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Kavanaugh is stuck under a cloud, and Trump seems to get that

President Donald Trump hands out food outside Temple

President Donald Trump hands out food outside Temple Baptist Church in New Bern, N.C., where aid was being distributed during Hurricane Florence recovery efforts on Wednesday. Photo Credit: AP / Evan Vucci

Trump: We've asked, so tell

The Republicans who run the Senate Judiciary Committee have drawn a line: either the California professor who said she was sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh when they were teenagers testifies on Monday or they'll move on with the process of getting him confirmed to the Supreme Court.

But it may not be that easy if her story — and Kavanaugh's denial — go untested, unleashing a #MeToo fury. That could bring new pressures on the GOP moderates and red-state Democrats who hold the fate of the nomination in their hands and make more precarious the Republicans' hopes of withstanding a blue wave in November's midterm elections. Missouri's Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who had been viewed as a potential swing vote, announced she will vote no, though she said her decision was based on the judge's views.

Donald Trump maintained Wednesday that "it's a very unfair thing what's going on." But the president also said it would be better if Christine Blasey Ford gets to tell her story.

"I'd really want to see her. I really would want to see what she has to say," Trump told reporters, and it would be "unfortunate" if she doesn't . 

"Look, if she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting and we'll have to make a decision," Trump said, before adding about Kavanaugh: "He is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened."

Ford's legal team said she would not bow to Judiciary chairman Charles Grassley's ultimatum. A statement from Lisa Banks, Ford's attorney, said Grassley's plan to call just Kavanaugh and Ford "is not a fair or good faith investigation." She said "multiple witnesses" — whom she didn't name — should  appear.

But Banks did not say if Ford would decline to testify. A key undecided GOP senator,  Susan Collins of Maine, said she should testify. “If we need additional help from the FBI, then the committee can ask for it," Collins said. Grassley set a deadline of Friday morning for answer. For more, see Tom Brune's story for Newsday.

Clues or clueless?

Absent an investigation or testimony, Kavanaugh's history is under scrutiny, but it's unclear whether what is getting turned up is circumstantial evidence or just circumstance. Because Ford says Kavanaugh was drunk when he allegedly attacked her at a house party, his recollections about a fondness for boozing in his high school and college years are getting attention.

While Kavanaugh has said nothing ever happened — there was no assault and no party — his defenders are coming up with alternate theories. Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network, which is buying TV ads to support Kavanaugh, said on CNN that what Ford described as attempted rape could have been simply “rough horse play.”

Janison: Still holding his 'fire'

Jeff Sessions surely has gotten the message by now: Trump is sorry he picked him for attorney general and wishes he was gone. But the hate just keeps on coming.

"I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad,” Trump told Hill.TV in an Oval Office interview Tuesday. He recited a litany of grievances, capped as usual by Sessions recusing himself from the Russia investigation and ignoring as usual the reasons why Justice Department ethics officers said he had to do that.

Yet Sessions hasn't quit and Trump hasn't yet fired him, writes Newsday's Dan Janison, because he fears what the consequences could be for the obstruction-of-justice probe by special counsel Robert Mueller and the potential backlash from Sessions' Senate GOP allies.

Hugs and hot dogs

Trump toured flood-ravaged parts of North Carolina and South Carolina and got an appreciative reception as he pledged "Washington is with you, Trump is with you, we are all with you 100 percent and we'll get through it."

Clad in a wind-breaker, Trump distributed meals at a church's improvised drive-thru line, walked amid piles of sodden furniture in damaged neighborhoods, offered hugs and handshakes to residents and discussed the response efforts to Hurricane Florence with local and state officials. 

For the most part, he kept it about "we" instead of "me." An exception is when he asked about the status of Lake Norman, where he owns a golf club, telling officials, "I can't tell you why, but I love that area." Lake Norman is outside the disaster zone.

Unusual boat-side manner

From the Washington Post, based on a pool report out of New Bern, N.C.:

A boat was beached in a resident’s backyard.

“Is this your boat? Or . . . did it become your boat?” Trump asked the man who lived in the house where the boat was now inadvertently and incongruously docked.

No, it was not his boat, the homeowner replied, according to the pool report, which didn’t identify residents by name.

Trump returned his gaze to the vessel, which was white with brown accents and balanced at a precarious angle.

“At least you got a nice boat out of the deal,” he said, with a smile.

3,000 kids lost and not found

The Trump administration has lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children who illegally entered the United States alone this year and were placed with sponsors after leaving federal shelters, The New York Times reported.

That's slightly more than the 1,475 migrant children whose whereabouts became a mystery to the Department of Health and Human Services after they were moved out of shelters last year. The foul-ups have raised bipartisan concerns that the children could become victims of human trafficking or end up in other abusive situations.

Trump leaves 'em wall-eyed

For Trump, it's an all-purpose solution. Spain's foreign minister, Josep Borrell, says Trump offered him an idea to curb the influx of migrants from Africa: Build a wall across the Sahara desert.

When Spanish diplomats pointed out that the Sahara stretches for 3,000 miles, Trump responded, “The Sahara border can’t be bigger than our border with Mexico.” The desert, spread across 11 countries, is actually about 1,000 miles longer. A small fraction is in Spanish-controlled territory.

Trump also said in the Hill.TV interview that his visit last week to the "gorgeous" Sept. 11 memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, renewed his resolve to push for his stalled southern border wall. 

"They have a series of walls, I'm saying, it's like perfect," Trump added. "So, so, we are pushing very hard."

Clause encounters

Trump has a stronger relationship with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo than his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, but there's at least one subject on which they're not on the same page.

Pompeo is a stickler for correct punctuation and has ordered that two emails be sent to staff instructing them on the proper use of commas, CNN reports. Trump's approach to the rules of writing is MUCH more CASUAL!

What else is happening:

  • Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) tweeted that Donald Trump Jr.'s mocking of the Kavanaugh accusation on Instagram is "sickening" and "No one should make light of this situation."
  • Some Democratic senators privately share Republican frustration at Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for not acting sooner to share the allegation she received in July about Kavanaugh, The Washington Post reported.
  • One of Trump's gripes with Sessions was the Justice Department's insider-trading indictment of Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), an early supporter. On Wednesday, Collins, who had suspended his campaign, dropped back into the race. He said he wants to keep the seat from the "radical left" that wants to impeach Trump.
  • Trump said a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in boded well for peace. "The relationships, I have to tell you, at least on a personal basis, they're very good. It's very much calmed down," Trump said. "We're talking. It's very calm. He's calm. I'm calm. So we'll see what happens."
  • Russia's Vladimir Putin whispered to a receptive Trump in phone conversations about a "deep state" embedded in the U.S. government that was "fighting against our friendship,” according to an excerpt in The Washington Post from reporter Greg Miller's forthcoming book "The Apprentice."
  • Another highlight from Trump's Hill.TV interview: He regrets not firing FBI Director James Comey "the first day on the job" and "I should have fired him the day I won the primaries." Aside from that being impossible, he would have missed out on Comey reopening the Hillary Clinton investigation just before the election.

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