America's #TrumpToo moment
Donald Trump decided he had to take personal charge of defending Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination. As a legal scholar, Kavanaugh undoubtedly knows he won't be able to sue the president for malpractice.
On the day before Kavanaugh and his original accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, are due to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Trump took to Twitter after a third woman with a story about sexual misconduct, Julie Swetnick, was brought forward by lawyer Michael Avenatti.
"False accusations, just like he did on me," Trump said. That referred to Avenatti client Stormy Daniels, whose story of an affair with Trump led to a $130,000 hush-money payment from Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. Which Cohen, in his guilty plea, said was done on Trump's orders. Which essentially means Trump is saying Kavanaugh's denials are as credible as his own.
At a raucous news conference later, Trump expanded on his version of #MeToo, as in I, Trump, have "had a lot of false charges made against me" by women. (Speaking of false, here's a Washington Post fact-check on that.)
His experiences make him view such allegations "differently," he said. More than a dozen women came forward during the 2016 campaign, claiming they were assaulted, groped or kissed without consent by Trump.
When asked does he always seem to side with men over the women who say they have been victimized, Trump let out a hint that partisanship could be a reason. "I wasn't happy with Roy Moore, let's get that straight. But Roy Moore was a Republican candidate." Moore was accused of preying on underage girls and lost an Alabama Senate race. Trump fully supported him until he was defeated.
At a time when thousands of women are coming forward with personal stories of sexual abuse from decades past that they have never before shared, Trump remained dubious about allegations. “People want fame. They want money. They want whatever." To a question about what his message is to young men, Trump said, "It's a very dangerous period in our country" — for those facing accusations.
So is Trump in all the way with Kavanaugh? "I'm going to be watching," he said, and "it's possible" after the hearing "I'll say: I'm changing my mind!" Click here for video.
She will say, then he will say
Ford says in remarks prepared for Thursday's hearing that she's "terrified" about appearing. Kavanaugh will say he is a target of "grotesque and obvious character assassination." The Judiciary Committee, the rest of the Senate, White House officials and millions of other Americans will be watching, listening and judging for themselves what to believe starting at 10 a.m. Thursday.
Newsday's Tom Brune writes of five things to consider, including: How will each of them come off — genuine, sympathetic, truthful? What should the standard be for reaching a conclusion? Will the proceeding be fair?
The most critical question will come at the end: What happens next? What about the women who have come forward since Ford?
Besides Deborah Ramirez, a Yale classmate, they now include a third, Swetnick, who said she witnessed efforts by Kavanaugh and others to get girls inebriated so they could be “gang raped” in side rooms at house parties by a “train” of numerous boys. Swetnick said she herself suffered such an assault, though she didn't say Kavanaugh was one of her assailants. Kavanaugh denied it all as "ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone."
Trump and Republican leaders have been pressing to wrap up the process and move to a vote. Democrats and women who say they were victimized, have demanded a wider investigation and interviews with witnesses, including Mark Judge, the high school pal depicted in some of the women's accounts as Kavanaugh's fellow party animal and partner in sexually predatory behavior. The Washington Post found him hiding out in a Delaware beach town.
Watch the scoreboard
In advance of the hearing, three Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have expressed reservations about the Kavanaugh nomination, The New York Times reported. They would be more than enough to sink it if Democrats are united against him.
A Washington Post reporter tweeted he has been hearing from top GOP senators all day that anywhere between 10 to 20 Senate Republicans may be a "soft yes" or undecided, with the hearing the deciding factor.
Trump holds fire on Rosenstein
Trump told reporters that he would “certainly prefer not” to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and may postpone the meeting they scheduled for Thursday in Washington because of the Kavanaugh hearing, reports Newsday's Emily Ngo
He did not voice anger with Rosenstein, who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
"We've had a good talk,” the president said. “He said he never said it, he said he doesn't believe it, he said he has a lot of respect for me and he was very nice and we'll see.”
Trump's news conference ran 82 rollicking minutes. The president was by turns combative, playful and fantastical, working the room at times like it was a Las Vegas lounge.
Speaking of laughs, he said the audience of world leaders and diplomats at his UN General Assembly speech "weren't laughing at me, they were laughing with me."
About North Korea's Kim Jong Un: “He likes me. I like him. He wrote me two of the most beautiful letters. . . . It is historical. It is a beautiful piece of art.” He also claimed that when Barack Obama was president, "He was ready to go to war. . . . If I wasn’t elected, you were going to have a war."
He said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — whom he used to call "Cryin' Chuck" — is "laughing" along with other Democrats after their "con job" on Kavanaugh. He said if George Washington were here, he "would be voted against 100 percent by Schumer and the con artists." Washington "may have had a bad past, who knows, you know?"
He said while they are at odds on some matters, China respects him because of his "very, very large brain." By example, he recapped a meeting he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had with Japan's leaders. "I was saying things that nobody in the room even understood. And I said them a long time ago and I was right. He said, ‘That’s not the 25th Amendment that I'm looking at.’ I think I can say that from Mike.”
Janison: Off to the arms races
With little opposition, military spending is exploding. The Pentagon works these days with $2.2 trillion worth of assets, and the waste watchers aren't able to keep up, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. The House is reported to be nearing final approval on a spending measure that will add billions for troop strength and pay, equipment and weapons.
“The American public supports a very strong military, so I think Democrats would be swimming pretty hard upstream if we were arguing for massive transfers of funding from the Department of Defense to other accounts," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told New York magazine.
It's not just happening here. Germany, France and Japan also are among the nations boosting their defense budgets.
Trump pins a meddle on China
While chairing a meeting of the UN Security Council, Trump accused China of "trying to meddle" in the midterm elections "because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade." China's foreign minister, seated at the table, shrugged and denied interference.
Trump and a senior administration official who briefed reporters about Trump's comments said China was stepping up covert and overt activities to punish those who support Trump's tough trade stance and interfere in the political system, but was light on specifics. The official pointed to China targeting its retaliation for Trump's tariffs at farmers and industries in Trump country.
Trump tweeted a copy of a newsy looking advertising supplement that China recently bought in Iowa's Des Moines Register, pushing its stance in the trade war. Paid advertising similarly packaged is not an unusual practice among foreign governments.
What else is happening:
- Opinion polls show public support for Kavanaugh's confirmation is under water.
- Trump said he is still optimistic about brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Before his news conference, he said he now believes a two-state solution "works best." But he was flexible at the news conference. "If the Israelis and the Palestinians want one state, that's OK with me. If they want two-state, that's OK with me. I'm happy if they're happy," he said.
- Trump said he rebuffed a request from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to meet while they were in New York this week, saying he's "unhappy" with Ottawa's trade negotiator. Canada said Trudeau didn't ask for a meeting.
- Still cast out from Trump's orbit, former White House adviser Steve Bannon is barnstorming Europe with the same nationalist message that Trump pushed at the General Assembly, The Washington Post reports.
- Congress has sent Trump a bill keeping the government open through Dec. 7 and averting a government shutdown looming next week. Trump said he will sign it, backing off a threat to reject it for not meeting his funding demand for a Mexican border wall.
- Trump has been tweeting endorsements for Republicans running in the midterms, and Wednesday it was Rep. Lee Zeldin's turn. "Congressman Lee Zeldin is doing a fantastic job in D.C. Tough and smart, he loves our Country and will always be there to do the right thing." As Newsday's David M. Schwartz has reported, Zeldin is banking on Trump backers turning out for him in the eastern Suffolk district.