McConnell weighs in on Supreme Court pick with Trump

 In Politics

BIG DEAL — MCCONNELL WEIGHS IN ON SCOTUS … — NYT’S MAGGIE HABERMAN and JONATHAN MARTIN on A16: “McConnell Tries to Nudge Trump Toward Two Supreme Court Options”: “Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, told President Trump this past week that Judges Raymond M. Kethledge and Thomas M. Hardiman presented the fewest obvious obstacles to being confirmed to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court, according to Republican officials briefed on the conversation.

“While careful not to directly make the case for any would-be justice, Mr. McConnell made clear in multiple phone calls with Mr. Trump and the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, that the lengthy paper trail of another top contender, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, would pose difficulties for his confirmation.

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“Mr. McConnell is concerned about the volume of the documents that Judge Kavanaugh has created in his 12 years on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, as well as in his roles as White House staff secretary under President George W. Bush and assistant to Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton.”

— CONSIDERING it will be up to McConnell to get enough votes for a Supreme Court nominee to pass the Senate, his decision to raise concerns about the front-runner Brett Kavanaugh could — and should — make an impression on Trump.

— TEA LEAF READING? SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UTAH) repeatedly used female pronouns in a Deseret News op-ed when referring to Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. JUDGE AMY CONEY BARRETT is one of the names being discussed. “[N]o matter the nominee’s background or credentials, progressives will do everything they can to paint her as a closet partisan, if not an outright extremist. … I will devote all my energies to ensuring that we confirm the kind of Supreme Court justice America needs: a justice who says what the law is, not what she wants it to be.”

— BLUNT, ON MESSAGE … SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO.) told CHUCK TODD on NBC’S “MEET THE PRESS” that the Senate can confirm “any of the four names being mentioned,” but added that Trump needs to think about who is “easiest to get confirmed.”

— SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.) told DANA PERINO on “FOX NEWS SUNDAY” that the GOP is “holding four lottery tickets, and they’re all winners.”

— HOW IT WILL ALL UNFOLD via the AP’S CATHERINE LUCEY and ZEKE MILLER: “After more than a week of pitched speculation, Trump will go on prime-time television to reveal his choice to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, selecting a conservative designed to rally Republican voters in a midterm election year. And with that, the optics-obsessed president will be in his comfort zone — taking center stage in a massive show. …

“Trump is largely following the same playbook this time as when he successfully rolled out [Neil] Gorsuch’s nomination in January 2017. White House aides have strict instructions to keep information under wraps so Trump himself can make the big reveal. … The White House this time is retaining more control over the nomination and confirmation processes. A war room of communications, legal and research staff has been assembled in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to promote and defend the nominee.”

HE’S BACK!!! RUDY GIULIANI talks to GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS on ABC’S “THIS WEEK”: STEPHANOPOULOS: “You have no concerns at all about anything Michael Cohen might tell the prosecutors?” GIULIANI: “Zero, none at all. As long as he tells the truth, we’re home free.” … RUDY also said “as far as I know” the president did not “originally know” about the payment to Stormy Daniels. But, “at some point, probably a little foggy as to exactly when, president found out and reimbursed him.”

— GIULIANI told CHUCK TODD that the famous Trump Tower meeting where a Russian emissary offered dirt on Hillary Clinton was only about adoptions. GIULIANI: “All she did was talk about adoptions.” TODD: “Wait a minute.”

— GIULIANI to CNN’S DANA BASH on “STATE OF THE UNION” on why the president doesn’t fire Bob Mueller: “Because if he did it, everybody would say that he was guilty and that’s why he fired him.”

— AP: “Trump lawyers call Comey ‘Machiavellian’ in note to Mueller,” by Eric Tucker and Chad Day: “Lawyers for President Donald Trump unleashed a blistering attack on former FBI Director James Comey in a confidential memo last year to the special counsel, casting him as ‘Machiavellian,’ dishonest and ‘unbounded by law and regulation’ as they sought to undermine the credibility of a law enforcement leader they see as a critical witness against the president.

“The letter, obtained by The Associated Press, underscores the intense effort by Trump’s legal team over the last year to tarnish Comey’s reputation and pit the president’s word against that of the former FBI director. … The June 27, 2017, letter was written by Marc Kasowitz, then the president’s lead lawyer.”

****** A message from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: There are no winners in a global trade war. Here’s a breakdown of the states and industries hardest hit by retaliatory tariffs on American exports. ******


— POMPEO YANKED AROUND … BLOOMBERG’S NICK WADHAMS: “Inside Pompeo’s Fraught North Korea Trip”: “As U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touched down in Pyongyang at 10:54 a.m. on Friday he had few details of his schedule in the North Korean capital — even which hotel he and his staff would stay in.

“Not much was clear aside from lunch with counterpart Kim Yong Chol to start filling in the ‘nitty-gritty details’ from the Singapore declaration signed between the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea, according to his spokeswoman Heather Nauert. A handshake with Kim Jong Un, at least, seemed certain.

“In the end, Pompeo stayed at neither of the hotels where he thought he’d be. The North Koreans took him, his staff and the six journalists traveling with the delegation to a gated guesthouse on the outskirts of the capital, just behind the mausoleum where the bodies of regime founder Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il lie embalmed and on occasional display.

“It was the start of a confused visit of less than 30 hours, marked by a pair of lavish banquets that the secretary and his staff appeared to dread for their length and the daunting number of courses presented by unfailingly polite waiters. He only learned of his own schedule hours ahead of time, and the meeting with Kim Jong Un never happened — despite strenuous efforts from his staff.”

— WAPO’S JOHN HUDSON and ADAM TAYLOR in TOKYO: “Pompeo pushes back against North Korea’s ‘gangster-like’ criticism”: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shot back against North Korea on Sunday, saying the regime’s criticism that U.S. negotiators acted in a ‘gangster-like’ way during his two-day visit to Pyongyang was unfounded. ‘If those requests were gangster-like, the world is a gangster,’ said Pompeo, noting that U.S. demands for North Korea to denuclearize were supported by a consensus at the U.N. Security Council.

“The secretary of state also said that despite a critical statement released by North Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday night, he thought the two sides had made progress during the meeting and that his North Korean counterpart, Kim Yong Chol, negotiated in ‘good faith’ during the meeting. Pompeo added that the U.S. and world powers would maintain economic sanctions against North Korea until full denuclearization was achieved.”

‘MAXIMUM PRESSURE’ IS BACK — @SecPompeo: “Constructive meeting with #Japan’s FM @konotaromp today to discuss the U.S.-Japan alliance, the cornerstone of regional stability, and maintaining maximum pressure on the #DPRK @StateDept”. With a pic

A NICE TRADITION that’s continued under the Trump administration is the State Department’s excellent Flickr page. The State Department posts terrific behind-the-scenes shots from the secretary’s trips around the globe.

JARED’S PEACE PLAN UPDATE… “Trump administration focuses on Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, with Mideast peace plan stalled,” by WaPo’s Anne Gearan: “With President Trump’s promised Middle East peace plan stalled, administration officials are focusing on improving conditions in the impoverished Gaza Strip — a move that could put political pressure on Palestinian leaders to come to the negotiating table. The larger peace proposal has been stymied by the Palestinian Authority, which would negotiate any settlement but remains incensed at Trump’s decision last year to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“A group of U.S. officials led by Jared Kushner came away from what had appeared to be a crucial trip to the region last month without breaking the impasse. That has led U.S. officials to consider options for an infusion of development aid into Gaza, a perennial trouble spot that is controlled by Palestinian Authority rival Hamas, in hopes of relieving the humanitarian crisis there. In doing so, the United States could demonstrate a commitment to the Palestinian people that could make it more difficult for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to continue to rebuff overtures to engage in the peace process.”

THE DISMANTLING OF OBAMACARE … “Trump administration freezes billions in risk adjustment payments,” by POLITICO staff: “The Trump administration is freezing billions of dollars of payments to Obamacare health insurers, another blow to the fragile markets as health plans begin to set premiums and get ready for the next enrollment season. The so-called risk adjustment payments are supposed to protect insurers from big losses. The health plans pay into a pool – this doesn’t involve tax dollars – and funds are transferred to insurers that ended up with many high cost patients. For 2017, $10.4 billion was involved.”

SPOTTED: Wolf Blitzer on Saturday in the lobby of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

2018 WATCH … “How the trade war is changing minds in a Senate battleground,” by AP’s Jonathan Mattise in Nashville and Steve Peoples in NYC: “Jimmy Tosh’s sprawling hog farm in rural Tennessee is an unlikely battleground in the fight for control of the U.S. Senate. Yet his 15,000 acres (6,000 hectares) two hours west of Nashville showcase the practical risks of President Donald Trump’s trade policies and the political threat to red-state Republican Senate candidates such as Tennessee’s Marsha Blackburn. Tosh, a third-generation farmer who almost always votes Republican, said he’s voting this fall for Blackburn’s Democratic opponent, former Gov. Phil Bredesen, in part because Trump’s trade wars are hurting his family business — a sizable one with some 400 employees and 30,000 pigs.

“The cost of steel needed for new barns is up, Tosh said, and the expanding pork market stands to suffer under new tariffs. ‘This tariff situation has got me very, very, very concerned,’ Tosh told The Associated Press. … Similar concerns are roiling high-profile Senate contests in Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania and North Dakota and forcing GOP candidates to answer for the trade policies of a Republican president they have backed on almost every other major issue.”

DRIP, DRIP, DRIP … WASHINGTON POST: “Rep. Jim Jordan faces new accusation that he must have known about alleged sexual abuse at Ohio State,” by Elise Viebeck and Alice Crites: “David Range, who wrestled for Ohio State in the late 1980s, said Jordan had to have known about alleged sexual misconduct by Richard Strauss, an athletic doctor whose behavior is under investigation by the school, because it happened regularly to team members and people talked about it. Jordan has denied he knew, saw or heard about any inappropriate behavior while he was an assistant wrestling coach from 1987 to 1995.

“‘Jordan definitely knew that these things were happening — yes, most definitely,’ Range told The Washington Post. ‘It was there. He knew about it because it was an everyday occurrence.’ Range said he never discussed the issue directly with Jordan one on one and did not know whether anyone made a formal report, but he said Jordan was present during group conversations in the locker room about Strauss’s behavior. …

“‘We talked about it all the time in the locker room’ while Jordan was there, he said. ‘Everybody joked about it and talked about it all the time.’ Range said Strauss, who has been accused of abusing athletes in more than a dozen sports during his time as an athletic doctor, touched wrestlers inappropriately during examinations and ogled them in the locker room showers.

“‘He just fondled you a little too long while he gave you a hernia check,’ said Range, a Cleveland resident who said he is involved in mixed martial arts. ‘And then he stayed in the showers, like, an hour until everyone was done.’”

— IT’S PRETTY CLEAR that Jordan’s I-had-no-idea-this-was-going-on answer is not going to suffice, since more than a half-dozen of his former wrestlers have now come out and said it would be impossible for him not to know. Some of these people have said they had direct conversations with him. The Ohio Republican is going to return to the Capitol this week, where people will be shoving microphones in his face, demanding answers. This one doesn’t pass the straight face test with many Hill onlookers, given the preponderance of evidence suggesting the opposite is true.

JORDAN seems to be relying on this excuse: people talked about a lot in the locker room but he was never presented with a formal complaint.

WHAT’S ON THE PRESIDENT’S MIND — @realDonaldTrump at 9:14 a.m.: “The U.S. is working very closely with the Government of Thailand to help get all of the children out of the cave and to safety. Very brave and talented people!” … at 6:42 p.m.: “The Rigged Witch Hunt, originally headed by FBI lover boy Peter S (for one year) & now, 13 Angry Democrats, should look into the missing DNC Server, Crooked Hillary’s illegally deleted Emails, the Pakistani Fraudster, Uranium One, Podesta & so much more. It’s a Democrat Con Job!”

O.C. REGISTER: “Top San Bernardino County gang prosecutor under fire for offensive social media posts,” by Teri Sforza and Joe Nelson: “Deputy District Attorney Michael Selyem, who joined the D.A.’s Office 12 years ago, targeted outspoken U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, former first lady Michelle Obama, Mexican immigrants and the victim of a police shooting in Facebook and Instagram posts labeled by one critic as ‘hateful rhetoric.’

“Of Waters, Selyem said: ‘Being a loud-mouthed c#nt in the ghetto you would think someone would have shot this bitch by now …’ … Selyem also posted a doctored picture of Michelle Obama holding a sign saying, ‘Trump grabbed my penis.’”

BORDER TALES – “Kids as young as 1 in U.S. court, awaiting reunion with family,” by AP’s Astrid Galvan in Phoenix: “The 1-year-old boy in a green button-up shirt drank milk from a bottle, played with a small purple ball that lit up when it hit the ground and occasionally asked for ‘agua.’ Then it was the child’s turn for his court appearance before a Phoenix immigration judge, who could hardly contain his unease with the situation during the portion of the hearing where he asks immigrant defendants whether they understand the proceedings.

“‘I’m embarrassed to ask it, because I don’t know who you would explain it to, unless you think that a 1-year-old could learn immigration law,’ Judge John W. Richardson told the lawyer representing the 1-year-old boy. … For a while, the child wore dress shoes, but later he was in just socks as he waited to see the judge. He was silent and calm for most of the hearing, though he cried hysterically afterward for the few seconds that a worker handed him to another person while she gathered his diaper bag. He is in the custody of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department in Arizona.”

KNOWING DEM AD MAKER MARK PUTNAM & CO. — “‘A Little Errol Morris. And a Little Roger Ailes’,” by Michael Kruse for Politico Magazine:

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