With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: Brett Kavanaugh does not have a deep reservoir of public goodwill to draw upon as he struggles to salvage his nomination to the highest court in the land — thanks to the unpopularity of the president who appointed him, the growing politicization of the Supreme Court and the country’s increasing polarization.

Even before Christine Blasey Ford publicly accused Kavanaugh of what her lawyer characterized on Monday as “attempted rape,” the public’s perceptions of President Trump’s Supreme Court pick have stood out for being more politically polarized than any nominee since Robert Bork in 1987. (The rejection of Bork by the Senate led Ronald Reagan to select Anthony Kennedy, whose seat Kavanaugh is now up for.)

Now Kavanaugh and Ford are both scheduled to testify next Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, telling their stories for the American people to see.

Ford, a professor of clinical psychology in California, told Emma Brown in an interview published Sunday that Kavanaugh drunkenly pinned her to a bed on her back, groped her and put his hand over her mouth during a house party in the early 1980s when she tried to scream for help. Both were teenagers at the time of the alleged incident.

“I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone,” Kavanaugh said in a statement distributed by the White House on Monday, categorically denying any allegation of wrongdoing.  

A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted on the eve of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, which kicked off the morning after Labor Day, showed Americans already evenly split: 38 percent said he should be confirmed, and 39 percent said he should not. A quarter of the country, 23 percent, had no opinion.

This margin of support was the weakest in public polling since Bork, an outspoken ideologue who had also played the role of hatchet man during Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre.” In fact, before he answered a single question in the hot seat, Kavanaugh was narrowly weaker than George W. Bush’s failed 2005 nominee Harriet Miers (33 percent wanted to confirm the Southern Methodist University graduate; 27 percent did not).

As you’d expect, there is a strong connection between people who disapprove of Trump and oppose Kavanaugh. The Post-ABC survey showed that 78 percent of Republicans supported Kavanaugh, but only 13 percent of Democrats did. That’s a partisan split of 65 percentage points. The only other nominee who comes close to being so polarizing was Trump’s previous pick: Justice Neil Gorsuch had the support of 81 percent of Republicans and 22 percent of Democrats — a partisan split of 59 points — at the start of his confirmation hearing.

It’s important to understand that views weren’t always so tribal. Even in March 2016, 46 percent of Americans supported confirming Merrick Garland to replace Antonin Scalia — and 30 percent opposed his nomination, according to a Pew survey. A lower 70 percent of Democrats backed Garland, compared to 22 percent of Republicans — a partisan difference of 48 points.

For additional perspective, the partisan gap in support was 43 points for Elena Kagan and 50 points for Sonia Sotomayor, two other Barack Obama nominees. During the Bush years, it was only 36 points for Sam Alito in 2006 and 35 points for John Roberts in 2005. Looking back further, the partisan gap was just 23 points for Bill Clinton’s nominee Stephen Breyer in 1994 (63 percent of Democrats supported him, compared to 40 percent of Republicans).

-- Few remember this part of the story, but public support for Clarence Thomas actually grew in the wake of Anita Hill’s testimony, from 52 percent to 58 percent in Gallup’s polling. A Post-ABC poll conducted after his confirmation found that 62 percent thought he should have been confirmed and 34 percent did not. In an era when society took sexual harassment much less seriously than it does now, 48 percent believed Thomas and 29 percent believed Hill.

Thomas’s popularity, boosted by African American men, prompted 11 Senate Democrats to break ranks and vote to confirm him on a 52-to-48 vote. But the way the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee treated Hill, a law professor who had worked for Thomas at the Department of Education and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, led to the Year of the Woman in 1992 and inspired young females to go to law school and get engaged in public service. (Several such women, now accomplished professionals 27 years later, shared their personal stories in response to yesterday’s 202.)

-- Even before Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, views were congealing. A CNN poll that went into the field immediately after the judge’s two days of Q&A with senators suggest that the televised hearings had little impact on public opinion: 38 percent said he should be confirmed, and 39 percent said he should not. CNN’s poll a month earlier had shown 37 percent for Kavanaugh, and 40 percent against him. Those results are within the margin of sampling error.

-- Even before there was any public hint of sexual misconduct allegations, there was already a significant gender gap in views of Kavanaugh. In the Post-ABC poll, 47 percent of men said he should be confirmed, compared to only 29 percent of women. Kavanaugh’s record on abortion rights might be one factor to explain that divide, along with Trump’s unpopularity among female voters.

WHERE THINGS STAND ON CAPITOL HILL:

-- Republicans, including President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), remained defiant as they scrambled to protect Kavanaugh’s nomination,” per Felicia Sonmez, Seung Min Kim, Sean Sullivan and John Wagner. “But by the end of the day, Senate Republicans had effectively delayed a committee vote planned for Thursday and abandoned tentative plans for the matter to be handled behind closed doors amid growing calls by members of both parties for Kavanaugh and Ford to testify publicly under oath. … Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said that his staff had contacted Ford to hear her account and held a follow-up call with Kavanaugh on Monday afternoon but that Democrats had declined to participate.

Soon after Grassley announced the hearing, Democrats began to protest his decision, insisting instead that the FBI reopen his background check investigation rather than going ahead with a full-fledged public airing of the accusation. ‘If there’s a hearing before that investigation, the committee is going to be shooting in the dark with questions,’ said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the committee. ‘As a former prosecutor and state attorney general, there’s no way I would put a crime survivor on the stand in front of a jury, let alone the American people, without a full investigation so that I know what the facts are before I start asking questions.’

