With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: No matter what happens, the way Christine Blasey Ford is treated this week will offer a gauge of the extent to which the #MeToo movement has — or has not — truly changed American politics and culture.
Ford’s decision to go public on Sunday with her accusation that Judge Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were both in high school throws a wrench in Republican plans to advance his nomination through the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday and to confirm him by the end of the month.
But it also sets the stage for a broader test just seven weeks before the midterms of who people will believe when there can be no definitive proof and what kind of behavior — if the allegations are true — will society tolerate in 2018.
Ford’s lawyer, Debra Katz, announced Monday morning that her client is willing to come to the Capitol to testify about the allegations. “She’s willing to do whatever it takes to get her story forth,” Katz said on NBC’s “Today” show.
Counselor to President Trump Kellyanne Conway said Ford “should be heard” but that it “should not unduly delay the vote on Judge Kavanaugh.” “This woman should not be insulted, and she should not be ignored,” Conway said on Fox News.
Ford, a professor of clinical psychology in California, alleges that during a house party in Montgomery County, Md., during the early 1980s — when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17 — he pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. She said that, when she tried to scream, he put his hand over her mouth.
In an interview with The Washington Post’s Emma Brown, Ford said Kavanaugh and a friend who was with him were both “stumbling drunk,” and that she was able to escape when the friend jumped on top of them. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house. “I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, 51. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.” (Read her complete account here.)
Kavanaugh “categorically and unequivocally” denied the allegation in a statement issued Sunday by the White House. The 53-year-old declined to comment further on any of the specifics.
-- Many women heard echoes of Clarence Thomas’s 1991 confirmation hearing. Anita Hill, also a professor, wanted to stay anonymous but when word leaked out about her identity she decided to come forward two days before the judge’s scheduled confirmation vote with allegations that Thomas had sexually harassed her when she worked for him at the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and the Education Department. Thomas vigorously denied the charges, and he was confirmed anyway.
Angry about how Hill was questioned and dismissed by the senators, a record number of women ran for office in 1992 — which became known as the Year of the Woman. Only two women served in the Senate during the Thomas hearings. Four more would be elected the next year. Today there are 23 female senators.
“I was motivated to run for the Senate after watching the truly awful way Anita Hill was treated by an all-male Judiciary Committee interrogating her about the sexual harassment she endured at the hands of now-Justice Clarence Thomas,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the No. 3 in Democratic leadership and one of the 1992 winners, said in a statement. “And though we’ve certainly made progress since then … there’s a whole lot that remains the same, and I am already seeing shameful partisan attacks against a woman speaking up about her sexual assault. … I urge my colleagues … to, above all, treat this survivor with empathy and humanity and make sure that the United States Senate in 2018 doesn’t send the signal it sent to millions of women in 1991 who were scared to speak up, afraid to share their stories, and watched on television as someone very much like them was attacked and maligned.”
-- The #MeToo tide has been strong. Two of the most powerful men in television, CBS chief Les Moonves and “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager, lost their jobs just last week because of allegations of sexual misconduct. They joined Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Mark Halperin and so many more.
In Alabama, one of the reddest states in the country, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore lost a special election last December after five women said he made sexual advances on them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Moore denied any wrongdoing, and his supporters emphasized that the incidents had occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The judiciary has not been spared either. Alex Kozinski retired as a federal appeals court judge late last year after more than a dozen women, including former clerks, law students and a fellow judge, said he had subjected them to a range of sexual misconduct. Kavanaugh clerked for Kozinski in the 1990s, and one of Kozinski’s sons clerked for Kavanaugh last summer. Kozinski denied wrongdoing, but stepping down short-circuited a judicial investigation into the allegations. Kavanaugh said during his confirmation hearing earlier this month that he was unaware of Kozinski’s alleged misdeeds until they surfaced publicly.
-- Ford is a professor at Palo Alto University and teaches in a consortium with Stanford University, training graduate students in clinical psychology.
Brock Turner was 19 and a star swimmer at Stanford when two graduate students spotted him on top of an unconscious woman after a fraternity party in 2016. They chased him down, and Turner was convicted by a jury of three felonies, including assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated person.
Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, 56, sentenced Turner to six months in prison, even after the 23-year-old victim read an emotional 7,000-word statement explaining how the incident traumatized her. Explaining his leniency, Persky pointed to Turner’s age, the fact that he and the victim were both drunk and that a harsher sentence could have a “severe” impact on Turner’s life.
Turner was released after three months due to good behavior behind bars, which created a political uproar in the area. In June, Persky was removed from office as the result of a recall campaign organized by #MeToo activists who felt the judge let Turner off too easy. It was a high-profile illustration of how social mores have changed in a relatively short time about how sexual misconduct by young men should be treated.
-- On the other hand, Trump was elected in 2016 just a month after the disclosure of the “Access Hollywood” video, in which he was captured boasting about grabbing women’s body parts without their consent. The then GOP nominee chalked it up to nothing more than “locker-room banter.”
At least 13 women have publicly come forward with claims that Trump physically touched them inappropriately in some way.
-- In other ways, society has not changed. Just as in 1991, all 11 Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are still men. (Four of the 10 Democratic members are now women.) A spokesman for committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a statement Sunday that it was “disturbing that these uncorroborated allegations from more than 35 years ago, during high school, would surface on the eve of a committee vote …”
Grassley’s office added that it wanted to arrange follow-up calls on Monday for staffers to interview Kavanaugh and Ford. Democrats said this is insufficient and called for a delay in the vote scheduled for Thursday to allow for a more thorough investigation. “To railroad a vote now would be an insult to the women of America and the integrity of the Supreme Court,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
-- Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a retiring Republican on the committee, called for a delay in the vote until Ford can tell her story. “I’ve made it clear that I’m not comfortable moving ahead with the vote on Thursday if we have not heard her side of the story or explored this further,” Flake told Sean Sullivan. “For me, we can’t vote until we hear more.”
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who is also retiring, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has remained undecided, also signaled support for a delay. “The hearings are now over, and if there is real substance to this, it demands a response,” Murkowski told CNN. “That may be something the committee needs to look into.”
-- Ford’s allegations will take pressure off moderate red state Democrats to vote for Kavanaugh. They now have a straightforward way to explain to their constituents why they won’t defect. This means Kavanaugh can only afford to lose two Republican senators.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the ultimate decider about how this will be handled by the Senate, has yet to weigh in. He technically could bring Kavanaugh up for a vote on the floor even if the judge doesn’t get approved by the committee.
-- Here are three questions to consider as the story plays out:
1. Will Trump attack Ford? “Three people close to the White House” told Politico that “they expect the president to go after Kavanaugh's accuser rather than to turn on the judge,” just as he did with Roy Moore. “If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried,” a lawyer close to the White House told Politico. “We can all be accused of something.”
Others will recall the president’s defense of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter after both of his ex-wives accused him of physical abuse, allegations Porter denies.
Trump faces an ongoing defamation lawsuit brought by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos, who claims the president sexually assaulted her in 2007. She sued him in 2017 after he called her a liar for claiming he had groped and forcibly kissed her 10 years prior. Trump says he didn’t do it.
The president's son mocked Kavanaugh's accuser on Instagram:
2. Beyond Murkowski, what will the Republican women in the Senate do? Most stayed silent on Sunday, including lawmakers who have spoken publicly about facing sexual harassment and assault.
Under fire for her handling of a sexual assault case involving service members under her command, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) announced during her 2014 campaign that she too had faced sexual harassment while in the military. She told Time that she faced unwanted “comments, passes, things like that” directed at her while serving in the Army. “These were some things where I was able to say stop and it simply stopped but there are other circumstances both for women and for men where they don’t stop and they may be afraid to report it,” she told Time.
3. What impact will this debate have on the midterms? Public polling has shown that 2018 is likely to bring a historic gender gap at the ballot box. The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that 66 percent of female registered voters disapprove of Trump, including 59 percent who disapprove “strongly.” Among men, 52 percent disapprove, 45 percent strongly. The 14-point advantage that Democrats have on the generic ballot is driven largely by suburban women. Female voters favor Democrats by 58 percent to 33 percent, a 25-point margin.
These numbers put Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), already vulnerable incumbents up for reelection in November, in a potentially dangerous spot. Cruz, especially, could be in the hot seat. He emphasized during the confirmation hearing earlier this month that he’s been friends with Kavanaugh for two decades.
-- No matter what happens, the complexion of Congress will be very different next year. But widespread backlash could lead to an even bigger crop of new female lawmakers. “Democrats have nominated 182 women for the House this year, according to the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics, already cresting 40 percent of all House districts and setting a record that shatters the old mark of 120 nominees in 2016 by more than half,” Sean Sullivan and Aaron Blake reported last week. “Republicans have 52 women, which is in line with recent elections. But the GOP’s share of all female candidates — 22 percent — is the lowest it has been in at least 40 years. … As recently as 2010, the GOP had 34 percent of female nominees. … Democrats have also set a record of 15 female nominees for the Senate and 12 in gubernatorial races. Republicans have fewer than half in each case.”
-- Conservative columnist Max Boot, who has been supportive of Kavanaugh, is calling on Republicans to delay the vote. “Her story is amply documented: She told it in couples therapy all the way back in 2012, long before Kavanaugh’s nomination, and the therapist’s notes reflect that, even though they don’t mention Kavanaugh by name,” Boot writes in today's paper. “She even passed a polygraph test administered by a former FBI agent in August. That may not be admissible in a court of law, but it has already been admitted into the court of public opinion. That makes Ford a credible witness and renders inadequate the denial issued by Kavanaugh last week … If Republicans try to muscle Kavanaugh’s nomination through now, without any further investigation, they will be guilty of gross deflection of their duty to ‘advise and consent.’”
-- The experience of Anita Hill was top of mind for many women on Sunday. From a writer at New York magazine:
So much of my work as an adult has been spent considering/working through the impact that the mishandling of Anita Hill’s testimony had on American politics, feminism and law; I’m quite honestly at a loss in the face of the possibility that we’re just going to do it all again.— Rebecca Traister (@rtraister) September 16, 2018
From the executive editor of Lawfare, who was formerly a senior lawyer for the National Security Agency:
It is worth pondering that if this doesn't make a difference—and good money says it won't—2 of the 9 justices of the US Supreme Court will have been credibly accused of serious sexual misconduct and confirmed anyway. That is quite a statement to the women of this county.— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) September 16, 2018
From the MSNBC host:
Almost exactly 26 years ago:— Kasie DC (@KasieDC) September 17, 2018
A professor accused a SCOTUS nominee of sexual misconduct during their interactions in the 1980s, at first deciding not to reveal her name.
Dems called to delay the vote, Republicans called it an "eleventh hour attack."
This is Anita Hill's story. pic.twitter.com/t5qalx17Ss
From a Vox writer:
Anita Hill did not risk it all for us to ignore the Christine Blasey Ford.— Liz Plank (@feministabulous) September 16, 2018
Many recirculated this Washington Post video interview with Hill from last November:
A chilling effect? Another journalist heard from a woman who shared a sexual assault allegation with him but has declined to go on the record:
About a year ago a woman came to me with a highly credible and deeply disturbing sexual assault accusation against a current senior government official. Over the past year, I have stayed in touch with her. She has been reluctant to come forward. Moments ago she sent me this text. pic.twitter.com/Wqo9Y818sk— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) September 16, 2018
MORE FROM THE #METOO MOVEMENT:
-- A former federal employee accused Mel Watt, the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, of sexually harassing her 17 times. Renae Merle reports: “The [new government report] by an investigative office within the U.S. Postal Service describes the 17 incidents, including one in which Watt is alleged to have said he would like to see a picture of the woman in a bikini. … The employee, Simone Grimes, publicly made accusations against Watt last month. She said he blocked her from receiving a promised raise when she rejected his advances. . . . According to the investigative report, Watt declined to be interviewed during the probe, citing the advice of his attorney and arguing that as a presidential appointee he did not fall under the FHFA’s 'anti-harassment policy.'"
-- The Cleveland Orchestra announced that it has suspended its principal trombonist, Massimo La Rosa, as part of its ongoing investigation into sexual harassment. He is the second musician there since July to be suspended as part of the probe. (Anne Midgette and Peggy McGlone)
-- Disgraced Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson, who was ousted as the president of a seminary school for his misogynistic comments and mishandling of alleged sexual abuse, returned for the first time to the pulpit — where he used his sermon to cast doubt on #MeToo accusers and to body-shame women. “She was not just fat,” Patterson said of one former church member’s mother. “I mean to tell you what: I think she pumped iron probably an hour or so a day … She literally could have played guard for the Green Bay Packers.” (Jonathan Merritt)
-- The death toll from tropical depression Florence climbed to 17 people, as the storm continued to pummel the Carolinas with torrential rain and dangerous floods. Katie Zezima reports: “Officials in Gaston County, N.C., said a 3-month-old was killed Sunday when a tree fell through the family’s single-wide mobile home. The infant and the mother were taken to a hospital, where the baby died, said Maj. Jamie McConnell with Gaston County EMS. At least 11 people have died as a result of the storm in North Carolina, and six in South Carolina.”
-- The conditions prompted the National Weather Service to warn of a “catastrophic, life-threatening flash flooding risk” in North Carolina, South Carolina and parts of Virginia. Jason Samenow reports: “The floodwaters are expected to push many rivers to all-time highs and, toward the mountains of western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia, could spur life-threatening landslides.”
-- “First responders and the Coast Guard have rescued more than 900 people from the high water,” Rachel Siegel, Patricia Sullivan, Steven Mufson and Joel Achenbach report. “Of major concern are the flooded roads . . . More than 600 roads are closed in North Carolina, and the state’s Department of Transportation said motorists should avoid the state altogether …” “This storm has never been more dangerous,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said at a midday news conference Sunday, adding that approximately 20,000 people are currently being housed in shelters across the state.
-- Flooding caused by Florence has transformed entire towns across the Carolinas — including Wilmington, N.C. — into islands. From Patricia Sullivan and Katie Zezima: “It is impossible to get in and out of the city now. Flooding closed interstates and secondary roads, choking it off by land. The airport has been shuttered since Wednesday. It is not accessible by sea, with the Port of Wilmington on Cape Fear River closed. Wilmington likely will stay marooned for at least another day. … One official issued a blunt warning to anyone looking to travel to Wilmington, including those who evacuated ahead of the storm and are anxiously waiting to return and see the condition of their home. ‘Do not come here,’ said Woody White, chairman of the board of commissioners of New Hanover County. ‘There’s no access to Wilmington.’”
-- Coast Guard rescue units have been going door-to-door informing residents with homes in the path of flooding that they must evacuate. Scott Wilson and Sarah Kaplan report. “Groggy and surprised, one man who opened the door thanked [Ryan Abshear], part of a Coast Guard rescue unit here from Huntington, W.Va. But the man would not say whether he would leave his home, even as the nearby Lumber River crested, floodwaters tested protective levees, and thousands of residents across the city faced new inundation threats from Tropical Depression Florence. ‘Either he’s going to leave today or we’ll come and get him tomorrow,’ said Abshear, 37, who has worked a number of past floods. ‘They always leave — either way.’”
GET SMART FAST:
- Typhoon Mangkhut continued its tear of destruction, hurtling through Hong Kong and mainland China with punishing winds and rain, and leaving at least 64 dead in the northern Philippines. Authorities said they are still surveying the extent of the damage. (Shibani Mahtani)
- Authorities have arrested a U.S. Border Patrol agent accused of murdering four women — and abducting a fifth — in a weeks-long, “serial” killing spree. Juan David Ortiz was detained in Laredo this weekend after the fifth woman managed to escape him and alert local law enforcement. Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar told reporters they have “very strong evidence” that the Border Patrol agent is responsible for the string of murders. (AP)
- Time magazine has been sold to Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne, for $190 million. The sale is expected to close within 30 days, and neither will have a day-to-day operational role at the publication. (Wall Street Journal)
Amazon is investigating suspected data leaks from its employees. Amazon employees are allegedly using intermediaries to sell internal data to merchants to help them boost their sales on the site. (Wall Street Journal)
- A shark attacked and killed a 26-year-old man in Cape Cod this weekend — marking the first such fatal encounter to occur in Massachusetts in 80 years. Authorities said the man was attacked while boogie-boarding just 30 feet from the shore. (Alex Horton and Keith McMillan)
- The U.S. Education Department is warning that financial aid students are being targeted in an increasingly sophisticated phishing campaign, in which hackers attempt to steal thousands of dollars in federal award money distributed at the beginning of the school year. (Susan Svrluga)
Journalism schools are reporting an uptick in applications, which some credit to Trump’s attacks on the press. At Northwestern University, applications to the Medill School rose by 24 percent in the last admission cycle. (Nick Anderson)
A large new study found that a regimen of low-dose aspirin shows no benefit in staving off cardiovascular disease for healthy, older people. Taking aspirin has been found to help those with known cardiovascular problems, but the benefits do not appear to extend to those with a cleaner bill of health over the age of 70. (Lenny Bernstein)
Freddie Oversteegen, a member of the Dutch resistance who seduced Nazi occupiers and lured them to their executions, died at the age of 92. Oversteegen also blew up rail lines and bridges and smuggled Jewish children across the country and even out of concentration camps. (Harrison Smith)
-- Greg Jaffe reports on America's “anger paradox” from Michigan's 8th District — where Democratic candidate Elissa Slotkin says she has been surprised by the lack of “pocketbook issues” and other policy questions she faces on the trail. “Her first big indication that it would be something entirely different came at a house party last October in Ortonville, a small Republican-heavy town [outside Detroit]. The audience was made up entirely of moms. ‘How do you deal with friends and family that are constantly posting things that are not accurate or that go blatantly against what you believe?” Sarah Allen, a 37-year-old mother … ‘How do I respond without turning into an angry person that no one wants to be around? ’It’s a question that [Slotkin] has fielded dozens of times at voter house parties that she says often feel more like ‘therapy sessions.’ Slotkin’s race, which nonpartisan groups rate as a toss-up, is a view into perhaps the biggest paradox of the Trump era. Voters say they are tired of the anger and polarization emanating from Washington. They say they crave compromise. Yet these same voters view the rival party with disdain and frequently punish politicians for reaching across partisan lines. … They want the anger to stop but can’t stop being angry.”
-- A legal battle has broken out in Georgia over the security of the state’s computerized election system. Ellen Nakashima reports: “On one side are activists who have sued the state to switch to paper ballots in the November midterm elections to guard against the potential threat of Russian hacking or other foreign interference. On the other is Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who has declared the electronic system secure and contends that moving to paper ballots with less than two months to Election Day will spawn chaos and could undermine confidence among Georgia’s 6.8 million voters.” Kemp also happens to be the Republican candidate in the state’s highly watched gubernatorial race. A federal judge is expected to rule by today whether Georgia, one of only five states in which electronic voting is entirely paperless, must adopt paper ballots.
-- The political arm of the gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety is spending millions to support candidates in the midterms. Katie Zezima reports: “[The Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund] plans to spend $8 million to $10 million in Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and New Mexico as an initial investment in the election. It will include contributions to candidates, as well as independent expenditures such as mail, television, radio and digital ads. … In Georgia, the group is spending money on Democrat Stacey Abrams’s gubernatorial race. Abrams has called for universal background checks for firearms sales and repealing a state law that allows permit holders to carry guns on college campuses.”
-- New documents highlight Republicans’ and Democrats’ starkly different approaches to advertising as they battle for control of the House in this year’s midterm elections. Robert Costa reports: “Many Republicans are looking to outside money to lift them in the airtime wars, and the House GOP’s allied super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, has been this cycle’s dominant spender on television and radio . . . House Democrats are following a more traditional route. Their campaign arm, the [DCCC], is outpacing both its allied super PAC … and its rival, the [NRCC] — but lags behind the cash-flush GOP super PAC. The Congressional Leadership Fund has spent heavily to bolster vulnerable Republicans in Florida, Minnesota, Kansas and Virginia, among other states, often pouring millions into traditionally conservative areas and suburban districts that are critical to [holding the majority] … On the Democratic side, the House Majority PAC has spent extensively in blue states such as Illinois, New Jersey and California where it sees opportunities to knock off Republican incumbents, as well as in red states.”
-- Ohio’s wealthiest GOP donor, Les Wexner, has quit the Republican Party — telling an audience in Columbus last week that he is “fed up” with Trump. “I'm an independent,” he said. “I won't support this nonsense in the Republican Party.” Wexner even praised Barack Obama’s remarks during his visit to Columbus, and said of the former president: “I was struck by the genuineness of the man; his candor, humility and empathy for others.” (Columbus Dispatch)
-- Personality matters more than ideology in 2018. Frank Bruni made a smart point about the now concluded Democratic primary season in his Sunday column for the Times: “This year’s victorious candidates, like so many winners before them, aren’t prevailing simply or even mainly because of the labels they’re wearing or the precise points on the political spectrum to which they can be affixed. They’re powered by their personalities, their organizations or both. They communicate effectively. They have backgrounds that make sense to voters or temperaments that feel right to them. And they’ve devised ways to reach voters that their rivals haven’t. The lesson of 2018 isn’t novel. But it’s overlooked because it doesn’t come wrapped in fancy analytics, it can’t be integrated into sweeping pronouncements about the arc of America, and it transcends our beloved binaries of progressive versus moderate and blue versus red.
“Candidates matter. Campaigns count. Voters use more than bullet points, spreadsheets and the marching orders of the Democratic Socialists of America or the New Democrat Coalition to make decisions. We use our hearts. We use our guts. (Sometimes we even use our minds, though not nearly often enough.)”
-- “For an illustration of the power of identity over ideology in politics, look at the divergent results in two of the biggest Democratic governors’ primaries in the country,” argues National Journal politics editor Josh Kraushaar. “White progressive candidates performed dismally …. But African-American candidates, all running to the left, greatly exceeded expectations in statewide contests. [Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum] surged in the Florida primary’s final days to overtake more-moderate former congresswoman Gwen Graham, despite being badly outspent[.] In Georgia, Stacey Abrams cruised past a centrist challenger in a race that originally looked to be highly competitive. Former NAACP president Ben Jealous scored a decisive victory in Maryland’s Democratic primary … All three candidates benefited from a surge in black turnout in a midterm election year. The demographic patterns in these races are clear. African-American candidates were able to build an energized Democratic coalition of black voters, white liberals and younger voters … But white liberal candidates struggled to expand their support beyond the most predictable precincts, unable to build racially-diverse coalitions for their progressive messages.”
