The Hill's Morning Report — Kavanaugh could be confirmed within days




Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and it’s 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 one more day while newsletter partner Jonathan Easley concludes his R&R on another continent. Find her on Twitter @asimendinger.


*** The Hill today publishes its third of seven articles 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 describes key decisions made by Senate Republicans as they struggled to secure a budget deal that was make-or-break for tax reform’s eventual enactment. Find the staff-written project HERE. ***

A vote to favorably recommend Brett Kavanaugh for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court is scheduled at 9:30 a.m. Friday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, less than a day after senators and counsel are to question the 53-year-old appellate court judge, as well as Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford, about her accusations that the nominee sexually assaulted her in 1982.


On Tuesday, Republicans amplified their public support for Kavanaugh, who denies every element and detail of accusations against him. GOP confidence grew that the nominee could be confirmed by a narrow margin within days (The Hill).


Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGardner signals support for taking up Supreme Court nominee this year Grassley, Ernst pledge to 'evaluate' Trump's Supreme Court nominee McConnell digs in on vow to fill Ginsburg's Supreme Court seat MORE (R-Iowa) informed the top Democrat on the panel, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinBiden leads Trump by 12 points among Catholic voters: poll Names to watch as Trump picks Ginsburg replacement on Supreme Court McConnell says Trump nominee to replace Ginsburg will get Senate vote MORE (Calif.) that a scheduled Thursday hearing will not be delayed to investigate another woman’s accusation, which surfaced in The New Yorker this week, or to run accusers’ information to ground with the help of the FBI (The Hill).


He later announced that committee Republicans, 11 males, will rely on Arizona sex-crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to question both Kavanaugh and Ford (The Washington Post). Mitchell, a Republican, has worked for the Maricopa County attorney’s office since 1993, and is on leave (The New York Times).


Senate GOP leaders, who are racing the clock to move Kavanaugh’s confirmation through committee and to the floor, advised colleagues to stick around Washington this weekend for a possible final vote.  


President TrumpDonald John TrumpBubba Wallace to be driver of Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin NASCAR team Graham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Southwest Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE, in remarks to reporters on Tuesday, accused Democrats of a “con game” to try to block Kavanaugh’s appointment to the high court (The Associated Press). And he mocked an accusation by Deborah Ramirez, reported in The New Yorker, that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when they were both drunk at a Yale University dorm party.


"The second accuser has nothing. The second accuser doesn't even know, she thinks maybe it could've been him, maybe not. She admits that she was drunk. … She was totally inebriated and all messed up, and she doesn't know." – Trump, at the United Nations General Assembly in New York

Senate Democrats fumed that the GOP process to assess the accusations was rushed, incomplete and unfair. But the minority has been split between progressives who have called for Kavanaugh to withdraw his nomination and Senate Democratic leaders, who focused on pressing the White House and Republican senators to authorize a full FBI investigation (The Hill).


Senate Democrats believe Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGraham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Gardner signals support for taking up Supreme Court nominee this year Tumultuous court battle upends fight for Senate MORE (R-Alaska), who is not a member of the Judiciary Committee but has worked behind the scenes to try to encourage a process in which Ford would be heard, is perturbed by the rhetoric and political hardball she sees.


“We are at just a difficult place because the conversation is not rational on either side,” she said. “Just look at some of the hateful things that are being said out there. How do you dial that back?” (The New York Times).


Murkowski later said she believed an FBI investigation could help “clear up all the questions” (The Hill).


The controversy about sexual assault accusations, corroboration and when and how they became public has ensnared the news media. The Washington Post published Ford’s account. The New Yorker learned of former Yale graduates this summer after they chatted among themselves about Kavanaugh’s behavior in those years. Tips led the magazine’s journalists to Ramirez, who agreed to be interviewed on the record. She was contacted later by The New York Times, but declined an interview request. The newspaper also worked to corroborate information and decades-old recollections among Kavanaugh’s former Yale classmates.


New York magazine: The New York Times and The New Yorker spar over the Kavanaugh story.


The Hill: The latest example of the media becoming the news.


But in the end, Kavanaugh, who turned to a method never before used during any nominee’s effort to win Senate support to join the Supreme Court, may have tapped the news outlet crucial for him. His emotional interview with Fox News on Monday attracted an astonishing 3.6 million viewers – including an approving president.





WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: At the United Nations General Assembly today, Trump will speak at a U.N. Security Council briefing about counter proliferation, and has scheduled what is expected to be a lively news conference at 5 p.m.


