The Hill's Morning Report — Kavanaugh ordeal thrusts FBI into new political jam

 

 

 

Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report and happy Tuesday. 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 Diana De La Garza and Eric Bolling discussing opioids addiction. Alan Morrison, associate dean at George Washington University Law School, will talk about the Supreme Court and Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. http://thehill.com/hilltv

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The FBI has been thrust into the center of a sticky new political jam, this time with the lifetime appointment of a potential swing-vote on the Supreme Court hanging in the balance.

After struggling to move beyond questions of its handling of the investigations into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDems wonder if Sherrod Brown could be their magic man Pipeline paralysis: The left’s latest fossil fuel obstruction tactic Mueller could turn easy Trump answers into difficult situation MORE and President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichelle Obama says not always easy to live up to "we go high" Georgia certifies elections results in bitterly fought governor's race Trump defends border deployment amid fresh scrutiny MORE, the bureau and its Director Christopher Wray find themselves in the middle of another election year controversy, this time through no fault of their own.

The latest…

The New York Times reported Monday that the White House reached out to the FBI to inform investigators that they could expand their probe into allegations of sexual misconduct against Brett Kavanaugh – so long as the background check is concluded by the end of the week.

The Hill: FBI’s Kavanaugh scope widens as GOP seeks votes.

The initial investigation was said to be limited to current and credible allegations against Kavanaugh. The FBI was set to reach out to Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of forcibly groping her at a high school party in 1982, Deborah Ramirez, who claims Kavanaugh exposed himself at a Yale University party in the early 1980s, and a handful of acquaintances or friends of Kavanaugh, Ford and Ramirez.

But the scope and timing of the probe quickly became a political problem for Republicans.

Democrats have accused the White House of blocking the FBI from conducting a comprehensive investigation. On Monday, Senate Judiciary Democrats released a list of more than two-dozen witnesses they said must be interviewed for the investigation to be credible.

That list includes Julie Swetnick, who has alleged that Kavanaugh attended “gang rape” parties where she and other young women were assaulted. Swetnick is represented by Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels.

Trump and Republicans do not find Swetnick’s allegations credible, but the president said Monday he’s fine if the FBI wants to investigate them.

            “It wouldn’t bother me at all … but I want it to be done quickly because it’s unfair to the family and to the judge.” – Trump

The Associated Press: Swetnick has history of legal disputes.

MSNBC: An interview with Swetnick. In it, NBC News anchor Kate Snow acknowledges that details in Swetnick’s story have changed and that NBC could not verify her claims.

The FBI investigation must be thorough and credible enough to satisfy Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump defends border deployment amid fresh scrutiny Sunday shows preview: New members preview agendas after Democratic House takeover Veteran political reporter says New Hampshire voters have 'hunger' to moderate political turbulence MORE (R-Ariz.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell, Flake clash over protecting Mueller probe Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Border deployment 'peaked' at 5,800 troops | Trump sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | Senators offer bill to press Trump on Saudis | Paul effort to block Bahrain arms sale fails Senators introduce bill to respond to Khashoggi killing MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMcConnell, Flake clash over protecting Mueller probe Dems slam Trump’s energy regulator nominee Ernst elected to Senate GOP leadership MORE (R-Alaska), who are waiting on the outcome before announcing how they’ll vote.

“It does no good to have an investigation that just gives us cover.” - Flake on Monday in New Hampshire.

With a 51-49 majority in the Senate, the GOP can only afford to lose one of those three if all Democrats vote no. Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSotomayor: Kavanaugh now part of the Supreme Court ‘family’ Trump to nominate former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as next EPA administrator Schumer reelected as Senate Democratic Leader MORE (D- W. Va.) is seen as the Democrat most likely to vote yes, but he’s currently undecided.

The Hill: Red-state Democrats face nightmare scenario on Kavanaugh.

Reuters: Emboldened protesters step up effort to block Kavanaugh.

In a floor speech on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSunday shows preview: New members preview agendas after Democratic House takeover Trump set to have close ally Graham in powerful chairmanship As Democrats gear up to challenge Trump in 2020, the key political divide will be metropolitan versus rural MORE (R-Ky.) said that no amount of concessions Republicans make will be enough to satisfy Democrats.

            “I bet almost anything that after it runs its course in the next few days, we will then be treated to a lecture, a lecture that anything short of a totally unbounded fishing expedition of indefinite duration is too limited or too arbitrary or somehow insufficient. We all know that’s coming. If you listen carefully you can practically hear the sounds of the Democrats moving the goalposts.” - McConnell

McConnell said the Senate will move ahead with a vote on the Kavanaugh nomination this week once the FBI’s investigation concludes (The Hill).

In the interim, Kavanaugh’s drinking as a young man has come under scrutiny from Democrats and the press.

The Associated Press: Democrats question Kavanaugh’s credibility, temperament.

The Washington Post: Dueling narratives about Kavanaugh’s drinking.

Polling

Harvard CAPS/Harris: More Americans oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it, but opinions on the nominee are largely split and many are undecided.

