Senators push vote to block Saudi arms sales after Khashoggi disappearance

Senators in both parties are gearing up to force a vote on scrapping U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia amid mounting frustration over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the Riyadh government.

As Republicans and Democrats raise alarms over Khashoggi, whose vanishing and potential killing have been linked to the Saudis by Turkish intelligence, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said Thursday that he plans to introduce a resolution of disapproval once Congress is notified of the next potential U.S. weapons sale to Saudi Arabia.

Murphy and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), his ally in pushback against the arms sales, fell four votes short of blocking a Saudi weapons deal last year — and Murphy predicted that they would fare better this time around.

“I don’t think that a military sale could pass the Senate today. I don’t think that it could pass the House,” Murphy Continue reading “Senators push vote to block Saudi arms sales after Khashoggi disappearance”

Corker: Senate to take action in Khashoggi case

Senators will "take some actions ourselves" Wednesday about the disappearance — and reported death — of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said.

Corker declined to offer details on the move he plans to make alongside his committee’s top Democrat, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, but he said that after examining intelligence on Khashoggi, the Turkish government’s reported assessment of Saudi culpability in the journalist’s disappearance is relatively reliable. Vice President Mike Pence has described Khashoggi’s disappearance as a potential "threat to freedom of the press and human rights" amid multiple reports citing Turkish intelligence that say the journalist was assassinated.

"We need to take some type of action, and there are some things we can do congressionally," Corker told reporters Wednesday. "We plan to take some actions ourselves on this, something we can do without passing legislation."

President Donald Trump’s apparent lack of Continue reading “Corker: Senate to take action in Khashoggi case”

Murkowski: ‘We need healing’

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the only Republican to oppose Brett Kavanaugh, offered a call for unity on Saturday soon after he was confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Murkowski bluntly described the current state of Congress as "pretty contentious, partisan, pointed, divisive … it is not a good time in the legislative branch. There’s not a lot of public confidence in us at this time." She described her decision to cast a "present" vote on Saturday, offsetting the absence of pro-Kavanaugh Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) due to his daughter’s wedding, as a step toward soothing the "pretty raw" feelings in the chamber.

The Alaskan has taken heat from the right for her opposition to Kavanaugh and become a champion for his critics on the left. But speaking to reporters just outside the Senate floor on Saturday, Murkowski sought to begin to mend the divisions that the brutal Kavanaugh fight has Continue reading “Murkowski: ‘We need healing’”

Ford would have ruled out much-scrutinized Kavanaugh calendar date, her team says

Christine Blasey Ford would have ruled out a key date that both Republicans and Democrats have examined in evaluating her sexual assault claim against Brett Kavanaugh, had the FBI contacted her for its inquiry, according to a member of her team.

The July 1, 1982 entry has come under heightened scrutiny as the Senate considers Ford’s allegation against Kavanaugh, based largely on a gathering on that date that the judge listed in his calendars. For its time-limited inquiry into the claims against Kavanaugh, the FBI has reportedly interviewed attendees of what the judge described in 1982 as a gathering on that night with friend Mark Judge — whom Ford has said was in the room when she was attacked — and another friend whom Ford has said she "went out with" in high school.

Under questioning from GOP outside attorney Rachel Mitchell last week, Kavanaugh said that any event like Continue reading “Ford would have ruled out much-scrutinized Kavanaugh calendar date, her team says”

GOP leaders all but guarantee Kavanaugh confirmation

Republican leaders insist they don’t speak for the three GOP holdouts. But they’re sure talking like they’ve already won the battle over Brett Kavanaugh.

The confidence was on open display as the party’s chief vote-counter, speaking at a press conference Thursday, all but guaranteed that Kavanaugh will clear a procedural hurdle on Friday and be confirmed a day later. He and other top Republicans had reason to cheer, after Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine gave encouraging early remarks about the FBI’s much-anticipated Kavanaugh report, enough to seal the confirmation if their statements translate into votes.

Most Republicans view that FBI inquiry as essentially exonerating Kavanaugh of two women’s allegations of sexual misconduct. They don’t want to get out ahead of Collins, Flake, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), but believe the trio’s main concerns about the nominee have now been addressed.

Standing alongside fellow Judiciary Committee Continue reading “GOP leaders all but guarantee Kavanaugh confirmation”

Heitkamp to vote ‘no’ on Kavanaugh

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), one of her party’s most politically vulnerable incumbents, will vote against Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.

"The process has been bad, but at the end of the day you have to make a decision," Heitkamp told her home state’s WDAY TV station in an interview released Thursday.

Her announcement leaves Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) as the only remaining undecided Democrat on the judge’s nomination as it nears a pivotal Friday test vote.

‘They expect more from women’: Collins and Murkowski face extra pressure in Kavanaugh fight

It’s no surprise that Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are prime targets of the campaign to defeat Brett Kavanaugh, given their moderate bearings and general support for abortion rights.

But the pressure on the GOP duo is even heavier for the simple fact that they’re women.

There are heightened expectations on both sides of the Supreme Court battle that Collins and Murkowski may be more prone to believe Christine Blasey Ford because of their shared experiences as women. And because of that, the two are facing appeals, both overt and subtle, to their gender.

Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh said last week that the duo have “a tough call to make in your world” on Kavanaugh, adding: “The pressures here are to be loyal to gender.” On the other side of the political spectrum, the abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America wrote in September that Collins and Murkowski “owe it to Continue reading “‘They expect more from women’: Collins and Murkowski face extra pressure in Kavanaugh fight”

‘Kavanaugh has lied’: Progressives push Dem senators to pursue perjury inquiry

Senate Democrats are pushing for more witnesses to be interviewed in the FBI’s sexual misconduct investigation of Brett Kavanaugh, but they are largely sidestepping a big issue for their base: whether the judge potentially perjured himself.

Democrats are focusing their energy on the broadest possible FBI inquiry this week into the allegations against Kavanaugh, although it’s unclear how deeply that probe will delve into his past drinking habits and other behaviors. While they’ve edged up to the line of suggesting Kavanaugh has misled the Senate, many Democrats are steering clear of a direct call to dig into the judge’s statements under oath for potential misstatements.

“We’ll determine that,” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said Monday night when asked about potential perjury. “I think there are so many other areas which raise his fitness for being a justice of the Supreme Court.”

Hirono cited Kavanaugh’s “temperament” as a top concern following Continue reading “‘Kavanaugh has lied’: Progressives push Dem senators to pursue perjury inquiry”

Outside prosecutor pens memo on weakness of Ford’s accusation against Kavanaugh

The outside prosecutor that Senate Republicans hired for Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing on sexual assault allegations is arguing in a memo that Christine Blasey Ford’s claim against him is “weaker” than a “he said, she said” case.

The memo from Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor specializing in sex crimes, marks the strongest attempt by the GOP to discredit Ford’s accusation that the Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted her in 1982. In the nine-page document sent to GOP senators on Sunday evening, Mitchell says Ford’s account has no corroboration, she “has not offered a consistent account of when the alleged assault happened,” has “struggled” to identify Kavanaugh by name, and has “no memory of key details” regarding the event.

"A ‘he said, she said’ case is incredibly difficult to prove. But this case is even weaker than that,” Mitchell wrote to the GOP. “I do not think that a reasonable prosecutor would Continue reading “Outside prosecutor pens memo on weakness of Ford’s accusation against Kavanaugh”

Dem women raise specter of Anita Hill in symbolic Kavanaugh protest

Several House Democratic women staged a symbolic protest in the middle of Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate committee vote on Friday — a conscious nod to 1991, when Democratic women led the charge for a hearing on sexual harassment claims against now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

The House Democratic women stood in silence as the Judiciary Committee began taking up Kavanaugh’s high court bid, preparing to advance it to the Senate floor later Friday, and later walked out of the room. Three Democratic senators joined them outside the room, making their own unmistakable statement of fury over the GOP’s swift advancement of Kavanaugh’s nomination following incendiary Thursday testimony from his sexual assault accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.

One of those three senators, California Democrat Kamala Harris, said in an interview outside the committee room that the moment "came together organically. I was sitting in there — I couldn’t sit there any longer, and Continue reading “Dem women raise specter of Anita Hill in symbolic Kavanaugh protest”

Grassley questions ‘reliability’ of Ford’s polygraph

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) late Wednesday sought “all audio and video recordings” as well as all “charts and data” from Christine Blasey Ford’s polygraph test regarding her sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh, according to correspondence obtained by POLITICO.

Grassley’s request to Ford’s attorneys came hours before the 51-year-old professor is scheduled to testify about her alleged high-school-era assault by President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee in a blockbuster Thursday hearing. Republicans had earlier sought a copy of the polygraph report from Ford’s examination, given in August, and received it earlier Wednesday.

In his letter to Ford’s attorneys, Grassley wrote that the recordings and data from the polygraph examination were required “to assess the reliability” of that report, which included a written statement from Ford.

Ford attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz responded Wednesday night in a letter that notes they were given about an hour to furnish Continue reading “Grassley questions ‘reliability’ of Ford’s polygraph”

Cramer: Kavanaugh disqualifies himself if he lied about alleged assault

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) on Wednesday stood by past comments that he’s more concerned with Brett Kavanaugh’s truthfulness about sexual assault accusations than the alleged offense.

Cramer, whose Senate campaign is one of the GOP’s best prospects to capture a Democratic-held Senate seat this fall, took heat from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s (D-N.D.) campaign this week for saying that regardless of whether Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation is "all true," the veracity of Kavanaugh’s denials are the disqualifying factor for his nomination. The third-term Republican reiterated that perspective on Ford’s allegation to POLITICO on Wednesday.

"If it’s proven to be true, the issue isn’t so much about the [events of] 36 years ago, but what’s more concerning to me is that he’s been lying about it," Cramer said in a brief interview.

While he described the nature of Ford’s allegation as "tragic and unfortunate and awful," Cramer added Continue reading “Cramer: Kavanaugh disqualifies himself if he lied about alleged assault”

Kavanaugh accuser’s polygraph results conclude her account is ‘not indicative of deception’

Attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford on Wednesday released a copy of a polygraph test that she took in August regarding her sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh, with a conclusion that her account of the episode is "not indicative of deception."

Ford sat for the polygraph after relaying her account of the high school-era party where she claims Kavanaugh tried to force himself on her with his friend Mark Judge — whom the GOP has declined to subpoena for testimony — in the room.

"Blasey stated that when Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth that this act was the most terrifying for her," states the polygraph examiner’s report, dated Aug. 10 for an Aug. 7 examination. "She also stated that this act caused the most consequences for her later in life."

Republicans have sought Ford’s polygraph results ahead of her scheduled Thursday testimony against President Donald Trump’s Continue reading “Kavanaugh accuser’s polygraph results conclude her account is ‘not indicative of deception’”

Merkley to seek injunction to stop Kavanaugh vote

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) on Wednesday will announce that he’s seeking an injunction in federal court designed to stop a final vote on Brett Kavanaugh, asserting an obstruction of his constitutional duty to advise and consent on nominees.

Merkley’s still-pending filing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia comes as Senate Republicans vow to push ahead with a vote on President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee in the coming days — and hours before a landmark hearing slated with Christine Blasey Ford, who has alleged a decades-old sexual assault by Kavanaugh.

Merkley’s bid for an injunction hinges on the Senate’s constitutional duty to provide advice and consent on nominees and charges that he’s been prevented from fulfilling that due to the withholding of records on Kavanaugh’s past service in the George W. Bush administration.

“The events of the past ten days have only underscored how Continue reading “Merkley to seek injunction to stop Kavanaugh vote”

Kavanaugh accuser lines up evidence ahead of hearing

With the Senate Judiciary Committee preparing for a blockbuster Thursday hearing over sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, both parties are rushing to build their cases – legally and politically.

Attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges that Kavanaugh drunkenly assaulted her in high school, submitted affidavits to the Judiciary Committee from her husband and three friends who said Ford told them of the incident, in some cases several years ago. Ford’s attorney will use the affidavits to support her testimony during Thursday’s session.

But the Judiciary Committee’s Republicans — who have hired an experienced female sex crimes prosecutor to lead the questioning of Ford and Kavanaugh — have requested a polygraph and therapist’s notes from Ford that were used to underpin her original story in the Washington Post about the 1982 incident. Those materials have yet to be provided to the panel as of Wednesday morning.

Continue reading “Kavanaugh accuser lines up evidence ahead of hearing”

Red-state Democrats refuse to come out against Kavanaugh

Democrats have all the cover they need to vote in lockstep against Brett Kavanaugh. But a half-dozen of them have refused to go there, even after the pair of sexual assault allegations against the Supreme Court nominee.

Democratic insiders are feeling more bullish than ever that the party’s 49 caucus members ultimately will oppose Kavanaugh. Yet the undeclared bloc of Democratic senators could be a problem for Democratic leaders, who want to put the weight of the nomination entirely on a handful of holdout Republicans.

“I’m very open. I haven’t closed any doors at all on Kavanaugh. I just want to make sure there’s a fair, open and civil hearing,” said Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, perhaps the most conservative Democrat. “The man has to have a chance to clear his name, but these ladies have the complete opportunity to tell their story.”

Manchin said the allegations haven’t Continue reading “Red-state Democrats refuse to come out against Kavanaugh”

Ford to Grassley: ‘My fear will not hold me back from testifying’

Christine Blasey Ford told Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in a personal letter penned Saturday that her sole motivation in bringing a sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh is “to tell the truth” about what the Supreme Court nominee did.

Ford’s letter to Grassley, released Monday, comes as Republicans ratchet up their defense of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee by portraying the multiple sexual misconduct claims against him as part of a Democratic smear campaign. The 51-year-old California-based professor sought to counter any depiction of her actions as politically motivated in her note to the Judiciary chairman.

“Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions, while many years ago, were serious and have had a lasting impact on my life,” Ford wrote to Grassley. “I thought that knowledge of his actions could be useful for you and those in charge of choosing among the various candidates. My original intent was first and foremost Continue reading “Ford to Grassley: ‘My fear will not hold me back from testifying’”

Kavanaugh accuser agrees to testify before Senate panel

Christine Blasey Ford is readying for public testimony on Thursday morning about her sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh, although several central elements of the hearing remain unresolved in talks with the Senate Judiciary Committee, her attorneys said on Sunday.

Ford’s lawyers and the bipartisan staff on the Judiciary panel held a second call in two days on Sunday as they continued to hash out details of a hearing later this week that promises to have seismic consequences for Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, as well as the turbulent electoral landscape weeks away from the November midterms.

The call lasted about an hour, according to a source familiar with the conversation, and resulted in a timing confirmation for 10 a.m. Thursday. But no firm decision has been reached on whether Republicans would use staff attorneys to question Ford about her claim that Kavanaugh tried to force himself on her more Continue reading “Kavanaugh accuser agrees to testify before Senate panel”

Kavanaugh accuser accepts Senate Judiciary Committee’s request to testify

Christine Blasey Ford has accepted the Senate Judiciary Committee’s request to testify next week on Ford’s allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school, Ford’s attorneys told Senate Republicans on Saturday afternoon in an email obtained by POLITICO.

Ford’s lawyers indicated they have yet to reach an agreement with the committee on the specifics and asked to continue negotiations about the details of her appearance on Saturday afternoon. Senate Republicans have offered a public or private hearing on Wednesday, while Ford has pushed for Thursday.

“Dr. Ford accepts the Committee’s request to provide her first-hand knowledge of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct next week,” wrote Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, Ford’s attorneys. “We are hopeful that we can reach agreement on details.”

Ford’s legal team also now includes Michael Bromwich, according to a spokeswoman for his firm, The Bromwich Group. He is a former federal Continue reading “Kavanaugh accuser accepts Senate Judiciary Committee’s request to testify”

Attacks on Feinstein backfire on California challenger

Kevin de León, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s November opponent, accused her last week of “gross misconduct” for waiting months to flag a sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh — seizing on the Supreme Court firestorm to jump-start his long-shot campaign.

Now de León is facing a backlash for his own handling of sexual harassment on his watch in the California legislature, which has been rocked by allegations of pervasive sexual misconduct.

Allies of Feinstein in California’s Democratic establishment have rallied behind the state’s senior senator, repudiating de León’s critiques as acts of political opportunism from a trailing candidate looking to build his profile.

“She’s trustworthy, calm, deliberate, and gets all the facts before she acts. Because of that, she’s simply more credible than someone who puts out a press release first and figures out what’s happening on the back end,” Dana Williamson, a senior adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, said in Continue reading “Attacks on Feinstein backfire on California challenger”