With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: It’s no longer he said vs. she said. Now it’s he said vs. they said.
Deborah Ramirez told the New Yorker in a piece published Sunday night that Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself at a party when they were both freshmen at Yale and caused her to touch his genitals without her consent as she pushed him away. Acknowledging that she had been drinking and that there are some gaps in her memory, the 53-year-old called on the FBI to investigate what happened.
“Ramirez, who was raised a devout Catholic, in Connecticut, said that she was shaken,” Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer report for the magazine. “She remembers Kavanaugh standing to her right and laughing, pulling up his pants. … She recalled another male student shouting about the incident. ‘Somebody yelled down the hall, ‘Brett Kavanaugh just put his penis in Debbie’s face,’’ she said. ‘It was his full name. I don’t think it was just ‘Brett.’ And I remember hearing and being mortified that this was out there.’
“The New Yorker has not confirmed with other eyewitnesses that Kavanaugh was present at the party,” the story continues. “A classmate of Ramirez’s, who declined to be identified because of the partisan battle over Kavanaugh’s nomination, said that another student told him about the incident either on the night of the party or in the next day or two. The classmate said that he is ‘one-hundred-per-cent sure’ that he was told at the time that Kavanaugh was the student who exposed himself to Ramirez. He independently recalled many of the same details offered by Ramirez, including that a male student had encouraged Kavanaugh as he exposed himself. …
“James Roche was roommates with Kavanaugh at the time of the alleged incident and is now the C.E.O. of a software company in San Francisco. ‘Debbie and I became close friends shortly after we both arrived at Yale,’ he said. ‘She stood out as being exceptionally honest and gentle. I cannot imagine her making this up.’ He said that he never witnessed Kavanaugh engage in any sexual misconduct, but did recall him being ‘frequently, incoherently drunk.’”
The story added a new layer of uncertainty about Kavanaugh’s prospects just hours after Christine Blasey Ford formally agreed to testify under oath before Congress this Thursday about her allegation that he sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school — and covered her mouth when she screamed for help.
Just as he did when Ford came forward the previous Sunday, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee categorically denied Ramirez’s charge. He called the New Yorker story “a smear, plain and simple.”
“I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name — and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building — against these last-minute allegations,” Kavanaugh said in a statement.
The White House issued a statement saying Trump “stands firmly” behind Kavanaugh. Aides also circulated a New York Times story that said its reporters “interviewed several dozen people over the past week in an attempt to corroborate [Ramirez’s] story, and could find no one with firsthand knowledge.”
But Republicans on Capitol Hill are increasingly unsure about whether he’ll have the votes to get confirmed, even with Trump’s strong support. Here are 10 questions that will determine the outcome:
1) Will additional women come forward?
Republicans are privately worried more shoes will drop.
Attorney Michael Avenatti, who represents adult entertainer Stormy Daniels, claimed Sunday on Twitter that he has a client with information about misconduct by Kavanaugh in high school.
My client is not Deborah Ramirez.— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) September 23, 2018
2) Will Mark Judge be subpoenaed?
Ford alleges that Kavanaugh’s friend and Georgetown Prep classmate was present in the bedroom at the house party when he attempted to rape her. Judge told the Weekly Standard that the professor’s allegation was “just absolutely nuts” because, “I never saw Brett act that way. … I don’t remember any of that stuff going on with girls.”
Judge said through a lawyer that he does not want to testify, and Senate Republicans are blocking requests by both the purported victim and Democratic lawmakers to compel him to appear.
Buried low in the lengthy New Yorker story is this remarkable paragraph that shines a light on why Judge might be so reluctant to answer questions under oath:
“After seeing Judge’s denial, Elizabeth Rasor, who met Judge at Catholic University and was in a relationship with him for about three years, said that she felt morally obligated to challenge his account that ‘no horseplay’ took place at Georgetown Prep with women. … ‘I can’t stand by and watch him lie.’ In an interview with The New Yorker, she said, ‘Mark told me a very different story.’ Rasor recalled that Judge had told her ashamedly of an incident that involved him and other boys taking turns having sex with a drunk woman. Rasor said that Judge seemed to regard it as fully consensual. She said that Judge did not name others involved in the incident, and she has no knowledge that Kavanaugh participated. … (Barbara Van Gelder, an attorney for Judge, said that he ‘categorically denies’ the account related by Rasor. Van Gelder said that Judge had no further comment.)”
3) What are Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski thinking?
No Democrats will vote for Kavanaugh at this point. That means that he’d go down if two of the 51 Republican senators defect.
The two senators considered likeliest to flip are the moderate women from Maine and Alaska, who have remained officially undecided and are both supportive of abortion rights. Each is holding their cards close to the vest. Remember, it was Collins and Murkowski who teamed up with John McCain to block the repeal of Obamacare last year. Because Roy Moore lost the special election in Alabama last December, the GOP now has one fewer seat than it did then.
If just one GOP senator defected, Vice President Pence would break the tie. But that’s a political headache for Republicans, too, because members like Nevada’s Dean Heller in 2018 and Cory Gardner in 2020 would inevitably face attack ads that accuse them of casting the deciding vote to put an accused sexual predator on the high court. Every Senate Democrat who had a tough race in 2010, 2012 and 2014 faced such messaging over their vote for Obamacare, and it was quite effective.
Also keep an eye on Jeff Flake. Retiring this year, the Arizona Republican is thinking a lot about his legacy. Is this a vote he wants to define it? Because Republicans have an 11 to 10 majority on the Judiciary Committee, which he’s a member of, Flake could block Kavanaugh from being endorsed if he came out against him. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is also retiring and could be a wild card.
4) Can Senate Republicans appear fair-minded during this process?
It will be much easier to confirm Kavanaugh if the American people perceive that Ford is being given a fair hearing, and that her allegations are taken seriously. But the trade-off is that Republicans also need to express support for Kavanaugh in the face of attacks from Democrats.
“We’re going to plow right through it,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) boasted during a speech on Friday to a group of conservative activists. “Don’t get rattled by all of this.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on “Fox News Sunday” that Ford’s testimony alone won’t be able to sway his vote. “What am I supposed to do, go and ruin this guy’s life based on an accusation? … I’m just being honest: Unless there’s something more, no, I’m not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh’s life over this,” said Graham, before the publication of the New Yorker story.
Editorial cartoonist Ann Telnaes illustrated how Graham has made up his mind:
5) Can Senate Democrats avoid showboating?
The White House is working to portray the allegations as politically motivated, and the opposition to Kavanaugh as partisan and circuslike. It’ll be easier to get Kavanaugh through if Democrats play into that narrative. Two members of the Judiciary Committee who plan to run for president in 2020, Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Cory Booker (N.J.), are most at risk of doing this. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who has drawn plaudits from the left and mockery from the right for her strong criticisms of Kavanaugh in recent days, is another wild card.
6) Can Kavanaugh keep his cool in the hot seat?
The nominee grew frustrated during tense practice sessions at the White House last week when he was asked questions that dug into his private life, particularly his drinking habits and his sexual proclivities, three people familiar with the preparations told Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey. There were certain questions he simply refused to answer, claiming they were too personal. “I’m not going to answer that,” Kavanaugh said at one point, according to a senior White House official.
7) Who will question Ford?
“Ford’s attorneys said Sunday that they agreed to the hearing despite the committee’s refusal to let her speak after Kavanaugh’s testimony … or ask the FBI to look into her allegations in advance of her appearance,” per Karoun Demirjian, Amy Gardner and Seung Min Kim. “Ford’s lawyers also said they had not been told whether the Republican senators on the committee would themselves ask Ford questions or defer to staff or an independent lawyer to question her. It is customary that senators ask their own questions during public hearings. But there is a potential political risk if the all-male, all-white roster of Republicans on the panel — few of whom have any experience questioning sexual assault victims — grills Ford in a way that reminds viewers of 1991, when Anita Hill told the panel that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had repeatedly sexually harassed her.”
8) Will Trump bite his tongue?
It took five days for the president to lash out at Ford. “I have no doubt that if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says,” he tweeted on Friday, “charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.”
This prompted many women to share personal stories on social media of why they didn’t report sexual assaults to law enforcement.
Collins, the swing vote from Maine, said she was “appalled” by Trump’s comments.
McConnell called Trump a few hours later to tell him his tweets criticizing the professor were undermining his ability to shore up Republican votes. The president subsequently stayed quiet through the weekend, as he hit the links. It’s hardly a safe bet, though, that he’ll stay self-disciplined through the week. Imagine him live tweeting the hearing. As Graham put it on Fox, “I would advise the president to let us handle this.”
9) How many Republican politicians appear to trivialize the allegations?
Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who is challenging Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, issued a statement on Saturday to clarify comments he made about Ford the day before during a radio interview. He had said her accusation is “even more absurd” than what Hill said about Thomas because the alleged assault occurred when both Ford and Kavanaugh were teenagers. In his statement, he insisted that he was not saying sexual assault committed by teenagers is less serious. The kerfuffle highlighted the political peril even for candidates who won’t be forced to cast a vote on Kavanaugh, even in one of the reddest states in the country.
Meanwhile, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said “no man will ever qualify for the Supreme Court again” if Kavanaugh is felled because of Ford’s allegation. “I’m thinking, is there any man in this room that wouldn’t be subjected to such an allegation? A false allegation?” the congressman said at an Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition event on Saturday, according to the Des Moines Register. “How can you disprove something like that? Which means, if that’s the new standard, no man will ever qualify for the Supreme Court again.”
10) Who else will get caught up in the whirlwind?
Billy Bush’s career was destroyed by his comments to Trump on the “Access Hollywood” tape. But while NBC axed him from the “Today” show after the 2005 video emerged, Trump got elected president a month later. It’s possible that Kavanaugh could get confirmed, but others will have their careers derailed.
Kavanaugh’s friend Ed Whelan offered to resign from his position as president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, for example, after suggesting last week that Ford may have mistaken him for another student. He later deleted the tweets, and Ford said she wouldn’t confuse them. “Whelan’s offer [to resign] was not accepted by the board of the Washington-based center, which decided instead to place him on a leave of absence following the tweets, which he has since described as ‘appalling and inexcusable,’” Tom Hamburger reports. “In an interview Friday with The Washington Post, Whelan denied talking with the White House or Kavanaugh before tweeting his thoughts on the assault complaint made by Ford.”
And a communications adviser to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley resigned on Friday night as NBC was preparing to report that he’d been let go from a previous job in North Carolina for sexual harassment. Garrett Ventry denied the allegation, but he said he was leaving Grassley’s office “in order to not be a distraction” during the final push for Kavanaugh.
-- Read more coverage:
- Jenna Johnson and Torey Van Oot: “‘It’s hard to say what is real and what isn’t’: Women wrestle with accusation against Kavanaugh.”
- Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Robert Costa: “The party of men: Kavanaugh fight risks worsening the Trump GOP’s gender problem.”
- Jessica Contrera, Ian Shapira, Emma Brown and Steve Hendrix: “Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford moved 3,000 miles to reinvent her life. It wasn’t far enough.”
- Marc Fisher and Perry Stein: “‘100 Kegs or Bust’: Kavanaugh friend, Mark Judge, has spent years writing about high school debauchery.”
- Ann Gerhart and Danielle Rindler: “How #MeToo has changed the D.C. power structure — so far.”
- Travis M. Andrews: “Alyssa Milano weighs in on Kavanaugh allegations as #WhyIDidntReport goes viral.”
- E.J. Dionne Jr.: “The Kavanaugh confirmation is a festival of misdirection and ugliness.”
- Politico: “Kavanaugh confirmation in renewed peril after second assault claim.”
- Fox News: “Poll: Record number of voters oppose Kavanaugh nomination.”
- New York Times: “Constrained From Fighting, Trump Is Left a Spectator With Kavanaugh in Peril.”
- Wall Street Journal: “Lawyer for Kavanaugh’s Accuser Faces Tough Scrutiny: Debra Katz has worked on women’s rights for decades, but the political, social and legal stakes in the Kavanaugh case raise the bar.”
- Daily Beast: “Republicans Fret That Kavanaugh Push Will Crush Them in Midterm Elections.”
- USA Today: “Read Christine Blasey Ford's letter detailing the alleged assault by Brett Kavanaugh.”
- New York magazine: “Everything to Know About the #BelieveSurvivors Walkout in Solidarity with Christine Blasey Ford.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig is under scrutiny from federal prosecutors in Manhattan for work he conducted on behalf of Ukraine at his former law firm in 2012. The effort was coordinated by Paul Manafort and is being probed as an offshoot of Robert Mueller’s broader Russia investigation. Tom Hamburger reports: “Craig’s case — and that of two Washington lobbyists who worked with Manafort on Ukrainian matters — was referred last April to New York prosecutors, who appear to be focused on whether the three failed to register as foreign agents while working with Manafort’s Ukrainian clients. No charges have been filed, and representatives for the three men have expressed confidence that their clients did not violate the law. Still, the investigation of Craig … along with lobbyists Vin Weber and Tony Podesta, has shaken Washington’s lobbying and legal community, which until recently had faced little scrutiny of its representation of foreign clients.”
GET SMART FAST:
- India launched its vast new government health program called Modicare — expanding coverage to roughly a half-billion citizens as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to lay the groundwork for his reelection campaign next year. Modicare has been touted as the world’s largest government-funded health initiative. It's less clear, however, whether it will actually work — and who, exactly, will foot the bill. (Vidhi Doshi)
- Fentanyl accounted for nearly three-quarters of overdose deaths in Ohio last year, according to a new report from the state’s health department. In total, authorities found that more than 3,430 deaths were attributed to the powerful synthetic opioid — a 46 percent spike from the previous year. (Columbus Dispatch)
- Two former ProPublica reporters are launching a news site aimed at investigating tech companies. The project, led by journalists Julia Angwin and Jeff Larson, has been largely funded through a $20 million gift from Craigslist founder Craig Newmark. (New York Times)
- PayPal announced it will stop processing payments for Infowars and its founder, Alex Jones — becoming the latest tech giant to ban the well-known conspiracy theorist from its platform. The announcement could deliver a major financial blow to Infowars since PayPal currently handles all transactions from the site’s online store. (New York Times)
- A tiny clip inserted into the heart has been shown to sharply reduce death rates among those with severe heart failure. Scientists said patients who were treated with the clip reported fewer hospitalizations and improved quality of life. (New York Times)
- A new study found female employees receive a smaller share of stock compensation from their companies than their male counterparts. The new research from the Silicon Valley firm Carta shows women hold 47 cents in company equity for every $1 held by men. (Brian Fung)
- Russia is trying to lure white South African farmers to its rural countryside. The mission combines Vladimir Putin’s professed admiration for a white, Christian order with some white South Africans’ anxiety about possible land redistribution aimed at combating racial inequality. (Amie Ferris-Rotman)
Thousands of dead and dying fish were left behind on North Carolina’s Interstate 40 as Hurricane Florence's floodwaters recede. Firefighters used a hose to wash away the fish, which caused a horrible stench and a potential road hazard. (Reis Thebault)
Tiger Woods won his first PGA tournament since August 2013. Woods claimed victory at the Tour Championship, his 80th PGA Tour triumph. (Cindy Boren)
MORE FROM THE #METOO MOVEMENT:
-- Bill Cosby’s sentencing hearing begins today. He was convicted in April of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004. From the AP’s Maryclaire Dale: “At the end of the potentially two-day hearing, Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill could sentence Cosby to as much as 30 years in prison or send him home on probation. The state guidelines for someone like Cosby, with no prior convictions, call for about one to four years behind bars.”
-- A Minnesota state representative ended his reelection bid after his daughter accused him of repeatedly molesting her. Reis Thebault reports: “In a statement Friday, Jim Knoblach [R], of St. Cloud, Minn., denied the accusations but said he was ending his campaign because he was ‘not willing to spend six weeks fighting with my daughter in the media.’ ‘I love my children more than anything, and would never do anything to hurt them,’ Knoblach’s statement read. ‘Her allegations are false.’ Knoblach’s announcement came as Minnesota Public Radio News prepared to publish a lengthy report that detailed the allegations against the eight-term state representative and included interviews with his daughter, Laura Knoblach, who shared extensive documentation with the station. In that account, Laura Knoblach, who is now 23, said the abuse began when she was 9 years old and her father entered her room after she had gone to bed, got in and laid down behind her."
-- Jason Miller, who was the 2016 Trump campaign communications director, stepped down as a CNN contributor to focus on clearing his name amid new accusations. From the Hollywood Reporter’s Jeremy Barr: “[Miller] has been embroiled in a protracted legal dispute with A.J. Delgado, a former campaign staffer with whom he fathered a child. Miller and Delgado have battled on Twitter and in various legal motions involving custody of their child. On Friday, the website Splinter published a story detailing new allegations against Miller, put forth by Delgado. ‘Delgado’s legal team alleges that Miller — prior to their own high-profile extramarital romance — carried out an affair with a woman he met at an Orlando strip club,’ according to the report. ‘Additionally, the court documents claim, when the woman found out she was pregnant, Miller surreptitiously dosed her with an abortion pill without her knowledge, leading, the woman claims, to the pregnancy’s termination and nearly her death.’ Miller on Saturday said on Twitter that ‘there is no validity to the false accusations made in the document.’”
-- An Alaska man accused of kidnapping a woman from a gas station, strangling her until she passed out and masturbating on her, will spend no time in prison. From Amy B Wang: “[Justin] Schneider was charged with one count of felony kidnapping and three counts of assault, as well as one misdemeanor count of harassment involving ‘offensive contact with fluids,’ according to court records. He originally faced a sentence of between five and 99 years in prison ... On Wednesday, Schneider accepted a deal in which he pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree felony assault in exchange for the dismissal of his other assault, kidnapping and harassment charges. He was sentenced to two years in prison with one year suspended. However, because Schneider was given credit for a year under house arrest, he will not serve additional time in prison. He will be required to continue wearing an ankle monitor and participate in a treatment program.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Trump and other world leaders will gather this week in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly.
-- U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is expected to have a lower profile than during last year's confab. Anne Gearan and John Hudson report: “[Haley] is among a select few Cabinet aides who speak frequently and directly with the president, a sore spot for some White House officials. But [her] public role has narrowed as Trump’s national security Cabinet was shuffled over the past year and advisers who advanced more nationalist agendas on trade, immigration and international engagement gained favor . . . A pair of incidents in which Haley announced policies or plans that were quickly changed also raised questions about her footing in the administration as [Secretary of State Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton] took over from more passive and ideologically moderate aides. In both cases, several senior officials said she was unfairly scapegoated. At the same time, Haley’s influence at the [U.N.] has been blunted by Trump policy decisions that many other nations opposed.”
Haley told reporters that Trump’s speech will focus on American sovereignty and foreign aid. The speech was written largely by senior Trump adviser and immigration hard-liner Stephen Miller, who clashed with Haley just days ago over the administration’s new cap on refugee resettlement.
Pompeo’s agenda will be largely focused on North Korea: “Pompeo will chair a Security Council session where he will lay out Trump’s hopes for a peaceful dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and warn countries that bust U.N. sanctions on the country.”
Former U.S. officials say Bolton will be tempted to dictate how Haley does her job partly because he used to have the same one: Longtime Bolton aides called tensions between the two inevitable. “Bolton runs an imperial NSC,” said former Bolton adviser Mark Groombridge. “Of course he’s going to want to exert influence over Ambassador Haley.”
-- This is the first major international gathering since Trump’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal. The Wall Street Journal's Farnaz Fassihi and Michael R. Gordon report on how that will cloud proceedings: “Mr. Trump and top officials plan to use the U.N. forum . . . to denounce Iran, and mobilize international support for isolating the country through crippling sanctions. A key component of their complaint will be Iran’s meddling in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen and its continued financial and military support of militant groups . . . But the Europeans plan to counter the U.S. position[:] British, French and German diplomats plan to meet Monday with counterparts from Iran and other parties to the accord — Russia and China — to try to persuade Tehran to stick with the agreement as U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil exports take hold[.] Iran, for its part, will attempt to widen the gap between the U.S. and Europe by portraying itself as abiding by its commitments while the U.S. disregards international accords.”
-- “On Sunday, Pompeo said there were no plans for a meeting between Trump and Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani … but coyly suggested a tete-a-tete with the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei could be ‘an important and interesting conversation,'” per Anne Gearan and John Hudson.
-- Dozens of prominent U.S. foreign policy figures issued a public statement warning that Trump is risking a “potential war” with Iran, unless he engages with the country “using diplomacy, not just pressure tactics,” Politico’s Nahal Toosi reports: “The statement … is unusual in that it acknowledges the legitimacy of Trump’s criticisms of Iran’s overall behavior, even as it pushes the president to rethink his strategy. ‘Applying pressure and unilateral sanctions without viable diplomatic options . . . could lead to a more dangerous, destructive and enduring regional conflict with Iran,’ argue the more than 50 people who signed the statement. Among the signatories: former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper … former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright … and [Bush-era] Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill … The administration’s approach so far, which does not include diplomatic outreach of any significance, ‘has left Iran the option of either capitulation or war,’ the statement declares.”
-- The U.N. meeting comes as global leaders appear skeptical of Trump's escalating trade war against China. David Nakamura writes: “It’s one that his critics say is being played on Beijing’s terms, as the president has rattled U.S. allies and undermined partners, looked the other way on human rights abuses and cozied up to authoritarian leaders. … The United States had long sought to manage China’s rise by pressuring it to become a more responsible global player and engage in multilateral institutions; now it is the Trump administration that is turning away.”
-- The latest round of tariffs between the United States and China hit today. From Danielle Paquette: “Trump imposed fresh levies on $200 billion in Chinese imports, prompting Beijing to respond with tariffs on $60 billion in American goods, approaching the point of running out of U.S. products to target. Neither of the world’s two largest economies showed signs of backing down, and there are no further trade talks scheduled to resolve the dispute. As the new tariffs hit, the Chinese government released a report accusing the Trump administration of a foreign policy based on ‘trade bullying’ and ‘attempting to impose its own interests on China through extreme pressure,’ according to state media.”
-- U.S. companies are considering moving operations and even laying off some employees because of Trump’s tariffs on Chinese imports. Jeanne Whalen reports: “Cedar Electronics has been selling CB radios to American truckers since the 1960s, helping connect the workers who keep the U.S. economy rolling. But these days Cedar’s business isn’t exactly trucking along. The Chicago-headquartered company is racing around Asia looking for other countries to host its manufacturing, after the radios Cedar makes in China and brings to the United States were hit with one of the Trump administration’s 25 percent tariffs this summer, making them more expensive to import. … The Consumer Technology Association alone has heard from hundreds of U.S. member companies hurt by the levies, many of which are small businesses ill equipped for this sort of tumult … ”
-- Japan fears it will get left behind as North Korea improves its relations with South Korea and the United States but keeps up its hostile rhetoric toward Tokyo. Simon Denyer reports: “Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly expressed his determination to meet [Kim Jong Un] and ‘break the shell of mutual distrust.’ So far there is nothing on the horizon. Just the opposite, in fact. North Korea’s propaganda machine has gone easy on the United States this year. But it has stepped up its vilification of Japan, sparing no opportunity to remind its citizens of Korea’s suffering under Japanese colonial rule in the decades before World War II. … [T]he fast-moving events this year have highlighted Japan’s outlier status as possible deals are cut and new relationships are formed. … Nikkei, an influential financial newspaper, painted a ‘worst-case scenario’ in which North Korea gives up its intercontinental ballistic missiles but retains the ones that can target Japan.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he believes Trump’s enemies in the Justice Department are staging a “bureaucratic coup” against the president, and he called on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel to investigate. Graham’s comments come after the New York Times reported Friday that Rosenstein once floated the idea of wearing a “wire” during conversations with Trump and that there was discussion of invoking the 25th Amendment. (His allies said the remark was made in jest shortly after the abrupt firing of FBI director James Comey.)
“Graham said he didn’t favor firing Rosenstein, who has denied the report and said he never advocated for removal of the president,” Tom Hamburger reports. “‘He shouldn’t fire Rosenstein unless you believe Rosenstein’s lying,’ Graham said. Instead, [he] pointed his finger at others in the department who he said have ‘tried to destroy this president.’ He specifically referred to former FBI officials Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok … [who have all since been fired or left the department]. ‘Before the election, the people in question tried to taint the election, tip it to [Hillary] Clinton’s favor; after the election, they’re trying to undermine the president,” Graham said. He added that he did not know ‘what Rosenstein did, but I know what McCabe or Page and Strzok did. They tried to destroy this president.’" Rosenstein, Graham said, “is doing the country a disservice by not appointing a special counsel” to look into the behavior of FBI officials.
-- After the Rosenstein story broke, Trump polled his staff and monitored Fox News to determine whether he should fire the deputy attorney general. Ultimately, he decided to keep him for now. The AP’s Jonathan Lemire reports: “He received mixed messages. Some urged him to fire Rosenstein. Others suggested restraint while seeing if the report was incorrect or if it was planted by some adversary. Still others believed that firing Rosenstein before the November election would further the Democratic talking point of an administration in disarray and damage the Republicans’ chances of keeping control of Congress. Trump also received conflicting advice from his other team of counselors: the hosts at Fox News. While Laura Ingraham initially urged Trump to fire Rosenstein, Sean Hannity pleaded with the president not to act. ‘It is all a setup,’ said Hannity, seeming to directly address Trump. ‘Under zero circumstances should the president fire anybody.’”
-- “How Russia Helped Swing the Election for Trump,” by the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer: “Few people, including Trump’s opponents, have publicly challenged the widespread belief that no obtainable evidence can prove that Russian interference changed any votes. … [B]ut a new book from, of all places, Oxford University Press promises to be incendiary. ‘Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President—What We Don’t, Can’t, and Do Know,’ by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communications at the University of Pennsylvania, dares to ask—and even attempts to answer—whether Russian meddling had a decisive impact in 2016. Jamieson offers a forensic analysis of the available evidence and concludes that Russia very likely delivered Trump’s victory.”
-- A new Fox News poll found that Democrats hold a seven-point advantage ahead of this year’s midterm elections, leading Republicans 49 to 42 percent among likely voters. Fox News's Dana Blanton reports: “Voters who backed [Hillary Clinton in 2016] are more likely than Trump voters to be more enthusiastic about voting this year compared to past midterms (by 9 points) and more likely to be extremely interested in the election (by 11 points). … When looking only at counties where the 2016 presidential vote was close [defined as within 10 points] … Democrats have a 17-point lead in the ballot test. That’s almost as strong as in Clinton counties, where they are up by 19 points.
- “Republican campaigning on the new tax law will have limited appeal, as 6 voters in 10 aren’t seeing additional money in their paycheck since Trump signed the law, and only 32 percent think the law has helped the economy.
- “Voters also disagree with the president on building a U.S.-Mexico border wall (more oppose by 12 points) and increasing tariffs (more say they will hurt than help the economy by 6 points).
- Trump could do more harm than good by hopping into a race: “[26 percent of voters] say they would be more likely to support a candidate if Trump campaigns for them, but 43 percent would be less likely to do so. That’s a spread of negative 17 points.”
-- Republicans are also facing a glaring gender gap on the generic ballot question, according to fresh Wall Street Journal-NBC News polling. From the Journal’s Janet Hook: “By 3 percentage points, men want Republicans rather than Democrats to control Congress, 47% to 44%. Women, by contrast, favor Democratic control by 25 percentage points — 58% to 33%. Among white voters, the gender disparity was the largest since 2008.”
-- A growing number of Republican seats previously considered safe have become imperiled due to incumbents’ scandals. The New York Times’s Michael Tackett reports: “[Virginia Rep. Scott Taylor’s] campaign is facing accusations that it was part of an improper effort to help an independent candidate get on the ballot and siphon voters from his Democratic challenger. … Democrats, facing comparatively few legal problems and seeking to portray a ‘culture of corruption’ under Republican leadership, have tried to lump Mr. Taylor in with about a half-dozen other Republican candidates whose campaigns have veered off course over accusations of misconduct. They represent a small fraction of the 23 House seats that Democrats need to reclaim control, but in a year when Democrats were already expected to make gains, their fates could prove crucial.”
-- Michelle Obama rallied midterm voters in Las Vegas. From Peter Slevin: “Headlining her first rally for When We All Vote, the nonprofit initiative she launched in July, Obama spoke of her own disappointment with the political moment and criticized efforts to suppress voting by making it more difficult to register or cast ballots. ‘Believe me, I am frustrated, too,’ Obama told a crowd that repeatedly rose to its feel to cheer her return to the political arena. ‘I am sick of all the chaos and the nastiness of our politics.’ … She plans to travel to Miami for a similar rally on Friday, capping a week of events by artists, athletes and celebrities recruited to her new cause.”
-- The Democratic Women’s Working Group, which has largely operated under the sway of Nancy Pelosi, is starting to push back against the House minority leader. Politico’s Rachael Bade reports: “In practical terms, the conflict comes down to whether to hold a full-fledged, open election to decide the women's caucus’ next leader. It’s a sore subject for a group that’s ‘been under Pelosi’s thumb,’ as one lawmaker put it. Three members of the group as well as a handful of staffers [said] they are worried about a repeat of last year, when Pelosi’s office told Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) to stand down in her bid for vice chair because the position was already promised to Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), according to lawmakers and aides familiar with the situation. Lawrence is now vying for the top post, touting herself as Pelosi’s pick. But her detractors say the congresswoman should have to win a legitimate election first.”
-- “Learning to do a double flip: From red to blue and from reporter to politician,” by Marc Fisher: “Knocking on door after door in Charlottesville, Va., [Democratic congressional candidate] Leslie Cockburn, making the pivot from journalist to politician at age 66, peppers people with questions … ‘I covered the world for ‘60 Minutes’ and ‘Frontline,’ ’ Cockburn says. ‘Then we bought a beautiful farm in Rappahannock 20 years ago. It’s really unusual for a journalist to jump over the wall, but I did it because I feel like we’re really in trouble.’ … Indeed, before the caucus in April in which Virginia Democrats chose their candidate in a generally Republican district that is larger than New Jersey, sprawling from the D.C. exurbs to the North Carolina border, Cockburn had booked tickets to spend this summer at her husband’s family homestead in Ireland. ‘But then we won,’ she said. … And now she has knocked on more than 5,000 doors. In a district Trump won by 11 points, she goes everywhere.”
THE JARED FACTOR:
-- In recent months, Jared Kushner has been quietly but aggressively courting wealthy Republican donors who are deeply skeptical of his father-in-law. Earlier this month, Kushner met behind closed doors with some of the GOP’s most powerful donors in midtown Manhattan, Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports. “The mission: convince them that the Trump White House isn’t a mess. . . . The appearance before the secretive American Opportunity Alliance donor conference, previously unreported, sheds light on the latest addition to Kushner’s expansive portfolio: ambassador to the GOP money set, a contingent that remains wary of the administration and its never-ending tumult. The 37-year-old Trump senior adviser has attended at least four donor gatherings since August, and … has been in regular contact with Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson … Kushner's charm offensive reflects a broader realization within the Trump White House that after dismissing elite donors in 2016, they are now a constituency that must be carefully tended to.”
-- “A New York City councilman plans to introduce a bill to close the ‘Kushner loophole’ that fails to check up on landlords if they file false documents with the city,” ABC News’s Bernard Condon reports. “The move follows an [AP report] that Jared Kushner's family real estate company filed dozens of false documents with the city claiming it had no rent-regulated tenants in many of its buildings. That allowed it to avoid strict oversight of construction that critics say was used to drive out low-paying tenants. Councilman Ritchie Torres says his bill would require the city's buildings department to check with tax records to validate such claims. If any false submission is discovered, the landlord's entire portfolio of buildings would be subject to an audit."
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Senate Republicans were mostly radio silent on Twitter last night about the latest allegation against Kavanaugh, but Democrats seized on the news. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) called on the nominee to withdraw:
Enough is enough. One credible sexual assault claim should have been too many to get a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court and make decisions that will affect millions of women’s lives for generations. Two is an embarrassment. It’s time for a new nominee.— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) September 24, 2018
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) demanded that Mark Judge be compelled to testify:
The FBI must investigate these claims and Dr. Blasey Ford’s. It is also more clear than ever that Mark Judge must be compelled to testify in front of the Judiciary Committee. https://t.co/wzaZWH1ygc— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) September 24, 2018
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) predicted how his GOP colleagues would react:
This week I predict lots of furrowed brows among Republicans as they fall into line with the Federalist Society marching orders and mutter their process concerns to their spouses and in off the record convos w press.— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) September 24, 2018
From Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.):
News of a second sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh is being rebutted by Republicans on grounds that it’s not “corroborated." They stopped the FBI investigation that might have corroborated Professor Ford’s testimony and now complain about corroboration? Unbelievable.— Sheldon Whitehouse (@SenWhitehouse) September 24, 2018
From the communications director of Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who sits on the Judiciary Committee:
If any Republicans on Capitol Hill knew of the New Yorker story prior to today, they most certainly did not tell me or anyone on our staff. We first heard about it when Drudge posted it this afternoon.— Conn Carroll (@conncarroll) September 24, 2018
Some conservative commentators have taken to making this argument about the allegations against Kavanaugh:
The reason Republicans are standing with Kavanaugh is because we know he is innocent and we know the Dems would falsely accuse Jesus himself if the GOP had nominated him. No matter who the GOP put forward, the Dems would accuse him or her of crimes— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) September 23, 2018
From a Bloomberg News reporter:
Seven out of eight sitting Supreme Court justices were confirmed without facing allegations of sexual misconduct. Again, even if you believe Kavanaugh is innocent and being treated unfairly, it’s ahistorical to suggest this is a standard part of a heated confirmation process.— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) September 24, 2018
A CNN reporter shared this statistic:
According to @RAINN, "calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline were up 42% on Friday and Saturday compared to an average Friday and Saturday." The # is 800-656-4673.— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) September 23, 2018
Some people have continued to share their own stories in light of the allegations. From a Post columnist:
I don’t remember whose birthday party it was. I don’t remember the man’s name. It was at a stable. He ran the stable. Little girls love to hang around horses. I cringe at how many little girls he may have done this to.— Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) September 23, 2018
A New York Times reporter previewed a line of defense from Kavanaugh's team: They have his calendars from 1982, and they don't show the party in question.
Kavanaugh has calendars from summer 1982 that he plans to give the Senate that don't show a party that matches Blasey Ford's description, according to someone working for his confirmation. Calendars can't prove it didn't happen but his team will argue there is no corroboration.— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) September 23, 2018
A reporter for The Intercept replied:
Kavanaugh boasted in his yearbook that he and his friend took part in drinking 100 kegs of beer in 1982-1983; if those binge drinking sessions we know took place are not noted in his calendars, they are not a full record of his activities. https://t.co/PNiNrGyacd— Robert Mackey (@RobertMackey) September 23, 2018
From a HuffPost reporter:
Mom: did u have a party while we were gone— Laura Bassett (@LEBassett) September 23, 2018
Mom: why is there a beer bottle in my bed
Me: I don’t know. but as you can see I didn’t write any party down in my calendar
Mom: oh. carry on https://t.co/1HdC4rIJ3a
From a comedy writer and New Yorker contributor:
*1982*— Jason O. Gilbert (@gilbertjasono) September 23, 2018
MARK JUDGE: Hey Luke's parents are out of town, Dave stole a keg of Rolling Rock and Chip got fireworks so—
BRETT KAVANAUGH [transcribing in his day planner]: “Dave…stole…” a keg of Rolling Rock, was it?
From a Democratic strategist:
Just to establish an important standard. If it does not appear on my calendar, I didn’t do it. #KavanaughConfirmationHearing— Scott Ferson (@scottferson) September 24, 2018
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) responded after six of his siblings appeared in an ad for his Democratic opponent:
My siblings who chose to film ads against me are all liberal Democrats who hate President Trump. These disgruntled Hillary suppporters are related by blood to me but like leftists everywhere, they put political ideology before family. Stalin would be proud. #Az04 #MAGA2018— Paul Gosar (@DrPaulGosar) September 22, 2018
The Chinese government used a local newspaper in a key swing state to push back against some of Trump's claims, per a Bloomberg News reporter:
CHINA sends a message to Trump and Ambassador Branstad by taking over 4 pages of Des Moines Register.— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) September 23, 2018
Advertising supplement has “news” on:
—China buying soybeans from South America due to “trade row”
—Xi Jinping’s “fun days in Iowa”
—“Beijing can set an example for the world.” pic.twitter.com/axquXHyPaz
A presidential historian remembered this modest moment:
Unforgettable day when LBJ gave the Pope a bust of LBJ, December 1967: pic.twitter.com/LK9kOpWpRw— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) September 23, 2018
A former speechwriter for George W. Bush witnessed this scary moment:
Still bothered by this: About 8 am this morning, I witnessed a reckless bicyclist nearly knock down 81 yo former SecState @madeleine as she opened her car door in Georgetown. He cursed her, then zoomed away at high speed. Zero emissions doesn't exempt from basic decency— David Frum (@davidfrum) September 22, 2018
But the former secretary of state was unfazed:
-- New York Times, “Welcome to College. Your Parents Are in the Tents Next Door,” by Javier C. Hernández: “Parents of first-year college students in China live in tents on campus to make goodbyes easier. Critics say they are pampering a generation of only children.”
-- “The town that gave the world Spam is proud to be ‘autism-friendly,’” by Amy Ellis Nutt: “The tall teenager with the buzz cut opened the museum door, extended a large hand and said cheerily, ‘Welcome to the Spam Museum.’ Samuel Ehret is an official ‘Spambassador’ at the museum, a hot spot for tourists who have a taste for the much-mocked canned meat that has been made here by Hormel Foods for 81 years. Samuel is also autistic, and he got this job because he loves all things Spam — its taste, its history, and especially the museum’s showpiece: a motorcycle that runs on bacon grease. He also landed the job because Austin is an autism-friendly town. Ten years ago, it became one of the first in the country to launch a community-wide effort both to reduce the disorder’s stigma and make local businesses aware of the special needs of autistic customers.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Northwest Side priest who burned rainbow banner removed from church effective immediately, 'must take time away from the parish,'” from the Chicago Tribune: “Days after it was revealed that the Rev. Paul Kalchik of Avondale’s Resurrection Catholic Church burned a rainbow banner that once hung in the church, Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, has removed him from his role as head of the North Side church. ‘For some weeks now, I have become increasingly concerned about a number of issues …’ [Cupich said in a letter]. ‘It has become clear to me that Fr. Kalchik must take time away [to] receive pastoral support ...’ [A] spokeswoman for the archdiocese said the move was not connected to Kalchik’s decision to destroy the banner, a move criticized by some in the community who called it an anti-gay hate crime. It’s not immediately known whether Cupich’s decision to remove Kalchik is final, or whether Kalchik will be reinstated at the Avondale church. It is also not known what other issues the Archdiocese of Chicago was concerned about, or what role, if any, Kalchik will play in the church.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“State agency rejects Va. school district’s plan to arm school employees,” from Debbie Truong: “A Virginia school district’s effort to arm teachers and other school employees has encountered a setback after a state agency refused to endorse the district’s plan. The Department of Criminal Justice Services rejected Lee County Superintendent Brian Austin’s application to register as an armed special conservator of the peace, a designation the district hoped would permit school employees to carry firearms in schools. … The [school board] unanimously approved a plan in July that would select an unspecified number of teachers and staff members to carry concealed weapons or store the guns in safes on school property. District leaders have argued that the cash-strapped school system can’t afford to hire armed law enforcement officers … for its 11 schools. Administrators say arming school workers is the best alternative. Applicants are subjected to background screenings and psychological evaluations and receive training, Lee school system officials said.”
Trump is in New York today. He will address a meeting this morning on the “Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem.” He will later meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to sign the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. He will also hold meetings with the leaders of Egypt and France before participating in a photo line with the first lady.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Nikki Haley was asked by ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos whether she had “ever been part of any discussion on pursuing the 25th Amendment.” The U.N. ambassador responded: “I've never heard it. I don't think that's a reality at all among all of the Cabinet members. I've just never heard that. That’s absurd.” (ABC News)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It should a bit cooler and rainy in the District today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Periods of rain are likely and, when there isn’t steady rain, we’ll probably have drizzle and mist. The damp overcast puts a lid on temperatures, which reach only the mid-60s. Rainfall potential is about half an inch with light winds from the northeast.”
-- The Redskins beat the Packers 31-17. (Samantha Pell)
-- The Nationals lost to the Mets 8-6. (Jesse Dougherty)
-- “The Maryland attorney general’s race has become a referendum on the anti-Trump resistance,” Rachel Chason writes. “Democratic incumbent Brian E. Frosh touts his success suing the administration over issues including the president’s travel ban and his rollback of environmental regulations, while Republican challenger Craig Wolf says such lawsuits are a waste of tax dollars and outside Frosh’s job description. In deep-blue Maryland, where Trump won just 34 percent of the vote in 2016, the resistance seems to be winning. A recent Goucher College poll shows Frosh, a former state senator and delegate, with a 32-point lead over Wolf.”
-- Undocumented immigrants accused of minor crimes in the District have found themselves vulnerable to possible deportation, despite the city's status as a sanctuary city. From Peter Hermann: “The issue recently sparked frustration among city leaders and anger among activists when a man suspected of theft was taken from the D.C. courthouse last month and handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Benjamin Ordoñez, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, was accused of stealing a purse containing $200. … That’s because, unlike in other cities, the District’s judicial system is run not only by local agencies, but also through federal partners that do not adhere to the city’s sanctuary policies. Prosecutors and workers who conduct pre- and post-trial supervision of arrestees are federal employees. So are U.S. marshals, who provide security and transport inmates — and took Ordoñez into custody after his court hearing.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
John Oliver argued Facebook has failed to adequately monitor misinformation and hate speech around the world:
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will launch a million-dollar ad buy today focusing on two bills he signed that were championed by women’s groups. The ad features his daughter, who became one of his most effective surrogates in 2014, and his granddaughter:
A boy held for months by ICE was reunited with his family, who sued the government to get him out of federal custody:
A very emotional scene inside Dulles airport this morning when an 11 y/o, held by ICE for 6 months, reunited with his mother & grandmother. He claimed asylum at the border and was detained, yet the mom was already living legally in VA. She sued the Trump administration & won. pic.twitter.com/rJaH7Eqh3q— Patrick Torphy (@PatrickTorphy) September 22, 2018
And a massive crowd joined Tiger Woods to see him win his first PGA tournament in over five years: