The Hill's Morning Report — Historic, high-stakes day for Kavanaugh and Ford

 

 

Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and it’s 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!) Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger are the co-creators, and you can find them on Twitter @joneasley and @asimendinger.

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A historic, headline-packed day will take place in a Senate hearing room beginning this morning.

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’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, will testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Unfolding on live television, a Supreme Court seat to succeed swing-vote Justice Anthony Kennedy hangs in the balance.

The Hill: What to watch for in Kavanaugh, Ford testimony

READ: Ford’s opening remarks.

            “I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school … I believed he was going to rape me.” – Ford

READ: Kavanaugh’s opening remarks.

“These are last-minute smears, pure and simple. They debase our public discourse. And the consequences extend beyond any one nomination. Such grotesque and obvious character assassination — if allowed to succeed — will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country.” – Kavanaugh

Earlier this week, a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself during a Yale University dorm party at which they were both drunk. And Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels, released a statement from a third woman, Julie Swetnick, who alleged Kavanaugh attended parties decades ago where she and other women were the victims of “gang rape.” Kavanaugh denies it all.

    “It's ridiculous. Total Twilight Zone. And no, I've never done anything like that.” – Kavanaugh

The Washington Post: Who is Swetnick?

The New York Times: New accusations and new doubts emerge ahead of hearing.

The Judiciary Committee released interviews between investigators and the appellate court judge, in which he denied the allegations of sexual assault or sexual misconduct against him, including some new claims. Transcripts of the Kavanaugh interviews are HERE and HERE.

Kavanaugh also released pages from his personal calendar showing his notes about events and activities during the summer of 1982, HERE.

“It’s happened to me many times”: During a nearly 90-minute press conference in New York City on Wednesday, Trump said he wants to watch today’s testimony, and he described being the target of multiple assault and harassment allegations by women over the years – accusations he has denied.

            “I can’t tell you whether or not [the women] are liars, I don’t know … I’m going to watch … It’s possible they will be convincing … I can always be convinced ... If I thought he was guilty of something like this, sure [I’d consider withdrawal].” – Trump

Trump vigorously defended his nominee, while also entertaining the idea that another nominee is a possibility.

“He’s a tremendous genius.”

“This is a big, fat con job.”

“It’s happened to me many times, where false statements are made and honestly nobody knows who to believe. I could pick another Supreme Court justice and another and another, this could go on forever … it’s a very dangerous period in our country being perpetrated by some very evil people, some of them are Democrats.”

“In this case you’re guilty until proven innocent. I think that’s a very, very dangerous standard for our country. That said, I look forward to what she has to say…I think it’s going to be a very, very important day in the history of our country.”

The Associated Press: This is personal for Trump.

The state of play

> The Senate Judiciary Committee is investigating the new allegations. A panel vote is scheduled on Friday. If Kavanaugh’s nomination moves out of committee, he could see a floor vote for confirmation by early next week. That’s all subject to change, of course, depending on how Thursday’s testimony goes.

The Hill: Republicans push forward despite new Kavanaugh allegations.

Reuters: Who is Rachel Mitchell, the Arizona sex-crimes prosecutor tapped by Republican senators to question Kavanaugh and Ford today?

> Judiciary Committee Democrats are demanding Kavanaugh withdraw. Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, Democratic leaders go toe-to-toe at White House Overnight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Trump moves to ease Obama water rule | EPA document contradicts agency over water rule data| Manchin to be top Dem on Senate Energy panel Coal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee MORE (D-N.Y.) called on Republicans to “immediately suspend the proceedings” and for the president to order an FBI investigation. Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan Merkley How to reform the federal electric vehicle tax credit Dem senator accuses Trump of aiding 'cover up' over Khashoggi Criminal justice reform splits 2020 Democrats MORE (D-Ore.), who may run for president in 2020, is suing to stop the confirmation process.

> Avenatti’s entrance into the fray turbocharged the battle and gave the president an opening to assail one accuser’s choice of legal representation as political.

 

 

 

 

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePence casts tie-breaking vote for Trump appeals court judge Dem: 'Disheartening' that Republicans who 'stepped up' to defend Mueller are leaving Flake: Republican Party ‘is a frog slowly boiling in water’ MORE (R-Ariz.), a fierce Trump critic who is not seeking reelection, offered an impassioned plea for civility on Wednesday. Both Kavanaugh and Ford are victims of partisan “character assassination,” he argued from the Senate floor.

“The toxic political culture that we have created has infected everything and we’ve done little to stop it. In fact, we’ve only indulged it, fanned the flames, taken partisan advantage at every turn, deepened the ugly divisions that exist in our country. These past two years we’ve tested the limits of how low we can go.” – Flake

Perspectives

S.E. Cupp: Democratic overreach could fuel GOP turnout as Americans see the weaponization of #MeToo.

LA Kauffman: The GOP will face the wrath of women.

Nate Silver: The GOP’s least-worst option is for Kavanaugh to pull out – and soon.

Alexandra Desanctis: The Kavanaugh circus could destroy the #MeToo movement.

Matt Ford: How Democrats could blow up the Supreme Court to save it.

Rich Lowry: The assault on Kavanaugh proves Trump voters right.

David Leonhardt: The Supreme Court has a crisis of legitimacy.

LEADING THE DAY

Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinMueller’s real challenge Graham vows to push Trump’s AG pick through Judiciary Committee House GOP set to grill Comey MORE may leave his job at the Justice Department, but it probably won’t be today.

“I would certainly prefer not doing that,” the president said on Wednesday when asked about firing the deputy attorney general, who reportedly prepared early this week to resign or get axed (The Hill).

Rosenstein assumed his days in the federal government were numbered following an eyebrow-raising New York Times report last week. Sources told the newspaper that Rosenstein spoke to colleagues early in 2017 about possibly recruiting Cabinet officials to use the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, and suggested secretly taping the president.

Following the front-page bombshell, the deputy attorney general and the president spoke by phone, and Trump said they would meet on Thursday at the White House – interpreted in Washington as a fateful encounter for the man who oversees the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

Republicans, including Fox News host Sean Hannity, urged the president not to fire Rosenstein, arguing the reporting could have been part of a plot to goad Trump. Republicans have been leery of kicking up distracting new controversies before the November elections.

“I’m talking to him. We’ve had a good talk. He said he never said it,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday, noting he was of a mind to delay a sit-down with Rosenstein.

The president said Rosenstein assured him “he has a lot of respect for me. And he was very nice. And we’ll see.”

The New York Times: White House officials declined to say whether a face-to-face meeting between Rosenstein and the president was ever planned or placed on the president’s calendar for today.

Trump shifted the topic to what he perceives as his political enemies, saying, “They’ll use anything they can. … They’re not going to beat me.”

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump says he's considering 10 to 12 contenders for chief of staff Schiff writes mock White House chief of staff job description Trump: 'No rush' to pick next chief of staff MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told reporters the group believes Rosenstein should testify before Congress this week about events reported in the Times, or resign his position as No. 2 under Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: Mueller closes in on Trump Mueller's findings don't matter The Hill's Morning Report — Trump shakes up staff with eye on 2020, Mueller probe MORE, a frequent Trump target for withering public criticism.

Convening oversight hearings is the opposite tack recommended early on Wednesday by Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse Republicans move to block Yemen war-powers votes for rest of Congress Stefanik: GOP leaders need to step up their female recruitment efforts McConnell agrees to vote on Trump-backed criminal justice bill MORE (R-Wis.), who thinks members of his party should butt out and let the matter cool (The Hill).

“We should let the president work it out with Rod Rosenstein. I hope they have a good productive conversation, and I hope that’s helpful,” Ryan said.

In any case, it would be up to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteGOP, Comey have tense day — with promise of a second date The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Trump taps William Barr as new AG | Nauert picked to replace Haley at UN | Washington waits for bombshell Mueller filing Meadows says Comey's interview with House Republicans will be 'far reaching' MORE (R-Va.) to decide whether to invite Rosenstein to testify, he added.

> The New York Times: The White House-favored Trump loyalist inside the Justice Department to potentially succeed Rosenstein is Matthew Whitaker, the chief of staff to the attorney general. Whitaker, a former college football player who looks the part, also is seen as a candidate in the role of White House counsel after Don McGahn departs this fall. How did Whitaker come to the attention of Sessions? He was recommended by Federalist Society power broker Leonard Leo.

 

 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: The midterm elections are 40 days away and new data released on Wednesday points to gains for the Democrats in the House and the Senate.

Generic ballot: Democrats have a 10-point edge, a margin that has doubled since last June (Pew Research).

Battleground states: Democrats lead key Senate races in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (University of Virginia’s Center for Politics). Trump won all of those states in 2016.

And the nonpartisan election handicappers at The Cook Political Report have moved five more seats toward Democrats:

 

 

Matt Morrison: The best way for Democrats to win working class-voters.

> It looks like Washington will avoid a last-minute government shutdown fight ahead of the midterm elections. The House on Wednesday passed $854 billion spending package that funds most of the government and pushes the funding deadline for the remainder until Dec. 7 (The Hill).

Trump has signaled he’ll sign the bill, despite past threats to shut the government down if the GOP-controlled Congress doesn’t rein in spending.

    “We’re going to keep the government open.” – Trump on Wednesday.

More from the campaign trail … Trump accuses China of interfering in midterm elections, says evidence is coming (The New York Times) … House battlefield expands as ad wars intensify (The Hill) … The test case on whether the tax overhaul will be a boon or an albatross for the GOP is playing out in New Jersey, where Republican Jay Webber is betting it will be a winner for him in the blue state (The Hill).

