The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil




Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and happy Monday! This daily email gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. (CLICK HERE to subscribe!) Alexis Simendinger is working solo for a spell while newsletter partner Jonathan Easley enjoys some R&R. Find her on Twitter @asimendinger.  



Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanNellie Ohr exercises spousal privilege in meeting with House panels Meadows calls on Rosenstein to resign 'immediately' Republicans should prepare for Nancy Pelosi to wield the gavel MORE (R-Ohio); former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, talking about his book, “Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation”; and former federal prosecutor Joseph Moreno, discussing Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortManafort to be sentenced in Virginia in February Former FBI agent sentenced to 4 years in jail for leaking to reporter The Hill's 12:30 Report — Mnuchin won't attend Saudi conference | Pompeo advises giving Saudis 'few more days' to investigate | Trump threatens military action over caravan MORE’s plea deal. http://thehill.com/hilltv

⏰ 50 days until Election Day …


Brett Kavanaugh’s momentum to clear the Senate and be seated on the Supreme Court this fall hit a roadblock on Sunday.


Christine Blasey Ford identified herself as the woman who says Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party when they were both high school students. She previously shared her accusations with Democratic lawmakers via letter, and while she sought to remain anonymous, the existence of her letter leaked last Wednesday.


Ford, 51, told The Washington Post that Kavanaugh groped her, tried to pull off her clothes and covered her mouth when she tried to scream at a party in Maryland more than three decades ago. In a detailed account, she says she escaped when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house.


Kavanaugh, the 53-year-old appellate court judge who days ago seemed all but certain to receive swift Senate confirmation, has denied Ford’s allegations. Judge said he has “no recollection” of the incident Ford described, but his past writings and descriptions of alcohol and partying at Georgetown Prep are not helpful to his friend (The Daily Mail).


The Hill: The latest developments Monday morning in the Kavanaugh confirmation.

The Hill: Kavanaugh nomination in turmoil.


The Senate Judiciary Committee had been expected to vote Thursday to send Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate. On Sunday, White House and GOP aides said Kavanaugh would not withdraw his name, and said the committee would proceed as planned (Politico).


But the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSen. Walter Huddleston was a reminder that immigration used to be a bipartisan issue GOP plays hardball in race to confirm Trump's court picks Feinstein would 'absolutely' reopen Kavanaugh investigation if Dems win Senate MORE of California, asked that this week’s vote be postponed. Her position is supported by Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns McConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem' Medicare for All is disastrous for American seniors and taxpayers MORE (D-N.Y.), who also sought a delay until “these serious and credible allegations are thoroughly investigated.” Other Democratic senators, women’s advocacy groups and progressives joined in.


And a few GOP senators did, too, including Tennessee’s retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation Schumer: Fight for Senate is 'neck and neck' MORE.


The Washington Post: Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump boosts McSally, bashes Sinema in Arizona Watch live: Trump speaks at Arizona rally Mnuchin to attend anti-terror meeting in Saudi Arabia following Khashoggi disappearance MORE (R-Ariz.), also retiring from the Senate, urges delay to hear from Ford.

The Hill: Republican Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation Trump calls Saudi explanation for journalist's death credible, arrests 'good first step' MORE of South Carolina says he’s open to having Ford testify before the Judiciary Committee.

The Hill: Democrats call on the Senate to postpone the Judiciary Committee vote.

The Hill: Other Republicans questioned Democrats’ tactics in handling the accuser’s complaint letter.

CNN: Text of Ford’s letter describing Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual misconduct.


Upshot: Republicans are in a political box. Unless Ford’s account can be independently investigated to senators’ satisfaction by Thursday (all but impossible), most senators will chafe at risking any appearance of rushing a vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination for political purposes or to meet an arbitrary timeline. Two key GOP senators who have not declared their positions on Kavanaugh are women: Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsConservatives bankrolled and dominated Kavanaugh confirmation media campaign The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns Susan Collins and the mob mentality MORE of Maine and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiPoll: Palin unpopular in Alaska following jab at Murkowski Conservatives bankrolled and dominated Kavanaugh confirmation media campaign Ex-Florida lawmaker leaves Republican Party MORE of Alaska. On Sunday night, Murkowski told CNN the committee might have to “consider” delaying its vote. She said it is her responsibility as a senator to determine the substance of Ford’s account before a vote. … In an era of #MeToo and the sexual assault cover-ups roiling the Catholic Church, procedures to handle accusations against the powerful have changed. Every complaint is expected to be explored without bias, with due diligence and transparency, and based on credible, verifiable evidence. For lifetime appointments to the nation’s highest court, the public wants vetting to be thorough and fair. And nominees are prepared.





