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 GillibrandCongress needs to bring family and medical leave policies into the 21st century Trump campaign fundraising on Bernie Sanders's M haul Gillibrand tells Iowan ‘ranch girl’ that pizza is on her next time MORE (D-N.Y.) told CNN.


Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTexas GOP rep opposes Trump’s use of national emergency to get border wall GOP Sen. Collins says she'll back resolution to block Trump's emergency declaration Talk grows that Trump will fire Dan Coats 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 — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes Drug pricing fight centers on insulin On The Money: Smaller tax refunds put GOP on defensive | Dems question IRS on new tax forms | Warren rolls out universal child care proposal | Illinois governor signs bill for minimum wage 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 TrumpJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Smollett lawyers declare 'Empire' star innocent Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration 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 McCaskillMcCaskill: Lindsey Graham 'has lost his mind' Trey Gowdy joins Fox News as a contributor The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump AG pick Barr grilled at hearing | Judge rules against census citizenship question | McConnell blocks second House bill to reopen government 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 HellerTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds 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 McSallyArmy calls base housing hazards 'unconscionable,' details steps to protect families Poll shows McSally, Kelly tied in Arizona Senate race Mark Kelly's campaign raises over M in days after launching Senate bid 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 CruzO’Rourke not ruling out being vice presidential candidate CNN ripped for hiring former Republican operative as political editor: 'WTF?!?!' The Hill's Morning Report - Can Bernie recapture 2016 magic? 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 KaineDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Overnight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants Kaine asks Shanahan if military families would be hurt by moving .6B for border wall 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 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers wait for Trump's next move on border deal 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