The Hill's Morning Report — Senate Judiciary panel to vote on Kavanaugh

The Hill's Morning Report — Senate Judiciary panel to vote on Kavanaugh
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Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report. It’s Friday. What a week, and it’s not over! ... 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.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are expected to vote this morning on President TrumpDonald John TrumpWatergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book Obama: 'Everybody needs to chill out' about differences between 2020 candidates MORE’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh following an emotional day of testimony on Thursday from Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who accused him of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers.

Kavanaugh’s consideration by the Judiciary Committee and his confirmation by the full Senate, perhaps by Tuesday, are in suspense.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R-Ariz.), a Judiciary Committee member, said Thursday night he was undecided. In a committee with 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats, Flake’s vote is consequential, although Kavanaugh’s nomination could still move to the Senate floor if the committee is split. Watch live coverage of the planned vote, which is scheduled for 9:30 a.m., via C-SPAN.

The plan, at least for now: After the committee votes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Deal on defense bill proves elusive | Hill, Holmes offer damaging testimony | Trump vows to block Navy from ousting officer from SEALs Trump steps up GOP charm offensive as impeachment looms Congressional authority in a time of Trump executive overreach MORE (R-Ky.) is expected to move to procedural votes that could end debate as soon as Monday, the first day of the Supreme Court’s new session. If those votes in the Senate are successful, the final vote on the Kavanaugh nomination could take place on Tuesday (The Hill).

Reuters: Senate panel heads to vote on Kavanaugh.

The New York Times: American Bar Association on Thursday evening called for postponement of vote and FBI investigation of Kavanaugh.

The assault allegations against Kavanaugh give red-state Democrats up for reelection in 2018 the cover they may need to vote against Trump’s appointee.

With a 51-49 majority in the Senate, the GOP can only afford to lose one Republican senator. Overnight, no one knew how Flake or Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump steps up GOP charm offensive as impeachment looms Romney calls lunch with Trump 'delightful' Trump lunches with two of his biggest Senate GOP critics MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiKey Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Impeachment hearings don't move needle with Senate GOP Hillicon Valley: Federal inquiry opened into Google health data deal | Facebook reports millions of post takedowns | Microsoft shakes up privacy debate | Disney plus tops 10M sign-ups in first day MORE (Alaska) intend to vote. In the case of a 50-50 tie, Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceSecret Service spent over 0,000 at Trump hotels Five bombshells from explosive Sondland testimony 2019 Louisiana governor's race spells disaster for Trump in 2020 MORE would vote to tip the confirmation into a majority.


            “In the end, there is likely to be as much doubt as certainty coming out of this room today.” – Flake


The Hill: Moderate Republicans remain undecided after testimony.

The Hill: Takeaways from the Kavanaugh-Ford hearings.

If Republicans don’t stick together, there is likely not enough time to push a new nominee through before the lame-duck session ends in January.

That means that if Kavanaugh’s nomination fails and Democrats overcome the odds to take a majority in the Senate, Trump’s window to confirm a replacement appointee – who would potentially tip the balance of the Supreme Court in favor of conservatives for decades – might be closed for good.

It appeared early on Thursday that Kavanaugh might be sunk, as Ford presented herself as a credible and deeply sympathetic witness.



Ford’s testimony included an excruciating description of Kavanaugh and a friend of his laughing as the alleged assault took place. Rachel Mitchell, the independent prosecutor GOP senators appointed to question Ford – Republicans feared the optics of an all-white and male panel grilling a victim of sexual assault – failed to dent Ford’s credibility or raise any meaningful questions about her alleged political motivations.

The New York Times: How Americans across the country reacted to Ford’s testimony.

This exchange between Ford and Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Health Care: Crunch time for Congress on surprise medical bills | CDC confirms 47 vaping-related deaths | Massachusetts passes flavored tobacco, vaping products ban Trump, senators push for drug price disclosures despite setbacks Tensions rise in Senate's legislative 'graveyard' MORE (D-Ill.), which rolled endlessly on cable news, was the defining moment of her testimony.

Durbin: “With what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?”

Ford: “100 percent.”


Kavanaugh had a similar exchange later in the day with Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.).

    Kennedy: “None of these allegations are true?”

    Kavanaugh: “Correct.”

    Kennedy: “No doubt in your mind?”

    Kavanaugh: “Zero, I’m 100 percent certain.”

Republicans and conservatives agreed that Ford’s account was compelling. There was panic on the right that the strategy of relying on an outside prosecutor to question her on live television was ineffective.

However, Kavanaugh followed in the afternoon with his own emotional testimony.

In opening remarks that lasted about 45 minutes, Kavanaugh categorically denied every allegation made against him. The appellate court judge repeatedly had to stop, sip water and compose himself as he described the strain on his family. He berated Democrats, accusing them of wrecking his life and his reputation for political gain. 

            “My family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false additional accusations … I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process … you may defeat me in the final vote, but you will never get me to quit.” – Kavanaugh

Judiciary Committee Republicans rallied to Kavanaugh’s defense. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamFBI official under investigation for allegedly altering document in Russia probe: report Trump steps up GOP charm offensive as impeachment looms Graham requests State Department documents on Bidens, Ukraine MORE (R-S.C.) exploded in anger in one viral exchange, saying the appellate court judge had his sympathy and his support. 

"To my Republican colleagues, if you vote `no,’ you're legitimizing the most despicable thing I've seen in my career in politics … this is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics.” – Graham

Trump was satisfied with the testimony and urged the Senate to move ahead without delay.




The drama on Capitol Hill riveted the nation for a day, playing out in furious debates over social media and in wall-to-wall coverage on cable and network television across the country.




“This is a circus … the consequences will be with us for decades." – Kavanaugh

The Hill: After stirring testimony, senators must decide.



Ruth Marcus: Ford’s devastating testimony.

Ashley Baker: Why I’m standing with Kavanaugh.

Emily Witt: The Kavanaugh saga has electrified the feminist movement.

Melissa Danford: Women need to protect their men from unproven allegations.

Emily Yellin: Ford speaks for us all.

Rich Lowry: Kavanaugh is right to be angry.

Randall D. Eliason: The GOP hired a pro to question Ford. It did not go well.

Rachael Larimore: Choosing the prosecutor to run the Republican part of Ford's questioning was the smartest thing the Senate has done in months.


The Washington Post (editorial board): The Senate can’t vote on Kavanaugh now.

The Wall Street Journal (editorial board): Confirm Brett Kavanaugh.

America (Jesuit Review): It is time for the Kavanaugh nomination to be withdrawn

The Cook Political Report: Trump, not Kavanaugh, will matter in November.


CONGRESS: Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump signs short-term spending bill to avert shutdown Trump awards Jon Voight, others National Medal of Arts Senate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown MORE, during a newsmaker interview with The Hill, said Republicans, contrary to some recent polls, have not lost the messaging advantage on cutting taxes (The Hill).

“We’re just beginning to see the impact, and I think over the next few years we’ll see that continue on,” Mnuchin said on Thursday.

Taxes: The Hill’s fifth of seven investigative articles examining the GOP’s signature enactment of major tax changes last year describes how a provision allowing oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge made it into the tax law (The Hill).

The House on Thursday passed two of the three tax-cut bills proposed by the GOP this year. Republican lawmakers want to focus voters’ attention on the 2017 tax law and the economy in advance of the November elections (The Hill).


INVESTIGATIONS: Trump will meet with Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinDemocrats ask judge to force McGahn to comply with subpoena Democrats ask court to force DOJ's hand on Mueller grand jury materials Washington celebrates diplomacy — and baseball — at Meridian Ball MORE at some point next week amid speculation that the deputy attorney general, who is overseeing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump MORE’s probe, is preparing to resign or be fired (The Hill). 

Trump and Rosenstein were supposed to meet Thursday but the meeting was postponed for the Kavanaugh-Ford hearings.

The New York Times reported last week that Rosenstein had spoken to colleagues about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office and had discussed secretly taping the president early in the administration.

Rosenstein has denied the story and the president has said he believes him.

“He said he never said … he has a lot of respect for me. And he was very nice. And we’ll see.” – Trump

Michael Mukasey and C. Boyden Gray: Declassify Mueller records to protect against abuse.

CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: The deck is stacked against Democrats as they seek to overcome the GOP’s 51-49 majority in the upper chamber. Ten senators are up for reelection in states the president carried in 2016, but Democrats believe the political winds might be strong enough to help them overcome the tough electoral map.

GOP outside groups are hitting the gas on spending to save the Republican majority. The network of groups helmed by billionaire conservative Charles Koch launched new ads on Thursday attacking Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterTester: Our forefathers would not have tolerated Trump asking Ukraine to investigate Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Fallout from day one of Trump impeachment hearing Veterans face growing threat from online disinformation MORE (D-Mont.) and former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D), who is running against Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnSenate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown Trump circuit court nominee in jeopardy amid GOP opposition Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising MORE (R-Tenn.) for Senate (YouTube).

There’s one Senate race the Koch network has made a point to stay out of: They are not backing Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy GOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial GOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week MORE (R-N.D.), who is running against Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE (D-N.D.) in a state Trump carried easily in 2016.

The Hill’s Max Greenwood reports that Cramer’s controversial comments about sexual assault have opened him up to criticism in the hotly contested race (The Hill).

The New York Times: The crisis of election security. America’s electronic voting systems are more vulnerable than ever.

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!



Detroit buckles under pressure from unions, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board. 

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley needs full authority to investigate the Catholic Church in the state, by The Kansas City Star editorial board.


The House meets at 9 a.m. to continue consideration of a piece of the GOP tax agenda.

The Senate meets at 2 p.m. At 9:30 a.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark up the nomination of Kavanaugh, which could send his appointment to the full Senate.

The president at noon in the Oval Office participates in a signing ceremony for the Department of Defense and Labor, Health, and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act and Continuing Appropriations Act. Trump holds a bilateral meeting with the president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera.

The White House convenes a 5G summit at 10 a.m. in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Speakers: Larry Kudlow, national economic adviser; Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai; Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration head David Redl; and Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios.

> The Hill reports today that security experts hope a new 5G network could eliminate a surveillance vulnerability that allows those nearby to spy on phone calls. Lawmakers have been pressing the Trump administration to crack down on the technology, known as "Stingrays," after they were found near sensitive facilities in Washington, D.C., including the White House. But the structure of new 5G networks could block the way the devices operate.

The annual, two-day Washington Antiquarian Book Fair, a curated festival of rare and collectible books, begins this evening in Arlington, Va. Information is HERE.  


> U.S. economic growth accelerated in the second quarter at its fastest pace in nearly four years as previously estimated, putting the economy on track to hit the Trump administration’s goal of 3 percent annual growth (Reuters).

> The Securities and Exchange Commission sued Tesla CEO Elon Musk for fraud, according to court documents filed on Thursday. The company may also be sued, although Tesla was not named as a defendant in the government’s complaint (CNBC). The Justice Department, meanwhile, has opened an investigation into the advertising industry’s media-buying practices (The Wall Street Journal).

> The North American Free Trade Act is not dead yet, despite a missed deadline. The Trump administration plans to publish, possibly as soon as today, the draft of a Mexico-only deal (The Wall Street Journal).

> Book excerpt: “The Fifth Risk,” by Michael Lewis. The inside story of the Trump transition. “Chris, you and I are so smart that we can leave the victory party two hours early and do the transition ourselves,” Trump said at one point (The Guardian).



And finally … Morning Report QUIZ CONTEST readers knew a lot about Albert Einstein and science!

Among the quiz responses this week (thank you!), we received five correct answers from John van Santen, Mary Vita P. Treano, Michael Calder, Jack Harding, Lorraine Lindberg, Sandy Sycafoose, Kane Martin, Nor Schramm, William Rickett, Rick Mito, Tony Sander and Patrick Alford.

They knew that the “c” in E=mc2, the famous theory of relativity published by Albert Einstein on Sept. 27, 1905, refers to the speed of light.

Schrodinger’s Cat is the thought experiment, named after Erwin Schrodinger, one of the founders of quantum mechanics, that describes how measuring or observing a phenomenon causes it to change.

Carl Sagan was the popularizer of modern science who helped compile a golden record embedded with human achievements, including a message from former President Carter and music from Mozart and Beethoven, which was launched into space on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977 to give alien life a taste of culture on Earth.

The edge of a black hole from which nothing can escape is called the event horizon.

And finally, Peggy Whitson is the NASA astronaut who has spent more cumulative time in outer space than anyone else: 665 days.