The Hill's Morning Report — Ford, Kavanaugh to testify Thursday as another accuser comes forward




Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and it’s 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.  


*** The Hill today begins a seven-part series examining the GOP’s signature legislative achievement since 2017 – the enactment of major tax reductions. With interviews and behind-the-scenes details, today’s installment begins where House Republicans briefly ran aground at the outset, and explains how they jettisoned a controversial sticking point to rescue chances for success. Find the staff-written project HERE. ***

News about the Supreme Court continues to shift, but as of now, the woman who alleges that nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both teenagers is set to testify Thursday in Washington at a hearing to begin at 10 a.m. (The Hill).


Christine Blasey Ford reached an agreement with the Senate Judiciary Committee over the weekend to describe her recollections publicly in what will be one of the most-watched televised hearings in recent memory.


Kavanaugh, who has been eager to voice his denials, will appear on Thursday, but the order in which the two will testify was not certain as of Sunday.


Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties Congressional leaders unite to fight for better future for America's children and families MORE (R-Iowa) postponed the committee’s vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, which had been scheduled today, but he did not set a new date (The Hill).


Republican senators have said they want to hear Ford’s testimony. But some have expressed skepticism that their support for Kavanaugh’s qualifications will change in the absence of clear, corroborating evidence of sexual misconduct or a pattern of disqualifying behavior. President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE, Vice President Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden: 'No party should have too much power' Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills MORE (R-Ky.) have assured conservative audiences since last week that Kavanaugh will be confirmed.


Sunday night delivered fresh indications of challenges for the appellate court judge, however:


The New Yorker: Deborah Ramirez, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s, described to the magazine a dormitory party gone awry and a drunken incident when Kavanaugh allegedly exposed himself to her – incidents for which the magazine could find no firm corroboration.


“This is a smear, plain and simple.” – Kavanaugh, in a White House statement


Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGiffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick Senate confirms Trump pick labeled 'not qualified' by American Bar Association Feinstein endorses Christy Smith for Katie Hill's former House seat MORE, the committee’s top Democrat, immediately sought a postponement of the nomination proceedings, and she again called on Republicans and the White House to order an FBI investigation of details and witnesses who might bolster or refute Ford and Ramirez (The Hill). Democrat and fellow Californian Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBooker campaign rakes in million after Harris exits 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Yang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations MORE, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, echoed Feinstein’s request.


Late on Sunday, Oregon Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyMcConnell says he's 'honored' to be WholeFoods Magazine's 2019 'Person of the Year' Overnight Energy: Protesters plan Black Friday climate strike | 'Father of EPA' dies | Democrats push EPA to abandon methane rollback Warren bill would revoke Medals of Honor for Wounded Knee massacre MORE (D) called on Kavanaugh to withdraw. Progressive groups that oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination did the same.


In addition, there was this tweet from a possible Democratic presidential contender who is representing Stormy Daniels in her litigation against Trump. Attorney Michael Avenatti described “awareness” of “multiple witnesses” to house parties in the 1980s in which Kavanaugh allegedly participated with male friends in plans for sexual misconduct aimed at intoxicated female partygoers.





Grassley said the committee would pursue Ramirez’s allegations and requested from Avenatti any evidence he possesses.


The Associated Press: Kavanaugh’s nomination further imperiled.

Politico: Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties GOP senator blocks Armenian genocide resolution Hannity slams Stern for Clinton interview: 'Not the guy I grew up listening to' MORE (R-S.C.) over the weekend said his vote for the nominee would not change, regardless of Ford’s testimony.

The Hill: Senate Democrats said they identified discrepancies in Kavanaugh’s earlier testimony, which they believe undercut his credibility, separate from his denials of any sexual misconduct.


The Hill’s reported details of Thursday’s hearing: Ford wants Kavanaugh to testify first but will accept Republicans’ insistence that Ford precede the nominee. Her legal team had wanted the panel to subpoena alleged witness Mark Judge, who has said he has “no recollection” of Ford’s description of events. Ford’s legal team also seeks to introduce as witnesses the person who conducted a polygraph test with Ford, and two trauma experts. Republicans previously declined those requests, and the subject of witnesses appeared unresolved this morning.

Grassley noted in a Sunday statement that the committee “determines which witnesses to call, how many witnesses to call, in what order to call them, and who will question them. These are non-negotiable.”

Democratic senators plan to pose their own questions, but the 11 Republican senators on the committee – all male – could opt to question Ford through an outside counsel, possibly a woman. The hearing will include 45-minute breaks; Ford will have two counsels sitting with her, and will be given dedicated security in light of the physical threats she’s received since her allegations became public.

The Hill: House Democrats see Kavanaugh controversy as a midterm boon.

The New York Times: The Kavanaugh fight risks worsening the GOP’s gender problem.

Bloomberg Law: Should Kavanaugh’s nomination fail, a host of female judges wait in the wings.


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: At the United Nations General Assembly this week, the United States wields the gavel, and Trump is expected to tout progress made with North Korea one year after his fiery speech threatening to “totally destroy” the country and Pyongyang’s aggressive pursuit of nuclear weapons (Reuters). He delivers an address to the assembly on Tuesday.


While the rhetoric has changed, some U.S. officials and analysts say Pyongyang has yet to take concrete strides to show it is prepared to give up a nuclear arsenal that threatens the United States.


Trump wants to meet again with Kim Jong Un: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoForeign Relations Democrat calls on Iran to release other American prisoners Documentary groups challenge Trump administration's vetting of immigrants' social media Iran releases American graduate student in prisoner swap MORE said on Sunday, “President Trump very much is prepared to meet with Chairman Kim at the right time. … We hope that'll happen in the not-too-distant future.”


Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Pompeo said, “There is a long ways to go to get Chairman Kim to live up to the commitment that he made to President Trump and, indeed, to the demands of the world in the U.N. Security Council resolutions to get him to fully denuclearize. But our team is fully engaged. And there are lots of conversations taking place. There's lots of work being done. It isn't all visible to the public.”


On Thursday at a rally in Nevada, the president declared that in North Korea, “There is  no more nuclear testing.” Pompeo repeated Trump’s assessment: “They have stopped missile firings and nuclear testing.”


Reuters: The president wields the U.N. gavel.

The Hill: Trump faces a pivotal moment on North Korea.

The New York Times: Trump aides this year fear a too-conciliatory president at the international assembly.


While at the United Nations, Trump will speak today about the need for a global response to the world’s drug problems and he’ll meet one-on-one with three heads of state, including South Korean President Moon Jae-in and French President Emmanuel Macron (Trump also met for a working dinner on Sunday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe).


The French president wants to use his meeting with Trump to propose a “modernization” of the World Trade Organization, according to reports from Paris. Macron will also meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to encourage Iran to stick with the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement that Trump so assertively opposes (Bloomberg).


> Iran: Following a lethal attack on a military parade in Iran, Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyHaley: Dylann Roof 'hijacked' Confederate flag Trump: Kellyanne Conway 'must have done some bad things' to 'crazy' husband Trump says Pence will remain on 2020 ticket: 'He's our man 100 percent' MORE, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, rejected Rouhani’s efforts to place blame on the United States. Haley, in remarks on Sunday, said Rouhani should “look in the mirror” and recognize that the Iranian people are protesting their country’s governance (The Hill). Rouhani says Iran is ready to “confront America.”



> Department of Justice: Trump blamed Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe shifting impeachment positions of Jonathan Turley Rosenstein, Sessions discussed firing Comey in late 2016 or early 2017: FBI notes Justice Dept releases another round of summaries from Mueller probe MORE for the latest controversy, reported Friday by The New York Times, that Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinRosenstein, Sessions discussed firing Comey in late 2016 or early 2017: FBI notes Justice Dept releases another round of summaries from Mueller probe Judge rules former WH counsel McGahn must testify under subpoena MORE raised the idea inside the Justice Department of recording conversations with the president.


"He was hired by Jeff Sessions," Trump said in an interview with "The Geraldo Show" on WTAM radio, broadcast on Sunday. "I was not involved in that process because, you know, they go out and get their own deputies and the people that work in the department" (Fox News).


During an interview with Hill.TV last week, the president eviscerated Sessions, saying “I don’t have an attorney general.”


