Unfiltered Political News

White House plows ahead with Kavanaugh prep as Ford weighs testifying

Inside the White House and its war room devoted to the Supreme Court nomination fight, little has changed since the news broke Thursday afternoon that Christine Blasey Ford might eventually testify about her sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh, according to one White House aide and one person familiar with the confirmation process.

For the past four days, former law clerks to Kavanaugh, White House lawyers and a handful of other aides have been prepping Kavanaugh for a potential public hearing next week and running through tough questions that could come up before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Kavanaugh told committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in a letter Thursday that he would attend the hearing scheduled for Monday.

Now the major outstanding questions include the time, date, and parameters of Ford’s testimony — her lawyer said Thursday she is willing to testify, but not Monday — as well as President Donald Trump’s response to it.

So far, the president has taken a measured and muted tone to the hour-by-hour changes in the Kavanaugh confirmation process since Ford came forward to accuse Kavanaugh of assaulting her when they were both in high school. Trump has tweeted about the Supreme Court position only once this week and expressed openness to hearing Ford’s story.

“I really want to see her. I really would want to see what she has to say,” Trump said on Wednesday. “If she doesn’t show up, that would be unfortunate.”

At the same time, he has gone to great lengths to stress the greatness of Kavanaugh’s character and has called him an extraordinary man with an unblemished record who’s been treated unfairly. His comments have increased in their frequency, aides and allies say, as he’s become more confident that Kavanaugh will end up being confirmed.

Still, it remains to be seen whether Trump will maintain that calm posture throughout the weekend and during two campaign-style rallies in Nevada and Missouri, followed by two days in Bedminster, N.J., at his golf club, especially as the pressure builds toward a potential vote next week on Trump’s second Supreme Court pick.

The president views his judicial nominations as a core part of his legacy and one that binds him to the evangelical and conservative parts of his base to ensure their loyalty. With the midterms just weeks away, the president and his team are attuned to the balancing act of pleasing the base without alienating female voters.

White House counsel Don McGahn has urged the president to maintain his current stance and has successfully argued that much of the confirmation process is the purview of the Senate, not the White House.

“I think Trump understands that this is the moment when the nominee needs to be front and center and not the president,” said the person familiar with the confirmation process.

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Kavanaugh accuser open to testifying next week

Christine Blasey Ford is “prepared” to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee next week about her accusation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school, but is ruling out the Senate GOP’s plan to hold the hearing on Monday.

Ford’s attorney Debra Katz told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Ford “wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety,” in an email obtained by POLITICO and first reported by the New York Times. Senate Republicans have offered her public or private testimony before the committee, whatever makes Ford feel most comfortable.

“A hearing on Monday is not possible and the Committee’s insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event. Dr. Ford has asked me to let you know that she appreciates the various options you have suggested. Her strong preference continues to be for the Senate Judiciary Committee to allow for a full investigation prior to her testimony,” Katz wrote. She added that she wants to talk to top Judiciary Committee staffers on Thursday.

Kavanaugh on Thursday told Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that he’ll attend Monday’s hearing, according to a letter from Kavanaugh supplied by the White House.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky,) would not answer questions about whether Ford should be accommodated or whether the hearing must occur on Monday.

A spokesman for Grassley (R-Iowa) said: “We are glad to finally hear back from them.”

While Katz’s note puts the burden on Grassley to decide whether to accommodate her, Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination nonetheless appears back on track for the moment. The GOP is increasingly confident and Democrats decidedly alarmed that the Supreme Court nominee will be confirmed despite a sexual assault allegation against him.

Ford’s attorneys and Democrats have asked for an FBI investigation into the alleged assault in high school and more witnesses to appear before the panel, but the GOP has shrugged them off.

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) said on Fox News on Thursday that if Ford and the committee can’t work out a hearing and provide new information, “after the time we’ve spent on this, it’s time to move forward and get the votes in next week.”

Kavanaugh “says he is innocent. And we have to get this information out. If the person who has this information doesn’t provide it, then I think it’s time we face the reality that we need to move on. We have already spent 50 percent more time confirming Judge Kavanaugh than the last six judges. It’s time to get this to a decision,” Perdue said.

Senate Democrats have asked for Monday’s hearing to be delayed given the circumstances and Ford’s discomfort with the format. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said Thursday that Ford should skip the “sham hearing” if the FBI doesn’t investigate, and some of her colleagues are fretting that Kavanaugh will be confirmed whether Ford testifies or not.

“They’re going to get this guy on the court come hell or high water,” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said in an interview. “I’m going to continue to raise my voice.”

“I do hope she testifies, but I deeply respect her hesitation,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told reporters at the Capitol. He argued the delay both Democrats and Ford are seeking is not unreasonable: “This doesn’t need to take months but it should take a few days.”

Indeed, Grassley told committee Democrats in a Wednesday evening letter that the hearing will proceed. He said it was be a “disservice” to everyone to “delay this hearing any further” and said he will view additional complaints about the committee process “very skeptically.”

Grassley also put the blame on Democrats for the manner in which a letter Ford wrote about her story, given confidentially to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in late July, was leaked to the press. “This is but the latest — and most serious — of your side’s abuse of this confirmation process,” he said.

Mike Davis, Grassley’s chief counsel for nominations on the committee, tweeted that he interviewed Kavanaugh “under penalty of felony” if the nominee lied to him, while Ford’s attorneys “can’t find time between TV appearances.” Davis added that he is “unfazed and determined. We will confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”

“We got a little hiccup here with the Kavanaugh nomination, we’ll get through this and we’ll get off to the races,” said Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) on a call with Republicans on Wednesday, according to The Nevada Independent.

Ford has accused Kavanaugh, 53, of groping and forcing himself on her at a party in Maryland, when there were both in high school. A number of Senate Republicans say they have personally asked him about the allegations in the past few days, and they all say that Kavanaugh has denied them as strongly privately as he has done publicly.

Members of Ford’s family circulated a public letter of support for her amid reports of death threats that forced her to leave her home. “Her honesty is above reproach and her behavior is highly ethical and respectful of everyone’s point of view,” they wrote.

The Kavanaugh nomination’s lurch into scandal comes at a critical moment for Washington as a whole: The midterm elections are barely a month away, and McConnell is closing in on a fundamental remake of both the Supreme Court and lower level courts.

If his nomination moves forward, Kavanaugh seems increasingly likely to be the first Supreme Court nominee approved along party lines, as undecided Democrats continue to come out against him. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) announced her opposition, which she linked to the nominee’s campaign finance record rather than Ford’s allegation, on Wednesday night.

Kavanaugh currently lacks the votes to be confirmed, with no Democratic support and a trio of GOP senators publicly undecided. But Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) laid out the general GOP frame of mind: Barring extraordinary testimony by Ford or new damaging information about Kavanaugh, he will be on the court.

“If ultimately we have seen sort of these allegations that have been out there in the press but no testimony about it has been presented … based on that information and not just that but everything else we know about Judge Kavanaugh, we’ll have to make a decision,” Rubio said on Fox on Thursday morning. “I continue to be supportive of his nomination.”

In theory, Kavanaugh’s nomination could proceed through the Judiciary panel to the full Senate as early as next week. And it’s possible McConnell could still meet his goal of confirming Kavanaugh by the time the court opens its fall session on Oct. 1, though a final vote could drift into October if there are new questions raised about him or accommodations made for Ford.

Meanwhile, Republicans heard from an unwelcome voice on the topic: Roy Moore, the disgraced Alabama Republican candidate who lost last year when confronted with sexual misconduct allegations of his own. Moore said the GOP needs to get behind Kavanaugh, though the party did not do the same for him.

“Republicans need to take a stand. I think a lot of them don’t,” Moore told One America News.

Rebecca Morin and Ramsen Shamon contributed to this report.

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Grassley in firing line on Kavanaugh assault allegation

Sen. Chuck Grassley has cultivated a decadeslong reputation for protecting whistleblowers and fighting for government transparency. Now he’s plunging into the harrowing task of probing a sexual assault allegation while advancing a Supreme Court nominee that could define him and the GOP for years to come.

The 85-year-old Iowa Republican is trying to stay sensitive in coaxing Christine Blasey Ford to talk to his Senate Judiciary Committee next week, and leading the charge to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, whom Ford alleges assaulted her. It’s a delicate juggling act that serves as the climax to a conservative career spent alternately battling Democrats and working with them against his party leadership.

On Wednesday, Grassley’s challenge was on vivid display as he sympathized with Ford for facing death threats that he said “disturbed” him in a letter to her attorneys. Then, a few paragraphs later in that letter, Grassley served up a fastball: Ford’s testimony and biography are due by Friday morning if she intends to show up on Monday.

Grassley says he’s going to great lengths to be fair to Ford, offering to fly a staffer to California to interview her and making repeated attempts to contact her lawyers. But his dilemma is the same as the rest of his party’s: Being as delicate as possible with an alleged sexual assault victim while keeping Kavanaugh headed toward the bench.

“Where I am focused right now is doing everything that we can to make Dr. Ford comfortable with coming before our committee, either in an open session or a closed session or a public or a private interview. That’s four different ways she can choose,” Grassley told reporters on Wednesday. He said the hearing would be “fruitful” only if both Ford and Kavanaugh show up.

The famously curmudgeonly Grassley faces competing imperatives as he works through one of the most fraught periods of his 43-year political career. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is trying to get Kavanaugh confirmed before the midterm elections, and many of Grassley’s colleagues are arguing there should be no delay.

But for Democrats and advocates fighting sexual violence, Grassley is in too much of a rush given his long-running history of urging people to come forward on their own terms about malfeasance. They say he needs to stop and assess his place in history before going forward.

“I’ve known him at times to really be a victim advocate, so I’m surprised that he seems to be rushing and setting it up in a way that we don’t think is trauma-informed,” said Terri Poore, policy director for the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence. “Sen. Grassley is a man who cares about doing the right thing. And I think that sometimes doing the right thing can rise over politics.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), a liberal member of the Judiciary Committee, said Ford has received “unacceptable treatment” from Grassley: “I expect more.”

“I would expect Sen. Grassley to be much more even-handed and fair-minded in how he’s treating Dr. Ford,” Hirono said in an interview. “She’s just told, ‘here, we are having a hearing on Monday. Take it, or leave it.’ This is not the treatment I’d expect from Chairman Grassley. [It] traumatizes her all over again.”

Republicans see Grassley, now in his seventh term, as continuing his long history of autonomy and trying to accommodate those he disagrees with. He quickly proposed a public hearing with Ford and canceled a planned Thursday committee vote to move forward on Kavanaugh after the California-based professor went public with her allegation.

And there’s no one the GOP would rather have helming such a frenetic confirmation fight than the senior senator from Iowa. Judiciary Committee member John Kennedy (R-La.) said he’s been a “senatorial rock star” dealing with protesters, Democratic interruptions and difficult political decisions.

“He is very sensitive to the issues of survivors and whistleblowers that come forward,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), one of six GOP female senators. “We want to approach this in a fair and balanced manner. And I do believe Chairman Grassley will do an exceptional job.”

Over the past three years, Grassley has occasionally delighted but more often confounded his Democratic colleagues. Most notably, he blocked President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, from even getting a hearing under the direction of McConnell. He also has moved forward on lower-level court nominees without buy-in from Democrats, in their view breaking with tradition.

But Grassley can surprise: He worked with liberal Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) — who praised him during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings for having “the patience of Job” — on a bill to help protect special counsel Robert Mueller, which McConnell opposes. And he aligned with liberal Democrats on a bill to change the way the United States handles military sexual assault.

What he will do if Ford decides not to show up is the question on everyone’s mind in the Senate. On Wednesday evening, Ford’s attorneys asked that Grassley allow more witnesses.

“I don’t know what Chairman Grassley will do,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), an undecided senator Republicans need to vote for Kavanaugh, said on WVOM radio. “The effort right now is to convince Professor Ford to come forward, which she said she wants to do. And I think it would be better for her to do so.”

Grassley is more seasoned than most senators when it comes to sexual misconduct allegations being leveled against a Supreme Court nominee. He is one of three senators still serving on the Judiciary Committee who played a role in the Anita Hill hearings during Clarence Thomas’ confirmation to the high court. And he defended Thomas strongly against allegations he felt were unproven.

“She accused Judge Thomas of sexual harassment and she had to establish the truthfulness of these charges. Judge Thomas stands accused, but he need not prove his innocence. And to the extent that any of my colleagues find the situation continued to be cloudy, murky and unclear, Judge Thomas must be given the benefit of the doubt,” Grassley said in 1991.

But Grassley also seized on the experience of the Anita Hill hearing to craft legislation giving Capitol Hill employees a system for reporting sexual harassment. He was a chief author of the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act, which effectively created the legislature’s current workplace misconduct policing system.

And 27 years makes a big difference when it comes to Ford versus Hill, his detractors say. High-profile politicians and businessmen have been ousted over sexual assault allegations, and Grassley’s handling of Ford’s allegations may go a long way to determining how the Republican Party is viewed by women.

“If Grassley is betting that the public will disregard Dr. Blasey [Ford] just because she isn’t surrendering to a sham hearing, he is dead wrong. Republicans are going to face a ferocious backlash in November if they insist on steamrolling ahead to install an alleged sexual abuser on the court,” said Brian Fallon, executive director of anti-Kavanaugh group Demand Justice.

Of course, if Ford shows up for Monday’s hearing Grassley will have a different challenge: Controlling what is sure to be the biggest congressional spectacle in years, a woman facing off with her alleged abuser barely a month before the midterms. The atmosphere at Kavanaugh’s first set of hearings was chaotic enough, but Grassley pushed through protester noise and didn’t shut down Democratic dissent as the nominee conducted himself in a manner that seemed only to strengthen his GOP support.

If Monday‘s hearing goes forward, the stakes will be even higher.

“It will get crazy, I’m sure, if it’s like the first” confirmation hearing, said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, a senior member of Judiciary. “But he, I think, was able to muscle through it and give everybody a fair opportunity. So I’m confident.”

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Attacks on Feinstein backfire on California challenger

Kevin de León, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s November opponent, accused her last week of “gross misconduct” for waiting months to flag a sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh — seizing on the Supreme Court firestorm to jump-start his long-shot campaign.

Now de León is facing a backlash for his own handling of sexual harassment on his watch in the California legislature, which has been rocked by allegations of pervasive sexual misconduct.

Allies of Feinstein in California’s Democratic establishment have rallied behind the state’s senior senator, repudiating de León’s critiques as acts of political opportunism from a trailing candidate looking to build his profile.

“She’s trustworthy, calm, deliberate, and gets all the facts before she acts. Because of that, she’s simply more credible than someone who puts out a press release first and figures out what’s happening on the back end,” Dana Williamson, a senior adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, said in a text message to POLITICO.

And on Capitol Hill, Democrats have largely coalesced behind their senior member on the Judiciary Committee as she takes GOP heat for her handling of Dr. Christine Ford’s letter alleging that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while both were in high school.

De León characterizes the episode as a “failure of leadership,” saying Feinstein should have done more as the Judiciary Committee’s senior Democrat to question Kavanaugh’s character during confirmation hearings.

And as the Kavanaugh hearings have unfolded, de León has assailed Feinstein for abiding by the Senate’s institutional norms and not taking a more combative stance, faulting her in particular for apologizing to Kavanaugh for disruptive protesters.

But de León, the former state Senate President Pro Tem, has seen his criticism reflected back at him from detractors who charge he was too slow to address sexual harassment allegations in Sacramento. Multiple lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled legislature have lost their seats in recent months after being accused of misconduct, including a former state senator with whom de León once shared an apartment (the former state senator, Tony Mendoza, has denied any wrongdoing).

“He has experienced his own issues with handling sexual harassment claims in the Senate, and for that reason, I find it curious why he is the designated spokesperson on how Senator Feinstein has done her job,” Shawnda Westly, a longtime strategist for the California Democratic Party, said in an email to POLITICO.

De León has faced blistering criticism from a Republican Assemblywoman, Melissa Melendez, who has noted that her bills to protect legislative whistleblowers from retaliation repeatedly ran aground in the Senate when de León was leader or controlled the committee that halted the bills. It finally cleared the Senate last year, fortified by language that specifically mentioned sexual harassment.

“My problem with Kevin de León’s assertion that he is this great champion for women’s rights…is that he is the very reason this bill took 5 years to get passed,” Melendez said in an interview.

Adama Iwu, a California lobbyist and cofounder of the “We Said Enough” movement that spotlighted sexual abuse in Sacramento, said de León was “lacking in credibility” after having presided over a legislative body roiled by accusations of harassment and rooming with Mendoza.

“Things were handled badly and things were swept under the rug pretty consistently, and his Rules Committee” — the panel that handled complaints and is overseen by leadership — “had a role in that,” she said.

Conversations with legislative employees bolstered that assertion: among those who have worked under Sacramento’s capitol dome, there is a widespread sense that the mechanisms for uncovering misconduct tended to downplay allegations and failed to hold the powerful to account.

That began to change after the #MeToo movement engulfed Sacramento, de León and allies said. In a statement to POLITICO, de León defended the legislature’s response, which included de León introducing a resolution to expel Mendoza — who resigned before a vote — and lawmakers sending Gov Jerry Brown a bill establishing a new unit to investigate complaints of workplace misconduct, which Brown signed this week.

“Our California legislature confronted some hard truths head-on over the last year, and I will put our record in responding to that crisis and swiftly disciplining offenders, implementing victim protections and providing independent oversight against Congress’s any day,” de León said.

Feinstein, for her part, has vocally defended her handling of Ford’s letter about Kavanaugh since her office first received it in late July. Her fellow Democrats on the Judiciary panel were in the dark about the letter until a vague media report last week prompted Feinstein to share more details, sparking Republican howls over why she waited until a leak to the press before reporting the letter to the FBI.

The process “hasn’t been easy,” Feinstein told reporters earlier this week. “We wanted to do it the right way.”

She explained that her staff had initially looked into an outside investigation of Ford’s claim about Kavanaugh before learning that it would require notifying the Senate Rules Committee, “which would have erupted the whole thing” by violating the 51-year-old college professor’s desire for confidentiality.

But neither Feinstein nor her staff has explained in full why she did not route Ford’s letter to the FBI, even on a confidential basis, before the first press report of its existence. Even so, Feinstein’s fellow Democrats have mostly defended her decision to keep a close hold on Ford’s letter out of respect for the younger woman’s request for confidentiality.

“A foundational principle in dealing with survivors of assault is that they are the ones to decide when and how they come forward and how their stories are told to law enforcement,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in an interview.

In December of last year, de León acknowledged some measure of responsibility for his own role in Sacramento as he spoke about the “humbling experience” of confronting what critics called a deeply-rooted culture of misconduct and a sweeping lack of accountability. “Have I also contributed or been complicit collectively as men to this type of dynamic?” he said in a press conference.

Christine Pelosi, who is the daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and heads the California Democratic Party Women’s Caucus, recalled that moment in saying many of the women who signed a much-publicized letter detailing sexual abuse in Sacramento “are seething” that de León attacked Feinstein and portrayed himself as a defender of women’s rights in the Kavanaugh hearing.

Recalling a moment in the de León press conference when he put his hand on his heart and said, ‘I wonder sometimes what I have done to contribute to the culture,’” Pelosi said, “This would be a really, really good time for him to do it. Instead of adding to the pain, he needs to disarm instead of politicizing the situation.”

State Sen. Holly Mitchell, who served on a committee that crafted a new system for handling sexual misconduct, praised de León for moving swiftly to respond to the “highly volatile, highly publicized MeToo movement.” That response included hiring outside law firms to investigate harassment allegations and launching a hotline for victims.

“I thought he stepped up and did the right thing at the right time,” Mitchell said.

Complaints that the Legislature failed alleged victims over the years are “largely true,” Mitchell conceded, but she argued that “the finger can be pointed at a number of people” for a problem that has stretched back decades.

Echoing that point, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson said de León acted appropriately when the time for action arrived.

“I think that the responsibility is on an entrenched culture of objectification of women that has existed since probably the beginning of time, and that has flourished unnecessarily throughout the halls of power,” Jackson said, but “the setting up of this joint committee to deal with sexual harassment, the investigations that were undertaken, occurred under [de León’s] watch.”

But plenty of detractors remain unconvinced.

“He really has no ground upon which to stand,” said Micha Star Liberty, an attorney who is handling lawsuits against the legislature — including a woman who alleges she was fired in retaliation for complaining about Mendoza. “It betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of what sexual assault victims go through and their process. He is using this, probably some of the worst moments in this woman’s life, as a political football to try and score points.”

Carla Marinucci contributed to this report.

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Dems: We'll probe Kavanaugh allegations if we win in November

Congressional Democrats are threatening to investigate sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh from the highest bench in the land should he be confirmed without a probe and the party reclaim Congress.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said that “as soon as Democrats get gavels,” the party will vet the FBI’s handling of Ford’s claim against the Supreme Court nominee — even if Kavanaugh is already seated on the high court by that time. Rep. Eric Swallwell (D-Calif.), who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, also said in an interview that the party could probe Kavanaugh’s denials of the allegations against him.

“If they ramrod this nomination through, and we win the majority, we can still investigate this on the House side, and certainly the question as to whether a Supreme Court justice committed perjury is something you could look at,” Swalwell said in an interview. “Hopefully it doesn’t come to that; hopefully they do this right.”

“Because,” he added, “it’s going to get investigated either way and it would be better not to have to investigate a sitting judge.”

Their comments point to a continued Democratic focus on Kavanaugh that could help turn out liberal voters in November, regardless of whether the GOP can confirm him.

“You can’t ignore a crime victim’s claim that something happened, refuse to investigate, throw her up into the stand without the least bit of support for her, without the least bit of effort to corroborate what she says and then walk away from that,” Whitehouse told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Their comments suggest that Democrats are prepared to keep digging in on Kavanaugh, sustaining the bitterly partisan tone of this fall’s confirmation battle well into 2019. Should they take the House or Senate, Democratic chairmen could use their subpoena authority to make Kavanaugh’s first year on the bench miserable.

Opening impeachment investigative proceedings for Kavanaugh would be a rare move, to be sure. Congress has not initiated its own impeachment inquiry since 1980, when lawmakers created the Judicial Conference of the United States to handles complaints about the conduct or disability of federal judges.

Usually, Congress only takes up the matter if the Judicial Conference refers a case to Capitol Hill. What’s more, judges who have found themselves in hot water often resign before the complaints are even made public.

That’s in part why only 15 judges have been impeached in the history of the United States. One of them is current Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), who was impeached in 1988, acquitted of criminal bribery charges, then won a House seat in 1992.

A senior House Democratic leadership aide on Thursday floated the idea of investigating Kavanaugh’s statements on Ford if Democrats win back that chamber and if Republicans don’t do a thorough probe on their own. The party has no plans to do so yet but is clearly examining the idea.

Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), declined to address the hypothetical question of how Democrats would address the allegation against Kavanaugh should the party win back power in November. But he aligned with Ford’s call for an FBI inquiry into her allegation that Kavanaugh tried to force himself on her when both were in high school.

“Dr. Ford is right — the FBI should conduct a background investigation of her serious allegations of attempted rape,” Hammill said. “Judge Kavanaugh should not fear a FBI investigation unless he is hiding something.”

A senior House Democratic source said that while the issue is being discussed behind closed doors, talk about impeaching or investigating Kavanaugh is more of a warning shot to Republicans and the nominee. Democrats want Republicans to bring in other witnesses who could help corroborate the events at issue 35 years ago, including Kavanaugh classmate Mark Judge, who has written a memoir about heavy drinking at their former school, Georgetown Prep.

Democrats are also angry that Republicans are pushing to confirm Kavanaugh as soon as this month, fast-forwarding the confirmation process to get him seated before the Supreme Court opens a new session.

“They’ve made it very clear that they don’t care about facts of sexual abuse, or anything else,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a onetime Judiciary chairman and one of three members still on the panel who participated in 1991’s Anita Hill hearings, said in an interview. “They just want to ram it through.”

“It’s harmful to the court’s legitimacy and to Judge Kavanaugh’s legitimacy on the court to simply go through a confirmation vote” without conducting any FBI investigation, said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), also a member of the Judiciary panel.

Rebecca Morin and John Bresnahan contributed to this report.

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'We're very confident:' Trump, GOP growing more bullish about Kavanaugh's survival

President Donald Trump is growing more confident that his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, can weather a charge of sexual assault and will be confirmed, according to two sources familiar with the confirmation process.

The feeling is shared by some of Trump’s key Republican allies, even as controversy continues to rage over a sexual-assault allegation against the conservative judge. The White House and its allies have taken no steps to line up a new nominee, according to four people familiar with the confirmation process.

“We’re very confident,” one Republican in touch with the White House said when asked whether Kavanaugh will survive the firestorm.

Even so, Kavanaugh’s Washington allies continue to hunt for evidence — scouring everything from high school yearbooks to real estate records — that might reveal Ford to be acting out of personal or political bias, or simply misrecalling a single night when they were in high school.

Trump’s optimism was on display in his comments to reporters Wednesday, just before he departed Washington for North Carolina to tour hurricane-ravaged areas. As he did on Tuesday, Trump cast Kavanaugh as an extraordinary man with an “unblemished record,” whom he said has been treated unfairly. But he also escalated his rhetoric, applying new pressure on Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, by saying she should attend a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to testify publicly about her allegation.

“I really want to see her. I really would want to see what she has to say,” Trump said. “If she doesn’t show up, that would be unfortunate.

“This is a very tough thing for him and his family. And we want to get it over with,” Trump said — before adding: “At the same time, we want to give tremendous amounts of time.”

The sources including a White House official said the increasing frequency and sympathy of Trump’s tone toward Kavanaugh reflected growing optimism that his nominee would win confirmation despite the epic drama still unfolding around Ford’s allegation and whether she will detail it in public.

“This is not in the bag,” said one White House official. “But I think we know what we are going to do.”

On the advice of senior aides, including White House counsel Don McGahn, Trump previously offered a more muted and cautious line, and in general he has shown uncharacteristic restraint on the subject.

One reason Trump and his allies are feeling bullish: Some Republican senators, including Sen. Bob Corker, who initially called for further investigation of Ford’s allegation, have said the Senate should go ahead and vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination if Ford does wind up testifying. Kavanaugh’s fate hangs on just a few additional votes.

Kavanaugh was at the White House Wednesday preparing in the event there’s a hearing next week, according to a person involved with the confirmation process, who said that Kavanaugh’s remarks would be “qualitatively different” from the statements you normally see in Washington.

“They do not contain the three words that almost every statement in Washington does: Do not recall,” the person said. “That speaks volumes about how he has to approach this.”

Some conservatives have interpreted Ford’s declaration that she wants the FBI to investigate her account before she testifies as evidence that her account of a night in the mid-1980s is somehow flawed.

No evidence has emerged to that effect, although Democrats and Republicans alike on Wednesday described a flurry of hearsay, rumors and online testimonials of generally dubious veracity that allegedly support their respective sides.

“There is a bounty hunter mentality right now,” said the person involved in the confirmation process.

Trump underscored the high stakes of the controversy in his remarks to reporters Wednesday. “Look, when I first decided to run, everybody said the single most important thing you do is a Supreme Court justice, OK? We’ve all heard that many times about a president.”

Republicans hope to vote on Kavanaugh — with or without a Senate hearing — early next week, as long as they can lock down 50 votes among Senate Republicans, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tiebreaking vote if needed.

One Republican familiar with the confirmation process said the White House and GOP are walking a line between not enraging women sympathetic to Ford’s charges but also projecting strength and partisan fire to core Republican voters.

“One thing that is keeping everyone in line is that we’re worried about the #MeToo movement, but we’re also worried about discouraging the base,” the Republican said. “There is a real concern, if Kavanaugh does not get confirmed and we don’t rally to the cause, it could hurt us.”

The question of whether Ford ultimately will appear in-person in Washington added the latest twist in the Republicans’ fast-moving process of trying to confirm and seat a justice before the November midterms.

At stake is the balance of the Supreme Court and court decisions that will reverberate for generations, as well as Trump’s own promises to evangelicals and conservatives that he’d stock the courts with like-minded judges.

Ford’s lawyer, Debra Katz, sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley Tuesday explaining that Ford wants the FBI to investigate the allegation prior to her testimony. The letter added that, since Ford went public with her story in the Washington Post on Sunday, the California clinical psychology professor has endured harassment and threats and has even fled her home.

Kavanaugh’s backers have combed through dusty yearbooks and public records in an attempt to gather information about the night of the Maryland house party party at which Ford says a 17-year-old Kavanaugh assaulted her so aggressively that she feared for her life. Ford says Kavanaugh took her into a room with another male friend, groped her, tried to forcibly remove her clothes, and covered her mouth when she protested.

Ford’s lawyer has not responded to repeated requests from POLITICO for an interview.

Kavanaugh has spent the past few days, holed up in the West Wing with McGahn, who has served as confidant and counselor as the two try to line up support of senators, map out a defense strategy and prepare for a potential hearing on Monday.

In recent days, Kavanaugh has retained the law firm of Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz to represent him.

Even after the allegation came out and Ford went public, the White House and conservative groups doubled down on Kavanaugh as their pick for the Supreme Court — with no one else waiting in the wings, said the four sources familiar with the confirmation process.

Trump himself has largely left the defense of Kavanaugh and strategy behind it to McGahn and congressional leadership. And even as Trump has expressed sympathy for Kavanaugh – as he’s often done for men facing allegations of abuse or sexual impropriety– he’s also been quite focused on the federal government’s hurricane response and new tariffs on China. He spent Wednesday in North Carolina, receiving a briefing on the hurricane response and handing out food in Styrofoam containers to hurricane victims in a church parking lot.

“Trump is happy no one is talking about Manafort and Mueller, so he is happy to play along,” said one Republican close to the White House.

Andrew Restuccia and Lorraine Woellert contributed reporting.

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Timeline: How an allegation against Kavanaugh came to light and shook Washington

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s seemingly all-but-guaranteed confirmation was thrown off course after an allegation became public that he had sexually assaulted a woman when they were both in high school.

Christine Blasey Ford brought her claim anonymously over the summer, but it took months to break out into public view.

Here is a timeline of how Ford’s accusation came to light and how Kavanaugh and President Donald Trump have responded:

July 30: Feinstein receives a confidential complaint

Ford wrote Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, a confidential letter alleging that Kavanaugh climbed on top of her at a party in the 1980s, held her down and groped her.

Ford initially described the incident to Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who later forwarded the letter to Feinstein. Feinstein said she kept the letter’s existence private at the time to respect Ford’s request for confidentiality. Ford had already contacted the Washington Post but declined to speak on the record.

Late August: Ford decides to stay quiet

Ford decided coming forward would probably not affect Kavanaugh’s confirmation, and she decided to stay quiet.

“Why suffer through the annihilation if it’s not going to matter?” she told the Washington Post of her thinking at the time.

Sept. 12: Feinstein shares the story with Democrats

Feinstein described the contents of the letter to other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, according to the New York Times. Several of them urged her to go to the FBI or to make the letter public, the paper reported.

That same day, the Intercept reported that Senate Judiciary Committee members wanted to see the document, but Feinstein would not let them.

Sept. 13: Feinstein says she sent information about Kavanaugh to FBI

Feinstein released a brief and cryptic statement saying that she had “received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court” and that she sent the letter to the Justice Department.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell chastised Feinstein for keeping the letter secret until the last minute, and the White House called it an orchestrated political move to delay Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

White House counsel Don McGahn got a copy of the letter shortly after Feinstein released her statement and quickly forwarded it to Capitol Hill, a White House aide told POLITICO.

Sept. 14: Kavanaugh denies the still-anonymous allegation

Kavanaugh said in a statement: “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) released a letter signed by 65 women who said that they knew Kavanaugh in high school and that “he has always treated women with decency and respect.”

Sept. 16: Ford reveals herself in the Washington Post

In a bombshell Washington Post interview, Ford identified herself as Kavanaugh’s accuser. She said she had already been contacted by news outlets asking about Kavanaugh, making it was clear that her identity had leaked.

Sept. 17: Ford and Kavanaugh agree to testify

Debra Katz, an attorney for Ford, said her client hoped to tell “her story in a manner that is a fair proceeding.”

Kavanaugh issued a new statement saying that he had not previously known who the accuser was but that “I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone.”

“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,” he said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told reporters that Kavanaugh told him he was not at the party where the assault allegedly took place; a spokesman from Hatch’s office later clarified that Kavanaugh had said he did not attend any parties like the one described.

Trump said he was open to a “full process” to air the allegation, though he called Kavanaugh “as high a quality individual as you’ll ever see.” Lawmakers scheduled a hearing for the following Monday.

Sept. 18: Ford calls for an FBI investigation

Ford’s attorneys told the Senate Judiciary Committee that she wanted the FBI to investigate her allegation, throwing into question whether she would appear at the Sept. 24 hearing.

Sept. 19: Trump says he wants Ford to testify

“I really want to see her. I really would want to see what she has to say,” Trump said. “If she doesn’t show up, that would be unfortunate.”

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GOP presses Kavanaugh vote with accuser's testimony in doubt

Republican senators are giving Christine Blasey Ford a stark choice as they prepare to weigh her sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh: Talk to us on Monday, or risk losing your chance to do so before we vote.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) replied on Wednesday to a letter from Ford’s lawyers that sought an FBI inquiry before she testifies in public about her high school-era assault allegation against the Supreme Court nominee. Republicans are indicating little interest in any such investigation.

“I certainly understand and respect Dr. Ford’s desire for an investigation of her allegations. That is precisely what the Senate is doing,” Grassley wrote. “That is why our investigators have asked to speak with your client. That is why I have invited Dr. Ford to tell her story to the Senate and, if she so chooses, to the American people.”

Grassley added that a “credibility assessment” of Ford’s allegation would not fall to the FBI. On Wednesday morning, he said he would spend the rest of the week trying to persuade the California-based professor to appear before his committee.

“I’m not worried about anything other than just focusing for the next few days [on] encouraging her to come,” Grassley told reporters.

Asked whether he would cancel the hearing if Ford does not attend, Grassley said he doesn’t have to make that choice yet. The Iowan is also willing to send a committee aide to Ford’s home base in California to talk to her if that’s preferable, a GOP Judiciary staffer said.

One of Ford’s attorney’s late Wednesday sent a statement saying that there’s no need to “rush” the hearing and that there are other witnesses who should appear at the hearing.

“Fairness and respect for her situation dictate that she should have time to deal with this,” she wrote.

But the lawyer, Lisa Banks, did not say whether or not Ford would appear at Monday’s hearing.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation might be decided by whether Ford shows up on Monday and is heard by the committee. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is undecided on Kavanaugh, indicated that she’s confused why Ford would go public and then decline to appear, which she said “would be a real disservice to both Judge Kavanaugh and professor Ford.”

“Much to my surprise it now appears that she’s turning down all [of her] options even though her attorney said earlier this week that she would come testify,” Collins said on Maine radio station WVOM. “I just don’t understand why the hearing shouldn’t go forward.”

She predicted the hearing would not go forward if Ford were not to show up. Another Judiciary Committee Republican told reporters he believes Ford might still come.

“Some of my colleagues say she’s not going to show. … I’m a little more sanguine and think there’s a possibility that she will show and will change her mind again,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). “I don’t think we should cancel the hearing.”

Grassley’s letter noted that Ford has until Friday morning to submit advance information if she decides to participate on Monday.

Although the FBI conducted a dayslong inquiry of Anita Hill’s 1991 sexual harassment allegations against then-nominee Clarence Thomas, a precedent that Ford’s lawyers referred to in their letter, the FBI has said this week that it acted in accordance with existing guidelines by adding Ford’s allegation to Kavanaugh’s background file without further action.

Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, who had announced a Monday public hearing before Ford agreed to appear in that setting, say her appearance is necessary in order for the committee to fully examine her claim that Kavanaugh tried to force himself on her when he was 17 and she was 15. Republicans have offered to let Ford speak in private but indicated that they plan to press ahead with President Donald Trump’s high court pick even if she doesn’t ultimately participate.

Some openly dismissed her recent request as a delaying tactic.

“Requiring an FBI investigation of a 36 year old allegation (without specific references to time or location) before Professor Ford will appear before the Judiciary Committee is not about finding the truth, but delaying the process till after the midterm elections,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a senior Judiciary Committee member, said in a statement.

One key Republican who had urged for a delay in order to hear out Ford’s side of the story, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, said Tuesday night that senators should proceed to a vote if she cannot participate on Monday.

If it is just Kavanaugh in the hearing on Monday, he may offer little more than further public denials that the incident ever occurred. Kennedy said he asked Kavanaugh about the allegations on Tuesday and received an “unequivocal” denial.

“Absolutely not. It did not happen. And I am prepared to come before the committee again and answer any questions,” Kavanaugh said, according to Kennedy. The senator said Kavanaugh is not mad at Ford or anyone else for leveling the accusations against him: “He’s not angry and he’s not critical of anybody. He didn’t say a bad thing about anybody.”

Republicans have indicated that they may decide to question Ford and her lawyers over any contacts they had with Democrats if the hearing slated for Monday occurs. The letter from Ford’s lawyers does not commit her to speaking with the committee by Monday, regardless of whether her request for further FBI action is met.

Trump himself told reporters on Wednesday that he hopes Ford decides to speak in public, even as he defended Kavanaugh’s “unblemished record” and dismissed the prospect of any further FBI investigation.

“I really would want to see what she has to say,” Trump said, according to the White House pool report.

“If she shows up and makes a credible showing, that’ll be very interesting, and we’ll have to make a decision, but … very hard for me to imagine anything happened,” he said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California the panel’s top Democrat, responded: “President Trump, Dr. Blasey Ford did not want her story of sexual assault to be public. She requested confidentiality and I honored that. It wasn’t until the media outed her that she decided to come forward. You may not respect women and the wishes of victims, but I do.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged Republicans to reconsider their resistance to an FBI examination of the allegation. “Senate Republicans and the White House should drop their inexplicable opposition to an FBI investigation, allow all the facts to come out, and then proceed with a fair process in the Senate,” the New York Democrat said in a Tuesday night statement.

Rebecca Morin contributed to this report.

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Trump claim that FBI can't probe Kavanaugh allegations is wrong, ex-officials say

The White House could order the FBI to investigate the sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, several former senior White House and Justice Department officials from both parties said Wednesday, contradicting President Donald Trump’s claims that doing so would exceed the FBI’s mandate.

Trump continued to insist on Wednesday that there is no potential role for the FBI in exploring claims by California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh covered her mouth while trying to strip her bathing suit off during a party when both were in high school in the 1980s.

“It would seem that the FBI really doesn’t do that,” the president said in response to a reporter’s question about Ford’s call for the FBI to look into the matter before she agrees to testify at a Senate hearing. “They’ve investigated about six times before, and it seems that they don’t do that.”

Trump’s stance echoed that of Senate Republican leaders, who suggested there is no role for the FBI in investigating a decades-old incident that would not be a federal crime.

“We have no power to commandeer an Executive Branch agency into conducting our due diligence. The job of assessing and investigating a nominee’s qualifications in order to decide whether to consent to the nomination is ours, and ours alone,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said in a letter Wednesday to Ford’s lawyers.

Longtime Senate Judiciary Committee member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) agreed. “The FBI does not do investigations like this. The responsibility falls to us,” Hatch said.

But several officials who have had direct roles in the nomination and background check process said it’s common, as part of the FBI’s vetting of presidential nominees for judicial posts and executive branch jobs, to investigate matters that do not qualify as federal crimes. Some noted that the Trump White House itself enlisted the FBI last winter to explore spousal abuse claims against former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter

“What happened here is actually not unusual,” said John Yoo, a senior Justice Department official under President George W. Bush.

“The Judiciary Committee will often say to the Justice Department: ‘Can you send the agents back out and find out if this is true find out what happened with this?…. The normal procedure for this would have been to send the FBI out,” Yoo added.

A former Obama administration lawyer also said the FBI would look into the matter if the White House relayed such a request.

“If the FBI was asked to do it, it would do it,” said the attorney, who asked not to be named. “It doesn’t have to be a federal crime. They’ve investigating someone’s suitability for the position….. It has nothing to do with it being a federal crime.”

In a letter to Democrats Wednesday afternoon, Grassley offered a somewhat different argument, however, saying that FBI involvement was not appropriate given that Ford’s allegations had now gone public.

“Confidentiality permits people to speak freely and candidly about the character and qualifications of the nominee,” Grassley wrote. “The White House requires the Senate to keep Background investigation files private so that people can speak anonymously to investigators if they so desire. Because Dr. Ford’s allegations are in the public arena, there is no longer a need for a confidential FBI investigation.”

Such an investigation did take place when Anita Hill came forward with sexual harassment allegations against Supreme Court Clarence Thomas in 1991, and was quickly completed. But Grassley stressed that the probe took place before those claims went public. The Iowa Republican acknowledges that one of those FBI reports was leaked before the follow-up hearing where Hill told her story and Thomas rejected it.

Some officials said the Trump administration’s response to the battery claims against Rob Porter provides ample evidence of the FBI’s willingness to conduct follow-up inquiries, even where no federal crime is alleged. In that case, White House officials asked for more information about the initial claims and the FBI was tasked with conducting another round of interviews aimed at developing more information on what transpired.

In a letter sent to Congress in April, FBI Assistant Director Gerald Roberts said that after Porter’s full background check was sent to the White House in July 2017, officials there came back to the FBI to request “additional information, to include but not limited to, re-interviews of Mr. Porter, his ex-wives and his girlfriend at the time.”

In urgent cases, such re-investigations can be handled by the FBI quite quickly, former officials said.

“It seems to me you could have this done in a day or two, actually,” Yoo said during a question-and-answer session at a Wednesday event sponsored by the Washington Legal Foundation. “I actually was surprised…that the committee decided to just have hearings on Monday to hear from both Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford without the benefit of additional information.”

A White House counsel’s office lawyer under President Barack Obama, Sarah Baker, echoed that position.

“This is really easy to do. This is a quick process. I don’t think it needs to take more than a couple of days,” Baker told reporters Wednesday on a conference call organized by Senate Democrats. “The only reason you don’t ask is if you don’t want the answer.”

One staffer said background investigations are often reopened for questions unrelated to any crime, like concerns about a nominee’s academic credentials.

Yoo did not completely side with Democrats, whom he accused of trying to drag out the process in order to delay Kavanaugh’s confirmation. However, the former White House official — perhaps best known for his Bush-era legal memos authorizing torture — said he thought it was still possible that Republicans could get another nominee onto the court this year even if Kavanaugh should withdraw.

Former officials said such background investigation reports are typically handled as highly sensitive, with reports usually hand-delivered to the White House counsel in a sealed envelope.

“It’s not something that’s supposed to be widely shared around,” one attorney familiar with the process said.

Experts on background checks said it would be unusual for the FBI to investigate a 36-year-old allegation, particularly one that involved individuals who were in high school at the time.

But Democrats noted that Grassley has insisted on far-reaching disclosure about judicial nominees’ drug use. As a ranking minority member and as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Grassley insisted that judicial nominees’ drug history back to age 18 was relevant and often disqualifying. (Standard applications for national security jobs ask only about drug use in the past seven years and high-level executive branch employees were asked about drug use over the past decade.)

“His rule was for any judicial nominee, any drug use other than marijuana since age 18 and they’re out,” said one Obama administration attorney involved in the process, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We had to pull people …. Any post-bar drug use at all and you were out.”

One security clearance lawyer also reported that his client, a White House appointee, was questioned about drug use at age 16.

Grassley relaxed his policy on nominee drug use last November. He said Republicans and Democrats had agreed that “one to two uses” after a nominee became an attorney would no longer be disqualifying.

“Over time, there’s been an evolving attitude in our society towards marijuana ….. I’ve had this absolute prohibition attitude that I’ve demonstrated, maybe not in public but in private,” Grassley said. “If that’s the sole judgment of whether somebody ought to have a judgeship or not or maybe any other position, we may not be able to find people to fill those positions.”

The Judiciary chairman said one of his concerns was that if the panel stuck by a stricter policy, nominees might just lie about their drug use when questioned by the FBI.

“Maybe the word gets around that you better lie about it or you ain’t going to get a judgeship. That’s kind of worried me a lot,” he said. “I think we ought to have a consistent policy.”

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McCaskill to vote no on Kavanaugh confirmation

Moderate Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill will vote against Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, narrowing the number of potential Democratic votes the nominee can secure.

The Missouri senator, who is up for reelection this fall in a conservative state, cited Kavanaugh’s views on “dark, anonymous money that is crushing our democracy.” She said that the “troubling” allegation of sexual assault leveled against Kavanaugh did not influence her decision.

“He has revealed his bias against limits on campaign donations which places him completely out of the mainstream of this nation. He wrote, ‘And I have heard very few people say that limits on contributions to candidates are unconstitutional although I for one tend to think those limits have some constitutional problems,'” McCaskill said. “Judge Kavanaugh will give free reign to anonymous donors and foreign governments through their citizens to spend money to interfere and influence our elections with so-called ‘issue ads.’”

McCaskill also said she was “uncomfortable” with his views on executive power but said that her fear that Kavanaugh’s place on the bench would loosen political spending restrictions was the “determining factor.” Outside groups have spent more than $16 million against McCaskill and nearly $14 million against her opponent, Josh Hawley, this year.

Her opposition is not a huge surprise, given that she also voted against Justice Neil Gorsuch last year. But her decision to oppose President Donald Trump’s nominee is likely to animate her race against Hawley, Missouri’s GOP attorney general and a former law clerk to Chief Justice John Roberts.

Hawley said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show on Wednesday that “people are very, very upset by what they see as an ambush” on Kavanaugh by Democrats after the allegations were raised against him just two weeks before his likely confirmation vote. Hawley has repeatedly hammered McCaskill for opposing Republican nominees and supporting the Supreme Court picks of President Barack Obama and touted his support for Kavanaugh often.

“Nobody is surprised. Claire McCaskill is now 0 for 6 on Supreme Court nominees since she started running for the Senate 12 long years ago,” Hawley said in a statement. “She has sided with Chuck Schumer every single time — for liberals and against Missouri.“

While conservatives may dislike her “no” vote, McCaskill’s decision could also help her turn out the Democratic voters in Kansas City in St. Louis that she needs to win reelection. Her race is essentially tied.

No Democrats yet support Kavanaugh, though he does not need their support to get confirmed if he wins over 50 of the 51 Senate Republicans. Democratic Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Jon Tester of Montana are all undecided.

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