The Hill's Morning Report — Dems attack, but know they don’t have the votes on Kavanaugh

 

 

 

Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and happy Wednesday! Our daily email gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch, co-created by Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger. (CLICK HERE to subscribe!)

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m. features a newsy interview with Lanny Davis, who recently signed on to represent former Trump attorney Michael Cohen. Davis, who is an opinion contributor with The Hill, talks about the president, Rudy Giuliani, former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyEXCLUSIVE: Trump says exposing ‘corrupt’ FBI probe could be ‘crowning achievement’ of presidency Russia docs order sets Trump on collision with intel community Dem lawmaker jabs Trump call for transparency by asking for his tax returns MORE and the current investigative landscape. http://thehill.com/hilltv

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With President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE overseas, Vice President Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSanders hits Feinstein over Kavanaugh allegations: Now it’s clear why she did nothing for months On The Money: Senate approves 4B spending bill | China imposes new tariffs on billion in US goods | Ross downplays new tariffs: 'Nobody's going to actually notice' McConnell tamps down any talk of Kavanaugh withdrawal MORE (R-Ky.) and former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) — the designated Senate “sherpa” —  are guiding Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh around Capitol Hill in search of the 51 votes he needs for confirmation in the upper chamber.

Throughout the whirlwind day following Kavanaugh’s East Room debut, Senate Democrats faced an immovable fact: With only 49 seats in their caucus, they don’t have the votes to block the 53-year-old judge’s path to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

The Hill: Democrats grasp for way to stop Kavanaugh.

The Hill tracked down three Democratic senators who are seeking reelection in November in states Trump carried in 2016 — Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan senators unveil proposal to crack down on surprise medical bills The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh and his accuser will testify publicly MORE (Mo.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Kavanaugh controversy consumes Washington | Kavanaugh slated to testify Monday | Allegations shake up midterms Florida governor booed out of restaurant over red tide algae issues Juan Williams: America warms up to socialism MORE (Fla.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Memo: Kavanaugh firestorm consumes political world Kavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday MORE (N.D.). How will they vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination? Each went out of their way to avoid reporters’ questions, but one Democratic senator was blunt:

“We have to lower the expectations of our base. We can’t defeat the nominee on our own.” – a Democratic senator who requested anonymity.

Instead, the goal of the Democrats, according to reporting by The Hill’s Alexander Bolton, is to “inflict as much political damage on the GOP as possible ahead of the November midterm elections.”

Liberal voters want Democratic senators to do more than delay and create temporary hurdles for Trump and Republicans. But if the Senate majority works together, Democrats are boxed in.

“If they keep all their votes together, there’s nothing we can do.” – Senate Democratic aide, speaking on background.

The Republicans

The question marks are moderate Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGrassley: No reason to delay Kavanaugh hearing Dem senators back Kavanaugh accuser's call for FBI investigation CNN’s Brooke Baldwin on Ford: ‘Mr. President, refer to her by her name’ MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiProgressive group targets Collins, Murkowski after Kavanaugh allegation Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas GOP can't sweep Kavanaugh bombshell under the rug MORE (R-Alaska), both of whom support abortion rights and could be swing votes in the confirmation fight.

Collins has voted to confirm every Supreme Court nominee since she’s been in office, including Justices Neil Gorsuch, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Samuel Alito and John Roberts. She also voted to confirm Kavanaugh to the Court of Appeals in 2006. On Monday, she told reporters she’d consider Kavanaugh’s judicial “temperament” and “philosophy,” but also noted:

            “It will be very difficult for anyone to argue he’s not qualified.” – Collins.

The Boston Globe: Collins votes for GOP judicial nominees 99 percent of the time.

Murkowski cast votes for the same GOP Supreme Court nominees as Collins but opposed Democrats Kagan and Sotomayor. She also voted to confirm Kavanaugh to the Court of Appeals. Murkowski has not said much about her thinking thus far, and she can expect to be hounded like this until she does:

 

The Democrats

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHouse Dems push to delay Kavanaugh vote for investigation Democrats should end their hypocrisy when it comes to Kavanaugh and the judiciary Celebrities back both Cuomo and Nixon as New Yorkers head to primary vote MORE (D-N.Y.) and the Democrats opened a new line of attack on Tuesday, pointing to an article Kavanaugh wrote in 2009 in which he argued that it would “cripple” the federal government to pursue an indictment against a sitting president.

            “Why did the president stick with Kavanaugh? Because he's worried that Mr. Mueller will go to the court and ask that the president be subpoenaed. ... And President Trump knows that Kavanaugh will be a barrier to preventing that investigation from going there.” – Schumer

Other Democrats are demanding that Kavanaugh recuse himself from any future case pertaining to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation. This is all a long way down the road. But the special counsel’s investigation — both its findings and timing — complicate both parties’ political plotting through the fall.  

The Hill: Democrats use Mueller probe to attack Kavanaugh.

More immediately, Democrats say Kavanaugh will be the court’s deciding vote in undoing Roe v. Wade. Kavanaugh has stated that he views the landmark abortion rights case as settled law, but Democrats will demand that he give his personal opinion on the ruling.

That’s what Pence did in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, who asked the vice president if he believes Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

            “I do.” – Pence.

The Hill: Democrats build abortion case against Kavanaugh.

The Hill: Conservatives and liberals agree - nominee a pivotal vote on abortion.

Schumer and Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight Hillary Clinton: FBI investigation into Kavanaugh could be done quickly Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, will be combing through Kavanaugh’s opinions, looking to slow the process and push it beyond the midterm elections.

That’s unlikely to happen, although Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight Grassley: No reason to delay Kavanaugh hearing Dem senators back Kavanaugh accuser's call for FBI investigation MORE (R-Iowa) has acknowledged the challenges of pushing through a nominee with such an extensive record.

 

 

Grassley expects panel hearings around Labor Day and a confirmation vote sometime later in September.

But the real heat on the Democratic side is on the 10 Democrats up for reelection in states Trump carried in 2016.

Of these 10, five are on the record from the Gorsuch vote, with Heitkamp and Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Memo: Kavanaugh firestorm consumes political world Kavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday MORE (W.Va.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyThe Memo: Kavanaugh firestorm consumes political world Kavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday MORE (Ind.) voting in favor and McCaskill and Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterCBS Poll: Missouri, Montana Senate races in dead heats Dems play waiting game with Collins and Murkowski Watchdog groups to file complaint against Montana candidate alleging coordination with NRA MORE (Mont.) voting against.

On to the next 24 hours…

 

LEADING THE DAY

INTERNATIONAL: Trump is in Belgium and will be in the United Kingdom this week, followed by Finland on Monday. As Western leaders gathered today in Brussels for a NATO summit, the president urged Germany to end its energy reliance on Russia, and he made clear that the United States wants Europeans to foot more of the bill for their own defense (Reuters).

    “Germany, as far I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia ... Germany is totally controlled by Russia.” – Trump.

In that startling outburst this morning, Trump told NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that Germany was wrong to support a new $11-billion Baltic Sea pipeline to import Russian gas while being slow to meet targets for contributing to NATO defense geared toward protecting Europe from Russia.

Trump’s theme: The limits of America’s support (The Hill).

 

Later this week in the United Kingdom, planned anti-Trump demonstrations will force the president to try to avoid downtown London when he meets with Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth II, before he journeys to Scotland, where he owns a golf course. Trump predicted that the easiest leg of his trip might be with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.

> Queen Elizabeth has a military parade planned at Windsor Castle for the president (The Associated Press).

As he departed the White House Tuesday with first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Kavanaugh controversy consumes Washington | Kavanaugh slated to testify Monday | Allegations shake up midterms The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh and his accuser will testify publicly The Hill's 12:30 Report — East coast braces for Florence | Trump, Pence mark 9/11 anniversary MORE, the president signaled he was ready to rumble all this week, taking aim at the politically vulnerable May, noting the “turmoil” in her government. Trump told reporters it is “up to the people” whether May remains in power, and he complimented her chief rival, Boris Johnson, who quit this week as foreign secretary, The Chicago Tribune reported. Some European diplomats privately predict calamity.

The Hill: Trump is deeply unpopular in the United Kingdom, has a tense relationship with May and an outright bad one with London Mayor Sadiq Khan. The president’s visit to the U.K. could be choppy.

The U.S. Embassy in London issued an alert on Tuesday to Americans in the British capital, warning them to keep a low profile during Trump’s upcoming visit in case protests against him turn violent.

Reuters: May won support from many of her ministers on Tuesday after two top Cabinet members quit. They assailed her Brexit plan as too half-hearted. Nonetheless, May is sticking with her plan for a “business friendly” Brexit.

The Associated Press: May seeks to stem Cabinet exodus over Brexit.

>  The first lady brought her “Be Best” child-welfare campaign to Europe as a diplomatic accessory during the president’s trip, and she has an itinerary of her own (The New York Times).

China – tariffs: The administration on Tuesday threatened tariffs applied to another $200 billion in Chinese goods, ratcheting up a trade war between the two countries (Bloomberg). As expected, China on Wednesday vowed retaliation, calling the new U.S. threat “totally unacceptable” (The Associated Press).

> Beijing unveiled ways to help Chinese firms absorb U.S. tariffs, pledging to funnel money collected from levies to firms and workers, The Washington Post reports. Chinese officials are also encouraging businesses to wean themselves from reliance on American goods by shifting orders for products such as soybeans and automobiles to suppliers in China and other countries.

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IMMIGRATION: The Trump administration missed a deadline on Tuesday to reunite approximately 75 children under the age of 5 with their parents after the families had been separated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for trying to cross into the country illegally.

The administration said it expected about 50 of the families to be reunited by the deadline and sought to underscore the difficulty it was having tracking down parents, running criminal background checks and finding and moving individuals that have been scattered across the country.

Once reunited with their children, the parents will still have to wind their way through the immigration courts, sometimes wearing ankle bracelets over the course of a process that can take years.

The Associated Press: Reunited immigrant children scooped up into parents’ arms.

The government said it had found some instances in which the families could not be reunited because the parents have criminal backgrounds; the adults claiming to be the parents did not have matching DNA with the children; and in at least one instance, because of credible allegations of child abuse.

But the federal judge who set the July 10 deadline for reuniting the youngest children with their families scolded the Trump administration for not moving fast enough.

“These are firm deadlines; they are not aspirational goals. I would like the process to continue as expeditiously as it has been with paramount focus on the children’s welfare.” – U.S. District judge Dana Sabraw.

The administration faces a much greater task in trying to meet a July 26 deadline of reuniting all children over the age of 5 who have been separated from their parents. There are an estimated 2,000 of these.

Bloomberg: Immigration deadline for reuniting families remains, judge says.

When asked on Monday for his reaction to missing the deadline on child reunions, the president responded:

            “I have a solution. Tell people not to come to our country illegally.” – Trump.

 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

INVESTIGATIONS: ***BREAKING LAST NIGHT***... Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who exchanged anti-Trump text messages with her lover, FBI agent Peter Strzok, leading up to the 2016 election, is refusing to comply with a subpoena from Congress compelling her to testify behind closed doors today.

Page’s lawyer Amy Jeffress said in a statement that the House did not give her client enough information or time to prepare for the interview (CNN).

"We have asked the Committees to schedule another date that would allow sufficient time for her to prepare. The Committees have not honored this request. As a result, Lisa is not going to appear for an interview at this time." - Jeffress.

Strzok is scheduled to testify at a highly-anticipated open hearing tomorrow. Page’s refusal escalates a bitter feud between the FBI and House Republicans and will force new action from House Judiciary chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteVirginia reps urge Trump to declare federal emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence Republicans mull new punishments for dissident lawmakers Republicans ready to grill Bruce Ohr as Trump-DOJ feud escalates MORE (R-Va.), who issued the subpoena.

    We will use all tools at our disposal to obtain her testimony. Americans across the country are alarmed at the bias exhibited by top officials at the Justice Department and FBI, and it is imperative Congress conduct vigorous oversight to ensure that never happens again.” - Goodlatte.

CONGRESS & POLITICS: Democratic congressional candidate and self-described democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be the hottest ticket in town when she arrives on Capitol Hill next week. The Hill’s Melanie Zanona reports on how party leaders and lawmakers are thrilled at the prospect of having a new political rock star join their ranks, even if she’s also run into some resistance from the old guard (The Hill).

> Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanRussia docs order sets Trump on collision with intel community The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh and his accuser will testify publicly Jordan says FBI used 'crushing power of the state' to probe Trump campaign based on dossier MORE (R-Ohio) is getting more support from past students and from GOP leadership as he fights back against accusations that he ignored allegations of sexual assault while he was a wrestling coach at Ohio State University in the 1980s and 1990s.

Fourteen wrestlers have joined a half-dozen former coaches in refuting the claims against Jordan (The Hill). House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil GOP: The economy will shield us from blue wave Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker MORE (R-Calif.) and House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseOn The Money: Senate approves 4B spending bill | China imposes new tariffs on billion in US goods | Ross downplays new tariffs: 'Nobody's going to actually notice' Scalise tells Canada: Make a deal on trade or be left behind GOP: The economy will shield us from blue wave MORE (R-La.) have also come to Jordan’s defense (The Hill). The Freedom Caucus is “100 percent” behind him. Despite the allegations, Jordan is not ruling out running to be the next GOP leader (The Hill).

> There are more than 500 bills that have stalled in the Senate, despite many of them having been passed in a bipartisan manner in the House, The Hill’s Juliegrace Brufke reports. McConnell has canceled most of August recess so the Senate can continue working through the president’s judicial nominations, but is unlikely to take up the backlog of bills (The Hill).

From the campaign trail … Democratic House candidate Danny O’Conner is modeling himself after Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) in trying to flip a seat Republicans have held for nearly two decades (The Hill) … Concerned Veterans for America, a group associated with the Koch Network, is targeting Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinPoll: Democrats inch forward in Wisconsin Primary turnout soars in 2018 with Dems leading charge Senate rankings: 10 seats most likely to flip MORE (D-Wis.) over her record on veterans with a new ad buy that is close to $1 million (YouTube) … The Republican National Committee is closing in on a deal that would take its 2020 convention to Charlotte, N.C. (The Wall Street Journal).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley jeasley@thehill.com & Alexis Simendinger asimendinger@thehill.com. Suggestions? Tips? We want to hear from you! Share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!

 

OPINION

President Trump attacks symptom but not the disease in prescription drug prices, by Dr. Robert Goldberg, opinion contributor with The Hill. https://bit.ly/2umnOU6

Red-state Democrats will vote on Supreme Court pick, to stay alive, by Lloyd Green, opinion contributor with The Hill. https://bit.ly/2uazJox

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 10 a.m. and begins legislative business at noon.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Brian Benczkowski to be assistant attorney general. At noon, senators will move to consider the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act of 2019.

The president had breakfast this morning in Brussels with NATO’s Stoltenberg, then participated in NATO’s afternoon summit discussions. Trump will engage in “pull aside” conversations separately today with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. Trump and the first lady attend a leaders’ working dinner tonight.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Brussels for the NATO meeting, and while there will participate in the U.S.-EU Energy Council, and co-hosts a meeting of foreign ministers of the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

ELSEWHERE

> Americans in greater numbers quit their jobs as market confidence surges (Bloomberg).

> NFL players’ union files grievance over new anthem policy (Yahoo News).

> 10 of the most expensive cities in which to live nowadays are in Hawaii, California, Massachusetts, New York, Alaska, Oregon, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Jersey (CNBC). No surprise, you say? Sobering fact: In San Francisco, the average price of a home is nearly $1.2 million and average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $4,000 a month.

> Soccer: ⚽ The FIFA World Cup semifinal match on Wednesday afternoon features Croatia v. England. The winner faces France in the Sunday final at 11 a.m. …Tennis: Seven-time champion Serena Williams, 36, advanced to the Wimbledon semifinals with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory on Tuesday over Camila Giorgi of Italy. Williams will next play Julia Görges from Germany on Thursday (The Guardian).

THE CLOSER

And finally … a happy ending after three days of rescue operations in Thailand. As everyone on the planet knows by now, a dozen boys and their coach were freed after being found trapped in flooded caves in an ordeal that lasted more than two weeks. The people of Thailand — and around the world — greeted the news with joy. The boys were recovering at a nearby hospital and were asking for family members, friends, chocolate, and favorite home-cooked meals. It took an international village of volunteers, divers, engineers and hyperbaric experts to save 13 lives, and along the way, volunteer former Thai navy SEAL Sgt. Major Saman Kunan lost his. RIP.