The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump




Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and happy Wednesday! 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.  


*** OVERNIGHT EXCLUSIVE *** 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, during a wide-ranging, 45-minute Hill.TV conversation with Buck Sexton and John Solomon, says exposing a “corrupt” FBI probe could be the “crowning achievement” of his presidency (The Hill).


Watch the Trump interview beginning at 8 a.m.:

Just days ago, the president and Senate Republicans believed Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh would be confirmed by the Judiciary Committee and narrowly clear the full Senate by next week.


But by Tuesday, no one in Washington seemed certain of anything about the nomination, including whether Kavanaugh would appear before senators on Monday to deny allegations of sexual assault, or whether Christine Blasey Ford, the woman leveling the accusations, will testify.


Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySmaller tax refunds put GOP on defensive High stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks Senate approves border bill that prevents shutdown MORE (R-Iowa) canceled his panel’s scheduled Thursday vote, and said a Monday hearing, bringing Kavanaugh back to answer questions, would take place whether Ford chooses to appear or not (The Hill).


Debate erupted about who would pose the questions next week, whether there would be other witnesses, and whether an investigation by either the FBI or another independent entity would take place. The president said the bureau doesn’t have a role in the circumstances now facing senators (The Hill). Ford wrote to Grassley on Tuesday calling for an FBI inquiry (CNN).


We offered her a public or a private hearing as well as staff-led interviews, whichever makes her most comfortable,” Grassley said in a statement Tuesday night. “The invitation for Monday still stands. Dr. Ford’s testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events. Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay.”


The president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress Juan Williams: America needs radical solutions MORE (R-Ky.) were unequivocal on Tuesday in supporting Kavanaugh, and they expressed that resolve without publicly appearing to judge Ford’s veracity.


The president described his take on Democrats’ motives.





Senate Republicans rejected the idea that the appellate court judge would withdraw his nomination under pressure, or that Trump might decide that too many political landmines too close to the midterm elections mean it might be time for another nominee (The Hill). The most forceful advocate for that idea was a Democrat, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a former Connecticut prosecutor and a Judiciary Committee member (The Hill).


But in many ways, Kavanaugh is on shaky ground, even as the Senate GOP leaders plow ahead with his nomination. Ford’s sexual assault allegation dating back 36 years begins to subtract from the population of potential swing voters and suburban women voters so important to Republican candidates this fall.


The uncertainties surrounding the nomination forced Senate Republicans to remain officially undecided about Kavanaugh until both he and Ford answer questions (The Hill). With a 51-49 Senate majority, Republicans face the delicacy of math. The nomination hinges on GOP Sens. 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 (Alaska), 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 (Maine) and 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 (Ariz.).


The Hill: Collins wants Ford’s lawyer to be able to question Kavanaugh.

The Hill: Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge – identified by Ford as a witness to the alleged assault in the early 1980s – told Grassley he has “no memory” of the event and does not wish to participate in any hearing.

CNN: Kavanaugh’s nomination descends into chaos and partisan bitterness.

The New York Times: Trump sides with Kavanaugh; says Senate Democrats timed assault allegation to block nomination.








Perspectives ...

Mimi Rocah, Barbara McQuade, Jill Wine-Banks, Joyce White Vance and Maya Wiley (former prosecutors): “There must be a thorough, unrushed investigation by the FBI or by another independent investigator and a full and fair public hearing, including all relevant witnesses and not just Kavanaugh and his accuser.”


Linda Fairstein, former chief of the Sex Crimes Bureau of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office: In general, allegations of assault are not he-said-she-said. “As a prosecutor, it’s your job to break down every minute of the encounter so that details on one side push the facts over the edge.”


Katty Kay: The truth about false assault accusations by women.


POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: On Friday, voters in Minnesota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming begin early or absentee voting, and in New Jersey, in-person and no-excuse absentee voting begins on Saturday. The roll call of states spreads out from there.


