With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: Justice Neil Gorsuch called President Trump’s personal attacks on federal judges “demoralizing” during his confirmation hearing last year. “When someone criticizes the honesty, the integrity or the motives of a federal judge, I find that disheartening,” Gorsuch said, adding: “I’ve gone as far as I can go ethically.”
This muted critique didn’t satisfy Democrats, but it enraged Trump so much that he talked privately about rescinding Gorsuch’s nomination. The president vented angrily to White House advisers and Republican congressional leaders that the judge was insufficiently grateful to him and expressed fear that he wouldn’t be “loyal,” 11 people familiar with the episode told The Washington Post last December. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was so concerned that he felt the need to repeatedly urge Trump to stick with Gorsuch.
So perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising that, 18 months later, Brett Kavanaugh would not go nearly as far as Gorsuch during his three days of testimony, which wrapped up Thursday night at 10:13 p.m. But it was nevertheless striking.
The president’s second nominee for the Supreme Court demurred, for example, when asked whether it was appropriate for Trump to say that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “mind is shot” when he called for her to resign.
“I’m not going to get within three Zip codes” of answering that question, he replied.
Kavanaugh wouldn’t say if it’s okay for Trump to say that the Justice Department should not prosecute Republicans because it will hurt their chances of holding the House in the midterms.
He also refused to say that it was inappropriate for Trump to insist that Judge Gonzalo Curiel couldn’t fairly adjudicate a fraud lawsuit against Trump University because he is the son of Mexican immigrants. Speaker Paul Ryan once called this “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”
And Kavanaugh declined to comment on Trump’s declaration that there were “good people on both sides” at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, which turned violent last summer.
“We stay out of politics,” he said. “We don’t comment on comments made by politicians.”
Democrats don’t question the sterling legal credentials of Kavanaugh, who graduated from Yale and has been given a well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association. But they fear he’s overly partisan.
After Kavanaugh declined to talk about Trump, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) noted that he was happy to effusively praise George W. Bush during his previous confirmation hearing to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He wondered, “What kind of loyalty is being required of you for this job?”
Kavanaugh responded that he has steered clear of partisan politics since becoming a judge in 2006. “I do not vote in political elections,” he told senators on Thursday. And his White House sherpas emphasized endorsements he has received from prominent Democratic lawyers.
But the nominee’s steadfast unwillingness to even mildly distance himself from Trump’s sustained attacks on the third branch of government, despite being given dozens of opportunities to do so by senators in both parties over the course of 24 hours in the hot seat, means that the question lingers of how independent he’ll be once confirmed to the highest court in the land.
-- Several Democratic senators expressed concern that Trump did not add Kavanaugh — widely known in legal circles as an outspoken critic of investigations into sitting presidents — to his list of potential Supreme Court picks until last November — six months after the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.
“In this age of President Donald Trump, this expansive view of presidential power takes on added significance,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
Kavanaugh replied that no president is above the law. “I’ve made clear in my writings that a court order that requires a president to do something or prohibits a president from doing something is the final word in our system,” he said.
-- Democrats were keen to know who Kavanaugh has discussed Mueller’s probe with. The judge acknowledged that he’s talked about the investigation with multiple people, but he would not name names. “I’ve had no inappropriate discussions with anyone,” he said. “If you’re walking around in America, it’s coming up. … I’ve never suggested anything about my views about anything, commitments, foreshadowing.”
Asked if he’s spoken with anyone at the White House, including counsel Don McGahn, about Mueller’s probe, he used a lawyer’s dodge: “I’m not remembering any discussions like that.” Then he acknowledged that he rehearsed with White House staff how to answer questions like these during prep, including mock hearings at an office building on the White House grounds.
Following up on California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris’s round of questioning from Wednesday night, Kavanaugh acknowledged a friendship with Ed McNally — who he worked with in the Bush White House and who now works for the law firm led by Marc Kasowitz, one of Trump’s personal attorneys. But the judge, and Kasowitz’s firm, said they haven’t talked about Mueller’s probe.
Booker told Kavanaugh he should agree to recuse himself from cases involving Mueller. “It’s really important that the Supreme Court be above suspicion,” the New Jersey Democrat said.
But Kavanaugh doesn’t need any Democratic votes to get confirmed, and he’s in no mood to make concessions. Don’t forget how Trump responded when Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation.
“All I would be doing is demonstrating that I don’t have the independence of the judiciary … that is necessary to be a good judge,” Kavanaugh told Booker.
-- Gorsuch’s “demoralizing” comment last year came shortly after Trump ripped a “so-called judge” — who had been appointed by a Republican president — for issuing a temporary injunction to block his first travel ban, which targeted a list of majority-Muslim countries. “If something happens, blame him and [the] court system,” the president tweeted, adding that the judge “put our country in such peril.”
Trump needn’t have worried. Gorsuch provided the decisive fifth vote to uphold a revised version of the travel ban this June. Within an hour of the ruling, McConnell — who pressed Trump to stick with Gorsuch — posted this picture:
-- The Judiciary Committee will hear testimony today from outside witnesses. McConnell reiterated this morning that he will move swiftly to confirm Kavanaugh before the fall term starts on Oct. 1.
THE CULTURE WARS:
-- Kavanaugh declined to say last night whether the Supreme Court was correct in 2015 when it recognized a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry. That’s notable because Anthony Kennedy, who he’ll replace, cast the swing vote that made it possible. Prepared for the question, Kavanaugh quoted Kennedy saying in another decision that gay people “cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth.”
-- “Kavanaugh, as a White House lawyer in the Bush administration, advised against referring to the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade as the ‘settled law of the land,’ according to a 2003 email,” Robert Barnes and Michael Kranish report. “‘I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so,’ Kavanaugh wrote after reviewing a draft of an op-ed in favor of a judicial nominee. … Kavanaugh said [yesterday] he was referring not to his own views but to the ‘views of legal scholars.’”
-- That email was among a small cache of documents released yesterday by Democrats from among nearly 200,000 pages of records that Republicans had been deemed “committee confidential,” which meant that only senators and their staffers could review them. There are more than 100,000 additional pages that have not been turned over to the Senate because the Trump White House asserted executive privilege.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The U.S. economy added 201,000 jobs last month, a strong showing that kept the unemployment rate at 3.9 percent. Heather Long reports: “Wages grew at 2.9 percent in the past year, the best growth since 2009 and an encouraging sign that wages might finally be moving higher after years of sluggish gains. But the last time unemployment was this low in the dot-com boom, wage growth was significantly faster — well above 3.5 percent. Hiring has been strong in nearly every industry this year from manufacturing to health care. Even retail, which many predicted would decline as stores like Toys R Us shuttered for good, is still adding jobs. This year is on track to be the best for job gains since 2015.”
-- The number of U.S. weekly jobless claims fell to near a 49-year low last week. The Labor Department reported initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped to the lowest level since December 1969. (Reuters)
GET SMART FAST:
- A gunman opened fire in the lobby of a downtown Cincinnati skyscraper, killing three people and injuring at least five others before he was shot and killed by police. Authorities said he gained access to the 30-story Fifth Third bank building by way of a loading dock. They declined to immediately release details about the shooter or any potential motive. (Emily Wax-Thibodeaux)
- The front-runner in Brazil’s presidential election, Jair Bolsonaro, was stabbed during a campaign rally. He has serious intestinal wounds, but his people say he's now in stable condition. The stabbing comes four months after a caravan of supporters for former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva were shot at during a rally. (Marina Lopes)
- The New York attorney general’s office has issued subpoenas to every Catholic diocese in the state, joining a string of major U.S. cities that have launched sprawling investigations into sex crimes allegedly committed and covered up by Catholic priests. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood also announced a telephone hotline and online form for victims and witnesses of abuse to contact New York investigators. (Julie Zauzmer and Michelle Boorstein)
Federal prosecutors are exploring new charges — including wire fraud — against Harvey Weinstein. The federal probe is investigating Weinstein’s alleged efforts to intimidate his accusers and silence them using hush money. (Wall Street Journal)
- Twitter banned conspiracy theorist and Infowars host Alex Jones from its platform, belatedly following other social media giants one day after chief executive Jack Dorsey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Jones attended the hearing, where he sat directly behind Dorsey and later heckled Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) during a news conference. (Tony Romm)
- The House Ethics Committee voted to investigate corruption charges against Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Chris Collins (R-N.Y.). The panel will form two investigative subcommittees to probe their actions but will stand down until after federal prosecutors finish trying both in courts of law. (Felicia Sonmez)
- Florence has weakened into a tropical storm, but it is predicted to restrengthen to a hurricane over the weekend. Meteorologists fear Florence could affect the East Coast in about a week, but the storm is still too far away to predict the impact it will have on the region. (Brian McNoldy and Jason Samenow)
Authorities searched the home of Kate McClure and Mark D'Amico, the couple accused of spending $400,000 they raised for a homeless veteran on GoFundMe. A prosecutor confirmed the home was searched in connection to a criminal investigation, but charges have not been filed. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Taylor Telford and Lindsey Bever)
Actor Terry Crews has settled his sexual harassment lawsuit against Hollywood executive Adam Venit. Crews claimed Venit groped him at a party in 2016. Following reports of the settlement and Venit’s planned retirement from his agency, Crews sent a one-word tweet: “ACCOUNTABILITY.” (Kyle Swenson)
- Burt Reynolds died at 82. The Hollywood legend's playful, wiseguy performances in “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Cannonball Run” helped cement his status as a box-office star. The cause of his death isn't immediately clear. (Adam Bernstein)
-- Despite his past objections, Trump has agreed to an indefinite U.S. military presence in Syria and a renewed diplomatic push, according to the State Department. Karen DeYoung reports: “Although the military campaign against the Islamic State has been nearly completed, the administration has redefined its goals to include the exit of all Iranian military and proxy forces from Syria, and establishment of a stable, nonthreatening government acceptable to all Syrians and the international community. … ‘The new policy is we’re no longer pulling out by the end of the year,’ said James Jeffrey, a retired senior Foreign Service officer who last month was named [Mike Pompeo’s] ‘representative for Syria engagement.’ … Asked whether Trump had signed off on what he called ‘a more active approach,’ Jeffrey said, ‘I am confident the president is on board with this.’”
-- Moscow has warned Washington twice this week that Russian troops, which back Bashar al-Assad's regime, are prepared to launch an attack in an area where dozens of U.S. troops are located. CNN’s Barbara Starr reports: “Russia claims that there are militants in the area protected by US troops. Moscow's declaration has sharply raised US commanders' concerns that American forces would be at risk if a Russian attack goes forward … And it has sparked US warnings to Moscow not to challenge the US military presence. Several US defense officials [said] concerns center on a US-led anti-ISIS coalition base at At Tanf. US troops help monitor a 55-kilometer (34-mile) exclusion zone around At Tanf. Given its location near the borders of Syria, Jordan and Iraq, the At Tanf garrison is seen as a key strategic location as the US, Iran and Russia compete for influence in the region. … There is concern the Russians could use aircraft or their naval warships in the eastern Mediterranean to launch a missile attack against what they say are militants, sparking a confrontation that could inadvertently draw in US forces if Russian targeting is not precise. So far, no buildup of Russian ground forces has been observed in recent days.”
-- The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran gathered to discuss the Syrian government’s planned assault on Idlib province. Erin Cunningham reports: “Turkish officials, fearing a fresh refugee crisis, want to prevent a large-scale assault on Idlib, analysts say. And Turkey has sought to separate some of Idlib’s more moderate fighters from the hardcore Islamist militants affiliated with al-Qaeda. According to the pro-government Turkish daily newspaper, Sabah, Turkey will propose Friday a plan that includes disarming militants and evacuating them through safe corridors to a buffer zone.”
-- The governments of the United States, France, Germany and Canada each formally backed Britain’s assessment that Russian military officers were responsible for the nerve-agent attack on British soil against former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. The leading Western governments concur that their attempted murders were “almost certainly” approved at the highest levels of the Kremlin. Karla Adam and Carol Morello report: “The leaders urged Russia to provide a ‘full disclosure’ of its Novichok nerve-agent program and said they would ‘continue to disrupt together the hostile activities of foreign intelligence networks on our territories.’ The joint statement was released shortly before London’s and Moscow’s envoys to the United Nations squared off in an emergency Security Council meeting called by Britain to brief diplomats on the investigation. … Two Russians — using the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov — were charged Wednesday in absentia with [attempted murder]. [British ambassador Karen Pierce] acknowledged the two suspects, who flew back to Russia shortly after the attack, cannot be extradited under the Russian constitution. But she said Britain will ask Interpol to issue an alert to arrest them if they ever leave Russian territory."
WEST WING INTRIGUE:
-- Trump warned supporters at a rally in Montana last night that he could face impeachment if Republicans lose control of Congress. “You aren’t voting for a candidate, you’re voting for which party controls Congress. It’s a very important thing,” Trump said. “They like to use the impeach word. ‘Impeach Trump!’ . . . ‘But he hasn’t done anything wrong. Doesn’t matter, we will impeach him!’" Josh Dawsey and David Nakamura have more: “As he has repeatedly over the past two days, Trump again attacked the New York Times’ essay as ‘gutless’ during his rally here and challenged Times’ reporters to discover which senior official inside his administration was granted anonymity to author the essay. ‘That would be a good scoop,’ Trump told the crowd.”
-- “Beginning just after dawn Thursday, more than two dozen top officials and Cabinet members raced to issue forceful statements denying they were the anonymous author of the Times op-ed. They read as public declarations of loyalty to an audience of one — the media-obsessed president, who was gratified to see the statements as aides kept him abreast,” Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Dawsey and Greg Jaffe report. Trump especially liked the statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo … [who] criticized the 'liberal newspaper' and described the anonymous editorial as 'a disgruntled, deceptive, bad actor’s word.'
“Trump’s aides challenged little of the column’s substance. ... But the conspiratorial and at times paranoid Trump felt a slice of vindication reading the Times column, seeing it as justifying his belief that the 'deep state' and other enemies within are seeking to undercut him, according to two former White House officials.
“Senior officials have long acted to slow-walk or stymie some of the president’s ideas and directives. When he was White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus had a favored strategy, according to his colleagues — tell the president that he would execute an order, or a firing — but not until ‘next week.’ By then, Trump often would have forgotten. Before some lawmakers, such as Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) or Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), went golfing with Trump, White House legislative aides would prep them on helpful messages they were trying to share or ‘disasters they were trying to divert,’ according to a former senior administration official.”
-- Trump's advisers and allies suggested using polygraph tests and sworn affidavits to sniff out the op-ed’s author. The New York Times’s Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman and Eileen Sullivan report: “Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky … recommended that the president force members of his administration to take polygraph examinations, and there was at least briefly some discussion of that among advisers to the president. Another option mentioned by people close to Mr. Trump was asking senior officials to sign sworn affidavits that could be used in court if necessary. One outside adviser said the White House had a list of about 12 suspects.”
-- But no formal White House investigation has been launched to discover the author, per the Wall Street Journal’s Michael C. Bender and Vivian Salama: “An informal search for the author was being led in part by [Chief of Staff John F. Kelly] … [One] official said there were open questions about available legal remedies, and that the White House Counsel’s Office, which would otherwise lead a more formal probe, was consumed by the confirmation battle over [Kavanaugh].”
-- Elizabeth Warren pointed to the op-ed as evidence that Trump should be removed from office. “If senior administration officials think the president of the United States is not able to do his job, then they should invoke the 25th Amendment,” the Democratic senator said. “The Constitution provides for a procedure whenever the vice president and senior officials think the president can't do his job. It does not provide that senior officials go around the president — take documents off his desk, write anonymous op-eds ... Everyone of these officials have sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States. It's time for them to do their job.” (CNN)
-- The Times's decision to publish the piece “wasn’t unreasonable. And was probably almost irresistible, in this attention-grabbing age.” But it was also “a quagmire of weirdness: fraught with issues of journalistic ethics and possibly even legal concerns,” writes Margaret Sullivan, a Post media critic who formerly served as the NYT's public editor. "[Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet] reportedly wasn’t told who the mystery writer was — for the very reason that he runs the reporting side of the Times’s operation, which is famously separate from the opinion side. But what happens at that moment when Maggie Haberman or one of her colleagues nails down the name? Now that’s a story that, in the newsroom vernacular, has to be ‘lawyered.’ … And I don’t believe for a minute that it would be held back or spiked. It would run — and again, heads would explode.”
-- Trump has started mentioning his criticisms of the press during events previously treated as nonpartisan. David Nakamura reports: “It was supposed to be a quick photo op with [Trump]. But the 44 sheriffs at the White House got a lot more than that when Trump conscripted them as unwitting bystanders in a withering assault Wednesday on [the Times op-ed]. In a surreal setting, the president turned to the uniformed law enforcement officers, assembled on a small riser in the stately East Room, for explicit support as he attacked the ‘dishonest media’ as a ‘disgrace.’ … For the sheriffs, wearing gold badges and embroidered stars, it was a moment of truth: How would these elected officials — frozen in place in the background of a live television shot — react as Trump went on for another 840 words, slamming the anonymous author as ‘gutless,’ predicting that the ‘phony media outlets’ will go out of business and boasting of his accomplishments as if delivering a campaign speech? To them, it was a no-brainer: They gave Trump several rounds of hearty applause.”
-- Some officials who said they have been resisting Trump’s agenda celebrated the op-ed’s publication. The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng, Spencer Ackerman and Erin Banco report: “At the Department of Justice — which has been eyed suspiciously by the White House for nearly two years as a source of insubordination — the atmosphere was tense Thursday morning. Two officials inside the department said they’ve been passively resisting the president since he took office in 2017. ‘We see ourselves as rebels,’ one official said laughing, adding that the op-ed marked a perfect time to celebrate. ‘We even went around fist-bumping each other,’ another official said. But a third, who feels similarly about Trump, sounded darker notes about where Trump’s ire over public embarrassment could lead. ‘It could motivate Trump to pursue the Erdogan-style purge of the bureaucracy that he hasn’t pursued yet,’ said a Justice Department trial attorney.”
-- Credibility gap: Trump claimed this week that he has never uttered the word “retarded” — prompted by Woodward’s report that he used the word to describe Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In fact, he's used it publicly several times — including twice during appearances on Howard Stern's radio show. In October 2016, Trump was also accused of using the term “retarded” to describe actress Marlee Matlin, who is deaf. (John Wagner)
-- Top talker: “We are a superpower run by a simpleton,” former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson writes in a new column. “What we are finding from books, from insider leaks and from investigative journalism is that the rational actors who are closest to the president are frightened by his chaotic leadership style. They describe a total lack of intellectual curiosity, mental discipline and impulse control. … Trump pursues no deep or subtle strategies. He does not even consistently seek his own interests. He responds like a child or a narcissist — but I repeat myself — to positive or negative stimulation. It is the reason that Trump’s lawyers, in the end, can’t allow him to be interviewed by [Mueller]. It would be like a 9-year-old defending a PhD dissertation. Or maybe a rabbit jumping into a buzz saw.”
THE TRUMP AGENDA:
-- “As Months Pass in Chicago Shelters, Immigrant Children Contemplate Escape, Even Suicide,” by ProPublica’s Melissa Sanchez, Duaa Eldeib and Jodi S. Cohen: “One 16-year-old from Guatemala said he wanted to ‘quitarme la vida,’ or ‘take my life away,’ as he waited to be released from a Chicago shelter for immigrant children. He was kept there for at least 584 days. A 17-year-old from Guinea went on a hunger strike, telling staff members he refused to eat until he saw evidence they were trying to find him a home. He was released nearly nine months after he entered a shelter. And a 10-month-old boy, forcibly separated from his father at the U.S.-Mexico border in March, was bitten repeatedly by an older child and later hospitalized after falling from a highchair. He was detained for five months.”
-- Senators finally reached an agreement on an opioids package — moving slowly to address a national epidemic that killed more than 70,000 Americans last year. A McConnell spokesman says Democrats have lifted their hold, which was motivated by concerns that the GOP-drafted package was mostly a handout to big pharmaceutical companies, and the majority leader will now schedule a floor vote for next week. Colby Itkowitz reports: “The House passed another package of opioid measures in June, and the two sets of bills would need to be reconciled before becoming law. The Senate bill had stalled over Democratic objections to a grant program they said was written too narrowly to benefit only one addiction advocacy group, the Addiction Policy Forum. The organization was closely connected to PhRMA and Democrats wanted the language broadened to cover more groups. Senators had been working all summer to reach a deal on opioid legislation, which has emerged as a rare bipartisan priority ahead of November's midterm elections. Trump increased the pressure by tweeting that they must pass the [Rob] Portman-sponsored bill on shipments of illicit fentanyl through the international postal system. The bill, in addition to stopping the inflow of synthetic drugs, authorizes and expands programs for prevention, treatment and recovery. It allows the National Institutes of Health to research new, non-addictive painkillers.”
-- An analysis by a nonpartisan research firm found that nearly 2 million low-income Americans would lose benefits under the House version of the farm bill. The bill includes a proposal to reevaluate eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, informally known as food stamps. If the House bill were implemented, about 8 percent of those receiving aid could be removed from states’ rolls. The CBO also found in a separate analysis that an additional 1.2 million people could lose their benefits because of the bill’s proposal to impose work requirements on beneficiaries. (New York Times)
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the AP that the president will not answer any questions related to obstruction of justice from Mueller’s team — but appeared to backtrack shortly afterward in a second interview with NBC News. Hallie Jackson reports on NBC: “Giuliani first told The Associated Press in an interview: ‘That's a no-go. That is not going to happen,’ and ‘there will be no questions at all on obstruction.’ But later … Giuliani said those questions are ‘not ruled in or out.’ Giuliani’s statements Thursday come after wrangling over whether Trump would submit to an interview, whether in person or in writing. ‘We have said we would agree to written questions on Russia after we review questions but no further commitment on interviews. After we finish this we will assess it with no agreement to any post-presidential questions,’ Giuliani told NBC News. [He] added that for now there’s ‘no commitment on obstruction which are post-presidential matters’ but says the legal team will agree to talk ‘after the collusion/pre-presidential questions are over.’" Giuliani also told Politico that Trump’s team is nearing a deal with Mueller’s prosecutors on providing written answers to the special counsel’s questions.
-- Senate Democrats asked the Justice Department to investigate Giuliani’s unregistered lobbying work on behalf of foreign clients. From Felicia Sonmez: “The letter was written by Democratic Sens. Tom Udall (N.M.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Richard J. Durbin (Ill.). ‘As President Trump’s personal attorney, Mr. Giuliani communicates in private with the President and his senior staff on a regular basis,’ the senators wrote in the letter. ‘Without further review, it is impossible to know whether Mr. Giuliani is lobbying U.S. government officials on behalf of his foreign clients.’”
-- Federal prosecutors have for months been using a grand jury to investigate former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, over accusations that he misled bureau officials who were exploring his role in a controversial media disclosure. Matt Zapotosky reports: “The grand jury has summoned more than one witness ... and the case is ongoing. … The presence of the grand jury shows prosecutors are treating the matter seriously, locking in the accounts of witnesses who might later have to testify at a trial. But such panels are sometimes used only as investigative tools, and it remains unclear if McCabe will ultimately be charged. … The allegations against McCabe come largely from Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, whose office concluded in a detailed report McCabe lied at least four times, three of them under oath, and he approved a media disclosure to advance his personal interests over those of the Justice Department. … The investigation into McCabe is as politically charged as they come, and a decision to prosecute him — or not — will draw significant criticism either way.”
-- A group of conservative Republicans in the House is urging the president to declassify several key documents related to the Russia probe “within the next week” — a move that would circumvent federal law enforcement agencies and could compromise the integrity of the investigation. Karoun Demirjian reports: “The members … are asking Trump to publicly release 20 pages from the FBI’s application to [surveil former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page], omitting only information that would expose intelligence-gathering techniques. They also want the president to make public documents they believe contain exculpatory evidence that was left out of the FBI’s application … Finally, the conservative Republicans want Trump to declassify the ‘302s,’ or official memos, from 12 interviews Justice Department official Bruce Ohr conducted [with Trump-Russia dossier author Christopher Steele]. The members believe that … the combined documents will show that the FBI knew, but failed to tell the court, things about the dossier that would have undermined the merits of the application[.]” The documents have already been shared with the Gang of Eight, or the bipartisan group comprised of congressional leaders and the heads of intelligence committees.
-- A psychology researcher at Facebook who previously helped harvest millions of user profiles for Cambridge Analytica has left the company. Fast Company’s Alex Pasternack reports: “In December 2015, when it said it first learned that a pair of Cambridge University researchers had sold the harvested user data to the election firm, Facebook began an investigation and demanded the data be deleted. Around the same time, it also hired Joseph Chancellor, one of the two researchers. On Wednesday, a Facebook spokesperson declined to explain when or why Chancellor had left the company, or to detail the results of any investigation into his work . . . Facebook continues to face tough questions from lawmakers about Chancellor . . . The company has not publicly held any employee accountable for the Cambridge Analytica episode, but after it became front page news, Chancellor was put on leave by Facebook as it investigated his role, BuzzFeed reported in May."
-- New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt plans to write a book about the Mueller probe. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin has also reached a book deal to cover the Russia investigation. (Vanity Fair)
-- Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) easily fought off a primary challenge from progressive activist Kerri Harris. From David Weigel: “Carper, 71, is now favored to win a fourth term in a state where his center-left politics have helped shape its business-friendly Democratic Party. But the challenge from Harris, a 38-year old Air Force veteran making her first run for office, revealed a shift in Carper’s party and the existence of a left-wing vote bloc in a state where moderate suburbanites typically dominate. That bloc was not large enough to give Carper a scare, however: Harris got 35 percent of the vote, easily eclipsed by Carper’s 65 percent.”
-- The vice president, who routinely boasted for years that he would never run a negative ad before he came into the Trump orbit, stars in three new attack ads against vulnerable Democratic senators. Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports: “Pence rips Montana Sen. Jon Tester, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly over a range of highly charged partisan issues, from opposition to the GOP tax bill and Obamacare repeal to support for sanctuary cities and Planned Parenthood funding. … The TV spots paint Tester, Heitkamp, and Donnelly — all of whom face the burden of running for reelection in states that [Trump] won by double digits — as profoundly out-of-step with their constituencies.”
-- House Republicans withdrew from negotiations about barring the use of hacked or stolen material on the campaign trail. The New York Times’s Nicholas Fandos reports: “Leaders of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of House Republicans, and their counterparts at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had labored for much of the summer over rules that would have governed the way the congressionally run committees and their candidates treated material like the thousands of pages of damaging Democratic documents stolen and leaked by Russian hackers in 2016. Instead, the two parties were left on Thursday exchanging shots just two months before Election Day; Republicans claimed that Democrats had negotiated in bad faith and violated an agreement not to speak about the negotiations publicly, and Democrats said that Republicans were merely searching for an excuse to pull out.”
-- House Republicans said a proposal they are considering to impose punishments — including potential loss of committee chairmanships — on those who break with party leadership will not be brought up until after the midterms. Mike DeBonis reports: “Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) this week presented a panel of House GOP leaders with proposed rules changes that would force members who spurn leadership to appear before the Republican Steering Committee, which determines committee assignments, to explain their behavior and face possible sanctions. Among those who would be held to account, according to a steering committee member present for Scott's presentation, would be members who oppose procedural resolutions setting up floor action on legislation, those who sign ‘discharge’ petitions sidestepping the normal floor process, and those who vote against certain designated ‘leadership priority’ bills such as the high-profile health-care and tax bills the House passed last year.”
-- “Nancy Pelosi Doesn’t Care What You Think of Her. And She Isn’t Going Anywhere,” by Time magazine's Molly Ball: “The morning after the biggest primary upset of 2018, Pelosi placed a call to [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez. The 28-year-old socialist … had predicated her campaign against the House’s fourth most powerful Democrat on getting rid of the old, out-of-touch party establishment, and pundits were speculating about the implications for other longtime leaders. Sitting on a goldenrod-colored sofa in her airy office on the second floor of the Capitol, Pelosi picked up the phone and set to the job of holding her fractious party together. … The story of Nancy Pelosi is, inevitably, the story of what people think of her. The way she is recognized and remembered, the way she is held to account. And so Pelosi doesn’t have the luxury of not caring about what people think of her: it’s the question on which her future, and the future of American politics, depends.”
-- A new NBC News-Marist poll has Tennessee’s Senate race at a virtual tie. From NBC News’s Mark Murray: “Democrat Phil Bredesen and Republican Marsha Blackburn are running neck and neck … Bredesen, the state’s former governor, gets support from 48 percent of likely voters, while Blackburn, who is a current member of Congress, gets 46 percent. Only 5 percent of likely voters say they’re undecided. Among the larger pool of registered voters, Bredesen leads Blackburn by 4 points, 48 percent to 44 percent, but it’s within the survey’s margin of error. This is the third-straight NBC/Marist poll released this week — following surveys of Missouri and Indiana — showing competitive races that could very well decide control of the U.S. Senate in November.”
-- Barack Obama is expected to preview his midterm message during a speech today in downstate Illinois. NBC News’s Mike Memoli, Kristen Welker and Peter Alexander report: “[E]ven as he may not target Trump by name, ‘no one will come away thinking he held back or held his punches,’ a source close to the former president [said]. … Aides say it will build off the themes of his presidential farewell address, establishing the factors that have contributed to the heightened national polarization and then outlining what can be done to move beyond it. It will urge Americans to embrace activism over apathy and reject ‘the rising strain of authoritarian politics and policies,’ as well as highlight ways in which many have already stepped up and engaged in the political process — some for the first time.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Kim Jong Un told a South Korean envoy that he wants to denuclearize North Korea before Trump’s first term ends in 2021. The New York Times’s Choe Sang-Hun reports: “Expressing frustration over what he called Washington’s failure to negotiate in good faith, Mr. Kim told the envoy, Chung Eui-yong, that he still had confidence in Mr. Trump. He said he had never spoken badly of the American leader, even to his closest aides, since the two met in Singapore on June 12, according to Mr. Chung. ... At a televised news conference in Seoul, Mr. Chung said Mr. Kim had voiced frustration that his commitment to nuclear disarmament, which he expressed [in meetings with Moon and Trump], was not taken seriously … Mr. Kim said that while North Korea had already taken important steps toward denuclearization, Washington was not doing enough in return, Mr. Chung said.” “He strongly expressed his will to take more active steps for denuclearization if the actions North Korea has already taken are matched by corresponding measures” from the U.S., Chung added. Mr. Chung said Mr. Kim gave him messages to relay to Washington, which officials said were being sent to his American counterpart, John Bolton … Mr. Chung did not reveal their contents, except to say that Mr. Kim wanted Washington’s assurances that he had not made a mistake when he committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
-- The Justice Department announced charges against alleged North Korean spy Park Jin Hyok for alleged involvement in a series of cyberattacks, including the 2014 Sony attack. Hyok’s indictment marks the first time U.S. officials have brought charges against a Pyongyang operative. Ellen Nakashima and Devlin Barrett report: “Park Jin Hyok is accused of hacking on behalf of North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), the military intelligence agency that controls most of the country’s cyber-capabilities. He is linked to the Lazarus Group, which also has been implicated in the audacious attempt to steal $1 billion from the Bangladesh Bank in 2016, and to the WannaCry virus that affected more than 230,000 computers in 150 countries last year. … The Treasury Department on Thursday also imposed sanctions against Park and the Chosun Expo Joint Venture, a state-owned firm that employed him. Officials said Park and others [also operated] in China and unnamed other countries. … The sanctions allow the United States to seize any of their assets in the United States and prohibit Americans from any taking part in any transactions with them.”
-- A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a resolution supporting the proposal to rename NATO’s Brussels headquarters for John McCain. The resolution “urges the President to support renaming NATO headquarters after Senator McCain and to direct appropriate officials at the Department of State and the Department of Defense to advocate for their counterparts in NATO member states to support renaming NATO headquarters after Senator McCain.” (Felicia Sonmez)
-- Scientists have questioned an emerging theory that a microwave weapon sickened U.S. diplomats in Cuba. From Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach: “This hypothesis, advanced in recent days in several news reports, dominated a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on Cuba policy Thursday afternoon. But a panel of State Department officials said there is still no explanation for the reported injuries. … Despite the buzz over microwaves, experts warn that caution is in order. There’s an old scientific aphorism that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. ‘And they’re not giving the extraordinary evidence. They’re not giving any evidence,’ said physicist Peter Zimmerman, an arms control expert and former scientific adviser to the State Department and Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”
-- A far-right group with neo-Nazi origins may become one of Sweden’s largest parties after the country’s Sunday elections. From Michael Birnbaum: “Long considered toxic in this traditionally liberal nation, the Sweden Democrats have undergone a repackaging. They’ve traded jackboots for business suits, purged some of their overtly racist elements and adopted more urbane messaging. Immigration, though, remains their overriding focus. … In this campaign, [the party’s leader] has linked immigration, crime and the decline of the Swedish welfare state.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Senate Democrats objected to documents being withheld from Kavanaugh's time in the Bush White House and accused the Supreme Court nominee of lying about his role in several Bush-era scandals, from warrantless surveillance to the hacking of Democratic emails and preparing a divisive judicial nominee:
Judge Kavanaugh answered under oath more than 100 questions on this hacking in 2004 and 2006. His repeated denials that he didn’t receive any stolen info and didn’t suspect anything “untoward” is SIMPLY NOT CREDIBLE.— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) September 6, 2018
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) also took her concerns about Kavanaugh to Twitter:
These are the docs Rs don't want you to see—because they show that Judge Kavanaugh wrongly believes that Native Hawaiian programs are Constitutionally questionable. I defy anyone reading this to be able to conclude that it should be deemed confidential in any way, shape, or form. pic.twitter.com/yj31vDNGia— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) September 6, 2018
Some on Twitter took issue with Kavanaugh's comment that he “grew up in a city plagued by gun violence and gang violence and drug violence.” From a writer for Media Matters:
"I grew up in a city plagued by gun and gang and drug violence." Kavanaugh's high school, Georgetown Prep, literally has an on-campus golf course. pic.twitter.com/0mDur3ecLD— Steve Morris (@stevemorris__) September 5, 2018
From a Post reporter:
I grew up in Bethesda, too, and live there now. Kavanaugh knows perfectly well that biggest complaint was difficulty finding quality lawn care. https://t.co/RO54I0Kk4b— Robert McCartney (@McCartneyWP) September 6, 2018
Kavanaugh's team brought in the members of the girls basketball team he coaches. “They are getting an introduction to democracy,” he told the senators. “It’s noisy!” A staffer for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) shared a photo of Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) chatting with the young women:
Trump accused Bob Woodward of making up quotes for his new book:
The Woodward book is a scam. I don’t talk the way I am quoted. If I did I would not have been elected President. These quotes were made up. The author uses every trick in the book to demean and belittle. I wish the people could see the real facts - and our country is doing GREAT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 7, 2018
He also questioned Nike, which aired its ad with Colin Kaepernick during last night’s NFL season opener:
What was Nike thinking?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 7, 2018
This 1974 Wall Street Journal clipping, in which Mark Felt denied being the “Deep Throat” source during Watergate, made the rounds as Trump officials put out statements denying they wrote the Times op-ed:
About those Lodestar denials. (From the Wall Street Journal, 1974) pic.twitter.com/tfudW0bAVT— Shane Harris (@shaneharris) September 6, 2018
A former communications director for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton questioned the broadness of the New York Times's definition of a “senior official”:
Fwiw, based on my experience with NYT sourcing rules for Administration officials, this person could easily be someone most of us have never heard of & more junior than you’d expect. Like a deputy at legislative affairs or NEC.— Jennifer Palmieri (@jmpalmieri) September 6, 2018
A Democratic congressman compared Trump's hunt for the op-ed author to his comments on Mueller's investigation:
WikiLeaks analyzed the op-ed's language:
Based upon our statistical analysis of the language used in the New York Times anonymous Op Ed, the author is likely to be an older (58%), conservative (92%) male (66-87%). Sources should protect themselves by consulting "adverserial stylometry" and "forensic author profiling". pic.twitter.com/yfU22OveTq— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) September 7, 2018
An MSNBC producer added another name to the list of people who have denied writing the op-ed:
I've gone too far. pic.twitter.com/UGGrfd5Ycv— Kendall Breitman (@KendallBreitman) September 6, 2018
An L.A. Times reporter tweeted this photo:
Spotted in a DC parking garage. pic.twitter.com/xynpbrdrQH— Jim Puzzanghera (@JimPuzzanghera) September 6, 2018
A presidential historian recalled a 1974 resignation in the Ford White House:
President Ford’s press secretary writes him to resign in protest over Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon, this week 1974: pic.twitter.com/pkC3C1rT2V— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) September 6, 2018
A Post reporter noted this statistic from Delaware's primary:
Delaware Democrats have set a non-presidential primary turnout record... on a Thursday.— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) September 7, 2018
Top political handicapper Stu Rothenberg, who is now senior editor at Inside Elections, made the startling statement that the Senate might actually be in play:
OK. So maybe the Senate is "in play." That's the first time I have said or written that. Gotta go with the numbers.— Stuart Rothenberg (@StuPolitics) September 6, 2018
The managing editor at Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball posed this question:
If you’re trying to assess the Senate majority odds for yourself, ask yourself this question: What odds do you give the Democrats of winning ONE of the following three races: North Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas? The Ds practically can’t win a majority without one.— Kyle Kondik (@kkondik) September 6, 2018
The Indiana Senate race has become a lower priority for GOP strategists, per National Journal's politics editor:
Talking to several top R strategists, consensus that Indiana has fallen down on the GOP Senate pickup opportunity list (consistent w NBC/Marist results last night).— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) September 6, 2018
Consensus now that ND is -- by far -- the top pickup opportunity, followed narrowly by MO, FL and Indiana.
A Post columnist noted this of Pelosi's Time cover:
A group of congressional Republicans demanded more access to documents on Carter Page:
Joined @RepLeeZeldin, @RepMattGaetz, @Jim_Jordan, @RepMarkMeadows, and others in calling for the declassification and release of the #CarterPage FISA application. The American public deserves the opportunity to review its contents to judge for themselves. #DeclassifyFISA pic.twitter.com/m9z0OmygGC— Rep. Jody Hice (@CongressmanHice) September 6, 2018
Trump made this questionable claim during his Montana rally:
Trump says Abraham Lincoln was skewered by the "fake news" for his Gettysburg Address. But people eventually gave him credit. ??— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) September 7, 2018
But George Conway, who is married to senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, corrected Trump:
And Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) provided insight on what he whispered to a colleague:
“You know... I knew Spartacus.” pic.twitter.com/94eGPCkOp1— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) September 6, 2018
-- New York Review of Books, “Why Bannon Is Meddling With Bosnia,” by Krithika Varagur: “In late July, [Steve] Bannon met with Prime Minister Željka Cvijanović of Republika Srpska, one of the two autonomous entities that make up Bosnia and Herzegovina, at his home in Washington, D.C. So did [Corey Lewandowski and Kellyanne Conway]. Former Trump campaign aides Jason Osborne and Mike Rubino have also registered to lobby for Cvijanović’s party, the SNSD — this despite the fact that the party’s leader and Republika Srpska’s controversial president [was] specifically targeted by US sanctions last year for sowing ethnic discord. Bosnia’s eighth postwar general election is scheduled for October 7, and the foreign influence of the aforementioned Americans and an ascendant Russia may tip the volatile state away from the liberal international order … More likely than total failure is that the built-in expectation of chaos will lead to some unscrupulous maneuvering.” “I’m more concerned about the influence and back-door deals that will take place under the pretext of an electoral ‘crisis,’” said local journalist Mirna Buljugic.
-- “Scooter use is rising in major cities. So are trips to the emergency room,” by Peter Holley: “They have been pouring into emergency rooms around the nation all summer, their bodies bearing a blend of injuries that doctors normally associate with victims of car wrecks — broken noses, wrists and shoulders, facial lacerations and fractures, as well as the kind of blunt head trauma that can leave brains permanently damaged. When doctors began asking patients to explain their injuries, many were surprised to learn that the surge of broken body parts stemmed from the latest urban transportation trend: shared electric scooters. In Santa Monica, Calif. — where one of the biggest electric-scooter companies is based — the city’s fire department has responded to 34 serious accidents involving the devices this summer.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Trump jokingly praises congressman for assaulting a reporter,” from Aaron Blake: “Trump on Thursday night ratcheted up his not-so-veiled attacks on the media, making light of an assault perpetrated by a Republican member of Congress on a journalist and suggesting it was done on behalf of his state. At a rally in Billings, Mont., Trump ran through the state's GOP elected officials before landing upon Rep. Greg Gianforte. ‘I'll tell you what: This man has fought — in more ways than one — for your state. He has fought for your state,’ Trump said. ‘Greg Gianforte. He is a fighter and a winner.’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“College drops uniforms featuring Nike logo to protest Kaepernick ad,” from CBS News: “A private Christian college in Point Lookout, Missouri, vowed to remove all uniforms featuring the Nike logo after the brand's ad with Colin Kaepernick was unveiled this week. ‘If Nike is ashamed of America, we are ashamed of them,’ College of the Ozarks President Jerry C. Davis said in a statement … ‘We also believe that those who know what sacrifice is all about are more likely to be wearing a military uniform than an athletic uniform.’”
Trump will travel from Billings, Mont., to Fargo, N.D., to host a roundtable with supporters and deliver remarks at a fundraising reception. He will travel on to Sioux Falls, S.D., for a second supporter roundtable and another speech at a fundraising reception. He arrives back in Washington tonight.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“If a person is bold enough to accuse people of negative actions, they have a responsibility to publicly stand by their words and people have the right to be able to defend themselves. … To the writer of the [op-ed] — you are not protecting this country, you are sabotaging it with your cowardly actions.” — Melania Trump on the Times op-ed. (Emily Heil)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Temperatures will slightly decrease today, but Washingtonians could see some heavy showers in the late afternoon or evening. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “A weak front falls apart as it moves southward through our region. This means we get increased rain chances without major heat and mugginess relief. Despite clouds and rain chances being on the increase with time, high temperatures still manage the mid-80s to perhaps near 90 degrees. The combination this warmth with dew points staying above the steamy 70-degree mark means we could still feel as hot as 95 at times. Especially if we see peeks of bright sun.”
-- The Nationals lost 6-4 to the Cubs in 10 innings, falling three games under .500 for the first time since April 30. (Chelsea Janes)
-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous have agreed to “a single, hour-long debate” on Sept. 24, their campaigns announced jointly. The deal ends a seven-week standoff that raised the possibility the candidates would never face each other, but it breaks with a state tradition of holding at least two debates in gubernatorial races. (Erin Cox)
-- The D.C. Board of Elections will hold a hearing today on the signature-fraud allegations plaguing S. Kathryn Allen’s campaign against Council member Elissa Silverman. Fenit Nirappil reports: “The case may hinge on Leonard Howard Jr., who is listed on Allen’s petition sheets as the person responsible for collecting hundreds of signatures, some of which are alleged to be fake. Howard has told The Washington Post that he never collected signatures and that his own name was forged on petition sheets. … The election board plans to issue a decision on Silverman’s challenge by Monday and may hear from additional witnesses Sunday. Ballots must be finalized by Sept. 17.”
-- Officials at Dulles Airport unveiled a new facial recognition system meant to eventually replace boarding passes for international travelers. From Lori Aratani: “Instead of pulling out their passports and handing over a boarding pass, travelers will instead have their faces scanned. That photograph, shot by an iPad mounted on a stand, will then be matched with a collection of photos maintained by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. If the photos — from passports and visa applications — match the one taken at the gate, the traveler will be cleared to board.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Late-night hosts reveled in Trump's reaction to the Times op-ed:
Trump had some pronunciation issues during his Montana rally:
Trump tries to pronounce "anonymous” twice, fails miserably pic.twitter.com/ztLr4VzgUP— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) September 7, 2018
Jared Kushner ignored reporters' questions as he waited to be let into the NAFTA negotiations:
Hey, it’s Jared. I’m outside. Can someone let me in? ... Jared KUSHNER, the president’s son-in-law ... I’m here for the NAFTA negotiations ... Can someone unlock the door? ... There are reporters out here asking me about the op-ed, & it’s getting awkward. pic.twitter.com/in0FHsTtIr— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) September 7, 2018
The Fact Checker corrected Trump’s repeated assertion that the U.S. economy is at its greatest point in history:
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser introduced her adopted daughter on the “Today” show:
“The message I hope to send is that families are made in all kinds of ways.”@MayorBowser adopted a baby girl back in May, and she’s never talked to anyone about it until now. This week, she invited @hodakotb to meet her new daughter. pic.twitter.com/vGZHvCzd56— TODAY (@TODAYshow) September 6, 2018
The Post's Department of Satire repurposed a 1950's nuclear bomb instructional video to offer advice on responding to Trump's tweets: