With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: What Brett Kavanaugh won’t say during his confirmation hearing may be as revealing as what he will.
Confident Republicans have the votes to confirm him to the Supreme Court, the 53-year-old judge was polished yet evasive during 12 ½ hours of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
As he sat in the hot seat from 9:30 a.m. until just after 10 p.m., Kavanaugh repeatedly invoked the so-called Ginsburg Rule. During her 1993 confirmation hearing, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she would not “preview in this legislative chamber how I would cast my vote on questions the Supreme Court may be called upon to decide.”
“The reason is judicial independence,” said Kavanaugh. “The litigants who come before us have to know we have an open mind … If I say something and the case comes before me five years from now, I'm going to feel morally bound by what I said here.”
He repeatedly but selectively used this tradition to avoid answering sometimes fundamental questions about executive power and President Trump, the man who nominated him. Kavanaugh also avoided being pinned down on hot-button issues on which his long paper trail suggests he’s further to the right than Anthony Kennedy, the justice he’s poised to replace, including abortion and affirmative action.
Here are a dozen noteworthy questions Kavanaugh dodged:
1. Should a president be able to use his authority to pressure executive or independent agencies to carry out directives for purely political purposes? Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) asked that after referring specifically to Trump’s Monday tweets attacking Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department for allowing the indictments of two sitting Republican congressmen because it will hurt the GOP’s chances of holding the House in the midterms.
Kavanaugh demurred. “I don’t think we want judges commenting on the latest political controversy because that would ultimately leave people to doubt whether we are independent,” he said.
2. Has Kavanaugh discussed special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation with anyone at the Kasowitz, Benson and Torres law firm? That’s the firm led by Marc Kasowitz, who has long represented Trump — including, for a time, on the Russia probe. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) did not offer specifics, but she pushed Kavanaugh to discuss any conversations he’s had about the special counsel.
While Kavanaugh said he’s “sure” that he’s “talked to fellow judges” about Mueller, he said he couldn’t answer Harris’s question without knowing who works at the firm. He asked if there was someone specific that she had in mind, but she didn’t say.
“How can you not remember whether you’ve had a conversation about Robert Mueller or his investigation with anyone at that law firm?” Harris asked. “Be sure about your answer, sir.”
3. Can a sitting president be required to respond to a subpoena? “I can’t give you an answer on that hypothetical question,” said Kavanaugh.
4. Is Trump correct in asserting that he has an “absolute right” to pardon himself? “The question of self-pardon is something I have never analyzed,” said Kavanaugh. “It’s a hypothetical question that I can’t begin to answer as a sitting judge.”
Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) replied, “I hope for the sake of the country that remains a hypothetical question.”
5. Does Kavanaugh still believe his 1998 comment that “a president can fire at will a prosecutor criminally investigating him”? “That's a question [that] could come before me,” Kavanaugh said. “I think all I can say, senator, is that was my view in 1998.”
6. Can a sitting president be indicted? “I’ve never taken a position on the constitutionality of indicting or investigating a sitting president,” Kavanaugh told Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) on Wednesday.
Back in 2009, Kavanaugh wrote in a Minnesota Law Review article that “a serious constitutional question exists regarding whether a president can be criminally indicted and tried while in office.” He argued that the indictment of a president “would cripple the federal government, rendering it unable to function with credibility in either the international or domestic arenas.” “Such an outcome would ill serve the public interest, especially in times of financial or national security crisis,” he wrote then.
Kavanaugh downplayed the article. “They were ideas for Congress to consider,” he said. “They were not my constitutional views.”
The would-be justice noted that several big things would need to happen before he would be forced to stake out a public stance on whether Trump could be indicted. “The Justice Department for 45 years has taken the position in written opinions that a sitting president may not be indicted while in office,” Kavanaugh said. “I'm not saying I agree with that or disagree with that. I'm saying that's been the consistent Justice Department view for 45 years. So before a case like this would come before the courts, first, the Justice Department presumably would have to change its position. …
“Two, a prosecutor at some point in the future would have to decide to seek an indictment of a sitting president … And, three, it would have to be challenged in court. … Then it would come up on appeal to me,” he continued. “So there's a lot of things that would have to happen before this hypothetical that you're presenting even comes to pass. And if it does come to pass, you can be assured that I have not taken a position on the constitutional issue that you're raising on that specific question, at least as I understand the question.”
-- Kavanaugh tended to be more forthcoming while responding to hypotheticals from other Republicans on the committee. For example, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) laid out a scenario in which a future president rejects a motorcade, gets drunk and commits vehicular homicide while driving home to the White House. “That's both a criminal and a civil matter,” Sasse said. “Is the president immune from either being sued or being charged with a crime because they're president?”
“No,” Kavanaugh replied. “No one has ever said, I don't think, that the president is immune from civil or criminal process. … The only question that's ever been debated is whether the actual process should occur while still in office. That's the [Paula] Jones v. [Bill] Clinton case, where strong arguments were presented by both sides, and the Supreme Court ultimately decided that the civil process could go forward against President Clinton. President Clinton was arguing that the civil process should be deferred until after he left office. The Supreme Court rejected that.”
Kavanaugh said the open question is about the timing of when the drunk-driver president would face criminal prosecution: Should he faces charges before he leaves office? “Now that doesn't prevent investigations, gathering of evidence, questioning of witnesses I wouldn't think necessarily,” said Kavanaugh. “I don't want to opine too much, but that's certainly how it's proceeded under the special counsel system that we've had traditionally that has coexisted with the Justice Department position on the ultimate timing question.”
7. Would Kavanaugh consider recusing himself from cases involving potential liability for Trump? “I need to be careful,” Kavanaugh said noncommittally.
At the start of the day, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked if he’d be able to rule against the president who appointed him. “No one is above on the law in our constitutional system,” Kavanaugh replied. “Part of being an independent judge is ruling for the party no matter who they are so long as the party is right.”
8. On abortion, was Roe v. Wade correctly decided? Kavanaugh named multiple cases where he said the Supreme Court made the right call, including U.S. v. Nixon — which he once said “maybe … was wrongly decided” — and Brown v. Board of Education, which he described yesterday as “the single greatest moment in Supreme Court history.” (Other Trump judicial nominees have refused to say if Brown was the right decision.) Kavanaugh also said Plessy v. Ferguson, which codified the doctrine of separate yet equal that was overturned by Brown, was wrongly decided.
On Roe, though, Kavanaugh dodged. He would only say that it is “settled law.” “One of the important things to keep in mind about Roe v. Wade is that it has been reaffirmed many times over the last 45 years, as you know, and most prominently, most importantly reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992,” Kavanaugh said, describing this as “precedent on precedent.”
9. Will he commit to not vote to overturn Roe v. Wade? “Each of the eight justices on the Supreme Court now declined to answer that question,” Kavanaugh told Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “I listen to both sides in every case.”
10. On health care, would he uphold the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that insurance companies provide health-care coverage to people with preexisting medical conditions? “I can't give assurances on a specific hypothetical,” said Kavanaugh, who dissented in 2011 when the D.C. Circuit upheld the constitutionality of Obamacare.
11. On affirmative action, do universities have a compelling interest in admitting a diverse student body? “The Supreme Court has said so,” said Kavanaugh, declining to share his own views. (I wrote about his past opposition to affirmative action last week.)
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) complained that the public cannot see one of Kavanaugh’s emails with the subject line “Racial profiling.” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said the document is marked “committee confidential,” which means that it should not be discussed in open session. Booker complained that the public cannot see these records and called the GOP-led confirmation process “rigged.”
12. Showing his general reticence, Kavanaugh even declined to say what he told his two young daughters after they sat through the chaotic first day of his confirmation hearing, during which about 70 protesters were arrested for interrupting. “I just wish we could have a hearing where the nominee’s kids could show up,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told him Wednesday. “What kind of country have we become?” Graham wanted to know how the nominee discussed the events of the day when they got home. “Instead, Kavanaugh declined to say what he told his daughters, merely testifying that they ‘gave me a big hug and said, ‘Good job, Daddy,’’ Dana Milbank writes. “From the back of the room, a heckler shouted: ‘The nominee’s kids are being able to observe democracy because–’. She didn’t finish the sentence before she was evicted.”
-- A forgotten scandal from the Bush years returns: “Manuel Miranda was in bed Wednesday morning, suffering from a kidney stone, when … Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) suggested that he played a key role in an event that raised new questions about Kavanaugh’s credibility,” Michael Kranish reports. “Miranda, the former Republican counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was involved in an infamous episode around 2002 in which he gained computer access to records stored by Democrats on the panel. Kavanaugh was associate counsel at the White House at the time, working on judicial nominations. Leahy said in a statement Wednesday that Miranda and another staffer were behind what he called the hacking of 4,670 computer files and used them ‘to assist in getting President Bush’s most controversial judicial nominees confirmed.’
“Kavanaugh has consistently denied that he knew anything about Miranda’s access to the files. Asked Wednesday by [Graham] whether he ever knew he was dealing with stolen property, Kavanaugh responded, ‘No.’
“Leahy, however, on Wednesday cited emails that have been made public only in recent days that he said suggested that Kavanaugh may have known more than he previously acknowledged about Miranda’s information. Miranda, in a telephone interview, said that he worked ‘closely’ with Kavanaugh on nominations. He said that he is not sure whether he ever shared any information that he gleaned from the Democrats’ documents. But if he did, he said, he never told Kavanaugh how he had gained access to them.”
-- New political science analysis: “It’s hard to find a federal judge more conservative than Brett Kavanaugh,” by the University of Virginia’s Kevin Cope and Joshua Fischman: “Probing nearly 200 of Kavanaugh’s votes and over 3000 votes by his judicial colleagues, our analysis shows that his judicial record is significantly more conservative than that of almost every other judge on the D.C. Circuit. That doesn’t mean that he’d be the most conservative justice on the Supreme Court, but it strongly suggests that he is no judicial moderate.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The Trump administration plans to circumvent court limits on holding minors in immigrant jails. Nick Miroff and Maria Sacchetti report: “The maneuver is almost certain to land the administration back in court, where U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee, who oversees the agreement, has rejected attempts to extend the amount of time migrant children can be held with their parents beyond the current limit of 20 days. But under changes proposed Thursday by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services, the administration said it would issue new regulations that ‘satisfy the basic purpose’ of the [federal consent decree known as the Flores settlement] and ensure migrant children ‘are treated with dignity, respect and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors.’”
-- Government photos of Trump’s inauguration were edited to make the crowd look larger after Trump personally intervened, the Guardian’s Jon Swaine reports: “[A government] photographer cropped out empty space 'where the crowd ended' for a new set of pictures requested by Trump on the first morning of his presidency, after he was angered by images showing his audience was smaller than Barack Obama’s in 2009. The detail was revealed in investigative reports [obtained] under the Freedom of Information Act by the inspector general of the US interior department. They shed new light on the first self-inflicted crisis of Trump’s presidency, when his White House falsely claimed he had attracted the biggest ever inauguration audience. …
“The records detail a scramble within the National Park Service (NPS) on 21 January 2017 after an early-morning phone call between Trump and the acting NPS director, Michael Reynolds. They also state that Sean Spicer, then White House press secretary, called NPS officials repeatedly that day in pursuit of the more flattering photographs. It was not clear from the records which photographs were edited and whether they were released publicly. The newly disclosed details were not included in the inspector general’s office’s final report on its inquiry into the saga, which was published in June last year and gave a different account of the NPS photographer’s actions.”
GET SMART FAST:
- Hurricane Florence, which has a slight chance of hitting the East Coast next week, strengthened into a Category 4 storm. Florence may also come dangerously close to Bermuda during the latter half of the weekend. Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Gordon has continued to weaken over the lower Mississippi Valley. (Matthew Cappucci)
India’s Supreme Court struck down a colonial-era law criminalizing gay sex. Activists worked for over a decade to invalidate the 1861 law, which prohibited consensual “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.” (Joanna Slater and Vidhi Doshi)
- The man who intentionally crashed his truck into a Dallas Fox News affiliate early Wednesday morning had been “upset” about a 2012 police shooting, authorities said. No one was injured, and the incident did not appear to target reporters. (Alex Horton)
- Jeffrey Winder of Charlottesville was charged a $1 fine for assaulting white nationalist Jason Kessler two days after last year’s Unite the Right rally. Winder could have faced up to 12 months in jail and $2,500 in fines from a jury. (Justin Wm. Moyer)
Hundreds of faculty members at the University of North Carolina sent school officials a letter urging them not to return the Confederate statue “Silent Sam” to its original location. The statue was toppled by protesters last month, and school officials have not yet said what will happen to it. (Susan Svrluga)
- A mistrial was declared in the retrial of Nicholas Slatten, the Blackwater security guard convicted in the 2007 shooting of unarmed Iraqi civilians. Jurors remained deadlocked following 16 days of deliberation. At least 31 people were killed or injured in the shooting, which prompted international outrage and sparked calls to end private military forces in Iraq. (Spencer S. Hsu)
- Failed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore filed a $95 million lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen, CBS and Showtime for defamation. Moore claims he experienced “extreme emotional distress” after Cohen’s television series, “Who is America?” implied that he was a pedophile. (Travis M. Andrews)
- Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) was officially sworn in as a U.S. senator again, just one day after he was tapped by Gov. Doug Ducey (R) to replace the seat formerly held by John McCain. Kyl’s presence restores the GOP’s 51-to-49 Senate majority. (Sean Sullivan)
- Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said his company is on track to go public in 2019. He added that Uber has no plans to sell its self-driving car research arm “at this time.” (Reuters)
Christopher Lawford, a member of the Kennedy clan who wrote a memoir about struggling with drug addiction, died at 63. Lawford’s cousin, former Democratic congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, said the cause of death was a heart attack. (Matt Schudel)
WEST WING INTRIGUE:
-- The New York Times published an anonymous op-ed written by a senior Trump administration official, who claimed to be a member of the “resistance” actively working from the inside to thwart the president’s “misguided” decisions. “It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room,” said the official, who characterized Trump’s leadership style as “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.” “We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when [Trump] won’t. The result is a two-track presidency. …
“Take foreign policy: In public and in private, [Trump] shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as [Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un], and displays little genuine appreciation for [like-minded nations]. Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track …
“Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment[.] But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. … That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”
-- Trump and his White House aides have launched a search for the op-ed’s author. Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey report: “Trump reacted to the column with ‘volcanic’ anger and was ‘absolutely livid’ over what he considered a treasonous act of disloyalty and told confidants he suspects the official works on national security issues or in the Justice Department, according to two people familiar with his private discussions. … Startled aides canceled meetings and huddled behind closed doors to strategize a response. Aides were analyzing language patterns to try to discern the author’s identity or at a minimum the part of the administration where the author works.