On Tuesday, during a 35-minute address to the New York international gathering, the president took aim at Iran, calling on world leaders to join the United States in isolating Tehran over its "aggression." During a half-hour speech, the president concentrated on his administration's plans to launch a "campaign of economic pressure" aimed at starving Iran of funding it would use "to advance its bloody agenda" in the Middle East and beyond (The Hill).


While in New York, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani did not seek a meeting with the president (Reuters).


Trump’s presentation, which included his boast that “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” was interrupted by audience laughter (The Hill).





During his speech, the president again threatened to end U.S. international aid for countries he considers disloyal to the United States. It never happens, and there’s a reason, reported The Washington Post (the Pentagon, State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development think pulling back would harm U.S. interests).


Besides calling out Iran, Trump also criticized China for its trade practices but made no mention of Russia’s interference in Syria’s war or its suspected meddling in U.S. elections (Reuters).



> Department of Justice: Trump and members of the administration have said they want to get tougher with Silicon Valley companies, perhaps through the states. Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsGOP set to release controversial Biden report Trump's policies on refugees are as simple as ABCs Ocasio-Cortez, Velázquez call for convention to decide Puerto Rico status MORE met with a group of state attorneys general for that purpose on Tuesday, but found them focused on data privacy and market concerns more than anti-conservative bias (The Hill).



> FEMA: Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency within the Department of Homeland Security, is in talks with Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenDHS IG won't investigate after watchdog said Wolf, Cuccinelli appointments violated law Appeals court sides with Trump over drawdown of immigrant protections Democrats smell blood with new DHS whistleblower complaint MORE to repay some or all of the $151,000 in unauthorized travel costs he racked up using government vehicles and personnel during a trip to Hawaii that included his family and while commuting to work from his North Carolina home. The department’s inspector general reported the results of its investigation (The Wall Street Journal).



> West Wing turnstile: Deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah, who has been coordinating communications for the West Wing during the Kavanaugh confirmation period, is expected to depart soon after that assignment concludes (Yahoo News).


POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Both parties have begun adjusting their midterm spending strategies with just over 40 days to go until Election Day. The House GOP’s campaign arm throttled back on ad spending in the Pittsburgh media market last week where the majority is imagining an incumbent Republican loss, and the Democrats’ House campaign team canceled ad buys in Michigan and Arizona districts where they think their candidates are shoo-ins for victory (The Hill).


> Florida in every way is a fascinating battleground for midterm races up and down the ballot.




The RealClearPolitics average identifies the Senate race as a toss-up, with Nelson a point ahead of Scott (RealClearPolitics).



Other political headlines … In Virginia at 7 p.m., Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineTrump meets with potential Supreme Court pick Amy Coney Barrett at White House Names to watch as Trump picks Ginsburg replacement on Supreme Court Barrett seen as a front-runner for Trump Supreme Court pick MORE (D) again debates challenger Corey Stewart (R), broadcast by NBC12 and C-SPAN and moderated by NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd (NBC12) … A new Monmouth Poll in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District shows Republican Rep. Dave Brat trailing Democratic challenger Abigail Spanberger (The Hill) … In Missouri’s Senate race between incumbent Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMomentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Democratic-linked group runs ads in Kansas GOP Senate primary Trump mocked for low attendance at rally MORE (D) and GOP challenger Josh Hawley, both candidates believe Jefferson County will be pivotal, and are campaigning that way (St. Louis Post-Dispatch).


> Surrogates and influencers: Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun control advocacy group founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is footing the bill for a $5 million digital ad campaign targeting 15 House races (Politico). Bloomberg is considering a presidential race as a Democrat in 2020.


Trump added an Oct. 2 reelection rally in Southaven, Miss., to his schedule, his fourth campaign stop in that state since his race for the White House. He is getting behind Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith, appointed to the Senate by the state’s governor in April, and locked in a challenging special election to keep her seat after November. Hyde-Smith faces another Republican, Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel, and a Democrat, former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy (Jackson Free Press).


Former President Obama continues to urge voter registration and citizen participation in November, tweeting on Tuesday: “This moment is too important to sit out.”


Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenJoe Biden looks to expand election battleground into Trump country Trump puts Supreme Court fight at center of Ohio rally Special counsel investigating DeVos for potential Hatch Act violation: report MORE is making appearances on behalf of Democratic candidates while weighing his own prospects for another presidential run in 2020. The Hill’s Amie Parnes reports Biden is the Democrat many Republicans believe could pose the biggest threat to Trump’s reelection ambitions (The Hill).

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!


The Trump doctrine was just declared at the United Nations, and it’s called `maximum pressure,’ by Harry J. Kazianis, opinion contributor with The Hill.


View from Maine: Our response to a sexual assault allegation against a Supreme Court nominee will reflect America's values, for good or ill, by Greg Kesich, editorial page editor (The Portland Press Herald)


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features insights on the headlines from Rep. Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenTennessee Rep. Steve Cohen wins Democratic primary Democrats exit briefing saying they fear elections under foreign threat Texas Democrat proposes legislation requiring masks in federal facilities MORE (D-Tenn.); Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director with Judicial Crisis Network; Dr. Anne Schuchat, the Centers for Disease Control’s principal deputy director, on teenage vaping; and Chia Network CEO Ryan Singer, in Washington to talk with lawmakers about cryptocurrency.


The House convenes at 10 a.m. with 19 measures on the docket. Votes are expected to begin at 1:30 p.m.


The Senate meets at 9:30 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Peter A. Feldman to be a commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee holds a hearing at 10 a.m. on consumer privacy protections with leading representatives from major tech companies. Google Inc. Chief Privacy Officer Keith Enright will testify that his company has made privacy “mistakes” (Reuters).


The president, in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, meets this morning with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump speaks at a U.N. Security Council briefing about counter proliferation, then holds a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, followed by a bilateral discussion with Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom. Trump will hold a press conference at 5 p.m., then cap off his evening in New York with a dinner among political supporters.


Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: House Democrats unveil stopgap spending measure to GOP opposition | Bill includes .6B for new subs | Trump issues Iran sanctions after world shrugs at US action at UN Navalny calls on Russia to return clothes he was wearing when he fell ill US issues Iran sanctions to enforce UN action ignored by international community MORE attends United Nations events today.


The Federal Reserve ends a two-day meeting with a policy statement at 2 p.m. and a press conference by Chairman Jerome Powell at 2:30 p.m. Investors and analysts expect the central bank to raise its benchmark interest rate for a third time this year (CBS News). The Fed also releases economic forecasts today from its policymaking committee, including predictions about the monetary policy outlook in the year ahead.


Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinShutdown clash looms after Democrats unveil spending bill Lawmakers fear voter backlash over failure to reach COVID-19 relief deal United Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE speaks at the Appeal of Conscience Foundation 2018 annual awards dinner at 7:45 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt New York Hotel.


Treasury Assistant Secretary Marshall Billingslea testifies before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade at 2 p.m.


Department of Justice director Clifford J. White of the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees testifies at 10 a.m. about trustee compensation during a hearing, “Bankruptcy Administration Improvement Act of 2017,” before the House Judiciary  Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law.

Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim and Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard Powers speak at 4 p.m. at the antitrust division’s program commemorating the 25th anniversary of its leniency program.


The U.S. Census Bureau’s report on new residential sales in August will be released at 10 a.m. Analysts are closely monitoring the housing sector.

The Hill’s Newsmaker Series on “Leadership in Action” features Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingTrump holds private funeral service for brother Robert Trump at White House  Cheney clashes with Trump Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney MORE (R-N.Y.), 6-8 p.m. 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. Information HERE.


> Sexual assault: Actor and comedian Bill Cosby, 81, a convicted sexual predator, was sentenced on Tuesday to serve 3 to 10 years in state prison in Pennsylvania for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in 2004. He was denied bail and put behind bars. “It is time for justice, Mr. Cosby,” the judge said (The Associated Press).


> Washington is a swamp: “September’s 8.25 inches of rain (and counting) has pushed the 2018 precipitation total in Washington to 48.35 inches, which is more than 19 inches above normal. It ranks as the third-greatest amount on record ... trailing only 1886 and 1889" (The Washington Post).


> `We just need to pray’ – wrath of Hurricane Florence continues: The storm responsible for the deaths of more than 40 people in the Carolinas, now long gone from most weather reports, caused dangerous, historic flooding in South Carolina. People in nine counties were advised not to travel on South Carolina roadways on Tuesday. Conditions prompted emergency evacuations near the city of Georgetown as floodwaters roared through swollen rivers toward the Atlantic Ocean (CBS News).





And finally … Washington’s denizens this week sound so frazzled and frustrated that people said they just wanted to escape, or share thoughts about how they escape.


"I'm so happy to be out of Washington, D.C., right now I could cry." – Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisBiden courts veterans amid fallout from Trump military controversies Trump says he wanted to take out Syria's Assad but Mattis opposed it Gary Cohn: 'I haven't made up my mind' on vote for president in November MORE, during a speech at the Virginia Military Institute


“I’m grateful for having music in my life. Music is uplifting, it’s inspiring, it can be humorous, and I’ve enjoyed writing lyrics [and] doing something that really brings me a great deal of joy.” – Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchBottom line Bottom line Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  MORE (R-Utah), speaking on the Senate floor





We seem to need a lift this morning.