In a statement Monday, the Justice Department signaled that the FBI doesn’t plan on re-opening Kavanaugh’s background check for now — noting that it forwarded information about Ford’s allegation to the White House … It’s unclear whether the committee will call more witnesses to testify Monday in addition to Ford and Kavanaugh. One focus has been on Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s friend, who Ford said was present at the time of the alleged assault.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a crucial swing vote, indicated that if it emerged that Kavanaugh had been untruthful about the incident, he would not be fit to serve on the court. ‘Obviously, if Judge Kavanaugh has lied about what happened, that would be disqualifying,’ Collins said, adding that ‘having the opportunity to observe her being questioned, read a transcript and a deposition and make that kind of assessment is so important.’”

THE AIR WAR:

-- Millions of dollars have already been spent on commercials about Kavanaugh — for and against him — but there’s little evidence they’ve moved the needle.

The conservative group Judicial Crisis Network announced Monday that it will spend $1.5 million to run a 30-second spot with a longtime female friend of Kavanaugh vouching that he’s a good guy, as the liberal group Demand Justice said it would spend $700,000 on new ads highlighting Ford’s accusations. “Demand Justice [which has said it plans to spend $5 million opposing Kavanaugh] said its new campaign will focus on the home states of two moderate Republican senators — [Collins] and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — and on Colorado and Nevada, Democratic-leaning swing states whose Republican senators are facing tough reelection battles in 2018 and 2020,” Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports. “The Judicial Crisis Network has spent at least $4.3 million on ads supporting Kavanaugh’s confirmation, with at least $2.1 million of that devoted to four key states this fall — Indiana, West Virginia, North Dakota and Alabama.”

Americans for Prosperity, the political arm of the conservative Koch network, which earlier this year announced a seven-figure campaign to support Kavanaugh, said in a statement Monday it stands by [his] nomination,” Michelle adds. “America First Policies, the main outside group supporting Trump’s agenda, said it has spent about $1.2 million so far on ads supporting Kavanaugh and has no plans to change its ad campaign.”

HOW IT’S PLAYING:

-- WaPo team coverage:

  • Robert Costa, Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey: “With Trump muted, White House leans on Kavanaugh to defend himself.”
  • Avi Selk: “What the man accused of being part of Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault had to say about women’s sexuality.”
  • Michael Scherer: “Republicans fear reversals in November due to accusation against Supreme Court nominee.”
  • Eli Rosenberg: Pro-Trump sites are publishing a deluge of dubious, and in some cases outright false, stories to try sowing doubts about Ford’s credibility.
  • Kyle Swenson: “As conservatives attack, hundreds sign letters supporting Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford.”
  • Paul Kane: “Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill showdown shadows Senate in Kavanaugh nomination.”
  • Philip Bump: “In another moment, Kavanaugh might already have been cut loose. But this is the Trump era.”
  • Aaron Blake: “The storm brewing in Trump’s muted response to Kavanaugh’s accuser.”
  • Philip Rucker: “Joe Biden: When a woman alleges sexual assault, presume she is telling the truth.”

-- Commentary:

  • The Post Editorial Board: “What matters is that this entire process — an FBI review, a public hearing with adequate preparation — be undertaken with a commitment to thoroughness and balance, not speed. … The good news is that the Senate’s original schedule — a committee vote Thursday — was improper to begin with, so no one should regret a delay. … It’s time to drop the artificial deadlines and do all this the right way.”
  • Monica Hesse: “Do we really ‘believe women’? How the Kavanaugh accusation will put a slogan to the test.”
  • Margaret Sullivan: “The claim against Kavanaugh is not a suspicious 11th-hour bombshell. Because we’re not in the 11th hour.”
  • Dana Milbank: “This is what happens when you try to jam through a Supreme Court appointment.”
  • Megan McArdle: “Caution, the Kavanaugh mess may never be resolved satisfactorily.”
  • Michael Gerson (who worked closely with the nominee in the Bush White House): “Kavanaugh’s nomination now hangs by the thinnest of strings.”
  • Helaine Olen: “Kavanaugh’s accuser should have spoken up sooner? Give me a break.”
  • Shan Wu, Julie Grohovsky and Norman Eisen: “There’s nothing unusual about the timing of the Kavanaugh allegations.”

-- Elsewhere:

  • San Jose Mercury News: “Christine Blasey Ford feared an avalanche of attacks if she went public about Kavanaugh, friends say.”
  • New York Times: “Echoes of Anita Hill, but in a Different Era for Women.”
  • Boston Globe: “Book claims Kavanaugh’s high school had culture of underage drinking, debauchery.”
  • Politico: “McConnell works feverishly behind the scenes to save Kavanaugh. The Senate leader's legacy on the judiciary is on the line.”
  • Politico: “Power elite of suburban Washington split over Kavanaugh allegations.”
  • ABC’s “Good Morning America”: “In #MeToo era, Kavanaugh's accuser may prompt more to share their stories later in life.”
  • CNBC: “Six Senate Democrats file FOIA lawsuit to force release of Kavanaugh documents.”
  • Daily Beast: “The Internet, Predictably, Turns Into a God-Awful Fever Swamp Following the Kavanaugh Bombshell.”
  • Becket Adams for the Washington Examiner: “No, Brett Kavanaugh’s mother didn’t foreclose on his accuser’s parents' house.”
  • Amy Nelson for Forbes: “The Humanization Of Kavanaugh And The Undoing Of American Women.”
  • Two of Kavanaugh’s ex-girlfriends defended him on Fox News.
  • Slate: “Brett Kavanaugh Can Be Held Accountable for His Alleged Actions at Age 17.”
  • The Nation: “How the US Supreme Court Lost Its Legitimacy.”
  • Washington Monthly: “Women Are Being Reminded of What Republicans Think of Them.”
  • Yahoo News: “Experts weigh in on judging Kavanaugh for alleged adolescent behavior: 'Most teens don't do that type of thing.’”
  • HuffPost: “Kavanaugh’s Toughest Senate Questioners Are There In Part Due To The Me Too Movement.”
  • USA Today: “7 contentious Supreme Court confirmation battles.”