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

OPINION

Trump should insist on declassification of Mueller documents, by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and C. Boyden Gray, former U.S. special envoy, ambassador and White House counsel, opinion contributors with The Hill. https://bit.ly/2OSYLB4

Kavanaugh misled senators under oath before in order to get confirmed, by Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP. https://bit.ly/2xRuBGZ

WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features Avenatti and Reps. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellGM chief meets lawmakers to calm anger over cuts GM lobbyists go into full crisis mode over layoffs GM draws Washington’s anger with new layoffs MORE (D-Mich.) and Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzMeadows looks to make his move McCarthy, other Republicans back Ratcliffe to be next attorney general Gaetz goes to bat with Trump on Jordan MORE (R-Fla.) talking about Kavanaugh and Rosenstein. http://thehill.com/hilltv

The Hill hosts two separate newsmaker events today, both with Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack as interviewer. He sits down at 10:30 a.m. with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin in Washington for a wide-ranging conversation. And at 8 a.m., Cusack talks with Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyThe Year Ahead: Drug pricing efforts to test bipartisanship GOP balks at Trump drug pricing plan Overnight Defense: Senate rebukes Trump with Yemen vote | Mattis, Pompeo briefing fails to quell Senate concerns with Saudis | Graham demands CIA briefing on Khashoggi | Pentagon identifies three troops killed in Afghanistan MORE (R-La.) and Reps. Buddy CarterEarl (Buddy) Leroy CarterFor George and Barbara Bush, White House staff became family Congress must protect eye care patients from frightful prescriptions Trump signs bills banning drug pricing 'gag clauses' MORE (R-Ga.) and Doris MatsuiDoris Okada MatsuiPelosi allies push back on proposed Speaker nominee rule change Congress must protect eye care patients from frightful prescriptions The bipartisan PACT Act would ensure access to life-saving bone marrow transplants for Medicare beneficiaries MORE (D-Calif.) about the “Evolution of Telehealth: Patient Awareness and Education.” Events information HERE.

The House convenes at 10 a.m. to consider three bills as part of the House Republicans' tax reform agenda.

The Senate meets at 10 a.m. to consider spending bills now in a House-Senate conference committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing at 9:30 a.m. on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, with the nominee and Palo Alto University professor Ford as witnesses.

The president returns to the White House from New York City at noon. In the evening, Trump meets with supporters at a political roundtable and dinner in Washington, and returns to the White House.

Treasury’s Mnuchin speaks at 7:15 p.m. at the American Swiss Foundation “Building Bridges Conference” dinner held at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

Treasury Department general counsel Brent McIntosh talks about tax and regulatory reform at 11:45 a.m. as part of the American Swiss Foundation conference. The discussion takes place at The Heritage Foundation.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell delivers brief remarks at 4:30 p.m. about the economy at the annual “Rhode Island Business Leaders Day” held on Capitol Hill and hosted by Democratic Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedYemen resolution picks up crucial support in Senate Senate to get briefing on Saudi Arabia that could determine sanctions Dem senator: Trump's Saudi statement 'stunning window' into his 'autocratic tendencies' MORE. Information HERE.

Economic reports to be released at 8:30 a.m.: U.S. trade in goods for August (will be closely watched for signs that tariffs are impacting the economy). U.S. durable goods orders for August. U.S. second-quarter gross domestic product (expected to be 4.3 percent, for a slight upward revision). U.S. jobless claims (claims are currently at a half-century low).

ELSEWHERE

> The Fed raises interest rates and says more hikes are coming (Bloomberg).

> The Justice Department opens a probe into Yale University for discriminating against Asians (The Washington Post). 

> The Federal Communications Commission approves a plan for 5G internet deployment by overriding some local rules (The Wall Street Journal).

THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s Thursday, time for a Morning Report QUIZ CONTEST!

Send your answers to jeasley@thehill.com or asimendinger@thehill.com (and please put “Quiz” in your subject line).

On this date in 1905, Albert Einstein published a paper called “Does the inertia of a body depend upon its energy content,” in which he first distilled a portion of his theory of special relativity into the elegant and enduring equation, E=mc2.

Let’s test your knowledge of physics this week…

What does the ‘c’ stand for in Einstein’s famous equation?

  1. Entropy, or the amount of disorder in a system.
  2. The speed of light.
  3. Acceleration.
  4. The amount of change in a magnetic field.

This famous thought experiment, named after one of the founders of quantum mechanics, describes how measuring or observing a phenomenon causes it change.

  1. The Niels Bohr Conundrum
  2. Einstein’s Riddle
  3. Schrödinger’s Cat
  4. The Planck Paradox

This popularizer of modern science compiled a golden record embedded with human achievements, including a message from former President Jimmy Carter and music from Mozart and Beethoven, which was launched into space on the Voyager spacecraft and meant to give alien life a taste of culture on Earth.

  1. Neil deGrasse Tyson
  2. Richard Feynman
  3. Brian Greene
  4. Carl Sagan

The edge of a black hole from which nothing can escape is called:

  1. The singularity
  2. The event horizon
  3. The core
  4. The gravity well

This NASA astronaut has spent more cumulative time in outer space than anyone else, punctuated by two extended stays at the International Space Station.

  1. Peggy Whitson
  2. Fyodor Yurchikhin
  3. Samantha Cristoforetti
  4. Sunita Williams