The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Day Two: Kavanaugh to spar with hostile Democrats




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Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court; Sarah Pitlyk, a former Kavanaugh law clerk; and former Florida Republican congressman Allen West.


Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh faced protests, confrontations with activists and demands that his confirmation hearing be shut down — all before he gave his opening remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

The Hill: Chaos reigns on day one.

The turbulence underscored the stakes during an election year. Kavanaugh, 53, is expected to become the fifth sitting justice nominated by a Republican president, potentially tipping the balance of the Supreme Court toward conservatives for a generation.

Democrats lack the votes to block him but will be unloading their full arsenal to appease the demands of a liberal base that views Kavanaugh as a direct threat to their agenda.

The second hearing on Wednesday figures to be even more explosive, as Democrats – including several with presidential ambitions – will make the most of their chance to cross-examine the man President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE has tapped to replace former Justice Anthony Kennedy.

A quick recap of day one…

> Here’s how Kavanaugh described his judicial philosophy:

“A judge must be independent and interpret the law, not make the law … a good judge must be an umpire, a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigant or policy … In each case I follow the law. I do not decide cases based on personal or policy preferences … if confirmed to the Supreme Court, I will keep an open mind in every case. I will do equal right to the poor and to the rich. I will always strive to preserve the Constitution of the United States and the American rule of law.” – Kavanaugh

Kavanaugh lavished praise on Kennedy, the court’s longtime swing vote, describing him as his “mentor and friend and hero.” He expressed gratitude to Justice Elena Kagan – appointed by former President Obama – for hiring him when she was dean at Harvard Law.

And Kavanaugh touted his record of hiring clerks from “diverse backgrounds and points of view.” He said a majority of the clerks he’d hired had been women and more than a quarter were minorities.

The Republicans on the panel described Kavanaugh as a family man with deep roots in the community and a wealth of experience on the bench. Kavanaugh has written more than 300 opinions and has a solid record of rulings being upheld by the Supreme Court.

> The Democrats accused the White House of withholding hundreds of thousands of documents pertaining to Kavanaugh’s time in former President George W. Bush’s White House.

They demanded the hearing be delayed to give them time to review the 42,000 documents that were released on Monday.

“I’m willing to wager there’s a smoking gun here.” – Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties Congressional leaders unite to fight for better future for America's children and families MORE (R-Iowa) argued that, "senators have had more than enough time ... to adequately assess Judge Kavanaugh's qualifications."

> The potential 2020 Democratic presidential contenders came out smoking. Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBooker campaign rakes in million after Harris exits 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Yang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations MORE (Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker campaign rakes in million after Harris exits 2020 race Sunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash MORE (N.J.) warned that Kavanaugh would be a rubber stamp for the Trump agenda, and serve as the president’s judicial safety net, should Trump wind up in legal jeopardy at the end of ongoing investigations.

The Democrats said having Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court would lead to dirty air and water, abortion being outlawed and civil rights being rolled back for gay people and minorities.

It seems so clear that, in your courts, the same folks seem to win over and over again: the powerful, the privileged, big corporations, special interests." – Booker

> Democrats were aided by a rowdy crowd of protesters, leading Sen. John CornynJohn CornynHillicon Valley: FTC rules Cambridge Analytica engaged in 'deceptive practices' | NATO researchers warn social media failing to remove fake accounts | Sanders calls for breaking up Comcast, Verizon Bipartisan senators call on FERC to protect against Huawei threats Giffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick MORE (R-Texas) to say that the hearing was being run by “mob rule.”

Nearly two-dozen people were removed from the room within the first hour. Pictures of protesters wearing costumes representing the characters from the Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale” went viral.



Actress Piper Perabo says she was arrested, and the father of a student who was killed in the February school shooting in Parkland, Fla., approached Kavanaugh, who appeared caught off guard as he left for a break in the middle of the day.

What to watch for on day two…

> Democrats will continue to seek the release of all of Kavanaugh’s records.

> Kavanaugh will be pressed to explain his views on abortion and whether he believes Roe v. Wade is settled law.

> Democrats will ask Kavanaugh to detail his views about whether a sitting president can be criminally investigated. He’ll also be asked to comment on recent tweets by the president, who has vented frustration that the Justice Department is prosecuting Republicans and not Democrats.

> Expect to hear a lot about civil rights, covering everything from gay marriage to whether hate-crime laws should be expanded.

> Democrats will look to steer the conversation toward hot-button election year issues that energize the left, including ObamaCare and the nation’s gun laws.


Elizabeth Price Foley: Democrats should blame themselves for Kavanaugh’s inevitable confirmation.

Julian Zelizer: Kavanaugh hearings ring the bell on midterm elections.

Molly Dorozenski: Kavanaugh would prioritize corporations over everyday Americans.

Harper, Lenkner, Re, Van Zile and Walker: Kavanaugh will follow in Justice Kennedy’s footsteps.




**** BREAKING OVERNIGHT: Rep. Michael CapuanoMichael (Mike) Everett CapuanoInside the progressive hunt for vulnerable House Democrats Progressive mayor launches primary challenge to top Ways and Means Democrat Ex-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm MORE (D-Mass.), a 20-year veteran of Congress, lost on Tuesday night in a primary to liberal challenger Ayanna Pressley, a 44-year-old African-American woman. The Hill’s Melanie Zanona and Lisa Hagen report: “Pressley seized on the progressive winds energizing the Democratic Party after 28-year-old and self-described democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat veteran Rep. Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyDemocrats work to bring labor on board trade deal The Democrats' generational battle Ocasio-Cortez apologizes for blocking ex-politician on Twitter, settles lawsuit MORE (N.Y.) in a Democratic primary earlier this summer.”

“This is a big wake-up call to any incumbent on the ballot in November.” – Mary Anne Marsh, a Boston-based Democratic strategist, to The New York Times.

The Associated Press: Pressley’s upset another win for fresh Democratic voices.


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward, in a new bestseller titled “Fear: Trump in the White House,” chronicles chaos, staff backbiting and exasperation with an undisciplined president who is unsophisticated and even cavalier about foreign policy decisions (The Washington Post).

Early coverage of Woodward’s 448-page book, to be in stores next week, referenced the author’s extensive interviews, government documents and contemporaneous notes from key meetings. The explosion created another public relations challenge for West Wing staff and some in Trump’s Cabinet (The Hill).

The Washington Post: White House strikes back at Woodward and his reporting.

Some attention-getting anecdotes from the book:

  • Trump wanted to assassinate Syrian President Bashar Assad following the deadly chemical weapons attack on the Syrian people last year;
  • The president lost his temper with his personal lawyer, John Dowd, during a disastrous mock interview intended to give Trump a feel for questions Mueller and his team might ask him as part of the Russia probe;
  • White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, in a moment of irritation, referred to Trump in the presence of colleagues as “unhinged” and an “idiot”;

Kelly, Mattis, Dowd and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued separate, carefully constructed statements on Tuesday pushing back against Woodward’s accounts.

"The contemptuous words about the president attributed to me … were never uttered by me or in my presence,” Mattis wrote. “While I generally enjoy reading fiction, this is a uniquely Washington brand of literature, and [Woodward’s] anonymous sources do not lend credibility.”

The president suggested the author may have timed the book’s publication to influence the midterm elections:



Woodward issued a statement saying he stood by his reporting, and appeared during a “CBS Evening News” interview on Tuesday to discuss it. He also released audio and a transcript of a telephone conversation with Trump in which they discussed Woodward’s unsuccessful efforts to interview the president for the book he spent a year researching.

Former Republican White House press secretary Ari Fleischer offered Woodward a note of support, referencing his own experience with the investigative journalist during George W. Bush’s administration.



> Russia probe: The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Mueller will accept written answers from Trump about whether his campaign conspired with Russia during the 2016 election. Mueller believes issues of executive privilege complicate pursuit of a presidential interview to ask about potential obstruction of the special counsel inquiry itself; he did not seek written responses from the president on that matter as part of a letter sent on Friday (The New York Times).

> White House counsel and federal judiciary: (The Hill) White House associate counsel Emmet Flood and outside attorney Pat Cipollone are experienced litigators reported to be among candidates who could succeed outgoing White House counsel Don McGahn. But some GOP influencers worry that either man would be less attuned to a conservative campaign to remake the federal judiciary during Trump’s presidency if the Russia probe and talk of possible articles of impeachment dominate West Wing attention.  


CONGRESS: Former Republican Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl will succeed John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMan acquitted over tweet offering 0 to killing an ICE agent Lessons of the Kamala Harris campaign Overnight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes cases MORE in the Senate through January, GOP Gov. Doug Ducey announced on Tuesday. Kyl, who departed the Senate in 2013 to work in the private sector, said he has not committed to serving beyond the current session of Congress (The Hill).

Cindy McCain commended the appointment of Kyl, who served with John McCain in Congress for two decades.



> National Democrats are urging Grant Woods, a former Arizona attorney general and former chief of staff to John McCain, to run for a Senate seat in the Grand Canyon State as a Democrat (The New York Times).

> Twitter and Facebook executives today expect rough questioning during House and Senate hearings focused on outside interference and manipulation on social media platforms, as well as accusations of political bias in companies’ search algorithms (The Hill) ... Google declined to send a top executive, angering Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike (Wired) … House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCNN Pelosi town hall finishes third in cable news ratings race, draws 1.6M Economy adds 266K jobs in November, blowing past expectations The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached MORE (R-Calif.) floated the idea of compelling Google testimony from its senior ranks with a subpoena (The Washington Times) … Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), called for greater oversight of major technology companies as Congress prepares to grill the tech executives (The Hill) … Facebook’s Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergTech finds surprise ally in Trump amid high-stakes tax fight FTC rules Cambridge Analytica engaged in 'deceptive practices' with Facebook data mining Hillicon Valley: Trump officials propose retaliatory tariffs over French digital tax | FBI classifies FaceApp as threat | Twitter revamps policies to comply with privacy laws | Zuckerberg defends political ads policy MORE presented his own take (again): Protecting democracy is an arms race and here’s how Facebook can help (The Washington Post).

> Trump once praised the concept of earmarks in spending bills – a practice eschewed by Republicans in Congress, but it’s congressional Democrats who are openly weighing a revival of directing federal dollars to specific appropriations, should the party win control of the House (The Hill). Earmarks earned a messy reputation in years past, but some congressional scholars believe the practice, within accepted parameters, could serve as useful lubricant for compromise on Capitol Hill.


POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: A new USA Today-Suffolk University poll gives the Democrats an 11-point advantage in the generic congressional ballot. A day earlier, a Washington Post-ABC News survey put the disparity at 14 points.

A double-digit lead heading into Election Day should be enough to deliver Democrats the House.

The Hill’s Reid Wilson interprets the rest of the data points lining up in favor of the Democrats: Trump’s approval rating is near the low part of its range. Voter enthusiasm favors Democrats. Private polling shared with GOP candidates is the worst many have seen.

The Hill: Signs grow for Dem wave in House race.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) released a memo on Tuesday taking a different view of the political landscape.

Communications director Matt Gorman said that NRCC will unload its war chest over the next two months, with $62 million in ad reservations across 11 states. He cited “resilient Republican incumbents,” “strong recruits” and a Democratic Party that has been “hijacked” by progressives as reasons why the GOP will buck history and maintain control of the House.

“In spite of history and conventional wisdom inside the Beltway, as it stands today, Republicans are well-positioned to maintain control of the House.” - Gorman

> The Hill’s Amie Parnes reports on how the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders are getting an earlier start than ever. Among those making early moves: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump Warren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Trump: Giuliani to deliver report on Ukraine trip to Congress, Barr MORE and Sens. Harris, Booker, Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax Warren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash MORE (Mass.).

The Hill: Dem presidential primary in full swing months before midterms.

More from the campaign trail … Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) will not run for a third term (Chicago Tribune) … Phil Bredesen wants to show a Democrat can win in Tennessee (The Hill) … Democrat Andrew Gillum leads Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantis FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Overnight Defense: Suspect in Pensacola shooting identified as Saudi aviation student | Trump speaks with Saudi king after shooting | Esper denies considering 14K deployment to Mideast Suspect in deadly Pensacola air station shooting a Saudi national MORE (R)  by 3 points in Florida’s gubernatorial race (Quinnipiac University) …  The National Rifle Association, which backed Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinStatesmen seek bipartisan solutions to big challenges Both sides have reason to want speedy Trump impeachment trial No one wins with pro-abortion litmus test MORE (D-W.Va.) in 2012, has released a new ad backing his Republican challenger Patrick Morrisey (YouTube) …  Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGinsburg health scare raises prospect of election year Supreme Court battle MSNBC's McCaskill: Trump used 'his fat thumbs' to try to intimidate Yovanovitch GOP senator rips into Pelosi at Trump rally: 'It must suck to be that dumb' MORE (D-Mo.) and Republican challenger Josh Hawley are locked in a dead heat (NBC News) … A Democratic poll shows indicted Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan Duane HunterDuncan Hunter announces plan to resign The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached House Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea MORE (R-Calif.) in jeopardy of losing his seat in what is typically a safe Republican district (Roll Call).


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


Trump is willing to destroy law and order to protect himself, by former federal prosecutor Michael J. Stern.

State Department gets its groove back under Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoForeign Relations Democrat calls on Iran to release other American prisoners Documentary groups challenge Trump administration's vetting of immigrants' social media Iran releases American graduate student in prisoner swap MORE,
by Jenna Lifhits, The Weekly Standard.


The House convenes at 10 a.m. The House Energy and Commerce Committee hears from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey about company’s algorithms and content monitoring.

The Senate begins work at noon and resumes consideration of the nomination of Elad L. Roisman to be a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Senate Judiciary Committee continues its consideration of Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh. The Senate Intelligence Committee hears testimony from executives from Facebook and Twitter about issues related to the influence of social media platforms.

The president will welcome the Amir of Kuwait and lead discussions with Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. Trump will meet with GOP congressional leaders at the White House today to discuss strategy for spending bills and the fall legislative agenda (The Hill).

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Pakistan on his way to New Delhi, for ministerial meetings in India along with Defense Secretary Mattis this week.

The U.S. Census Bureau releases the government’s report on the U.S. trade deficit in July. Analysts project a growing gap.


Invitation from The Hill: Sept. 12, newsmakers discuss “A Healthy Start: Infant and Early Childhood Nutrition,” featuring Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottOvernight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 House to vote next week on sweeping bill to lower drug prices Democrats press Trump officials over drop in ObamaCare signups amid website problems MORE (D-Va.), and Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Brandon Lipps from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Hill’s Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack kicks off a conversation about maternal, infant and early childhood nutrition, and progress toward the goal of healthier eating. RSVP HERE.


> Amazon, following Apple, reaches $1,000,000,000,000 in value

 (The New York Times).

> How Rudy Giuliani turned into Trump’s clown, by Jeffrey Toobin (The New Yorker).

> Trump said Nike sent a “terrible message” this week by making NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick one of the athletes who will represent the 30th anniversary of the company’s “Just Do It” campaign. The president spoke during an interview on Tuesday with The Daily Caller.


And finally … Woodward’s new book about the Trump White House and the administration’s rollercoaster policymaking is a reminder that experienced journalists are hip-deep in an unresolved debate about whether traditional techniques of covering the administration are damaging, and to whom.



> NBC News’s Chuck Todd writes that “it’s time for the press to stop complaining, and to start fighting back” (The Atlantic).

> CBS News’s Ted Koppel warns that Trump has drawn much of the news media into a “distortion” of traditional objectivity with a “horrifying sense of acceleration.” He writes: “The paradox of the Trump presidency is that its very sleaziness has reenergized American journalism, even while undermining it” (The Washington Post).

> Columnist Eugene Robinson believes news media “give far too much coverage to that dangerous nonsense” asserted by Trump that “fake news” outlets censor him and manipulate truth involving the president (The Washington Post).

> CNN’s Jake Tapper, nominated for two Emmy awards, including one for a live interview with White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayOvernight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 White House adopts confident tone after Pelosi signals go on impeachment Conway: Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping issue MORE (awards announced on Sept. 17), says Trump aides “want people like me to then get into the gutter and talk about who's guilty or who's not guilty. But I'll just say this, it's very clear that there are basic standards of truth and decency that have nothing to do with partisan politics that this president and his minions regularly violate and regularly abuse and cross” (NPR interview on “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross).