Oct 6, 2018

The Kavanaugh Court

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

If Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed later today, as looks all but certain, he'll be numerically one-ninth of the Supreme Court. But he'll draw a vastly disproportionate share of attention and speculation, controversy and criticism.

Why it matters: Both sides made it clear last night that they plan to keep Kavanaugh in the news for political purposes, deepening and prolonging the most divisive new issue of the Trump era.

  • As the decisive vote tipping the justices to the conservative side, he effectively makes this the Kavanaugh Court.
  • "Abortion, affirmative action, campaign finance, gay rights — all those are going to go in a very different direction because Anthony Kennedy is gone and Brett Kavanaugh will be there," legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said on CNN.

President Trump was ecstatic last night — very fired up and happy, an aide tells Jonathan Swan.

  • Trump has been briefed on the polling impact — on his own approval rating, and on the "Brett bounce" that is closing enthusiasm gap between Rs and Ds for midterms, 31 days from now.
  • So look for the president to trumpet the win and continue to brag about the Kavanaugh confirmation, as he continues to do about Justice Neil Gorsuch.
  • “It feels like the narrative of what’s going on in 2016," a White House official told Swan. "The reality is probably more mixed."

Top Dems tell me that the impeachment of Kavanaugh, however impractical, will be an irresistible applause line for the party's 2020 hopefuls in New Hampshire and Iowa in the months after Nov. 6.

  • Look for Democrats to try to hold off on a Kavanaugh impeachment crusade for the next month, though, to avoid elevating a painful issue for Senate Democrats running in red states.

Republicans are already fanning that fire. Donald Trump Jr. was the first political figure on the right to come out pushing the impeachment message after it became clear that Kavanaugh had the votes:

  • "Trump supporters - The fight isn’t over. You better believe that Democrats are going to do everything in their power to impeach Kavanuagh from the Supreme Court if they take control of Congress in November. This is war. Time to fight. Vote on Nov 6 to protect the Supreme Court!"

Andy Surabian, a GOP strategist who ran the Trump Tower war room in 2016, tells us: "[T]o keep the base enthused through November 6th, Republicans must now turn the midterms into a referendum on Democrats attempting to impeach Judge Kavanaugh from the court."

  • "Fortunately for Republicans, Democrat activists ... are already openly talking about the possibility." (Surabian sent a slew of D tweets that do just that.)
  • "The threat of Democrats impeaching Kavanuagh creates the all-important 'fear of a loss' needed among Republican voters to keep them supercharged for the next five weeks. ... Kavanaugh is rocket fuel to Republican voters."

Don't expect the 5-4 decisions by the Kavanaugh Court to be "humble, meek, narrow," said Brian Fallon, executive director of the progressive Demand Justice:

  • "I expect far-reaching, sweeping decisions. I think they’ll set out to harpoon a bunch of white whales — unions, voting rights, economic regulation."
  • "That'll be like rubbing an open sore. People are going to raise their fist and growl: "Kavanaugh!'"

Go deeper

Top Trump ally sounds 2020 election alarm over coronavirus response

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

There is growing concern among top conservative leaders that the Trump administration isn't addressing the long-term economic impact of the coronavirus, several sources tell Axios. One top adviser said if the recovery is bungled it could cost President Trump the election.

What we're hearing: "The next 4-8 weeks is really going to decide whether Trump gets reelected," Stephen Moore, Trump's former nominee for the Federal Reserve board, told Axios. If the administration mishandles its economic recovery efforts, he said, Trump is "in big trouble."

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,600,427 — Total deaths: 95,506 — Total recoveries: 354,006Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 465,329 — Total deaths: 16,513 — Total recoveries: 25,410Map.
  3. Public health latest: U.S. has expelled thousands of migrants under a CDC public health orderDr. Anthony Fauci said social distancing could reduce the U.S. death toll to 60,000.
  4. Business latest: The Fed will lend up to $2.3 trillion for businesses, state and city governments — After another 6.6 million jobless claims, here's how to understand the scale of American job decimation.
  5. 2020 latest: Top conservative leaders are concerned the Trump administration isn't addressing the virus' long-term economic impact.
  6. States latest: FEMA has asked governors to decide if they want testing sites to be under state or federal control.
  7. World latest: Lockdowns have led to a decline in murders in some of the world's most violent countries — Boris Johnson is moved out of the ICU but remains in hospital with coronavirus.
  8. In Congress: Senate in stalemate over additional funding for small business relief program.
  9. 1 SNL thing: "Saturday Night Live" will return this weekend in a remotely produced episode.
  10. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredPets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  11. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Federal court temporarily blocks coronavirus order against some abortions

Gov. Greg Abbott. Photo: Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Thursday that clinics in Texas can immediately offer medication abortions — a pregnancy termination method administered by pill — and can also provide the procedure to patients nearing the state's time limits for abortions.

Driving the news: The decision comes after federal appeals court ruled 2-1 on Tuesday in favor of an executive order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott that prohibits abortions during the coronavirus outbreak.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy