The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — 2020 hopefuls lead the charge against Kavanaugh

 

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Programming alert … President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'Haven't thought about' pardons for Mueller target Pence: Rocket attack 'proves that Hamas is not a partner for peace' Conservation remains a core conservative principle MORE 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 BookerCory Anthony BookerNew Jersey set to cancel vote to legalize recreational marijuana Jam-packed primary poses a serious threat to Democrats in 2020 Poll: Biden, Sanders lead Trump in Iowa MORE (D-N.J.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisJam-packed primary poses a serious threat to Democrats in 2020 Pence hits 2020 Dems for skipping AIPAC Ex-GOP lawmaker Handel to run for her former Georgia seat in 2020 MORE (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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTreasury expands penalty relief to more taxpayers Overnight Health Care: Senators seek CBO input on preventing surprise medical bills | Oversight panel seeks OxyContin documents | Pharmacy middlemen to testify on prices | Watchdog warns air ambulances can put patients at 'financial risk' Drug prices are a matter of life and death MORE (R-Iowa) shouting at Booker and questioning whether he would release his own emails. Sen. John CornynJohn CornynConservatives wage assault on Mueller report Senate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks GOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 MORE (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 MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’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.

 

Perspectives

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.’

Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseTrump approves Nebraska disaster declaration Nebraska lawmakers urge Trump to approve disaster funding Republicans up for reelection fear daylight with Trump MORE (R-Neb.): Blame Congress for politicizing the courts. 

 

 

 

 

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 PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Dems eye next stage in Mueller fight After Mueller, Democrats need to avoid the Javert trap More than a half-million web articles published on Russia, Trump, Mueller since investigation began: analysis MORE (Calif.) said Trump’s reaction was by itself a “manifestation of his instability.” Former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryJam-packed primary poses a serious threat to Democrats in 2020 Romney helps GOP look for new path on climate change Biden leads CNN poll, but Harris, Sanders on the rise MORE 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 WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenJam-packed primary poses a serious threat to Democrats in 2020 Pence hits 2020 Dems for skipping AIPAC Poll: Biden, Sanders lead Trump in Iowa MORE 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 TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSanders, Ocasio-Cortez back 'end the forever war' pledge Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ White House pleads with Senate GOP on emergency declaration MORE (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 CramerKevin John CramerOn The Money: Trump reverses North Korea sanctions imposed by Treasury | Trump to nominate Stephen Moore to Fed | Monthly deficit hits record 4 billion | IRS expands penalty relief for taxpayers Overnight Health Care: Dems demand answers on rule targeting Planned Parenthood | Senators tell FDA to speed approval of generic insulin | Nearly 8 in 10 say drug prices are 'unreasonable' in new poll Senators tell FDA to speed up approvals of generic insulin MORE (R-N.D.), who is taking on Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampRed dresses displayed around American Indian museum to memorialize missing, murdered native women Lobbying World Lobbying World MORE (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 NoemKristi Lynn NoemKentucky House approves bill to let people carry concealed guns without a permit Journalists seek federal, state support for right to inform the public The Hill's 12:30 Report: First test for Trump emergency declaration MORE, 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 HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds MORE (R-Nev.), who is a top target for Senate Democrats this cycle. Polls show the Nevada Senate race between Heller and Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority The Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Female Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations MORE (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 CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperBiden's challenge: Satisfying the left Dems introduce bill requiring disclosure of guest logs from White House, Trump properties Lobbying world MORE (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 BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTaylor Swift says she wants to get more involved in politics Bipartisan lawmakers introduce resolution supporting vaccines Hillicon Valley: Cohen stuns Washington with testimony | Claims Trump knew Stone spoke to WikiLeaks | Stone, WikiLeaks deny | TikTok gets record fine | Senators take on tech over privacy MORE (R), who is at 46 percent (NBC News-Marist).

 

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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!

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OPINION

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 ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottTop Dems blast administration's proposed ObamaCare changes Virginia congressional delegation says it's 'devastated by’ Richmond Turmoil The Hill's 12:30 Report: AOC unveils Green New Deal measure | Trump hits Virginia Dems | Dems begin hearings to get Trump tax returns 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.

ELSEWHERE

> 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 PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Mueller report is huge win for President Trump Mueller figures celebrate end of probe Conservatives wage assault on Mueller report MORE, 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 ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockGOP lawmaker introduces bill to stop revolving door Ex-lawmakers face new scrutiny over lobbying Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign MORE (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).

 

THE CLOSER

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.