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Updated: 18 hours 15 min ago

Senate panel sets Kavanaugh-Ford showdown hearing for Thursday

Sun, 09/23/2018 - 17:52

After days of behind the scenes wrangling, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced on Sunday afternoon that the panel will hold a hearing on Thursday to take public testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct at a high school party in the early 1980’s.

The panel had originally set a Monday morning vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, but after a weekend of talks – which still hasn’t resolved all the details for the hearing – committee Republicans agreed to allow Ford to present her case in a public hearing, posting a new hearing notice on the committee’s website.

“Dr. Ford believes it is important for Senators hear directly from her about the sexual assault committed against her,” Ford’s legal team told reporters in a statement, adding that a ‘number of important procedural and logistical issues remain unresolved.’

Ford’s lawyers said the committee had rejected a request to invite other witnesses, specifically naming Mark Judge, a high school classmate of Kavanaugh; Ford says Judge was a direct witness to her assault.

The current committee plan is for only two witnesses – one would be Ford, to be followed then by Judge Kavanaugh, who has sternly denied any wrongdoing involving Ford.

GOP Senators and the White House said Ford has offered no corroborating evidence to back up her allegations.

“Dr. Christine Ford claimed she was assaulted at a house party attended by four others,” said White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec. “Since then, all four of these individuals have provided statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee denying any knowledge of the incident or even having attended such a party.”

“These official letters from the 4 named by Dr Ford — denying any knowledge of what Dr Ford has alleged — serve the same purpose as sworn testimony,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

NEWS: Attorney for Leland Keyser, who Dr Ford says was at the party where the alleged incident with Kavanaugh occurred says “Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford.” pic.twitter.com/l2F0s396IK

— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) September 23, 2018

The Thursday hearing would be a high stakes political event, drawing immediate comparisons to the extra hearings held for the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas, when he defended himself against public accusations of sexual harassment by law professor Anita Hill.

Unlike that hearing in October of 1991, neither Kavanaugh nor Ford is currently expected to have testimony from additional witnesses.

GOP: Claims of Kavanaugh accuser not backed up by possible witnesses

Sun, 09/23/2018 - 11:19

Even as lawyers for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford negotiated with the Senate Judiciary Committee over the terms of her possible testimony later this week, a series of possible corroborating witnesses did not back up Ford’s allegations that she was sexually assaulted by Judge Brett Kavanaugh at a party in the 1980’s, raising questions about her explosive claims which have delayed consideration of Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.

“Dr. Christine Ford claimed she was assaulted at a house party attended by four others,” said White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec. “Since then, all four of these individuals have provided statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee denying any knowledge of the incident or even having attended such a party.”

“These official letters from the 4 named by Dr Ford — denying any knowledge of what Dr Ford has alleged — serve the same purpose as sworn testimony,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

NEWS: Attorney for Leland Keyser, who Dr Ford says was at the party where the alleged incident with Kavanaugh occurred says “Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford.” pic.twitter.com/l2F0s396IK

— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) September 23, 2018

Also raising questions about the lack of supporting evidence was Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who tweeted out the phrase “rope-a-dope” on Saturday – a boxing technique made famous by Muhammad Ali in the 1970’s, designed as a way to tire out your opponent.

Despite all the reports about an agreement for testimony by Ford, nothing was certain, as the Senate Judiciary Committee was still planning to work with Ford’s legal team on Sunday on the timing of her testimony.

It was possible that both Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford would testify on Thursday, as Senate Democrats pressed for a further investigation into Ford’s claim from the early 1980’s.

“We must treat Dr. Ford’s allegation against Judge Kavanaugh seriously,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA). “We should not rush this process and hurry to a vote.”

As day broke on a chilly, wet morning on Capitol Hill on Sunday, there was still no concrete schedule in place, as GOP Senators were feeling pressure about their votes not only from Democrats, but also from conservative Republican activists.

Your sources are not accurate. I will not be voting "present" https://t.co/EqMGetXmRT

— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) September 23, 2018

But Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) also made it clear he wants to hear more about the situation.

“Progress on a Judiciary Committee hearing is being made,” Flake tweeted on Saturday. “This is good.”

Republicans had originally planned for a Monday vote on Kavanaugh in the Judiciary Committee – that notice was still up on the committee’s website Sunday morning – as another day of political maneuvering seemed at hand.

Drama continues as Senate GOP gives more time to Kavanaugh accuser

Sat, 09/22/2018 - 11:35

After posting a schedule for a Monday morning vote on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court, Republicans late on Friday night gave extra time to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford to consider testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, still trying to work out an agreement for testimony from a woman who accused the judge of sexual misconduct back when they were teenagers, allegations that have thrown Kavanaugh’s nomination into question.

“It’s not my normal approach to b indecisive,” Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) tweeted late Friday night from his home state of Iowa, as he tried to both press ahead with a vote on President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, and hold open the possibility of testimony from Ford.

The late night change of heart created an odd mixture of reaction, as even after Grassley said he was giving more time to Ford’s legal team, Democrats were churning out news releases after midnight criticizing Republicans for their treatment of the allegations leveled against Kavanaugh.

“By blocking both an FBI investigation and a hearing where all three witnesses present during the assault could answer questions under oath, the Senate will fail in its duty to the American people,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

Judge Kavanaugh I just granted another extension to Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed w the statement she made last week to testify to the senate She shld decide so we can move on I want to hear her. I hope u understand. It’s not my normal approach to b indecisive

— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) September 22, 2018

With all the extensions we give Dr Ford to decide if she still wants to testify to the Senate I feel like I’m playing 2nd trombone in the judiciary orchestra and Schumer is the conductor

— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) September 22, 2018

As the sun rose on Saturday morning, it still wasn’t clear whether Ford would testify.

“Dr. Blasey Ford has been clear in her desire to testify following an independent, thorough investigation by the FBI,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL).

But Republicans were still suspicious of the allegations brought by Ford, who says she was sexually attacked by Kavanaugh at a high school party in the 1980’s.

“Their decision to reveal this allegation at the most politically damaging moment reeks of opportunism,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

Under the timeline originally unveiled by the Judiciary Committee on Friday night, Republicans scheduled a vote for Monday morning on a list of judges, with one prominent name at the top of the list:

“Brett M. Kavanaugh, to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,” it read.

The recalcitrance, stubbornness and lack of cooperation we’ve seen from Republicans is unprecedented. And candidly, the dismissive treatment of Dr. Ford is insulting to all sexual assault survivors.

— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) September 22, 2018

Ford’s lawyers wanted her to testify next Thursday – Grassley and Republicans were offering Wednesday. There was also talk of Ford talking directly to investigators in California, instead of traveling to Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, there was no guarantee that Republicans would have the votes to approve the Kavanaugh nomination, as several key Senators, Collins of Maine, Flake of Arizona, and Murkowski of Alaska, have been silent on how they viewed the political fortunes of the nominee.

Collins on Friday had sharply criticized tweets from President Trump which criticized Ford by name, Mr. Trump’s first direct foray into the dispute over what happened at a party 36 years ago.

“In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed on Friday, drawing big cheers at the conservative Values Voters Summit in Washington.

At impasse over testimony by accuser, GOP sets Monday panel vote on Kavanaugh

Sat, 09/22/2018 - 02:15

Ending several days of increasingly political battles over a woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee declared Friday night that they were unable to reach an agreement for the testimony of Kavanaugh’s accuser, and set a committee vote for Monday over the heated objections of Democrats.

“It’s Friday night and nothing’s been agreed to despite our extensive efforts to make testimony possible,” said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Democrats sternly disputed those assertions, charging that Republicans were doing all they could to avoid hearing from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who claimed that Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party during their high school years in the early 1980’s.

“It’s clear that Republicans have learned nothing over the last 27 years,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), referring to the confirmation hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas, which featured accusations of sexual harassment leveled against him by law professor Anita Hill.

Just before the deadline, Ford’s lawyers asked for extra time.

Ford lawyer: “The 10:00 p.m. deadline is arbitrary. Its sole purpose is to bully Dr. Ford and deprive her of the ability to make a considered decision that has life-altering implications for her and her family. She has already been forced out of her home…”

— Nancy Cordes (@nancycordes) September 22, 2018

But Republicans said enough was enough.

“Chairman Grassley has made every effort all week to find a comfortable way for the Senate to hear Dr. Ford’s story, including sending staff to her,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

“Delay, delay, delay,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), as the Senate Judiciary Committee website listed a 10 am Monday “Executive Business Meeting,” where Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination was the first on the list.

Democrats said like with Anita Hill, Ford’s charges merited a review by the FBI, and then hearings by the Judiciary Committee; but the White House and Senate Republicans resisted those calls.

“This strikes us as simply a check-the-box exercise in a rush to confirm Judge Kavanaugh,” a group of Democratic Senators wrote in a joint letter.

“The 11 Republican men on the committee are treating this like a hostage situation,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI). “They just don’t get it.”

Democrats also expressed outrage about President Trump’s first real comments directed at Kavanaugh’s accuser, as the President took to Twitter on Friday morning to say that Ford should have gone to the police 36 years ago if something bad happened.

“When women speak up about sexual assault they should be listened to and supported, not bullied, rushed, or given artificial deadlines,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who was elected partly in 1992 because of the political backlash to how Republicans dealt with Anita Hill’s allegations against Justice Thomas.

To every survivor of sexual assault:
WE BELIEVE YOU.
WE HAVE YOUR BACK. https://t.co/Zx23ePG1ez

— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) September 22, 2018

If Republicans move ahead with a vote in committee on Monday, they could push the Kavanaugh nomination through the full Senate – even with Democrats using every delaying tactic in the book – by the end of next week, just in time to get the judge confirmed before the Supreme Court’s term begins on the First Monday in October.

In tweets, President Trump takes direct aim at Kavanaugh accuser

Fri, 09/21/2018 - 13:36

Breaking his silence on the woman who has leveled sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump on Friday said if the events were “as bad as she says,” then Dr. Christine Blasey Ford should have ‘immediately filed’ charges against the judge in the 1980’s.

“I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents,” the President tweeted from Las Vegas, where he held a campaign rally last night.

“Why didn’t someone call the FBI 36 years ago?” the President said in another tweet.

I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018

The radical left lawyers want the FBI to get involved NOW. Why didn’t someone call the FBI 36 years ago?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018

Those tweets came as the President expressed irritation with the confirmation delays for Judge Kavanaugh, even as GOP Senators were trying to work out an agreement with lawyers for Dr. Ford, on when she might testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Since allegations of sexual misconduct first arose against the Judge, the President has held his tongue both on Twitter and in public, skirting any direct comment, while saying he was ready to give the Senate extra time to deal with the controversy.

But some of his frustration finally boiled over this morning.

At a campaign rally Thursday night in Las Vegas, the President had stuck to his previous script, expressing his support for Judge Kavanaugh, but not delving into the allegations made Ford, who claims that Kavanaugh attacked her at a high school party in the 1980’s.

.@POTUS: "I want to tell you that Brett Kavanaugh is one of the finest human beings that you will ever have the privilege of knowing or meeting." pic.twitter.com/g7ymaVvSJ9

— Fox News (@FoxNews) September 21, 2018

Mr. Trump’s tweets marked the first time he had challenged Ford by name, and questioned her story.

“You knew it couldn’t last. He is incapable of restraint,” said David Axelrod, a former top aide to President Barack Obama. “It was only a matter of time before he called the accuser a liar.”

The President also added in another Twitter jab at Democrats, specifically Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), for not bringing up the Ford accusation earlier.

Senator Feinstein and the Democrats held the letter for months, only to release it with a bang after the hearings were OVER – done very purposefully to Obstruct & Resist & Delay. Let her testify, or not, and TAKE THE VOTE!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018

With Friday deadline, accuser offers testimony next week on Kavanaugh

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 20:09

Faced with a GOP deadline on Friday morning to say if she will testify at a Monday hearing about sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a lawyer for Kavanaugh’s accuser told Senate Republicans on Thursday that her client was willing to appear for testimony next week, but not on Monday as originally scheduled. Republicans said late Thursday night they were considering their options.

“Chairman Grassley’s staff had a call with Dr. Ford’s attorneys today to discuss receiving her testimony in the Judiciary Committee, and will consult with his colleagues on the committee. He remains committed to providing a fair forum for both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh,” a spokesman for Grassley told reporters.

That came several hours after lawyers for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford said their client did not want to appear on Monday, but was ready to offer her story, in which she alleges that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party in the 1980’s.

“She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety,” read a letter sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee by lawyers for .

Republicans had given Ford until 10 am on Friday to either accept – or refuse – the offer to testify at a Monday hearing of the committee. It wasn’t immediately clear if the GOP would be open to any delay.

BREAKING: Lawyer for Kavanaugh accuser says woman would testify before Senate committee if terms `fair', but Monday appearance `not possible'

— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) September 20, 2018

The developments came as a group of women who graduated from Ford’s high school joined to support her, bringing a letter signed by hundreds of graduates of the private Holton-Arms school outside of Washington, D.C.

“We believe Dr. Blasey Ford,” said Sarah Burgess, who graduated in 2005, some 20 years after Ford attended the school.

“I hope that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford gets the message that we have her back,” said Kate Gold, another 2005 graduate.

“We are so proud to be here, but we are mostly proud of her, and her courageousness,” said Alexis Goldstein, who graduated from Holton-Arms in 1999.

Ford has claimed that at a high school party involving students from the all-girls Holton-Arms, and the all-boys Georgetown Prep, that Kavanaugh attacked her in an upstairs bedroom in the early 1980’s.

The alums of Holton-Arms arrived on Capitol Hill as dozens of protesters were arrested by police on Thursday in the halls of the Senate office buildings, as some chanted, “We believe Anita Hill! We believe Christine Ford!”

Democratic Sens. Mazie Hirono and Kirsten Gillibrand have accepted a letter of support signed by more than 1,000 alumnae from Holton-Arms School, Christine Blasey Ford’s alma mater pic.twitter.com/nYYHGZHGTD

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 20, 2018

Echoing Ford’s call for a further investigation, Democratic Senators said like Anita Hill – Ford’s accusation deserved an official review by the FBI, before any hearing is held.

“What is happening with the Judiciary Committee is really what I would call, a railroad job,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), who has become more and more outspoken in recent days about the Kavanaugh nomination.

“She is asking the FBI to investigate her claim,” added Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

“I believe her because she is telling the truth,” Gillibrand insisted.

Republicans see the story much differently, arguing Kavanaugh is the victim of a massive smear campaign by Democrats.

“Enough is enough,” said Rep. Lynn Cheney (R-WY), who urged GOP Senators to go ahead and hold the vote on Kavanaugh as soon as possible.

As for the judge, Kavanaugh told Senators on Thursday evening that he is ready to testify on Monday.

“I will be there,” Kavanaugh wrote in a letter released by the White House. “Since the moment I first heard this allegation, I have categorically and unequivocally denied it. I remain committed to defending my integrity.”

Trump rips ‘ridiculous’ spending bill over border wall funding

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 12:41

President Donald Trump on Thursday raised objections to a spending plan overwhelmingly approved earlier this week by the Senate, labeling the bill ‘ridiculous’ for delaying final Congressional action on money for the President’s border wall until after the mid-term elections, as he again accused Democrats of blocking extra money for border security.

The bill would fully fund the 2019 spending plans for the Pentagon, health, education, and labor programs in the federal government, while setting a series of other items – like money for the border wall – on a temporary funding plan through December 7.

Mr. Trump’s comments on Twitter came as he evidently was watching morning news programs from the White House, as the President quoted Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), one of the seven Senators who voted against the spending measure on Tuesday.

Perdue had appeared on one of the President’s favorite shows, “Fox and Friends.”

I want to know, where is the money for Border Security and the WALL in this ridiculous Spending Bill, and where will it come from after the Midterms? Dems are obstructing Law Enforcement and Border Security. REPUBLICANS MUST FINALLY GET TOUGH!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 20, 2018

“We can’t secure the Border because of the Democrats historic level of Obstruction. The Presidents fed up with this. His agenda is working. The economy is growing at twice the rate it did under Obama. We’ve nominated and confirmed 68 Federal Judges, 26 Court of Appeals Judges….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 20, 2018

….The thing that’s lacking is we can’t properly secure the Border because of the Democrats historic level of Obstruction.” Senator David Perdue of Georgia.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 20, 2018

GOP leaders in Congress designed the package in hopes of avoiding a government shutdown just before the elections, combining the stopgap funding plan with $720 billion for the military, an increase of $17 billion from 2018.

But the plan did not contain final funding provisions for the President on the border wall, drawing Mr. Trump’s ire, though the bill does continue existing funding in the 2018 budget.

It's on page 354 of the bill approved 93-7 this week by the Senate, under subsection (5) https://t.co/zvM09slOKg https://t.co/7ummNGe1i6

— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) September 20, 2018

The House is scheduled to vote on the bill next week; action must be taken by the end of the month, to avoid a lapse in funding, and a partial government shutdown at the start of the new fiscal year.

Congress would then have to forge a final deal on funding for the wall and other items after the elections.

The President’s twitter complaints about the funding bill came as Mr. Trump prepared to go back on the campaign trail for the first time in two weeks.

Preparation work for Hurricane Florence last week forced Mr. Trump to postpone two rallies; the President will be back on the campaign trail tonight with a rally in Las Vegas. He also has a rally scheduled on Friday in Springfield, Missouri.

GOP sets Friday deadline in standoff over Kavanaugh accuser

Thu, 09/20/2018 - 01:41

Republicans in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday publicly pressed a California woman to agree to testify about her allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as Democrats and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford insisted instead on an FBI investigation of her claims, arguing a hearing set for Monday was not a satisfactory review.

“The rush to a hearing is unnecessary, and contrary to the Committee discovering the truth,” said Ford’s lawyer, Debra Katz, in a written statement.

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) gave Ford an ultimatum – submit her testimony and background documents by 10 am on Friday morning, or forego an opportunity to testify on Monday.

“You have stated repeatedly that Dr. Ford wants to tell her story,” Grassley said in a letter to Ford’s lawyer. “I sincerely hope Dr. Ford will accept my invitation to do so.”



Republicans revealed on Wednesday afternoon that Democrats still had not turned over an unredacted copy of Ford’s original letter, as the two parties seemed to be talking past each other, with little evidence of cooperation evident.

At the White House, the President repeated his support for Judge Kavanaugh, but again refused to be drawn into the debate over the veracity of Dr. Ford’s sexual harassment claim.

“I’d really want to see her. I really would want to see what she has to say,” the President said before leaving to see damage in the Carolinas from Hurricane Florence, as he said the unfolding events were unfair to the Judge and his family.

“I would say this: I think he’s an extraordinary man,” the President told reporters. “I think he’s a man of great intellect, as I’ve been telling you. And he has an unblemished record.”

As the tug of war over Ford’s possible testimony continued, Democrats assailed the process, amid a growing sense on Capitol Hill that a final vote could come as early as next week.

“I will vote no on Judge Kavanaugh,” said Sen. Clare McCaskill (D-MO), who is in a tough bid for re-election, as she said her decision was not based on the allegations made against him.

Democrats said the attacks on Ford – which her lawyer says have brought death threats and more – were reminiscent of the reaction to Anita Hill, which spurred a reaction in the 1992 elections, sometimes dubbed, “the Year of the Woman” on Capitol Hill.

“This is what they did to Anita Hill in 1991,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). “We must do better in 2018.”

I ran for Senate because of the way Anita Hill was treated in 1991.

I am here today to speak up for all the women across the country who are watching now like I was then, and to make sure Republicans know we are not going to allow that to happen this time. #StopKavanaugh pic.twitter.com/JeJtprRjjp

— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) September 19, 2018

“Denying Dr. Ford an FBI investigation is silencing her,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). “Forcing her into a sham hearing is silencing her.”

The handful of GOP Senators who remain on the fence about Kavanaugh joined their leaders in urging Ford to testify on Monday, saying that was the only way to figure out whether something happened, and how it might impact the Judge’s nomination.

“I hope that Dr. Ford will reconsider and testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who labeled the allegations ‘serious,’ but was not giving hints that she would vote against the President’s nominee.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) – who has said he would vote against Kavanaugh if the allegations turned out to be true – called out the President’s son on Twitter, over a photo passed on by Donald Trump Jr.

“This is sickening,” Flake tweeted. “No one should make light of this situation.”

This is sickening. No one should make light of this situation. pic.twitter.com/G7rlT3IKTQ

— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) September 19, 2018

But other Republicans were ready to move on, making the argument that if Dr. Ford won’t show up on Monday – then it’s time to vote.

“It is imperative the Judiciary committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken as soon as possible,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

The partisan battling dismayed one veteran of the Senate who had a front row seat to a similar fight 27 years ago.

“If there is a hearing with testimony from Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh that is not perceived to be fair, the Senate as an institution and the confirmation process are likely to suffer in public opinion, as was the case with the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings,” said former Sen. Sam Nunn, a Democrat from Georgia.

Republicans press for Kavanaugh vote if accuser won’t testify

Wed, 09/19/2018 - 12:34

As Democrats called for a full FBI investigation of sexual misconduct allegations made against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Republican Senators on Wednesday said that if Dr. Christine Blasey Ford decides not to testify at a hearing set for next Monday, then the GOP should move forward to vote on the Kavanaugh nomination, as Republicans set a Friday morning deadline for Kavanaugh’s accuser to decide if she will tell her story to Senators.

“We’re going to continue to try to hear from Dr. Ford in any format she’s comfortable with,” said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has set a hearing for Monday for Dr. Ford – but so far, Ford and her lawyers have not indicated if she will testify.

In a letter sent on Wednesday, Grassley told Ford that she has until 10 am on Friday to submit documents and testimony for the Monday hearing, setting a deadline to force a decision on whether she will testify about her claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when they were teenagers in the early 1980’s.

The announcement of that Friday deadline came as more GOP Senators were publicly saying that if Dr. Ford won’t tell her story, then it’s time to move on, and confirm Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It is imperative the Judiciary committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken ASAP,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who accused Democrats of an effort to delay action until after the November elections.

“Republicans extended a hand in good faith,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). “If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote.”

“The Judiciary Committee is attempting to investigate Dr. Ford’s allegation but can’t without her testimony,” added Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

One key member of that panel, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), pleaded with Ford to show up on Monday.

When Dr. Ford came forward, I said that her voice should be heard and asked the Judiciary Committee to delay its vote on Judge Kavanaugh. It did so. I now implore Dr. Ford to accept the invitation for Monday, in a public or private setting. The committee should hear her voice.

— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) September 19, 2018

I hope that Dr. Ford will reconsider and testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. It is my understanding that the Committee has offered to hold either a public or a private session, whichever would make her more comfortable.

— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) September 19, 2018

But Ford and Democrats argue a Monday hearing is too rushed – they want a broader FBI investigation that looks into her allegation against Kavanaugh.

“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,” Ford’s lawyer wrote in a Tuesday night letter to the GOP chairman, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA).

“Her allegations are credible and serious and should be treated as such,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). “The FBI must conduct an independent investigation before a hearing is held.”

“Dr. Ford’s request for a basic investigation of these allegations before a public hearing is completely reasonable,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), as Democrats tried to shift the focus back on to Judge Kavanaugh.

Brett Kavanaugh talking about his high school in 2015: “What happens at Georgetown Prep, stays at Georgetown Prep.”

I can't imagine any parent accepting this view. Is this really what America wants in its next Supreme Court Justice? pic.twitter.com/WhL8YeZQ78

— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) September 18, 2018

While the feeling in the U.S. Capitol for much of Tuesday was one of uncertainty – an unusual situation where members in both parties weren’t sure where this political drama was going next – Wednesday brought the sense that Republicans were prepared to move on, especially if Ford refused to accept the invitation to tell her story, whether in public or private session.

At the White House, President Trump again made clear his support for Judge Kavanaugh, and gently stepped into the question of whether Ford should speak out on her charge.

“I’d really want to see her. I really would want to see what she has to say,” the President told reporters, just before flying to the Carolinas to see damage from Hurricane Florence, as Mr. Trump stuck with his Supreme Court pick.

“I would say this: I think he’s an extraordinary man. I think he’s a man of great intellect, as I’ve been telling you. And he has an unblemished record,” the President added.

.@karentravers: You said you feel badly for Brett Kavanaugh. Do you feel anything for Christine Blasey Ford?

Pres. Trump: "Well, I'd have to see what she has to say. I've given her a lot of time, the senate has given her a lot of time … we've held up the whole hearing" pic.twitter.com/Rv4UqbWAXs

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 19, 2018

For now, the situation seems to boil down to two basic options:

+ If Ford decides to testify on Monday, then anything could happen to the Kavanaugh nomination in a politically explosive showdown on national television.

+ If Ford does not testify, then Republicans seem ready to push ahead for a vote on the President’s Supreme Court nominee.

Senators wait to see if Kavanaugh accuser will testify

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 23:26

As President Donald Trump again defended his Supreme Court nominee, federal appeals court judge Brett Kavanaugh, Senators in both parties waited Tuesday to see if Kavanaugh’s accuser would agree to testify at a hearing set for next week, after accusing him of sexual misconduct back when the two were teenagers in the 1980’s.

“Dr. Ford’s lawyers refuse to respond to our invitations to participate,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), as questions seemed to be raised about whether a politically explosive hearing would take place next Monday as scheduled.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee said staffers had spoken with Judge Kavanaugh on Monday about the charge that he tried to sexually assault Dr. Christine Blasey Ford at a high school party.

“We’ve also called and emailed Dr. Ford’s lawyer to arrange a similar interview, but we haven’t received a response,” the committee reported, as Senators didn’t seem to know whether Ford would testify.

Sen. John Cornyn: "So far, Dr. Ford's lawyers refuse to respond to invitations to participate in a bipartisan process … if she'd prefer to do this in a closed setting, that's her choice, but we've offered her basically, either an open or closed setting" https://t.co/7SVVRAuCJY pic.twitter.com/3c5XQEJlOU

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 18, 2018

If Ford decides to appear on Capitol Hill next week, Republicans said they were ready to go forward.

“She’s going to have an opportunity to be heard,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

At the White House, President Trump defended Kavanaugh several times, again chiding Democrats for bringing the allegations forward after hearings on Kavanaugh had ended, and just days before a scheduled vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this, to be honest with you,” the President said at a joint news conference with the President of Poland.

“It should have been brought up long ago,” Mr. Trump said of Ford’s charge from 36 years ago. “And that’s what you have hearings for. You don’t wait until the hearing is over and then, all of a sudden, bring it up.”

As for Democrats, they stood by Ford and her explosive allegation.

“In my view, Professor Ford is telling the truth,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.

“Senate Republicans are still not taking these allegations seriously,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who was first informed of the charge weeks ago, but held on to the information. “They’re rushing into a hearing that is completely unfair.”

During every step of this process, I’ve found every single piece of information from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford eminently credible, sincere and believable. She knew this would have a huge effect on her life and she was incredibly brave to come forward.

— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) September 18, 2018

“The FBI background investigation into Judge Kavanaugh should be reopened in light of the serious charges against him,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).

But as Senators left town for the week, they headed home unsure as to whether Ford would be on Capitol Hill for testimony next Monday, as Ford’s lawyers echoed calls by Democrats for a full FBI review of her charge against Kavanaugh – before any hearing could take place..

With uncertainty about the hearing, there was some discussion among Republicans that if Ford refuses to testify in person on Monday – then the GOP might just move next week to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

“Hopefully, the woman will come forward, state her case,” the President said.

Senate moves to avoid shutdown, okays military, education, health spending

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 17:07

Approving a deal worked out by Congressional negotiators, the Senate on Tuesday okayed a compromise package which funds the Pentagon, along with money for major domestic health programs in 2019, as lawmakers will leave a chunk of other federal agencies on a temporary spending plan that lasts into early December.

The $712 billion in funding for military operations was paired with funding for popular research agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, and includes extra money to fund work on the opioids epidemic.

“We are making real progress here,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby.

The bill is expected to be approved next week by the House, which would mean that Congress will have completed five of the 12 federal government funding bills before the new fiscal year begins on October 1.

Chairman @USRepRodney: In addition to the FY19 Defense and Labor-HHS funding bills, the conference report includes a Continuing Resolution through December 7, 2018, to allow Congress to complete work on the remaining Appropriations bills.

— House Appropriations (@HouseAppropsGOP) September 13, 2018

The bill adds almost $20 billion to the military for 2019 over this year, part of the push by Republicans and the Trump Administration to add extra funding for the military.

Democrats were also successful in getting extra money for a number of domestic priorities, like an extra $2 billion for research on cancer and Alzheimer’s, and $6.7 billion to deal with opioid abuse.

The bill also includes a 1.9 percent pay raise for civilian workers of the Defense Department and the other domestic agencies funded in this bill, which would free them from a threat by the President to cancel a scheduled pay increase for federal workers in 2019.

Members of the armed services would do a little better, getting a pay raise in 2019 of 2.6 percent.

“It’s a product of hard work and bipartisan cooperation,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who said lawmakers are still negotiating the other unfinished bills – as Congress is on course to do the most spending work before the fiscal year deadline in many years.

But, Congress still won’t be finished with all the spending bills by October 1, requiring a stop gap budget to be approved next week, and signed by the President.

Since the House and Senate reformed the budget process in 1974, lawmakers have only finished their spending work on time in 1976, 1988, 1994 and 1996.

Heading to the Senate floor now to vote against the “continuing resolution.” Congress has used a CR to throw in the towel instead of doing its job over 180 times. This is UNACCEPTABLE. We need a budget process that actually works. #MakeCongressWorkAgain

— David Perdue (@sendavidperdue) September 18, 2018

Some Republicans wanted the President to force a shutdown showdown at the end of this month over money for his border wall, but GOP leaders in the Congress advised against that, worried it would boomerang against the GOP before the elections.

Budget watchdog groups denounced the approval of these two spending bills, arguing the Congress is doing little about the deficit, which already stands at nearly $900 billion for 2018.

“It completely ignores the trillion dollar annual and perpetual deficits that are fast approaching,” the Club for Growth said in a statement calling on Senators to reject the plan.

But few listened, as the Senate voted 93 to 7 in favor of the plan.

The full text of the bill is available here.

You can also read the extensive report language on the bill as well.

GOP advice with 7 weeks to Election Day – “Do the basics”

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 08:00

Facing a recent series of polls which raise questions about their majorities in the both the U.S. House and Senate, senior Republicans are counseling their colleagues to stick to the basics in their Congressional campaigns for November, especially urging them to emphasize economic growth under the Trump Administration as a reason to keep the GOP in charge on Capitol Hill.

“Our economic progress has America in the best economic condition it’s been in for decades,” said Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), who heads up election efforts nationally for House Republicans.

“The economy is booming, our policies are working – what’s not to like about that?” Stivers said.

In a meeting with House GOP lawmakers last week, Stivers said his message was simple – “finish strong.”

“Do the basics, this is just blocking and tackling,” Stivers added, using another football metaphor to say the GOP needs to worry about gains of “three yards and a cloud of dust,” instead of Political Hail Mary passes to win in November.

We've polled 12 of the 30 races characterized as "toss-up" by the Cook Political Report, and the overall margin is Dem 45.4, Rep 44.3

— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) September 17, 2018

While every race is different in the House and Senate, a number of GOP lawmakers told me their biggest campaign selling point right now is a simple formula – talk to voters about the tax cut signed into law by President Donald Trump, lower unemployment numbers nationwide, and stronger economic growth.

“The economy is growing, kids are moving out of the basement, getting their jobs – this is what folks sent me here to do,” argues Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA), whose suburban Atlanta district has been targeted by Democrats.

“Certainly we have the increase in our economy showing strong growth,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), who is also emphasizing a bigger defense budget, with his district anchored by Wright Patterson Air Force Base outside of Dayton.

“They’re making more money, they’ve got more money to spend,” said Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL) of voters in his central Florida district. “The jobs rate is just phenomenal.”

But while Woodall, Turner, and Webster speak confidently about their party’s position for November, recent polls are not as clear that the economic argument will be the magic election potion for the GOP.

For example, a recent poll by Quinnipiac University showed that despite a record level of optimism about the economy, President Trump’s disapproval ratings were very high, showing a major disconnect in the usual prediction that voters will vote their pocketbooks, and reward the party in power for good economic times.

That’s been the story in a number of surveys, as political pollsters and polling experts see the GOP on the defensive right now – but to what extent – that is not as clear, as many election night possibilities are still in play all over the map, especially in the U.S. Senate.

In a bit of a surprise, a recent batch of Senate polls have shown Democrats running stronger than expected in Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Tennessee – with Florida, and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), being the biggest election headache for Democrats at this point.

But even the experts who sift through the numbers say that seven weeks out – anything is possible in November.

The Senate is absolutely fascinating. Republicans could lose the Senate, perhaps by 2-3 seats, but could also end up picking up three or four. Perfectly plausible scenarios for both.

— Sean T at RCP (@SeanTrende) September 13, 2018

In the House, legal troubles for two lawmakers are causing further problems for the GOP; on Monday, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), who was indicted in August for insider trading and lying to the feds, decided to stay on the ballot and seek re-election.

New York Republicans had been trying to shift Collins to another race, but because of the byzantine nature of election laws in the Empire State, any such move would likely have drawn a lawsuit – thus the GOP is stuck with Collins on the ballot for Congress.

Also still on the ballot for November is a second indicted GOP lawmaker, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who has been charged – along with his wife – with misusing $250,000 in campaign money.

It’s possible that even with the label of “indicted Congressman” – both could still win re-election.

It happened in 2014, when ex-Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) won election while under indictment. Grimm resigned weeks later, and went to prison for tax fraud.

In seven weeks, we’ll see whether Republicans can hold on to power, or if the voters will again opt for a ‘change’ election in Congress.

Echoes of Thomas-Hill as Senate sets hearing with Kavanaugh, accuser

Tue, 09/18/2018 - 00:21

Nearly 27 years after the nation watched Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas testify in a special hearing about sexual misconduct allegations which endangered a U.S. Supreme Court nomination, the U.S. Senate will hold another politically explosive showdown, as Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, will testify next Monday in public before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“As I said earlier, anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford has done deserves to be heard,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA), as Ford stepped forward over the weekend to accuse Kavanaugh of a drunken sexual assault during a party, when they were teenagers in the early 1980’s.

“This is the best route forward,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who had said he would not proceed with a vote this Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee without hearing from Kavanaugh’s accuser.

“Obviously, these are serious charges, and if they are true, I think they are disqualifying,” Flake told a gaggle of reporters just off the Senate floor.

BREAKING: Senate panel sets public hearing for next Monday with Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh, woman accusing him of sex assault.

— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) September 17, 2018


Senators fully acknowledged that the outcome of the hearing might be basically what happened in October of 1991, a ‘he-said/she-said’ public deadlock between Justice Thomas and Anita Hill – which temporarily sidetracked the Thomas nomination, but generated huge interest in the Senate proceedings, and galvanized a number of women to run for Congress in 1992.

“We saw the way Senators completely mishandled the questioning of Anita Hill,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who was elected in 1992, which some dubbed, “The Year of the Woman” in Congress.

“First of all, I would like the FBI to conduct a proper vetting,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), as Hirono and other Democrats said a week wasn’t long enough to investigate the allegations made by Ford against Kavanaugh.

“We’re talking about an arbitrary and irrational deadline,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

Even before the hearing was set for next week, President Trump publicly expressed his strong support for Kavanaugh, while not directly going after Ford.

“Judge Kavanaugh is one of the finest people I have ever known,” the President said of his Supreme Court pick, as he chided Democrats for pushing ahead with the allegations just days before the Senate Judiciary Committee was to have voted on his nomination.

President Trump comments on Judge Brett Kavanaugh nomination to #SCOTUS.

Q: "Has he offered to withdraw?"

President Trump: "Next question. What a ridiculous question." pic.twitter.com/0ardOFoGKS

— CSPAN (@cspan) September 17, 2018

When one reporter asked the President if Judge Kavanaugh was going to withdraw, Mr. Trump gave it the back of his hand, saying Kavanaugh is still ‘on track’ to be on the Supreme Court.

“Next question. What a ridiculous question,” the President said dismissively.

In a statement issued Monday by the White House, the Judge continued to dispute Ford’s charges, as he labeled it a ‘completely false allegation.’

“I have never done anything like what the accuser describes—to her or to anyone,” Kavanaugh said.

“The one thing I won’t do is boil his life down to a high school event,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who told reporters he would listen to both Ford and Kavanaugh next Monday.

“If it happened, it’s a terrible thing,” Graham said of the charge against Kavanaugh.

“But there’s a process here that’s a bit suspicious.”

Trump stands by Kavanaugh, chides Democrats over last minute allegations

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 20:02

As Senators in both parties called for additional hearings into questions about possible sexual misconduct involving Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump on Monday expressed his strong support for the federal appeals court judge, chiding Democrats for springing allegations of sexual misconduct at the eleventh hour.

“This is something that should have been brought up long before this,” the President told reporters during a White House photo op.

While Mr. Trump did not comment directly on the charge made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, that Kavanaugh had committed a sexual assault on her during a party when they were teenagers in the 1980’s, the President made clear where he stood.

“Judge Kavanaugh is one of the finest people I have ever known,” he said of his Supreme Court pick.

President Trump comments on Judge Brett Kavanaugh nomination to #SCOTUS.

Q: "Has he offered to withdraw?"

President Trump: "Next question. What a ridiculous question." pic.twitter.com/0ardOFoGKS

— CSPAN (@cspan) September 17, 2018

When one reporter asked the President if Judge Kavanaugh was going to withdraw his nomination, Mr. Trump gave it the back of his hand, saying Kavanaugh is still ‘on track.’

“Next question. What a ridiculous question,” the President said flatly.

President Trump did not say whether he thought the Senate should hold additional public hearings, which could prove politically explosive, much as the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas episode back in 1991, when the Senate narrowly confirmed Thomas to the Supreme Court, despite charges of sexual harassment leveled by Hill.

“They had the information in July,” the President said of Democrats. “That’s a long time ago,” as Republicans criticized Democrats for holding on to the anonymous charge for months, and not pressing it until just days before a scheduled committee vote.

In his comments, the President showed no signs of concern about Kavanaugh’s future.

“They had the information in July, if I understand it,” the President said of Democrats, who knew months ago that Ford was main
“If it takes a little delay, it takes a little delay,” he added.

On the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell joined in the President’s criticism, criticizing Democrats for holding back the allegations until the last minute.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the allegation against Brett Kavanaugh: “Now, an accusation of 36-year-old misconduct, dating back to high school, has been brought forward at the last minute, in an irregular manner” https://t.co/94U1Zh7VY7 pic.twitter.com/2u3ROVBu8o

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 17, 2018

While some GOP Senators said they would be open to hearing from Ford, it wasn’t clear whether that would be in a public setting, as the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) promised ‘bipartisan interviews’ of Ford.

Democrats in the Senate were urging a delay in the committee vote scheduled on Kavanaugh for this Thursday.

“There are serious questions about Judge Kavanaugh’s record, truthfulness, and character,” Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote in a letter, demanding that they be ‘thoroughly evaluated and answered.’

Democrats also received the support of a key swing vote, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who said in a tweet that both the judge and his accuser should go before the Judiciary Committee.

“I’m urging Senate Republicans on the Judiciary Committee to delay a vote on Judge Kavanaugh,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). “Congress cannot take these new allegations lightly.”

“Dr. Ford deserves to be heard,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.

White House opens door to new hearings with Kavanaugh, accuser

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 12:57

A top aide to President Donald Trump on Monday raised the possibility of further Senate hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, as Democrats demanded that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford be allowed to tell her story, in which she accuses Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct at a party in the early 1980’s, a charge he vehemently denied in a new statement issued on Monday morning.

“This woman should not be insulted, and she should not be ignored,” Conway said this morning on the Fox News program Fox and Friends, and then repeated the same to a gaggle of reporters on the driveway outside the White House.

“Allowing this woman to be heard in sworn testimony, allowing Judge Kavanaugh to be heard in sworn testimony,” Conway said that would acceptable, maybe as soon as this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

That panel has a vote currently set for Thursday afternoon on the Kavanaugh nomination.

.@KellyannePolls: Woman who accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault “should not be insulted, and she should not be ignored” pic.twitter.com/5o49tWkQQK

— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) September 17, 2018

“So, let me make very clear – I’ve spoken with the President, I’ve spoken with Senator (Lindsey) Graham and others – this woman will be heard,” Conway said.

Through the White House, Kavanaugh meanwhile issued a fresh denial of the charges leveled by Ford.

“This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes—to her or to anyone,” Kavanaugh said in a new statement issued Monday morning.

“I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity,” Kavanaugh added.

As Conway was raising the possibility of additional hearings – or at least a meeting with Senators – the lawyer for Ford told CNN that her client was prepared to testify in public.

After making charges anonymously against Kavanaugh in recent months, Ford’s story became public late last week – but by Sunday, she put her name to it in an on-the-record interview with the Washington Post, accusing Kavanaugh of attacking and groping her at a party of drunken teenagers.

At the time, Ford was a student at the prestigious Holton-Arms school for girls in suburban Washington; Kavanaugh was at the equally well-regarded Georgetown Prep private school.

JUST IN: The woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct is willing to testify before Congress, her lawyer tells CNN https://t.co/QWlP4R5LkN pic.twitter.com/TsVJtRBthh

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 17, 2018

Some GOP Senators said they would be open to hearing from Ford, but it wasn’t clear whether that would be in a public setting.

Back in 1991, when allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, the Senate Judiciary Committee reconvened two weeks after sending the Thomas nomination to the Senate floor, and heard dramatic testimony from both the judge, and his accuser Anita Hill.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the Senate were urging a delay in the committee vote scheduled for this Thursday.

“There are serious questions about Judge Kavanaugh’s record, truthfulness, and character,” Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote in a letter, demanding that they be ‘thoroughly evaluated and answered.’

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has bravely come forward and deserves to be heard. What she describes in her interview is a violent sexual assault, which should be disqualifying for a nominee to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

— Senator Bob Casey (@SenBobCasey) September 17, 2018

Professor Christine Blasey Ford deserves to be heard and Judge Kavanaugh deserves a chance to clear his name. Both have said they are willing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee and I hope they will be given the opportunity to do that as quickly as possible.

— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) September 17, 2018

“I’m urging Senate Republicans on the Judiciary Committee to delay a vote on Judge Kavanaugh,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). “Congress cannot take these new allegations lightly.”

Democrats also received the support of a key swing vote, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who said in a tweet that both the judge and his accuser should go before the Judiciary Committee.

Professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh should both testify under oath before the Judiciary Committee.

— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) September 17, 2018

GOP Senators defend Kavanaugh, but open to hearing from accuser

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 00:06

While standing behind federal appeals court judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, some Republican Senators said Sunday that they were open to the idea of hearing from Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct during a party when they were teenagers in the 1980’s.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he “would gladly listen” to Ford, as some Democrats called for a Thursday vote of that panel on Kavanaugh’s nomination to be delayed.

“If the committee is to hear from Ms. Ford it should be done immediately so the process can continue as scheduled,” Graham said.

Another member of the committee, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), staked out an even more definitive stance, telling reporters that he would not support holding a vote on the Kavanaugh nomination, ‘until we hear more.’

There are 11 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee and 10 Democrats. A call for a delay by Jeff Flake, a member of the panel, is a big deal. https://t.co/LH7WrCTDop

— Laura Litvan (@LauraLitvan) September 16, 2018

Ford’s accusation first surfaced last week as an anonymous story, but she put her name to the details on Sunday, telling the Washington Post that Kavanaugh tried to remove her bathing suit during a drunken encounter at a party of teenagers outside of Washington, D.C.

Kavanaugh has sternly denied the accusation.

“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation,” Kavanaugh said in a statement issued late last week to news organizations, when the story first arose. “I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

This is exactly why we can’t rush nominations. How can we vote on Kavanaugh when disturbing, credible allegations of sexual assault have been made? Even Republican Senators Jeff Flake & Bob Corker want to delay the vote. I agree. #DelayTheVote. https://t.co/0f1Pme7UWU

— Senator Bob Menendez (@SenatorMenendez) September 17, 2018

Democrats said the turn of events should delay action on Kavanaugh’s nomination.

“At a bare minimum, this week’s scheduled committee vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court must be postponed until this matter is fully and thoroughly investigated,” said Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).

“We cannot meet our constitutional responsibility of advice and consent without a fair and careful review of the serious and credible allegations made by Dr. Ford,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (R-IL).

On their own, Democrats are powerless to stop the nomination – making the statement by Sen. Flake all the more important as to Kavanaugh’s future.

But the he-said-she-said nature of the allegations – and their sudden appearance – left other Republicans wondering if this was a Political Hail Mary.

As of now, it hasn’t changed the approach of key GOP Senators like Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) – but could change the thinking of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

New: GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, one of the key undecideds on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, told CNN’s @stevebruskCNN tonight committee “might have to consider” delaying vote.

— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) September 17, 2018

“It’s disturbing that these uncorroborated allegations from more than 35 years ago, during high school, would surface on the eve of a committee vote after Democrats sat on them since July,” said a spokesman for Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“It raises a lot of questions about Democrats’ tactics and motives,” the spokesman, Taylor Foy, added.

Grassley’s office told the Associated Press that it was possible committee members might have a bipartisan call with Ford, though nothing final had been announced as of Sunday evening.

The last minute nature of these charges has some similarities to the firestorm that erupted over the nomination of Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991.

As with Kavanaugh, Thomas’s testimony was completed before Hill made public accusations of sexual harassment against Thomas.

The Senate Judiciary Committee reconvened to hear those allegations, as Hill and Thomas told their stories. Thomas was ultimately approved on a narrow 52-48 vote in the full Senate.

What the Manafort guilty plea might mean for the Mueller probe

Sat, 09/15/2018 - 07:00

The Special Counsel investigation led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller took a big step forward on Friday, as former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort plead guilty to two criminal charges, and more importantly agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation, which President Donald Trump has repeatedly denounced as a ‘witch hunt.’

Manafort had already been convicted on eight charges of bank and tax fraud in an earlier federal trial in Virginia; his trial in Washington, D.C. was to begin next week, focused on allegations that he failed to disclose his foreign lobbying work, money laundering, and false statements to government agencies.

Now that Manafort is working with Mueller investigators, what does that change? Will it lead to something dramatic? Or is this just a nothing burger?

1. The biggest unknown is all about the President. With Manafort now cooperating with the Special Counsel investigation, Robert Mueller’s investigators are able to get information from Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager, deputy campaign manager (Rick Gates), and future National Security Adviser (Michael Flynn). But does any of it get to the issue of contacts between the Trump Campaign and Russian intermediaries? That remains the big unknown. For many supporters of the President, this remains a witch hunt, as they argue Manafort has nothing that ties the Trump campaign to Moscow. To quote one of my colleagues – time will tell.

.@ByronYork on Manafort guilty plea: "All this kind of talk that Manafort is the big one…I think that all of that is based on an assumption, a belief that there is some big conspiracy between Trump and Russia that only Paul Manafort can reveal." #TheStory pic.twitter.com/3yoKvoqNmN

— Fox News (@FoxNews) September 14, 2018

2. The Manafort plea might have a short term benefit for Trump. In one sense, not having the start of a second trial next week for Manafort is probably good for the White House. The first trial produced a daily drumbeat of news for several weeks, and when the verdicts came down, it grabbed the headlines. With this plea bargain by Manafort, now that court scene – and all the testimony – won’t be repeated over the next few weeks, and even into October. In that sense, that’s good for the President. The flip side is that Manafort is cooperating with investigators, something that President Trump had praised him for not doing, just several weeks ago. “Such respect for a brave man!” the President tweeted on August 22. Now that’s changed.

I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. “Justice” took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to “break” – make up stories in order to get a “deal.” Such respect for a brave man!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018

3. There is no language barring Manafort cooperation on Russia probe. I don’t know where this started on social media, but soon after Manafort plead guilty, a number of people told me that I was lying about the details of the Manafort cooperation agreement. But nowhere in the 17 page document is there anything that says Manafort won’t be helping out on the question of Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Again – Manafort may not have anything to offer on that question – but he has agreed in this plea bargain to fully cooperate “in any and all matters which the Government deems the cooperation relevant.”




4. What might Mueller want to get from Manafort? Some of the answers to this are obvious. Manafort was a part of the infamous Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and a woman lawyer who represented herself as having ties to the Kremlin. Manafort might have information from inside the campaign related to Russia contacts – or maybe no Russian contacts. But some believe it could also lead to other people inside of the President’s tight inner circle as well. Seth Waxman is a former federal prosecutor.

So much for Mueller not taking significant action in the 60 days leading up to the 2018 mid-terms. Doesn't get much more significant than Mueller. Trump Jr. and Kushner are next . . . . #Mueller #Trump #Manafort #ManafortFlip

— Seth Waxman (@sethwaxman) September 14, 2018

5. The Mueller investigation is not ending soon. For anyone who was hoping that the former FBI Director was going to wrap up his work soon, one might argue the exact opposite at this point. With the plea bargain involving Manafort – and his cooperation agreement – the Mueller team seems to be gaining momentum. We learned nuggets from the first Manafort trial about possible foreign money in the Trump Inauguration. And don’t forget – there’s still the open question of whether the President will answer any questions from the Special Counsel. While the President’s legal team keeps saying it’s almost over – it’s not.

NEW: People who worked with MANAFORT in Ukraine think his real value to MUELLER may be flipping on the oligarchs, the pols they funded & the Western firms/operatives who assisted them, including ones he recruited, like TONY PODESTA, MERCURY & @SKADDENARPS. https://t.co/eubx2gJzfq

— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) September 15, 2018

For more details on the Manafort plea bargain, you can read a statement of the offenses that Manafort acknowledged.

Also, there is a 17 page explanation of what’s expected from Manafort under his cooperation agreemnt with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Manafort pleads guilty, agrees to cooperate with Mueller probe

Fri, 09/14/2018 - 15:58

In a major step forward for the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort plead guilty to two charges in a federal court Friday, as prosecutors for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office said Manafort had agreed to cooperate with the investigation, and had already started providing information to investigators.

“I plead guilty,” Manafort said to federal judge Amy Berman Jackson.

In a cooperation agreement with the Special Counsel’s office, Manafort is required to testify about any subject that the Special Counsel’s office is reviewing.

“Your client shall cooperate fully, truthfully, and forthrightly with the Government and other law enforcement authorities identified by the Government in any and all matters as to which the Government deems the cooperation relevant,” the agreement states.


BREAKING: Ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort pleads guilty to federal charges as part of a cooperation deal with prosecutors.

— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) September 14, 2018

It was not immediately apparent if Manafort would be providing information related to any contacts between the Trump Campaign and Russian intermediaries, but as a top aide – and a participant in the infamous Trump Tower meeting of June 2016 with a Russian lawyer representing herself as having direct ties to Moscow – that could certainly be part of the cooperation involved.

“If anyone knows the truth about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, it’s Paul Manafort,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), as Democrats again said the Mueller investigation should be allowed to proceed without any interference by the President.

“Today’s admission of criminal guilt by Paul Manafort clearly demonstrates that the President’s 2016 campaign manager conducted illegal activity in conspiracy with Russian-backed entities and was beholden to Kremlin-linked officials,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA).

Manafort’s guilty plea came on two charges – 1) Conspiracy against the United States, for money laundering, tax fraud, violating laws on registering as an agent for a foreign government, and making false statements to investigations;

2) Conspiracy to obstruct justice through witness tampering. None of those charges had anything to do with the 2016 elections investigation.

The plea agreement will force Manafort to forfeit over $45 million in real estate, bank accounts, and other items of value to the federal government.

“A tough day for Mr. Manafort,” said his lawyer Kevin Downing, “but he’s accepted responsibility.”

Attorney for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort speaks after his client entered a plea deal and agreed to cooperate with the special counsel: "A tough day for Mr. Manafort, but he's accepted responsibility." https://t.co/hAPFn25E4l pic.twitter.com/EOZOainFET

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 14, 2018

Manafort's place at Trump Tower must be forfeited.

— Brandi Buchman (@BBuchman_CNS) September 14, 2018

It was not immediately clear from the Friday court proceedings what assistance and information would be provided by Manafort, and whether it would be directly related to the Russian interference investigation – or not.

The immediate reaction from the White House and President Donald Trump’s lawyers was to downplay the Manafort plea.

“Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign,” said Rudy Giuliani, who has led Mr. Trump’s legal efforts in recent months.

At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also indicated it was of no import.

“This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign,” Sanders said in a statement given to reporters. “It is totally unrelated.”

As part of plea, Manafort agrees to cooperate. That entails: sitting down with special counsel, not always with his lawyer, and answering all questions. He will have to provide requested documents. And he has agreed to testify in court if needed. He must be truthful.

— Del Quentin Wilber (@DelWilber) September 14, 2018

None of the legal trouble for Manafort has been tied to the Trump Campaign or the 2016 elections; but prosecutors seem to believe he has information that could assist their probe into contacts between the campaign and Russian intermediaries.

Federal deficit jumps by $214 billion in August

Thu, 09/13/2018 - 19:59

The Treasury Department reported Thursday that the federal deficit increased by $214 billion in the month of August, pushing the yearly deficit for Uncle Sam to $898 billion, as with one month left in the fiscal year, this could be the largest yearly amount of red ink for the feds since 2012.

August was the fourth straight month that total federal revenues coming in to Uncle Sam were down from a year ago, as the federal government brought in $219 billion in receipts, but sent out almost twice that in August, a total of $433 billion in spending.

The deficit for all of fiscal year 2017 was $665.8 billion – right now, the 2018 deficit is already $233 billion more than that, with one more month to go – as another deficit in September would push the federal government toward a deficit of $1 trillion, a figure not seen since 2012.

Those higher deficits come at a time of increased economic growth, spurred in part by a GOP tax cut plan, which has reduced corporate income taxes by over $70 billion this year.

Stronger GDP growth, but even bigger deficits:

The U.S. budget deficit has widened to 4.4% of GDP in August from 3.3% one year earlier and 2.3% in 2015 https://t.co/7VcAkNZYhA pic.twitter.com/yG3ZSVu3AK

— Nick Timiraos (@NickTimiraos) September 13, 2018

Just last month, the White House estimated that the budget deficit for this year would be $890 billion – it would take a surplus in the month of September to reach that – otherwise, the deficit will spill over $900 billion, which would be largest yearly deficit in six years.

Even with the benefits of tax cuts spurring new growth, the White House has publicly predicted that the deficit will be back over $1 trillion in 2019 – and stay there for several years.

At this pace, President Trump may total up more in deficits in his first two years, than in the final three years of the Obama Administration.

For those wondering about the cost of just servicing the existing over $21 trillion debt – interest payments on the debt accounted for $32 billion of the deficit in August.

So far in 2018, Uncle Sam has spent $332 billion – just paying interest.

Trump tweet creates storm over 2017 hurricane response in Puerto Rico

Thu, 09/13/2018 - 14:57

As Hurricane Florence took aim at the Carolinas on Thursday, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to accuse Democrats of inflating the death toll on the island of Puerto Rico in a political bid to embarrass him, casting it as nothing more than an effort to question Trump Administration relief efforts to that U.S. territory.

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico,” the President said in a tweet, saying the numbers were inflated for a specific reason.

“This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible,” the President tweeted.

3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018

…..This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018

On Capitol Hill, the reaction was swift and direct – especially from Democrats.

“I have no reason to dispute those numbers,” Speaker Paul Ryan said about the estimated death toll of close to 3,000, which was put together in a recent report commissioned by the government of Puerto Rico.

Pressed whether the President owed victims an apology for saying death #s wrong, @SpeakerRyan sidestepped and again said he had no reason to dispute the casualty #s and said high # “a function of a devastating storm that hit an isolated island” that's "no one's fault"

— Deirdre Walsh (@deirdrekwalsh) September 13, 2018

While the Speaker went on to say that politcs should not enter the equation, the President’s assertion unleashed a storm of criticism from Democrats.

“You are not entitled to your own facts,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), as Democrats unleashed a torrent of criticism at the President. “You cannot to erase the 3,000 Americans who died in Puerto Rico after last year’s hurricanes.”

“A truly disgusting comment,” said Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) of the President’s tweet. “These are our fellow Americans and fellow human beings. They and their families deserve better from their President.”

“This is a direct result of your weak response, sad incompetence and utter neglect, Donald Trump,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“This is what deadly incompetence and failure look like,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA).

This is what your math looks like when you count black or brown lives less than white lives. https://t.co/loYdbF4yLr

— Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@RepJoeKennedy) September 13, 2018

Only Donald Trump could see the tragedy in Puerto Rico and conclude that he is the victim. May God bless the souls of the nearly 3,000 Americans that died in Puerto Rico and may he take pity on your soul Mr. President.

— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) September 13, 2018

The president’s comments on the nearly 3,000 American lives lost in Puerto Rico are shameful. We deserve and expect more from someone who holds the highest office in our country.

— Senator Bill Nelson (@SenBillNelson) September 13, 2018

3,000 people died and Donald Trump wants us to believe he is the victim. pic.twitter.com/0eYSQrEYIE

— Nanette D. Barragán (@RepBarragan) September 13, 2018

.@RepGutierrez on Puerto Rico: "Even though the president dropped the ball he is now doing a victory dance in the end zone. Or should we call it the dead zone?" pic.twitter.com/AeaFlXVUJr

— CSPAN (@cspan) September 13, 2018

“You’re right Mr. President,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ). “The hurricane didn’t kill 3,000 people. Your botched response did.”

Meanwhile, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico – who tangled publicly with the President after Hurricane Maria – said the President was ‘delusional’ for rejecting the death toll estimate.

“Simply put: delusional, paranoid, and unhinged from any sense of reality,” said Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz.

The death toll report, done by a research arm of George Washington University, and released jointly with the Governor of Puerto Rico, went through an extensive mortality study from the aftermath of the storm, in order to figure out a more accurate assessment of the damage.

The estimated 2,975 deaths on Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria would be far more than the over 1,800 attributed to Hurricane Katrina, which struck the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005.

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