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 CummingsCongressional investigation finds Coast Guard leadership fell short on handling bullying Trump request for Ukrainian 'favor' tops notable quote list Impeachment can't wait 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 TrumpSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Vulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment Trump appears to set personal record for tweets in a day 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 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.), 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 FeinsteinSanders endorses Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur for Katie Hill's former House seat Houston police chief stands by criticism of McConnell, Cruz, Cornyn: 'This is not political' Senate confirms Trump's 50th circuit judge, despite 'not qualified' rating 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 HironoHorowitz offers troubling picture of FBI's Trump campaign probe Live coverage: DOJ inspector general testifies on Capitol Hill Democrats rip Barr over IG statement: 'Mouthpiece' for Trump 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 GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Horowitz did not find evidence Obama asked for probe of Trump Live coverage: DOJ inspector general testifies on Capitol Hill 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 MurkowskiSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial McConnell: I doubt any GOP senator will vote to impeach Trump Potential Dem defectors face pressure on impeachment MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial McConnell: I doubt any GOP senator will vote to impeach Trump Democrats spend big to put Senate in play 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 HeitkampPro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA The 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 MORE (N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial McConnell: I doubt any GOP senator will vote to impeach Trump Manchin warns he'll slow-walk government funding bill until he gets deal on miners legislation 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 McConnellSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial McConnell: I doubt any GOP senator will vote to impeach Trump McConnell says he'll be in 'total coordination' with White House on impeachment trial strategy 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 GrahamSenators zero in on shadowy court at center of IG report Graham: People should be fired over surveillance report findings GOP, Trump campaign rip CNN for coverage of Horowitz hearing 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 BlackburnTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Lawsuits pose new challenge for TikTok TikTok's leader to meet with lawmakers next week 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 CruzSenate Republicans air complaints to Trump administration on trade deal Senate passes Armenian genocide resolution Houston police chief stands by criticism of McConnell, Cruz, Cornyn: 'This is not political' 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 RyanJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment House Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea 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 YoderSharice Davids to vote for Trump impeachment articles: 'The facts are uncontested' Feehery: How Republicans can win back the suburbs K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers 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 WarrenSaagar Enjeti says Buttigieg's release of McKinsey client list shows he 'caved to public pressure' On The Money: Lawmakers strike spending deal | US, China reach limited trade deal ahead of tariff deadline | Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst over new NAFTA Bill Weld: As many as six GOP senators privately support convicting Trump 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 McCarthyHouse passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices CEO group pushes Trump, Congress on paid family, medical leave The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — Sparks fly as House Judiciary debates impeachment articles 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 SessionsLisa Page sues DOJ, FBI over alleged privacy violations Sessions leads GOP Senate primary field in Alabama, internal poll shows Trump rebukes FBI chief Wray over inspector general's Russia inquiry 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 MuellerJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment Trump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts 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 HicksJustice Dept releases another round of summaries from Mueller probe Former White House official won't testify, lawyer says Trump: 'Top shows' on Fox News, cable are 'Fair (or great)' to me MORE, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump hosts pastor who says 'Jews are going to hell' at White House Hanukkah party Mark Levin calls Trump 'first Jewish president' Kushner pens NY Times piece defending Trump order combating anti-Semitism MORE, Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpMelania Trump's 'Be Best' hashtag trends after president goes after Greta Thunberg Trump Jr. blasts Time for choosing 'marketing gimmick' Greta Thunberg as Person of the Year White House calls Democratic witness's mentioning of president's youngest son 'classless' MORE, Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneDOJ backs ex-Trump campaign aide Richard Gates's probation request Schiff says investigators seeking to identify who Giuliani spoke to on unlisted '-1' number What if impeachment fails? MORE, James ClapperJames Robert ClapperTrump predicts 'historic' conclusions from DOJ's watchdog report on 'spying' The curious timeline for taking down Trump Fairness, tradition, and the Constitution demand the 'whistleblower' step forward MORE, Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesBiden reveals four women he could pick as his running mate Merriam-Webster: A 200-year-old dictionary offers hot political takes on Twitter Sally Yates: Moral fiber of US being 'shredded by unapologetic racism' MORE, Jeff Sessions and Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsFormer US intel official says Trump would often push back in briefings Hillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Intelligence agencies have stopped collecting cellphone data without warrants: letter MORE, among others (The Hill).

> The long-awaited face-to-face meeting between Trump and 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, 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 TrumpTrump tweet mocking Greta Thunberg sparks backlash Biden slams Trump for criticizing Greta Thunberg: 'What kind of president bullies a teenager?' Melania Trump's 'Be Best' hashtag trends after president goes after Greta Thunberg 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