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Win or lose on Kavanaugh, Trump and GOP are paying a price with women

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies before

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 6. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Alex Wong

'The party of men'

An agreement is in place between lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford and the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who want to move along the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. If they stick to the plan, she will appear at an open hearing on Thursday to tell her story that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were prep-school teenagers in Maryland. After she leaves, he will sit in a witness chair to deny it.

And what then? As of now, the chairman, Sen. Chuck  Grassley, says there is no plan for further investigation. As of now, it's hard to foresee a consensus forming around a truth that would be accepted irrespective of party and gender. But the impact of the battle may be long-lasting, as it was with the Anita Hill allegations against Clarence Thomas a generation ago.

The Republican Party — more than ever before, under Donald Trump — risks becoming seen as the party of men, writes The Washington Post. “The antipathy to Trump from women — college-educated, white, suburban women — transcends anything I’ve ever seen in politics,” said GOP strategist Alex Castellanos, warning of a “pink wave” of women delivering a rebuke to Trump in the midterm elections. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds women by 58%-33% want a Democratic Congress; a 47%-44% plurality of men favor Republicans.

It's a prime reason why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell got on the phone with Trump after the president tweeted Friday: "I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed." Not helpful, McConnell told Trump, according to The Washington Post. 

Thousands upon thousands of women, famous and not, and some men too, have been posting their #WhyIDidntReport stories on social media to explain why they kept quiet about sexual attacks out of fear, shame and feelings of powerlessness.

Is Ford genuinely one of them? Some committee members voiced strong opinions on the Sunday talk shows. A committee Democrat, Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, said, “I believe her, let’s put it that way. There’s credibility to her story.” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois agreed, asking, "What . . . did she have to gain by doing this?” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had a different question: "I want to listen to her, but I'm being honest with you. . . . What do you expect me to do? Go ahead and ruin this guy's life based on an accusation?"

A majority of Americans in a CBS poll want more answers — 59% want hearings and an investigation, and 53% believe an FBI probe is warranted. The results were sharply divided along partisan lines.

More women?

A woman who was a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh has come forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct.

Deborah Ramirez charges the judge exposed himself and touched her inappropriately at a party in 1983, according to a story posted in The New Yorker co-authored by Ronan Farrow — whose #MeToo reporting helped bring down Harvey Weinstein and Les Moonves — and Jane Mayer, whose past collaboration with Farrow forced the resignation of New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

Ramirez said she had kept quiet because she had blamed herself for drinking too much. Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have been investigating her allegation, the report said. Kavanaugh denied it as "a smear, plain and simple," and White House spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said “this 35-year-old, uncorroborated claim is the latest in a coordinated smear campaign by the Democrats designed to tear down a good man."

The committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, called for a halt in the proceedings and an FBI investigation of both Ramirez's and Ford's claims.

Also Sunday night, Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, tweeted, "I represent a woman with credible information regarding Judge Kavanaugh and Mark Judge" and "We will be demanding the opportunity to present testimony to the committee." Judge is the Kavanaugh friend who Ford says was present when she was attacked. Judge has said he recalls no such incident, nor the party at  which Ford said it occurred.

Later, a Grassley spokesman said the committee "of course ... will attempt to evaluate these new claims,” but blasted Democrats for “yet again” not sharing them earlier and pursuing a “political takedown.”

Meet Bizarro Hillary 

Trump mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway — feted for such classic gaffes as "Bowling Green massacre" and "alternative facts" —  blamed the Kavanaugh mess early Monday on a "vast left-wing conspiracy."

After Hillary Clinton defended her presidential husband and by extension herself as the target of a "vast right-wing conspiracy," the ridicule lasted for years. Now a Clinton nemesis is reviving the rhetorical flourish.

Allegations against Kavanaugh  are "starting to feel like a vast left-wing conspiracy," Conway said on "CBS This Morning."

"I know there's pent-up demand for women to get their day, women who have been sexually harassed and sexually assaulted, and I personally am very aggrieved for all of them, but we cannot put decades of pent-up demand for women to feel whole on one man's shoulders," she said.  

The revenge of Obamacare

Multiple new polls show the Democrats still a favorite to win back the House in November's elections. A CBS News survey estimated that if the election were held now, Democrats would gain enough seats for a 224-211 majority, though the 12-seat  margin of error means the GOP still has a shot at salvaging control. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has Democrats with a 52%-40% advantage; Fox News places the Democratic edge among likely voters at 49%-42%.

A theme all the polls agree on: More voters than not have come to like an Obama-era legacy that Trump and Republicans have tried to dismantle: the Affordable Care Act. The CBS poll found voters calling health care the most important issue. Fox's survey found 51% think Obamacare, which brought coverage to millions more Americans, is either about right or didn't go far enough; only 36% think it went too far.

By a wide margin, voters also believe Democrats would do a better job on health care, the Fox poll said. Some Democratic candidates are telling stories about their personal  health struggles to illustrate the importance of Obamacare's guarantee of coverage for pre-existing conditions, Politico reported.

Janison: A probe for all seasons

Five months have passed since Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation: “I don’t think it’s going to take more than a week or two to get a resolution.” Several weeks later, Giuliani talked about a Sept. 1 wrap-up. That didn’t happen either.

Trump and his allies keep trying to discredit the Russia probe. Mueller keeps on investigating, and September has been most notable for two late-season cooperation call-ups — former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump lawyer-fixer Michael Cohen. Where it's all going is yet to be known. See Dan Janison's column for Newsday,

Rosenstein and Rashomon 

Was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein serious when he suggested secretly bugging the big boss to start building a 25th Amendment case to remove him, as The New York Times reported? Or was he just being sarcastic, as Rosenstein and at least one other person who heard the comment contend, when former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe suggested investigating Trump?

Trump has been polling inside and outside advisers over which version to believe about conversations among Justice Department and FBI officials in the tumultuous days after the president fired FBI Director James Comey.

Part of Trump's hesitation is that one Rosenstein-was-serious account came in a memo from the later-fired McCabe, whom Trump detests. Trump's relationship with Rosenstein has been better as of late, according to The Washington Post.

There was a split in Trump's Fox News kitchen cabinet. Sean Hannity called the Times report a "setup" and said, "Under zero circumstances should the president fire anybody.” Jeanine Pirro said Rosenstein should be fired, but offered a conspiracy theory that Rosenstein leaked the story himself to force Trump to fire him.

There also was surprising restraint from Trump's House GOP allies who have battled Rosenstein, demanding access to classified Russia investigation documents, Politico reported. Rosenstein oversees Mueller, and an ouster of the deputy attorney general would cast doubt over whether the special counsel would be allowed to finish his job.

An 'America First' encore at UN

Trump is in New York for his second time at the United Nations General Assembly, where he will speak Tuesday about “protecting U.S. sovereignty” and reserving U.S. foreign aid only for those allied countries that share American values, according to UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Among those with whom Trump will gather for bilateral meetings this week are the presidents of South Korea, Egypt and France, and the prime ministers of Israel, Japan and the United Kingdom. On Monday, he will speak at an event on the “world drug problem” and host a reception for fellow heads of state. See Emily Ngo's story for Newsday.

What else is happening:

  • The Trump administration has proposed rules that could deny green cards to immigrants if they use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers and other forms of public assistance.
  • While Russia took covert actions to help Trump with U.S. voters in 2016, China is making open moves to influence voters against him. It bought four pages in the Des Moines Register calling the trade war “fruit of a president’s folly” and telling Iowa farmers they're losing out to South America on soybean exports because of it.
  • Trump has defended his efforts to form a bond with Vladimir Putin, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it hasn't stopped Russia's "malign activity around the world.” Pompeo said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that “the president's tried to develop a relationship and change that, but we've not been successful, at least to date.”
  • Giuliani told a group opposed to Iran's government Saturday that the U.S. was plotting a “successful revolution” in the country. Asked about the remarks by the onetime secretary-of-state-wannabe, Haley said on CNN Sunday that “the United States is not looking to do a regime change in Iran” or "anywhere."
  • Only 26% of Latino voters approved of Trump’s job performance while 65% disapprove, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll. But Latinos show less interest in the upcoming midterm elections than the electorate as a whole, presenting a challenge for Democrats looking to harness anti-Republican sentiment.

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