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On the roster: Flake & Co. try to tame partisan wildfire – Records confirm Gillum tied to criminal probe – Freedom Caucus wins Hill grilling for Rosenstein – Audible: Still better than a man bun – The right to an attorney and to calamine lotion
FLAKE & CO. TRY TO TAME PARTISAN WILDFIRE
Who knew that staging high-pressure gladiatorial combat between emotionally ragged individuals on national television wouldn’t be a good way to pick a Supreme Court justice?
Republicans are fuming today because at least three of their senators announced that they would not vote for the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the high court until after the FBI had completes an investigation into the claims of a woman who says he sexually assaulted her in 1982, when she was 15 and he was 17.
The GOP plan had been to hold Thursday’s bout of single combat between Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, declare the matter unknowable and proceed to a confirmation vote as swiftly as possible.
This was a good plan as long as at least 50 of the 51 Republicans in the Senate were willing to adopt this unusual approach of expressing deep concern and sympathy but not doing anything else about it.
There was good reason for them to think that there would be party unity. Democrats had acted so disreputably in their handling of the initial accusation against Kavanaugh – hiding the charge and then leaking it out after the initial hearings were done and long after the background investigation had been concluded.
In a tit-for-tat sense, Democrats deserved to get steamrolled. Republicans could further assuage their consciences in the knowledge that it was Democrats who had mistreated Ford while the majority member on the Judiciary Committee had tried to give her a fair hearing.
But this morning Sen. Jeff Flake, a lame-duck Republican from Arizona, announced that he would withhold his final vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation unless and until the FBI investigated the claims. Flake was soon joined by fellow Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. With three members of the blockade, Kavanaugh’s nomination was stuck.
For the same Democrats who had pulled the stunt with Ford’s allegation, this immediately sounded like good news. More time means more opportunities to defeat Kavanaugh. We have already seen other allegations across a range of seriousness and credible, so they may not be wrong in their supposition.
Nor are Republicans wrong in supposing that whatever the FBI does find is likely to be entirely satisfactory to either side.
But as we think about the long-term consequences here, it may be the one Democrat who has so far joined the Flake brigade who matters most. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is in a bad political bind. He represents one of the most Republican states in the country and one in which a poll by a pro-Kavanaugh group finds 58 percent support for the nomination, including more than half of female voters.
Now that President Trump has agreed to meet the demands of the holdouts and order the FBI to look into the claims, we see restored possibility that had vanished after Thursday’s hearing.
If Kavanaugh is cleared or even just found to be plausible in his denials, Manchin and perhaps other red-state Democrats will join in support for final confirmation.
After a week of some of the most miserable, acrimonious partisanship we have seen in modern times, this sudden, belated outburst of bipartisanship may not only help save some of the frayed fibers of the Senate but also help preserve some of the esteem for the Supreme Court.
Neither hardline Democrats nor hardline Republicans will be satisfied with this solution, but it represents a kind of power politics all its own.
THE RULEBOOK: $
“THE importance of the Union, in a commercial light, is one of those points about which there is least room to entertain a difference of opinion, and which has, in fact, commanded the most general assent of men who have any acquaintance with the subject.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 11
TIME OUT: MANY, MANY MAYA
Discover Magazine: “From above, the vastness of the Guatemalan jungle stretches to the horizon in an unbroken swath of dense greenery. … But to step through the undergrowth in the northern Guatemalan lowlands is to walk the buried remnants of the ancient Maya civilization. The jungle hides fields, roads, canals and even whole settlements. And that civilization just got a whole lot bigger. Thousands of previously hidden structures were recently uncovered in Central America thanks to a powerful technology known as LiDAR. And now, a new estimate of the Maya population based on those surveys suggests as many as 11 million people once lived throughout the region. The LiDAR analysis also shows that Maya cities and surrounding settlements sprawl for miles around city centers, connected by a web of roads and dense grids of farm fields. First published earlier this year, scientists report that a LiDAR survey of unprecedented size uncovered over 60,000 new structures across more than 800 square miles in the Petén region of northern Guatemala.”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 42.8 percent
Average disapproval: 52.8 percent
Net Score: -10 points
Change from one week ago: up 5.4 points
[Average includes: Pew Research Center: 40% approve – 55% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 44% approve – 49% disapprove; Gallup: 40% approve – 56% disapprove; Fox News: 46% approve – 52% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 44% approve – 52% disapprove.]
Control of House
Republican average: 42 percent
Democratic average: 50.2 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 8.2 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage down 2.2 points
[Average includes: Pew Research Center: 52% Dems – 42% GOP; NPR/PBS/Marist: 48% Dems – 41% GOP; Gallup: 51% Dems – 42% GOP; Fox News: 49% Dems – 42% GOP; NBC/WSJ: 51% Dems – 43% GOP.]
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RECORDS CONFIRM GILLUM TIED TO CRIMINAL PROBE
Politico: “Driving records related to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum are tied to an “active criminal investigation” and can’t be released unredacted by the state, according to an audit housed with the Florida Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles. … The listing shows Gillum’s records have been accessed 106 times, but a vast majority were redacted by the department, and no specific information could be provided. … Gillum, who is mayor of Tallahassee, has long been dogged by an FBI investigation into the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency. Gillum has not been publicly accused of any wrongdoing as part of that probe and has said publicly that agents have told him he is not the target of the investigation. He has, however, on more than one occasion been directly tied the man now believed to be an undercover FBI agent who was leading the investigation.”
Candidates in Ryan’s district fight over manufacturing ties – WaPo: “Who has the most manufacturing street cred in this Wisconsin House race? House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) is retiring, and the major-party contenders for his seat are Randy Bryce, a mustachioed ironworker and the Democratic nominee, and Bryan Steil, a corporate lawyer and former Ryan aide running as the Republican. Steil in his ad briefly appears on a factory floor wearing safety goggles as sparks fly in the background, and speaks of ‘working in manufacturing.’ Bryce in his own ad features a woman calling Steil a liar who ‘has not manufactured anything in his life.’”
McCaskill, Sinema to attend fundraiser thrown by anti-Trump donor – Fox News: “Vulnerable red-state Democrats vying for U.S. Senate seats will be attending a $2,000-per-guest fundraiser hosted by a prominent Democratic donor who called President Trump supporters ‘traitors,’ implied conservative ideas were ‘low IQ’ and suggested members of the GOP were members of the KKK. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat running in Arizona, and Claire McCaskill, an incumbent senator in Missouri, will attend the fundraiser on Friday in Edwardsville, Ill., hosted by Jeff Cooper, a St. Louis-area litigator turned soccer executive, who attended a state dinner at the Obama White House in 2011.”
Centrists split from Paulson – Roll Call: “Erik Paulsen has been a survivor. WhenHillary Clinton carried Minnesota’s 3rd District last cycle by 9 points, the Republican congressman won re-election by 14 points. So how is it that the five-term lawmaker finds himself in trouble this year against a well-funded, moderate Democrat? The short answer: President Donald Trump. … For Paulsen, who’s never faced re-election with a Republican in the White House before, that could be enough to turn off his district’s infamous ticket-splitting voters. Awaiting him in November is Democratic businessman Dean Phillips, a first-time candidate who has used Trump’s election as fuel for his campaign, but doesn’t actually talk much about the president. Instead, Phillips is taking the fight straight to Paulsen, accusing him of being an inaccessible representative caught up in a corrupt political system. A New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll conducted earlier this month gave Phillips a 9-point edge. Neither side has released polling, but Democrats are optimistic the race is moving in their direction.”
Delaware poll shows blowout races in Senate, House – Delaware Online: “Incumbent Democrats Sen. Tom Carper and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester are holding a commanding lead over their respective Republican challengers six weeks before the general election, according to a new poll from the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication. The survey found Carper is winning over 61 percent of likely voters compared to 24 percent for Republican Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett– the largest margin the center has recorded over the last three election cycles. … Rochester is leading Republican Scott Walker by a slightly slimmer margin of 58-28, with 15 percent of voters undecided. The 30-point differential in the House race might be the more surprising result. The Delaware GOP on Thursday disavowed Walker following a series of Facebook posts in which the 61-year-old Milford candidate called Blunt Rochester – Delaware’s first black or female Congresswoman – an ‘Aunt Tom’ and accused the state’s top Democratic officials of being racist.”
House heads out until after the election, leaves symbolic tax cut – CNBC: “A three-bill legislative package known as Tax Reform 2.0 cleared the GOP-dominated House during votes on Thursday and Friday. While the legislation is expected to be dead on arrival in the Senate, some proposed changes to retirement savings could remain in play. Among other changes, the bills would make recently enacted tax cuts for individuals permanent, expand retirement and education accounts and create tax-advantaged Universal Savings Accounts. While supporters say a second round of tax cuts would lead to continued economic growth, critics point to its $627 billion price tag over the next 10 years, based on an analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation. That’s on top of the $1.5 trillion the already-passed cuts are projected to cost during the same period. … That bill, the Retirement Enhancement Security Act (S. 2526) would remove the 70½ age limit for making contributions to traditional individual retirement accounts and would make it easier for small businesses to band together to offer 401(k) plans, among other provisions.”
FREEDOM CAUCUS WINS HILL GRILLING FOR ROSENSTIEN
WaPo: “House Republicans have decided to call deputy attorney general Rod. J. Rosenstein back to Capitol Hill and subpoena him if he doesn’t show, according to Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who tweeted early Friday that there was an agreement with GOP leadership for the plan. ‘Leadership has agreed to call Rod J. Rosenstein before Congress . . . so he can explain his alleged comment on ‘wiring’ POTUS — as well as other inconsistent statements,’ Meadows wrote, referring to President Trump.‘If Mr. Rosenstein fails to show up, we will subpoena him.’ Representatives of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) did not immediately respond to requests for comment.”
More subpoenas – WaPo: “The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena Thursday for former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe’s memos as well as the supporting documents the FBI used in its application to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Republicans requested McCabe’s memos from the Justice Department over the summer and were told they would not be shared, according to several lawmakers. But the revelation last week that McCabe suggested in his memos that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein considered recording President Trump in an apparent effort to remove him from office put new urgency behind the GOP’s desire to see the documents. Rosenstein has denied he made any such suggestion.”
Judge rules lawsuit over Trump finances can proceed – WaPo
Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation allowing illegal immigrants to serve in office – LAT
Problem Solvers Caucus makes bid for rules change – The Hill
Cicilline makes play for leadership post – Roll Call
AUDIBLE: STILL BETTER THAN A MAN BUN
“[The president has] grabbed me more than I’ve grabbed him, okay? Anyway, there’s no hugs. You know how guys do the man bump.” – Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., in an interview with GQ Magazine.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz – Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I enjoy reading your Halftime Report every day. You seem fair and you don’t sugarcoat the state of affairs in the political arena. One thing I have noticed and I must say it bothers me is that when the polls are down for Trump you never (or hardly ever) have Fox as one of the pollsters and when his numbers go up, there is the Fox two cents. Is there a reason for that or am I just missing something?” – J. Romero, Springfield, Mo.
[Ed. note: Ms. Romero, I promise that we tout every single one of our Fox News polls. I say that with great confidence because I really believe that they are among the best in the business – if not the very best. We use a bipartisan team of pollsters that includes a Republican from Texas and a Democrat from Massachusetts – Daron Shaw and Chris Anderson – who put together the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of public opinion research. I’m immensely proud of the product no matter what it says of any party of politician.]
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THE RIGHT TO AN ATTORNEY AND TO CALAMINE LOTION
WLS-TV: “Pesky mosquitoes brought a high-speed police chase to an end in Wisconsin’s Fond du Lac County. The mosquitoes are quite plentiful lately in central Wisconsin thanks to recent rain and flooding, but they bugged one man so much he preferred to be arrested by police. It all started when a man allegedly stole three bottles of Jagermeister on Tuesday at a Piggly Wiggly grocery store in a Campellsport, Wisconsin, and was captured on surveillance video. Manager Kevin Harvey saw him load a cart with more than $1,400 of alcohol. … Harvey chased him out of the store, but the getaway driver, John Wilson, drove off and sparked a 3-mile chase. The thief tucked and rolled out of the vehicle during the chase. However, Wilson then parked and ran into a cornfield. Police surrounded the area, but mosquitoes were on the prowl. It was so bad police were looking for bug spray for themselves, said ChiefThomas Dornbrook, of the Campbellsport Police Department. … An hour later, Wilson put up his hands and surrendered, saying he couldn’t stand the swarming mosquitoes.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“As I said, this is all about raw power. When the Democrats had it, they used it. The Republicans are today wholly justified in saying they will not allow this outgoing president to overturn the balance of the Supreme Court. The matter should be decided by the coming election. Does anyone doubt that Democrats would be saying exactly that if the circumstances were reversed?” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Feb. 18, 2016.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.