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Wake Up To Politics - September 17, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, September 17, 2018. 50 days until Election Day 2018. 778 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Kavanaugh nomination threatened after accuser comes forward

Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination was thrown into doubt on Sunday after a woman came forward with an allegation that he sexually assaulted her when they were in high school more than three decades ago.

Christine Blasey Ford, now a professor in California, described the alleged incident in The Washington Post; some details of the accusation had been previously reported, although this was the first time a name had been attached to the story. Ford told the Post that one summer in the early 1980s, she was at a party in Montgomery County when a "stumbling drunk" Kavanaugh "corralled her into a bedroom," and "pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it."

"I thought he might inadvertently kill me," Ford told the Post, describing how Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth to prevent her from screaming. Ford said that a friend of Kavanaugh's, Mark Judge, wasalsointheroom, and that she was able to escape when Judge "jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling."

Ford said that she didn't tell anyone about the assault, which she says "derailed [her] substantially for four or five years," until a 2012 therapy session. The Post reviewed notes by Ford's therapist, which mention that she says she was attacked by students "from an elitist boys' school" who later became "highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.” However, Kavanaugh is not named in the notes, which also say four boys were involved, although Ford now says only two were.

Ford's husband also told the Post that she described the incident in the therapy session, and she took a polygraph test last month which concluded that her description of the incident was truthful. Ford recounted her experience in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein in late July; she decided to come forward after details of the letter began to leak.

"I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation," Kavanaugh said in a statement last week. "I did not do this back in high school or any time." The White House declined to comment further on the accusation. Judge, the friend, also denied the allegation, telling The Weekly Standard that "it's just absolutely nuts." President Donald Trump has yet to publicly weigh in, although multiple sources told Politico that they expect him "to go after Kavanaugh's accuser rather than turn on the judge."

So far, however, the Trump Administration — which had been hoping for an easy win asKavanugh, Trump's second Supreme Court pick, was sailing towards confirmation — has been wary to go after Ford. "This woman should not be insulted and she should not be ignored," presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway said on "Fox & Friends" this morning. "This woman will be heard."

Calls to delay the Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation vote on Kavanaugh, which was set to take place on Thursday, have already begun. 20 Democratic senators have already called for the vote to be postponed as an investigation of Ford's allegations takes place, according to a Wake Up To Politics count. Two Republican senators, Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Bob Corker (R-TN), have also made similar statements.

"I've made it clear that I'm not comfortable moving ahead with the vote on Thursday if we have not heard [Ford's] side of the story or explored this further," Flake, a Judiciary Committee member, told The Washington Post.

Corker told Politico that he thinks it "would be best for all involved, including the nominee" if the committee vote is delayed in order for Ford to be heard out. A spokesperson for Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said that he was already attempting to set up a call with Ford, although Democrats said that was not enough, encouraging a full investigation by the FBI. The accuser's lawyer, Washington attorney Debra Katz, told NBC News' "Today" that Ford "is willing to do whatever it takes," including publicly testifying before Congress.

In his initial statement after the allegations were reported on, Grassley's spokesperson attempted to question the accusation. "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," the statement read. The statement also said that "it raises a lot of questions about Democrats' tactics and motives to bring this to the rest of the committee's attention only now rather than during these many steps along the way."

At this point, all eyes are on Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), two moderate Republican senators who were already undecided on Kavanaugh's nomination due to his stance on abortion. Collins told CNN that she was "very surprised" by the allegation, while Murkowski told CNN that the Judiciary Committee "might have to consider" delaying its Thursday vote.

Just as Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court nomination was almost derailed by allegations of sexual misconduct almost three decades ago, Kavanaugh's fate is now in doubt after he faces a named accuser of his own. The question remains: will Kavanaugh ultimately be confirmed, as Thomas was, or will the reality of the #MeToo era force him to withdraw?

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White House schedule

POTUS: At 11am, President Trump receives an emergency preparedness and response update. At 11:30am, he receives his intelligence briefing. At 12:45pm, he has lunch with Vice President Mike Pence.

At 2:15pm, Trump participates in the inaugural meeting of the President's National Council for the American Worker. At 5pm, he hosts a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration.

At 7:15pm, the president holds a fundraising dinner with supporters at an event site in Washington, D.C.

Congress schedule

Senate: The upper chamber will vote on passage of two pieces of legislation, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act and the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act.

House: The lower chamber is not in session.

*All times Eastern