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POLITICO Playbook: Can Kavanaugh hang on?

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Judge Brett Kavanaugh is pictured. | Getty Images

Republicans say they are still weighing their options on Brett Kavanaugh, and will figure out if there is a path forward today. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

DRIVING THE DAY

IN NORMAL TIMES, BRETT KAVANAUGH would be under tremendous pressure to abandon his bid for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. His accuser — Christine Blasey Ford — has spoken on the record, detailing allegations of sexual assault when they were in high school. The Washington Post story, by Emma Brown

BUT, quite obviously, these are not normal times. And, as of now — that is, early Monday morning — Kavanaugh is still a nominee for the highest court in the land. Republicans say they are still weighing their options, and will figure out if there is a path forward today. (Yes, we are acutely aware that this entire situation can change at the drop of a hat.)

REPUBLICANS ON THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE put out a statement Sunday at 3:03 p.m. saying: “It’s disturbing that these uncorroborated allegations from more than 35 years ago, during high school, would surface on the eve of a committee vote after Democrats sat on them since July.” Now that Ford has put her name to these allegations, it’s going to be tough to dismiss them.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP has not publicly reacted to the news on Kavanaugh, though his team is back-channeling that he will continue to stand behind Kavanaugh. More from Josh Gerstein, Andrew Restuccia and Daniel Lippman on the White House reax

IF KAVANAUGH HANGS ON …

— IF YOU ARE A DEMOCRAT, HOW DO YOU VOTE YES? Part of the deal with Kavanaugh’s nomination was always that it would put red-state Democrats like JOE DONNELLY (IND.), JOE MANCHIN (W.VA.), HEIDI HEITKAMP (N.D.) and DOUG JONES (ALA.) in a tough spot. They are in a tough spot no longer. They have ample reason to vote against him, and if they even consider voting for him, they would be pilloried by their base.

— IF YOU’RE SUSAN COLLINS AND LISA MURKOWSKI, similarly, how do you vote yes? It seems completely unrealistic that two female senators can ignore or minimize the charges against Kavanaugh. Collins (R-Maine) and Murkowski (R-Alaska) are, again, the two most important people in the Capitol.

And retiring SENS. JEFF FLAKE (R-ARIZ.), a key vote on the Judiciary Committee, and BOB CORKER (R-TENN.) have both come forward and said publicly that the Senate should pause on trying to push through Kavanaugh to review the allegations. Flake is critical, since Republicans have an 11-to-10 majority on the committee, though SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL could bypass a committee vote and bring Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate floor. Burgess Everett on Flake’s response

— CNN’S JIM SCIUTTO (@jimsciutto): “New: GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, one of the key undecideds on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, told CNN’s @stevebruskCNN tonight committee ‘might have to consider’ delaying vote.”

— IF YOU’RE MCCONNELL, the squeaky-clean, fairly easy Supreme Court nominee just made life a lot more complicated. McConnell’s political legacy will be his dogged pursuit of getting more conservative justices. But McConnell knows his members as well as any political leader. If he gets the sense that this is too tough a vote for his members to take, he’s not going to go through with it. And he also certainly is not going to put up a SCOTUS vote that isn’t going to pass.

IF KAVANAUGH DROPS OUT …

— IT WILL BECOME VERY TOUGH for McConnell to get another Supreme Court justice on the bench this Congress. Squeezing one through in October seems nearly impossible. The nomination would be kicked to a lame-duck session of Congress. And if Democrats gain in the Senate — or take the majority — how can McConnell get away with pushing it through then?

— IMPACT ON 2018 … Republicans have made putting conservative judges on the court a major issue for their base. If Kavanaugh goes down, and a seat on the Supreme Court is open, look for this to be a major issue in the 2018 election — and a call to action to rally conservatives to the polls in November.

— MAYBE the White House will listen this time and nominate a judge that McConnell suggests.

ELIANA JOHNSON: “Kavanaugh faces his #MeToo test to reach Supreme Court”

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THE STEP BACK … JOHN HARRIS: “Why God Is Laughing at Brett Kavanaugh”: “God, it’s sometimes said, has an awesome sense of humor; if so, the Almighty must have been vastly entertained by the turns of fortune on display this past weekend in American politics.

“Not amused, to be clear, by the sad story of what a middle-aged university professor recalls of an ugly night in high school with future Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and how it echoed in her mind for years. An uproar over this allegation Sunday pivoted quickly from the first question—what’s true?—to an equally vexing one: What is even fair to be debating some 36 years after the fact?

“It is on this point that the cosmos may be having a laugh not just at Kavanaugh’s expense but at many other people’s. After decades of competitive moralizing and situational ethics—in which every accuser in due course becomes the accused, and anyone riding a high horse can expect to be bucked off—even the concept of fairness in American politics seemingly is defunct.

“Three decades of remorseless ideological and cultural combat — over Robert Bork, over Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, over Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, over Bush v. Gore, and, at last and above all, over Donald Trump—have made the question virtually irrelevant.” POLITICO

Good Monday morning. 50 DAYS until Election Day. THE CONSTITUTION was signed 231 years ago today in Philadelphia. (h/t Michael Beschloss)

WHAT’S ON THE PRESIDENT’S MIND THIS A.M. — @realDonaldTrump at 6:11 a.m.: “Tariffs have put the U.S. in a very strong bargaining position, with Billions of Dollars, and Jobs, flowing into our Country – and yet cost increases have thus far been almost unnoticeable. If countries will not make fair deals with us, they will be ‘Tariffed!’”

THE LATEST ON FLORENCE — “Swollen rivers near record levels as Florence looms,” by AP’s Chuck Burton in Wilmington, North Carolina: “With Wilmington cut off from the rest of North Carolina by still-rising floodwaters from Florence, officials plan to airlift food and water to a city of nearly 120,000 people as rescuers elsewhere pull inland residents from homes threatened by swollen rivers.

“The spreading disaster claimed additional lives Sunday, with at least 17 people confirmed dead, and the nation’s top emergency official said other states were in the path this week.

“Not only are you going to see more impact across North Carolina, … but we’re also anticipating you are about to see a lot of damage going through West Virginia, all the way up to Ohio as the system exits out,’ Brock Long of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Sunday on Fox News.” AP

REUTERS’ ARSHAD MOHAMMED: “Exclusive: Pompeo seeks rapprochement with alienated U.S. diplomats”: “U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has nearly doubled promotions of top American diplomats as he seeks to restore diplomatic ties with a workforce alienated by his predecessor, Rex Tillerson.

“Since taking over in April, Pompeo has lavished attention on diplomats demoralized by the former oil executive’s distant management style, reluctance to consult in-house experts and inability to get personnel choices through President Donald Trump’s White House.

“The charm offensive by the former Republican lawmaker and CIA director includes resuming the hiring of diplomats’ family members when posted abroad, cheerleading emails to staff about his travels and a push to replenish the top ranks of U.S. diplomacy, officials said.” Reuters

SIGN OF THE TIMES? … WAPO: “A Trump effect at journalism schools? Colleges see a surge in admissions.”FT: “MBA applications fall at top US business schools”

JUST POSTED … SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS PROFILE in THE NEW YORKER

2018 WATCH:America’s anger paradox: Voters want the anger to stop but can’t stop being angry,” by WaPo’s Greg Jaffe in Rochester, Michigan: Elissa “Slotkin’s race, which nonpartisan groups rate as a toss-up, is a view into perhaps the biggest paradox of the Trump era. Voters say they are tired of the anger and polarization emanating from Washington. They say they crave compromise. Yet these same voters view the rival party with disdain and frequently punish politicians for reaching across partisan lines. They want the anger to stop but can’t stop being angry.” WaPo

— STEVEN SHEPARD and TYLER FISHER: “Trump Loses Altitude in Ohio Ahead of Midterms”: “Voters in Ohio — the electoral bellwether that’s picked the winner of every presidential race since 1964 — have generally positive views of international trade and want the U.S. to play a leading role in world affairs, according to a new POLITICO/AARP survey.

“But the poll of voters in the key swing state also shows the complicated nature of public opinion about the country’s place in the world in the era of President Donald Trump.

“Just a quarter of voters, 25 percent, say the U.S. should take the leading role in world affairs. A majority rejects the U.S. as a hegemon, however. Forty-six percent, say the U.S. should play a major role in world affairs, but not the leading role. And a combined 19 percent say the U.S. should play a minor role in world affairs, or no role at all.” POLITICO

— MICHAEL GRUNWALD in Cambridge, Ohio: “Trump Flipped Ohio in 2016. Can Dems Flip It in 2018 By Going Old School?”

JOIN US — ANNA and JAKE are headed to Columbus on Thursday for a special Playbook Elections event in Ohio with REP. JIM RENACCI (R-OHIO), who is running for Senate, and DEMOCRAT RICHARD CORDRAY, who is running for governor, to discuss how the 2018 midterm elections are shaping up. RSVP

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TOP-ED — HILLARY CLINTON in The Atlantic, “American Democracy Is in Crisis: Our democratic institutions and traditions are under siege. We need to do everything we can to fight back”: “Trump doesn’t even try to pretend he’s a president for all Americans. It’s hard to ignore the racial subtext of virtually everything Trump says.

“Often, it’s not even subtext. When he says that Haitian and African immigrants are from ‘s***hole countries,’ that’s impossible to misunderstand. Same when he says that an American judge can’t be trusted because of his Mexican heritage. None of this is a mark of authenticity or a refreshing break from political correctness. Hate speech isn’t ‘telling it like it is.’ It’s just hate.” The Atlantic

TRUMP’S MONDAY — The president is receiving an emergency preparedness and response briefing at 11 a.m. He will have lunch with VP Mike Pence. In the afternoon, Trump will participate in the inaugural meeting of the “President’s National Council for the American Worker.” At 5 p.m., Trump will host a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. He is having dinner with supporters for the NRSC at 7:15 p.m. before returning to the White House.

PLAYBOOK READS

Demonstrators in Texas are pictured. | AP Photo

PHOTO DU JOUR: Demonstrators protest the police killings of two black men in North Texas this month outside the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium on Sunday. | Brandon Wade/AP Photo

DANNY VINIK, “Trump gets pass from Congress on Puerto Rico deaths: Far more people died from Hurricane Maria than Katrina, but the House and Senate have asked fewer questions”: “After Hurricane Katrina crashed into the Gulf Coast in 2005, Congress sprang into action. Seventeen days after the storm made landfall, the Republican-led House created a bipartisan select committee to investigate the Bush administration’s response to the storm. …

“In the year since Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, killing nearly 70 percent more people than Katrina, the GOP-led House has yet to create a select committee to oversee the Trump administration’s recovery efforts. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees FEMA, has held just two hearings related to the storm. Neither the House nor the Senate have issued any major reports, and none appear to be in the works.” POLITICO

CARLA MARINUCCI in Huntington Beach, California: “In California, Newsom aims to seize Reagan territory for the ‘resistance’”: “Crisscrossing longtime Reagan Revolution territory in his ‘Big Blue’ campaign bus this weekend, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom – enjoying a comfortable cushion in the polls – has turned his focus to driving the resistance. …

“‘Orange is the new blue!’ said Newsom to cheers as he looked out at a sea of Democratic faces, grassroots activists and a long line of hopefuls at a rally in Huntington Beach, one of the campaign stops Saturday in Orange County — a storied GOP stronghold which Reagan once described as ‘where good Republicans go to die.’

“With just 50 days to the November midterm elections, and President Donald Trump’s approval ratings hovering at a dismal 32 percent in California, Newsom’s frenzied drive for other Democrats — and the robust turnout at his recent events — highlighted the level of grassroots outrage and dogged determination in the ‘state of resistance’ to counter Trump’s actions on immigration, environmental regulation rollbacks, the GOP tax plan and Republicans’ continued efforts to unravel the Affordable Care Act.” POLITICO

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BUSINESS BURST — “Trump Promised a Rush of Repatriated Cash, But Company Responses Are Modest,” by WSJ’s Richard Rubin and Theo Francis: “The new law imposes a one-time tax on those old earnings—whether or not money is repatriated. It also removes federal taxes on subsequent repatriations and makes future foreign profits generally free from U.S. taxes. … The Wall Street Journal reviewed securities filings from 108 publicly traded companies accounting for the vast majority of an estimated $ 2.7 trillion in profits parked abroad, and asked each company what it was doing with the funds. In their filings and responses, they said they have repatriated about $ 143 billion so far this year.” WSJ

VALLEY TALK — “Amazon Investigates Employees Leaking Data for Bribes,” by WSJ’s Jon Emont in Hong Kong and Laura Stevens and Robert McMillan in San Francisco: “Amazon.com Inc. is investigating suspected data leaks and bribes of its employees as it fights to root out fake reviews and other seller scams from its website. Employees of Amazon, primarily with the aid of intermediaries, are offering internal data and other confidential information that can give an edge to independent merchants selling their products on the site, according to sellers who have been offered and purchased the data, as well as brokers who provide it and people familiar with internal investigations.” WSJ

MEDIAWATCH — “Time Magazine Sold to Salesforce Founder Marc Benioff for $ 190 Million,” by WSJ’s Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg: “Nearly eight months after Meredith Corp. completed its purchase of Time Inc., the publisher has agreed to sell Time magazine for $ 190 million to Marc Benioff, co-founder of Salesforce.com, and his wife Lynne Benioff. The proposed sale is expected to close within 30 days. The Benioffs are buying Time as individuals; the agreement is unrelated to Salesforce.com, where Mr. Benioff also serves as chairman and co-chief executive.” WSJ

— @Benioff: “The power of Time has always been in its unique storytelling of the people & issues that affect us all & connect us all. A treasure trove of our history & culture. We have deep respect for their organization & honored to be stewards of this iconic brand.”

PLAYBOOKERS

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — David Folkenflik, media correspondent at NPR and host and editor of NPR and WBUR’s “On Point,” and Jesse Baker, VP for original content development at Audible and an NPR, ESPN and Slate alum, on Monday welcomed Eliza Lynn, who came in at 10 lbs, 10 ounces.

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Courtney O’Donnell, director of strategic engagements at Airbnb and former comms director for Jill Biden. How she got her start in politics: “Both of my grandparents were social workers and civil rights activists, so the seed for public service was planted at an early age. … My first campaign experience was as a press staffer driving a 15 passenger van full of reporters (I’m looking at you Mark Silva, Peter Wallsten, Adam Smith…) across the entire state of Florida behind Janet Reno on her ‘Red Truck Tour’ kicking off her campaign for Governor. I’ve never been a great driver, had never driven such a large car, and hit a speed bump one hour into the 15-day journey. Most of the reporters lost their lunches…It was a wild ride in every way — and I loved it.” Playbook Plus Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Don Baer, chairman of BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe) (hat tips: Catherine Sullivan and Ben Chang) … David Litt, head D.C. writer/producer for Funny Or Die, is 32 … Richard Wolffe, columnist at the Guardian, is 5-0 … Bill Briggs … Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is 85 … retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni is 75 … retired Justice David Souter is 79 … Marin Cogan … BuzzFeed’s Henry Gomez … Angie Read … Bill Bold … Thomas Bride … Anna Taylor … POLITICO’s Rachel Roubein and Crystal Thomas … Alberto Mucci … Sergio Rodriguera … C-SPAN’s Steve Scully … Steve Kerrigan is 47 … Princeton econ professor Alan Krueger is 58 … Sara Stefanini … Anthony Coley, EVP and managing director of communications and senior adviser to the president and CEO at the Managed Funds Association, is 4-0 … Nick Melvoin, VP of LA Unified, is 32 (h/t former NYU classmate Alex Levy) …

… Kimberley Fritts, chairman and CEO of Cogent Strategies … former Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) is 65 … Matthew Boyse, who recently started as deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs at the State Department (h/t daughter Natalie) … Edelman’s Charlie Taffet … Brian Pate … Cole Lyle, military aide to Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) … Courtney Laydon … VA’s Leah V. Le’Vell … Amgen’s Kathryn Phelps … Christine Martin … Monica Patel … TJ Helmstetter … Morgan Gress Johnson, account director at Brunswick Group (h/t Peter Cherukuri) … Meghan Clyne … John Clark … Andrea Billups … Doug Johnson … Matt Everett … Mackey Dykes … Nate Berkus … Claire Magee … Christine Martin … Adam Abrams … Sandra Abrevaya … Andrew High … Brian Patrick … Andrew Carter … Cynthia Ruccia … Isabel Morin … Frayda Lieber … Darcy Haber (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)

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