SUNDAY SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:
-- FEMA Administrator Brock Long echoed Trump’s doubt about the Hurricane Maria death toll in a string of cable news interviews — dismissing the death toll reports as “all over the place.” A George Washington University study that found nearly 3,000 excess deaths occurred in the months after the storm has been accepted by Puerto Rico’s government. Felicia Sonmez reports: “'It’s hard to tell what’s accurate and what’s not,’ Long said in an appearance on ‘Fox News Sunday.’ He cast doubt on the GWU study, suggesting that researchers took into account deaths due to a range of causes with tenuous links to Hurricane Maria . . . Long also did not dispute Trump’s incorrect claim that Democrats raised the death toll to make the president ‘look as bad as possible,’ telling NBC’s Chuck Todd, ‘I don’t know why the studies were done.’ ‘You might see more deaths indirectly occur as time goes on, because people have heart attacks due to stress, they fall off their house trying to fix their roof, they die in car crashes because they went through an intersection where the stoplights weren’t working. … Spousal abuse goes through the roof. You can’t blame spousal abuse after a disaster on anybody,’ Long said[.] … If researchers had attributed every death on the island to the storm, the six-month death toll from the hurricane would have been more than five times as high.”
-- JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon backed away from his harsh criticism of Trump, saying on ABC’s “This Week” that the president has done “pretty well” with the economy. “You know, when [Trump] was elected, confidence skyrocketed, consumers, small business, large corporate and because pro-business, pro-competitive taxes, pro some regulatory reform — and that has helped the economy,” Dimon said. He also dismissed rumors that would challenge Trump for the presidency in 2020, saying his suggestive comments last week were made “more out of frustration and a little of my own machismo.” “But I shouldn’t have said it, and so — it also proves I wouldn’t be a good politician,” he added. (Steven Mufson)
-- Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was pressed to explain how the U.S. government would pay for the estimated $40 trillion she has proposed spending on progressive policy programs. “Medicare for all would save the American people a very large amount of money,” she told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “What we see as well is that these systems are not just pie in the sky. Many of them are accomplished by every modern, civilized democracy in the Western world. The United Kingdom has a form of single-payer health care — Canada, France, Germany. What we need to realize that these investments are better and they are good for our future.” She added, “We do know and acknowledge that there are political realities. They don't always happen with the wave of a wand, but we can work to make these things happen.”
THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Former independent counsel Kenneth Starr said Paul Manafort’s deal with the special counsel is a “very significant breakthrough” in Robert Mueller’s investigation. “It is very likely that [Manafort] has indicated through his counsel and directly that he can provide very helpful information, useful information to get to the bottom of what [Mueller] and his team have been charged to do,” Starr said on ABC’s “This Week.”
-- Obama’s former White House ethics czar, Norm Eisen, said he did not think Mueller would have extended the deal unless he had “very powerful evidence” that Manafort could provide his team with important information. “We don’t know for sure,” he said on “This Week,” “but I think there's a substantial possibility that this evidence that Manafort is offering will implicate somebody up the chain.”
-- Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said that Manafort’s plea deal is a stark warning to others ensnared in Mueller’s Russia probe: “You better get to the special counsel and make your deal now.” “Anyone who gets indicted by Bob Mueller goes down,” Schiff said on “Meet the Press.” “The longer you wait to come clean, the worse deal you are going to get.” Meanwhile, Harvard Law professor and Trump defender Alan Dershowitz said Manafort’s plea deal represents a “very bad day for the Trump administration.” “He can’t count on Manafort saying only things that the special counsel already knows,” Dershowitz said. “When you don’t know what a cooperator is saying, then it’s a bad day for you because you’re vulnerable and exposed.”
-- House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said that he intends to release all the interviews from the panel’s Russia probe “in the next few weeks.” CNN's Caroline Kelly reports: “[Nunes] said in an interview on Fox News' ‘Sunday Morning Futures’ that he would release the materials … so that the public could review them before the midterm elections. ‘The depositions that we took, I believe about seventy people, those need to be published and I think they need to be published before the election,’ Nunes said. ‘I expect to make those available from our committee to the American public in the next few weeks.’”
-- Schiff, for his part, called on Nunes to release the interview transcripts “immediately” — a request the California Democrat says he first made in June. “During the Russia investigation, Republicans on the [committee] repeatedly promised to release all the transcripts when their work was completed, and then reneged when it became clear the transcripts would show how often they acted as defense lawyers for [Trump] rather than objective fact finders,” Schiff said in a statement. “We hope this time [Nunes] will follow through on his commitment.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Trump has decided to impose new tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, ramping up his trade war with Beijing in what will be one of the most severe economic restrictions ever imposed by a U.S. president. An announcement is expected within “days.” Damian Paletta and David J. Lynch report: “The new tariffs would apply to more than 1,000 products, including refrigerators, air conditioners, furniture, televisions and toys. These penalties could drive up the cost of a range of products ahead of the holiday shopping season . . . Apple said recently its Apple Watch, AirPods, MacMini and a variety of chargers and adapters would be caught in the tariff war. Trump has ordered aides to set the tariffs at 10 percent, likely leading to higher prices for American consumers. The U.S. imports roughly $500 billion in Chinese goods each year, and — combined with existing tariffs — these new penalties would cover half of all goods sent to the U.S. from China each year.
“The tariffs come as a number of top White House advisers have been trying to de-escalate tensions between Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was planning to restart talks with China soon. … Chinese leaders have vowed to retaliate to any escalation of the trade battle … and Trump’s move could further push Beijing to retaliate.”
-- U.S. companies have been slow to repatriate profits held overseas following the passage of last year’s tax law, despite Trump’s assurances. The Wall Street Journal’s Richard Rubin and Theo Francis report: “The tax-law revamp ended the practice of taxing U.S. companies when they bring home foreign profits. … ‘We expect to have in excess of $4 trillion brought back very shortly,’ [Trump] told executives assembled at his golf course in Bedminster, N.J., in August. … The Wall Street Journal reviewed securities filings from 108 publicly traded companies accounting for the vast majority of an estimated $2.7 trillion in profits parked abroad, and asked each company what it was doing with the funds. In their filings and responses, they said they have repatriated about $143 billion so far this year.”
-- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has proposed promoting a number of diplomats in an apparent attempt to rebuild ties with the workforce, who largely felt alienated by Rex Tillerson. Reuters’s Arshad Mohammed reports: “The charm offensive by the former Republican lawmaker and CIA director includes resuming the hiring of diplomats’ family members when posted abroad, cheerleading emails to staff about his travels and a push to replenish the top ranks of U.S. diplomacy, officials said. The most tangible sign of Pompeo’s effort may be the State Department promotion lists … which show Pompeo has sharply increased the number of diplomats promoted to three of the top four ranks.”
-- Ahead of President Moon Jae-in’s third meeting with Kim Jong Un on Tuesday, South Korea is charging ahead with its charm offensive to the repressive regime — even as U.S. outreach efforts continue to falter. Simon Denyer reports: “Only by building trust, Moon’s supporters argue, will Kim be convinced to dismantle his nuclear weapons program. This approach stands in sharp contrast to views from within the Trump administration that Kim must take it all down before U.S. largesse can kick in. … Recent days have brought a possible move into harder and more substantial rapprochement with the opening of a quasi-diplomatic ‘liaison office’ that allows round-the-clock communications between the two sides for the first time since the Korean War. It is an outside-the-box strategy that just might work. But it also causes disquiet within Trump’s administration, among South Korean conservatives and in the region’s other cornerstone U.S. ally, Japan . . .
“The South’s eagerness to embrace the North Korea leader also has left Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign in some disarray, critics point out. Meanwhile, Pyongyang is adept at exploiting divisions between countries, or even within the U.S. administration itself between Trump and others who prefer more cautious moves[.]” “One of North Korea’s long-standing strategic goals has been to undermine the U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance,” said Andrew Scobell, a political scientist at the Rand Corp. “[Kim] may seek to exploit the enthusiasm and goodwill of [Moon] to create tensions in U.S.-ROK ties.”
-- A Palestinian teenager fatally stabbed an Israeli-American man in the West Bank, according to U.S. and Israeli officials, in an attack that comes amid rapidly escalating tensions in the region. The Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz reports: “The man, Ari Fuld, was a right-wing pro-Israel activist who had a following on social media. He was killed at a shopping mall near the Gush Etzion junction that has been the site of similar incidents in recent years. The Israeli military described the stabbing — the second such incident this summer — as an act of terror. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, and there were no signs that it was related to Mr. Fuld’s pro-Israel postings.”
-- Syrian state media said Israel launched a missile attack on Damascus International Airport. From the AP: “Explosions during the attack were heard across Damascus. The state news agency SANA posted pictures showing what appeared to be air defenses firing into the air. … Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the attack targeted an arms depot near the airport where new weapons recently arrived for the Iranians or Lebanon’s Hezbollah group. The monitoring group had no immediate word on casualties, saying the strike did cause material damage.”
-- “In the Balkans, Russia and the West Fight a Disinformation-Age Battle,” by the New York Times’s Marc Santora and Julian E. Barnes: “As Macedonians prepare for the most important vote in their nation’s history, scores of Facebook posts are urging voters to burn their ballots. Hundreds of new websites are calling for a boycott. And one news article, widely shared online, warns that Google may eliminate Macedonian from its list of recognized languages, depending on the vote. In a disinformation age, Macedonian and Western officials say the flurry of social media activity is just that — disinformation directed by Russian-backed groups trying to stoke fears and depress turnout in a vote that could put this Balkan nation on a path to join NATO. … According to Western officials, Moscow’s primary goal is to depress turnout. If less than half of registered voters participate in the referendum, the issue is forced back to Parliament, undermining the popular mandate for a solution. Western diplomats say that 40 new websites are popping up each day on Facebook to encourage people to boycott the referendum, [which originate outside the country and fit Russia's pattern of election interference] ..." Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will travel to Macedonia today, in a show of American support ahead of the referendum.
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Democratic senators voiced support for Ford after she went public with her accusation against Kavanaugh:
It took a lot of courage for Christine Blasey Ford to come forward to share her story of sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh. Her story is very credible and I believe her.— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) September 16, 2018
Professor Ford showed great courage in coming forward. She should be supported and must not be attacked and smeared. Her voice matters.— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) September 16, 2018
Christine Blasey Ford courageously stepped forward to tell her story — it is a credible and serious allegation. The Senate has a constitutional responsibility to scrutinize SCOTUS nominees. A vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination must be delayed until there is a thorough investigation.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) September 16, 2018
A CNN reporter highlighted one of the comments on the first son's Instagram post:
A conservative writer reacted with disgust:
The GOP’s knee-jerk mockery of women who come forward is the natural by-product of overlooking Donald Trump’s misogynistic, predatory remarks. But this is puerile and low, even for them. @DonaldJTrumpJr pic.twitter.com/9VoMARscBU— Nancy French (@NancyAFrench) September 17, 2018
From a New York Times reporter:
A New York Times columnist gave this reminder as a point of comparison:
The Central Park 5 -- who were innocent -- were 14, 14, 15, 15 and 16 when Trump called for them to be executed.— Michelle Goldberg (@michelleinbklyn) September 16, 2018
A Post reporter highlighted past comments by Kavanaugh that highlight his hard-partying ways:
In April 2014 speech to the Yale Law School Federalist Society banquet, Kavanaugh reminisced about partying (‘what happens on the bus stays on the bus’) & related a story about a friend drunkenly falling, breaking a table & being given more beers by a professor. pic.twitter.com/MhzBxqtLgn— Felicia Sonmez (@feliciasonmez) September 17, 2018
A former special counsel at the Defense Department shared remarks from Judge, who was allegedly in the room when it happened:
Damaging to Kavanaugh.— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) September 16, 2018
His alleged accomplice and character witness, Mark Judge, wrote the following in a review.
See for yourself how Judge describes "the wonderful beauty, of uncontrollable male passion," how "every man who’s fit to live has his own stories about the time." pic.twitter.com/vEVqHs0iec
A National Journal editor analyzed Mark Judge's response to the allegation:
The semantics are important here because I see a lot of smart people on Twitter and elsewhere (like this NYT piece: https://t.co/Hh3gGumR1k) saying Judge has “denied” the allegation. He hasn’t really.— Ben Pershing (@benpershing) September 17, 2018
A Weekly Standard writer questioned the use of a polygraph test in the case:
Whatever you think of the Kavanaugh controversy, it needs to be said polygraph tests are garbage. They are scientifically indefensible, inadmissible in court, and no one should take one for any reason. https://t.co/dPxUoCaAmd— Mark Hemingway (@Heminator) September 16, 2018
From a conservative commentator:
How convenient -- the anonymous accuser who only wanted to remain anonymous has already passed a polygraph to show she's telling the truth about the thing she didn't want to tell anyone about.— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) September 16, 2018
A CNN reporter replied with this:
"Convenient" is not exactly how I would characterize the decision to open ones self up this kind of personal and professional examination -- and attacks https://t.co/1gB6wgVrRE— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) September 16, 2018
A former chief of staff to Joe Biden zeroed in on two GOP senators:
The GOP is only going to delay the vote on Kavanaugh if Collins and Murkowski say they are voting no absent more investigation. They are the key.— Ronald Klain (@RonaldKlain) September 16, 2018
A Politico reporter posed this question about Murkowski and Collins:
Have seen a lot of debate already on “what will Collins and Murkowski do?”— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) September 16, 2018
Why is it only on two female senators to respond to sexual assault allegations?
The Vox founder compared the Kavanaugh confirmation process to Republicans' response after the death of Antonin Scalia:
Republicans held the Scalia seat vacant for over a year on the "principle" the voters deserved a voice. There's a midterm election 50 days from now, and troubling new information about Kavanaugh is emerging. Shouldn't voters get a chance to weigh in here, too?— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) September 16, 2018
A GOP strategist was highly skeptical the accusation would affect Kavanaugh's confirmation:
If u think a Party that supports a President with over a dozen credible sexual assault accusations against him, & supported an alleged pedophile for US Senator, is going to stop to thoroughly investigate 35 year-old accusation against Kavanaugh, I want some of what u're smoking.— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) September 16, 2018
A former speechwriter to George W. Bush made this suggestion:
If you have a teenage daughter, ask her what she thinks of such "youthful indiscretions." Might be eye-opening— David Frum (@davidfrum) September 16, 2018
And a Democratic strategist chose to share her own story:
I was intoxicated one night in college & woke up the nxt morning to realize some1 (whom I had previously rebuffed their advances) took advantage of the fact that I was unable to consent. He denies raping me, but that is exactly what he did. The #KavanaughConfirmation can’t con’t.— Symone D. Sanders (@SymoneDSanders) September 16, 2018
-- In an essay for the Atlantic adapted from a new afterword to her book “What Happened,” Hillary Clinton outlines what she calls the “five main fronts of this assault on our democracy.” Clinton writes: “Trump and his cronies do so many despicable things that it can be hard to keep track. I think that may be the point — to confound us, so it’s harder to keep our eye on the ball. The ball, of course, is protecting American democracy. As citizens, that’s our most important charge. And right now, our democracy is in crisis. I don’t use the word crisis lightly. There are no tanks in the streets. The administration’s malevolence may be constrained on some fronts — for now — by its incompetence. But our democratic institutions and traditions are under siege. We need to do everything we can to fight back. There’s not a moment to lose.”
-- New Yorker, “Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s Battering Ram,” by Paige Williams: “I asked Sanders how she, as a Christian, reconciles her religious beliefs with her support for Trump—a man whose Presidency has been imperiled [sic], in part, by his payment of hush money to a porn star with whom he allegedly committed adultery. Instead of a searching answer, she gave me what has become a pat rationalization of many American evangelicals. ‘I’m not going to my office expecting it to be my church,’ she answered. ‘Frankly, if people of faith don’t get involved in the dirty process, then you’re missing the entire point of what we’re called to do. … You have to take that message into the darkest places, and the dirtiest places, and the most tainted and dysfunctional places. If you can influence even one person, that’s what you’re supposed to do.’ (Later, Sanders said that she was speaking broadly, about her social duty as a Christian and not about the White House.)”
-- “A president’s secret letters to another woman that he never wanted public,” by Molly McCartney: “Family and friends had known about the president’s intimate relationship with another woman for years, but whispers about their involvement were growing. Woodrow Wilson was so worried that he asked his close adviser, Colonel Edward M. House, to meet him after dinner in his White House study on Sept. 22, 1915. In the meeting, Wilson talked about his longtime friendship with Mary Peck, a divorced woman he had met in Bermuda eight years earlier. He told House that the friendship was platonic but that he had been ‘indiscreet in writing her letters rather more warmly than was prudent.’ But Wilson had in fact done more … Eight days before his meeting with House, the president sent Peck $7,500 — about $183,000 today — after she said she needed money for a California business deal. Wilson also had written letters from the White House seeking financial assistance for Peck. … The Wilson-Peck drama of sex, favors and money is reminiscent of other White House scandals, including the current revelations about [Trump], women and payoffs …”
-- Soon-Yi Previn dismissed sexual abuse allegations against her husband, Woody Allen, and claimed her adoptive mother, Mia Farrow, was abusive toward her. Dylan Farrow, Allen’s adoptive daughter, has claimed he molested her when she was a 7-year-old. “I was never interested in writing a Mommie Dearest, getting even with Mia — none of that,” Previn told New York magazine. “But what’s happened to Woody is so upsetting, so unjust. [Mia] has taken advantage of the #MeToo movement and paraded Dylan as a victim. And a whole new generation is hearing about it when they shouldn’t.”
Dylan and her brother, journalist Ronan Farrow, defended their mother and lambasted New York magazine for its handling of the Previn profile:
My statement on New York Magazine: pic.twitter.com/xml6pdaZqb— Dylan Farrow (@RealDylanFarrow) September 17, 2018
Statement on New York magazine, which has done something shameful here: pic.twitter.com/xGeQP341OG— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) September 17, 2018
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Texas moves to remove Hillary Clinton from social studies curriculum. Really,” from Valerie Strauss: “The Texas Board of Education … has taken a step to remove Hillary Clinton from the curriculum. [On] Friday, the board, in a preliminary vote, agreed to remove a number of historical figures … in a ‘streamlining’ effort to update the social studies curriculum[.] Why did the board vote to toss Clinton — the first female presidential nominee of a major party … a U.S. senator, a U.S. secretary of state; and a first lady …? The Dallas Morning News reported this: The 15-member work group came up with a rubric for grading every historical figure to rank who is ‘essential’ … The formula asked questions like, ‘Did the person trigger a watershed change’; ‘Will the person from an underrepresented group’; and ‘Will their impact stand the test of time?’ This isn’t the first time [Texas] curriculum decision have been called into question[.] In 2014, scholarly reviews of 43 proposed [textbooks] found numerous inaccuracies, biases and exaggeration, such as: the idea that Moses and Solomon inspired American democracy … [and] that in the era of segregation only ‘sometimes’ were schools for black children ‘lower in quality[.]’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“John Kerry criticized for saying Trump has ‘the insecurity of a teenage girl,’” from Amy B Wang: “Former U.S. secretary of state John F. Kerry is being criticized for comparing President Trump to a teenage girl during an appearance on HBO’s ‘Real Time with Bill Maher.’ Kerry visited the late-night talk show Friday to promote his new memoir, ‘Every Day is Extra.’ … ‘He’s the first president that I know of who spends more time reading his Twitter ‘likes’ than his briefing books or the Constitution of the United States,’ [Kerry said]. The crowd cheered. Kerry continued to lament what he thought was the deleterious effect of Trump’s lies on American democracy. ‘He really is the rare combination of an 8-year-old boy — I mean, he’s got the maturity of an 8-year-old boy with the insecurity of a teenage girl. It’s just who he is.’ … Online, though, Kerry’s comments were not as well received. Though some lauded the comparison … many expressed disappointment in Kerry, even if they agreed with his assessment of Trump.”
Trump will receive an emergency preparedness and response update and his intelligence briefing. He will then have lunch with Pence and participate in the inaugural meeting of his National Council for the American Worker. This evening, he will host a celebration for Hispanic Heritage Month and have dinner with supporters.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“Barack and I agreed to remain silent for a while to give this administration a chance to get up and running the first year. God forgive me.” — Joe Biden at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual dinner. (HuffPost)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- The remnants of Florence could bring some showers and storms to the D.C. region today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Showers are likely at times on and off today. We can’t rule out some thunder. The greatest coverage and intensity of rainfall is out toward the mountains, where some pockets of flooding are a possibility. Because of some spin in the atmosphere, if any stronger thunderstorms develop, there is an outside chance of a brief tornado. Rainfall amounts are highly variable, mainly under an inch except where heavy downpours focus. They should generally increase as you head west. Highs today are in the mid- to upper 70s.”
-- The Redskins lost their home opener to the Colts 21-9. (Les Carpenter)
-- The Nationals beat the Braves 6-4. (Chelsea Janes)
-- Some local volunteers for the National Park Service accuse the agency of fostering a hostile and unsafe work environment. Marissa J. Lang reports: “[The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park], a 184.5-mile sliver of land that runs along the Potomac River from Georgetown to Cumberland, Md., has one of the largest volunteer programs in the national park system. … As the agency’s budget has shrunk and staff positions remain unfilled, volunteers and the Park Service said it has become increasingly necessary to rely on a robust network of volunteers to perform tasks such as trail upkeep and running certain programs. But in recent months, those programs have lost key leaders and participants because of tension between the park and some of its most active volunteers. These departures have hurt programs and made the park less safe for visitors, several volunteers said.”
-- A fire in a Bethesda apartment building was likely caused by an electrical malfunction connected to a charging hoverboard, a Montgomery County Fire Department spokesman said. (Martin Weil)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Celebrity chef José Andrés is providing meals to those affected by Florence, as he did in Puerto Rico last year:
Several dogs were rescued from the storm in North Carolina:
Rescued six dogs in Leland, NC, after the owner LEFT THEM locked in an outdoor cage that filled with flood water that was rapidly rising.— Marcus DiPaola (@marcusdipaola) September 16, 2018
We got them out, but by the time we left, the water was so high that they would have drowned. BRING YOUR PETS WITH YOU! #HurricaneFlorence pic.twitter.com/tRibGxCjXy
Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous launched his first ad since he clinched the Democratic nomination:
A humpback whale had an unusually close encounter with a boat off the Nova Scotia coast:
KEEP YOUR DISTANCE: A humpback whale made a surprise appearance off the coast of Nova Scotia, slapping an inflatable boat with its tail.— ABC News (@ABC) September 17, 2018
Canadian gov't regulations require vessels to maintain a minimum distance of 330 feet from most whales and dolphins. https://t.co/RA07EaMkEQ pic.twitter.com/c0VVyrcEhC