Sep 28, 2018

Axios AM

☕️ Happy Friday!

1 big thing ... The next ugly fight: impeachment(s)
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

In a foreshadowing of how much uglier U.S. politics could get, top Democratic operatives are already talking about impeachment of Brett Kavanaugh as a 2020 campaign issue if he gets confirmed to the Supreme Court.

  • A well-known Democratic strategist says the "only question is who calls for it first."
  • And top Republicans expect President Trump to begin making an even bigger issue of his own possible impeachment as a way of whipping up supporters in the final month of this fall's midterm campaigns.
  • A veteran Republican close to Senate leaders and the White House: "Impeachment of Trump and Kav will be an animating issue on both sides."
  • Why it matters: Yesterday's epic hearing — a tearful, outraged Kavanaugh following a tearful, credible Christine Blasey Ford — will likely stand as a nine-hour distillation of our toxic era.

The impeachment talk reflects the conclusion of Democrats and Republicans close to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh's confirmation is more likely than not — and certainly more likely than it was 24 hours ago.

  • "Democrats tonight are depleted, raw, furious, and churning," emails an adviser to Ford's camp.
  • A Republican insider texted his belief that Kavanaugh will make it (something the insider had doubted earlier in the day) and added: "What ugly times. We may be doomed."

The war was embodied by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who rallied the GOP by caustically accusing Democrats: "What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open and hope you win in 2020."

  • The N.Y. Times' Jeremy Peters tweeted: "[W]hat I saw today was a fury between members of opposite parties that is as profound and unnerving as I've ever seen. They're not faking it."

Be smart: If Kavanaugh is confirmed, Democrats could be expected to question the legitimacy of his swing Supreme Court vote. Congress degraded itself yesterday. And the Trump White House of course has serious credibility issues.

  • So the United States of America will be three-for-three in diminished trust in its branches of government.
2. Whip count leans confirmation, but no lock
Courtesy N.Y. Post

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has 48 hard "yes" votes, and needs 50 for a win, with Vice President Pence breaking the tie.

  • Republicans are increasingly optimistic about getting the vote of Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who's in a tough reelection race in a state Trump won by 42 points (not a typo).
  • The uncommitted Republican senators are Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and the retiring Jeff Flake of Arizona. GOP vote counters believe that to avoid future primary challenges fueled by the Trump machine, Collins and Murkowski will find their way to voting "aye."

What's next: The Judiciary Committee is racing to vote at 9:30 a.m. today. The full Senate could start taking procedural votes Saturday, setting up a final vote as soon as Tuesday, per AP.

3. 📺 A day we'll always remember

Takeaways from inside the hearing room, by Axios legal eagle Sam Baker:

  • When Ford finished her testimony, everything seemed to be going badly for Kavanaugh. At first, when he strode across the hearing room and started yelling about a Democratic conspiracy against him, it seemed to be going even worse. But by the end, the normal partisan equilibrium was restored and it seemed he was likely to be confirmed.
  • Republicans found a way to rally to Kavanaugh’s defense without ever really saying what about Ford’s testimony they found unpersuasive.
  • None of GOP prosecutor Rachel Mitchell’s lines of inquiry stuck.
  • Trump’s always-hit-back strategy seems to be the thing that worked. Kavanaugh did it, then Lindsey Graham did it. 
  • During Kavanaugh's testimony, every Republican before Graham had yielded their time to the prosecutor. After Graham's fiery presentation, no one did. 
  • What if Kavanaugh is on the court and a Senate Democrat is president? It’s not that big a stretch. Will they get a fair hearing?

Hearing transcript.

Bonus: For history
The New York Times

N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), during a break after testimony by Christine Blasey Ford:

  • "I know that we’ve got to take what she says very seriously."
The Washington Post
L.A. Times
4. Choose your news: Kavanaugh edition
Expand chart
Source: SnapStream. Graphic: Axios Visuals

We're living in different news universes, as we could see starkly last night, Axios managing editor David Nather writes:

  • Fox News' Tucker Carlson: "Kavanaugh fights back"
  • MSNBC's Chris Hayes: "Christine Blasey Ford describes sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee"
  • Fox's Sean Hannity: "Kavanaugh calls confirmation process 'a national disgrace'"
  • MSNBC's Rachel Maddow: "Kavanaugh: 'I will not be intimidated into withdrawing'"
  • Fox's Laura Ingraham: "The Kavanaugh/Ford hearings: A case of emotion vs. fact"
  • MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell: "Kavanaugh committee vote set for 9:30 am Friday."

Wednesday night, before the hearing:

  • Fox's Tucker Carlson: "Trump focuses on Kavanaugh chaos"
  • MSNBC's Chris Hayes: "New disturbing allegations"
  • Fox's Sean Hannity: "Democrats' shameless obstruction tactics"
  • MSNBC's Rachel Maddow: "I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified" (Ford prepared statement)
  • Fox's Laura Ingraham: "The accusers' last act"
  • MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell: Michael Avenatti interview.
5. Phrase that'll stick
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) questions Kavanaugh. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images)

Republican prosecutor Rachel Mitchell at yesterday's hearing: "What do you consider to be too many beers?"

  • Kavanaugh: "I don’t know. You know, we — whatever the chart says, a blood-alcohol chart."

P.S. "Kavanaugh has repeatedly said that he was legally allowed to consume beer as a prep school senior in Maryland."

  • "In fact, he was never legal in high school because the state's drinking age increased to 21 at the end of his junior year, while he was still 17." (AP)
6. World v. Trump
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The world wasn't buying what President Trump was selling at this week's UN General Assembly, Axios World editor Dave Lawler writes from NYC:

  • Trump made waves at the UN last year with his disdainful attitude and threats of nuclear destruction. He continued his nationalist push this year, but the shock factor had largely worn off.
  • A parade of leaders who once attempted to woo him — led by French President Emmanuel Macron — signaled they’re preparing to move on without him.
  • When Trump chaired a UN Security Council meeting he had initially hoped would be focused on the Iranian threat, he was instead forced to listen to praise for the 2015 nuclear deal from leader after leader.

On climate change, Trump’s isolation was even starker:

  • Macron went so far as to say Europe should not sign a trade deal with any country that doesn’t respect the Paris climate agreement. There’s only one such country: the United States.

Sign up free for Dave Lawler's twice weekly Axios World newsletter.

7. 🚙 Could Lyft beat Uber to IPO finish line?

San Francisco-based rivals Uber and Lyft are both looking to launch initial public offerings in 2019, the Financial Times' Shannon Bond and Nicole Bullock report (subscription):

  • Why it matters: "Their listings will be among the biggest the technology sector has seen in years, and mark the next stage for a group of high-flying Silicon Valley companies that have achieved huge valuations from private investors."

The timing:

  • "Lyft is targeting an IPO as early as March or April, although no decisions have yet been made."
  • "Uber will not be far behind. Dara Khosrowshahi, whose mandate when he became chief executive a year ago included taking the company public, has said the company is 'on track' for a listing in the second half of 2019."
8. Youngest victims of opioid epidemic

Axios Video

From Axios Video, documentary footage in 1 Big Thing format:

  • Every 15 minutes, a baby is born addicted to opioids. In Baltimore, doctors at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital say babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome — caused by withdrawal from exposure to drugs — now account for 25% of the hospital’s admissions.
  • Nationally, the number of babies born with the syndrome has increased by over 400% since 2004.
  • Watch the video.
9. We may not know if someone alters votes
Sarah Anne Ward for The New York Times

Coming in Sunday's N.Y. Times Magazine:

"Will Florida’s Ex-Felons Finally Regain the Right to Vote?" by Emily Bazelon: "As former felons, more than 1.5 million Floridians are barred from voting, but a new referendum, Amendment 4, could restore that right — and shift the state’s electorate.

  • "Across the country, more than six million people have lost the right to vote because of their criminal records. More than 1.5 million of them live in Florida, a higher number than in any other state. A proposed ballot initiative would automatically restore the right to vote to people with a felony conviction who have completed their sentences. (The initiative makes two exceptions: no voting rights for people convicted of murder or sex offenses.)"

"The Crisis of Election Security," by Kim Zetter:

  • "As the midterms approach, America’s electronic voting systems are more vulnerable than ever."
  • The "American intelligence community is issuing increasingly dire warnings about potential interference from Russia and other countries, but the voting infrastructure remains largely unchanged."
  • Why it matters: There's "a good chance we simply won’t know if someone has altered the digital votes in the next election."
10. 1 ✈️ thing: I know how he felt!
Patrick Kehoe leaves the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin. (Niall Carson/Press Association via AP)

Patrick Kehoe, 23, an Irish man who missed his flight at Dublin Airport, was arrested yesterday for breaking down the jetway door and running after the plane on the tarmac to flag it down, AP reports:

  • "Witnesses said a man in his 20s broke through an airport door and ran toward the Ryanair plane, which was about to take off for Amsterdam."
  • A witness, Declan Harvey, "said he could hear a man shouting 'Wait!' at the plane before he was tackled to the ground by airport workers."
  • The airport said the man became "agitated" after he and a woman arrived at the gate too late for their flight.
  • As he left court, "Kehoe shouted abuse and insults at journalists and swung at them with his suitcase, before lowering his trousers and mooning bystanders."

I once almost missed a flight with ABC's Jonathan Karl, who pounded on the jetway door after it closed, and got a gate agent to come up and reopen it.

  • I thought that was as impossible as getting a beer in the eighth inning — something Dick Keil has done more than once.
  • Thought for the day: Charm works more often than pounding.