With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: Senate Republicans say they plan to forge ahead with a hearing next Monday whether Christine Blasey Ford is there or not, a take-it-or-leave-it gambit to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court before the end of the month that risks backfiring politically.

Lawyers for Ford, the California professor who accuses Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, said Tuesday night that their client wants an FBI investigation before she testifies in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The committee’s GOP chairman, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), scheduled Ford’s testimony before confirming that this day worked for her. He did, however, make sure it worked for President Trump’s nominee, who categorically denies any wrongdoing and has been holed up at the White House preparing for his second round in front of the Senate.

“The invitation for Monday still stands,” Grassley said in a statement. “Dr. Ford's testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events. Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay.”

Contrary to some semi-misleading coverage that’s out there this morning, Ford still wants to testify in a public setting. Moreover, the two-page letter from her lawyers does not explicitly say she will not come next Monday if there’s no FBI probe. “She will talk with the committee,” Lisa Banks, one of her lawyers, told Anderson Cooper on CNN. “She is not prepared to talk with them at a hearing on Monday. No legitimate investigation is going to happen between now and Monday. This is going to take some time. There shouldn't be a rush to a hearing here.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the No. 3 in GOP leadership, told reporters that Ford is “not really in a position to make conditions.”

Other Republicans went further. “This has been a drive-by shooting when it comes to Kavanaugh,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Seung Min Kim. “I’ll listen to the lady, but we’re going to bring this to a close.” Graham added later, “We run the committee — not her lawyer, not the Democrats.”

-- There is a danger for Republicans that this kind of brusque rhetoric toward a purported victim of sexual assault will be perceived as bullying by voters, especially the college-educated, suburban women who are poised to determine which party controls the House come November. As I wrote yesterday, even before Ford came forward, Kavanaugh was already the least popular and most polarizing nominee to the Supreme Court since Robert Bork in 1987.

-- Ford’s lawyers say quotes like the one from Graham prove that Republicans have already prejudged their client’s claims and thus showcase why an independent investigation is needed. “A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan manner, and that the committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions,” Banks and Debra Katz, Ford’s other lawyer, wrote in a letter to the Judiciary Committee.

-- The professor’s eagerness to fully cooperate with the FBI is significant for another reason: Making a false statement to the bureau is a felony. Just ask former Trump aides Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos and Rick Gates. The FBI, incidentally, is led by Trump appointee Christopher Wray. (In August, on the advice of counsel, Ford passed a polygraph test that was administered by a retired FBI agent.)

-- The push to move ahead with no formal investigation underscores why victims generally hesitate to come forward, advocates say, and the vitriol Ford has faced explains why she wanted to stay anonymous until Sunday.

As Graham talked about the “drive-by shooting,” for example, Ford’s lawyers revealed that their client has received death threats, her private email has been hacked and she’s being impersonated online. Ford and her family have now moved out of their home, and she and her husband are staying apart from their two children as a safety precaution. Unlike Kavanaugh, Ford does not get a security detail.

“At 10:28 Tuesday morning, a Twitter account with a white nationalist talking point for its handle posted Christine Blasey Ford’s personal address,” Elise Viebeck reports. “The account called for ‘peaceful protests’ at Ford’s home in Northern California … The allegation was a ‘hoax’ orchestrated by the ‘deranged left,’ the account tweeted. This was at least the third time a Twitter user had ‘doxed’ Ford — posted her personal information online — since she revealed her identity to The Washington Post … Twitter spokesman Ian Plunkett declined to say whether the site suspended any accounts or deleted any tweets for revealing personal information about Ford. … As of Tuesday evening, the Twitter account posting Ford’s address was still active, and another account had posted what it said was an aerial photo of Ford’s house.”

-- But Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who calls the shots more than Grassley, is eager to move quickly so that he can avoid his nightmare scenario in which Kavanaugh, or a replacement nominee, wouldn’t get confirmed before the midterms and then Democrats win control of the Senate. The odds of such a takeover are quite low, but a Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) could theoretically keep the seat open through the 2020 election – following the precedent McConnell created when he refused to allow a hearing for Merrick Garland in 2016.

-- At the behest of the current majority leader, several GOP senators signaled last night that they’re fine moving forward without Ford’s testimony or an FBI investigation:

-- Behind the scenes, Republican senators are more divided about what to do:

-- This fight is not without risk for Democrats, either. The showdown might motivate conservatives in red states where Democratic incumbents are up for reelection, and some voters could conclude that GOP leaders tried in good faith to offer Ford a chance to testify but she declined. If there’s a perception that Ford and Democrats are working together too closely in trying to delay proceedings, Republicans and maybe some independents might view her claims as being motivated by partisanship.

Before the letter from Ford’s lawyer last night, Democrats had also been demanding an FBI investigation before a hearing. “She is under no obligation to participate in the Republican efforts to sweep this whole thing under the rug, to continue this nomination on the fast track and to participate in a smear campaign and basically a railroad job,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), a member of the committee. “This is what they did to Anita Hill!” At a news conference with Democratic colleagues, Hirono added: “I just want to say to the men in this country, just shut up and step up. Do the right thing, for a change.”

-- Meanwhile, Kavanaugh had a two-hour “murder board” yesterday at the Eisenhower Office Building to rehearse for next week. The judge practiced answering tough questions about his past, his partying, his drinking, his dating and Ford’s allegations, per Josh Dawsey. Participants in the session included White House counsel Don McGahn, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and deputy chief of staff Bill Shine.

Shine’s role in prepping Kavanaugh is notable because of his scandal-plagued tenure as co-president of Fox News. He was pushed out of the cable network last year after multiple lawsuits suggested that he enabled alleged sexual harassment by Roger Ailes, his boss for 20 years. Shine himself was not accused of sexual misconduct and has maintained that he didn’t know what Ailes was doing to the women who worked for them.

-- For his part, Trump himself tried to cast Kavanaugh as the real victim during an afternoon news conference. “This is not a man that deserves this,” he said. “I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this.”

The president did not express sympathy for Ford and what she’s going through. He did say, though, that “there shouldn’t even be a little doubt” about whether Kavanaugh did what she alleges. “I feel that the Republicans — and I can speak for myself — we should go through a process, because there shouldn’t even be a little doubt,” he said.

POTUS reiterated his support on social media:

-- An alleged witness, who agents could interview if the FBI pursued the matter, is unwilling to testify before the Senate. Ford alleges that Mark Judge was in the room — laughing — when Kavanaugh pinned her down and attempted to rape her. But Judge’s lawyer sent a letter to the Senate yesterday saying his client does not want to appear or answer any questions. The lawyer said Judge has “no memory of this alleged incident.”

Judge’s 1997 memoir, “Wasted: Tales of a Gen-X Drink,” references a “Bart O’Kavanaugh” character who passes out drunk and throws up in a car. “A quote from a playwright runs alongside the family photos on Mark Judge’s page in his high school yearbook: ‘Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs,’” Avi Selk reports. “Judge’s yearbook entry appears one page before the bio of … Kavanaugh. Both men graduated in 1983 … In two memoirs, Judge depicted his high school as a nest of debauchery where students attended ‘masturbation class,’ ‘lusted after girls’ from nearby Catholic schools and drank themselves into stupors at parties. He has since renounced that lifestyle and refashioned himself as a conservative moralist — albeit one who has written about ‘the wonderful beauty of uncontrollable male passion.’”

“Fortunately,” Kavanaugh said in a 2015 speech, “we had a good saying that we've held firm to to this day . . . which is: ‘What happens at Georgetown Prep, stays at Georgetown Prep.’ I think that's been a good thing for all of us!”

Democrats asked to subpoena Judge to appear on Monday, but Republicans said no.

-- Linda Fairstein, the former chief of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Sex Crimes Bureau who is not involved in that fight, said Judge would be “an essential witness.” She said it’s rare for any sexual assault to happen with a witness present. “To me, it’s compelling that she puts someone else there, and that the person who happens to be in the room has a blackout drinking problem,” Fairstein told Deanna Paul. “That’s sort of the intoxicated behavior she described that night. … Ford mentioned details — like the pool party, the narrow staircase, that the house was in Montgomery County. There are enough facts for someone to remember it was their party and their house.”

Fairstein added that it’s also completely normal Ford “didn’t remember” several details. “If she testifies, I would expect her to say ‘I don’t remember’ scores of times,” Fairstein said, for two reasons: the passage of time and trauma. “She found this experience so upsetting that she felt her life was in danger. There might be 220 things she doesn’t know and then a very specific sentence about what happened that was so traumatic."

-- Many women are rallying behind Ford. “Several former colleagues said that, as a biostatistician and psychologist, Ford was known for her scrupulous and meticulous professional conduct. She has published several books and more than 65 peer-reviewed journal articles,” the Associated Press reports from Palo Alto, Calif. “Her work often involves analyzing data gathered in medical studies ranging from investigations of new depression treatments to opioid addiction interventions and traumatic brain injury research.

Sarah Adler, a former student of Ford’s who is now a clinical psychologist at Stanford, co-organized a letter in support of her former professor that had been signed by more than 300 colleagues and former students by Tuesday afternoon. Another letter of support has been signed by more than 700 graduates of her private prep school, Holton-Arms. ‘I think she felt morally compelled to come forward, which is very much in line with what I know of her,’ said Adler. ‘She analyzes the data and lets the data tell the story.’ … Ford values clear professional boundaries and isn’t one to share personal struggles with coworkers, the former colleagues said.”

-- How it’s playing elsewhere:

  • Anita Hill has an op-ed in the New York Times: “In 1991, the Senate Judiciary Committee had an opportunity to demonstrate its appreciation for both the seriousness of sexual harassment claims and the need for public confidence in the character of a nominee to the Supreme Court. It failed on both counts. As that same committee, on which sit some of the same members as nearly three decades ago, now moves forward with the Kavanaugh confirmation proceedings, the integrity of the court, the country’s commitment to addressing sexual violence as a matter of public interest, and the lives of the two principal witnesses who will be testifying hang in the balance.”
  • Mimi Rocah, Barbara McQuade, Jill Wine-Banks, Joyce White Vance and Maya Wiley for NBC News: “Prosecutors look for corroborating evidence — and there are strong indications already that Christine Blasey Ford is telling the truth about her attack. … If you are still inclined to believe that Ford is lying, ask yourself: Why would she create a defense witness by identifying Mark Judge, who was and still is indisputably a friend of Kavanaugh’s, as being present and participating in this attack? Why would she place at the scene an individual who could, because of loyalties to his friend, contradict her account if she were making this up? She wouldn’t.”
  • Deanna Paul: “The worst is yet to come for Kavanaugh’s accuser. Take it from this sexual assault expert.”
  • Mike Rosenwald: “Re-watching Joe Biden’s disastrous Anita Hill hearing: A sexual harassment inquisition.”
  • Politico: “George W. Bush reaffirms support for Kavanaugh.”
  • Wendy Sherman in USA Today: “Don't repeat Anita Hill nightmare with Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford.”
  • Slate: “Everything We Know About Trauma Suggests Christine Blasey Ford Is Telling the Truth.”
  • East Bay Times: “Anna Eshoo was first to hear Blasey Ford’s story: ‘I told her I believed her.’”
  • Mediaite: “Tucker Carlson Guest Calls Kavanaugh Accuser Christine Blasey Ford a ‘Loon.’”
  • Boston Globe: “With Kavanaugh vote, Susan Collins is in the middle of a firestorm.”
  • The Atlantic: “The GOP Response to the Kavanaugh Allegations Sends an Unmistakable Message to Women.”
  • Bob Schiff, Kristine Lucius, Jeff Berman and Lisa Graves for Time: “Brett Kavanaugh Can’t Be Trusted. We Know Because We Worked as Counsel to Senators When He Was in the Bush White House.”
  • Vox: “The Kavanaugh assault allegations are a reminder that Democrats were smart to push out Al Franken.”

-- In a measured column for today’s newspaper, David Von Drehle calls on Kavanaugh to withdraw so that Trump can nominate a woman as his replacement and the country can avoid the ugliness that seems inevitable in the coming days: “A decision to block Kavanaugh would surely add a new, arguably unhealthy, dimension to the ugly judicial wars already disfiguring the Senate. The first high-profile nominee brought down by disputed misconduct in high school would probably not be the last. … But a decision to confirm Kavanaugh under these circumstances portends further damage to the already battered credibility of the Supreme Court. … It’s unimaginable that Kavanaugh would have been the pick if Ford’s accusation had been known last spring. And this suggests a least-bad solution to the Senate’s dilemma. Kavanaugh can put the country ahead of his personal ambitions. While maintaining his innocence, he can withdraw for the sake of the court’s credibility. He can continue his distinguished service on the second-highest court in the land.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Kim Jong Un agreed to visit Seoul for the first time, but made no concrete promises on denuclearization. Simon Denyer and Min Joo Kim report: “Experts said it was far from clear that Kim had made concessions that would make a summit [with President Trump] an attractive proposition for the U.S. administration . . . North Korea pledged to ‘permanently dismantle’ a missile engine test site and missile launcher at Tongchang-ri ‘in the presence of experts from related countries.’ That is a site the North Koreans had already promised to dismantle, although allowing in inspectors would be a step forward. North Korea also ‘expressed the will to continue taking further steps like permanent dismantlement’ of its main Yongbyon nuclear facility but only if the United States takes ‘corresponding steps’ based on Trump’s agreement with Kim at their June summit in Singapore.”

-- Trump reacted positively to the talks, which were meant to pave the way for a second summit between himself and Kim later this year:

-- Trump disparaged Attorney General Jeff Sessions in some of his harshest terms to date. “I don’t have an Attorney General. It’s very sad,” the president told the Hill in an interview on Tuesday that posted this morning. “I’m not happy at the border, I’m not happy with numerous things, not just [the Russia recusal]. I’m so sad over Jeff Sessions because he came to me. He was the first senator that endorsed me. And he wanted to be attorney general, and I didn’t see it. … And then he went through the nominating process and he did very poorly. I mean, he was mixed up and confused, and people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him, but he was giving very confusing answers. Answers that should have been easily answered. And that was a rough time for him.” Trump demurred on whether he would fire Sessions soon. “We’ll see what happens. A lot of people have asked me to do that. And I guess I study history, and I say I just want to leave things alone, but it was very unfair what he did,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes with Jeff. I’m very disappointed in Jeff. Very disappointed.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Hurricane Florence killed more than 3.4 million chickens and turkeys, and at least 5,000 pigs, in North Carolina. Officials provided no details as to which counties or farming operations suffered the losses — though it doubles the number of animals killed in Hurricane Matthew in 2016. (Raleigh News & Observer)
  2. A Post examination found Cardinal Donald Wuerl repeatedly allowed priests accused of sexual abuse to return to clerical roles. At least three priests were again accused of misconduct after Wuerl declined to remove them. The Washington archbishop is expected to soon meet with Pope Francis to discuss his possible resignation. (Shawn Boburg and Aaron C. Davis)
  3. The Brooklyn Diocese awarded $27.5 million to four men who were sexually abused as children by a religion teacher at a Catholic church. The settlement is among the largest ever reached between the church and individual abuse victims. (New York Times)
  4. A former Beijing bureau chief for the L.A. Times has resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Two women accused Jonathan Kaiman of pressuring them into sex. (New York Times)

  5. The Justice Department is investigating Tesla over comments made by CEO Elon Musk, after he tweeted last month that he was considering taking the company private and implied he had the funds necessary to do so. (Bloomberg News)
  6. Federal agents have been unable to apprehend a man who threatened Trump in June. A warrant was issued for Shawn Richard Christy’s arrest on June 19. Since then, Christy has eluded federal agents across six states and Canada. “He feels he can operate in the woods without human contact, and that has presented a challenge for us,” U.S. Marshal Robert Clark said of Christy, a self-proclaimed survivalist. (Alex Horton)

  7. Residents of a Mexican city complained after authorities attempted to park a truck carrying about 100 corpses in town. Officials said the bodies belong to victims of organized crime who cannot be buried or stored at the morgue due to space restrictions, as Mexico faces record-high levels of homicides. (Siobhán O'Grady)
  8. A man was arrested for the murder of former Iowa State golfer Celia Barquin Arozamena, who was found dead on a golf course Monday morning. Collin Daniel Richards, 22, was charged with first-degree murder after police say they found blood-covered clothing and a knife in his tent near the golf course. (Matt Bonesteel)

  9. A Texas school district superintendent expressed regret about saying of the Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson, “You can’t count on a black quarterback.” Lynn Redden claimed his comment was not meant to be racist but was intended to illustrate how black quarterbacks have fared in the league. “Over the history of the NFL, they have had limited success,” Redden told the Houston Chronicle. But black players were not given many opportunities to play quarterback until the late 1980s. (Des Bieler)

  10. A GoFundMe page set up for Anthony Torres, the homeless man who unwittingly went viral when he was recorded shaving on a New Jersey-bound train, has already raised over $25,000. The video of Torres shaving was shared tens of thousands of times. But some Twitter users expressed remorse for laughing at it after it was reported Torres had been bouncing between homeless shelters and was trying to clean up before seeing his brother’s family. (Reis Thebault)

THE AGENDA:

-- The Supreme Court declined to intervene in a case involving campaign finance disclosures, a decision that will force advocacy groups to disclose many of their political donors and expose the sources behind millions in dark money less than 50 days before the midterms. Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Robert Barnes report: “The high court did not grant an emergency request to stay a ruling by a federal judge in Washington who had thrown out a decades-old [FEC] regulation allowing nonprofit groups to keep their donors secret unless they had earmarked their money for certain purposes. . . . The ruling last month by Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell will be challenged on appeal. But in the immediate future, the decision forces major groups on the left and the right to scramble and reassess how they plan to finance their fall campaigns. [FEC Chairwoman Caroline Hunter] and other conservatives warned the decision could have a chilling effect.” The move is being celebrated by advocates for transparency.

-- The Senate voted to approve a short-term spending bill, which would keep the government funded through Dec. 7 — and avert a fight over Trump’s border wall funding until after the fall elections. Erica Werner reports: “The short-term bill came attached to a massive budget package containing full-year 2019 funding for the Pentagon as well as for the Labor, Education and [HHS] departments. GOP leaders designed the package to combine key Republican and Democratic priorities in an attempt to garner overwhelming bipartisan support. The package also aims to satisfy Trump’s desire for more military spending. The 93-to-7 vote came less than two weeks ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline when government funding will expire unless Congress and Trump intervene. … The House is expected to take up the bill next week, but it remains uncertain whether Trump would sign the measure.”

-- A newly uncovered email shows Army lawyers were asked to look for past potential crimes committed by immigrant recruits. Alex Horton reports: “In August, [the Army] reversed its decision to expel dozens of immigrant recruits who were seeking expedited citizenship by serving in the U.S. military. But days before, on Aug. 13, a military intelligence unit asked Army Reserve attorneys to scrutinize its completed security screening packets for admissions of potential crimes by immigrant recruits, according to [the email]. The email is written in a who, what, when, where, why format. The ‘why’ says: ‘[Immigrant recruits] are currently suing the federal government claiming they were wrongfully discharged from the Army.’ Critics say the request appears to be retribution for the lawsuits that helped overturn dozens of dismissals, and was intended to legitimize a process beset with legal and bureaucratic problems that have been blamed internally for draining vast resources.”

-- The Trump administration cannot account for the whereabouts of nearly 1,500 migrant children who were placed with sponsors after illegally entering the United States. The New York Times’s Ron Nixon reports: “The revelation echoes an admission in April by [HHS] that the government had similarly lost track of an additional 1,475 migrant children it had moved out of shelters last year. In findings that lawmakers described as troubling, Senate investigators said the department could not determine with certainty the whereabouts of 1,488 out of 11,254 children the agency had placed with sponsors in 2018, based on follow-up calls from April 1 to June 30. The inability to track the whereabouts of migrant children after they have been released to sponsors has raised concerns that they could end up with human traffickers or be used as laborers by people posing as relatives.”

-- The Interior Department significantly eased restrictions on methane emissions from oil and gas firms operating on federal and tribal land. Juliet Eilperin reports: “Officials said that the rule, adopted in 2016, was duplicative, given state laws, and imposed too heavy a burden on the private sector. Environmentalists and Democrats vowed to fight the reversal in court, saying that it would lead to greater air pollution and boost emissions linked to climate change. The 2016 regulation required operators to capture methane leaks, install more modern controls and develop a plan to reduce the release of the heat-trapping gas, which, for the first 20 years after being released into the atmosphere, is roughly 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.”

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN AND WOMEN:

-- A senior FEMA official was suspended without pay in connection to the DHS inspector general’s investigation into Administrator Brock Long’s use of government vehicles. John Veatch, who was appointed by Trump to oversee FEMA’s National Continuity Programs directorate, learned of his suspension last Friday — as Florence made landfall. (Politico)

-- Defense Secretary Jim Mattis dismissed reports he would soon be leaving the administration, advising reporters not to “take it seriously at all.” “How many times have we been through this, now, just since I’ve been here? It will die down soon, and the people who started the rumor will be allowed to write the next rumor, too,” Mattis said at the Pentagon. “Just the way the town is. Keep a sense of humor about it.” (Reuters)

-- Government records show Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s flights on private Federal Aviation Administration planes cost nearly $94,000. Politico’s Tanya Snyder reports: “[O]ne flight to and around Europe [cost] taxpayers an estimated $68,892 for her and five staffers. . . . She appears to have halted the practice just as one of her fellow Cabinet members, then-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, was facing increasing scrutiny over his use of private and military flights. … The newly released records do not indicate that anyone has raised red flags over Chao's use of the FAA aircraft … which come with rules requiring government officials to justify the flights as cost-effective.”

-- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s scheduled appearance at a gathering of American conservative activists has attracted some criticism. From Politico’s Nahal Toosi: “[Pompeo] is scheduled to appear Friday at the Values Voter Summit, an event affiliated with the deeply conservative Family Research Council. The summit’s speakers include a host of prominent Republicans and others on the political right. While the schedule indicates that Pompeo will be part of a discussion on international religious liberty — an issue that Congress has mandated the State Department champion — Pompeo is still walking a fine line just by showing up, former and current U.S. officials say. The situation is also potentially fraught given the event is likely to help galvanize Republicans ahead of the upcoming midterm elections. … [F]or a host of legal and other reasons, secretaries of state, like secretaries of defense, generally avoid gatherings that smack of partisanship, or that otherwise may deal with U.S. elections.”

-- Rudy Giuliani is expected to speak at an event this weekend alongside the leader of an Iranian opposition group that was previously designated as a terrorist organization. The Daily Beast’s Spencer Ackerman reports: “Giuliani is scheduled to speak at the Sheraton in Times Square on Saturday to a gathering convened by the Organization of Iranian-American Communities, an anti-regime group he’s addressed before. Also slated to speak is the co-leader of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), Maryam Rajavi, who will address the attendees remotely, according to a representative for the event. But the Trump administration is already disavowing any implication that Giuliani’s appearance has anything to do with its Iran policies. ‘Rudy Giuliani does not speak for the U.S. government on foreign policy,’ a State Department spokesperson [said].”

THE MIDTERMS:

-- Trump is privately lashing out at one of his top Florida allies, Ron DeSantis — and has accused the Republican gubernatorial nominee of “publicly betraying him” by not endorsing his claim that the Hurricane Maria death toll was exaggerated to make him look bad. Politico’s Alex Isenstadt and Marc Caputo report: “'He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated,’ the DeSantis campaign said last week after Trump tweeted that ‘3000 people did not die’ in Puerto Rico. Trump’s comments unnerved Republicans across Florida . . . Trump views the former congressman as politically indebted to him, people familiar with the president’s thinking say, because he believes DeSantis owes his electoral success to him. The president has privately maintained that he was correct with his comments about the hurricane’s death toll, and has expressed frustration that DeSantis crossed him on the matter.”

-- Florida Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican nominee for Senate, quickly left a campaign event after he was confronted by demonstrators protesting his response to the state’s toxic algae bloom. From Lindsey Bever: “The Herald-Tribune reported that [Scott] was confronted by angry protesters Monday at Mojos Real Cuban restaurant in Venice, about 80 miles south of Tampa, where dead animals have been washing ashore. Protesters crowded outside the restaurant holding signs reading ‘Redtide Rick’ and calling the governor a ‘coward’ — forcing him to enter and, only minutes later, leave, through the back door, according to the newspaper. Video shows Scott quickly leaving and getting into a black SUV as supporters held up signs reading ‘RICK SCOTT FOR SENATE’ among a crowd of protesters.”

-- A federal judge in Atlanta denied a motion that would have forced Georgia to switch from electronic voting systems to paper ballots, siding with state and local officials who argued that the last-minute changes would sow unnecessary chaos ahead of the Nov. 6 elections. However, U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg also warned the state that it must tackle issues of election security “promptly,” writing: “As I have said many times over, our state needs a verifiable paper trail, but we cannot make such a dramatic change this election cycle.” (Ellen Nakashima)

-- Kansas Republican Nancy Kassebaum, who represented the state for three terms in the U.S. Senate and is the daughter of Alf Landon (the 1936 GOP nominee for president), announced that she is backing Democrat Laura Kelly’s gubernatorial campaign. The Kansas City Star reports: “Kassebaum joins former GOP governor Bill Graves, who announced earlier this month that he would also be supporting Kelly. ‘I’m a Republican, but that doesn’t mean you walk lock step always with the party,’ she said. Kelly is facing Kobach, the Republican secretary of state, and independent Greg Orman in the November election. ‘It seems to me that Kobach has developed a record that shows a focus on ways and how to accomplish his end goals that I think are not the best for Kansas,’ Kassebaum said.” 

-- Hillary Clinton argued that Democrats need to win control of the House in November so that they can serve as a check on Trump’s power. In an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Clinton said, “What I worry about, Rachel, is that after this election this president is going to wholesale fire people. … And if we [Democrats] don’t have one or both houses of Congress in place he will be even more uncontrollable and unaccountable. He will fire people in the White House, he will fire people in this administration who he thinks are crossing him, questioning him, undermining him.” She added that the Times op-ed from a senior administration official was “horrifying.”

-- Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has a 19-point lead over Republican Corey Stewart, according to a new poll. From Antonio Olivo and Paul Schwartzman: “A poll released Tuesday by the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg shows Kaine leading Stewart 49 percent to 30 percent among all respondents. Libertarian candidate Matt Waters received 5 percent. Although 73 percent of Republican respondents said they’d vote for Stewart, 15 percent of Republicans favored Kaine — a reflection of the deep divisions among Virginia Republicans over Stewart … Among Democrats, 90 percent supported Kaine. A third of those surveyed said their feelings toward Trump would be a major factor in how they vote.”

-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is enjoying a similar lead over Democrat Ben Jealous. From Erin Cox and Scott Clement: “The Goucher Poll, released early Wednesday morning, found likely voters favor Hogan over Jealous by a margin of 54 percent to 32 percent. Undecided voters have dwindled to just 9 percent of the electorate, the poll found, meaning Jealous must win the lion’s share of persuadable voters and bank on dramatically heightened Democratic turnout to have a shot on Election Day. In addition to Hogan securing his Republican base by large margins, the poll found he had the support of 38 percent of Maryland Democrats, who outnumber GOP voters in the state by more than 2 to 1.”

-- Texas Republicans flipped a state Senate seat Democrats held for more than 130 years, bolstering their legislative supermajority before the midterms. The San Antonio Express-News’s Dylan McGuinness reports: “A retired game warden, [Pete] Flores defeated former state and U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego for the Senate District 19 seat after receiving backing from some of the state’s most prominent politicians, including Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and U.S. Sens John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. … Flores’ win marked an incredible upset in a district that political observers said shouldn’t have been competitive for Republicans. Low turnout in special elections and high-level GOP interests in preserving a Senate supermajority helped push Flores across the line, they said.”

-- Sen Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is hiring staff to help Democratic candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire. NBC News’s Alex Seitz-Wald reports: “Merkley's PAC, the Blue Wave Project, is looking hire several field organizers and other operatives in the two early-voting primary states … It's another sign that Merkley, a progressive who was the only senator to endorse Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential race, is eyeing a run for himself in 2020. He visited New Hampshire last weekend and plans to address the Iowa Steak Fry, a classic stop for Democratic White House hopefuls, later this month.”

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Mueller’s team appears to have built unusual — and potentially unprecedented — safeguards into their plea agreement with Paul Manafort, in order to discourage Trump from pardoning his former campaign chairman. Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports: “The [deal] doesn’t explicitly prohibit Manafort from seeking a pardon, but some lawyers said it appears to extract a promise from Manafort not to seek another form of executive clemency that could relieve him of the obligation to turn over property worth tens of millions of dollars to the government as part of the plea bargain. The agreement also says prosecutors can come after the five identified homes or apartments, three bank accounts and a life insurance policy now or at any point in the future ‘without regard to the status of his criminal conviction.’ Another part of the deal says that if Manafort’s guilty pleas or convictions are wiped out for any reason, prosecutors immediately have the right to charge him with any other crimes he may have committed previously or confessed to during recent plea negotiations.

“Legal experts with sweeping views of executive power and attorneys who advocate for broad use of clemency criticized what they call an effort by Mueller’s team to tie the president’s hands … However, some attorneys said they don't think the language in the plea agreement is far from what the Justice Department has done in other cases where defendants are asked to waive numerous rights.”

-- Since being arrested on charges of acting as a covert operative for the Kremlin, 29-year-old Maria Butina has been visited by Russian government officials six times. Moscow has passed four diplomatic notes to the State Department about her, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has spoken twice to Mike Pompeo to complain about her incarceration. “As a former intelligence officer, I found these details intriguing,” Alex Finley writes for Politico. “It seems likely that Russian officials visiting Butina in prison are looking to protect more than just the rights of a Russian citizen. They are looking to protect their ongoing intelligence operations. … According to prosecutors, ‘Russia has issued more diplomatic notes on the defendant’s behalf in the past month than for any other Russian citizen imprisoned in the United States in the past year.'"

-- More evidence has been revealed showing that, contrary to Trump’s claims, the Steele dossier played no role in triggering the Russia investigation. ABC News’s Mike Levine reports: “[B]eginning in July 2016, [the dossier] actually sat for several weeks inside an organized crime unit at the FBI’s New York field office, even as counterintelligence agents in Washington, D.C. – unaware of the new allegations – were already investigating Russian efforts to hijack American democracy. … In fact, the FBI already had an open counterintelligence case on [Carter Page] when he became a volunteer on Trump’s foreign policy team in January 2016, according to sources familiar with the matter.”

TRUMP'S WAR ON THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY:

-- The president said in his interview with The Hill, where he also castigated Sessions, that he considers his order to release documents related to the investigation into his own campaign to be “a great service to the country.” “I hope to be able to call this, along with tax cuts and regulation and all the things I’ve done … in its own way this might be the most important thing because this was corrupt,” the president told the Hill. “I hope to be able put this up as one of my crowning achievements that I was able to . . . expose something that is truly a cancer in our country.” Trump also said he regretted not firing former FBI director James Comey sooner: “I should have fired him before I got here. I should have fired him the day I won the primaries. Or at least fired him the first day on the job. . . . I would have been better off firing him or putting out a statement that I don’t want him there when I get there.”

-- Trump suggested on Twitter that the documents would reveal wrongdoing by the FBI. From Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett: “In morning tweets apparently quoting from a television appearance by Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), Trump wrote, ‘ ‘What will be disclosed is that there was no basis for these FISA Warrants, that the important information was kept from the court, there’s going to be a disproportionate influence of the (Fake) Dossier. Basically you have a counter terrorism tool used to spy on a presidential campaign, which is unprecedented in our history.’ ’ ‘Really bad things were happening, but they are now being exposed,’ Trump added. ’Big stuff!’ Later, in the Oval Office, the president called the Russia investigation a ‘witch hunt’ and said he hoped to bring ‘total transparency.’ ‘The things that have been found over the last couple of weeks about text messages back and forth are a disgrace to our nation,’ he said.”

-- The declassification order rewards Trump's congressional allies who sought to circumvent House Republican leaders, Karoun Demirjian writes. “Conservative Republicans have pummeled top Justice officials for months, accusing them of failing to provide Congress with documents they say would expose the ‘rotten’ foundations of [Mueller’s probe]. … For a while, they had the backing of party leaders on Capitol Hill. But in recent weeks, congressional GOP leaders have lost their patience with the relentlessly combative approach, arguing that [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein and other Justice Department officials have been more cooperative with requests of late. … But that doesn’t mean Trump’s congressional allies are satisfied. This month, leading conservatives asked the president to go around the Justice Department — a tactic, some said, that would be more efficient than trying once again to use traditional congressional channels to procure sensitive materials.”

-- Former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe is writing a book. From Matt Zapotosky: “‘The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump’ will publish Dec. 4, McCabe’s publisher, St. Martin’s Press, announced Tuesday. The book will offer McCabe’s ‘candid account of his career and an impassioned defense of the FBI’s agents, integrity and independence in protecting America and upholding our Constitution,’ the publisher said. ‘I wrote this book because the president’s attacks on me symbolize his destructive effect on the country as a whole,’ McCabe said in a statement. ‘He is undermining America’s safety and security, and eroding public confidence in its institutions. His attacks on the most crucial institutions of government, and on the professionals who serve within them, should make every American stand up and take notice.’”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- As Poland seeks to establish a permanent U.S. military base in the country as a deterrent against Russian occupation, they're making something of a unique proposal that plays directly to the president's vanity — naming it “Fort Trump.” Paul Sonne and Anne Gearan report: “'I would very much like for us to set up a permanent base in Poland, which we would call Fort Trump,’ Polish President Andrzej Duda said Tuesday [at] the White House. … Standing nearby, Trump smirked and raised his right eyebrow before pursing his lips as he appeared to consider the possibility … Though the Polish president’s naming proposal appeared to be in jest, Trump said Poland was willing to make a ‘very major’ contribution if the United States were to establish a permanent military presence in the nation. ‘If they’re willing to do that, it’s something we will certainly talk about,’ Trump said. In May 2018, the Polish government offered to spend up to $2 billion to establish a permanent U.S. military presence in Poland. … Its government would like the Pentagon to establish a permanent divisional headquarters on Polish territory, as well as one other permanent brigade, according to the Polish official, who said his government hoped to get an answer from Washington by 2020.”

-- Trump sees the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week as a chance to take a tough line on Iran, and to publicly condemn the country for spreading — in his words — “chaos and terror” across the Middle East, Politico’s Nahal Toosi, David M. Herszenhorn and Matthew Karnitschnig report: “But many key U.S. allies will likely use the global forum to present Trump himself as a threat to world peace. The result could be an unusually combative gathering at an annual forum meant to promote harmony among world leaders. Trump’s expected barbs against Iran in New York also come with political risk — and potential rewards: Talking tough on Tehran will please the president's Republican base, as well as Israel and some Arab states. But the broader reaction could expose how isolated Trump is on the world stage, especially after he unilaterally quit the Iran nuclear deal this spring.” 

THE TRADE WAR:

-- Many experts fear the tit-for-tat tariffs between the United States and China will usher in an economic Cold War. David J. Lynch and Danielle Paquette report: “By next week, the United States and China appear likely to be on the brink of slapping tariffs on their entire goods trade, which exceeds $635 billion annually. … As hopes dim for an early end to the conflict, the likelihood grows that the two countries are moving toward some sort of commercial divorce. Some analysts anticipate an economic partition reminiscent of the globe-splitting divide between the United States and the Soviet Union following World War II. … Such a fundamental reshaping of the U.S.-China commercial relationship after nearly four decades of growing interdependence would ripple through the global economy, shaking financial markets, reordering business supply chains and perhaps even raising the danger of military conflict, analysts said.”

-- “The Justice Department ordered two leading Chinese state-run media organizations to register [under FARA, as] U.S. officials ramp up efforts to combat foreign influence operations and toughen their stance on a variety of China policies,” the Wall Street Journal’s Kate O’Keeffe and Aruna Viswanatha report: “The DOJ in recent weeks told Xinhua News Agency and China Global Television Network — known as [CGTN] — to register under a previously obscure foreign lobbying law that gained prominence when it was used in the past year against [Trump associates, including Paul Manafort]. In the past year, U.S. affiliates of two Russian outlets, [RT and Sputnik], registered in the U.S. under [FARA]. … Such forced registrations are more than symbolic. After its registration, RT lost congressional press credentials, which limited its access to lawmakers and other U.S. officials … Xinhua and CGTN also have such credentials, according to a recent congressional list. The scrutiny of foreign media firms highlights tension between First Amendment free-speech activists, who say the Justice Department moves are based on an inappropriate distinction between propaganda and journalism, and national security officials, who are concerned about foreign state-funded media being used to influence U.S. public opinion.”

-- “As [Trump] again ratchets up trade tensions with China and Canada, he has the strong backing of Republican voters. But he risks putting his party’s congressional candidates — many of whom are more supportive of free trade — in a bind,” the New York Times’s Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman report: “Top Republicans in Congress love Mr. Trump’s tax cuts, but they do not love the tariffs that have become the centerpiece of his trade policy. This combination is a classic conservative position that favors low taxes, whether on income or on imports. Few Americans outside Washington share that view. Republican voters across the country approve of Mr. Trump’s tariffs almost as much as they approve of his tax cuts, according to [a recent survey] . . . That leaves Republican congressional hopefuls with few safe options. Candidates who embrace Mr. Trump’s trade policies risk turning off independent voters, as well as the business leaders who are a key part of the Republican donor base. But bucking Mr. Trump could alienate many Republicans. The results could help explain why congressional Republicans have done little to block Mr. Trump’s tariffs … [suggesting] that trade has become a proxy question for support of Mr. Trump, like so many other policy issues.”

-- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is starting to face pressure back home to work out a NAFTA deal. From Reuters’s David Ljunggren: “Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland will hold fresh talks on [NAFTA] with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Washington on Wednesday as a U.S.-imposed deadline of Oct. 1 looms. The two sides are far apart in some areas and Trudeau says his Liberal government will walk away if necessary. Signs are growing that hitherto solid domestic support for Ottawa’s stance is fraying amid fears of the potential economic damage. … ‘The problem with the bold statement that ‘No deal is better than a bad deal’ is that a bad deal is very much in the eye of the beholder,’ said John Manley, a former Liberal finance minister who heads the Business Council of Canada, which groups many chief executives.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

This current high school student's take on the allegations against Kavanaugh went viral:

A feminist writer for New York magazine is disgusted by the lack of due process being afforded to the alleged victim:

From a CNN anchor:

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) outlined suggestions for a hearing with Ford and Kavanaugh:

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) condemned the death threats against Ford:

From Obama's former deputy chief of staff:

The Senate Judiciary Chairman said this of the accusation against Kavanaugh:

But a New York Times reporter noted that he was already a senator:

A former writer for Upworthy added this:

A speechwriter for Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) highlighted what Mark Judge, Kavanaugh's alleged accomplice, has said before about rape:

The Kavanaugh controversy has led to some tense exchanges between senators:

Meanwhile, some conservative commentators have unequivocally stuck by Kavanaugh:

A Cornell law professor listed the many explanations Kavanaugh's defenders have offered:

A former Obama speechwriter provided this stark assessment:

A HuffPost opinion editor wrote an "op-ed" on the controversy:

The tense environment on Capitol Hill could lead to the creation of a new universe:

A veteran NBC journalist expressed shock at Trump's decision to declassify documents connected to the Russia investigation:

From a former deputy CIA director:

And a local reporter in South Carolina shared this chilling photo:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- GQ, “How Puerto Rico Became the Newest Tax Haven for the Super Rich,” by Jesse Barron: “A year after the tragedy of Hurricane Maria, the 51st state has become the favorite playground for extremely wealthy Americans looking to keep their money from the taxman. The only catch? They have to cut all ties to the mainland (wink, wink).”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Sen. Ted Cruz Calls Rival Beto O’Rourke ‘Quick’ To Blame Dallas Cop Who Killed Botham Jean,” from HuffPost: “Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who are facing off in the U.S. Senate race in November, both weighed in over the weekend on the fatal shooting of a black man by a white off-duty police officer in Dallas on Sept. 6. At a rally Friday night, O’Rourke agreed with those calling for the firing of officer Amber Guyger, who shot and killed her neighbor, 26-year-old Botham Jean, after entering his apartment. … Asked whether Guyger should be fired, the representative said: ‘I don’t understand, given the actions, how anyone can come to any other conclusion.’ Cruz, in an interview with Fox 26 Houston that aired on Sunday, said O’Rourke and other Democrats were too ‘quick to always blame the police officer.’ ‘I don’t think we should jump to any conclusions,’ the senator said. ‘It may have been just a horrific misunderstanding.’ … ‘The individual . . . was at home in his apartment and found himself murdered,’ Cruz said, using a bizarre choice of words.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Leaked NPR Emails: Don’t Call Kermit Gosnell an ‘Abortion Doctor,’” from the Daily Beast: “Early last month, John Sullivan, executive producer of the new film Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer … reached out to [NPR to purchase an ad sponsorship]. Sullivan, who was prepared to spend as much as six figures, crafted his ad copy [to say the following]: ‘Support for this NPR program comes from the film Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer. The film is the true story of abortionist Kermit Gosnell. A story the mainstream media tried to cover up because it reveals the truth about abortion.’ No dice. … NPR’s representative ran it up the legal flagpole and came back with a disappointing answer. In addition to other minor tweaks to the wording, their response stated, “The word ‘abortionist’ will also need to be changed to the neutral word ‘doctor.’ … For the filmmakers, this was a deal-breaker. ‘Our movie isn’t about a podiatrist or a cardiologist or a proctologist,’ said [the producer]. ‘It’s specifically about a doctor who performs abortions.’”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will travel today to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point  in Havelock, N.C., to survey the damage of Hurricane Florence. 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“This is a tough hurricane, one of the wettest we’ve ever seen from the standpoint of water.” — The president on Florence.

 

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

-- Sunshine and lower humidity will make today a beautiful Wednesday in Washington. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Drier winds from the north knock the humidity down to the moderate range today, while partly to mostly sunny skies should lift our spirits after so many cloudy days. Highs in the low-to-mid 80s are pretty comfortable especially with that somewhat lower humidity (dew points in the mid-60s).”

-- The Nationals beat the Marlins 4-2. (Chelsea Janes)

-- Virginia Republicans proposed a new political map to replace one deemed unconstitutional due to racial gerrymandering. Laura Vozzella reports: “With a court-ordered deadline looming Oct. 30, Republican leaders of the House of Delegates backed a ‘politically neutral, race-blind remedial redistricting map’ that they said would satisfy the court while causing minimal disruption to existing legislative district lines. The move appears to signal that GOP leaders are willing to come to the table when legislators return to Richmond on Sept. 27 to consider redistricting plans. It might also suggest they are wary of the map a federal court could impose if they miss the deadline and cannot persuade the Supreme Court to intervene.”

-- Metro intends to outsource the operation of the Silver Line extension to private companies in the hopes of cutting costs. Martine Powers reports: “On Tuesday, the transit agency issued a request for proposals from private companies willing to perform maintenance and operations on the line extension, which is under construction by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. … Metro has hinted for the past two years that its intention was to outsource the Silver Line service, suggesting that such a decision could save taxpayers millions of dollars in the long run.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Late-night hosts dove into the details of Stormy Daniels's new book:

A man in Honduras remains separated from his daughter months after the two attempted to enter the United States:

The commerce secretary made the surprising claim that American families would not notice tariffs on China:

McDonald's employees participated in a strike over sexual harassment in the workplace:

And Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulsen's Democratic challenger ran a campaign ad with Bigfoot attempting to track down the elusive congressman: