Wake Up To Politics - October 3, 2018
I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, October 3, 2018. 34 days until Election Day 2018. 762 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FBI nears end of Kavanaugh probe
The FBI is reportedly wrapping up its investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. According to the New York Times, the probe could be completed as early as today; Senate Republicans plan to hold a vote on the nomination soon after the investigation ends.
"We'll have an FBI report this week, and we'll have a vote this week," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters Tuesday. Five senators remain undecided on the nomination: Republicans Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Jeff Flake (AZ), and Democrats Heidi Heitkamp (ND) and Joe Manchin (WV).
The FBI is known to have interviewed three individuals identified by Dr. Christine Ford as having attended the 1982 gathering at which she accuses Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her: Kavanaugh's Georgetown Preparatory School classmates Mark Judge and P.J. Smyth and Ford's Holton-Arms School classmate Leland Keyser. On Tuesday, attorneys confirmed that FBI agents have also interviewed Tim Gaudette and Chris Garrett, two additional classmates of Kavanaugh's. Gaudette was the host of a July 1, 1982 party that some have speculated could have been the one Ford was allegedly assaulted at; according to the calendars that Kavanaugh submitted to the Judiciary Committee, he attended the party (which included alcohol) along with Judge and Smyth, a description that partially fits Ford's. Garrett, who dated Ford during the summer of 1982, was also in attendance.
The FBI has also interviewed Debora Ramirez, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh's who claims that he exposed himself to her at a dorm room party in their freshman year. Her attorney says that she listed more than 20 additional witnesses for the FBI to question, but it is unclear whether they pursued those leads.
Ford herself, however, has not been interviewed, and the FBI does not plan to speak with her, according to NBC News."It is inconceivable that the FBI could conduct a thorough investigation of Dr. Ford’s allegations without interviewing her, Judge Kavanaugh, or the witnesses we have identified in our letters to you," Ford's lawyers said in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday.
There is some debate about whether the results of the FBI investigation will become public. McConnell said Tuesday that the bureau's report on its findings "will be made available to each senator and only senators will be allowed to look at it," but the No. 2 Senate Republican, Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), told reporters that he would like to see the results of the probe made public in some way. "People are not going to be satisfied until some public statement about what the FBI supplemental background investigation shows is made," Cornyn said.
Democrats are also split on how the results should be handled. Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told reporters that the "investigation ought to be closely held," indicating opposition to a public report. But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-CA) called for some version of the results to be released. "Why are our Republican colleagues so afraid of making this public?" he asked. Schumer has also requested a briefing for all 100 senators on the FBI take place at least 24 hours before the Senate votes to advance the nomination.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump waded into the Kavanaugh debate once again on Tuesday, going after his accuser, Dr. Ford, for the first time at a rally in Mississippi. As his supporters laughed and cheered, Trump mocked Ford's testimony at last week's Judiciary Committee hearing, imitating her responses about what she didn't recall about the alleged assault.
"How did you get home? I don't remember. How'd you get there? I don't remember. Where is the place? I don't remember. How many years ago was it? I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know," Trump said.
Trump's comments were a change in tune from last week, when he called Ford's testimony "compelling" and said she was a "very credible witness."
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump declared to reporters that it is a "very scary time for young men in America" as powerful figures continue to be taken down by sexual misconduct allegations in the #MeToo movement.
--- The latest: Kavanaugh's account of his alcohol consumption as a young man, now challenged by a number of former high school and college classmates, continues to come under fire. The New York Times published a 1983 letter Kavanaugh wrote to seven Georgetown Prep classmates, which would seem to further point to the nominee drinking heavily during high school.
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Trump's finances: The New York Times published a deep-dive into the origin of President Trump's fortune, investigating his claim that he built a business empire with almost no financial help from his father. The Times investigation found that Trump received $413 million in today's dollars from his father's real estate empire, much of it from dubious tax schemes and "outright fraud" throughout the 1990's.
In total, "the president’s parents, Fred and Mary Trump, transferred well over $1 billion in wealth to their children, which could have produced a tax bill of at least $550 million under the 55 percent tax rate then imposed on gifts and inheritances," the Times reported, based on a vast tranche of confidential tax returns and financial records. "The Trumps paid a total of $52.2 million, or about 5 percent, tax records show."
The New York State Tax Department said Tuesday that it is "reviewing the allegations in the NYT article and is vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation."
2018 Central: Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is mulling a 2020 presidential bid, is donating $20 million to Senate Majority PAC, the main Democratic Senate super PAC, the Washington Post reports.
--- Democratic House candidates across the country are "announcing huge fundraising hauls in the final quarter before the midterm elections," per CNN.
Happening today: At the direction of President Donald Trump, nearly every smartphone in America will receive an emergency alert at 2:18pm today, the first test of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's nationwide "Presidential Alert" system. The "Presidential Alert," which was authorized in 2006 but has never been used, allows FEMA to send a message to the entire country in case of an emergency, a nationalized version of the AMBER Alerts and weather messages sent out by states. "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System," the message to roughly 225 million devices will read. "No action is needed."
White House schedule
POTUS: At 11:30am, President Trump receives his intelligence briefing. At 12:30pm, he has lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. At 1:45pm, he meets with UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Senate: The Senate convenes at 10am. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will resume consideration of H.R. 302, the five-year Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill, which also includes $1.68 billion in Hurricane Florence relief. At 12pm, the Senate votes on final passage of the measure, which passed the House in a 398-23 vote. According to the Associated Press, the bill would "direct the federal government to set a minimum size for airline seats, bar passengers from being kicked off overbooked planes, and consider whether to restrict animals on planes."
House: The House is on recess through the midterm elections.
Supreme Court schedule
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Knick v. Township of Scott, Pennsylvania and New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira.
*All times Eastern