The midterm elections are now. Here’s a state guide:


> Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRoger Stone shares, quickly deletes Instagram photo of federal judge on his case Barack, Michelle Obama expected to refrain from endorsing in 2020 Dem primary: report Why the national emergency? A second term may be Trump’s only shield from an indictment MORE: The former secretary of State – much like the Obamas and former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenBarack, Michelle Obama expected to refrain from endorsing in 2020 Dem primary: report Klobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up Biden: 'The America I see does not wish to turn our back on the world' MORE – is working to mobilize Democrats to vote. During a lengthy interview Tuesday with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Clinton said the Trump presidency amounts to “a crisis” in America, and November’s contests are part of a solution.


“If we ignore the importance of this midterm election and there is no check and balance, [if] we don’t take back one or both of the houses of Congress, then I think you’ll see even more of the dismantling of our institutions with very dire effects,” she said.


> GOP on taxes, trade: In Washington, many Republican leaders favor tax cuts but not tariffs. But they’re not in sync with most Americans, according to a smart political analysis by The New York Times. Not even one in 10 American voters in a Times survey conducted this month embrace tax cuts while also opposing tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, positions held by Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanUnscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration MORE (R-Wis.). The point? The disconnect presents a quandary for many conservative candidates out on the hustings.


> Wall Street and midterms: If Democrats control the House next year, the outlook for oversight and partisan policy battles could be dramatic for the financial industry. A Democratic takeover could propel Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersPrivate insurance plays a critical part in home mortgage ecosystem On The Money: Lawmakers closing in on border deal | Dems build case for Trump tax returns | Trump, Xi won't meet before trade deadline | Waters in talks with Mnuchin for testimony Waters in talks with Mnuchin for testimony on lifting of sanctions on Russian firms MORE (Calif.), the panel's ranking member and fierce Trump critic, into a powerful perch with subpoena power (The Hill).


More political headlines… In Kansas, respected former GOP Sen. Nancy Kassebaum is backing the Democratic candidate, state Sen. Laura Kelly, in the race for governor, shunning Republican Kris Kobach (Kansas City Star) … In Georgia, a judge said it’s too risky to compel the state to switch to paper ballots this fall, but she warned state officials to improve election security, including voting machines, in time for 2020 (The Associated Press) … And speaking of 2020, another Democrat, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, says he is weighing a White House run (The Atlantic).


And more … In Wisconsin, Democratic Senate and gubernatorial candidates are enjoying leads, according to a new Marquette University Law School poll. Democratic Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinKlobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up Dems offer smaller step toward ‘Medicare for all' Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Powerful House committee turns to drug pricing | Utah governor defies voters on Medicaid expansion | Dems want answers on controversial new opioid MORE is up 11 points over GOP challenger state Sen. Leah Vukmir, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers, the superintendent of Wisconsin’s public schools, opened up a 5-point lead over incumbent Gov. Scott Walker (R) (The Hill) … In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, running for a Senate seat against Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William Nelson2020 party politics in Puerto Rico There is no winning without Latinos as part of your coalition Dem 2020 candidates court Puerto Rico as long nomination contest looms MORE (D), found himself in the headlines accused of flouting the Sunshine State’s public records law, and a judge’s order (Tampa Bay Times).


And finally, in Texas, where Republican Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzEl Chapo's lawyer fires back at Cruz: 'Ludicrous' to suggest drug lord will pay for wall Democrats have a chance of beating Trump with Julian Castro on the 2020 ticket Poll shows competitive matchup if O’Rourke ran for Senate again MORE is in a seriously tight contest with Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the incumbent threw down some fightin’ words about the challenger.





WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump says he’s considering building a permanent U.S. military base in Poland (The Hill). Polish President Andrzej Duda, who was visiting the White House on Tuesday, said a base could be called “Fort Trump.”


Tariffs: A trade war with China is escalating. The administration says U.S. tariffs of 10 percent on $200 billion of imported Chinese goods will take effect on Monday. China, in response, said it will retaliate with tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. goods, also on Monday (The Associated Press).


Pentagon: When a Cabinet secretary makes news by dismissing rumors (repeatedly) that he’s poised to quit, the assumption, especially in the Trump era, is that it’s a question of when, not if. Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisAllies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump Congress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support Trump nominates ambassador to Turkey MORE told reporters again on Tuesday that he loves his job and isn’t going anywhere (Reuters).


Federal Emergency Management Agency: FEMA has been buffeted by a mammoth hurricane since last week, and by stormy weather inside the emergency response agency. Administrator Brock Long is under investigation for use of government vehicles to commute between Washington and his home in Hickory, N.C., but says he’s cooperating with probes inside the Department of Homeland Security as well as a House inquiry (The Wall Street Journal). Meanwhile, senior official John Veatch, who oversees a FEMA directorate, has been suspended without pay in connection with the department’s inspector general investigation, but an explanation remains elusive (Politico).

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How to get the Kavanaugh hearings right, by Anita Hill, Brandeis University professor of social policy, law, and women's, gender and sexuality studies (The New York Times)


The problem with all those liberal professors, by Cass R. Sunstein (Bloomberg)


The House is out this week.


The Senate meets in pro forma session at 3 p.m.


The president will travel today to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock, N.C., to review the emergency response and continuing needs following hurricane-turned-tropical storm Florence.


Vice President Pence headlines a political event for his brother in Washington. Greg Pence is running for the vice president’s former House seat in Indiana’s 6th Congressional District. In the afternoon, the vice president meets with Prime Minister Ukhnaagiin Khürelsükh of Mongolia at the White House.

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 Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana at the State Department, and in the afternoon, Cote d’Ivoire Foreign Minister Marcel Amon-Tanoh.


The Commerce Department reports at 8:30 a.m. on new residential construction in August. Analysts expect housing starts to rise 5.3 percent.


The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports at 8:30 a.m. on U.S. international transactions in the second quarter.



Yom Kippur ends this evening.


> North Korea: Kim Jong Un, in a nod to faltering nuclear negotiations with the United States, said on Wednesday that North Korea is willing to permanently abolish its key missile facilities in the presence of foreign experts. Kim, meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang, said North Korea would close its main nuclear complex if the United States takes unspecified “reciprocal action” (Reuters). A statement announced by both leaders appears to fall short of major steps many in Washington had been looking for, including a commitment to provide a list of the North’s nuclear facilities, a solid step-by-step timeline or an agreement to allow access to international inspectors (The Associated Press). In a pair of late-night tweets, Trump described Kim’s statements as “very exciting.”


> Sexual abuse settlement: In one of the largest settlements ever awarded to individual victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, four men who were repeatedly sexually abused as children by a religion teacher at a Catholic church received a $27.5 million settlement from the Diocese of Brooklyn on Tuesday (The New York Times).


> Sexual harassment: McDonald’s workers went on strike in 10 cities on Tuesday to call attention to their complaints of sexual harassment on the job (NBC News). Among those supportive of the work stoppages were Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersCongress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support Booker seeks dialogue about race as he kicks off 2020 campaign Capitalism: The known ideal MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren set to announce plan for universal child care: reports Barack, Michelle Obama expected to refrain from endorsing in 2020 Dem primary: report Booker seeks dialogue about race as he kicks off 2020 campaign MORE (D-Mass.), both eyeing possible presidential runs in 2020 (The Hill).


> Sexual harassment: The Marchant Glacier in Antarctica has been renamed the Matataua Glacier by a division of the U.S. Geological Survey after Boston University determined that namesake geologist David Marchant impeded science when he “created an environment that was hostile and harmful to fellow researchers, particularly women” (Science).


> Congressional Research Service: Now you, too, can share the invaluable research lawmakers and their staffs depend on. Years ago, Washington journalists had access to hard copies of CRS reports, until Congress decided almost everything CRS created for lawmakers was off-limits to the news media and the public. Congress relented this year, and CRS reports are officially online. Search HERE. (Example: April report on “sexual harassment.”)


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


And finally Portraits of resilience in a natural disaster (the Florence-flooded Carolinas) … Don’t miss photographs by Greg Kahn of National Geographic … or this photo gallery by The Associated Press … more photos and videos by The New York Times … “What I saw when I rode out Florence,” by novelist Taylor Brown, with photos (The New York Times).


More resilience: Fire ants displaced by floodwaters.





And this survivor!