The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Steady Kavanaugh proves to be a tough target for Democrats




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Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features former White House Press Secretary Sean SpicerSean Michael SpicerFormer White House aide who mocked McCain joins pro-Trump super PAC Former Auburn coach to run for Senate in Alabama Five things we know about Dems' sprawling Trump probe MORE, discussing the Trump White House (and his book, “The Briefing: Politics, the Press and the President”).


Democrats took their best shots at President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg on Mueller report: 'Politically, I'm not sure it will change much' Sarah Sanders addresses false statements detailed in Mueller report: 'A slip of the tongue' Trump to visit Japan in May to meet with Abe, new emperor MORE’s Supreme Court nominee on Wednesday but Brett Kavanaugh appears to be on course to be the next associate justice, possibly in time for the high court’s start on the first Monday in October.

Wednesday’s hearing was once again punctuated by countless protester disruptions. The Capitol Police charged 73 people with unlawful demonstration activities.

But Democrats were restrained, despite fury from the liberal base that Senate leaders aren’t doing enough to try to derail Kavanaugh’s nomination.

The Hill: Dems switch tactics on second day of hearings.

The Hill: Liberals fed up with Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage Former FBI official praises Barr for 'professional' press conference Pelosi: Barr press briefing a 'staggering partisan effort' MORE’s Supreme Court playbook.

A quick roundup of where things stand:

> Democrats focused heavily on whether Kavanaugh believes a sitting president should be open to civil and criminal charges, with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a former state attorney general, describing Trump as “an unindicted co-conspirator” in the Russian interference campaign around the 2016 election.

Kavanaugh has argued in the past that charges should be delayed until a president has left office or has been removed through the impeachment process, but said that he would review every case with fresh eyes.

Kavanaugh cited 9/11 as the impetus for his perspective, saying that working for then-President George W. Bush made him realize that the president should be unencumbered by outside legal pressures to be able to concentrate on national security.

Democrats have said that may be one of the reasons why Trump picked Kavanaugh.

On Wednesday, Kavanaugh declined to answer hypothetical questions about whether a president can pardon himself or if a president could pardon others in circumstances of presidential legal jeopardy.

And he declined to say whether he’d recuse himself from any case brought before the Supreme Court dealing with Trump’s legal issues.

            “I think that tone of not getting us involved in politics means I need to stay not just away from the line but three zip codes away from the line of current events or politics.” – Kavanaugh

However, the appellate court judge cited U.S. v. Nixon, the 1974 Supreme Court ruling that forced then-President Nixon to turn over tapes and documents from the Watergate investigation, as one of the “greatest moments in Supreme Court history.”

Kavanaugh said that ruling showed the Supreme Court could operate independently during a “crisis moment.” Kavanaugh insisted that he was not arguing that a president would have blanket immunity from crimes he may have committed in office.

“No one is above the law. That is just such a foundational element of the Constitution.” – Kavanaugh

Reuters: Kavanaugh evasive on scope of presidential powers.

> Roe v. Wade was the other Supreme Court ruling hanging over Wednesday’s hearing, as Democrats have warned a conservative-leaning court would be eager to reverse the landmark abortion rights case.

Kavanaugh, who wrote a book used by law professors to teach the importance of precedent, described Roe and a follow-up case that confirmed the ruling as “precedent upon precedent.”

He said Roe has been “reaffirmed many times” and that he believes the matter to be “settled law.”

    “When you talk about respect for precedent it’s misleading because there are ways to say you are relying on precedent … but still severely limit a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices.” – Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Dems introduce bill to tackle 'digital divide' Overnight Energy: Collins receives more donations from Texas oil, gas industry than from Maine residents | Interior chief left meetings off schedule | Omar controversy jeopardizes Ocasio-Cortez trip to coal mine MORE (D-Hawaii)

> Several Democrats sought to cast Kavanaugh as a far-right political operative. But with more than 30 minutes allotted to each senator, the lines of inquiry meandered, and Kavanaugh never appeared rattled or on the ropes.

Democrats pressed Kavanaugh on his contacts with a GOP Senate aide who resigned in 2004 after being accused of stealing Democratic emails. They sought to tie Kavanaugh to the conservative Federalist Society, which has been advising Trump on his judicial nominations.

And they questioned whether Kavanaugh had been truthful about his role in a Bush-era detention policy. Kavanaugh stood by his previous testimony, saying he was “not involved” in “questions about the rules governing detention of combatants.”

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris: Integrity of US justice system 'took a real blow' with Barr's actions Sanders announces first endorsements in South Carolina Poll: Buttigieg surges into contention with Biden, Sanders MORE (D-Calif), a potential 2020 presidential candidate, didn’t get her first crack at Kavanaugh until late last night. Harris, the former attorney general of California, accused Kavanaugh of having once used a term in an editorial that has been adopted by white supremacists, and she focused on the gender dynamics inherent in abortion rights.

She insinuated that the judge may have had an inappropriate conversation about special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE with one of Trump’s allies at a law firm. Over the course of an eight-minute exchange that was interrupted by protesters and an objection from Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeDems sound alarm over top DOJ nominee Restore Pell Grant eligibility to people in prison Former Democratic aide pleads guilty to doxing GOP senators attending Kavanaugh hearing MORE (R-Utah), Harris was not more specific, and Kavanaugh would not say whether he knew anyone at the law firm. Perhaps Harris is sitting on something she will return to today.

TAKEAWAY: Kavanaugh was steady throughout the marathon session. He will return for another long day on Thursday. Republicans are sticking together and can propel the nomination through committee and through the full Senate with their 51-49 majority. It’s likely that one or more red-state Democrats will join Republicans in bolstering Kavanaugh’s final tally. Schumer on Wednesday was able to force the Senate to adjourn as a way to protest Kavanaugh’s proceeding, but in the minority, Democrats possess few tools to block Trump’s nominee.  

The Associated Press: Kavanaugh faces final round of questioning without missteps.




WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Editors at The New York Times in charge of op-eds made the unusual decision on Wednesday to publish an essay critical of Trump and his administration, written by a senior administration official, but under a protective cloak of anonymity. The president and his team cried foul, calling on the unnamed “coward” to resign (The New York Times).

On social media, the piece was both hailed and skewered. It also inspired legions of armchair detectives on the hunt for the author, reminiscent of pre-Twitter sleuths in 1996 who homed in on journalist Joe Klein as the “anonymous” creator of “Primary Colors,” a bestselling, barely fictionalized takedown about West Wing denizens during the Clinton years.

The world’s most influential newspaper offered safe harbor to a government official to vent his or her anonymous critiques, similar to background quotes published almost daily in the company’s news pages: “Many of the senior officials in [Trump’s] own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations … There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first” (The New York Times).

Two key questions: Will Washington ever know who wrote the essay? And how long and to what extent will Trump and his aides try to identify the writer, masked to protect his or her job?

What’s known and unknown: The Times’s opinion editor declined to identify the writer’s gender (CNN Money); the essayist knew how to approach opinion editors through an intermediary; he or she is not part of Trump’s base, warns of the president’s “erratic behavior,” and instead admires the late Sen. McCain. The writer disapproves of Trump’s equivocation about Russia and was privy to the president’s discussions about Moscow. He or she values international alliances, hails bipartisan compromise and laments political tribalism. And the author celebrates the administration’s economic initiatives, including lower taxes and less regulation.

David Frum: This is a constitutional crisis.

Congressional Research Service: Presidential disability: An Overview. The 25th Amendment.

> Trump remained busy on Wednesday issuing dismissals and criticisms of investigative journalist Bob Woodward’s book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” for sale in stores next week. The president denied suggesting the assassination of Syrian President Bashar Assad, as reported (The Hill), and Trump repeated denials from White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE and Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump learns to love acting officials Shanahan says he's 'never favored' Boeing as acting Defense chief Trump moves to install loyalists MORE (both reported to have vented that the president was ill-informed and unwilling to get up to speed on issues) (The Hill).

> Meanwhile, Mattis, who is in India this week, juggled a report that the White House senior staff is assessing potential candidates in case the Defense secretary leaves the Pentagon soon (The Washington Post). Asked by reporters if he plans to replace Mattis, Trump responded, “He's doing a fantastic job as secretary….I think he’s a terrific person. … He’ll stay."

> Criminal justice reform: (The Hill) Celebrity Kim Kardashian West visited the White House on Wednesday to discuss proposed prison and sentencing reforms with administration officials. Having helped persuade Trump in June to commute the life sentence of former inmate Alice Johnson, Kardashian West returned as a guest to discuss potential improvements in the clemency process, which Trump is utilizing largely devoid of extensive input from the Justice Department. Others in the conversation included CNN host Van Jones, Federalist Society President Leonard Leo, and retired Judge Kevin Sharp.




POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Trump is back on the trail today with an event in Billings, Mont., to support Republican Senate candidate Matt Rosendale, who is challenging Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) Tester20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall Overnight Energy: Bipartisan Senate group seeks more funding for carbon capture technology | Dems want documents on Interior pick's lobbying work | Officials push to produce more electric vehicle batteries in US Bipartisan senators want 'highest possible' funding for carbon capture technology MORE (D-Mont.) in a state the president carried by more than 20 points in 2016 (The Billings Gazette).

Vice President Pence will be in central Florida on behalf of Gov. Rick Scott (R), who is running neck-and-neck with Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonTrump administration renews interest in Florida offshore drilling: report Dem reps say they were denied access to immigrant detention center Ex-House Intel chair: Intel panel is wrong forum to investigate Trump's finances MORE (D-Fla.) in one of the hottest Senate races of the cycle (The Palm Beach Post). A new poll shows Scott and Nelson running in a dead heat (Quinnipiac University).

Former President Obama, meanwhile, is gearing up for his big return to the trail. Obama has stops planned in California and Ohio in the coming days (The New York Times).

Former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaThe Hill's Morning Report — Category 5 Mueller storm to hit today Warren praises Ocasio-Cortez in Time 100 Beyoncé in 'Time 100' profile: Michelle Obama empowers black Americans MORE is also back on the scene, hosting events in Las Vegas, Atlanta and Miami later this month for When We All Vote, a group with star-studded co-chairs, including Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monae, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.

And there’s another big name entering the political fray – Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has made his first political donation, giving $10 million to a Super PAC that works to get veterans elected to office (The Washington Post).

A roundup from the states…

> Massachusetts: Democrat Ayanna Pressley's stunning victory over Rep. Michael CapuanoMichael (Mike) Everett CapuanoHillary Clinton celebrates Indivisible founders' inclusion on Time 100 list Progressive Dem lays into party over new policy: I'm really disappointed Progressives hammer DCCC over blacklist targeting primary challenges MORE (D) in a primary on Tuesday is the latest sign of a Democratic Party in turmoil against its own establishment (The Hill).

> Delaware: Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Koch network launches ad campaign opposing Trump's proposed gas tax Big Dem names show little interest in Senate MORE (D) faces a primary challenge tonight against Kerri Evelyn Harris. Could he be the next white, male, elder politician to go down? (The Hill).

> North Carolina: A U.S. court says the 2018 midterm elections in the Tarheel State must proceed as planned even though GOP maps were drawn illegally to give Republicans a political advantage (Reuters).

> Arizona: The late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Democrats need a 'celebrity' candidate — and it's not Biden or Sanders Juan Williams: The high price of working for Trump MORE’s (R) former chief of staff is considering running for Senate as a Democrat in the 2020 special election (The Washington Post).

> Indiana: Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellySome in GOP fear Buttigieg run for governor Paul Ryan joins University of Notre Dame faculty GOP senator issues stark warning to Republicans on health care MORE (D-Ind.) leads Republican Mike Braun 49 percent to 43 percent in a new poll (NBC News).


CONGRESS: Tech companies: Many listened carefully on Wednesday during testimony by Twitter and Facebook executives to gauge whether the GOP-led Congress intended to seek legislative remedies for what some lawmakers see as political bias, as well as risks of outside manipulation of information on platforms.

But instead of lambasting the companies, lawmakers from both parties agreed that Facebook and Twitter had recognized the problem of foreign influence on their platforms and were engaging more with Congress (The New York Times). The lawmakers concurred with the companies that the responsibility to root out foreign interference on social media requires government help.

The Hill: Recap of House Energy and Commerce and Senate Intelligence answers from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s No. 2 executive, Sheryl Sandberg.

It was the executive branch that announced some action on Wednesday. The Department of Justice said it will convene a meeting with state attorneys general to explore whether social media companies are “intentionally stifling” free speech (The Hill).

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMueller report shows how Trump aides sought to protect him and themselves Trump: 'I could have fired everyone' on Mueller team if I wanted to Five takeaways from Mueller's report MORE, who has been under heavy fire from the president over his recusal from the Russia probe and his arm’s-length from the White House when it comes to management of the department, said the administration will talk with state officials this month about a “growing concern” that tech companies may be “intentionally stifling” the free flow of ideas on their platforms.

It remains unclear what steps Congress or the Justice Department could take beyond jawboning that will impact how Twitter, Facebook, Google and other private information platforms operate, especially in light of their international reach.

> Jurisdiction: House Republicans disagreed about how to handle the tech executives on Wednesday. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyWatchdog: Custodial staff alleged sexual harassment in lawmakers' offices John Legend, Chrissy Teigen lash out at Trump at Dem retreat Republicans call for ex-Trump lawyer Cohen to be referred to DOJ MORE (R-Calif.), who wants to be Speaker, infuriated conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus when a hearing with Dorsey went to the Energy and Commerce Committee instead of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where a number of conservative members sit. McCarthy says it wasn’t his call (The Hill).

The Hill: Twitter chief faces GOP anger over bias at hearings.

> `Crazy people’: Florida Republican Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFreedom to Compete Act would benefit many American workers Booker, Harris have missed most Senate votes Dems say attorney general undermined credibility with Trump talking point MORE, standing outside the Senate Intelligence Committee room on Wednesday, clashed with Infowars conspiracy monger Alex Jones when he touched the senator’s shoulder (The Hill). Irritated about news media interest focused on the discredited Jones, Rubio told CNN producer Ted Barrett and others, “I know you’ve got to cover them, but you give these guys way too much attention. We’re making crazy people superstars. So, we’re going to get crazier people.”

> Amazon’s Bezos, during an intriguing Forbes magazine interview, described his company’s market size as “unconstrained” One Forbes takeaway: If you study the skills Amazon is currently learning, you'll have a fair idea of what it will soon be selling. And right now Bezos is learning about healthcare.”

> Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersButtigieg says he wouldn't be opposed to having Phish play at his inauguration Sanders announces first endorsements in South Carolina Poll: Buttigieg surges into contention with Biden, Sanders MORE (I-Vt.) has assailed Amazon’s executives and operations and defended its employees for months. This week, he introduced the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act, or the Stop BEZOS Act, to underscore his points (Fox Business). Amazon has denied the senator’s assertions about poor working conditions and low pay.

> Spending bills: (The Hill) Trump on Wednesday said he does not “expect” a federal government shutdown at the end of the month as a byproduct of any impasse between the two parties over keeping the government funded in the new fiscal year. Trump met at the White House with GOP lawmakers to discuss a strategy leading up to a funding deadline on Sept. 30. Reversing a previously stated position, the president told The Daily Caller during an interview over the weekend that he doesn’t like “the idea” of shutdowns and wants to work to avoid one before the November elections. He says he still wants funding for the wall, but Senate GOP leaders say that discussion will resume after the midterms (The Hill).

> House – tax cuts 2.0: (The Hill) House GOP leaders want lawmakers to vote on a second tax-cut measure this month in an effort to give conservative lawmakers additional selling points to tout to voters before November. House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFEC filing: No individuals donated to indicted GOP rep this cycle The Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday Paul Ryan joins University of Notre Dame faculty MORE (R-Wis.) said on Wednesday he favors permanently extending individual tax changes enacted in December, which were deliberately made temporary. Those provisions were intended to comply with rules that made it possible to get a bill through the Senate with a simple-majority vote. Still, some Republicans have doubts about whether this is the right move for the party ahead of the midterms (The Hill).

> Senate Armed Services panel: (The Hill) Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain Inhofe Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Overnight Defense: Senators show skepticism over Space Force | Navy drops charges against officers in deadly collision | Trump taps next Navy chief Senators show deep skepticism on Space Force proposal MORE (R-Okla.) was officially selected on Wednesday to succeed McCain as chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee at least until January. He’s been acting chairman since last year.

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!


How Democrats could fumble their shot at winning the House majority, by former Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelDemocrats should not allow Republicans to define them An uncertain view from Israel Is President Trump a relentless character on Game of Thrones? MORE (D-N.Y.), opinion contributor for The Hill.

Senators should seize the John McCain moment, by former Sen. Paul G. Kirk Jr. (D-Mass.), opinion contributor for The Hill.


The House convenes at 10 a.m.

The Senate begins work at noon.

The president midday will join a Rosh Hashanah telephone call with Jewish leaders and rabbis from the Oval Office. Then he travels to Billings, Mont., to participate in a political roundtable with supporters and headline a political rally. Trump will remain in Montana overnight.

Pence travels to central Florida to address guests at a political luncheon and also participates in a political fundraiser and a separate fundraising dinner for Republican Gov. Scott, who is running for the Senate. The vice president returns to Washington, D.C., tonight.

Secretary of State Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mattis are in New Delhi for the inaugural India 2+2 ministerial dialogue that begins today. They are scheduled to meet with their counterparts there about diplomatic and security priorities.


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 ScottLabor Department official steps down amid ethics questions: report The Congressional Black Caucus: America stands to lose a lot under TrumpCare House passes Paycheck Fairness Act 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.



> Washington, D.C., taxes climb on Oct. 1 (WTOP). Here’s a list: The city’s tax applied to a ride-hail service, such as Uber or Lyft, soars from 1 percent to 6 percent; the cigarette tax jumps from $2.94 per pack to $4.94 per pack; the city’s general sales tax goes from 5.75 percent to 6 percent; off-premises alcohol tax (for beer, wine and liquor bought at stores) rises from 10 percent to 10.5 percent; vehicle rental tax will increase from 10 percent to 10.25 percent; and the hotel tax rate will go from 14.8 percent to 14.95 percent, but apply only to bookings made Oct. 1 or later.

> Pakistan: Secretary Pompeo made his first visit to Pakistan this week to meet with newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan in an effort to reset relations between the two countries (The Associated Press). Pompeo was there on his way to ministerial meetings in India.

> NAFTA: The U.S. and Canada on Thursday will resume discussions about the North American Free Trade Agreement, facing a deadline at the end of the month. Among key issues still to be hashed out: Canadian dairy, the sunset clause and investor-state rules (The Hill).


And finally … It’s Thursday, which means we have another Morning Report QUIZ CONTEST, drawn from recent headlines. This is a chance to win some newsletter fame on Friday by sending your best guesses to or (and please put “Quiz” in your subject line).

On this day in 1848, Frederick Douglass convened the National Convention of Black Freemen in Cleveland, Ohio, one of the first major gatherings of black political leaders in the United States.

One hundred and seventy years later, after the election of America’s first black president, we’re watching a breakthrough season for African-American candidates running for office, particularly on the Democratic side, where black candidates have achieved stunning upsets of longtime House members and won primaries to run for governor in key states.

On Tuesday night, Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), a 44-year-old African-American woman, defeated 20-year Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) in a primary. Elsewhere, Democrats Stacey Abrams (Ga.), Andrew Gillum (Fla.) and Ben Jealous (Md.) are seeking to become the first-ever black governors of their respective states.

Let’s test your knowledge about African-American political history:

How many African-Americans have been elected governor of a state in U.S. history?

  1. 2
  2. 6
  3. 14
  4. 8

The first black lawmakers elected to Congress belonged to which party?

  1. National Convention of Black Freemen
  2. The Republican Party
  3. The National Union Party
  4. The Democratic Party

Who was the first black woman to be elected to the Senate?

  1. Kamala Harris
  2. Carol Moseley Braun
  3. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonBipartisan group asks DHS, ICE to halt deportations of Iraqi nationals Lawmakers introduce bill to create women's history Smithsonian Dem lawmakers unveil Journalist Protection Act amid Trump attacks on media MORE
  4. Shirley Chisholm

This state has never elected an African American governor but it has elected more minority governors than any other. Which state is it?

  1. California
  2. New York
  3. New Mexico
  4. Hawaii

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottGOP senators dismiss Booker reparations proposal On The Money — Presented by Job Creators Network — GOP senators urge Trump not to nominate Cain | Treasury expected to miss Dem deadline on Trump tax returns | Party divisions force Dems to scrap budget vote | House passes IRS reform bill GOP senators urge Trump not to pick Cain for Fed MORE (R-S.C.) is one of three African-Americans presently in the Senate. Scott once represented South Carolina’s 1st District in the House, which was also the launching point for which notable African-American politician?

  1. Joseph Rainey, the first ever African American elected to the House in 1870.
  2. Richard Cain, the episcopal minister who authored a civil rights bill that passed in 1875.
  3. Robert B. Elliott, who fought the Ku Klux Klan as leader of the South Carolina National Guard.
  4. Current Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.).