“‘The problem for the president is it could be so many people,’ said one administration official … The phrase ‘The sleeper cells have awoken’ circulated on text messages among aides and outside allies. … The stark and anonymous warning was a breathtaking event without precedent in modern presidential history. ‘For somebody within the belly of the White House to be saying there are a group of us running a resistance, making sure the president of the United States doesn’t do irrational and dangerous things, it is a mind-boggling moment,’ historian Douglas Brinkley said. … ‘This is what all of us have understood to be the situation from Day One,’ Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters. He added, ‘That’s why I think all of us encourage the good people around the president to stay.’ . . .
“Trump already felt that he had a dwindling circle of people whom he could trust, a senior administration official said. According to one Trump friend, he fretted after Wednesday’s op-ed that he could trust only his children. … The outing of the op-ed’s author is virtually inevitable, according to forensic linguists, who work in both academia and private industry, figuring out the authors of anonymous texts in lawsuits, plagiarism cases and historical puzzles. … Brinkley, the historian, said the most analogous example of disloyalty and advisers disregarding the president’s wishes was in Richard Nixon’s final year as president. He explained that Nixon would ‘bark crazy orders’ to aides that they intentionally disregarded.”
-- Trump called the op-ed's author “GUTLESS” on Twitter, while also suggesting that the Times may have fabricated a “phony source” to publish the piece. He added that, if an administration official did actually write the op-ed, the newspaper should “turn him/her over to government at once!” A Times spokeswoman later responded: “We are incredibly proud to have published this piece, which adds significant value to the public’s understanding of what is going on in the Trump administration from someone who is in a position to know.”
-- “In a meeting with law enforcement officials from around the country at the White House on Wednesday, Trump denounced the ‘failing’ New York Times and the news media,” Paul Farhi writes. “'If I weren’t here, I believe the New York Times probably wouldn’t exist,’ he said to applause from the uniformed officers. ‘And someday when [he's out of office], hopefully six and a half years from now, the New York Times and CNN will be out of business. There will be nothing to write.’ … Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the column ‘just another example of the liberal media’s concerted effort to discredit the President.’”
-- The Times’s op-ed page editor Jim Dao said the official contacted the newspaper several days ago through an intermediary about writing the piece. CNN’s Brian Stelter reports: “In a telephone interview, [Dao] was careful not to share any identifying details, even the person's gender. … Many officials within the administration can be considered ‘senior,’ even if they do not work in the West Wing or interact directly with Trump. Dao declined to characterize just how ‘senior’ the whistleblower is. He said the Times did speak to the author directly, but wouldn't say how so. … Dao said there are only a ‘very small number of people within the Times who know this person's identity,’ but he declined to name them. He said ‘we have taken a number of special precautions to protect the person's identity.’”
-- “The author of the anonymous op-ed is hoping to vindicate the reputation of like-minded senior Trump staffers. See, we only look complicit! Actually, we’re the real heroes of the story,” writes The Atlantic’s David Frum, a speechwriter in the George W. Bush White House. “But what the author has just done is throw the government of the United States into even more dangerous turmoil. He or she has enflamed the paranoia of the president and empowered the president’s willfulness. … If the president’s closest advisers believe that he is morally and intellectually unfit for his high office, they have a duty to do their utmost to remove him from it, by the lawful means at hand. That duty may be risky to their careers in government or afterward. But on their first day at work, they swore an oath to defend the Constitution — and there were no ‘riskiness’ exemptions in the text of that oath. … Previous generations of Americans have sacrificed fortunes, health, and lives to serve the country. You are asked only to tell the truth aloud and with your name attached.”
MORE WOODWARD FALLOUT:
-- Trump is also on a hunt to figure out which of his aides spoke to Bob Woodward for his new book “Fear.” CNN’s Jeff Zeleny and Jeremy Diamond report: “[T]wo officials who have spoken directly to the President say he is pleased with the denials of speaking to Woodward offered by chief of staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis. … But he is also taking note of the silence from several other former administration officials. … Trump has talked openly with allies about his suspicion that former national security adviser H.R. McMaster cooperated, suggesting that McMaster likely turned over his notes to Woodward. The President has aired a similar belief about Gary Cohn, the former chief economic adviser.”
-- Lindsey Graham rallied to Trump’s defense on Twitter by attempting to minimize the importance of Woodward’s book, another example of how the Republican senator has come to embrace the president. From John Wagner and Gabriel Pogrund: “Graham’s embrace of Trump — which began months ago but seems to have tightened in the past week — has prompted questions about his motives, with some suggesting he’s angling for a job in a Cabinet in which vacancies have become commonplace.”
-- White House officials have “actively” been discussing potential replacements for Jim Mattis, should he choose to step down as the secretary of defense, Josh Rogin reports: “Of course, in light of Woodward’s reporting that Mattis told associates Trump 'acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader,' internal speculation about Mattis’s potential departure has intensified. . . . Many officials inside the White House and around the administration had already expected that Mattis would leave his post sometime over the next few months, completing a respectably long two-year stint at the helm of the Defense Department. ‘The speculation about who replaces Mattis is now more real than ever,’ said a senior White House official … ‘The president has always respected him. But now he has every reason to wonder what Mattis is saying behind his back. The relationship has nowhere to go but down, fast.’”
WASHINGTON VS. SILICON VALLEY:
-- The Justice Department said in a statement that top U.S. tech companies may be “intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas” — a terse warning that alarmed many industry leaders, who have come under attack by conservative critics, including Trump. Craig Timberg, Tony Romm, Devlin Barrett and Brian Fung report: “The two-sentence statement, which didn’t elaborate on the allegation or explicitly threaten legal action, echoed tweets by Trump last week claiming that the technology industry was biased against conservatives. The White House later threatened new regulation of [Google], which legal experts said would violate constitutional protections on free speech. … The combination of government action, including a coming meeting between [Jeff Sessions] and several attorneys general, alarmed the technology industry. . . . Outside legal experts, meanwhile, expressed concern that the rising political pressure over unproven allegations of bias will end up chilling constitutionally protected speech by technology companies.” “This could be a very serious broadside against the entire Internet industry coordinated by multiple layers of government,” said Eric Goldman, who co-directs the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University.
-- Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, where they each gave updates on their companies’ efforts to combat foreign interference and disinformation campaigns ahead of the midterm elections. Tony Romm and Craig Timberg report: “The tech executives remained focused on their arguments to Senate leaders that they had made great strides cleaning up their sites and services ahead of the 2018 midterms, when the composition of Congress is up for grabs. This time, though, lawmakers on the committee came equipped with a roster of fresh complaints -- from the proliferation of fake videos online to the heightened need to protect privacy and combat hacking. … Already, Russia and Iran already have sought to interfere by passing themselves off as American groups or people … Facebook, Google and Twitter together took down hundreds of accounts tied to the two countries last month, a move that prompted [Sen. Richard Burr] (R-N.C.) to express fear that ‘more foreign countries are now trying to use your products to shape and manipulate American political sentiment as an instrument of statecraft.’ . . .
“At a second congressional [hearing], Dorsey sought to address Republican lawmakers' allegations that Twitter unfairly targets conservative-leaning posts and accounts . . . His testimony, submitted ahead of the hearing, included a new study that found Democratic and Republican lawmakers have equal reach on the site . . . Sandberg found herself similarly under siege about the company’s data-collection practices. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) specifically said the vast troves of information at Facebook and Twitter could be the ‘weapon of choice’ for hackers working with foreign powers, so the industry ‘must not make it easier for our adversaries to seize these weapons and use them against us.’"
-- At one point during the hearing, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) pressed Dorsey on Twitter’s allegiance to the United States and its commitment to working with U.S. intelligence agencies. The AP’s Barbra Ortutay reports: “Asked if he saw a difference between cooperating with the U.S. government and the Russian or Chinese governments, Dorsey demurred. ‘Not sure what you mean,’ he said. ‘Are you an American company?’ Cotton asked. ‘We are an American company,’ answered Dorsey . . . ‘Do you prefer to see America remain the world's dominant global superpower?’ ‘I prefer that we continue to help everywhere to serve,’ Dorsey replied[.]”
-- Infowars founder and prominent conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has been banned from both platforms for harassment, sat behind the social media executives as they testified. Later, Jones made headlines for mocking Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) during a news conference outside the hearing room — calling him a “little frat boy” and other names until the Florida Republican threatened to “take care of [Jones]” himself. Felicia Sonmez reports: “In [video footage] Jones is seen talking over Rubio and the reporters trying to interview him … taunting the senator and trying to elicit an answer from him on the tech companies’ treatment of him. ‘Is that a heckler at a press gaggle?’ Rubio says at one point. ‘I just don’t know who you are, man. I don’t really read your website.’ Soon after, Jones appears to touch Rubio’s shoulder as he is speaking. Rubio turns to face Jones directly. ‘Hey, don’t touch me again, man,’ Rubio says. ‘I’m asking you not to touch me.’ Jones contends he had just patted Rubio ‘nicely’ and says, ‘Oh, you want me to get arrested.’ … ‘You’re not going to get arrested,’ Rubio replies. ‘I’ll take care of you myself.’” Jones continued to mock Rubio, declaring at one point, “You are literally like a little gangster thug,” and telling him to “Go back to your bathhouse.”
-- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took aim at Amazon as he introduced the “Stop BEZOS Act,” a bill that would require large companies to cover the cost of federal assistance received by their workers. The Wall Street Journal’s Jay Greene reports: “Mr. Sanders [specifically contrasted Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos’s] vast personal wealth with the compensation of the companies’ lowest-paid workers. The senator, speaking at a press conference introducing the bill, noted Mr. Bezos ‘could play a profound role’ in altering the national discourse regarding pay by guaranteeing no Amazon worker receives less than a living wage, or enough to cover rent, food and other basic necessities. … While Mr. Sanders said the legislation is ‘not just about Amazon,’ he only called out the Seattle retail giant in announcing the bill — the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act— [or BEZOS act]. Amazon declined to comment on the legislation, but posted new commentary on its corporate blog from three happy Amazon workers who contacted Sen. Sanders.” (Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon.com, owns The Washington Post.)
-- Nearly three-quarters of U.S. Facebook users have changed how they use the social media platform in the past year, according to a new Pew Research Center survey — either changing their privacy settings, taking a break from the app, or deleting it altogether. Hamza Shaban reports: “Pew found that more than 1 in 4 Americans have deleted the app from their phones. Fifty-four percent tweaked their privacy settings, and 42 percent stopped using the app for several weeks or longer. Those interventions were also much more likely to have been taken by younger people, who outpaced older users in each of the three actions.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Conspiracy theorist and Roger Stone ally Jerome Corsi has been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury on Friday as part of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. He is the latest Stone associate to be closely scrutinized by special counsel prosecutors and will appear in court on the same day as Randy Credico, the New York comedian whom Stone has accused of being a “conduit” to WikiLeaks. Rosalind S. Helderman reports: “Corsi, who has contributed to the right-wing website Infowars and is known for promoting political conspiracy theories, provided research to Stone during the 2016 campaign. Corsi’s attorney, David Gray … said the subpoena indicated that Mueller is interested in Corsi’s communications during 2016 and 2017. Gray said he believes the special counsel plans to ask about Corsi’s contacts with Stone … Corsi shared research with Stone around the same time that the longtime GOP consultant claimed publicly that he had been in contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ releases of hacked Democratic emails.”
-- U.S. political consultant W. Samuel Patten, who is cooperating with special counsel prosecutors, and who has admitted to steering $50,000 from a Ukrainian politician to Trump’s inaugural committee, is among the potential witnesses listed in Paul Manafort’s upcoming federal trial in D.C. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “W. Samuel Patten pleaded guilty on Friday in federal court to failing to register as a foreign lobbyist while working on behalf of a Ukrainian political party. On Wednesday … Patten’s name was among those of 120 people who might testify or be mentioned at the trial of [Manafort] set to open Sept. 24 … In his plea deal, Patten said he was helped by a Russian national who has been linked to Russian intelligence by U.S. prosecutors and who was also an associate of Manafort’s. The list of people who may testify or be referred to includes many of the vendors, accountants and investigators who took the stand [at Manafort’s Alexandria, Va., trial] … But the list for the D.C. trial also includes 23 Ukrainian and four European politicians.
-- Speaker Paul Ryan distanced himself from Trump’s criticism of the Justice Department for indicting two GOP congressman, saying in a news conference that justice “should be blind.” John Wagner reports: “Earlier this week, Trump attacked [Sessions and the DOJ] in connection with the unrelated indictments of Reps. Chris Collins (N.Y.) and Duncan D. Hunter (Calif.). 'Justice is blind. Justice should be blind,’ Ryan said when asked about the president’s comments … ‘I think it’s very important that we respect that fact that justice should be blind.’ During the news conference … Ryan also defended his handling of the indictments, noting that he had removed Collins and Hunter from their committee assignments.”
-- Congressional Democrats seem hesitant to question Sessions about an assertion made by George Papadopoulos’s lawyers that the now-attorney general appeared supportive of a proposal for Trump to meet with Vladimir Putin during the 2016 campaign. Karoun Demirjian reports: “[T]here is anxiety on Capitol Hill that challenging Sessions now could hasten his firing and jeopardize the special counsel investigation … Instead, Democrats [said] they trust that [Mueller] will sort out the discrepancy as part of his wide-ranging probe … Sessions’s honesty was called into question in a court filing made last week by attorneys representing [Papadopoulos], the former campaign official who suggested Trump meet with the Russian president. His lawyers said Trump ‘nodded with approval,’ and Sessions ‘appeared to also like the idea and stated that the campaign should look into it.’ The statement — part of Papadopoulos’s effort to reduce his sentence for lying to the FBI — challenges what Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee last year.”
-- Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said cyberattacks pose a greater threat to the United States than physical attacks. Nick Miroff reports: “In a speech timed to next week’s anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and amid worries about interference in coming U.S. elections, Nielsen said the Department of Homeland Security is facing down an array of cyberthreats from hostile foreign governments, extremist groups and transnational criminals. … American election systems continue to be a prime target for foreign powers, Nielsen warned. Echoing the U.S. intelligence community’s consensus that [Vladimir Putin] interfered in the 2016 contest, Nielsen said DHS cannot allow another ‘direct attack on our democracy.’”
-- The Trump administration rejected an intelligence report last year showing that refugees did not pose a significant national security threat. NBC News's Dan De Luce and Julia Ainsley report: “Hard-liners in the administration then issued their own report this year that several former officials … say misstates the evidence and inflates the threat posed by people born outside the U.S. At a meeting in September 2017 with senior officials discussing refugee admissions, a representative from the National Counterterrorism Center came ready to present a report that analyzed the possible risks … But before he could discuss the report, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand dismissed the report, saying her boss, [Sessions], would not be guided by its findings. Brand's blunt veto of the intelligence assessment shocked career civil servants at the interagency meeting, which seemed to expose a bid to supplant facts and expertise with an ideological agenda. Her response also amounted to a rejection of her own department's view, as the FBI, part of the Justice Department, had contributed to the assessment.”
The intelligence assessment was “inappropriately discredited as a result of that exchange,” said one ex-official. The episode made clear that “you weren't able to have an honest conversation about the risk.”
-- Trump once again threatened to shut down the government over his demands for a border wall. Erica Werner and Damian Paletta report: “It marked the latest herky-jerky spending confusion from the White House, which has left many lawmakers dizzy and confused as they enter last-minute discussions over how to proceed. ‘If it happens, it happens,’ Trump told reporters about the possibility of a shutdown during a meeting with congressional leaders. ‘If it’s about border security, I’m willing to do anything.’ Several hours earlier, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told congressional Republicans that he was advising Trump not to seek a shutdown later this month and wanted them to pass a spending bill by the Oct. 1 deadline. [Ryan] said a shutdown is ‘not in anyone’s interest, and [Trump] knows that.’”
-- Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has so far successfully navigated a series of spending bills through the chamber with bipartisan support. From Erica: “[But] the toughest part of Shelby’s effort is yet to come: For the Senate budget bills to become law, Shelby will need to cut a deal with House conservatives — including on border funding — that also wins over an impatient president. It’s a struggle that goes beyond the budget, with ramifications for the future of the Republican Party and its approach to governance under Trump — a fight that pits Shelby’s pragmatic, results-oriented approach against that of firebrands who disdain compromise as caving and a president who has demonized Democrats and narrowcast his messaging appeals nearly exclusively to his base.”
-- A federal judge in Texas heard the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act. Amy Goldstein and Gayle Reaves report: “[A] coalition of GOP attorneys general and a pair of governors argued that a recent change in federal tax policy has made the ACA unconstitutional. For the short-term, they asked a federal judge to grant a preliminary injunction that would suspend the law while the rest of the case unfolds — a possibility that could throw significant aspects of the U.S. health-care system into chaos. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, a conservative jurist appointed by President George W. Bush, did not immediately rule on the request or indicate when he would do so. He asked more frequent and pointed questions of the parties arguing in favor of the ACA, while asking the opponents mainly about the impact of a preliminary injunction or an outright ruling against the law.”
-- A group of state attorneys general filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for attempting to weaken the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Darryl Fears reports: “The lawsuit, led by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, and supported by Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, California and New Mexico, is an effort to stop the Interior Department from fully implementing a directive to its law enforcement division to forgive mass bird kills, even when the animals are threatened or endangered.”
-- Kim Kardashian was back at the White House to discuss clemency issues with administration officials. From Emily Heil: “The reality TV star was back at the White House and among the attendees of a ‘listening session about the clemency process,’ according to a Wednesday pool report. Senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner was among those hosting, per the report. ‘The discussion is mainly focused on ways to improve that process to ensure deserving cases receive a fair review,’ according to deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley.”
-- Barack Obama plans to take a more active role in Democrats’ midterm efforts, starting with events in California and Ohio. The New York Times’s Alexander Burns reports: “Having largely avoided campaign activities since leaving office, Mr. Obama’s first public event of the midterm election will take place in Orange County, a traditionally conservative-leaning part of California where Republicans are at risk of losing several House seats. And Mr. Obama is expected to be joined by Democratic candidates from all seven of California’s Republican-held districts that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. Mr. Obama intends to campaign next Thursday in Cleveland for Richard Cordray, a former bank regulator in his administration who is the Democratic nominee for Ohio governor.”
-- House Republicans appear to be shrugging off signs that they could be in serious danger of losing their majority. Mike DeBonis reports: “Interviews with a dozen vulnerable GOP incumbents who returned to Washington after a five-week summer recess largely revealed an abiding faith that their personal brand, a strong economy and a Democratic Party veering to the left will leave them in good stead with voters come Nov. 6. … But it also echoes the sanguine predictions of House Democratic leaders in the weeks leading up to the 2010 midterms — when Republicans picked up 63 seats and retook the House majority.”
-- Next year could be dominated by fights between Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell if Democrats and Republicans split control of Congress. Politico’s John Bresnahan and Burgess Everett report: “More gridlock, government shutdowns, and the potential impeachment of [Trump] could result from the faceoff, according to senators and members in both parties. Yet a Pelosi-McConnell-run Congress might also yield deals benefiting both parties — and Trump, who could claim credit for any bipartisan packages as he mounts an expected reelection bid in 2020. Both Pelosi and McConnell may push for a deal on infrastructure spending, for example, an agreement that would affect every state and congressional district. Trump would also gain politically from any such package.”
-- A string of district attorney candidates have won Democratic primaries in deep-blue cities by running on a platform of overhauling the criminal justice system. From David Weigel: “The effort to elect them, which began before the 2016 election but has accelerated, has succeeded in Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis and failed in some other blue cities. But it's created a blueprint for electing reformist prosecutors and for shaping their agendas. … In 2017, [a] coalition came together behind Larry Krasner, a defense attorney running in Philadelphia after suing the city's police force 75 times. … In office, within months, Krasner put together an agenda for the district attorney's office designed ‘to end mass incarceration and bring balance back to sentencing.’”
-- John McCain's former chief of staff Grant Woods said that he is considering running for Senate as a Democrat. Sean Sullivan reports: “[Woods], who is also a former Arizona attorney general, said in an interview that he has spoken to several Democratic senators about the idea, including [Sen. Chuck Schumer]. Woods supported Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president and said he has been troubled by Trump in recent years. McCain’s death has led him to consider ‘whether I need to step up at this point in time,’ he said.” “It’s challenging for me be so involved in everything that we did to honor him over the last week,” said Woods, who delivered a eulogy at McCain’s memorial, “and then think of staying on the sidelines as we face a world without John McCain.”
-- A Richmond judge ordered independent candidate Shaun Brown off the ballot in Virginia’s 2nd District Race, ruling that signatures on her ballot-qualifying petition were “tainted by forgery” and “out and out fraud.” Gregory S. Schneider reports: “Many of those signatures were gathered by staffers working for the incumbent Republican, Scott Taylor, who is seeking a second term. Five current or former staffers for the congressman declined to answer questions in court, invoking their Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. A separate criminal probe into the matter is ongoing[.] The Democratic Party of Virginia, which brought the civil suit … submitted 41 affidavits from people who said their signatures were forged on petitions to get Brown qualified for the ballot. A handwriting expert testified Wednesday that of 377 signatures collected by Taylor’s staffers, at least 146 appeared to be false. The Democratic Party had subpoenaed Taylor to appear at the hearing … But Judge Gregory L. Rupe granted a motion to quash Taylor’s subpoena under a state law that shields sitting members of Congress from being compelled to attend civil court proceedings while the U.S. House is in session.”
-- Former pharma CEO turned GOP Senate candidate Bob Hugin’s self-funded campaign, combined with Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez’s recent corruption trial, has made the New Jersey race unexpectedly close. Stat News’s Damian Garde reports: “[The campaign] doubles as a referendum on the drug industry’s place in the American psyche. While Hugin runs as a business leader devoted to winning a war on cancer, Menendez insists he’s a pantomime villain of pharmaceutical greed. But Menendez has his own issues. … In his most recent primary, he ceded 37 percent of the vote to an unknown candidate who spent zero dollars campaigning. The latest poll, conducted in mid-August, had Menendez leading Hugin by just six points.”
-- A spokesman for Democrat Beto O’Rourke’s Senate campaign in Texas said “an impostor” had sent a text message to voters asking them to help “transport undocumented immigrants” to the polls. The Austin American-Statesman’s Johnathan Silver reports: “‘Hi, it’s Patsy here w/ Beto for Texas. Our records indicate that you’re a supporter,’ the message reads. ‘We are in search of volunteers to help transport undocumented immigrants to polling booths so that they will be able [sic] vote. Would you be able to support this grassroots effort?’ The text message circulated on social media Wednesday afternoon. By the evening, the campaign denied authorizing the message. ‘It was sent by an impostor,’ spokesman Chris Evans [said]. ‘But we’re continuing to look into what happened.’”
-- A new NBC News-Marist poll has Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) pulling slightly ahead in his closely watched reelection race. NBC News’s Carrie Dann reports: “In a head-to-head race, the poll finds Donnelly with the support of 49 percent of likely voters, compared with 43 percent who back [Republican challenger Mike Braun]. … Trump remains above water in the state with likely voters now, with the poll finding his approval at 48 percent approve, 46 percent disapprove. … But the poll also shows that Donnelly is being buoyed by relatively favorable personal ratings among Indiana voters.”
-- A Quinnipiac University poll shows Florida’s Senate race to be a dead heat. From the Hill’s John Bowden: “[The poll] of likely voters found both candidates at 49 percent, with Nelson holding a 13 point advantage over his Republican opponent among independent voters — 56 percent to 43 percent. The survey also showed 92 percent support for Scott among GOP voters, compared with 89 percent backing for Nelson among Democrats. Scott's 51 percent approval rating as governor could be an advantage for him heading into the November midterms, though 46 percent of those polled said they disapprove of his performance in office.”
-- Ron DeSantis, the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee in Florida, is expected to name state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez as his running mate today – making her the first Cuban American woman to be chosen as a lieutenant governor candidate in Florida. Politico’s Marc Caputo reports: “Nuñez, a Miami native who has served for eight years in the Florida House, would not comment about her joining the ticket nor would a campaign spokesman for DeSantis, who plans to make a campaign stop Thursday in the heart of the Cuban-American community in Miami’s Little Havana. Nuñez initially did not want the hassle of running statewide, nor of being vetted for the post of lieutenant governor, but she decided to give it a second look at the urging of one of her closest political allies, Sen. Marco Rubio, in the wake of Democrat Andrew Gillum’s surprising win in his gubernatorial race Aug. 28.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland met in Washington to resume NAFTA negotiations, despite lingering uncertainty from Canada about Trump’s hardball negotiating style — including a vow to stop Canada from “taking advantage” of the United States. David J. Lynch reports: “U.S. and Canadian diplomats now are trying to resolve a host of issues that have bedeviled their efforts to overhaul the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. The talks face an apparent deadline of the end of this month, when the administration must send the official text of any proposed deal to Capitol Hill. ‘We've come a long way toward them treating us fairly, but we're meeting right now with Canada and over the next day or two we'll see what happens,’ [Trump said at the White House]. … Trump's latest remarks came after he had used Canada as a punching bag for much of the past week. In off-the-record comments in a Bloomberg interview that subsequently became public, the president boasted last week that any new deal would be ‘totally on our terms.’ The president then threatened to go ahead with a Mexico-only arrangement if Canada did not bow to American demands.”
-- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he still trusts Trump and remains committed to working toward denuclearization, despite the two countries’ recent breakdown in negotiations. Simon Denyer and Min Joo Kim report: “But North Korea media also repeated the country’s demand that the United States make the next move by formally declaring an end to the Korean War, which concluded in 1953 with an armistice but not a peace treaty. That’s something it says Trump promised when he met Kim in Singapore in June — but it is a move that Washington is reluctant to make, fearing it could ultimately throw into question the continued presence of its troops in South Korea.” The leaders of both Koreas also agreed to meet in Pyongyang from Sept. 18-20 and open a joint liaison office in the North before that summit.
-- A new report from the liberal Center for American Progress think tank argues that Trump has weakened the United States’ global influence and that the next president should attempt to recover it by embracing traditional democratic values. From Anne Gearan: “Trump has sabotaged American primacy and global institutions and made the United States less effective and less safe, according to [the report]. The same forces that helped propel Trump’s victory are also rising around the world, leaving the next president with a changed foreign-policy landscape and a weakened U.S. hand to manage it, the report says. The report … lays out nonpartisan prescriptions but is clearly aimed at giving Democrats talking points to promote and defend a traditional foreign-policy approach based on strengthening democracy and projection of American values.”
-- The warring sides in Yemen’s civil war are scheduled to meet in Geneva today. Sudarsan Raghavan and Missy Ryan report: The gathering represents “the most serious effort in the past two years to reach a deal that could end the war, though few observers expect a significant breakthrough. The acrimony is so great and mistrust so deep that the sides were not even expected on the eve of the gathering to meet face to face in the sessions.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump praised Kim Jong Un’s comments about him:
Kim Jong Un of North Korea proclaims “unwavering faith in President Trump.” Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will get it done together!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2018
The president also sought to reassure his supporters after a “senior official” questioned his leadership:
I’m draining the Swamp, and the Swamp is trying to fight back. Don’t worry, we will win!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2018
The vice president's communications director denied Pence was the op-ed's author:
The Vice President puts his name on his Op-Eds. The @nytimes should be ashamed and so should the person who wrote the false, illogical, and gutless op-ed. Our office is above such amateur acts.— Jarrod Agen (@VPComDir) September 6, 2018
One New York Times reporter marveled at the differing goals of the paper's reporters and opinion team:
So basically: Times reporters now must try to unearth the identity of an author that our colleagues in Opinion have sworn to protect with anonymity? https://t.co/wj2nKmDHz9— jodikantor (@jodikantor) September 5, 2018
From another Times reporter:
Text from my mom: "WTF who wrote that Op-Ed? You can tell me."— Michael S. Schmidt (@nytmike) September 5, 2018
A betting website took odds on the author's identity:
Who will be revealed as the writer of the anonymous @nytimes Op-Ed essay?— OddsShark (@OddsShark) September 5, 2018
Mike Pence -150
Betsy DeVos 200
Mike Pompeo 400
Steven Mnuchin 400
Jim Mattis 500
Jeff Sessions 500
Ivanka Trump 12/1
Jared Kushner 12/1
Stephen Miller 15/1
Complete odds at https://t.co/VCyLpZrN7X pic.twitter.com/5yby2qph4Y
One of Trump's former advisers implied she knew who wrote the piece:
From a Post columnist:
My 2 cents: It is hard to imagine the NYT would have given anonymity on something like this to someone who was not at least as high as a cabinet secretary or assistant to the president.— Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) September 5, 2018
An NBC News editor questioned the author's decision to remain anonymous:
My 2 cents: If a senior administration official truly believes the president is a threat and is behaving erratically, he/she should tell the public -- on the record. https://t.co/9kn2BEkoYK— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) September 5, 2018
Voters elected Trump -- not a staff trying to save the republic.
From a speechwriter for Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.):
Do Anonymous NYT Oped Writers have access to the nuclear codes? No?— Zev Karlin-Neumann (@zkarlinn) September 5, 2018
Then it kind of matters who's President
From the executive editor of Lawfare and a former NSA lawyer:
I don't think you write an op-ed like that to send a message to the American people. I think you do it to send a message to the president. I just can't imagine what that message is or what writing this is meant to accomplish.— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) September 5, 2018
From a Post opinions editor:
Here's what's gonna happen. Sooner or later we are gonna find out who the anonymous NYT op-ed writer is.— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) September 5, 2018
He/she will hailed as a hero. Will get a book deal. Cable TV gigs. Harvard fellowships. The predictable rewards for having your Trump cake and eating it too.
From an MSNBC host:
The op-ed is an attempt to take out an insurance policy for the GOP and conservatism if and when things get much much worse. It's a very public hedge meant to preserve the reputation of the GOP's entire political and governing class.— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) September 5, 2018
A Fox News analyst appeared to shrug at the op-ed:
RE: the NYT anonymous editorial. The federal government always has been honeycombed with officials resistant to this and all GOP administrations. They are government workers and nearly all Democrats. And don't be misled by the words "senior officials." There are loads of them.— Brit Hume (@brithume) September 5, 2018
An editor at Commentary Magazine replied:
This is true and a source of frustration in the Bush years. I remember the rogue officials at Rice's State, and why I didn't mind Rex's starvation campaign. Yet in this op-ed, the author goes to lengths to profess fealty to conventional Republican policy prescriptions. https://t.co/CgvCpkIFHT— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) September 5, 2018
The Times no longer has a public editor:
It's a good day not to be the Public Editor of the New York Times.— Margaret Sullivan (@Sulliview) September 5, 2018
The Post's book critic scrutinized the op-ed's language:
This NYT piece has every oped cliche possible. Makes me think the writer is an oped pro:— Carlos Lozada (@CarlosLozadaWP) September 5, 2018
"Don't get me wrong."
"put it best"
"reaching across the aisle"https://t.co/WQoJcq0yAS
A political comedian referenced “When a Stranger Calls”:
An HBO comedy writer satirized the op-ed's headline:
Meanwhile, the vice president expressed confidence in the attorney general, per a CNN reporter:
A rare moment: @vp stopped in the Capitol hallway to answer my Q on whether he had confidence in AG Jeff Sessions.— Elizabeth Landers (@ElizLanders) September 5, 2018
“I hold Jeff Sessions in the highest regard. I appreciate his service to the nation,” he responded.
Twitter’s CEO tweeted a chart of his heart rate during yesterday’s hearings on Capitol Hill:
Heart rate during a Senate and House hearing pic.twitter.com/LipSHa3xIi— jack (@jack) September 5, 2018
An NBC News reporter responded to Sen. Marco Rubio's comments about Alex Jones:
Alex Jones gets exponentially more coverage now because the current president obsesses over conspiracy theories, went on Jones' show, declared Jones' "amazing," and per Jones, personally called to thank him right after the election. There is no mystery what is driving this. https://t.co/qStmsYzuNc— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) September 5, 2018
Kim Kardashian shared a picture from her White House meeting on clemency:
It started with Ms. Alice, but looking at her and seeing the faces and learning the stories of the men and women I’ve met inside prisons I knew I couldn’t stop at just one. It’s time for REAL systemic change pic.twitter.com/kdKr8s6lJW— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) September 5, 2018
A Toronto Star reporter corrected a Trump tweet:
And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) welcomed an old friend back to the Senate:
Congress has a lot to accomplish in the coming weeks. I could not be happier that we’ll have Jon Kyl back with us to help see it through. pic.twitter.com/Hb4vFCsJLY— Leader McConnell (@SenateMajLdr) September 5, 2018
-- “It’s back-to-school week in Crazytown, and there have already been disruptions in class,” Dan Zak and Ben Terris report in their latest D.C. dispatch. “[The Supreme Court] is about to lurch to the right for a generation. Facebook and Twitter executives are swearing to tell the truth, as their platforms are overtaken by fantasies and fabrications. The president is ‘unhinged,’ … and his administration is suffering a ‘nervous breakdown’ … Aren’t we all. We’re 62 days until the next ‘most-important election’ of our lifetime and Congress has returned from summer break to preside over its own demise as a meaningful institution. The handmaids have come with them, sprung from the pages of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel into our dystopian reality. On Tuesday they stood sentry along the second-floor walkway in the Hart Senate Office Building, their bright red cloaks a creepy contrast to the colorless suits of Capitol Hill . . . “Things in D.C. are getting weird,” said one Code Pink activist, who stood outside a Senate hearing dressed as a giant condom.
-- BuzzFeed News, “An Expanding Front In The Republicans’ Culture Wars: The NFL,” by Tarini Parti and Henry J. Gomez: “Polling on [NFL] protests shows a huge racial and partisan divide . . . And overall, public opinion is in line with the president’s views, with polls showing more Americans supporting the NFL’s on-hold policy than opposing it. The issue has already factored into this year’s primaries: In Tennessee, gubernatorial hopeful Diane Black and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, now a Senate candidate, both produced pro-anthem ads to coincide with the Super Bowl. (Black lost her primary; Blackburn won hers.) … ‘The potency of the anthem issue highlights how politics and political battles are increasingly waged over issues that have little to do with policy or legislation,’ said [Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist who has worked for Mitt Romney and John Boehner]. ‘Instead, they become a clash of cultural worldviews. The anthem debate is one example, just like the firestorm over Roseanne Barr’s comments … Political audiences weren't motivated to action based on some bill or an up-or-down vote in Congress, but instead on the question, ‘Where do you stand?’”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“State Department's top candidate to lead efforts countering disinformation: A Fox News reporter,” from CNN: “A Fox News correspondent is a leading candidate to head the State Department agency tasked with combating propaganda and disinformation from foreign adversaries … Lea Gabrielle is being considered for special envoy and coordinator of the Global Engagement Center, multiple State Department sources and one former senior State official [said]. Gabrielle is a general assignment reporter for ‘Shepard Smith Reporting,’ according to her Fox News biography, and was previously a military reporter. She is also a United States Naval Academy graduate and served in the US Navy as fighter pilot for more than a decade, as well as taking part in some intelligence operations. … The choice of Gabrielle for the role incensed several current and former officials with experience in the field.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Michael Moore Plays His Trump Card: A New Movie, Modern Fascism and a 2020 Prediction,” from the Hollywood Reporter: “[A]s Moore, 64, readies his newest documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9, which will kick off the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 6, he's not holding back. ‘Trump is our Frankenstein and we are Dr. Frankenstein,’ he declares. … Fahrenheit 11/9 is at its most provocative when it veers away from Trump's ascension to recount Adolf Hitler's rise, with an emphasis on how the media in the 1930s, from The New York Times to the Jewish press, normalized the Fuhrer. Moore insists he isn't making a direct comparison between Trump and Hitler but rather making ‘a serious point about fascism,’ he explains. ‘It comes from a book, Friendly Fascism, by a philosopher named Bertram Gross. He talks about how the fascism of the 21st century would not be like the fascism of the 20th century. … I don't think we should be afraid to call this out for what it is.’”
Trump will participate in a Rosh Hashanah call with Jewish leaders and rabbis before traveling to Billings, Mont., for a roundtable with supporters and a campaign rally.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“While there may be evidence of infidelity, irresponsibility or alcohol dependence, once properly understood, the underlying facts do not equate to criminal activity.” — A lawyer for Rep. Duncan Hunter, responding to prosecutors who claimed to have pictures of the congressman’s alleged indiscretions. (San Diego Union-Tribune)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Washingtonians will see another muggy day before things cool down for the weekend. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “The day should start out mostly sunny, but clouds start popping up with regularity. Highs are mainly in the low 90s but the oppressive humidity (dew points in the low to mid-70s) pushes the heat index up to 100. Isolated thunderstorms start to develop well to the north and west of the city late in the day.”
-- The Nationals lost to the Cardinals 7-6. (Jesse Dougherty)
-- Mike Rizzo said that Dave Martinez would return as the Nationals’ manager in 2019. “I haven’t considered any other scenario,” the general manager told reporters yesterday, later adding that Martinez “has done a great job managing this team.” (Chelsea Janes)
-- Ida Lewis, who rescued mariners from Newport harbor in Rhode Island during the late 1800s, will become the first woman to have one of Arlington National Cemetery’s drives named for her. From Michael E. Ruane: “In its 154-year history, all of the more than 40 roadways have been named after men — such as Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ulysses S. Grant, and Gens. George Patton and John Pershing, the cemetery said. The cemetery’s new 27-acre section, the first geographic expansion in 40 years, was designed with two new drives. … The names of Lewis and 34-year-old Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan W. Gifford, who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for heroism after he was killed in Afghanistan in 2012, were chosen. Gifford is the first Marine to be honored with a street name at the cemetery.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Jimmy Fallon impersonated Trump to respond to Bob Woodward's book:
Trevor Noah said all of the developments coming out of the Trump White House can no longer be called “bombshells”:
The new teaser for the final season of “House of Cards” shows a gravestone for Kevin Spacey’s character Frank Underwood:
A congressman used an auction chant to drown out a protester as she was escorted out of the hearing involving Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey:
The Fact Checker awarded three Pinocchio's to Americans for Prosperity's ad against Tennessee Senate candidate Phil Bredesen:
And actor Jeff Goldblum surprised commuters at London's St. Pancras International train station by playing the piano: