President Donald Trump is loosening his self-restraints about the turmoil now surrounding his nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
On Tuesday, he attacked the Democrats who demanded that a vote be put off until the Senate Judiciary Committee looks into a woman's allegations privately raised months ago but aired publicly only days ago that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the 1980s when they were both teenagers. "Why didn’t the Democrats bring it up then? Because they obstruct and because they resist," Trump said during appearances with Poland's president. "That's the name of their campaign against me. They just resist and they just obstruct."
And while Trump didn't outright say Christine Blasey Ford's story was false, he portrayed Kavanaugh as an innocent man who has been wronged. “I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this, to be honest with you. This is not a man that deserves this," the president said.
The plan by the committee chairman, Sen. Charles Grassley, to bring in both Kavanaugh and Ford to testify next Monday has been thrown into doubt.
Democrats want the FBI to investigate Ford's story. Trump said that was up to the FBI and they didn't want to. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the FBI told him it was up to the White House. "What are they trying to hide?" Schumer asked on Twitter. What Trump and Republicans don't want is further delay that could jeopardize plans for a full Senate vote before the midterm elections.
On Tuesday night, Lisa Banks, a lawyer for Ford, told CNN that her client also believes an “FBI investigation of the incident "should be the first step," and “there is no reason to have a public hearing Monday.” Ford's legal team wrote Grassley: "A full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a nonpartisan manner, and that the Committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions."
Grassley said he saw no reason to delay the hearing. Another committee Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), took a hard line. “If she does not come on Monday, we are going to move on and vote on Wednesday,” Graham said on Fox News. For more, see Tom Brune's story for Newsday.
Readying for battle
White House officials put Kavanaugh through a two-hour practice session Tuesday to prepare for the next round before the committee, The Washington Post reported. He was grilled about his past, his partying, his dating and the accuser’s account. Participants included White House counsel Don McGahn, deputy chief of staff Bill Shine, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her deputy Raj Shah.
Ford's lawyers said she been the target of “vicious harassment and even death threats” and has moved along with her family out of their northern California home.
Janison: A walk on the flip side
Anyone who wants to fairly judge the credibility of Ford's accusation against Kavanaugh is going to have to block out the partisan noise. As Dan Janison writes, imagine an alternate scenario.
Suppose a Democratic president's pick for the U.S. Supreme Court faced the same accusations from the same source with the same timing that Republican Kavanaugh now confronts.
Democrats in Congress undoubtedly would express suspicion about a claim of sexual abuse dating back 36 years emerging after judiciary committee confirmation hearings had already wrapped up. For their part, Republicans would be shouting for a Senate-wide confirmation vote to be delayed indefinitely until after the deepest vetting of what they'd consider, at the outset, to be serious and credible allegations.
For more, see Janison's column.
Polish President Andrzej Duda visited the White House with a proposition tailor-made for Trump: If the United States would establish a permanent military base there, Poland would come up with more than $2 billion — plus naming rights.
Poland would call the base "Fort Trump," Duda said.
It wouldn't be the first time the Trump name went on a project built with other people's money. Trump raised his eyebrows, smiled, and said the United States would consider the idea.
Poland wants an expanded presence as a deterrent to Russia.
Wind beneath his zings
Trump plans to visit North Carolina Wednesday to see efforts to recover from Hurricane Florence, but he's still got the flak he's gotten over Hurricane Maria in his head.
"Right now, everybody is saying what a great job we are doing with Hurricane Florence – and they are 100% correct," he tweeted. "But don’t be fooled, at some point in the near future the Democrats will start ranting......that FEMA, our Military, and our First Responders, who are all unbelievable, are a disaster and not doing a good job. This will be a total lie, but that’s what they do, and everybody knows."
A HuffPost/YouGov survey finds most Trump voters go along with his recent claim that an estimate of nearly 3,000 dead Maria from Maria is a big exaggeration. Most other Americans do not.
'One of the wettest'
As he was poised to visit the latest storm area, the president did some trademark verbal stumbling that invited Twitter ridicule.
“This is a tough hurricane — one of the wettest we’ve ever seen. From the standpoint of water, rarely have we had an experience like it," he said.
Has Trump faked himself out?
Republicans are alarmed by Internal polling showing Trump supporters don't believe there is a threat that Democrats will win the House in November's midterm elections, Bloomberg News reports. Trump's boasts about a "red wave" and derision of "fake polls" aren't helping.
“Put simply," wrote the authors of the Republican National Committee study, "they don’t believe that Democrats will win the House. (Why should they believe the same prognosticators who told them that Hillary was going to be elected President?)”
The study found that complacency among GOP voters is tied directly to their trust in the president — and their distrust of traditional polling. “While a significant part of that lack of intensity is undoubtedly due to these voters’ sentiments toward the President, it may also be partly because they don’t believe there is anything at stake in this election,” the authors write. “Put simply, they don’t believe that Democrats will win the House. (Why should they believe the same prognosticators who told them that Hillary was going to be elected President?)”
The report warned, “We need to make real the threat that Democrats have a good shot of winning control of Congress.”
What else is happening:
- Critics call Trump a divider, but he's a uniter, sort of, for perpetually feuding Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who appeared together at a Manhattan Democratic rally. "What unifies us is stronger than what divides us,” Cuomo said. See Emily Ngo's story for Newsday.
- Clearly afraid of firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump continued to condemn him publicly. “I don’t have an Attorney General. It’s very sad,” Trump told Hill.TV.
- In Stormy Daniels’ forthcoming book about the affair she said she had with Trump, the porn star writes that he dangled an invitation for her to appear on "The Apprentice" and alleges that he offered to rig the contest so she could last through more episodes without a boardroom firing.
- Trump's endorsement helped Rep. Ron DeSantis win Florida's Republican primary for governor. Now Trump is furious with DeSantis, Politico reports. The congressman disavowed Trump's claim that "3,000 people did not die” in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria last year.
- A senior FEMA official has been suspended without pay in connection with a Department of Homeland Security inspector general investigation into whether the agency's chief, Brock Long, improperly used government vehicles for personal long-distance trips, Politico reported.
- Trump accused China in a tweet of trying to influence the midterms by aiming its retaliatory tariffs at his fans — "our farmers, ranchers and industrial workers because of their loyalty to me."