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.  

 

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Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanWhite House, GOP defend Trump emergency declaration Rod Rosenstein’s final insult to Congress: Farewell time for reporters but not testimony House conservatives blast border deal, push Trump to use executive power 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 ManafortRoger Stone shares, quickly deletes Instagram photo of federal judge on his case Mueller probe figures use fame to pay bills Mueller subpoenas former Cambridge Analytica employee 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 FeinsteinFeinstein says she thinks Biden will run after meeting with him Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao seeks to clarify past remarks on date rape Bottom Line MORE of California, asked that this week’s vote be postponed. Her position is supported by Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration 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 CorkerSasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 Sen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy MORE.

 

The Washington Post: Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (R-Ariz.), also retiring from the Senate, urges delay to hear from Ford.

The Hill: Republican Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCongress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support Democrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Warren: Officials have duty ‘to invoke 25th amendment’ if they think Trump is unfit 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 CollinsGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Congress must step up to protect Medicare home health care MORE of Maine and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week 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.

 

 

 





LEADING THE DAY

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 Nielsen2,000 asylum seekers return home, decide to stay in Mexico: report Trump taps FEMA official to lead agency Unscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden MORE is traveling to meet with state, local and federal emergency responders in North Carolina. President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration 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).



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

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 McCarthyCongress allows Violence Against Women Act to lapse Mandatory E-Verify: The other border wall Bret Stephens: Would love to see Hannity react when Dem declares climate change emergency 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 DingellOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Push for cosponsors for new 'Medicare for all' bill | Court lets Dems defend ObamaCare | Flu season not as severe as last year, CDC says Bill Clinton jokes no one would skip Dingell's funeral: 'Only time' we could get the last word Democrats seek cosponsors for new 'Medicare for all' bill 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 HarrisHarris, Booker call for judgement on Jussie Smollett case to be withheld until investigation is completed Harris calls idea of Trump trusting Putin over US intel ‘height of irresponsibility and shameful’ Barack, Michelle Obama expected to refrain from endorsing in 2020 Dem primary: report 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 CramerSenators highlight threat from invasive species Overnight Defense: Top general wasn't consulted on Syria withdrawal | Senate passes bill breaking with Trump on Syria | What to watch for in State of the Union | US, South Korea reach deal on troop costs GOP senators think Trump would win vote on emergency declaration MORE, touting a voting record and Trump’s support, campaigns in North Dakota to try to defeat Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (D) (The Bismarck Tribune).

 

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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).

 

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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 TrumpHouse chairman: Trump lawyers may have given false info about Cohen payments Sarah Sanders says she was interviewed by Mueller's office Trump dismisses Ann Coulter after criticism: 'I hardly know her' MORE and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? Rule change sharpens Dem investigations into Trump Drama hits Senate Intel panel’s Russia inquiry 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 probe figures use fame to pay bills Schiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' Drama hits Senate Intel panel’s Russia inquiry 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!



OPINION

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



WHERE AND WHEN

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 SessionsRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports McCabe: Trump's 'relentless attack' on FBI prompted memoir Trump: 'Disgraced' McCabe, Rosenstein look like they were planning 'very illegal act' 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 RosensteinRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Warren: Officials have duty ‘to invoke 25th amendment’ if they think Trump is unfit McCabe: Trump 'may have' committed a crime in blocking Russia probe MORE and Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Congress must move forward on measure dealing with fentanyl GOP advances rules change to speed up confirmation of Trump nominees 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 ChaoTaiwan’s President Tsai should be invited to address Congress White House announces reduced delegation to travel to Davos amid shutdown Hillicon Valley: Dem blasts groups behind Senate campaign disinformation effort | FCC chief declines to give briefing on location-data sales | Ocasio-Cortez tops lawmakers on social media | Trump officials to ease drone rules 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 PompeoCongress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN ambassador job The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight 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.  



ELSEWHERE

> 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).



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THE CLOSER

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.