The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — GOP again has momentum on Kavanaugh rollercoaster




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

If Christine Blasey Ford ultimately remains far from the Senate Judiciary Committee next week and does not relate her allegations of being assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh decades ago, senators in both parties on Wednesday said they will be frustrated, but hinted they may also be relieved.


In a political maelstrom, the controversy shifted on Wednesday from Kavanaugh’s conduct to Ford’s own behavior — her reluctance to testify in an environment in which senators are focused on process and timing, and busy pointing fingers at one another.


If Ford declines to participate, key GOP senators said they have no recourse but to move with all deliberate speed to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination. They described as “fair” their responsibility to give the nominee, who has denied the allegations, their decisions.


It’s possible more testimony and questioning of Kavanaugh, scheduled for Monday, may not take place if Ford declines the invitation to testify.


The New York Times: Friends describe Ford, a university professor, as a precise, logical scientific thinker and research psychologist; a community leader; a woman of integrity; a wife and mother of two boys.


“Without the benefit of an FBI investigation … and without the benefit of corroborating witnesses being able to testify, it’s a sham hearing, and I don’t think she should participate,” Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandPavlich: The media gets woke on the Women’s March Warren has contacted 100 people in early 2020 primary states: report O’Rourke is fireball, but not all Dems are sold MORE (D-N.Y.) told CNN.


Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsLobbying World Senators want assurances from attorney general pick on fate of Mueller probe 5 themes to watch for in 2020 fight for House MORE (R-Maine), a key vote within a majority that has few to spare when it comes to the Supreme Court battle, said she wants to hear Ford’s information, but it better be soon.


“Much to my surprise it now appears she’s turning down all three options [offered by the Senate to answer questions], even though her attorney said earlier this week that she would come testify,” Collins told a radio interviewer in Maine.


Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by Amgen — House passes bill to stop drug companies overcharging Medicaid | Incoming Dem chairman open to 'Medicare For All' hearings | Bill to reduce maternal mortality rates passes House House passes bill to keep drug companies from overcharging Medicaid Pence casts tie-breaking vote for Trump appeals court judge MORE (R-Iowa) said he would fly his committee staff to California to question Ford on her home turf, if that was her preference. In a three-page letter to the panel’s Democrats, Grassley said he’d already offered Kavanaugh’s accuser “a public hearing, a private hearing, a public staff interview or a private staff interview.”


Responding to Democrats’ calls for a pause in the process to allow for an FBI investigation, Grassley wrote “there is no longer a need for a confidential FBI investigation” because Ford made her allegations public during an interview with The Washington Post. The inquiry is now up to senators, he said.


“We have no reason to doubt the truthfulness of Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony,” Grassley concluded.


President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republicans move to block Yemen war-powers votes for rest of Congress Trump says he's considering 10 to 12 contenders for chief of staff Michael Flynn asks judge to spare him from jail time MORE on Wednesday expressed confidence in Senate Republicans, adding that he held his nominee in such high regard, it is “very hard for me to imagine that anything happened.”


Justice Kavanaugh has been treated very, very tough, and his family,” the president said. “I think it's a very unfair thing what's going. So we'll see. But I do think this: They've given it a lot of time. They will continue to give it a lot of time. And, really, it's up to the Senate, and I really rely on them.”


The Hill: Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle.

The Hill: Key GOP senators cool to Ford’s demands.

The Hill: Grassley rejects Democratic request to delay Kavanaugh testimony pending investigation.

The Hill: The FBI wrinkle, explained.


The Hill: Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMissouri GOP Secretary of State launches investigation into Hawley’s time as AG The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Congress to act soon to avoid shutdown Schumer gets ready to go on the offensive MORE (D-Mo.), who faces a tough reelection bid this fall in a state in which Trump will campaign on Friday, announced she opposes Kavanaugh’s nomination. She said her decision is based on the appellate court judge’s support for unlimited campaign contributions.

Reuters: Americans’ opposition to Kavanaugh grows, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted Sept. 11-17.

The Hill: Ford's reluctance gives the GOP an opening to escape its predicament.

The New York Times: “There is rising confidence among many leading Democrats that, at the very least, the claim of sexual misconduct deprives Republicans of a potent issue to wield against senators who vote no.”





WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump spent Wednesday in North Carolina and South Carolina surveying the damage from Hurricane Florence.


Today is the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s devastation in Puerto Rico, and it will be marked by remembrances and protests. Demonstrators are planning a Florida event outside Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Palm Beach this weekend. A sobering summary of Maria’s aftermath is HERE


The Hill’s Special Report from Puerto Rico, by Rafael Bernal.

NBC News Special Report: A year after Hurricane Maria.


Other headlines … North Korea denuclearization: The administration says the United States is ready to resume North Korea talks, seeking denuclearization by 2021 (Reuters)  … Immigration: Justice Department moves to further tighten immigration courts (CNN) … Methane regulation: The Interior Department’s final rule this week regulating methane emissions is one of the biggest victories of the Trump era for the oil and gas industry (The Hill).




Trump - exclusive interview: The president sat down in the Oval Office for a wide-ranging discussion with Hill.TV’s John Solomon and Buck Sexton on Tuesday.

> Don’t miss the Hill.TV transcript HERE.

> Trump’s continued criticisms of Attorney General Jeff Sessions are HERE.

The Washington Post: In a raw talk, Trump unleashes his anger.

The New York Times: Trump attacks Sessions and FBI, citing false conspiracy theories.

> The president, on his decision to declassify documents and texts tied to the FBI’s Russia probe, is HERE.

> Trump’s hints about a possible future immigration executive action are HERE.

> The president’s thoughts about Kavanaugh and Ford are HERE.


POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: The president also made some political predictions during Tuesday’s interview with Hill.TV. He’s campaigning in Las Vegas later today, leaning on a reelection rally there to get out the vote for GOP candidates come November.


“I think we’re gonna do much better than anyone thinks because the economy is so good, and people do like the job I’m doing,” Trump said.

“We’re so thrilled to have the president.” – Nevada Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur Heller How to reform the federal electric vehicle tax credit White House jumps into fight over energy subsidies One last fight for Sen. Orrin Hatch MORE (R) (The New York Times)

> Rust Belt: Democrats see renewed hope for midterm success in the Rust Belt, with close to a dozen House seats in the toss-up or lean-Republican column. Many believe the pathway to victory for House Democrats largely runs through female candidates and women voters (The Hill).


> Risks of success: A blue wave could knock out the House GOP's majority, but it could also tear apart the Democratic caucus next year (The Hill).


> Arizona - Senate: Republican Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyMaine’s 2nd District outcome proves value of ranked choice voting Arizona airport says Trump campaign owes K from October rally The 5 most competitive Senate races of 2020 MORE calls herself the “firewall” that stands in the way of a Democratic Senate, a reminder of just how much this year’s Senate landscape has changed — and how difficult it will be for Republicans even in a deep red state such as Arizona (The Hill).





Other political headlines … In Maryland, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has increased his already large lead over Democratic challenger Ben Jealous to 54 percent compared with 32 percent, according to a new poll from Goucher College (The Baltimore Sun) … In Texas, Republican Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDems attracted to O'Rourke because he demonstrates civility, says political analyst Gillum to speak at gathering of top Dem donors: report O'Rourke edges out Biden in MoveOn straw poll MORE is still the favorite to win, but Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke has a shot at victory, according to elections data analyst David Byler (The Weekly Standard).


And more politics … In Virginia, there’s a debate tonight (C-SPAN has coverage) between Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineWhile G-20 Summit was promising for US- China trade relations, Congress must still push for an exclusion process Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Border deployment 'peaked' at 5,800 troops | Trump sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | Senators offer bill to press Trump on Saudis | Paul effort to block Bahrain arms sale fails Overnight Defense: What the midterms mean for defense panels | Pompeo cancels North Korea meeting | Trump eyes Kim summit in early 2019 | Pentagon drops name for border mission MORE (D) and Republican challenger Corey Stewart … Also in Virginia, GOP leaders in the House of Delegates unveiled a redistricting plan on Tuesday to address racial gerrymandering, but it’s unclear if the GOP-controlled legislature will pass a map before an Oct. 30, court-ordered deadline (Richmond Times-Dispatch) … Working with firm Advertising Analytics, NBC News examined ad spending in the top 25 House pickup opportunities for Democrats, and found a spending advantage in 12 districts, while Republicans lead in nine; there has been no ad spending in four of the potential pickup districts in the general election thus far (NBC).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley & Alexis Simendinger Suggestions? Tips? We want to hear from you! Share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


Anita Hill, Christine Blasey Ford and the Year of the Woman in politics, by Pat Reilly, co-founder of Change Research, opinion contributor with The Hill.


