The Hill's Morning Report — Where the Kavanaugh nomination stands

 

Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report and to October. 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 is hosting solo this week while co-creator Alexis Simendinger is out of town. Find him on Twitter @joneasley.

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features an interview with Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsHouse committee heads demand Coast Guard Academy explain handling of harassment allegations Can the Democrats unseat Trump? Democrats slam alleged politicization of Trump State Department after IG report MORE (D-Md.). Also tune in to hear from Uttam Dhillon, the acting administrator for the Drug Enforcement Administration, who will talk about the opioid crisis. http://thehill.com/hilltv

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The Supreme Court begins its new term this morning but justices will be short-handed as President TrumpDonald John TrumpFacebook releases audit on conservative bias claims Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Recessions happen when presidents overlook key problems MORE’s nominee Brett Kavanaugh remains in limbo ahead of what is certain to be another chaotic, angry and emotional week in Washington.

The explosive drama around Kavanaugh has gripped the nation, drawing in the #MeToo movement, the fight over a swing-vote on the Supreme Court during an election year and the politics of outrage that have been a defining characteristic of the Trump presidency.

A quick recap of where things stand ahead of a pivotal week in the Senate

> Senate GOP leaders delayed a vote to end debate on Kavanaugh’s nomination after Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeArpaio considering running for former sheriff job after Trump pardon Overnight Energy: Warren edges past Sanders in poll of climate-focused voters | Carbon tax shows new signs of life | Greens fuming at Trump plans for development at Bears Ears monument Carbon tax shows new signs of life in Congress MORE (R-Ariz.), who is not running for reelection, said he’d only move forward if the FBI conducted an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh.

Flake asked for a one-week delay. The clock started ticking on Friday.

In a Sunday night interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Flake said there’s “not a chance” he would have called for the investigation if he were running for a second term.

    "There’s no value to reaching across the aisle. There’s no currency for that anymore. There’s no incentive." — Flake

> The FBI is conducting a background check, not a criminal investigation. Kavanaugh, an appellate court judge, has been through several of these already. The FBI cannot issue subpoenas or force witnesses to testify. It can only interview subjects and pass the information on to lawmakers, who have been conducting their own interviews.

The investigation appears limited to allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford, who testified that Kavanaugh groped her and pinned her down at a high school party in 1982, and Deborah Ramirez, who claimed in a New Yorker article that Kavanaugh exposed himself at a Yale University party in the 1980s.

Kavanaugh vehemently denies allegations from both women. Late Sunday, The Washington Post obtained a memo authored by Rachel Mitchell, the lawyer Republicans tapped to question Ford at last week’s hearing, in which she details why she would not have brought criminal charges against Kavanaugh in that case.

The New York Times: How the FBI will investigate the Kavanaugh accusations.

CBS News: Why the FBI investigation can be conducted so quickly.

> The FBI does not appear to be investigating claims made by Julie Swetnick, who is represented by Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels. Swetnick has alleged that Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge were present at nearly a dozen parties in the 1980s where she says she and her friends were the victims of “gang rape.”

Kavanaugh has called Swetnick’s allegations a “a joke” and “a farce.” Trump has attacked Avenatti, a Democrat who is considering running for president, as a “low life.”

> The scope and timing of the FBI probe has turned into a political fight.

Democrats, citing media reports like this one at NBC News, are claiming that the White House has interfered to keep some witnesses, such as Avenatti’s client, from being interviewed.

Reuters: FBI probe is next battle in war over Kavanaugh.

The Washington Post: Fight over Kavanaugh intensifies amid confusion over limits of FBI investigation.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTrump administration urges Congress to reauthorize NSA surveillance program The Hill's Morning Report - More talk on guns; many questions on Epstein's death Juan Williams: We need a backlash against Big Tech MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to the White House on Sunday night asking they release the directive to the FBI.

“To limit the FBI as to the scope and who they’re going to question? That really — I want to use the word farce. But that’s not the kind of investigation that all of us are expecting the FBI to conduct.” – Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDemocratic senator on possibility of Trump standing up to the NRA: 'That's just such BS' Schumer to Trump: Demand McConnell hold vote on background check bill Graham moves controversial asylum bill through panel; Democrats charge he's broken the rules MORE (D-Hawaii), who is on the Judiciary Committee, on ABC’s “This Week”

The investigation is said to be limited to the “current credible allegations” that existed against Kavanaugh as of last Friday. Avenatti’s injection into the process has added a political element to the fight. Many Republicans do not find Swetnick’s allegations to be credible.

> The White House is defending the veracity of the investigation, with Trump lashing out at Democrats over Twitter, saying that they’ve already made up their minds and that nothing will be good enough for them.

 

 

The president said over the weekend the FBI will have “free rein” and that investigators are free to speak with anyone they deem appropriate.

The Hill: White House defends FBI investigation into Kavanaugh.

At the same time, White House officials warned that the FBI investigation must not run too far afield.

"This cannot become a fishing expedition like the Democrats would like to see it be.” — White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on “Fox News Sunday”

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyWhite House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord GOP senators call for Barr to release full results of Epstein investigation MORE (R-Iowa) has asked the FBI to investigate an apparent false charge of sexual assault made against Kavanaugh last week (The Hill).

James Comey: The FBI can do this.

Mark Penn: Polling shows FBI on the hot seat in Kavanaugh ordeal.

The swing senators

With only a 51-49 majority in the Senate, the GOP can afford to have one Republican vote against Kavanaugh.

Flake, who announced his support for Kavanaugh before successfully delaying the vote in a dramatic reversal on Friday, says he’s still a possible “yes.”

“I’m a conservative. He’s a conservative. I plan to support him unless [the FBI] turn up something — and they might.” — Flake to The Atlantic.

The other two Republicans in question are Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate Senate braces for brawl over Trump's spy chief Congress kicks bipartisan energy innovation into higher gear MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCook Political Report moves Susan Collins Senate race to 'toss up' The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move MORE (Maine.). Both backed Flake’s move to delay the confirmation vote.

The pool of Democrats that might back Kavanaugh to potentially give Republicans some breathing room has shrunk to only two – Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa Al Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSunday shows - Recession fears dominate Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Trump vows to 'always uphold the Second Amendment' amid ongoing talks on gun laws MORE (W.Va.).

The midterm politics

The Kavanaugh nomination was never supposed to drag on this close to the midterm elections.

The drama provides new uncertainty for Republicans, who were already facing the possibility of losing their majority in the House.

The Memo: GOP risks disaster with Kavanaugh, midterms.

The New York Times: Kavanaugh could help Republicans keep the Senate. He all but ensures the GOP will lose the House.

Doug Schoen: Why the GOP is about to get killed over Kavanaugh.

Some Republicans insist that the controversy has awoken conservatives that might have otherwise stayed home. Josh Holmes, a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi, Schumer press for gun screenings as Trump inches away The malware election: Returning to paper ballots only way to prevent hacking First House Republican backs bill banning assault weapons MORE (R-Ky.), says that Republicans are newly energized by what they view as cruel and unjust treatment toward Kavanaugh.

 

 

Perspectives

Jonathan Allen: Kavanaugh fight shows Washington is sick.

Kaitlyn Buss: Guilt should not be tied to gender.

Rebecca Traister: Fury is a political weapon and women must wield it.

Kathleen Parker: Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTwo-thirds of Republicans support 'red flag' gun laws: NPR poll Red flag laws won't stop mass shootings — ending gun-free zones will Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid MORE (R-S.C.) is a hero for defending Kavanaugh.

Jill Abramson: In elevator video, rape survivors show how democracy works.

Stella Morabito: Senate’s defamation of Kavanaugh is a threat to all Americans.

Peter Beinart: America is finally listening to women but the nation is in crisis.

James R. Copland: The farce and tragedy of the confirmation process.

Andrew Sullivan: Everyone lost in the Kavanaugh-Ford hearings

Ruth Marcus: What is a week’s delay compared to a lifetime on the Supreme Court?

Michael Goodwin: Kavanaugh hearing was a national disgrace. The worst is yet to come.

LEADING THE DAY

***BREAKING OVERNIGHT: The U.S., Canada and Mexico have reached a deal to preserve the North American Free Trade Agreement after negotiators worked deep into the night to meet a self-imposed deadline … a White House official said the new agreement will be called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA … there were questions heading into the night about whether the U.S. and Mexico would go it alone, as major issues remained between the U.S. and Canada … Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, leaving his office on Sunday night, told reporters, "it's a good day for Canada.” http://bit.ly/2NcIipB ***

CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: Trump heads to Johnson City, Tenn., today for a campaign rally aimed at goosing turnout for Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTaylor Swift defends staying out of the 2016 election: 'I just knew I wasn't going to help' The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal Senate passes sweeping budget deal, sending it to Trump MORE (R), who is in a surprisingly close Senate race against former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D).

