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National Govt & Politics

    Just months after the publication of James Comey's 'A Higher Loyalty,' another former FBI official will take on President Donald Trump. Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director ousted this year amid repeated attacks from Trump and a critical Justice Department report, has a book deal. St. Martin's Press announced Tuesday that 'The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump' will come out Dec. 4. St. Martin's is calling the book a candid account of his career and defense of the FBI's independence. According to the publisher, McCabe will describe 'a series of troubling, contradictory, and often bizarre conversations' with Trump and other high officials that led him to believe the 'actions of this President and his administration undermine the FBI and the entire intelligence community' and threaten the general public. 'I wrote this book because the president's attacks on me symbolize his destructive effect on the country as a whole,' McCabe said in a statement issued through St. Martin's. 'He is undermining America's safety and security, and eroding public confidence in its institutions. His attacks on the most crucial institutions of government, and on the professionals who serve within them, should make every American stand up and take notice.' With the bureau, McCabe had worked on everything from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to the Boston Marathon bombing. 'The Threat' is likely to draw comparisons to 'A Higher Loyalty,' the best-seller by Comey, whom Trump fired in 2017. Both books come from divisions of Macmillan. McCabe had been with the FBI for more than 20 years when Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired him in March, just before McCabe's planned retirement. His ouster came as a report from the Department of Justice's inspector general faulted him for misleading investigators looking in to the leak of information for a 2016 Wall Street Journal story about the FBI's probe into the Clinton Foundation. McCabe denied the charges. Meanwhile, Trump had accused him of bias against Republicans because McCabe's wife had accepted campaign contributions from the political action committee of then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, during a failed state Senate run. The Republican president also was angered that the FBI was investigating his campaign's ties to Russia and that it did not bring criminal charges against his 2016 Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton over her handling of emails while secretary of state. After McCabe was fired, Trump tweeted 'Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI - A great day for Democracy.' He has since threatened to revoke McCabe's security clearance, and this week directed the Justice Department to publicly release some of his text messages related to the Russia probe.
  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in began his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday with possibly his hardest mission to date — brokering some kind of compromise to keep North Korea's talks with Washington from imploding and pushing ahead with his own plans to expand economic cooperation and bring a stable peace to the Korean Peninsula. Kim gave the South Korean president an exceedingly warm welcome, meeting him and his wife at Pyongyang's airport — itself a very unusual gesture — then riding into town with Moon in an open limousine through streets lined with crowds of North Koreans, who cheered and waved the flag of their country and a blue-and-white flag that symbolizes Korean unity. The made-for-television welcome is par for the course for Moon's summits with Kim. Hours after his arrival, Moon began an official summit with Kim at the ruling Workers' Party headquarters. The two were joined by two of their top deputies — spy chief Suh Hoon and presidential security director Chung Eui-yong for Moon, and Kim Jong Un's powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, and senior Workers' Party official Kim Yong Chol for the North Korean leader, according to Moon's office. At the start of their meeting, Kim thanked Moon for brokering a June summit with U.S. President Donald Trump. 'It's not too much to say that it's Moon's efforts that arranged a historic North Korea-U.S. summit. Because of that, the regional political situation has been stabilized and more progress on North Korea-U.S. ties is expected,' Kim said, according to South Korean media pool reports and Moon's office. Moon responded by expressing his own thanks to Kim for making a 'bold decision' in a New Year's speech to open a new era of detente and send a delegation to the South Korean Winter Olympics in February. The results of the talks weren't immediately available. Seoul officials earlier said they would focus on how to achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, decrease military tensions along their border and improve overall ties. The North's media said the talks would reaffirm their commitment to Korean peace, unity and prosperity. During a conversation at the Paekhwawon guest house where Moon was to stay, Kim said North Koreans hope diplomacy will yield positive results. 'I think it was our people's wish that we come up with good results as fast as we can,' Kim said, according to the media pool reports. Moon responded that 'Our hearts are fluttering, but at the same we have heavy hearts,' and added, 'We have built trust and friendship between us, so I think all will be well.' The two are to meet again on Wednesday. More than in their previous encounters, when the mere fact of meeting and resuming a dialogue was seen as a major step forward, Moon is under pressure to leave Thursday with some concrete accomplishments. One of Moon's objectives — and one that also interests Kim — was clear from the people he took with him. Traveling on Moon's government jet was Samsung scion Lee Jae-yong and other business leaders, underscoring Moon's hopes to expand cross-border business projects. Currently, however, all major joint projects between the Koreas are stalled because of U.S.