The booming economy trumps Trump’s trade battle with China, by Liz Peek, opinion contributor with The Hill.


The House and Senate are out for the remainder of the week.


The president holds a reelection rally in Las Vegas at 10 p.m. ET.


Vice President Pence is juggling a packed schedule. This morning, he participates in “A Seat at the Table: Persecuted Church Summit,” in the White House Indian Treaty Room. The vice president and Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — What the Michael Flynn news means Pences get book deal for more Marlon Bundo stories The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump defends 2016 Russia business dealings | North American leaders sign new trade pact | Clinton doesn't tamp down 2020 talk MORE later present a flag to the Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation at 11:20 a.m., complete with his remarks. (The vice president will present an American flag used during the honorable carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii on Aug. 1, which paid tribute to U.S. soldiers killed during the Korean War.) At lunch, Pence headlines a political gathering to benefit the National Republican Senatorial Committee. At 1:30 p.m., the Pences participate in a conference of Women Mayors of America in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House. Shortly after, the vice president meets with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev of Macedonia in the Roosevelt Room, and later speaks by phone with Lenín Moreno, president of Ecuador.   


The Bipartisan Policy Center hosts a midterm-timed event at 9:30 a.m. about campaigns and social media (to be webcast). Panelists: Facebook’s Katie Harbath, director for global politics and government outreach; Tara McGowan, Acronym co-founder and CEO; Tad Rupp, Targeted Victory partner; and Nate Persily, Stanford Law School professor. Location: 1225 Eye Street N.W., Washington.


> Maine: A businesswoman who makes her livelihood selling lobsters for dining purposes is experimenting with sedating the crustaceans using marijuana to ease their pain during cooking (Mount Desert Islander).


> Pennsylvania: A state lawmaker is pushing legislation to ban Pennsylvania teachers from talking about politics and government in school (The Morning Call).


> Texas: A senior-citizen mayor killed a 12-foot gator, avenging a beloved miniature horse (Dallas Morning News). “Don’t mess with Nana,” she quipped.





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


And finally … It’s Thursday, time for a Morning Report QUIZ CONTEST, inspired by recent headlines. Newsletter fame on Friday awaits the quiz masters with the correct guesses about the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of Supreme Court appointees. Send answers to (and please put “Quiz” in your subject line).


The Senate’s first public confirmation hearing for a nominee to the Supreme Court took place in what year?


1)        1868

2)        1916

3)        1939

4)        1981



Is it true or false that Supreme Court nominees have always appeared in person prior to the Senate’s confirmation vote?


1)        True

2)        False



Justices Harry Blackmun, Anthony Kennedy, Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia and John Paul Stevens shared a feature of their respective Senate confirmations. Which of these describes what they had in common?


1)        They were all nominated by Democratic presidents

2)        The Senate confirmed all five with no opposing votes

3)        Their nominations bypassed the Senate Judiciary Committee and went directly to the Senate floor for confirmation votes

4)        All were confirmed to the high court before the existence of CNN and 24-hour cable news coverage



Which 20th Century president did not nominate a candidate to the Supreme Court?


1)        Franklin D. Roosevelt

2)        Harry Truman

3)        Gerald R. Ford

4)        Jimmy Carter



During Byron White’s 1962 confirmation process, one third of all the questions posed to the nominee by senators focused on which one of these topics (according to law professors Paul L. Collins Jr. and Lori Ringhand)?


1)    Birth control

2)    Pending Supreme Court cases

3)    White’s football career

4)    Shortcomings of constitutional law instruction at law schools