Quinnipiac University: Massive gender, racial and partisan gaps in views on Kavanaugh.

CBS News/YouGov: Kavanaugh hearing spurs more division.

Hill.TV American Barometer: Voters strongly support FBI investigation into Kavanaugh allegations.

Analysis

The Hill: Dems see Kavanaugh fight driving women to the polls.

NBC News: Predictions of a “Kavanaugh wave” in November - but for Democrats or Republicans?

Bloomberg: Kavanaugh battle expands historic gender gap before election.

Perspectives

Frank Cannon: The left’s attacks on Kavanaugh will backfire.

Mara Gay: Make my sexual assault count.

David French: The case against Kavanaugh collapses.

Heather Digby Parton: White male rage boils over but women aren’t scared anymore.

Sharyl Attkisson: Kavanaugh case opens door to dangerous range of accusations.

LEADING THE DAY

CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: Trump will hold a campaign rally tonight in Southaven, Miss., a state with two Senate seats up for grabs in November.

Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerMcConnell reelected as leader, Thune promoted to whip Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle GOP's Wicker reelected in Mississippi Senate race MORE (R), who Trump backed against a conservative challenger in the primary, should cruise to reelection.

But there is some drama in the race to serve out the remainder of former GOP Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBooker to campaign for Dem in Mississippi Senate runoff Hyde-Smith dismisses comments about making voting harder for liberal students as a joke Election Countdown: Florida Senate race heads to hand recount | Dem flips Maine House seat | New 2020 trend - the 'friend-raiser' | Ad war intensifies in Mississippi runoff | Blue wave batters California GOP MORE’s term - a three-way contest between Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to replace Cochran, state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) and former Rep. Mike Espy (D).

Trump is backing Hyde-Smith in the race and will stump for her tonight. If no candidate earns at least 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters on Nov. 6 will move to a runoff election later in the month, regardless of party affiliation.

USA Today: Espy seeks to prove a black Democrat can win in the deep South.

Vice President Pence will also spend the day on the campaign trail, first in Bozeman, Mont., for GOP candidate Matt Rosendale, who is taking on Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterCortez Masto poised to become DSCC chair Mellman: The triumph of partisanship VA under pressure to deliver Trump reforms MORE (D-Mont.), and later in Spokane, Wash., where he’ll stump for Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — House, Senate leaders named as Pelosi lobbies for support to be Speaker Liz Cheney wins House GOP leadership post McCarthy defeats Jordan for minority leader in 159-to-43 vote MORE, the No. 4 Republican in the House who is a top target for Democrats.

And look who else is back – former President Obama has released his second wave of endorsements, this time in support of 260 Democrats running for office (The Hill).

Obama’s notable inclusions:

> Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D), who is running for governor in Florida against Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisGillum officially concedes in Florida gubernatorial race Trump: Gillum will be 'force to reckon with' DeSantis transition team zeroes in on possible chief of staff MORE (R).

The Hill: Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonDems seek to overhaul voting rules in Florida legal fight  Election Countdown: Abrams ends fight in Georgia governor's race | Latest on Florida recount | Booker, Harris head to campaign in Mississippi Senate runoff | Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority Trump's take on midterms: ‘Epic' win in Senate, ‘better than other sitting Presidents’ in House MORE (D-Fla.) to get a boost from Gillum in toughest reelection fight in years.

> Former NAACP president Ben Jealous, who is running against Maryland's Republican governor, Larry Hogan.

> Progressive House candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D), whose upset victory over longtime Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) in a primary election earlier this year shook Washington.

Notable exclusions:

> Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), who is giving Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDemocratic strategist warns Beto should be ‘careful’ with social media presence Hillary advisers battle over whether she’ll run in 2020 O'Rourke writes blog post describing a literal run from near the capitol to near the White House MORE (R-Texas) a run for his money.

> Rep. Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonMinnesota New Members 2019 White candidates are never asked how they win minority-majority districts, says first Muslim congresswoman-elect Ellison resigns from DNC after winning Minnesota attorney general race MORE (D-Minn.), who is running for state attorney general amid domestic abuse allegations from a former girlfriend.

> New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

Polling roundup

The Hill: Democrats lead House generic ballot by 9 points.

The Memo: New polling from Bannon group pushes hard-edged strategy for GOP.

NBC/Mason-Dixon: Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerNorth Dakota New Members 2019 Rick Scott appears with GOP senators, ignores voter fraud question as recount continues How President Trump won last night MORE (R) leads Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampTrump to nominate former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as next EPA administrator North Dakota New Members 2019 2020 politics make an immigration deal unlikely in lame-duck MORE (D) by 10 points in North Dakota.

Strategic Research Associates: Manchin leads Republican challenger Patrick Morrisey by 8 points in W. Va., despite Trump’s high approval rating there.

CNN: Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillJosh Hawley will defend the First Amendment and religious liberty Missouri New Members 2019 2020 politics make an immigration deal unlikely in lame-duck MORE has a narrow lead over Republican challenger Josh Hawley in Missouri; Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — House, Senate leaders named as Pelosi lobbies for support to be Speaker Nevada New Members 2019 Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February MORE (D) edging incumbent Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerCortez Masto named Dem Senate campaign chairwoman Nevada New Members 2019 Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February MORE (R) in Nevada.

Stockton University: Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezPro-Israel organizations should finally seek payback against Iran deal Dems Trump lowers refugee goal to 30,000, he must meet it Blame Senate, not FBI, for Kavanaugh travesty MORE (D) in dead heat with GOP challenger Bob Hugin in New Jersey.

Emerson College: Republican Kris Kobach tied with Democrat Laura Kelly for Kansas governor.

More on campaigns and politics … Election ahead, Trump’s advisers try to get him to hold back (The Associated Press) … Democrats are looking to repair the blue wall in Midwestern states that came tumbling down in 2016 (The Hill) … As former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenDems wonder if Sherrod Brown could be their magic man Biden family adopts a dog Entrepreneur touts big solutions, endorsements in discussing presidential bid MORE prepares for 2020, can he overcome the Clarence Thomas hearings? (The New York Times) … Congress has temporarily averted a shutdown but the real threat comes during the lame-duck session, when Republicans might be more willing to go to the mat for Trump’s border wall, particularly if they lose control of the House (The Hill) … GOP sets Charlotte 2020 convention for late August, more than a month after Democrats will hold theirs (The Hill).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

 WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump secured a major victory this week when the U.S., Canada and Mexico reached a last-minute deal to preserve the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which the president says will be called the United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

The Hill: Five things to know about Trump’s new NAFTA deal.

CNBC: Key differences between Trump’s new trade deal and NAFTA.

The markets surged and Trump took a victory lap, calling it “the most important trade deal we’ve made so far” and declaring it would turn the U.S. back into a “manufacturing powerhouse.”

The Hill’s Jordan Fabian reports:

            “The announcement represents a significant victory for Trump, who has constantly railed against the quarter-century-old trading pact with Mexico and Canada ... But congressional approval remains uncertain, especially if Democrats take control of the House in the November midterm elections.”

Indeed, speaking from the Rose Garden, the president acknowledged that tough fights lie ahead for his signature global trade pact. The earliest the House could take the deal up is in December when lawmakers return after the midterm elections for the lame-duck session.

            “Anything you submit to Congress is trouble, no matter what." – Trump

Liz Peek: New NAFTA deal a big win for Trump’s America First agenda.

Catherine Rampell: Trump’s historic trade deal doesn’t look so historic after all.

> Trump on Monday awarded the Medal of Honor to former Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer, a former Army medic who saved the lives of U.S. and Afghan troops amid enemy gunfire during a 2008 mission (The Hill).

Army Times: “Wake up! You’re not going to die today.” The story of how this Green Beret medic earned the Medal of Honor.

 

More from the administration … Melania TrumpMelania TrumpMichelle Obama's stylist downplays controversy over Melania Trump jacket Trump offered Ricardel ambassadorship to Estonia after Melania forced her out of White House: report Michelle Obama: I never had a presidential staffer fired MORE visiting Africa, a continent freighted with history for her husband (The New York Times) … Ellen Mitchell has a profile of national security adviser John Bolton’s top deputy Mira Ricardel, who is described as a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails government official who doesn't suffer fools gladly (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

The FBI’s 37 pages of secret memos on Russia and the Clintons, by The Hill’s John Solomon. http://bit.ly/2OzbV9z

Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinMueller could turn easy Trump answers into difficult situation Attorneys want Supreme Court to determine legality of Whitaker as acting AG Top Dems: DOJ position on Whitaker appointment 'fatally flawed' MORE’s departure would test Americans’ commitment to rule of law, by Ulysses Smith, opinion contributor for The Hill. http://bit.ly/2Ql7uwb

WHERE AND WHEN

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

The Senate reconvenes at 10 a.m. and will consider the long-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The president addresses the National Electrical Contractors Convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. Later this evening, Trump will hold a campaign rally at the Landers Center in Southaven, Miss.

Pence is in Bozeman, Mont. to campaign for Rosendale. Later in the day, Pence travels to Spokane, Wash., to deliver remarks on behalf of McMorris Rodgers.

The Partnership for Public Service gives out the 2018 Service to America Medals, or Sammies, to outstanding federal workforce employees. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will receive the group’s first honorary private sector award. Follow the ceremony live on Facebook. http://bit.ly/2DKXgnq

ELSEWHERE

> MBA applications decline at elite schools as degree loses luster (The Wall Street Journal).

> California experiments with criminal justice reforms that could serve as a template for other states (The Hill).

> Indonesia says death toll from earthquake and tsunami rises above 1,200 (Reuters).

 > Laser breakthroughs win Nobel prize in physics (BBC).

THE CLOSER

And finally

The Las Vegas Strip went dark last night to commemorate the first anniversary of a shooting rampage at an outdoor country music festival. Fifty-eight people were killed and hundreds more were injured. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The Associated Press: Dimmed lights, somber tributes on Vegas shooting anniversary.