The Atlantic Politics Daily: Trump Wants His Own bin Laden Moment

How the president plans to use Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s death on the campaign trail. Plus, why Nancy Pelosi wants this one particular impeachment inquiry vote.

Today in Politics

It’s Monday, October 28. Today, how the President plans to use Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s death on the campaign trail. Plus, boos at a World Series game. Finally, why Nancy Pelosi wants this one particular impeachment inquiry vote.

(Ryan Melgar)

This was never going to be Trump’s bin Laden moment.

The first whisper of the news came—how else?—in a teaser of a tweet from President Donald Trump late Saturday night, “Something very big has just happened!” Then, silence.

The next morning, Trump made the official announcement: U.S. Special Forces had killed the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The president conveyed the circumstances of his death with the graphic details of some Hollywood thriller, complete with a heroic “beautiful dog, a talented dog” (according to reports, this good doggo’s name is Conan) and Baghdadi’s “whimpering and crying and screaming.” As my colleague Peter Nicholas writes, get ready for Trump to talk—and keep talking—about Baghdadi on the campaign trail:

“With Baghdadi’s death, Trump can try to shift the conversation and showcase his credentials as commander in chief. He can recount this story on the campaign trail for the next 12 months, delighting his base with details that he learned—and can declassify at will—while watching the operation unfold in real time.”

Regardless of all of Trump’s foregrounding of Baghdadi’s death, the moment doesn’t really portend the true fall of ISIS. Extremist groups function like whack-a-mole—you can get rid of one leader, but that doesn’t mean another won’t pop up, writes Kathy Gilsinan. Thus, a kingpin problem in national-security strategy:

“In some cases, a group simply carries on with a designated successor, like al-Qaeda under Ayman al-Zawahiri following the death of bin Laden; in others, the death of a leader can fracture a terrorist group into violent, competing factions, as has been observed among some Mexican drug cartels.”

—Saahil Desai

The Week Ahead

(Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

🗓 Wednesday, October 30: Somehow, the Mueller investigation is back, in a way—this is the deadline for the DOJ to turn over certain materials to the House Judiciary Committee.

Just last week, a federal judge ruled that the Judiciary Committee could have access to these previously secret materials, which the DOJ and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone had previously attempted to block.

🗓 Thursday, October 31: The House will vote to formalize the impeachment proceedings that Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a month ago. Wait, wasn’t her September announcement meant to “formalize” things? It’s a move, Russell Berman writes: Here’s what Pelosi was trying to push back on, and to head off.

Democrats will likely look to Tim Morrison, the first White House official to testify as part of the impeachment inquiry, for corroboration of Bill Taylor’s testimony on the quid-pro-quo question last week.

🗓 Friday, November 1: The president hosts another “Keep America Great” rally, this time in Mississippi.

Significant Figures


Greg Walden, Republican representative, Oregon, retiring after 11 terms: “Walden had risen to the top of the party hierarchy in the House,” Russell Berman writes. “Knowing how his decision would be perceived, Walden made a point of saying in his statement that he was ‘confident’ he would have won reelection and optimistic that Republicans could regain the House.”

Katie Hill, Democratic representative, California, resigning after 10 months in office. “Her decision came after she acknowledged last week that she had an “inappropriate” relationship with a campaign staffer,” Russell writes. “Though her district is trending Democratic, Republicans are likely to make an aggressive push to retake it in a special election.”

[Follow along with our full congressional retirement / resignation tracker here.]

John Kelly, the previous chief of staff: “Speaking at the Washington Examiner’s Sea Island Summit, Kelly took an implicit swipe at his embattled successor, Mick Mulvaney, by recounting a warning he said he offered the president as he left the job.” David Graham parses the noteworthy comments.

Tom Perez, Democratic National Committee chairman: Perez has what may be the most hated job in Washington—he’s mediating the largest presidential primary in modern American history while also building a political machine strong enough to take on Donald Trump when a nominee is chosen. How’s he doing?


(Amber Searls /  USA TODAY Sports / Reuters)

What happens when the president makes an appearance before a large crowd of people who weren’t screened? Things are not so friendly, as demonstrated at Game 5 of the World Series held at Nationals Park, our Ideas columnist Conor Friedersdorf writes.

Argument of the Day

(Matt Juriado / Getty)

Two Yale Law School students make a constitutional case for gun control:

When we urge the government to enact universal background checks, raise the legal age to purchase firearms from 18 to 21, and ban the sale of assault weapons, we are seeking to use the government’s regulatory authority—rather than, say, the arming of every schoolteacher—to defend ourselves and our children. That the gun-rights movement has somehow managed to monopolize the constitutional mantle of “self-defense” is as impressive a PR feat as it is absurd.

→ Read their full argument

+ More on the Second Amendment: “The Supreme Court’s Worst Decision of My Tenure,” by the late Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens, written a few months before his death in July. (From May 2019)

What Our Reporters Are Reading

Beto O’Rourke Has a $1.5 Trillion Climate Plan. Does It Stand Out? (Brentin Mock, CityLab)

Joe Biden Is the Least Formidable Front-runner Ever. Will It Matter? (Olivia Nuzzi, New York) (Paywall)

Warren’s Wealth Tax Isn’t The Slam Dunk Progressives Want It To Be (Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, FiveThirtyEight)

About us: The Atlantic’s politics newsletter is a daily effort from our politics desk. Today’s edition was written by Saahil Desai, with help from Christian Paz, and edited by Shan Wang.

You can reach us with questions, comments, or concerns anytime by replying directly to this email.

Your support makes our journalism possible. Subscribe here.