The Senate map is stacked against Democrats in their effort to overcome the GOP’s 51-49 majority in the upper chamber, but there are enough toss-up races right now — including in deep red states like Tennessee and Texas — that anything seems possible.

"I haven’t given up on the Senate, because I keep watching [Rep.] Beto O’Rourke [D-Texas] here — they just moved it to a toss-up in the Cook Political Report. [Republicans] had the enthusiasm advantage in 2010, and that’s a big reason why we got our clocks cleaned. We have the enthusiasm advantage in 2018." – Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin this weekend.

Nate Silver: O’Rourke has a chance to defeat Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP strategist predicts Biden will win nomination, cites fundraising strength 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters MORE (R) in Texas.

Kristin Tate: Texas Senate race should frighten Republicans.

The Hill’s Reid Wilson and Lisa Hagen report that Democratic groups are preparing a massive final onslaught of advertising in the next month, hoping it will push them over the top in the Senate (The Hill).

The startling statistics:

A review of campaign spending data to date shows Democratic candidates and outside groups have outspent Republicans and their allies in 10 of the 14 most competitive races on the map this year — in some cases by millions of dollars. Over the next six weeks, that spending gap will get worse: In the nine states where the major outside groups are playing, Democratic groups will outspend Republican organizations in all but two, by a combined margin of more than $40 million. Wilson and Hagen

In the House, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan moving family to Washington Embattled Juul seeks allies in Washington Ex-Parkland students criticize Kellyanne Conway MORE (R-Wis.) has canceled votes for October, sending lawmakers home to campaign after passing an $854 billion spending package to avert a shutdown and keep the government open until early December (The Hill).

GOP strategists are making tough last-minute decisions about who in the House to support down the stretch.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a group closely aligned with Ryan, canceled a collective $3.1 million in advertising time it had reserved for Reps. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanBottom Line Koch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform MORE (R-Colo.) and Mike Bishop (R-Mich.), believing neither of the longtime swing-district lawmakers has a shot at reelection in November (The Hill).

And The Hill’s Wilson has this scoop the National Republican Congressional Committee has canceled more than $1 million in planned advertising for Rep. Kevin YoderKevin Wayne YoderK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Kansas Senate race splits wide open without Pompeo Mike Pompeo to speak at Missouri-Kansas Forum amid Senate bid speculation MORE (R-Kan.).

Expect to see more of that kind of triage in the days and weeks ahead as Republicans seek to limit the extent of the losses they face in the House.

The Hill: GOP centrists are in danger of being wiped out this fall, leaving a more conservative House caucus behind them.

The Hill: Democrats are pledging to reverse Trump’s defense agenda if they take back Congress in November.

More from the campaign trail … 2020 race kicks into high gear before the 2018 midterms are even over (The Washington Post) …  Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHarry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Warren offers plan to repeal 1994 crime law authored by Biden Panel: Jill Biden's campaign message MORE (D-Mass.) says she’ll “take a hard look” at running for president after the Nov. 6 elections (Boston Herald) … Trump is signaling his support for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOmar says US should reconsider aid to Israel I'm not a Nazi, I'm just a dude: What it's like to be the other Steve King Trump finds consistent foil in 'Squad' MORE (R-Calif.) to be the next Speaker if Republicans hold the House (The Hill) … Congress has failed to pass any legislation to secure U.S. voting systems in the two years since Russia interfered in the 2016 election (The Hill) … Democratic candidates for governor are going on the offense about Medicaid expansion in red states (The Hill).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

 WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Late Sunday night, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against California after Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law the nation’s strictest net neutrality law (Reuters).

    States do not regulate interstate commerce — the federal government does. Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy.” — Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDOJ should take action against China's Twitter propaganda Lewandowski says he's 'happy' to testify before House panel The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy MORE

> The Trump administration is moving hundreds of migrant children to a tent city in West Texas as the federal government struggles to deal with its largest ever population of detained children (The New York Times).

> Read The Hill’s sixth of seven investigative articles on how Republicans passed the tax overhaul; Trump’s signature legislative achievement and a key issue looming over the midterm elections. Part six takes a look at the behind-the-scenes lobbying frenzy and the hectic lives of Capitol Hill staffers toiling largely in anonymity. You can find the staff-written project HERE.

 INVESTIGATIONS: Where does special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE’s probe stand with the midterm elections just around the corner?

The Hill's Morgan Chalfant breaks the investigation into four categories: Those who have cooperated, the Russians who have been indicted, the other guilty pleas, and the remaining unknowns (The Hill).

The numbers so far: Thirty-seven have been charged in connection with the probe; eight have pleaded guilty; and six, including four Trump associates, have agreed to cooperate.

> The House Intelligence Committee voted to release transcripts from interviews it conducted with dozens of key witnesses in its now-shuttered Russia probe.

The 53 transcripts encompass thousands of pages of interviews. The document dump is expected before the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

Get ready for some good reading, straight from the mouths of Stephen Bannon, Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksHope Hicks defends accuracy of her congressional testimony Nadler subpoenas Lewandowski, former White House official for testimony House panel to go to court to enforce McGahn subpoena, Nadler says MORE, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerPresident tweets 'few work harder' than Ivanka, Jared PETA billboard in Baltimore calls Kushner a 'rich pest' Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign MORE, Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpPETA billboard in Baltimore calls Kushner a 'rich pest' Dick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report House chairman warns foreign governments to 'cease and desist' spending money at Trump properties MORE, Roger StoneRoger Jason Stone3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 Judge rejects Stone's request to dismiss charges Judge dismisses DNC lawsuit against Trump campaign, Russia over election interference MORE, James ClapperJames Robert ClapperEx-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Former DHS, intelligence leaders launch group to protect presidential campaigns from foreign interference Senate braces for brawl over Trump's spy chief MORE, Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesSally Yates: Moral fiber of US being 'shredded by unapologetic racism' Trump: 'Impossible for me to know' extent of Flynn investigation Mueller didn't want Comey memos released out of fear Trump, others would change stories MORE, Jeff Sessions and Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray Coats11 Essential reads you missed this week Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move Hillicon Valley: Deepfakes pose 2020 test for media | States beg Congress for more election security funds | Experts worry campaigns falling short on cybersecurity | Trump officials urge reauthorization of NSA surveillance program MORE, among others (The Hill).

> The long-awaited face-to-face meeting between Trump and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWhy the presumption of innocence doesn't apply to Trump McCabe sues FBI, DOJ, blames Trump for his firing Rosenstein: Trump should focus on preventing people from 'becoming violent white supremacists' MORE, originally scheduled for last week, has been delayed once again, as the Kavanaugh drama consumes Washington.

There is speculation that Trump could fire Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe, or that they might negotiate the parameters of Rosenstein’s departure sometime down the road.

            "A date for that [meeting] hasn’t been set. It could be this week. I could see it pushing back another week given all the other things that are going on with the Supreme Court, but we’ll see."Sarah Huckabee Sanders on "Fox News Sunday."

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

The enduring scam of corporate tax breaks, by Bryce Covert, The New Republic. http://bit.ly/2DF2rFt

Let the economy decide your vote, by Alfredo Ortiz, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2DGqN1y

WHERE AND WHEN

The House is in recess and will reconvene on Nov. 13.

The Senate convenes at 3 p.m.

The president holds a get-out-the-vote rally at 7 p.m. in Johnson City, Tenn. for Blackburn.

First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpEx-Melania Trump adviser raised concerns of excessive inauguration spending weeks before events: CNN The Hill's Morning Report - Trump moves green cards, citizenship away from poor, low-skilled White House seeks volunteers, musicians for Christmas celebrations MORE departs today on her first solo international trip as first lady, heading to Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt during the first week of October. http://bit.ly/2QoWEW3

The Supreme Court begins a new term at 10 a.m. with eight justices. The court’s argument schedule: Weyerhaeuser Co. v. Fish and Wildlife Service and Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido.

Flake speaks today at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics on the campus of St. Anselm College.

The Newseum presents a tribute to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes. The documentary “The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route” will air at 7 p.m at the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater. http://bit.ly/2QaFH1a

ELSEWHERE

> What comes next after Facebook’s massive data breach (The Associated Press).

> The inventor of the World Wide Web has a new plan to upend the internet (Fast Company).

> Elon Musk cuts a deal with the Securities and Exchange Commission, will step down as chairman of Tesla but remain CEO (The Wall Street Journal).

THE CLOSER

And finally

Over the weekend, Ignition Records released “Strummer 001,” a box set compiling the solo work of the Clash frontman Joe Strummer, 16 years after the British rocker’s sudden death at the age of 50. The Clash’s classic punk album “London Calling” will turn 40 years old next year.

The 32 tracks on “Strummer 001” include rare and previously unreleased tracks. The website Pitchfork says the compendium “paints a vivid and complex portrait of Strummer as he existed outside of the Clash.

“If I had five million pounds I'd start a radio station because something needs to be done. It would be nice to turn on the radio and hear something that didn't make you feel like smashing up the kitchen and strangling the cat.” - Strummer