-led sanctions. But the nuclear issue was sure to cast a shadow over negotiations on joint projects. Before leaving Seoul, Moon vowed to push for 'irreversible, permanent peace' and for better dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington. 'This summit would be very meaningful if it yielded a resumption of North Korea-U.S. talks,' Moon said Tuesday just before his departure. 'It's very important for South and North Korea to meet frequently, and we are turning to a phase where we can meet anytime we want.' But as Moon arrived, the North's main newspaper lobbed a rhetorical volley at Washington that could make Moon's job all the more delicate, blaming the United States alone for the lack of progress in denuclearization talks. 'The U.S. is totally to blame for the deadlocked DPRK-U.S. negotiations,' the Rodong Sinmun said in an editorial, using the initials of the North's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. It said Washington is 'stubbornly insisting' that the North dismantle its nuclear weapons first, an approach 'which was rejected in the past DPRK-U.S. dialogues,' while failing to show its will for confidence-building 'including the declaration of the end of war which it had already pledged.' While signaling his willingness to talk with Washington, Kim's strategy has been to try to elbow the U.S. away from Seoul so that the two Koreas can take the lead in deciding how to bring peace and stability to their peninsula. North Korea maintains that it has developed its nuclear weapons to the point that it can now defend itself against a potential U.S. attack, and can now shift its focus to economic development and improved ties with the South. Rarely do the North Korean official media even mention the word denuclearization. Talks between the United States and North Korea have stalled since Kim's meeting with Trump in Singapore in June. North Korea has taken some steps, like dismantling its nuclear and rocket-engine testing sites, but U.S. officials have said it must take more serious disarmament steps before receiving outside concessions. Trump has indicated he may be open to holding another summit to resuscitate the talks, however. For Kim, the timing of this week's summit is good. North Korea just completed an elaborate celebration replete with a military parade and huge rallies across the country to mark its 70th anniversary. China, signaling its support for Kim's recent diplomatic moves, sent its third-highest party official to those festivities. That's important because China is the North's biggest economic partner and is an important political counterbalance to the United States. To keep expectations from getting too high, Moon's chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, said it's 'difficult to have any optimistic outlook' for progress on denuclearization during the summit. But he said he still expects the summit to produce meaningful agreements. Some progress along those lines is already underway. South Korea last week opened a liaison office in the North's city of Kaesong, near the Demilitarized Zone. Another possible area of agreement could be on a formal statement on ending the Korean War, which was halted in 1953 by what was intended to be a temporary armistice. Military officials have discussed possibly disarming a jointly controlled area at the Koreas' shared border village, removing front-line guard posts and halting hostile acts along their sea boundary. Moon is the third South Korean leader to visit North Korea's capital for summits, but the first since 2007. ___ Kim reported from Seoul. AP journalists Kim Tong-hyung and Foster Klug contributed from Seoul. Talmadge is the AP's Pyongyang bureau chief. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter: @EricTalmadge
  • Facing a recent series of polls which raise questions about their majorities in the both the U.S. House and Senate, senior Republicans are counseling their colleagues to stick to the basics in their Congressional campaigns for November, especially urging them to emphasize economic growth under the Trump Administration as a reason to keep the GOP in charge on Capitol Hill. “Our economic progress has America in the best economic condition it’s been in for decades,” said Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), who heads up election efforts nationally for House Republicans. “The economy is booming, our policies are working – what’s not to like about that?” Stivers said. In a meeting with House GOP lawmakers last week, Stivers said his message was simple – “finish strong.” “Do the basics, this is just blocking and tackling,” Stivers added, using another football metaphor to say the GOP needs to worry about gains of “three yards and a cloud of dust,” instead of Political Hail Mary passes to win in November. We've polled 12 of the 30 races characterized as 'toss-up' by the Cook Political Report, and the overall margin is Dem 45.4, Rep 44.3 — Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) September 17, 2018 While every race is different in the House and Senate, a number of GOP lawmakers told me their biggest campaign selling point right now is a simple formula – talk to voters about the tax cut signed into law by President Donald Trump, lower unemployment numbers nationwide, and stronger economic growth. “The economy is growing, kids are moving out of the basement, getting their jobs – this is what folks sent me here to do,” argues Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA), whose suburban Atlanta district has been targeted by Democrats. “Certainly we have the increase in our economy showing strong growth,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), who is also emphasizing a bigger defense budget, with his district anchored by Wright Patterson Air Force Base outside of Dayton. “They’re making more money, they’ve got more money to spend,” said Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL) of voters in his central Florida district. “The jobs rate is just phenomenal.” But while Woodall, Turner, and Webster speak confidently about their party’s position for November, recent polls are not as clear that the economic argument will be the magic election potion for the GOP. For example, a recent poll by Quinnipiac University showed that despite a record level of optimism about the economy, President Trump’s disapproval ratings were very high, showing a major disconnect in the usual prediction that voters will vote their pocketbooks, and reward the party in power for good economic times. That’s been the story in a number of surveys, as political pollsters and polling experts see the GOP on the defensive right now – but to what extent – that is not as clear, as many election night possibilities are still in play all over the map, especially in the U.S. Senate. In a bit of a surprise, a recent batch of Senate polls have shown Democrats running stronger than expected in Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Tennessee – with Florida, and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), being the biggest election headache for Democrats at this point. But even the experts who sift through the numbers say that seven weeks out – anything is possible in November. The Senate is absolutely fascinating. Republicans could lose the Senate, perhaps by 2-3 seats, but could also end up picking up three or four. Perfectly plausible scenarios for both. — Sean T at RCP (@SeanTrende) September 13, 2018 In the House, legal troubles for two lawmakers are causing further problems for the GOP; on Monday, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), who was indicted in August for insider trading and lying to the feds, decided to stay on the ballot and seek re-election. New York Republicans had been trying to shift Collins to another race, but because of the byzantine nature of election laws in the Empire State, any such move would likely have drawn a lawsuit – thus the GOP is stuck with Collins on the ballot for Congress. Also still on the ballot for November is a second indicted GOP lawmaker, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who has been charged – along with his wife – with misusing $250,000 in campaign money. It’s possible that even with the label of “indicted Congressman” – both could still win re-election. It happened in 2014, when ex-Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) won election while under indictment. Grimm resigned weeks later, and went to prison for tax fraud. In seven weeks, we’ll see whether Republicans can hold on to power, or if the voters will again opt for a ‘change’ election in Congress.
  • Guns in schools to protect students from grizzly bears? Betsy DeVos endured yet another rocky confirmation hearing in the Senate to become education secretary — this time on a theater stage. In a play performed Monday at Washington's Arena Stage theater, about a dozen student actors from local high schools posed as frustrated Democrats and friendly Republicans to grill DeVos on the merits of public education, the role of the federal government in civil rights, and her family wealth. 'We are living in a time when people think they are looking for truth, but are being told there are alternative facts and, frankly, we are just trying to show facts,' Chris Burney, a co-producer of the show, said in an interview before the performance. 'This is what was spoken, these are the words that were spoken, now that you know what the facts are, how do you engage with them?' The play, titled simply 'The Confirmation Hearing for the Secretary of Education,' was part of 'American Scorecard,' a series of dramatic readings of congressional transcripts by actors. Other shows in the series have been devoted to banking, the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election, and the confirmation of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who later resigned. DeVos' less-than-smooth performance at her confirmation hearing generated satire on television and social media and marked the start of her rocky tenure. After the hearing, two Republican senators joined the Democratic half of the Senate in voting against DeVos and it was only Vice President Mike Pence's tie-breaking vote that secured DeVos the job. Putting prominent public figures on the stage as part of documentary theater is not new, said Jodi Kanter, a theatre professor at George Washington University. For instance, Anita Hill's powerful testimony at the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991 also inspired a play. 'It can be extremely valuable to people who are trying to make sense of the current political actors and how they got to where they are and what they are up to,' Kanter said. DeVos' 3½-hour hearing was condensed to under an hour, with roughly the same time given to Republican and Democratic senators. The play ended with excerpts from a speech DeVos went on to give as education secretary. DeVos was played by a professional actress while students, selected from educational theater programs, were cast for their roles irrespective of age, gender and race of the character they were playing. Burney said that was meant to symbolize diversity and to amplify what was being said rather than who was saying it. The play contained some of the most awkward and contentious moments of the hearing, such as DeVos suggesting that guns may help protect rural schools from grizzly bears, and her struggle to distinguish between proficiency and growth when accessing student achievement. But the producers insist that their aim was not to criticize or ridicule, but to encourage dialogue and understanding. 'We work really hard to make it so it's not a cartoon or lampoon, but so that everyone who's involved and every voice that's heard is respected, so hopefully then people can find what do we share in common,' said Burney. 'We personally did not try to paint DeVos any way, whether it's a good or bad character,' said Henry Nieopoetter, a high school senior from Maryland. 'Whatever the audience thinks they can now decide 'cause they are now knowledgeable.' Frank Kirmser, the Broadway producer who conceived the series, said American society has become deeply polarized. In New York, Kirmser said, she has heard people scream 'Not my president' in reference to Donald Trump, 'but the fact of the matter is, this is our president.' 'So I think we all really need to listen and learn and move forward accordingly,' Kirmser said. The Education Department did not provide a comment for this story.
  • Republicans are forging ahead with plans for a Senate hearing they had hoped to avoid on a woman's claims that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were high schoolers, hoping to salvage the judge's endangered Supreme Court nomination with a risky, nationally televised showdown between him and his accuser. Republicans reversed course and agreed to the hearing in the face of growing demands by GOP senators to hear directly from Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, now a psychology professor in California. Their sworn testimony, certain to be conflicting and emotive, will offer a campaign season test of the political potency of a #MeToo movement that has already toppled prominent men from entertainment, government and journalism. 'Now the whole nation's trying to figure out something that's not really evident,' said Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. 'It is a political dialogue on a very, very painful subject for a lot of people.' Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said his panel would hold a hearing next Monday with both Kavanaugh and Ford 'to provide ample transparency' and 'give these recent allegations a full airing.' Ford says that at a party when both were teenagers in the early 1980s, an intoxicated Kavanaugh trapped her in a bedroom, pinned her on a bed, tried to undress her and forced his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. She said she got away when a companion of Kavanaugh's jumped on him. Kavanaugh, 53, has vehemently denied the accusation. He said in a statement Monday that he wanted to 'refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity.' Shortly before Grassley's announcement, the senator said there would be private, telephone interviews of Kavanaugh and Ford conducted by committee staffers. Democrats refused to participate, saying the seriousness of the charges merited a full FBI investigation. Republicans had also displayed no willingness to delay a Judiciary panel vote that Grassley had planned for this Thursday to advance the nomination, setting the stage for full Senate confirmation of Kavanaugh by month's end, in time for the new Supreme Court session. Thursday's vote will not occur. President Donald Trump telegraphed earlier Monday that that schedule might slow. He told reporters at the White House: 'If it takes a little delay, it will take a little delay.' If the Judiciary committee's timetable slips, it would become increasingly difficult for Republicans to schedule a vote before midterm elections on Nov. 6 elections, when congressional control will be at stake. With fragile GOP majorities of just 11-10 on the Judiciary committee and 51-49 in the full Senate, Republican leaders had little room for defectors without risking a humiliating defeat of Trump's nominee to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. Among the GOP defectors was Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Judiciary Committee member who has clashed bitterly with Trump and is retiring from the Senate. Flake said he told No. 2 Senate Republican leader John Cornyn of Texas on Sunday that 'if we didn't give her a chance to be heard, then I would vote no.' There was enormous pressure on GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, two moderates who have yet to announce their positions on Kavanaugh and aren't on the Judiciary Committee. Collins said that in a telephone conversation with Kavanaugh on Friday he was 'absolutely emphatic' that the assault didn't occur. She said it would be 'disqualifying' if Kavanaugh was lying. Murkowski said Ford's story 'must be taken seriously.' Neither Collins nor Murkowski faces re-election this fall. Some Democrats raised questions about whether Grassley's planned hearings were sufficient. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel, said in a statement Monday night that she was disappointed the FBI and White House 'are failing to take even the most basic steps to investigate this matter' and that the process was being rushed. She said President George H.W. Bush had asked the FBI to investigate Anita Hill's allegations against Thomas. Another Democrat on the panel, Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, said staging the hearing without the FBI investigation would make it a 'sham.' Underscoring the raw political divisions prompted by the Kavanaugh fight, Feinstein said she'd only learned of the hearing on Twitter. The Justice Department said in a statement late Monday that the accusation against Kavanaugh 'does not involve any potential federal crime.' It said the FBI had forwarded to the White House a letter, evidently from Ford, describing alleged misconduct in the 1980s by Kavanaugh. The statement seemed to suggest that the FBI was not currently investigating it. Kavanaugh and Ford had each indicated earlier Monday a willingness to testify to the Judiciary committee. Debra S. Katz, Ford's attorney, said on NBC's 'Today' that Ford was ready to testify publicly to the Judiciary panel, but she did not respond Monday evening to efforts to learn whether she would appear. Kavanaugh went to the White House on Monday, but Trump said he did not meet with his nominee. He declined to say whether Kavanaugh had offered to withdraw, dismissing the question as 'ridiculous.' Ford, now a psychology professor at California's Palo Alto University, gave her description of her encounter with Kavanaugh to The Washington Post in an interview published Sunday. Kavanaugh is currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, widely viewed as the nation's second-most-powerful court. Until Monday, Trump had remained silent about the allegations against Kavanaugh. The president himself has faced accusations of affairs and unwanted advances — not to mention his taped comments about groping women that emerged shortly before he was elected in 2016. ___ Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey, Mary Clare Jalonick, Darlene Superville and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.
  • President Donald Trump's order to declassify certain documents related to the FBI's Russia investigation is drawing praise from Republican allies and condemnation from Democratic critics. The Justice Department and the office of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats say they are working together to comply with Trump's order. The president's decision triggers a declassification review by various agencies. A small group of congressional Republicans, all staunch allies of Trump, had asked the president last week to declassify the documents. Republican congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina says their release will allow Americans to decide what happened in the FBI and Justice department. Democratic congressman Adam Schiff of California says the decision is intended to advance a false narrative as the special counsel investigates Russia's election meddling.
  • President Donald Trump sided with his embattled Supreme Court nominee, defending Judge Brett Kavanaugh against allegations of sexual assault as the White House walked a fine line in addressing accusations that revived memories of the president's own #MeToo moments. Time and again, Trump has defended powerful men against the claims of women. The president dismissed any notion that Kavanaugh's nomination should be withdrawn, calling that a 'ridiculous question' while accusing Democrats of playing politics by not zeroing in on the accusation against the judge until days before the Senate Judiciary Committee was poised to vote on his nomination. 'He's an outstanding intellect. An outstanding judge. Respected by everybody. Never even had a little blemish on his record,' Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday. But Trump's defense was somewhat measured. He allowed that there might need to be a 'little delay' in the Senate confirmation process to deal with the explosive allegation that Kavanaugh forced himself on a woman at a high school party more than 30 years ago. 'I'd like to see a complete process. ... I want him to go in at the absolute highest level. And I think to do that you have to go through this. If it takes a little delay, it'll take a little delay,' the president said. 'They'll go through a process and hear everybody out. I think it's important,' Trump continued. 'But with all of that being said, it will, I'm sure, work out very well.' Trump's somewhat muted response underscored the politically perilous situation the White House found itself in. Kavanaugh's nomination had seemed to be on a glide path until Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, said Sunday that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a drunken high school party in the 1980s. Kavanaugh denied the allegation. Both were invited to testify about the matter before the committee next Monday, which could create a made-for-TV spectacle that Republican leaders had hoped to avoid. White House aides met behind closed doors cognizant of two realities: that scuttling the Kavanaugh nomination and finding a replacement would likely postpone confirmation hearings until after what could be a difficult midterm election, while pushing back too hard in his defense could alienate female voters as well as female senators who could hold the judge's future in their hands. Until he spoke Monday afternoon, Trump had stayed out of sight as the allegations swirled. He received closed-door updates on Hurricane Florence while tweeting about supposed FBI conspiracies against him and wishing the nation a happy Constitution Day. The White House tone for the day was set by one of the administration's few high-ranking female voices, Kellyanne Conway, who said Ford's voice should be heard. 'She should not be insulted. She should not be ignored. She should testify under oath, and she should do it on Capitol Hill,' said Conway, a senior White House adviser. Still, the administration continued to push forward the nomination and summoned Kavanaugh to the White House, where he spent time with White House counsel Don McGahn and other aides. Trump's advisers both inside and outside the White House urged the president not to attack Kavanaugh's accuser, fearful of repercussions among the electorate. The president has not always shown that restraint. His campaign was nearly derailed in October 2016 when a video from TV's 'Access Hollywood' emerged that captured him boasting about groping women. After a reluctant apology, Trump returned to denying any wrongdoing, dismissing more than a dozen women who accused of him of sexual misconduct, including mocking some of them for not being attractive enough for him to seduce. Days later, at a surprise news conference ahead of a presidential debate in St. Louis, Trump showed a willingness to support allegations against others, appearing with four women who accused former President Bill Clinton, the husband of Trump's opponent, of sexual misconduct. Even as the #MeToo movement gained steam, giving a voice to women who said they were abused by powerful men, the White House has steadily denied accusations against the president. Trump has frequently voiced support for men who faced accusations. He backed longtime friend Roger Ailes, the Fox News executive accused of misconduct by more than two dozen women, and later hired Ailes' onetime aide Bill Shine to be his White House communications director. He publicly defended Rob Porter, an aide who resigned after his two ex-wives accused him of spousal abuse. And he backed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore despite accusations that Moore pursued relationships with underage women. All three men denied the allegations. 'Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,' Trump wrote on Twitter in February. 'Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused — life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?' ___ Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writers Ken Thomas in Washington and Zeke Miller in Palo Alto, California, contributed to this report. ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire and Lucey at http://twitter.com/@catherine_lucey
  • With the fate of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee suddenly uncertain, emboldened Democrats clashed with cautious Republicans as both parties grappled with an increasingly messy nomination fight weeks before the pivotal midterm elections. The political implications were still being sorted out. But with control of Congress at stake this fall, there were tremendous risks for both sides. The GOP risked further alienating female voters — particularly in the nation's suburbs — by embracing Trump's hand-picked Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, after an allegation surfaced over the weekend of decades-old sexual misconduct. Democrats, who seized on the development as justification to delay the high-stakes nomination, could energize complacent Republican voters if they're viewed as playing politics with the sensitive allegation. Amid the chaos, a key question quietly emerged among some political operatives: Would Republicans force through the Kavanaugh nomination even if it jeopardizes their control of Congress? For some, the short-term political pain might be an acceptable tradeoff for a generation of conservative control on the nation's high court. The situation is fluid to say the least. 'At this very moment, the issue is moving so fast that accurate predictions are difficult to make,' said Steven Law, who leads the super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 'I think it's likely this will inflame partisan energy on both sides.' Christine Blasey Ford, now a clinical psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, told The Washington Post that a drunken Kavanaugh groped her and tried to take off her clothes at a party when both were teenagers at high schools in suburban Maryland. Ford's attorney said Monday her client was willing to testify publicly about the allegations on Capitol Hill, where a key Kavanaugh confirmation vote was scheduled this week. Kavanaugh, now 53, called the allegation 'completely false' in a statement, adding that he 'had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself' to the Post. 'I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity,' Kavanaugh said. The developing situation threatens to exacerbate the GOP's rocky Trump-era relationship with suburban women, who are poised to play an outsized role in the districts that will largely decide the House majority this fall. Election Day isn't until Nov. 6, but early voting begins Friday in Minnesota and in roughly three weeks across several more states. Vulnerable Republican House incumbents have largely avoided the issue, which flared Monday in northern Virginia's suburbs, where GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock is fighting for her political survival.  In a written statement, Comstock said Kavanaugh and Ford 'should both testify under oath before the Judiciary Committee.' The reaction came as her Democratic challenger, Jennifer Wexton, tweeted: 'This is bigger than our politics and will impact whether victims can trust Congress.'  In suburban Denver, vulnerable Republican Rep. Mike Coffman was more cautious. A spokesman said the five-term congressman 'believes the committee and full Senate should thoroughly evaluate the claims and Judge Kavanaugh should address them.' Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said his panel will hold a hearing next Monday with Kavanaugh and Ford. Republicans were eager to avoid images of Ford facing tough questioning from the all-male Republican membership of the Senate panel. The situation could draw parallels with Justice Clarence Thomas' 1991 confirmation hearings when he faced allegations of sexual harassment from Anita Hill. The Senate ultimately confirmed Thomas, though public acceptance of sexual misconduct has shifted dramatically over the last three decades. Former Vice President Joe Biden, then the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a potential contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, has been criticized for his handling of Hill's allegations. On Monday, his spokesman, Bill Russo, said Biden 'believes Professor Ford deserves a fair and respectful hearing of her allegations, and that the Committee should undertake a thorough and non-partisan effort to get to the truth, wherever it leads.' Some Democrats are using the development to go on offense. In Nevada, where Republican Sen. Dean Heller is in a difficult fight for re-election, his Democratic challenger, Rep. Jacky Rosen, used the allegation against Kavanaugh to stoke doubt about Heller's judgment. Heller said last week he had 'no reservations' about voting to confirm Kavanaugh. Rosen was quick to suggest in July that Kavanaugh would pose a threat to abortion rights were he to be confirmed. 'If Sen. Heller still has no reservations about confirming Judge Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment on the nation's highest court, then he isn't listening to Nevadans,' Rosen said in a statement Monday. And in Tennessee, where Democrat Phil Bredesen is trying to knock off Republican incumbent Sen. Marsha Blackburn, the Democrat insisted that Ford 'should be heard.' 'If U.S senators are not going to give a careful and thorough consideration of Supreme Court nominees, then I don't know what they think their job is,' Bredesen said on Twitter. Democrats — and some Republicans — have called for a delay in the nomination process until Ford's allegation could be investigated further. The development offered some respite to several vulnerable Democrats who are facing re-election in Republican-leaning states and who had avoided taking a firm position on Kavanaugh's nomination. At the same time, Democrats also worked to avoid the perception they were politicizing the situation. A cautious Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, one of the nation's most endangered Senate Democrats, said the allegations 'merit further review.' 'Given the nature of these allegations, and the number of outstanding questions, I believe the Judiciary Committee should hold off on Thursday's scheduled vote,' he said in a written statement. While his Republican challenger had little to say about the new allegations, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said both Ford and Kavanaugh should have an opportunity to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee 'as quickly as possible.' 'Professor Christine Blasey Ford deserves to be heard and Judge Kavanaugh deserves a chance to clear his name,' Manchin said. ___ Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa. Associated Press writers Brian Slodysko in Indianapolis, Juana Summers in Washington, Nicholas Riccardi in Denver and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.
  • The sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh recall Anita Hill's accusations against Clarence Thomas in 1991, but there are important differences as well as cautions for senators considering how to deal with the allegations. The decision to have Thomas and Hill testify publicly before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as Kavanaugh and his accuser will do next Monday, had far-reaching implications for American politics and society's efforts to grapple with sexual harassment in the workplace. Republicans were perceived as too harsh in their questioning of Hill. Democrats faced criticism for being timid in her defense. Former Vice President Joe Biden, then the committee chairman, told Teen Vogue magazine last year that he should have acted more thoroughly on Hill's accusations. 'I wish I had been able to do more for Anita Hill. I owe her an apology,' said Biden, a Democrat. Kavanaugh's confirmation, which once appeared all but certain, was cast in doubt after Christine Blasey Ford said in an interview published Sunday by The Washington Post that a drunken Kavanaugh groped her and tried to take off her clothes at a party when they were teenagers. Ford said Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. Kavanaugh, who was nominated by President Donald Trump, said in a statement Monday that Ford's accusation was 'completely false.' There are parallels in the two cases. Like Kavanaugh, Thomas denied he had acted inappropriately. In both cases, the allegations became public only after the nominees went through their initial confirmation hearings. Both accusers initially sought to stay anonymous but later changed their minds. In 1991, an estimated 20 million people watched as Hill, then a University of Oklahoma law professor, accused Thomas of making unwanted advances and lewd remarks when she worked for him at the Education Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the 1980s. Thomas, who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush, related in his memoir that when he was first asked by FBI agents whether he made sexual advances to Hill or talked about pornography with her, he replied, 'Absolutely not.' By the time he testified in a second round of hearings, following Hill, he said, 'From my standpoint, as a black American, as far as I'm concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas.' Republicans aggressively questioned Hill, who is also black, suggesting that she had made up the unwelcome advances from Thomas and trying to raise doubts about her stability. Thomas won confirmation by a vote of 52 to 48, with 11 Democrats supporting him in a Senate they controlled. But on both sides of the aisle, there was wide agreement that the questioning of Thomas and Hill was not the Senate Judiciary Committee's finest hour. For one thing, the committee was made up of 14 white men, and there were only two women in the entire Senate at the time. By comparison, the current committee has 11 Republicans, all men, and 10 Democrats, four of whom are women. Overall, there are now 23 women in the Senate: 17 Democrats and six Republicans. Coming just a year before the 1992 presidential and congressional elections, the hearings were credited with helping spur the first year of the woman in American politics. A half dozen women won Senate races that year and early in 1993. One of them, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, said recently on Twitter that she first ran for the Senate 'after my daughter and I watched Anita Hill being grilled by an all-male Judiciary Committee that didn't look anything like me or so many others across the country and that wasn't asking the questions so many of us wanted asked.' The allegations against Kavanaugh by Ford, a Palo Alto University professor, are occurring in a society that has changed since 1991. Spurred on by the #MeToo movement, sexual misconduct receives much more attention than it did then, and allegations of wrongdoing have toppled powerful men in politics, media, the arts and other fields. In a statement issued Friday, Hill said, 'I have seen firsthand what happens when such a process is weaponized against an accuser, and no one should have to endure that again.
  • The U.S. will slash the number of refugees it will accept for a second straight year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, insisting amid criticism from human rights groups that the country is still committed to providing sanctuary to people fleeing the world's danger zones. Up to 30,000 refugees will be allowed into the country next year, down from a cap of 45,000 this year. It will be the lowest ceiling on admissions since the program began in 1980. The announcement Monday came despite calls from global humanitarian groups that this year's cap of 45,000 was too low. Pompeo sought to head off potential criticism of the reduction by noting that the U.S. would process more than 280,000 asylum claims in addition to more than 800,000 already inside the country who are awaiting a resolution of their claims. 'These expansive figures continue the United States' long-standing record as the most generous nation in the world when it comes to protection-based immigration and assistance,' he said. The 30,000 cap is the maximum number of refugees the U.S. will admit during the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. The actual number allowed in could be lower. So far this year, the U.S. has only admitted 20,918 refugees for the fiscal year set to end in two weeks, according to State Department records. President Barack Obama raised the ceiling to 110,000 in 2017, but the pace slowed dramatically after President Donald Trump took office and issued an executive order addressing refugees. In 2016, the last full year of the Obama administration, the U.S. welcomed nearly 85,000 refugees. Pompeo said the lower ceiling reflected commitment to aiding families forced to flee their homes by war, persecution or natural disasters while 'prioritizing the safety and well-being of the American people.' He cited the case of an Iraqi refugee who was arrested in California for killing a policeman in his homeland while fighting for the Islamic State organization. 'This year's proposed refugee ceiling must be considered in the context of the many other forms of protection and assistance offered by the United States,' he said, citing U.S. contributions to foreign aid and other forms of humanitarian assistance. Amnesty International accused the Trump administration of 'abandoning' refugees with the lower cap. 'This is the lowest goal in the history of the program, and compounded by this administration's history of creating road block after road block for refugees to arrive, this must be perceived as an all-out attack against our country's ability to resettle refugees both now and in the future,' said Ryan Mace of Amnesty International. Worldwide, there were some 25.4 million refugees last year, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, with many more people internally displaced within their home countries. Most aid groups and governments advocate resettlement as a last resort, preferring to allow refugees to return to their homes if conditions improve, rather than permanently moving to another country. During the ceiling announcement Monday Pompeo advocated U.S. efforts 'to end conflicts that drive displacement in the first place and to target the application of foreign aid in a smarter way.' Trump has made limiting immigration a centerpiece of his policy agenda. The Trump administration's 'zero-tolerance' policy that forcibly separated families at the U.S. southern border sparked outrage among Republicans and Democrats alike. Last year Trump temporarily banned visitors from a handful of Muslim-majority nations, and insists he'll build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump has linked increased immigration to increased crime in the United States. Yet, according to resettlement agencies in the United States, the U.S. vetting process is one of the world's toughest. Of the 3 million refugees admitted to the U.S. since 1975, not one has been arrested for carrying out a lethal terror attack on U.S. soil, according to resettlement agencies. Most applicants to the U.S. refugee program spend at least three years being interviewed, undergoing biometric checks and medical exams, and filling out paperwork. Cases are screened by the Defense Department, FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies. After they are resettled, refugees continue to undergo security checks in the United States for five years or more. The Trump administration added requirements, including longer background checks and more screenings for females and males between 14 and 50 from certain countries, including Iraq. ___ Associated Press writer Meghan Hoyer contributed to this report.