Trump’s allies are divided about Rosenstein – not whether to fire him, but when (Politico). “Divisions were on display Friday as differing opinions were blasted out in an effort to influence the president’s thinking after the bombshell story.”


The Associated Press: Trump solicited outside advice on Friday about whether he should fire Rosenstein. He held off. For now.

The Hill: Pompeo, asked about the Times report about Rosenstein, took a clear shot at his administration colleague. "If you can’t be on the team, if you’re not supporting this mission, maybe you’ve got something else to do," he said on “Fox News Sunday.”



> Immigration: On Saturday, the administration unveiled proposed new restrictions that would allow the government to deny visas and green cards to immigrants who have used public benefits designed for low-income people, such as Medicaid, food stamp and housing assistance (NBC News). The controversial proposal is described by the administration as a deterrent to migration and a budget savings for taxpayers and states.


"This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump puts Kushner in charge of overseeing border wall construction: report Hillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Minority lawmakers call out Google for hiring former Trump DHS official MORE said.


> Public health: The Trump administration's plan to divert hundreds of millions of dollars from health programs to pay for housing for detained migrant children could have lasting consequences, advocacy groups warn. Advocates worry that the administration will continue raiding public health accounts, leaving fewer resources for federal research and emergencies such as the Zika virus and hurricane response (The Hill).  



Tech & cyber: The government and the private sector are laying the groundwork for faster 5G (fifth generation) wireless networks, a highly-touted upgrade to mobile internet service that industry leaders say will usher in promising innovations (The Hill).


> The Trump administration's new cyber strategy has raised new questions about the country’s role in offensive cyberattacks. The policy document, unveiled Thursday, is the first strategy on cyber to be released in 15 years. White House national security adviser John Bolton is eager to describe the idea of launching offensive attacks as Trump’s policy of deterrence (The Hill).





POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Trump will hold a rally in Wheeling, W.Va., on Saturday.


New polling: Democrats hold the advantage in November’s elections, but voter enthusiasm among Republicans has drawn nearly even with Democrats (NBC News/WSJ) … By a wide margin, Democrats are considered the party that would better handle health care; voters are unhappy with the direction of the country; a majority disagrees with Trump on the border wall; and most voters say the GOP’s promised tax-cut bonanza did not materialize (Fox News) … Control of the House remains in play, but if the election were held now, Democrats are projected to win 224 seats. Takeaway: “People who voted for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats battle for Hollywood's cash The House Judiciary Committee's fundamental choice Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE in 2016 are more unified in their support for Democratic congressional candidates than Trump voters are for Republicans” (CBS News).


In other political headlines … Ahead of the midterms, the political climate is increasingly ugly and personal (The Hill) … Republican candidates in tough reelection battles are working overtime to reassure voters that they support health insurance protections for those with pre-existing conditions (The Hill) … In Iowa, the 2020 Democratic presidential primary is underway (The Hill) … The Cook Political Report on Friday moved the Texas Senate race to “toss-up” (Cook Report), before Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing Trade deal talks expand as Congress debates tech legal shield Sanders meets with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred MORE (R-Texas) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) locked horns in the first of three scheduled debates. The next debate dates are Sept. 30 and Oct. 16 (ABC13).







CONGRESS: Some House Republicans want to release evidence from their Russia investigation before the November elections, including transcripts of interviews conducted behind closed doors. "We believe that the depositions that we took, I think nearly about 70 people, those need to be published and they need to be published, I think, before the election," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesTrump denies report that he still uses personal cell phone for calls The Hill's Morning Report - Dem dilemma on articles of impeachment Conservative Dan Bongino launches alternative to the Drudge Report MORE (R-Calif.) said Sunday. The controversial chairman sets up a contentious committee vote if he proceeds (The Hill).


House Democratic leadership: Democratic insurgents hope to topple House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump Democrats open door to repealing ObamaCare tax in spending talks Sunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing MORE (D-Calif.) next year. However, they lack a key ingredient in their master plan: a formidable challenger (The Hill).


House GOP aims to avert a shutdown: The House this week is expected to pass an $854 billion spending bill that would prevent a shutdown after Sept. 30, despite complaints from Trump and some conservatives that in doing so, they betray the party’s platform of fiscal responsibility (The Hill).

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The dangers of DNA testing: 74 out of 108 crime laboratories implicated an innocent person in a hypothetical bank robbery in a new study, by Greg Hampikian, professor of biology at Boise State University (The New York Times).


Human rights and the challenge of peace in a changing world, by Forest Whitaker, opinion contributor with The Hill.


The House convenes at 10:30 a.m.


The Senate meets at 3 p.m., and will vote at 5:30 p.m. on the nominations of Jackie Wolcott to be U.S. representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency and to the Vienna office of the United Nations with the rank of ambassador; and Peter A. Feldman, to be commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The president will be in New York for the 73rd annual United Nations General Assembly. He participates in an event about global drug problems, holds a bilateral meeting with South Korean President Moon and participates in a signing ceremony for the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement. The president also holds a bilateral meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Then he meets with French President Macron. In the evening, Trump and Melania TrumpMelania TrumpWhy we cherish — and guard — the White House gingerbread house The Hill's 12:30 Report: Job growth soars in November Impeachment hearing didn't go as Chairman Nadler planned MORE host a reception for heads of state.


The vice president and Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceKaren Pence reveals 'Victorian Christmas!' themed decorations at vice president's residence Pence, second lady make unannounced trip to Iraq to visit US troops The Hill's Morning Report - Wild Wednesday: Sondland testimony, Dem debate take center stage MORE travel to the U.N. General Assembly today and return to Washington on Wednesday. Pence’s schedule follows the president’s itinerary today, as does Secretary of State Pompeo’s.


Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other Department of Justice officials speak at 8:30 a.m. at a department National Public Safety Partnership Symposium in Hoover, Ala.

The Atlantic Council gives the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMan acquitted over tweet offering 0 to killing an ICE agent Lessons of the Kamala Harris campaign Overnight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes cases MORE the Global Citizen Award posthumously at 7 p.m. in New York City. The award will be accepted by Cindy McCain. Details are HERE.


It is Active Aging Week through Sept. 29. Launched in 2003 by the International Council on Active Aging, the designated week includes events nationwide to showcase the capabilities of older adults and spotlight role models.


Invitation to join The Hill’s Newsmaker Series Sept. 26 for “Leadership in Action,” featuring Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingHouse GOP criticizes impeachment drive as distracting from national security issues Retiring lawmaker's 2018 opponent won't run for seat, citing 'difficult' pregnancies House panel advances flavored e-cigarette ban MORE (R-N.Y.). Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack will sit down with the congressmen to discuss their visions for bridging the gaps between political parties, especially at a time when the country is seen as being its most partisan. RSVP HERE.


> Taliban’s surge: 17 years after the United States went to war in Afghanistan, the Taliban has regained power, seized territory and killed Afghan security forces in record numbers (roughly 57 deaths per day). The mounting losses among Afghan forces are seen as unsustainable (The New York Times).


> Traffic deaths rise in Washington, D.C. – a city with snarled traffic, a troubled public transit system and thousands of visitors navigating unfamiliar streets. As of Friday, officials reported 26 fatalities this year. Ten have been pedestrians; six were in cars; five were motorcyclists; three were bicyclists and one was riding an all-terrain vehicle (The Washington Post).


> Today begins a two-day sentencing hearing for Bill Cosby, 81, following his conviction on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault (The Associated Press).


And finally … ⏰ 43 days until Election Day. The backdrop this week:

  • A pivotal Supreme Court seat remains vacant.
  • Funding for the next fiscal year must be ironed out by midnight Sunday.
  • Nearly 54 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Trump is doing, according to the RealClearPolitics average.
  • Only 31 percent of Republicans approve of the job Congress is doing, while only 8 percent of Democrats approve (Gallup).
  • Democrats lead in the generic congressional ballot.
  • Americans’ dissatisfaction with government is the issue that leads their national worries (Gallup).
  • The Mueller Russia probe proceeds into election season.
  • Midterm voting is underway: By law this weekend, all states sent absentee ballots to military and overseas civilians who requested them. And other early and absentee ballots are being cast. Information about options to vote in your state are HERE.