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 ClintonThe 'Palmetto Promise': South Carolina will decide the race Alabama Senate contender hits Sessions in new ad: 'Hillary still ain't in jail' Worries grow as moderates split Democratic vote MORE and President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump administration eyes proposal to block jet engine sales to China: report Trump takes track to open Daytona 500 Brazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record 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 FlakeMcSally launches 2020 campaign Sinema will vote to convict Trump Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle MORE (R-Ariz.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsToward 'Super Tuesday' — momentum, money and delegates Trump unleashed: President moves with a free hand post-impeachment Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' Ocasio-Cortez blasts Trump as 'corrupt' for blocking Global Entry for New Yorkers 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) ManchinOvernight Health Care: Appeals court strikes down Medicaid work requirements | Pelosi's staff huddles with aides on surprise billing | Senate Dems pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Manchin not ruling out endorsing Trump reelection 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 McConnellTrump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case 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 WickerThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders repeats with NH primary win, but with narrower victory Senators press NCAA on compensation for college athletes Overnight Defense: Inside Trump's 4B Pentagon budget | Highlights include .4B for Space Force, preview of Air Force One paint job | Senate eyes Wednesday debate on Iran war powers | 109 US troops diagnosed with brain injuries from attack 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 CochranBottom Line Mike Espy announces Mississippi Senate bid Biden has a lot at stake in first debate 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) TesterDemocratic senator: 'The ultimate of ironies' for Trump to hit Romney for invoking his faith Committee on Veterans Affairs sends important message during tense Senate time Democrats cry foul over Schiff backlash MORE (D-Mont.), and later in Spokane, Wash., where he’ll stump for Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersCelebrating and expanding upon five years of the ABLE  Act Koch network could target almost 200 races in 2020, official says Lawmakers voice skepticism over Facebook's deepfake ban 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 DeSantisTrump takes track to open Daytona 500 Father of Parkland shooting victim calls on Congress to take action Moderate Democrats now in a race against the clock MORE (R).

The Hill: Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonThe most expensive congressional races of the last decade Lobbying world Bottom Line 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 CruzCruz 'impresses' his daughter with Chris Evans meeting Three Senate primaries to watch on Super Tuesday The advantage of paying for medical care directly MORE (R-Texas) a run for his money.

> Rep. Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonProgressive prosecutors hit back at Barr criticism Key House Democrat says Perez must go: 'He doesn't lead on anything' Minnesota sues Juul over rise in youth vaping 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 CramerTrump Fed nominee stirs controversy ahead of hearing Senators, bruised by impeachment, hunt for deals Plan to probe Bidens sparks GOP divisions MORE (R) leads Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampSusan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-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 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 McCaskillDemocrats criticize Medal of Freedom for Limbaugh as 'slap in the face' Kansas City, Kan., responds to Trump tweet: We root for the Chiefs, too Trump mocked for Super Bowl tweet confusing Missouri for Kansas MORE has a narrow lead over Republican challenger Josh Hawley in Missouri; Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenSchumer reminds colleagues to respect decorum at State of the Union speech Senate confirms Trump's 50th circuit judge, despite 'not qualified' rating Hillicon Valley: Facebook to remove mentions of potential whistleblower's name | House Dems demand FCC action over leak of location data | Dem presses regulators to secure health care data MORE (D) edging incumbent Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerLobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play This week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report MORE (R) in Nevada.

Stockton University: Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezMenendez calls for 'Marie Yovanovitch bill' to protect foreign service employees Senators condemn UN 'blacklisting' of US companies in Israeli settlements Media's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle 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 BidenJoe BidenDemocrats redefine center as theirs collapses Speculation swirls around whether Bloomberg will make Las Vegas debate stage Pelosi: 'I'm not counting Joe Biden out' 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 TrumpTrump takes track to open Daytona 500 The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump insists he can tweet about cases in rare break with Barr The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in 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 RosensteinGraham requests interviews with DOJ, FBI officials as part of probe into Russia investigation DOJ won't charge former FBI Deputy Director McCabe Rosenstein says he authorized release of Strzok-Page texts 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.