The Note: Alabama Senate race deepens GOP divide

THE TAKE with ABC News’ Rick Klein

It’s a given that President Trump won’t blame himself if Alabama voters go the way he doesn’t want today. He will probably declare victory anyway, whether or not he knows the winning candidate’s first name. The question becomes what he does with a loss. This endorsement was more about policy than politics – an unusual move in that it had the president keeping an eye on governing, not tending his base. If Roy Moore wins the GOP nomination for the Senate seat, it’s likely to further fray Trump’s relationship with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – both because McConnell went all-in to save Sen. Luther Strange, and because Moore is in line to become one more senator the leader can’t control. In a week of more legislative failures, punctuated by strike three on health care, Trump will become more prone to looking inward for what he can define as victories. Steve Bannon’s explanation for supporting Moore over the Trump-backed Strange is instructive: “We did not come here to defy Donald Trump,” Bannon said last night. “We came here to praise and honor him.”

SESSIONS’ SPEECH ON FREE SPEECH

The irony is lost on no one, especially not the faculty at the Georgetown Law Center, where Attorney General Jeff Sessions is slated to speak today on free speech. The attorney general is expected to argue that conservative voices are under attack and are at risk of being silenced by liberal teachers and student bodies. He will likely say it is wrong for college campuses to limit who can speak and where. His remarks, of course, will come just days after the president lobbed expletives at American athletes engaged in non-violent protests, and suggested they should be fired for acts of expression. It’s unfortunate timing for Sessions, who could come off as suggesting that, in the eyes of this administration, some Americans are more free to speak than others. The implication is that this White House is prioritizing the First Amendment rights of those who agree politically. Ahead of his remarks, more than 30 Georgetown professors felt compelled to write about what they see as the attorney general’s “hypocrisy,” citing past Justice Department efforts to prosecute dissenters: “This kind of government chilling of speech is precisely what the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is meant to prevent,” ABC News’ MaryAlice Parks notes.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • The third flameout for Republicans: After Sen. Susan Collins said she opposes the Graham-Cassidy bill, it appears Republicans will have to go the path of bipartisanship or use a new budget resolution.
  • Can Trump go 6 for 6? Republicans in Alabama make their choice between Trump-endorsed incumbent Luther Strange or Roy Moore, who is backed by Steve Bannon and Sarah Palin, in the GOP runoff primary. All polls close by 8 pm ET.
  • “Get me Roger Stone“: The longtime Trump ally will appear before the House Intelligence Committee, in a closed-door session, where he’s expected to deny collusion with Russia.
  • Health care, NFL protests, North Korea – all on the table for President Trump’s 1:45 p.m. ET news conference with Spanish President Mariano Rajo.
  • Trump is facing flak for his response to the crisis in Puerto Rico, where the island is without water or power.
  • The White House confirmed that at least six current and former administration officials (Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, Gary Cohn, Ivanka Trump, Reince Priebus and Stephen Miller, as first reported by The New York Times) occasionally used private email to conduct official business.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions gives remarks at 12 p.m. ET on free speech on college campuses at Georgetown University Law Center.
  • QUOTE OF THE DAY

    “If you want a hearing, you better shut up.” — Chairman Orrin Hatch to protesters at Monday’s Senate Finance Committee hearing

    NEED TO READ

    New ABC News/Washington Post poll: Two-thirds say large corporations pay too little in federal taxes. Cutting corporate taxes looks like a hard sell for Donald Trump and Republican Party leaders — a new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that 65 percent of Americans feel large corporations pay too little in taxes. Given what the public knows about it, they oppose Trump’s tax plan by 44-28 percent, with a substantial 28 percent undecided. http://abcn.ws/2y5xo1N

    Collins to vote “no” on Graham-Cassidy bill, likely dooming it. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced Monday that she will vote “no” on the Graham-Cassidy health care bill, becoming the third Republican to do so and likely dooming the GOP’s latest effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Collins joined Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rand Paul, R-Ky. http://abcn.ws/2xHncLM

    What to know about the Republican runoff for Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat. Today, Alabama Republicans will vote in a primary runoff for the Senate seat previously occupied by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A first round of voting failed to yield a majority for a single candidate. Now the top two candidates are competing for the GOP nomination in a race that has gained national prominence and become what some are calling a proxy war between the populist and establishment wings of the Republican Party. http://abcn.ws/2upGtkJ

    181 protesters arrested after disrupting Graham-Cassidy bill hearing. Protesters in wheelchairs were removed from a hearing on the Republican health care bill Monday afternoon after disrupting the session with chants of “No cuts to Medicaid! Save our liberty!” Eva Malecki, a spokeswoman for Capitol Police, said in a statement 181 protesters were arrested Monday afternoon. http://abcn.ws/2hswB47

    Republicans introduce conservative DACA fix that offers path to citizenship. Two Republican senators have introduced a new bill that addresses the status of hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers, potentially offering them a 15-year path to citizenship. The bill, known as the SUCCEED Act, would also prevent recipients from sponsoring family members, an attempt to address concerns from immigration hawks and President Trump. http://abcn.ws/2y4nBJs

    Supreme Court removes arguments on previous travel ban from calendar. After President Donald Trump issued a new proclamation Sunday prohibiting or limiting travel from eight countries, the United States Supreme Court removed cases related to the previous travel ban from its calendar. The arguments were scheduled to be heard on Oct. 10, after the Supreme Court ruled in June that the travel ban, with some exceptions, could be enforced until it returned to session this fall. http://abcn.ws/2yDwGpx

    Hillary Clinton calls Kushner email revelations “the height of hypocrisy.” The Huffington Post

    Chatting with a very relaxed Roger Stone, on the eve of his House Russia probe testimony. NY Magazine

    At least 6 White House advisers used private email accounts. The New York Times

    Source.