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Kavanaugh's Sept. 4 confirmation hearing. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh was asked privately yesterday about what past girlfriends would say about his conduct, as frenzied Republican officials prepared him for an epic hearing on Monday when he will rebut charges of a drunken sexual assault during high school.

What's happening: A source tells Axios the question about girlfriends was designed to help Kavanaugh's advocates show there was no pattern of conduct similar to the charge by Christine Blasey Ford, a biostatistician and research psychologist in the Bay Area who also is expected to testify Monday.

A Republican source close to the process: "It blew up [on Sunday]. ... Now we've gone back toward reason and looking at facts. Psychologically, we feel a lot better about where we are."

  • The momentous announcement from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa): "[T]he Committee will hold a public hearing with Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford," at 10 a.m. Monday in the Hart Senate Office Building.

A senior Republican official close to the process, who admitted aides are worried about the hearing, says: "This gives the judge the opportunity to clear his name. But there is no room for error from members on the committee."

  • "Judge Kavanaugh could nail it and she could be terrible. But here's my fear: This all depends so much on the performances of two people."
  • "And that's a lot to have outside your control, and that's not even accounting for the members themselves doing something stupid."
  • "It's the circus of it. It's designed for TV, it's not designed for answers. You're just adding a huge element of the unexpected and the unpredictable."

Kavanaugh spent nine hours behind closed doors at the White House yesterday, according to CNN, calling senators and huddling with White House Counsel Don McGahn.

  • White House counselor Kellyanne Conway set the tone for the day by saying on "Fox & Friends": "This woman should not be insulted and she should not be ignored."

A source close to Trump, who remained uncharacteristically quiet about the fracas, said:

  • "I actually think on this one he understands it's up to Brett to defend himself. I don't think the President's going to take responsibility for that. The President wants him to run his own show; and I think that's because if this was the President, he'd want to run his own show."

Swan's whip count: Folks involved in the process seem to be most worried about Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) — even more so than Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), whom they're quite worried about.

  • In a reassuring comment for the White House, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a Judiciary Committee member, told Fox News' Sean Hannity that he "will look at everything in Judge Kavanaugh's life, not just this accusation. And I feel good about it."

Be smart: Because Ford told the Washington Post there are many details she doesn't remember, Republican officials don't expect new facts corroborating her account to emerge. Instead, they expect new scrutiny of her.

  • The great unknown will be the emotion in the room — and the consequences if her testimony is credible.
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Go deeper

Oath Keepers leader denied bail on Capitol riot sedition charge

Oath Keepers co-founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

A federal judge ordered Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes to remain jailed Wednesday until trial on charges stemming from the Capitol riot.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly Priest Johnson e in the t figure charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection had access to weapons and his alleged "continued advocacy for violence against the federal government" gave credence to prosecutors' view that, if released, Rhodes could endanger others.

GOP to use Supreme Court fight to target vulnerable Dems

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Conservatives know they're unlikely to stop President Biden from filling a Supreme Court vacancy, but they plan to target Senate Democrats who face competitive re-election fights and are all but certain to vote for the successor to Justice Stephen Breyer.

Between the lines: The general strategy will be to tie those Democrats to positions seen as political liabilities in states like Arizona, Georgia and New Hampshire, where incumbents are seeking re-election this year, an operative briefed on early strategy talks told Axios.

4 hours ago - World

U.S. and NATO answer Putin in writing while bracing for Ukraine invasion

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty

The U.S. and NATO provided Russia with written proposals on Wednesday to advance a "diplomatic path forward," even as they warned that Russia could invade Ukraine within days.

Why it matters: This is a delicate diplomatic balancing act. The U.S. and NATO want to show they're serious about diplomacy but unwilling to compromise on "core principles" — all without providing Vladimir Putin with an additional pretext for escalation.

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