-- Launching today: A new campaigns newsletter by Dave Weigel called The Trailer. (Sign up here.)

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” took home five awards at the Emmys and “Game of Thrones” won for best drama series. Hank Stuever writes that all the talk about diversity during the ceremony didn't translate to trophies: “[‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’] took Emmys for comedy series, supporting actress (Alex Borstein), writing and directing for creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, and lead actress for Rachel Brosnahan — pronounced ‘Buh . . . Brazh-na-hahn,’ by presenter Angela Bassett, who, like many of us, might have been hoping for a different winner, or was at least unprepared to say Brosnahan’s name. … [A]side from giving Emmys to Thandie Newton (supporting actress in ‘Westworld’), Regina King (lead actress in a limited series for Netflix’s ‘Seven Seconds’) and ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ (reality-competition program), voters in the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences managed to select winners that looked pretty much like any Emmy night from five years ago.” (Here is the full list of winners.)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Authorities said Border Patrol agent Juan David Ortiz, accused of murdering four women, attempted to commit “suicide by cop.” Ortiz tried to make his cellphone look like a gun in the hopes the SWAT team would shoot him. He was instead arrested without incident for the four killings that occurred over two weeks. (Alex Horton)
  2. The Senate passed a sweeping opioids package, voting 99 to 1 in a rare show of bipartisanship. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) cast the sole dissenting vote against the proposal that creates, expands and renews programs across multiple agencies aimed at addressing the crisis. (Colby Itkowitz)
  3. A member of the independent federal commission overseeing mine safety accused the Trump administration of “unlawful” action that he warned could endanger the “lives of the nation's miners.” Two days before his term ended, Robert F. Cohen was highly critical of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta for easing enforcement of a key worker safety rule against a West Virginia coal mine, despite “significant and substantial” violations that had been discovered at the facility. (NBC News)
  4. A class-action lawsuit was filed against all eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania over accusations that church leaders systematically covered up sexual abuse. An abuse victim and the parent of a Catholic school student initiated the lawsuit and are now inviting potentially hundreds of others to join them. (Julie Zauzmer)

  5. Elon Musk announced that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa would be the first paying tourist that SpaceX will seek to take on a trip around the moon. Maezawa said he would take six to eight artists with him on the planned week-long trip in 2023 to help them make produce art that would “inspire the dreamer in all of us.” (Christian Davenport)
  6. Researchers from Northwestern University have identified four distinct personality types: reserved, role models, average and self-centered. The newly published study is based on data from more than 1.5 million people and breaks with the scientific community’s long-held bias against many popular personality tests, such as Myers-Briggs. (Ben Guarino)

  7. At least six children were injured at a Pittsburgh circus after a startled camel began tearing through the arena — thrashing violently as employees rushed frantically to contain the renegade animal. (Amy B Wang)
  8. Coca-Cola announced that it is in talks with a Canadian company to develop a beverage infused with CBD, the non-psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. (Reuters)
  9. A library branch in New York has started lending out ties, briefcases and handbags for people with limited resources — helping patrons look and feel their best for important events such as job interviews, auditions and even high school dances. (Allison Klein)
  10. Professional hoaxer Alan Abel, who famously tricked the New York Times into erroneously printing his obituary in 1980, has actually died. The Times was forced to issue a retraction in 1980 after Abel held a victorious news conference declaring he was, in fact, alive. But his daughter said he died at his Connecticut home last week. He was 94. (New York Times)

FLORENCE FALLOUT:

-- Embattled FEMA chief Brock Long is facing potential criminal charges after an internal investigation over his use of government vehicles was referred to federal prosecutors. Nick Miroff and William Wan report: “The development intensifies pressure on Long to step down, and comes as he leads FEMA’s response to Hurricane Florence. Long has been under scrutiny by the [DHS’s] inspector general for using the vehicles to travel between Washington and his home in Hickory, N.C., where his wife and children live. Long’s predicament has put the White House in an awkward position, according to one administration official … Trump has been pleased with Long’s performance at FEMA, and officials are worried about the potential fallout of removing him while large parts of North and South Carolina remain underwater . . . Long arrived in North Carolina on Monday night and intends to survey damaged areas with Gov. Roy Cooper (D) on Tuesday. … One person familiar with the probe said the Justice Department must now determine whether Long’s trips warrant criminal charges. He has said he did nothing unethical and remains committed to managing the hurricane response.”

-- The death toll from Florence has risen to 32 as the effects of the former hurricane spread to Virginia. Mark Berman, Allyson Chiu and Katie Zezima report: “Authorities in Chesterfield County, Va., say one person was killed in the remnants of Florence when part of a furniture store collapsed after an apparent tornado touched down in the region. … The National Weather Service said it started receiving reports of severe weather around 3 p.m. as torrential rain swirled around the Richmond area … The NWS issued dozens of tornado warnings around the Virginia capital Monday afternoon as a line of strong thunderstorms tracked through the northwest suburbs, one after the other. Torrential rain was accompanied by frequent lightning and, on occasion, debris from trees and buildings in the paths of the twisters.”

-- But even as Florence has moved on, its devastating aftermath remains in the Carolinas. From Patricia Sullivan, Rachel Siegel, Mark Berman and Joel Achenbach: “The Carolinas are rattled and anxious amid rising waters. Going anywhere in a vehicle is still perilous. Hundreds of thousands of people have no electricity, and many schools remain shuttered. The number of closed and impassable roads climbed to 1,500 in North Carolina, the U.S. Transportation Department said. Interstates 40 and 95, two of the state’s main transportation arteries, are only partially open. Many communities are isolated … Thousands of people remain in emergency shelters across the state. First responders have rescued 2,600 people and 300 animals, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said at a news conference.”

-- The storm has had a particularly crushing effect on North Carolina’s homeless, working poor and farmworkers, many of whom are undocumented. Rachel Siegel, Katie Zezima and Kristine Phillips report: “Homeless shelters have seen an influx of people who rode out the storm at emergency evacuation centers but now have nowhere to go. Advocates for farmworkers said many did not know the storm was coming, because there were few warnings in Spanish, and stayed in crowded housing facilities with inadequate food and water. Others who went to shelters are nervous about leaving them, afraid they will be taken into custody by immigration agents.”

-- Coast Guard rescue teams continue to evacuate towns most affected by the storm’s flooding. Scott Wilson reports: “It’s the mailboxes you really have to watch for when you are boating through suburbia. Many were just under the surface of the opaque brown water as the Coast Guard motored through Mayfair, a comfortable neighborhood far from the ocean but too close to the Lumber River. At the corner of Wellington Road and Berkley Lane, Dan Paz, a boatswain’s mate, stepped from a skiff into thigh-high water onto a home’s submerged stoop. ‘Welcome Y’all,’ read the sign hanging from the front-door knocker, the water lapping up to nearly touch it.”

-- Southeastern Virginia’s preparations for Florence, which ended up largely bypassing the region, could cost the state as much as $75 million. From Gregory S. Schneider: “That total dwarfs costs from any other storm in the past nine years. Two unique factors drove up the expense: Gov. Ralph Northam’s decision to order the evacuation of some 245,000 residents from low-lying parts of Hampton Roads and the opening of two state-sponsored emergency shelters. … [B]ut [that total] could be substantially less as resources set aside for Virginia are transferred to North and South Carolina, which took the brunt of the storm. The cost of supplies for emergency shelters and support for emergency rescue teams, for instance, will be reimbursed by those states as the resources head south … ”

-- Heartbreaking --> “In a Florence flood, she tried to hold onto her baby. But the water ripped him away,” by Terrence McCoy: “If there was anything that [Dazia Lee] ever wanted to be, it was a good mom. She had just never expected to be one at such a young age. … So she finished high school, got her diploma, and, after carrying him for eight months and six days, gave birth and started working right away. … Every night, she’d come back to Kaiden, taking him on sunset strolls through the neighborhood, impressing her sister with the sort of mother she had become. … So on Sunday, when she strapped Kaiden into his car seat and went off into streets that had just been hit with six to eight inches of rain, no one in her family worried. Lee was there. And she would keep Kaiden safe.”

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Trump ordered the Justice Department to declassify documents from the Russia investigation — an order that threatens to further deteriorate his relationship with law enforcement officials. Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian report: “In a statement, the White House said Trump was ordering the department to immediately declassify portions of the secret court order to monitor [Carter Page], along with all interviews conducted as officials applied for that authority. Trump also instructed the department to publicly release the unredacted text messages of several former high-level Justice Department and FBI officials, including [James Comey and Andrew McCabe]. The Justice Department had turned over thousands of pages of materials to Congress, though its leaders had made clear there was a line they would not cross because making some materials public might put sources at risk or harm an ongoing investigation. … The latest standoff is further complicated by the fact that the public announcement of the order came before the Justice Department received instructions about what specific material it was supposed to cover[.] . . .

“In addition to ordering the release of materials on Page, Comey and McCabe, the president ordered the department to declassify interviews with Justice Department official Bruce G. Ohr, who worked in the deputy attorney general’s office and had conversations with [Christopher Steele, the author of the Trump-Russia dossier]. … Trump also ordered the release of text messages written by FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.”

The House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), called the order a “clear abuse of power.” He said that, based on his conversations with U.S. law enforcement officials, the FBI and DOJ would consider the release of these materials “a red line that must not be crossed as they may compromise sources and methods.” “This is evidently of no consequence to a President who cares nothing about the country and everything about his narrow self-interest,” Schiff said.

-- Mueller’s team asked a federal judge to move forward with the sentencing of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, indicating that his nearly 10 months of cooperation with the special counsel could be nearing an end. The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand reports: “In a court document, [Mueller and Flynn’s] attorneys agreed on November 28 — well after the midterm elections — for a sentencing hearing … ‘Typically, federal prosecutors will postpone a cooperator's sentencing until that person's cooperation is complete, or nearly complete,’ said Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. Mimi Rocah, [also a former U.S. prosecutor for SDNY], said that any information Mueller needed from Flynn has probably ‘already been locked in’ before the Grand Jury and the former general is most likely no longer of investigative value to Mueller. ‘I’m sure it’s no accident that Manafort just pled,’ Rocah said … ‘Flynn likely had information on Manafort and now that Manafort has pled, Flynn isn't needed as much.’”

-- Rudy Giuliani reiterated that the president's legal team is confident that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will not implicate his client in any criminal wrongdoing. From Carol D. Leonnig and Tom Hamburger: “Giuliani said that Manafort’s legal team assured him as recently as Saturday — the day after Manafort struck a plea deal with [Mueller] — that he has no information that will incriminate the president or his family, including eldest son Donald Trump Jr. Giuliani said he also thinks that Manafort has no evidence to suggest the Trump campaign colluded with Russians.”

-- But Trump’s team is struggling to understand how the president may be vulnerable in Mueller’s investigation, according to the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt. “The lawyers have only a limited sense of what many witnesses — including senior administration officials and the president’s business associates — have told investigators and what the Justice Department plans to do with any incriminating information it has about Mr. Trump, according to interviews with more than a dozen people close to the president. What is more, it is not clear if Mr. Trump has given his lawyers a full account of some key events in which he has been involved as president or during his decades running the Trump Organization.”

-- In 2010, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange  planned to flee England and seek refuge in Russia, according to a trove of documents leaked to the AP — including a letter sent to the Russian Consulate in London. The relationship is likely to be of interest to federal investigators in light of Assange’s role in releasing the stolen Hillary Clinton emails during 2016. Politico’s Paul Dallison reports: “’I, Julian Assange, hereby grant full authority to my friend, Israel Shamir, to both drop off and collect my passport, in order to get a visa,’ Assange wrote to the Russian consulate … The letter is part of a trove of WikiLeaks emails, financial records, secretly recorded footage and other documents [received by the AP]. However, in a statement on Twitter, WikiLeaks said Assange did not write the letter in question or apply for a Russian visa, and said a former associate of Assange was responsible for the document. … On the same day that he reportedly sent his letter to the Russians, Interpol issued an international arrest warrant for Assange, who was wanted in Sweden on charges of rape and sexual assault.”

-- Newly unredacted portions of a memo reveal that Justice Department officials did not want to look like they were initiating the process for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, in part, because of bad press the department had already attracted from Trump's firing of Comey. NPR’s Hansi Lo Wang reports: “Earl Comstock — a key Commerce Department official on census-related issues — first approached Justice Department officials in May 2017. Comstock eventually discussed the issue with James McHenry, a Justice Department official working on immigration issues who now oversees the immigration courts as the head of the Executive Office for Immigration Review. ‘Justice staff did not want to raise the question given the difficulties Justice was encountering in the press at the time (the whole Comey matter),’ Comstock wrote to [Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross] in a newly unredacted portion of the memo, which is dated Sept. 8, 2017.” Comey was fired from the FBI four months before the memo was sent.

FOGGY BOTTOM WATCH:

-- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the United States will admit no more than 30,000 refugees into the country in the coming fiscal year, which will be the lowest ceiling for refugee admissions in decades. It’s also a steep cut from the 45,000 asylum seekers who were admitted this year. Carol Morello reports: “[Pompeo] said the United States remains the most generous nation when other U.S. aid to refugees is taken into account [and] said the lower cap should not be the ‘sole barometer’ of American humanitarian measures, but ‘must be considered in the context of the many other forms of protection and assistance offered by the United States.’ Pompeo said the new ceiling would be less than a third of the 110,000-refugee cap in place when [Trump] came to office. … After he was done reading a brief statement in the State Department’s Treaty Room, Pompeo turned and left the room, ignoring questions shouted by reporters. The new number is the lowest level of annual refugee admissions allowed since the Refugee Act was enacted in 1980.”

-- “Trump Is Making American Diplomacy White Again,” by Uzra Zeya in Politico Magazine: “As the daughter of Indian-American immigrants proud to be the first member of my family born in the United States, I rose through the State Department’s ranks without perceiving that my ethnicity, gender or religion impeded my career. That is, until the Trump administration. In 2017, as the media ran out of synonyms for ‘implosion’ in describing Rex Tillerson’s tenure as secretary of state, a quieter trend unfolded in parallel: the exclusion of minorities from top leadership positions in the State Department and embassies abroad. This shift quickly became apparent in the department’s upper ranks. In the first five months of the Trump administration, the department’s three most senior African-American career officials and the top-ranking Latino career officer were removed or resigned abruptly from their positions, with white successors named in their places.

-- An email breach at the State Department recently exposed the personal information of some employees. Politico’s Eric Geller and Nahal Toosi report: “State described the incident as ‘activity of concern … affecting less than 1% of employee inboxes’ in a Sept. 7 alert . . . ‘We have determined that certain employees’ personally identifiable information (PII) may have been exposed,’ the alert said. ‘We have notified those employees.’ The classified email system was not affected, according to the alert[.]”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Trump formally unveiled the expected tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, escalating his trade war to its most tense point yet and essentially raising taxes on working Americans. David J. Lynch and Damian Paletta report: “With Monday’s announcement, roughly half of the $505 billion in goods that Americans buy annually from Chinese firms will face new import levies. Unlike the $50 billion in Chinese products that Trump hit in the first tariff wave, in July — which fell mainly on industrial goods — Monday’s action will affect consumer products such as air conditioners, spark plugs, furniture and lamps. Starting Sept. 24, American importers will pay an extra 10 percent tariff for the affected items, rising to 25 percent at the end of the year, according to senior administration officials.”

-- The Chinese have already warned they will hit back against Trump’s levies by slapping tariffs on $60 billion in American imports. From Danielle Paquette: “Beijing’s proposed retaliation to Trump’s duties … would mark the first time the country hasn’t matched the United States tit for tat in the months-old commercial battle.  A day before Trump ordered the new tariffs, expanding the trade war between the world’s two largest economies by fourfold, Chinese officials maintained they felt forced to fight back. ‘If the U.S. introduces any new tariff measures against China, China will have to take necessary countermeasures and resolutely safeguard our legitimate rights and interests,’ Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Monday at a news conference in Beijing.”

-- Trump touted the new tariffs on Twitter this morning:

-- The administration has disowned a plan presented by U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley for Trump to hold a meeting at the United Nations next week focused on Iran. John Hudson reports: “Haley had announced that Trump would chair a meeting on the world’s biggest diplomatic stage to ‘address Iran’s violations of international law and the general instability Iran sows throughout the entire Middle East region.’ The United States will decide the agenda for the Security Council meeting, a centerpiece of the annual United Nations General Assembly, because it holds the council’s rotating chair for the month of September. It will be Trump’s first time brandishing the U.N. gavel at a table of officials representing the world’s most powerful nations. But focusing the meeting on Iran drew immediate concerns from U.S. allies who believed that the topic would expose sharp disagreements among the United States, France and Britain over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal … Other U.S. officials also voiced concerns that an article of the U.N. Charter would allow Iran to participate in the meeting because it is a ‘party to a dispute under consideration,’ raising the prospect of an awkward and contentious standoff between Trump and a representative from Iran . . . 

“Instead of leading a meeting on Iran, Trump will chair a debate on nonproliferation, constitutionalism and sovereignty, said the diplomats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss plans. The broad topic, which does not explicitly single out any country, does not require an invitation to be extended to Iran and reduces the likelihood of public disunity among Western democracies.”

-- Separately, Haley accused Russia of systematically “cheating” and undermining international sanctions on North Korea by helping them acquire oil and coal. Carol Morello reports: “Three months after [Trump] held a summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, Haley told the U.N. Security Council that Moscow has been ‘actively working to undermine Security Council sanctions’ imposed on North Korea. ‘Why after voting for sanctions 11 different times is Russia backing away from them?’ she said. ‘We know the answer. It’s because Russia has been cheating. And now they’ve been caught.’"

-- South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrived in Pyongyang for another summit with Kim. Simon Denyer and Min Joo Kim report: “It is the first time since October 2007, and only the third time since the division of the peninsula, that a South Korean leader has visited the North Korean capital. Emerging from the plane with his wife, Kim Jung-sook, Moon was greeted on a red carpet on the tarmac by Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju. … A military band played, and several hundred invited guests waved the flags of North Korea and a unified Korean Peninsula, as well as flower bouquets.”

-- Russia blamed Israel after one of its aircraft was downed over Syria’s Mediterranean coast. Louisa Loveluck reports: “Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, [Russia’s Defense Ministry] spokesman, told reporters that 15 people were killed late Monday after Syrian air defenses — activated in response to Israeli strikes — hit a Russian surveillance plane as it scrambled to leave the area. ‘By using the Russian plane as a cover, the Israeli air pilots made it vulnerable to Syrian air defense fire,’ Konashenkov said. … He added that Israel gave Russia only a minute’s warning before launching the attack. … Although Israel rarely comments in the immediate aftermath of its strikes in Syria, military officials said earlier this month that more than 200 had been carried out since 2017.”

-- Russia and Turkey announced that they will create a “demilitarization zone” in Syria’s Idlib province — moving to avert a looming crisis by separating rebels from Syrian government troops. Erin Cunningham reports: “The announcement, at a joint press conference between [Vladimir Putin and his Recep Tayyip Erdogan], comes after weeks of speculation that an all-out government assault on the last opposition enclave would prompt a humanitarian catastrophe. … The details of the agreement were not spelled out Monday. But Putin said a zone of approximately 9-12 miles would be carved out for the Syrian opposition before Oct. 15. The zone would be free of both heavy weapons and more extreme elements of the armed insurgency, both leaders said. The zone would be patrolled by Turkish and Russian forces.”

-- The Air Force must grow its air power to a level not seen since the Cold War in order to combat rapidly evolving threats from Russia and China, the administration argued Monday. Missy Ryan reports: “A new internal study found that the service needs to increase the number of operational squadrons by about 25 percent by 2030, from 312 today to 386. The proposed changes, which have not been worked into Pentagon budget plans, would require Air Force personnel levels to grow by about 40,000 service members on top of current growth projections, officials said. Air Force officials have not yet completed an estimate of what the increase would cost. [Air Force Secretary Heather] Wilson and Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, described a complex array of challenges including extremist movements, cyber threats, a resurgent Russia and, most important, China’s rapidly improving air capacity. Beijing has made massive military investments, improving its long-range bomber capacity and establishing new outposts in the Pacific, and has churned out new weaponry. That makes it even more important for the United States to maintain its edge in air operations[.].”

-- The White House has reviewed a bizarre incident in which a photographer from an outlet banned in China handed Trump a folder during an official event last week. David Nakamura reports: “The photographer, identified by other photojournalists as Samira Bouaou [from the Epoch Times], passed the purple-colored folder to Trump as he was walking out of the East Room on Sept. 12 after delivering remarks at a reception for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. … Photographers who asked Bouaou afterward why she did it and what the folder contained said she declined to provide details. … The incident was a violation of protocol for journalists covering the White House, and it marked at least the second time an Epoch Times journalist has disrupted a White House event.”

THE MIDTERMS:

-- An attorney for Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) said the indicted congressman will remain on the ballot this November — reversing Collins’s earlier decision to suspend his reelection campaign. Mike DeBonis reports: “That is a scenario that Republican Party officials had hoped to avoid. While New York’s 27th Congressional District is heavily Republican, Democrats believe that with Collins on the ballot, they have an outside chance of claiming the seat in November as they fight to retake the House majority.”

-- An internal poll conducted for the RNC suggests most Trump supporters don’t believe Democrats will flip the House in November, leading to questions over whether they’ll show up at the polls. Bloomberg Businessweek’s Joshua Green reports: “According to the RNC study, completed on Sept. 2 by the polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, most voters believe Democrats will win back the House — just not Republican voters. Fully half of self-identified Republicans don’t believe Democrats are likely to win back the House. And within that group, 57 percent of people who describe themselves as strong Trump supporters don’t believe Democrats have a chance (37 percent believe they do). If overconfident Republican voters stay home, Democrats could win a landslide. The report urges GOP officials to yank their voters back to reality: ‘We need to make real the threat that Democrats have a good shot of winning control of Congress.’ The president instead has delivered the opposite message. At rallies and on Twitter, Trump has claimed that — contrary to conventional wisdom and polling — Republicans might actually increase their margin in November.”

-- A new CNN-SRSS poll shows Democrats holding an advantage in two critical U.S. Senate races. “The surveys show Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and former Gov. Phil Bredesen leading their Republican opponents for open seats Arizona and Tennessee, where sitting Republican senators are retiring,” Jennifer Agiesta reports. “In Arizona, Sinema tops Republican Rep. Martha McSally by 7 points, 50% to 43% among likely voters, while in Tennessee, Bredesen holds a 5-point edge over Rep. Marsha Blackburn, 50% to 45% among likely voters there. Roughly 1 in 6 voters in each state say there's a chance they'll change their mind before Election Day.”

-- Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa) is severely lagging behind his Democratic opponent Democrat Abby Finkenauer in ad spending as the GOP establishment appears to have abandoned hope of retaining the seat. The Des Moines Register’s Barbara Rodriguez and Brianne Pfannenstiel: “No Republican organization has put money toward TV ads that could benefit Blum so far, an exclusive Des Moines Register analysis of data from Kantar Media shows. That’s in stark contrast to Iowa’s 3rd District race, where U.S. Rep. David Young is trying to stave off Democratic challenger Cindy Axne. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC that backs Republican House candidates, has poured close to $1 million into that race. Democratic groups have countered with $1.7 million.” “Republicans are in triage mode to save their House majority,” the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman said. “(Spending) is a proxy for how the parties view those races, how close the parties view those races.”

-- Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper created a federal leadership PAC, in the latest sign that he is moving toward a possible presidential bid in 2020. The Colorado Sun reports: “The move — first reported by The Colorado Sun — is a traditional step for candidates with ambitions for higher office and comes after Hickenlooper spent the summer talking to party strategists, major donors and his family about whether to pursue a White House bid.”

-- “Ted Cruz’s Texas senatorial campaign has sent hundreds of thousands of mailers seeking donations that are meant to look like official county summons, a high-ranking campaign official [confirmed],” Newsweek’s Nicole Goodkind reports: “The brown envelopes read ‘SUMMONS ENCLOSED-OPEN IMMEDIATELY’ in large black letters, and have a return address of ‘official county summons.’ While the letter inside the envelope was a donation form for the Cruz campaign, there was some fear that some voters might be confused by the mailer and believe that they were required by law to pay a fee. Mailers of this kind are not illegal, as long as they include a clear disclaimer that the communication was paid for. … But political consultants were divided on the messaging tactic.”

-- Virginia’s Republican Senate candidate, Corey Stewart, fired a top campaign aide with ties to far-right figures. Noel Fritsch had previously worked for Paul Nehlen, the anti-Semitic Wisconsin politician who has run against Paul Ryan and failed GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore. Fritsch also drew negative attention to the campaign when CNN uncovered past tweets he had written about “Pizzagate” and the murder of Seth Rich. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

The New York Times's television critic reminded his Twitter followers of this anecdote from Bob Woodward's book:

Some elected Republicans publicly mocked Kavanaugh's accuser. Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) mocked Ford's story by retweeting this:

A Republican senator questioned Ford's story:

A Post reporter noted that Hatch has said similar things ... about Anita Hill:

The communications director for Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) highlighted that Rob Porter was Hatch's former chief of staff, and the senator reportedly encouraged him to keep fighting in the face of impending press reports about spousal abuse by both of his ex-wives.

(To be fair, Hatch later wrote letters apologizing to both women and said he didn't know all the facts when he rallied to Porter's defense. The ex-wives accepted Hatch's apologies.)

An NBC News reporter provided this flashback:

A satirical site mocked Republicans' responses to the allegation:

From the ACLU's national political director:

A former political appointee in the Obama administration underscored the composition of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

A lawyer who expressed public support for Kavanaugh would not offer a comment to a Daily Beast reporter on the allegation:

Fox News host Laura Ingraham highlighted one person who has argued Kavanaugh's nomination should proceed:

A Post reporter replied with this:

From a Harvard law professor:

From a feminist author:

From a staffer for the liberal group Media Matters:

Rod Dreher, a senior editor at the American Conservative, posted a series of messages seeking to downplay what Kavanaugh is accused of. Slate's chief political correspondent replied:

The director of U-Va.'s Center for Politics recalled SNL's skit about the Anita Hill hearings:

A Boston Globe correspondent highlighted Al Franken's role in the skit:

Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus offered her support to Ford:

A Post reporter was skeptical of the White House's stated rationale for releasing Russia-related documents:

A Politico reporter highlighted the former FBI director's Twitter activity:

And Trump's former economic adviser deflected a question:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- In her new memoir, Stormy Daniels claims Trump never wanted to be president and that he offered to cheat for her on “The Apprentice.” The Guardian’s Tom McCarthy reports: “Daniels describes her mounting disbelief as Trump began to win primary contests in 2016 for the Republican presidential nomination. Former castmates whom she had not heard from in years, but who had heard her story about sleeping with Trump in 2006, would call her up to marvel at the news. ‘It will never happen, I would say,’ Daniels writes. ‘He doesn’t even want to be president.’ … She continued to answer Trump’s many phone calls over the next year [after the alleged affair] in hopes that he would make good on his promise to put her on his reality television show, The Apprentice, Daniels writes. Trump even suggested that a cheat could be arranged to allow her to survive through more episodes of the show, she writes. ‘We’ll figure out a way to get you the challenges beforehand,’ she quotes him as saying. ‘And we can devise your technique.’ ‘He was going to have me cheat, and it was 100 percent his idea.’”

