and was arrested, the report said. The father was transported to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, according to the report. Fain was taken to the Gwinnett County Detention Center, where he is being held without bond. 

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