NATION POLITICS TRAIL GUIDE

President Obama says Donald Trump has no evidence to back up his complaints about the election.

Pro-Clinton group will air ads linking vulnerable GOP senators to Trump

 (Jim Cole / Associated Press)
(Jim Cole / Associated Press)

A super PAC backing Hillary Clinton plans to air ads tying vulnerable Republican senators to GOP nominee Donald Trump in two battleground states.

Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania are facing tough reelection battles, and their opponents have tried to link them with the controversial statements of their party’s standard-bearer.

The ads are an indication of the confidence the group feels about Clinton’s chances of winning the White House. “This is just the beginning of expanding the map & supporting Dems. More to come soon,” tweeted Guy Cecil, co-chair and chief strategist for Priorities USA, on Tuesday.

The senators have struggled to deal with their party's nominee. Ayotte once said she would vote for Trump, apologized after calling him a role model for children, and then announced she would not vote for him after recordings emerged of Trump making lewd comments about women.

Toomey is refusing to say who he supports for president.

Priorities USA is focused on electing Clinton to the White House, and has raised more than $133 million through the end of August. The group has not disclosed the ads it plans to air or how much it is spending.

Cecil indicated on Twitter that the group planned to advertise on television and African American radio in Georgia, another sign of their confidence in Clinton’s campaign. The state last voted to send a Democrat to the White House nearly a quarter-century ago.

Ecuador has 'temporarily restricted' WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's Internet access

 (Alastair Grant / Associated Press)
(Alastair Grant / Associated Press)

Ecuador's government has acknowledged that it has "temporarily restricted" WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's Internet access at its embassy in London after the whistle-blowing site published documents from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that although it stands by its decision in 2012 to grant Assange asylum, it doesn't interfere in foreign elections. Leftist President Rafael Correa's government said it was acting on its own and not ceding to foreign pressures.

The ministry didn't specify the extent of the restrictions on Assange's access to the Internet, saying only that the restrictions on his communications wouldn't affect WikiLeaks' ability to carry out its journalistic activities.

Trump rally in Colorado has a dramatic backdrop

Michael Moore to release surprise Trump film in L.A. on Wednesday

 (Andy Kropa / Invision)
(Andy Kropa / Invision)

Filmmaker Michael Moore has never been one to hold back his opinions on U.S. politics — and this election season will be no different.

On Tuesday, the 62-year-old documentarian revealed that he has been secretly working on a film about Donald Trump, “Michael Moore in Trumpland,” that he plans to release in Los Angeles and New York on Wednesday. He announced the news on his Twitter account, adding that the movie will screen for the first time — free of charge — at New York’s IFC Center on Tuesday evening.

The film is based on a one-man show Moore tried to mount in Ohio last month. The performance at a theater “in the heart of Trump country” was canceled after it was deemed “too controversial,” Moore said in a Facebook post. A few days later, he found another Ohio venue willing to host him, and put on his show there earlier this month.

Paul Ryan, staying mum on Trump, will travel to California to raise money and campaign for House candidates

 (AP file photo)
(AP file photo)

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan recently decided to stop defending GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and focus solely on saving congressional majorities. Next week, he'll be heading to California to raise money and campaign for House candidates.

Ryan is in a difficult spot. He is palpably uncomfortable with Trump, but if the GOP nominee loses by a landslide, that threatens Republican members of the House and potentially leaves Ryan with a smaller, more conservative and more restive caucus. Shortly after the election, the House GOP will hold a secret ballot vote on electing Ryan to a second term as their leader.

The Wisconsin representative arrives in California next Thursday and will hold 12 events in seven cities over two days. Ryan is expected to campaign with Reps. Jeff Denham, David Valadao and Steve Knight, as well as Scott Jones, who is challenging Rep. Ami Bera. He will also hold events benefiting Team Ryan, a joint fundraising committee.

Ryan was already a prodigious fundraiser, raising nearly $50 million this year and transferring more than half to help congressional candidates. But he is barnstorming the nation in the lead-up to the November election. This month alone, Ryan has held more than 65 events in 17 states.

Ryan has endorsed Trump, but has long been uncomfortable with Trump’s rhetoric. The breaking point was the emergence earlier this month of a 2005 recording of Trump making vulgar comments about how he could grope women without their consent, which led Ryan to disinvite him from a Wisconsin GOP event, and then to tell his conference he would no longer defend his party’s standard-bearer.