-- The Atlantic, “The Tiny Blond Bible Teacher Taking on the Evangelical Political Machine,” by Emma Green: “Beth Moore grew her flock by teaching scripture to women — and being deferential to men. Now her outspokenness on sexism could cost her everything.”

-- Los Angeles Times, “The ex-Green Beret who inspired Colin Kaepernick to kneel instead of sit during the anthem would like to clear a few things up,” by Sam Farmer: “[Nate] Boyer had seen death and devastation in Africa, had multiple war deployments as a Green Beret, and even had a period of homelessness. He had a perspective about sports, and understood more about the NFL than the average fan, having spent a few weeks in training camp with the Seattle Seahawks as a long snapper. He wasn’t mad, but he was entirely ready to dismiss Kaepernick as just another coddled and churlish star, acting up when his starting job was in jeopardy. ‘I kind of just wrote him off initially, to be honest,’ said Boyer, 37, of Los Angeles. ‘I was around a bunch of veterans. One of the dudes I was with was a paraplegic from military service.’ Never could Boyer have dreamed that his life and Kaepernick’s would soon intersect, and that he would play a small but critical behind-the-scenes role in the most controversial sports protest in a generation …”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

Right-wing media massively fails in attempt to smear Kavanaugh accuser — and targets the wrong Christine Ford,” from Raw Story: “Right-wing media personality Matt Drudge on Monday completely crashed and burned in his latest attempt to smear Christine Blasey Ford, who has gone on the record to accuse [Kavanaugh] of trying to rape her when they were both teenagers, Specifically, Drudge promoted an article at Grabien News claiming to show that Ford got poor ratings from her students, some of whom purportedly described her as having a ‘dark personality’ on the Rate My Professors website. However, doing the slightest bit of detective work reveals that the article is targeting the wrong person. In fact, the RateMyProfessors page refers to a Christine A. Ford, who taught [at] California State University Fullerton, and who actually received only five reviews — two of which rated her as ‘awesome,’ two of which rated her as ‘average,’ and only one of which rated her as ‘awful.’ Christine Blasey Ford, meanwhile, is a professor [at Palo Alto University] who has never worked at Fullerton.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Pampers is ditching ‘Sesame Street’ diapers amid gender concerns,” from the New York Post: “The characters from ‘Sesame Street’ are quietly getting pulled from Pampers — and it might be because they’re mostly dudes. In a major move this summer that hasn’t been officially announced, the world’s biggest diaper brand has quietly wiped characters like Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch from most of its diapers. The stealthy Muppet removal was confirmed by officials at ‘Sesame Street’ and Procter & Gamble — the consumer products giant that makes Pampers. Shoppers like Susie Wong-Benjamin — a mother of two in the Bronx who thought she had bought fake Pampers when a recent batch bore generic-looking designs — said customer service reps at P&G partly blamed the stealthy switch on gender issues when she called about it last week.” “The Pampers rep said … parents who have daughters thought that the ‘Sesame Street’ characters are too masculine,” Wong-Benjamin said. 

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will participate in a signing ceremony for a presidential memorandum on biodefense national security. He will then meet with and hold a news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda. He and the secretary of state will have a meeting later this afternoon.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“Today was a big day for me. … A bill that I'm a Democratic co-sponsor of, the president of the United States tweeted that he supported it. Yowzeh! That's a big deal for me. And I'm thrilled … It shows you that not all is lost in this town.” — Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) discussing a bill to address prescription drug costs. (CSPAN)

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- Washingtonians should prepare for some afternoon thunderstorms. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Mostly cloudy skies and patchy morning fog with an isolated shower chance before scattered midday to afternoon showers and thunderstorms. Some of these storms could contain very heavy downpours to trigger localized flash flooding. Highs range in the lower to middle 80s mainly before the storms arrive as humidity holds at uncomfortable moderate to high levels (dew points in the 70s).”

-- The Nationals lost to the Marlins 8-5. (Chelsea Janes)

-- The D.C. Council held a marathon hearing on the possibility of repealing Initiative 77, the ballot measure voters approved to raise the minimum wage for the city’s tipped workers. Fenit Nirappil reports: “[The hearing] started at 11 a.m. and was expected to stretch late into the evening, with about 250 witnesses scheduled to testify. … Council chambers were packed at capacity, with opponents of Initiative 77 appearing to outnumber supporters. Lawmakers who have been aggressively lobbied by both sides said they don’t take overturning the will of the voters lightly. But seven members who favor repeal say it is necessary to protect the city’s burgeoning dining industry.

-- The council is also considering rolling back Mayor Muriel Bowser’s control over the city’s education system. Perry Stein reports: “Council member David Grosso (I-At Large), who chairs the education committee, said he plans to introduce legislation on Tuesday that would make it harder for the mayor to fire the superintendent of education, a top schools official who oversees the traditional public and charter sectors. The mayor would still appoint the superintendent, but Grosso said he hopes his legislation ensures that the Office of the State Superintendent of Education is not politicized. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) is backing the measure, signaling that the legislation could receive robust support from the 13-member council. Grosso’s proposal would increase the superintendent’s term from four to six years.”

-- The group of Washington residents arguing the Trump International Hotel’s liquor license should be revoked vowed to keep up their fight, even after the city’s liquor board declined last week to review the case. (Rachel Chason)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Trump expressed his wish to win over Latino voters in 2020 during a White House event for Hispanic Heritage Month:

Jimmy Fallon made jokes about Trump honoring Hispanic Heritage Month:

Seth Meyers slammed Republicans' response to the Kavanaugh allegation:

CNN's Anderson Cooper skewered critics who accused him of promoting fake news about Hurricane Florence:

And an Emmy winner shocked the audience when he proposed to his girlfriend while accepting his award: