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The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — 2020 hopefuls lead the charge against Kavanaugh
Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and TGIF! 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!) On Twitter, find us at @joneasley and @asimendinger.
Programming alert ... President Trump filmed an interview with Fox News Channel's Pete Hegseth last night that will run this morning on "Fox & Friends" ... the interview comes as the White House has vowed to root out the administration official behind an anonymous New York Times editorial detailing a commitment to resisting the president from inside the administration. Bob Woodward's book and the NFL anthem controversy with the start of the season last night will also likely be on Trump's mind...
⏰60 days until Election Day.
Two potential Democratic presidential contenders fired the starting pistol on 2020 on Thursday.
Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), whispering to each other throughout and appearing as allies, unloaded on Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on the final day of hearings in a last-ditch effort to delay or derail his confirmation.
It does not appear that any of the blows they landed will change the basic math facing Democrats - there are 51 Republicans in the Senate and Kavanaugh needs only a simple majority for confirmation.
But liberals are furious at Democratic leadership for not doing enough to stop Kavanaugh. The Capitol Police arrested more than 200 people this week for unlawful demonstrations at the hearings.
Booker and Harris responded by pulling out all the stops. In the process, both senators bolstered their 2020 bona fides and generated clips that can be woven into future campaign ads.
The Hill: Centrist Democrats defend tough tactics at Kavanaugh hearing.
The Hill: Democrats up the ante in Kavanaugh hearings.
How Booker played it...
The New Jersey Democrat threw the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into chaos early on, announcing he would release "confidential" documents from Kavanaugh's time as a White House lawyer.
Republicans were apoplectic, with Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) shouting at Booker and questioning whether he would release his own emails. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) read aloud from a statute that says a lawmaker can be expelled from the Senate for releasing privileged documents.
Booker stood his ground, describing it as his "I am Spartacus moment." Democrats on the committee backed him up, saying if Booker were to be expelled that Republicans would have to expel all of them.
"Bring it on," Booker said, his office releasing the tranche of emails to the press shortly after.
There was a catch - Republicans soon discovered that the "classified" emails Booker had released were actually approved for release by the committee earlier in the morning. They accused Booker of grandstanding under false premises.
"We were surprised to learn about Senator Booker's histrionics this morning because we had already told him he could use the documents publicly." - Bill Burck, the George W. Bush lawyer who led the review of Kavanaugh's records related to his time as a White House lawyer
Later in the day, Booker made sure there was no mistake - he released new batches of emails from Kavanaugh's time as a White House lawyer that hadn't been cleared for public release.
It doesn't appear that anything Booker released was a game-changer in the nomination process, but liberals loved the fight, even if it sets a new precedent that could come back to bite Democrats in a future confirmation process.
The Wall Street Journal: Booker's stunts and distortions need correcting.
How Harris played it...
While Booker leaned on his flair for theatrics, Harris, the former attorney general of California, leveraged her prosecutorial skills to keep Kavanaugh off balance.
Kavanaugh's testimony through the grueling back-to-back 12-hour sessions was mostly steady. Harris seemed to be the only Democrat who had him questioning himself.
On Thursday, Harris heavily implied that the appellate court judge had an improper conversation with a lawyer at one of Trump's legal firms about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. It took about 24 hours for Kavanaugh to unequivocally deny the allegations and he struggled mightily over the question in the interim - even when Republicans gave him opportunities to clear it up.
Harris also touched on nearly every hot-button issue that energizes progressive voters.
Kavanaugh dodged questions from Harris on whether he would recuse himself from a criminal case involving Trump, as well as questions about immigration, civil rights and abortion.
The president was watching.
"Do you believe the anger and the meanness on the other side? It's sick." - Trump at a rally in Billings, Mont., last night.
Hans A. von Spakovsky: Kavanaugh proves he won't be a Dem punching bag despite partisan pummeling.
Erwin Chemerinsky: Kavanaugh's nonsense about being an 'umpire.'
LEADING THE DAY
WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Who is Anonymous? And how will subversives within Trump's administration - described as the "steady state" by an unnamed senior official who authored an explosive New York Times op-ed - impact the governance and politics of the country? (The Hill)
A gallery of administration and Cabinet officials rushed their denials and their fury into the public sphere on Thursday (The Hill), casting the hidden Trump critic as a turncoat and a coward who should resign rather than be sheltered by the opinion pages of the world's most influential newspaper.
Among the obvious suspects (and among the first to react): Vice President Pence's office.
An apparently agitated Trump took aim on Thursday at the "deep state" and at the news media.
By the evening, reading from his prepared remarks in Montana, the president called the op-ed "a threat to democracy."
Some Trump allies in Congress supported rigorous methods, including lie detectors, to try to unmask the renegade writer (The Hill), while Democrats reacted with degrees of alarm and I-told-you-so about the president and his lieutenants.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said Trump's reaction was by itself a "manifestation of his instability." Former Secretary of State John Kerry worried "we don't really have a president" when unelected officials and advisers are trying to stabilize an erratic commander-in-chief. Massachusetts liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren urged public support for the invocation of the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, a dramatic battle cry but a near impossibility in light of the partisan splits in the House and Senate.
The New York Times: "It wasn't me."
The Daily podcast: Who wrote the op-ed, and why did The New York Times publish it?
The Washington Post: A "starting whistle setting off another remarkable round of Washington's unofficial sport: speculative gossip."
USA Today: How Americans view the White House drama(s): "Ugh."
David Ignatius: "The op-ed reinforced what most close observers of the Trump presidency already suspected."
Michael Brendan Dougherty, The National Review: "No, this is not how you run a resistance."
The Wall Street Journal: Editorial page editors around the country say publishing an anonymous column is highly unusual.
> Immigration: The Trump administration proposed new rulemaking Thursday that would allow the government to detain indefinitely any young migrants captured entering the United States illegally. The new interpretation of immigration law is an effort to finesse a 1997 court agreement that has guided U.S. policy for more than two decades, but is considered by the administration to be flawed (Bloomberg).
> USDA: An animal-rights group filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeking additional information about the government's euthanasia of thousands of cats used in experiments at a facility in Maryland over many years (The Washington Post). "A total of 2,988 cats have been used in these research efforts that began in 1982," a USDA administrator told Congress in May.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➔ POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Last night at a rally in Billings, Mont., Trump took aim at Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). Trump attacked Tester for voting against the GOP's tax cuts; for sinking his pick to be Veterans Affairs secretary; and for supporting ObamaCare.
"Jon Tester talks like he's from Montana but he votes like Nancy Pelosi." - Trump
Trump swung through Montana in support of Republican Matt Rosendale, who is challenging Tester for Senate in the deep-red state.
The Washington Post: Trump raises the specter of impeachment at Montana rally.
The president will hit two more Great Plains states today, making campaign stops in North Dakota and South Dakota.In Fargo, Trump will raise money for Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who is taking on Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) in a state the president carried by more than 35 points in 2016. There is limited polling here, but the race looks like a dead heat.In Sioux Falls, S.D., the president will raise money for GOP Rep. Kristi Noem, who is running for governor against Democrat Billie Sutton.Vice President Pence also has a big day on the campaign trail. He'll be in Las Vegas, for a veteran event with Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who is a top target for Senate Democrats this cycle. Polls show the Nevada Senate race between Heller and Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) is a toss-up.Pence will also raise money for GOP gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt, who is in a tight race for Nevada governor against Democrat Steve Sisolak.Elsewhere, former President Obama will make his long-anticipated return to campaign politics in a speech at the University of Illinois in Urbana.An adviser to Obama says the former president will be "pointed" in remarks about the current president and the political atmosphere at large (NBC News).More from the campaign trail ... Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) dispatched of a political newcomer in a primary last night, avoiding the fate of other seasoned lawmakers who fell to progressive upstarts (The Hill) ... GOP braces for Democratic surge in November (Bloomberg) ... Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) may be preparing for a 2020 presidential run (The Hill) ... Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) takes 48 percent in a new Senate poll against Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R), who is at 46 percent (NBC News-Marist).
The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley email@example.com & Alexis Simendinger firstname.lastname@example.org. Suggestions? Tips? We want to hear from you! Share The Hill's reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Defending the Constitution is job No. 1 for Kavanaugh, by Peter Wallison, opinion contributor for The Hill. http://bit.ly/2NRShSw
Senior official doesn't mean anonymous New York Times writer is close to Trump, by The Hill's media columnist Joe Concha. http://bit.ly/2M776P9
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 9 a.m. for legislative business and to debate the Community Security and Safety Act.
The Senate has no floor votes today. The Judiciary Committee continues its consideration of Kavanaugh to join the Supreme Court as associate justice at 9:30 a.m. with testimony from outside legal experts and the American Bar Association.
The president is spending Friday making political appearances in Fargo, N.D., and Sioux Falls, S.D.
Pence will be in Nevada for political events and returns to Washington tonight.
FBI Director Christopher Wray at 9 a.m. participates in an event for federal law enforcement officers at the national 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 a.m. releases a report on August employment. Per The Wall Street Journal: "Economists expect employers added 192,000 new positions last month, up from 157,000 in July. The unemployment rate is seen ticking back down to 3.8 percent, a level it last hit in May. ...If unemployment manages to fall to 3.7 percent, it would be the lowest level since the Vietnam War [years]."
Invitation from The Hill: Sept. 12, newsmakers discuss "A Healthy Start: Infant and Early Childhood Nutrition," featuring Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and Bobby Scott (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.
> Sexual assault: The New York attorney general issued subpoenas against the state's Roman Catholic dioceses as New Jersey announced on Thursday a new task force to investigate sexual abuse of minors by the clergy. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood subpoenaed all eight state dioceses as part of an ongoing civil investigation into how the church reviewed allegations of sexual abuse. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal established a task force to probe cases of sex abuse and any attempts by the church to cover them up. Both states are following a lead set by Pennsylvania, in which a grand jury made public reports of Catholic clergy abuse of children and adults stretching back 70 years (NBC News).
> Investigations: Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani on Thursday said the president will not answer in writing or in person any questions posed by Mueller about whether Trump sought to impede the Russia probe (The Associated Press) ... George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who pleaded guilty nearly a year ago to lying to federal investigators about his Russia contacts, will be sentenced in federal court today (The Hill) ... Among targets House Democrats have in mind, should they control the chamber next year, is oversight that can compel the examination of Trump's tax returns. The president has repeatedly said he will not publicly release his tax information because his returns are undergoing an IRS audit (The Hill). It is widely assumed that Trump's returns have been scrutinized by Mueller's investigators.
> Employment: U.S. jobless claims are at a 49-year low, according to the Labor Department, weathering the global trade war and keeping the Federal Reserve on track to raise interest rates later this month (Reuters).
> Federal pay: Democrats in the House and Senate joined Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) in urging Congress to overrule the president's decision to freeze a 2.1 percent pay raise for federal employees in 2019 (Federal News Radio).
> Poisonings in Great Britain: The Kremlin on Thursday rejected accusations by British authorities that Russian President Vladimir Putin is ultimately responsible for poisoning a former spy in England, and said Russia is not going to investigate suspects who were photographed and identified as Kremlin-connected intelligence officers (The Associated Press).
And finally ... All hail the Morning Report QUIZ CONTEST winners! They are Milt Mungo, Raymond Williams, Patrick Alford, Matt Neufeld, Sandy Sycafoose and Lorraine Lindberg.
We posed some questions this week dealing with African-American and minority political and congressional history in the United States.
Readers knew that two African-Americans to date have been elected as governors - Doug Wilder in Virginia and Deval Patrick in Massachusetts. The first black lawmakers elected to Congress were members of the Republican Party.
The first African-American woman elected to the Senate was Illinois's Carol Moseley Braun in 1992 (also a Democratic presidential candidate in 2004). New Mexico among the 50 states has elected more minority governors than any other (six), drawing from its Latino demographics and Mexican-American political heritage.
And South Carolina's 1st Congressional District was home to Joseph Rainey, a barber by trade, who in 1870 became the first African-American elected to the House.