DISASTROUS WEATHER: At least 17 people have lost their lives because of Florence, the slow-motion hurricane turned deadly rainstorm.


As of Monday morning, the misery continued: The storm has dropped more than three feet of rain in the Carolinas, shattering records; 15,000 people were in North Carolina shelters and nearly 1,000 had been rescued from dire conditions; 641,000 homes and businesses remained without power in North and South Carolina and surrounding states, and flooded rivers and waterways are expected to remain that way for weeks after Florence is long gone.


The coastal city of Wilmington, N.C., was cut off by rising flood waters; food and water will soon be airlifted to a city of 120,000 people (The Associated Press). Authorities said Florence redefined what many in the Carolinas understood to be “high ground.” The epic flooding, described as “a slow-motion disaster,” will worsen this week.


Duke Energy warned on Sunday that water could begin spilling out of several of its lakes above and below Charlotte starting as early as Monday evening (The Charlotte Observer). More than 8 inches of rain fell in one 24-hour period in the Charlotte region over the weekend, and two to three inches per hour were reported elsewhere in the state.


> Today, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenBolton heads to Moscow for high-stakes meeting with Russians Tucker Carlson says he 'can't really' dine out anymore because people keep yelling at him Top Judiciary Dems call for unredacted 'zero tolerance' memo MORE is traveling to meet with state, local and federal emergency responders in North Carolina. President TrumpDonald John TrumpCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Five takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation MORE is expected to make a similar trip later this week.


> The one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico occurs on Thursday and demonstrations are planned in Washington.


> The president over the weekend continued to dispute a tally of nearly 3,000 deaths resulting from Maria, as described in an independent study by George Washington University researchers. (Report: https://bit.ly/2wwqEqF)


> Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long on Sunday supported the president, saying deaths directly resulting from natural disasters, as reported by local coroners, are counted by FEMA, rather than “indirect” deaths from stress-induced heart attacks, accidents, delays in medical care during emergency situations, and what he called “spousal abuse” (NBC News).


POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: As Washington knows well, midterm elections are inevitably report cards on the party in power — and leaders in both parties believe that Trump is front and center on voters’ minds this year, even if his name is not on any ballot.


With little more than seven weeks to go before Nov. 6, GOP and Democratic candidates are pitching big-sky policies to voters, knowing full well that the president remains the larger-than-life wild card behind so many TV ads, news media interviews and candidate debates.


And there’s another phenomenon worth watching: rather than ignore Trump, GOP candidates — in a trend not seen for any president stretching back to 2002 — are going to some lengths to hail the leader of the free world in campaign ads, according to the latest findings of the nonpartisan Wesleyan Media Project. But across the spectrum, Democratic candidates are not making Trump an explicit theme in their ads.


“Clearly, Republicans are `all in’ when it comes to Trump in 2018, hoping that an embrace of the president will entice Republican voters to the polls,” Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the research group, says. “Democrats, by contrast, are not using Trump as a foil to the extent that Republicans used [former President] Obama in the past. Views of Trump among Democratic voters may be so entrenched that attacking the president has little impact.”


House Republican leaders say conservatives will turn out to vote in November if they assess that the economy is on the upswing and that their party can keep it that way.





But the president, via his aides, has been advised by GOP pollster Neil Newhouse, who came to the White House armed with charts and data a few weeks ago, that the outcome for Republicans this fall will not turn on tax cuts, the economy or jobs. It’s an election about Trump (The Associated Press).


Democrats, when they talk about policy, are betting that “the economy” to many Americans translates into health coverage, stagnating wages and worries that Trump and GOP leaders are steering the country in the wrong direction.


Health care was the prevailing policy theme in midterm campaign ads studied by the Wesleyan Media Project in August in all states. Ads that talked about taxes trailed well behind ads that dealt with health care.  


Stay the course: "Every day [that] we get new stronger economic numbers from the work that we've done here — I still believe it's results versus resistance." – Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyMaxine Waters gets company in new GOP line of attack The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — GOP faces ‘green wave’ in final stretch to the midterms Conservatives fear Trump will cut immigration deal MORE (R-Calif.)


Correct the course: “We're going to do what it takes to get health care for every American.” – Rep. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellRep. Debbie Dingell says she heard of gang rapes taking place when she was in college Dem rep says not enough progress has been made on hearing out misconduct allegations The Hill's Morning Report — Historic, high-stakes day for Kavanaugh and Ford MORE (D-Mich.)


The Hill: Republicans argue the go-go economy will shield the party from the blue wave.

The Hill: 50 days out, Democrats have midterm momentum.

The Hill: Primary turnout rose this year among both parties, compared with previous midterms, yet analysts think Republicans have reason to worry.

The Hill: By any metrics, here’s why Democrats feel increasingly confident heading toward Nov. 6.

The Hill: Trump and Obama spar over who deserves credit for today’s economy. Who’s right?


> Identity politics: Josh Kraushaar (National Journal) writes that identity politics, not progressive ideology, is driving the Democratic Party (and some House GOP races) in 2018. “Anything that makes you seem different from the current brand of the Republican party is worth several points,” Republican strategist Liesl Hickey says.


Kraushaar’s 2020 takeaway: “California Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSanders, Harris set to criss-cross Iowa Kamala Harris rallies voters in South Carolina On The Money: Mnuchin pulls out of Saudi summit | Consumer bureau to probe controversial blog posts on race | Harris proposes new middle-class tax credit MORE has more potential to forge a diverse Democratic coalition along the lines of what [Tallahassee Mayor Andrew] Gillum achieved in Florida. If Gillum makes history in November in a vote-rich swing state [running for governor], expect more Democrats to appreciate the importance of having a candidate of color running against President Trump in 2020.”


> Women candidates set nationwide records this cycle (The Hill).


> Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who wants to be Speaker, campaigned for conservative GOP colleagues over the weekend (The Hill).


Other news in politics …  Chicago’s race to succeed outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) is wide open and a dozen wannabes have said they are candidates; former Commerce Secretary and former White House chief of staff Bill Daley, the son and brother of former Chicago mayors, was the first to officially climb into the arena, at one minute after midnight on Monday (The Chicago Tribune) …  Republican Kevin CramerKevin John CramerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma —Senate debates highlight fight over pre-existing conditions | Support grows for Utah Medicaid expansion measure | Arkansas health official defends work requirements Election Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump seizes on immigrant 'caravan' for midterms | WHCA criticizes Trump for praising lawmaker who assaulted reporter | Trump takes harder line on Saudis MORE, touting a voting record and Trump’s support, campaigns in North Dakota to try to defeat Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma —Senate debates highlight fight over pre-existing conditions | Support grows for Utah Medicaid expansion measure | Arkansas health official defends work requirements Election Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump seizes on immigrant 'caravan' for midterms | WHCA criticizes Trump for praising lawmaker who assaulted reporter | Trump takes harder line on Saudis MORE (D) (The Bismarck Tribune).




CONGRESS: Lawmakers have agreed to hold off on contentious fights over funding Trump’s border wall and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act until after the midterm elections. Case study: The politics of the punt (The Hill).



INVESTIGATIONS: Paul Manafort’s bombshell plea deal announced Friday with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE continues to spark questions and speculation about the president, Trump’s campaign operation, his son and son-in-law, and the extent of ties to Moscow.


“Bob Mueller now has an insider into the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians,” said Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor in D.C., who called the cooperation agreement “hugely consequential” (The Hill).


Manafort has firsthand knowledge of key events, including the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, which he attended along with a Russian lawyer, the president’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpElection Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue Election Countdown: Florida Senate fight resumes after hurricane | Cruz softens ObamaCare attacks | GOP worries Trump will lose suburban women | Latest Senate polls | Rep. Dave Brat gets Trump's 'total endorsement' | Dem candidates raise record B Eric Trump: Trump Org has 'zero investments' in Russia or Saudi Arabia MORE and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerSaudis say journalist killed in ‘fight’ at consulate; 18 detained White House responds to Joaquin Castro's Kushner allegations: 'an outrageous slanderous lie' Attacks on public figures are growing MORE (The Hill).


Recap: Manafort joined four other Trump aides currently cooperating in exchange for lesser charges ... Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer; Michael Flynn, the former White House national security adviser; Rick Gates, a former deputy campaign chairman; and George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosMueller assembles team of cooperators in Russian probe Calif. man ensnared in Mueller probe sentenced to 6 months in prison The Mueller investigation: Where it stands at the midterms MORE, a former campaign adviser" (The New York Times).


New Yorker: Parsing Manafort’s plea agreement for dirt on Trump.

The Wall Street Journal: Keeping track — a who’s who of the 26 indicted in the Mueller probe to date, and the seven who pleaded guilty or were convicted.




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!


Democrats’ damaging divisions displayed in New York primaries, by Doug Schoen, opinion contributor with The Hill. https://bit.ly/2xifZkr


Covering hurricanes is about more than ratings, by Teresa Puente of The OpEd Project, opinion contributor with The Hill. https://bit.ly/2MBxTUh


The House is out this week.


The Senate meets at 2 p.m. to consider the Support for Patients and Communities Act.


The president this morning receives an update on storm Florence and the ongoing emergency response. He has lunch with Vice President Pence. He participates in a Hispanic Heritage Month event at the White House. Trump leads the inaugural meeting of the President’s National Council for the American Worker. Later, he’s expected to headline a political dinner with National Republican Senatorial Committee supporters.


Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsBeto O'Rourke on impeachment: 'There is enough there to proceed' Rosenstein to appear for House interview next week Emmet Flood steps in as White House counsel following McGahn departure MORE speaks at 9:30 a.m. at the Justice Department's Forum on Free Speech in Higher Education. Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinConservative rep slams Rosenstein's 'conflicts of interest' The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Trump, Obama head to swing states with Senate majority in balance Rosenstein to appear for House interview next week MORE and Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senate blocks Dem measure on short-term health plans | Trump signs bill banning drug price 'gag clauses' | DOJ approves Aetna-CVS merger | Juul ramps up lobbying Trump signs bills banning drug pricing 'gag clauses' Senate defeats measure to overturn Trump expansion of non-ObamaCare plans MORE (R-Tenn.) are participating, and Nadine Strossen, former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, gives a speech. … At 2 p.m., Sessions speaks to the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's event, “Ideas to Impact: A Dialogue to Address Drug-Impaired Driving.” Participating: Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoHillicon Valley: Facebook rift over exec's support for Kavanaugh | Dem worried about Russian trolls jumping into Kavanaugh debate | China pushes back on Pence Trump administration moves ahead with plans to rewrite self-driving cars rules Transportation Department will 'no longer assume' commercial drivers are human MORE and Jim Carroll, deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Location: Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies, Linthicum Heights, Md.


Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSaudis say journalist killed in ‘fight’ at consulate; 18 detained Pompeo asks Mexico to help tackle migration ‘crisis’ Trump: 'FAKE NEWS' that Pompeo heard tape of Saudi journalist's death MORE meets with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita at 2 p.m. at the State Department. At 3 p.m., the secretary officiates the swearing-in ceremony for Tibor P. Nagy Jr. as assistant secretary of State for African affairs.


Treasury Under Secretary David Malpass at 10 a.m. headlines a discussion about “the debate over institutional investors” at the Harvard Club of New York City.  


> China trade: As early as Monday, Trump is likely to announce new tariffs on about $200 billion on Chinese imports (Reuters). The tariff level will probably be about 10 percent, below the 25 percent the administration said it was considering for this possible round of tariffs, and China is considering skipping trade talks and retaliating instead (The Wall Street Journal).


> Wildlife protection: A group of big-game-hunting Trump supporters is unhappy with the president’s hold on a federal plan to allow elephant parts to be imported from trophy hunts in Africa (The Hill).


> Higher education: A Trump effect at journalism schools? Colleges see a surge in admissions (The Washington Post).


UANI: Celebrating 10 years. Please join us at our 2018 Iran Summit on Tuesday, September 25 in New York City: https://2018iransummit.splashthat.com/


And finally … During natural disasters, including hurricanes, emergency responders use dogs to help people, and reports abound about humans moving heaven and earth to save endangered animals and pets. Let’s start the week with a h/t for heroics. First, check out video clips of the U.S. Coast Guard with a boat, then a pickup truck full of rescued beagles.