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Trump opts to keep calm and carry on amid the Kavanaugh storm

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Sept. 6

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Sept. 6 as he testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. Photo Credit: AP/Alex Brandon

Serenity now. Later, we'll see

President Donald Trump is so predictable, except when he's not. 

There were no Twitter attacks Monday over a woman's accusations that a drunken Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both were teenagers in Maryland in the 1980s. There was no complaint that the Senate Judiciary Committee, under pressure from Democrats and a handful of crucial Republicans, is postponing a vote that had been scheduled for Thursday on the Supreme Court nomination so it could hear public testimony Monday from the woman, Christine Blasey Ford, and Kavanaugh.

"If it takes a little delay, it'll take a little delay. It shouldn't certainly be very much," Trump said before the hearing date was set. "I’d like to see a complete process," he said. "I'd like everybody to be very happy." (Click here for video of Trump's remarks.)

Trump still stood by Kavanaugh as "one of the great intellects and one of the finest people that anybody has known." Like the Senate's Republican leaders, he voiced annoyance that the woman's story surfaced two months after Ford, a psychology professor, privately wrote to Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee's ranking Democrat. (Feinstein and Ford's lawyer said she feared going public about the experience and changed her mind only after reporters got wind of it.)

Trump has a history of siding with men who are accused of sexual misconduct or physical abuse of women and girls. They included Bill O'Reilly and the late Roger Ailes of Fox News, Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, former White House aide Rob Porter and boxer Mike Tyson. When confronted with such charges himself, he has lashed out at the women, calling them/ liars (see more about one case below) and even insulting their looks

But Trump evidently listened to aides who warned him that going after Ford would result in a backlash that could torpedo Kavanaugh. White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway set the tone in a "Fox & Friends" interview: "She should not be insulted. She should not be ignored. She should testify under oath, and she should do it on Capitol Hill," Conway said.

Instead, the White House kept talking up Kavanaugh's character, even releasing statements from two girlfriends who remembered him in high school and college as "a perfect gentleman"  and "always respectful, kind and thoughtful."

Partisan lenses

If comments Monday are any indication, Ford can expect skeptical questioning Monday from some Republicans on the committee.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) already has a few opinions. After speaking to Kavanaugh on the phone, he found him "honest" and "straightforward," and suggested Ford may be "mixed up" and has mistaken Kavanaugh for someone else.

Democrats who have been looking for a silver bullet to stop Kavanaugh from being confirmed described Ford's story as believable.

"I think the allegations of professor Ford are extremely credible," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on ABC'S "The View." "She didn't do it on a whim. I don't think she did it for political reasons," he said.

Janison: Trade warrior

Trump announced new tariffs on $200 billion worth of imports of China Monday. It's too soon to know the outcome of the trade war, but the hardball tactic is a win for trade adviser Peter Navarro.

Navarro in 2011 authored a book called "Death by China," and consistently honed a grim message that its power poses a threat to American security as well as American industry. Navarro is a Democrat, but his stance against Republican "free-trade" orthodoxy put him on the same wavelength as Trump. See Dan Janison's column for Newsday.

Mike drop

Will the nation's voters want to choose between two New York billionaires in 2020? Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is considering a run for president as a Democrat and told The New York Times he will decide after the midterm elections.

Bloomberg, who entered politics as a Republican in 2001, has flirted before with a White House run as an independent, but concluded only a major-party nominee can win the White House, and “It’s impossible to conceive that I could run as a Republican — things like choice, so many of the issues, I’m just way away from where the Republican Party is today.”

But Bloomberg may not be in sync with Democrats either, especially progressives. While aligned with liberals on such issues as gun control and climate change, he opposes coming down hard on Wall Street, still believes police stop-and-frisk practices are a good idea and has qualms about the fairness of the #MeToo movement to accused men. But Bloomberg's advisers think that as a moderate, he could stand out from a left-leaning pack of candidates, 

Bloomberg has committed $80 million to help Democrats win the House in November, but hasn't abandoned all former Republican allies. In June, he hosted a fundraiser for Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford.)

Loaded for bare

Bucking the concerns of the Justice Department and FBI, Trump declassified a trove of documents related to the early days of the FBI's Russia investigation, including portions of a secret surveillance warrant and former FBI Director James Comey's text messages.

Trump made the extraordinary move in response to calls from his Republican allies in Congress who contend, like the president does almost daily on Twitter, that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is tainted by anti-Trump bias inside federal law enforcement. Democrats charged that revealing the documents could compromise intelligence gathering as well as the continuing investigation.

The White House said Trump acted in the name of "transparency."

Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted, "The President shouldn’t be declassifying documents in order to undermine an investigation into his campaign or pursue vendettas against political enemies. He especially shouldn’t be releasing documents with the potential to reveal intelligence sources."

Trump vs. rope-a-grope 

Former "Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos, who alleges Trump defamed her by calling her groping claim against him a lie, wants Trump to disclose the names of every woman who ever accused him of unwanted sexual touching or other inappropriate behavior. She also wants to know if any of them got paid off, Bloomberg News reported.

A lawyer for Trump asked a Manhattan Supreme Court judge to reject the demand as irrelevant to Zervos' lawsuit against the president. Zervos is one of at least 19 women who have gone public accusing Trump of sexual misconduct.

What else is happening:

  • Russia blamed Israel Tuesday for the loss of one of its surveillance planes. It was shot down, and its crew members killed, by Syria's air defense systems reacting to Israeli F-16's hitting government targets. 
  • Donald Trump Jr. mocked the accusation against Kavanaugh on Instagram with a meme of a child's schoolyard-crush love note and a caption: "Judge Kavanaugh sexual assault letter found by Dems."
  • Mueller has cleared the way for a judge to sentence former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in late November or early December. The move suggested the special counsel won't need any further cooperation in the Russia investigation from Flynn, who admitted lying to the FBI.
  • Indicted Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who was Trump's first supporter in the House, has reneged on a plan to give up his ballot spot in the Buffalo-area district. Republicans had been seeking a replacement and Democrats think their chances to win the Buffalo-area seat just got better.
  • An investigation into whether FEMA administrator Brock Long  improperly used government vehicles for weekend commutes between Washington and his home in North Carolina has been referred to federal prosecutors, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. would cap the number of refugees allowed into the country at 30,000 for fiscal year 2019, a sharp drop from a limit of 45,000 it set for the current year.

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