Since then, Ryan has been publicly silent about Trump, instead saving his public remarks for blasting Hillary Clinton and "liberal progressivism," and for helping his Republican colleagues.

Trump has recently attacked Ryan for not standing by his side, suggesting that the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee does not want Trump to win because he has his eye on the White House in 2020.

“I don’t want to be knocking Paul Ryan,” Trump said Tuesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” But “I think he could be more supportive to the Republican nominee.”

“Maybe he wants to run in four years and maybe he doesn’t know how to win,” said Trump, who has previously criticized Ryan as a "very weak and ineffective leader."

Bernie Sanders doesn't want his supporters voting for Libertarian Gary Johnson

 (Christopher Dolan / Associated Press)
(Christopher Dolan / Associated Press)

Gary Johnson wants Bernie Sanders' supporters — youthful and staunchly liberal — to back his Libertarian presidential campaign. 

Not so fast, says Sanders, now a key surrogate for Democrat Hillary Clinton. 

On Tuesday, Sanders, who was campaigning for Clinton in Arizona, used Twitter to highlight a major difference with Johnson.

"Gary Johnson: 'Any restriction on campaign spending violates the First amendment.' Translation: Billionaires will be free to buy elections," Sanders tweeted. 

During the Democratic primaries, Sanders appealed to younger voters with a populist pitch that centered on, among other things, income inequality and overhauling the campaign finance system.

Some millennials who are not inspired to vote for Clinton are supporting Johnson instead, according to some polls. 

Johnson wants to expand that support. 

This week, he released a campaign video highlighting what he said he and Sanders share in common, while assailing Clinton. 

Among the issues Johnson highlighted were his opposition to the Iraq war and his call to legalize marijuana. 

In response to Sanders' tweet Tuesday, Joe Hunter, a spokesman for Johnson, offered a terse reply. 

"It's good that Sen. Sanders is listening," Hunter said. 

Melania Trump echoes Hillary Clinton as she defends her husband

 (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

When Melania Trump took to the airwaves to defend husband Donald Trump against allegations of sexual impropriety, she was following a well-worn path of many political spouses before her.

The most notable is Hillary Clinton, who used similar language as she defended her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, in 1998.

Both women blamed political rivals and the media for the respective controversies engulfing their husbands, and said they trusted their husbands’ denials.

“I believe my husband. This was all organized from the opposition,” Melania Trump said Monday, the first time she spoke publicly after several women accused her husband of kissing and groping them without their consent, and after a 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording emerged of him using crass language to describe women.

"[I]t was the media, it was NBC, it was 'Access Hollywood,' and it was left-wing and left-wing media. And people see it, the way it came out is, everything was organized,” Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. 

Trump said that while her husband used inappropriate language, he would never behave in a sexually aggressive manner.

“My husband is kind and he’s a gentleman and he would never do that,” Trump said. “Everything was organized and put together to hurt him, to hurt his candidacy.”

Asked whether she believed the Clintons and the media were working together, Trump replied, “Yes. Of course.”

Clinton, defending her husband as news emerged about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, offered similar words in 1998.

In an interview with NBC News, she blamed “this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president." 

Clinton said the attacks were "deliberately designed to sensationalize charges against my husband because everything else they have tried has failed.”

Clinton also stood by her husband’s claim at the time that he had not had an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky.

“He is kind. He is friendly,” she said. “I love and believe my husband.”

Seven months later, as Bill Clinton was preparing to testify before a grand jury, he admitted to his wife that he had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky, Clinton wrote in “Living History,” her 2003 book.

''I was dumbfounded, heartbroken and outraged that I'd believed him at all,'' she wrote.

Bookies call the election: Clinton wins, they say

 (Darren McCollester / Getty Images)
(Darren McCollester / Getty Images)

Maybe the election really is rigged: The bookmakers have started to call it over and pay off the bettors.

Paddy Power, the big Irish bookmaking house, announced Tuesday that it was closing its book on the U.S. presidential election and paying off bettors who placed wagers on Hillary Clinton to win. The firm will pay out slightly more than $1 million, it said in a blog post.

The bookmaker decided to pay off the bets after the chances of a Clinton victory rose to nearly 85%. 

"Trump gave it a hell of a shot going from a rank outsider to the Republican candidate, but the recent flood of revelations have halted his momentum and his chances now look as patchy as his tan," a representative of the firm, Féilim Mac An Iomaire, said in a statement.

Four years ago, Paddy Power closed the book two days before President Obama's reelection. That year, they paid out about $700,000.

But, the firm noted, its early calls have sometimes proved wrong: In 2009, it prematurely called Tiger Woods to win the PGA championship, but he lost to Y.E. Yang, who started the day a 20-1 underdog.

If the bookmaker is wrong this time, and ends up having to pay off bettors who wagered on Trump, it will have "some very expensive pie on its face," the statement said.  

Donald Trump wants to 'drain the swamp' in Washington by putting term limits on Congress

 (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Donald Trump proposed congressional term limits Tuesday as part of an ethics package meant to highlight his accusations that Hillary Clinton is corrupt and beholden to special interests.

Trump did not specify the length of the limits during a speech here. But he promised that, if elected, he would advocate for a constitutional amendment to establish them.

“We have to break the cycle of corruption, and we have to give new voices to change,” Trump said.

Trump’s outsider status — and willingness to take on opponents in both political parties — remains his biggest selling point among many supporters.

"Washington, D.C., is a toilet that needs to be flushed," said Don Waite, a 70-year-old retired real estate from Cripple Creek, Colo., who attended Tuesday's rally.

"I don't see Hillary Clinton flushing that toilet. She's part of it."

Trump repeated his accusations that Clinton's corruption has been worse than Watergate. 

“It is indeed time to drain the swamp in Washington,” he said at the rally.

The ethics package, largely unveiled Monday night, also includes new five-year bans on lobbying for former government officials, members of Congress and their staffs. It would also ban lobbyists from foreign governments from raising money in U.S. elections and expand the definition of lobbyists to include “consultants and advisors, when we all know that really what they are is lobbyists.”

Watch: Donald Trump rallies supporters in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The guest lists for the debates are turning into psychological warfare

Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman is one of the most prominent defectors from the Republican side of the presidential race this year. (Andrew Burton / Getty Images)
Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman is one of the most prominent defectors from the Republican side of the presidential race this year. (Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

The guests whom presidential nominees invite to their debates are often chosen for their symbolic value to the campaign. But in the this election year, in which the rules of decorum have fallen by the wayside, the guest list has also become about outright psychological warfare.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are yet again extending invitations to guests designed to rattle each other.

Trump will bring Patricia Smith, whose son Sean was killed in the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, to Wednesday's final debate. Smith lays blame for her son’s death on Clinton, and she accuses the former secretary of State of lying to her about what happened in the Libyan city in the aftermath of the attacks.

Clinton has vehemently denied ever giving Smith false information, and her campaign notes that the accusations Smith makes about Clinton’s handling of Benghazi conflict with the findings of several government investigations.

Clinton has invited as her guests a pair of billionaires.

One is Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, a former GOP gubernatorial nominee in California. Whitman is one of the most prominent defectors from the Republican side of the presidential race this year. Her presence campaigning and raising money for Clinton reflects the deep uneasiness so many moderate and Republican woman have about Trump.

The other billionaire attending as Clinton’s guest will be Mark Cuban, a Trump antagonist whose presence at the first presidential debate touched off the war of the guests this year.

Trump threatened that if Cuban came to the event, he would bring the women who accused Bill Clinton of unwanted sexual advances.

By the second debate, Trump made good on his promise, though his campaign's plan to have the women confront Bill Clinton just before the event started was thwarted by the debate commission.

Mike Pence calls firebombing in North Carolina 'political terrorism'

 (John D. Simmons / Associated Press)
(John D. Simmons / Associated Press)

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Tuesday called the recent firebombing of a North Carolina Republican Party office an act of "political terrorism," urging supporters to be vigilant from now until election day. 

Pence visited the charred office space in Hillsborough, N.C., located in the suburbs of Durham, and spoke with local elected officials while campaigning in the battleground state. 

"I'm here to call attention to an act of political terrorism," Pence said. "Everyone ... universally condemned this attack on our system" of government. 

In the hours after Sunday’s firebombing, Trump blamed the attack on “animals” supporting Democrats and Hillary Clinton. Authorities, however, have not made any arrests and have said it's an ongoing investigation.

From New Hampshire to Wisconsin, Trump has insisted in recent days – without evidence – that the election is rigged against him.

With about 13,000 jurisdictions governing polling places in the U.S., rigging an election would be extremely difficult. Instances of proven voter fraud are rare and usually occur on a scale too small to change the results.

Still, both Trump and Pence have called for supporters to serve as election observers to ensure voter fraud is not committed. It’s a message to supporters that Pence repeated on Tuesday.

“We’re encouraging all of our supporters, given the enormous importance of this election, given the dramatic choice the American people face in this election, to be involved,” said Pence, noting he hoped they would do so in a “respectful” manner.

Obama to Trump: 'Stop whining' and try to win votes instead

President Obama all but invited Donald Trump on Tuesday to jump into a fight with him, baiting the Republican nominee as he faces an overwhelming disadvantage in the polls just weeks before election day.

In a midday news conference in the White House Rose Garden, Obama, whose approval ratings rank among the highest of any U.S. politician, mocked Trump’s complaints that the vote-counting system may be “rigged” while the race is still afoot. 

"If you start whining before the game's even over? If whenever things are going badly for you and you lose, you start blaming somebody else, then you don't have what it takes to be in this job," Obama said, his voice cracking with amusement.

"... I'd invite Mr. Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes."

Though taking on the popular sitting president would be an unconventional strategy at this point, Trump has proven repeatedly that he is susceptible to provocation, and Obama seemed to be aiming straight for that vulnerability.

Obama vowed early on to be more “subdued” talking about the presidential race than he has been on the campaign trail while stumping for Hillary Clinton. As it turned out, he cast more shade in that dignified setting than at almost any turn in recent weeks. 

He mocked Trump for his “flattery” of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He faux-marveled at how Republicans have abandoned their skepticism of Putin to support Trump.

Then he turned to Trump's complaints of a “rigged system,” suggesting that Trump is discrediting the election process rather than trying to sell his ideas to voters.

“It happens to be based on no facts,” he said. Serious analysts, he said, “will tell you that instances of significant voter fraud are not to be found.”

Trump's protests fail to show “the kind of leadership and toughness” voters want in a president, Obama said.

Astrologers predict a Hillary Clinton victory is in the stars

Aleksandar Imsiragic of Serbia believes George Washington's chart provides the code for all future presidents. (Aleksandar Imsiragic)
Aleksandar Imsiragic of Serbia believes George Washington's chart provides the code for all future presidents. (Aleksandar Imsiragic)

How do you judge an election that’s fallen far from the realm of predictability?

Look to the stars.

Hundreds of International Society for Astrological Research members from around the world descended upon Costa Mesa for a weeklong conference to learn how to take advantage of eclipses in their personal lives and understand the power of both Venus. 

Also, to see if the planets would align Nov. 8 in favor of Scorpio Hillary Clinton or GeminiDonald Trump.

Khloe Kardashian fires back at 'cruel' Donald Trump remarks

 (John Shearer / Invision / Associated Press; Mary Schwalm / AFP / Getty Images)
(John Shearer / Invision / Associated Press; Mary Schwalm / AFP / Getty Images)

Before Khloe Kardashian found out Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had allegedly branded her “the ugly Kardashian,” she wasn’t the politician’s biggest fan.

“I'm very good on energy, and I just never really vibed with him from the start,” Kardashian said, reflecting on her 2009 stint on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” which Trump was host of at the time.

Seven years after Kardashian appeared on the NBC reality competition, the Huffington Post reported last week that several sources with ties to the show said Trump made off-camera remarks about Kardashian and was upset that she was cast on the show instead of one of her siblings.

“What is this? We can’t even get the hot one?” he reportedly said, referring to Kardashian’s sister, Kim. “Why don’t we fire Khloe? She is a fat piglet. Why did we get the ugly Kardashian?”

While promoting her new denim line Good American in West Hollywood on Monday, Kardashian told The Times that she was shocked to learn Trump had made such “cruel” remarks.

The more they campaign, the more things stay the same ...

So many primary contests, so much debate, so many millions spent on defining Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

And now, three weeks before the election, it turns out voters may have known these two characters fairly well at the outset — or at least as well as they cared to.

New NBC/WSJ poll numbers show this shocking pattern:

  • Trump’s favorability rating in January 2016: 29% positive, 58% negative
  • Trump’s favorability rating now: 29% positive, 62% negative
  • Clinton’s favorability rating in January 2016: 40% positive, 49% negative
  • Clinton’s favorability rating now: 40% positive, 50% negative

Yes, that’s right. Almost zero change in how voters see the candidates. But surely their voting intentions have adjusted for new information, right?

Hardly:

  • The two-way ballot in January 2016: Clinton 51%, Trump 41%
  • The two-way ballot now: Clinton 51%, Trump 41%

What to make of these results? They could reflect the unprecedented nature of this election, in that both of the major party nominees were well-known figures going into the campaigns. What’s more, they were familiar personalities, about whom Americans had strong personal opinions.

Or maybe it’s about the state of political polarization as the Obama era draws to a close, and Americans are just more rigid in their political views.

Trump's own evidence of vote-rigging doesn't add up

 (Scott Olson / Getty Images)
(Scott Olson / Getty Images)

Donald Trump’s assertions that voter rolls are crowded with ineligible voters are getting a lot of notice this morning, but my colleagues Noah Bierman and Michael A. Memoli report that the evidence he cites is faulty.

Trump alleges that dead people, those in the country illegally and voters registered in more than one state populate the voter rolls, saying Monday that “your politicians don’t tell you about this when they tell you how legitimate all these elections are.”

Where he does cite evidence, Trump is pointing to old or questionable research, The Times reports:

In the case of voter registration deficiencies, Trump pointed to outdated statistics for a record-keeping problem the federal government went on to address with a blue-ribbon panel of election experts that studied and recommended solutions. Some of them, including online voter registrations and data-sharing across state lines, were implemented in several states.

And the Washington Post op-ed on the odds of non-citizens voting that Trump mentioned, written by a pair of researchers, was followed by another piece undermining the methodology of the study, in line with many election experts.

Researchers have found that voter fraud is extremely rare, with only a handful of instances that would be highly unlikely to swing a national election. In a study conducted two years ago, Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt found only 31 credible claims of voter fraud of more than 1 billion ballots cast since 2000.

And on Monday, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania spoke out against Trump's claims.

In separate debates, they proclaimed confidence in the system. Each of Florida’s counties runs its own independent election, Rubio noted.

“I promise you there is not a 67-county conspiracy to rig this election,” Rubio said. “There is no evidence behind any of this.”

A wall of taco trucks is being built outside Trump's Las Vegas hotel

Taco trucks on every corner? How about a wall of taco trucks?

That’s what the Culinary Union plans to erect outside of Trump International Las Vegas hotel ahead of Wednesday’s final presidential debate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The majority Latino and immigrant union, an outspoken group against Republican nominee Donald Trump, wants to put at least five trucks in front of the hotel.

“We’re reminding Mr. Trump that immigrant workers here and across the country will be watching the debate and voting in November,” political director for the union Yvanna Cancela told BuzzFeed News on Monday.

The Culinary Union has put together about 10 rallies outside the Trump hotel since it unionized in December. Groups joining this protest include the Latino Victory Project, American Bridge, Center for Community Change Action, For Our Future, PLAN Action and at least 50 other immigrant activists and leaders.

Trump’s Latino outreach director, A.J. Delgado, responded with a “thanks” for the setting up of the trucks right outside the hotel because, she said, she never turns down a taco.

In September, the founder of Latinos for Trump, Marco Gutierrez, brought taco trucks into the campaign when he sparked #tacotrucksoneverycorner on Twitter during an interview in defense of Trump’s calls to build a wall along the Mexican border.

“My culture is a very dominant culture, and it’s imposing and it’s causing problems,” he said in an interview with MSNBC. “If you don’t do something about it, you’re going to have taco trucks on every corner.”

Hillary Clinton, always seeking to be relatable, reveals that she, too, once had hot takes

 (Snapchat)
(Snapchat)

Long before she began a career in politics, Hillary Clinton had another ambition.

"When I was in junior high school, I wanted to be a journalist," she told Snapchat's Peter Hamby in an interview as part of the platform's "Good Luck, America" series. 

"I had a column in the junior high newspaper," she noted.

"You had hot takes?" Hamby asked.

"The food, whether people would eat it or not. Those kind of things," she joked.

The new episode explores both Clinton's and Donald Trump's path toward their nominations for president. Trump did not agree to an interview.

Clinton notes that when she attended college at Wellesley, "I showed up as a Republican."

"But then I began to really read and study. I realized I identified more with Democrats," she said.

A friend tells Hamby that Clinton often dated smart boys who were also "jocks."

"I went to lots of dances," Clinton said. "We called them mixers in those days," she informed the no-doubt intended audience of millennials. 

By the numbers

How does Clinton or Trump get to 270 electoral votes? Play with our map.

Third debate scorecard: Here's who's winning each round

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