I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, October 4, 2018. 33 days until Election Day 2018. 761 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senate receives FBI report on Kavanaugh allegations
The FBI has completed its supplemental background investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, six days after launching the probe. The White House received summaries of the interviews conducted by the FBI in the investigation, a spokesman announced in a statement at around 2:30 a.m. this morning, and the materials have been transmitted to the Senate.
At about 4 a.m., Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced on Twitter that the supplemental background file had been received. In keeping with procedures that have been in place since 2009, one copy of the FBI report has been made available to the Senate. All 100 senators and 10 Judiciary Committee staffers will have access to the report, and Republicans and Democrats will alternate being briefed on the materials by aides in one-hour shifts. Republicans will have access to the report from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., followed by the Democrats from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., and so on.
Before it has even been read, the FBI report has already been criticized for its limits in scope. According to the Washington Post, "the White House restricted the FBI from delving deeply into Kavanaugh’s youthful drinking and exploring whether he had lied to Congress about his alcohol use." Per the New York Times, the "bureau contacted 10 people [as part of its investigation] and interviewed nine of them."
Five of those interviews were related to the allegation by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh drunkenly attempted to rape her at a high school party in 1982, including three individuals who Ford said attended the party: Mark Judge, Patrick Smyth, and Leland Keyser. The FBI also interviewed Chris Garrett and Tim Gaudette, who were both listed on Kavanaugh's calendar as attending a party in July 1982 that could have fit the description of the gathering Ford described.
The FBI is also known to have interviewed Deborah Ramirez, who accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at a dorm room party when they were both freshman students at Yale.
But more than 40 others with potential information relating to the allegations were not contacted by the FBI, NBC News reported. According to the report, dozens of witnesses came forward to FBI field offices with information on Kavanaugh, including former classmates who accused him of lying to Congress about his alcohol consumption, but agents were not permitted to talk to many of them. CNN and the New Yorker recounted some of these witnesses' attempts to speak with the FBI. In addition, Kavanaugh's Yale freshman roommate, James Roche, penned an op-ed in Slate on Wednesday accusing Kavanaugh of lying under oath about terms in his high school yearbook; Roche said that he would be willing to speak to investigators, but the FBI had not reached out to him.
Ramirez's legal team also provided more than 20 witnesses who could have corroborating information about her allegation, but "we are not aware of the FBI affirmatively reaching out to any of those witnesses," her attorney John Clune tweeted. "We have great concern that the FBI is not conducting — or not being permitted to conduct — a serious investigation," he added.
The White House did not grant authority to the FBI to interview Kavanaugh or Ford themselves, Bloomberg reported, indicating to the bureau that their congressional testimony last week is sufficient. "An FBI supplemental background investigation that did not include an interview of Dr. Christine Ford — nor the witnesses who corroborate her testimony — cannot be called an investigation," Ford's legal team said in a statement. "We are profoundly disappointed that after the tremendous sacrifice she made in coming forward, those directing the FBI investigation were not seeking the truth."
Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said in a statement that the restrictions on interviewing Kavanaugh or Ford raise "serious questions that this is not a credible investigation." Eight Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee also penned a letter on Wednesday indicating that prior FBI background investigations of Kavanaugh could have flagged issues related to sexual misconduct or alcohol abuse, which GOP committee staff dismissed as "more baseless innuendo and more false smears from Senate Democrats."
With the FBI investigation complete, Senate Republicans are expected to quickly push ahead with the nomination. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed cloture on the nomination Wednesday night, setting up a key procedural vote for Friday and a potential final confirmation vote on Saturday. Both votes require only a simple majority, which can include a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.
The few remaining undecided senators — Republicans Jeff Flake (AZ), Susan Collins (ME), and Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Democrats Joe Manchin (WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (ND) — will be watched closely for their reactions to the FBI report today. The trio of key GOP senators all condemned President Trump on Wednesday for his comments about Dr. Ford at a rally the night before, where he mocked the psychology professor for testifying that she could not remember parts of the night of the alleged assault, but it was not clear that it would impact their decisions.
According to Politico, Manchin, at least, is also considered "gettable" for McConnell and the GOP leadership; while Heitkamp has mostly ducked reporters' questions about the Supreme Court nomination, Manchin's recent comments have sounded "like he's leaning 'yes,'" the report said.
"Wow, such enthusiasm and energy for Judge Brett Kavanaugh," President Trump tweeted Wednesday night. "Look at the Energy, look at the Polls. Something very big is happening. He is a fine man and great intellect. The country is with him all the way!"
Immigration: A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the Trump Administration from ending Temporary Protected Status for more than 300,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan. In a 43-page ruling, San Francisco-based District Judge Edward Chen ruled that the administration's move would "indisputably" cause "irreparable harm and great hardship" to the TPS recipients from those countries.
Chen, an Obama appointee, also cited Trump's comments from the campaign trail and the White House in writing that there is evidence that "President Trump harbors an animus against non-white, non-European aliens which influenced his...decision to end the TPS designation."
Opioids: In a rare bipartisan achievement, the Senate passed the final version of a sweeping opioids package on Wednesday. According to the Washington Post, "the bill unites dozens of smaller proposals sponsored by hundreds of lawmakers, many of whom face tough reelection fights. It creates, expands and reauthorizes programs and policies across almost every federal agency, aiming to address different aspects of the opioid epidemic, including prevention, treatment and recovery."
The measure, which now heads to President Trump's desks, was approved by the Senate in a 98-1 vote; Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) was the lone "no" vote.
Election Central: Five new Fox News polls of key Senate races were released on Wednesday...
- Arizona: Kyrsten Sinema (D) 47%, Martha McSally (R) 45% — (last month: Sinema 47-McSally 44)
- Indiana: Joe Donnelly (D) 43%, Mike Braun (R) 41% — (last month: Braun 45-Donnelly 43)
- Missouri: Claire McCaskill (D) 43%, Josh Hawley (R) 43% — (last month: McCaskill 44-Hawley 41)
- North Dakota: Kevin Cramer (R) 53%, Heidi Heitkamp (D) 41% — (last month: Cramer 48-Heitkamp 44)
- Tennessee: Marsha Blackburn (R) 48%, Phil Bredesen (D) 43% — (last month: Blackburn 47-Bredesen 44)
More midterms coverage: "GOP candidates pay the price for attempts to kill Obamacare and its guarantee of coverage for preexisting conditions" (Washington Post)... "GOP struggles to put away vulnerable Dems in Senate battlegrounds" (Politico)... the Cook Political Report updated its ratings in eight House races on Wednesday; all eight were Republican-held seats being moved in the Democratic direction...
White House schedule
POTUS: President Donald Trump travels to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he will speak at two fundraising events and hold a 7:30 p.m. rally.
VP: At 11:20 a.m., Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks on the administration's policy toward China. According to the Wall Street Journal, Pence is expected to build on President Trump's remarks at the United Nations last week, when the president accused China of interfering in the upcoming midterm elections. "Beijing has mobilized covert actors, front groups, and propaganda outlets to shift Americans’ perception of Chinese policies,” Pence will say. “As a senior career member of our intelligence community recently told me, what the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country.”
At 5:25 p.m., he participates in an event for Virginia GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock's re-election campaign. At 6:10 p.m., he participates in an event for Nevada Republican congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian.
FLOTUS: First Lady Melania Trump arrived in Malawi today, the second leg of her four-nation African tour.
--- "Melania Trump, in Africa (and Far from Washington), Seems at Ease" (New York Times)
Senate: The Senate convenes at 11 a.m. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will resume consideration of Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, ahead of an expected cloture vote on Friday.
House: The House is on recess through the midterm elections.
*All times Eastern