The Hill's Morning Report — Trump backs Kavanaugh, puts Rosenstein in limbo
The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Hurricane Florence a new test for Trump team
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Hill.TV's "Rising" program, starting at 8 a.m., features Rupa Bhattacharyya of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund; Gordon Felt, president of Families of Flight 93; Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), talking about current politics and legislation; and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. http://thehill.com/hilltv
Hurricane Florence is barreling toward the East Coast, presenting a new leadership challenge to President Trump and his administration.
Florence is currently on a path to strike the U.S. this week with dangerous force. Forecasters expect the storm to strengthen in coming days, potentially bringing 150 mile per hour winds and deadly flooding from days of torrential rainfall.
With the storm set to make landfall on Thursday or Friday morning, evacuations are underway in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Officials in those states requested pre-emptive emergency declarations and the U.S. Navy sent ships out of port to sea.
The Associated Press: Millions prepare for potentially catastrophic Florence.
The Washington Post: Hurricane Florence's track and projected timing.
For Trump, it's another test of his ability to administer the government in a time of crisis.
The president learned last year that the government's response to a natural disaster can have enormous political consequences, which will be magnified this year with the midterm elections only eight weeks away.
The Trump administration was praised for its response to Hurricane Harvey, the storm that ravaged the Gulf Region about this time last year.
The president, however, was roundly criticized for the government's response to Hurricane Maria, the storm that devastated Puerto Rico and left many of the island's 3.4 million residents without power, food or clean water for weeks on end.
The White House insisted that it did all it could to prepare for and respond to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico. They argued that the response was complicated by the difficulties inherent in transporting aid to a disaster zone on an island in the ocean.
But Trump inflamed the matter by feuding with Puerto Rican officials and criticizing the local government's response. As the island dealt with the deadly aftermath, Trump said Puerto Ricans "have to give us more help," and he blamed the country for throwing the U.S. budget "out of whack."
Key administration officials began briefing Trump about the approaching storm on Tuesday evening, and will brief him again this afternoon in the Oval Office.
One of those updating the president is Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long, an experienced hand on natural disasters. White House homeland security advisor Doug Fears will be in the mix, as well. Fears replaced Tom Bossert, who was steady last year while communicating with the public about hurricanes Harvey and Maria and helping to coordinate federal, state, local and private-sector responses.
Emergency federal spending is almost certain to become a political issue when Florence has blown through the East Coast. Congress is still working to pass a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month.
But on Tuesday at least, the president's focus will be on a different national security matter - the 17th anniversary of 9/11.
Trump and first lady Melania Trump will travel to Stoystown, Pa., to pay their respects at the Flight 93 memorial to the 40 passengers and crew of killed on the plane that went down in the area. Nearly 3,000 people were killed by al Qaeda terrorists on that day.
Vice President Pence, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. Paul Selva will host an observance ceremony at the Pentagon.
Perspectives and Analysis
The New York Times: New Taliban attacks kill dozens of Afghan soldiers and police officers. This double-bylined piece on the horrors of the forgotten war in Afghanistan is worth your time.
CNBC: The U.S. has spent $1.5 trillion on war since the 9/11 attacks.
The Los Angeles Times: 17 years later, al Qaeda may be stronger than ever.
CBS "This Morning": Norah O'Donnell interviews FBI Director Christopher Wray on terrorism that "moves at the speed of social media."
The Hill: Cyberattacks are a constant fear 17 years after 9/11.
LEADING THE DAY
CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: Trump's approval rating has slipped in recent polls, adding to the list of electoral concerns Republicans have with 55 days until Nov. 6. The decline comes after a rough summer at the White House, underscored by blowback over the family separations policy and persistent controversies.
The latest: A CNN survey found Trump's approval plunged 6 points over the past month and hit a new low among independent voters.
In the RealClearPolitics average, the president's approval rating has dropped 2.5 points in two weeks, while his disapproval rating has ticked up nearly 2 points.
At 41 percent approval in the RCP average, the president is still in the same range where he's spent most of the year. Still, Republicans would rather see the trend breaking the other way as the election nears.
Looking at the House, Monmouth University conducted a massive poll of eight bellwether congressional districts that found support almost evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.
The problem for the GOP, according to Monmouth: "Republicans routinely won these eight districts by double digit margins in recent election cycles."
With election forecasters increasingly seeing a "blue wave" in the House, the big question going forward is whether things are breaking hard enough in favor of Democrats to the point that the Senate could be in play, despite the majority of races taking place on favorable ground for Republicans.
The Hill's Max Greenwood and Lisa Hagen report that eight weeks out, Republicans and Democrats both have realistic paths to Senate control (The Hill).
More from the campaign trail ... Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) resigned from Congress to focus on his gubernatorial race against Democrat Andrew Gillum (Miami Herald) ... What to watch for in Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire (WCAX) ... Proponents of redistricting reform are turning to ballot measures to change the way states draw their political boundaries (The Hill) ... The Koch network has launched a new super PAC to elect candidates that share their conservative and libertarian-leaning values (The Hill). Dozens of state directors from the Koch network's political arm Americans for Prosperity will be on Capitol Hill today urging lawmakers to confirm Trump's Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh and to cut back on spending.
➔ INTERNATIONAL & TRADE: White House national security adviser John Bolton threatened on behalf of the president to impose sanctions on the personnel of the International Criminal Court if the court continues with an investigation into alleged U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan. Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a longtime critic of the court, made his first major speech on Monday as the president's third in a series of top advisers coordinating foreign policy (The Hill).
> The ICC: Five things to know about the International Criminal Court (The Hill).
> PLO: The State Department on Monday announced the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization office in the nation's capital. The reasons? The administration said the PLO failed to take steps "to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel," and was bringing charges against Israel for war crimes in the International Criminal Court (The Hill).
> North Korea: Kim Jong Un, with one eye on China and another on Trump, is trying to play multilevel chess (The Washington Post) ... North Korea's public embrace of denuclearization conflicts with its continued pursuit of nuclear weapons (NBC News) ... Kim, by letter, proposed another meeting with Trump in November following an annual summit scheduled in Singapore (CNBC) ... The White House says the idea is being coordinated (The Hill).
> NAFTA: Today, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland are to meet in Washington for another round of talks aimed at overhauling the North American Free Trade Agreement. Talks broke off Friday with no commitments, and time is running short. The U.S. and Mexico have inked a new deal, and Trump says the U.S. will move ahead without Canada, if necessary. That threat was widely panned (Reuters).
> Oil production: Energy Secretary Rick Perry and the administration remain concerned about rising petroleum prices in an election year. Perry met on Monday with Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih. Perry wants Saudi Arabia to keep oil output high ahead of Washington's renewed sanctions on Iran's crude exports (Reuters).
> Russia behind mystery attacks?: U.S. officials say Russia is implicated in alleged mystery "attacks" on diplomats in Cuba. The strong suspicion that Russia was behind the alleged attacks is backed by signals intelligence, meaning intercepted communications, U.S. officials say. The Trump administration has said 26 government workers were injured at their homes and hotels in Havana starting in late 2016, causing brain injuries, hearing loss and problems with cognition, balance and vision (NBC News).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➔ WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: More Senate Democrats are explaining why they oppose Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court (The Hill). The Senate Judiciary Committee is likely to vote on Brett Kavanaugh on Sept. 20. No GOP senator has broken ranks to express any misgivings about confirming Kavanaugh, and the support of every Republican senator is enough to confirm him.
> EPA - methane & climate change: The Environmental Protection Agency, perhaps as soon as this week, plans to make public a proposal to weaken an Obama-era requirement that companies monitor and repair methane leaks. In a related move, the Interior Department is also expected in coming days to release its final version of a draft rule that essentially repeals a restriction on the intentional venting and "flaring," or burning, of methane from drilling operations. Methane is among the most powerful greenhouse gases (The New York Times).
> Economic fact check: The U.S. is enjoying a robust economy, but Trump wrongly touted some data points on Monday. One of the president's top economic advisers said Trump erred in a tweet asserting that the increase in the U.S. gross domestic product was higher than the unemployment rate for the first time in over a century (Bloomberg).
> The book on Trump: A majority of American voters believe a host of anonymously sourced allegations that senior aides work behind Trump's back to rein him in and finesse his impulses, according to a new Quinnipiac University survey. Republicans among all voters are the most skeptical about such reports ... The president on Monday lashed out again at veteran investigative journalist Bob Woodward, calling his new book about the Trump White House a "total joke" (with a promise to write a "real book" of his own) (The Hill) ... Woodward on Monday said White House chief of staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary Mattis, who deny uttering scathing comments about Trump attributed to them in the book, "are not telling the truth" (The Hill).
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What Serena got wrong, by Martina Navratilova (The New York Times).
Democracy is alive in the Trump era, by Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency and opinion contributor with The Hill. https://bit.ly/2wZosIo
WHERE AND WHEN
The House is off today and convenes again at noon on Wednesday.
The Senate will be in pro forma session Tuesday at 5 p.m.
The president and first lady will be in Shanksville, Pa., to pay their respects on the anniversary of 9/11 at the memorial site there for Flight 93 victims. In the afternoon, Trump meets with Mattis. At 3 p.m., Trump meets in the Oval Office with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and FEMA administrator Long to prepare for Hurricane Florence.
Pence, Mattis and Selva host an observance ceremony at the Pentagon at 9:10 a.m. in honor of the 184 people killed there in the terror attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats at 7 p.m. presents keynote remarks at the Patriot Award Ceremony sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center to honor the co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission, former Gov. Thomas Kean and former Rep. Lee Hamilton.
The Americana Festival, a six-day extravaganza of seminars, panels, networking and 500 live musical performances in Nashville, begins today. In the music business, it's big.
The Diesel Technology Forum hosts a 1 p.m. webinar about progress in cutting greenhouse gas emissions to help address climate change, applied to engine, equipment and vehicle manufacturers. Information is HERE.
Final day to register with The Hill for Wednesday's "A Healthy Start: Infant and Early Childhood Nutrition" event 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.
> Questions abound about how #"Me Too" and female voters may impact Trump and the midterm elections may hold some clues, by Niall Stanage (The Hill) ... Former CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves is the latest powerbroker to be ousted amid allegations of sexual misconduct, although he is staying on as an adviser amid an internal investigation (NBC News).
> A key leading indicator on the potential for a bear market is at the highest level in 50 years (Bloomberg).
> Two out of three teenagers say they'd rather chat online, rather than in person (The Wall Street Journal).
> The nation's preeminent right-wing street artist takes on Hollywood (The Weekly Standard).
And finally ... Seventeen years later, today is filled with memories and memorials. Never forget.