Sep 23, 2018

Axios AM

🍁🍂 Good Sunday morning, and welcome to fall — the autumnal equinox arrived in the U.S. at 9:54 p.m. ET.

1 big thing: The GOP's great fear
Vital vote: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) speaks to the media Friday in Portland, Maine. (Patrick Whittle/AP)

Republicans at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are edgy about yesterday's tentative agreement for Christine Blasey Ford, Judge Brett Kavanaugh's accuser, to testify publicly before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

The arrangement isn't really a gamble because Republicans have no choice, Jonathan Swan points out:

  • Republicans have to let Ford testify if they're going to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, as top GOP sources still (nervously) predict.
  • And in a possible setback for Ford, the N.Y. Times reports, a woman and two men who were said to have attended the party now say they have no recollection of it, seeming to "eliminate any chance of corroboration ... by anyone who attended."

But the risks are blatantly obvious in an election year where women — and especially college-educated women — already loathe Trump and appear motivated to vote out Republicans.

  • Why it matters: Republicans involved in the process worry that the accuser, a college professor, will connect with the voters already most animated against them.
  • And while Republicans involved in Kavanaugh’s confirmation tell Swan that the elderly male Republican senators are approaching this gingerly, there’s nervousness in the sources' voices because there’s so much room for error.

Be smart: A former administration official said Republicans are "walking the tightrope of making sure not to piss off women for the midterms yet not alienating the base by ditching Kavanaugh."

  • And one top Republican texted me: "Most Republicans know the party has already lost college women, alienated by Trump’s style and behavior. Cannot lose them twice."

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2. Inside Kavanaugh's prep
Kavanaugh on Wednesday (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

"In a preparation session on Tuesday, [Brett] Kavanaugh faced more than a dozen White House aides in the Eisenhower building, during which aides played different senators for more than two hours," the WashPost's Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey report:

  • "In his answers during the practice runs, aides said, Kavanaugh condemned sexual assault and carefully avoided seeming to discredit Christine Blasey Ford."
  • "But Kavanaugh grew frustrated when it came to questions that dug into his private life, particularly his drinking habits and his sexual proclivities."
  • "He declined to answer some questions altogether, saying they were too personal ... 'I’m not going to answer that,' Kavanaugh said at one point according to a senior White House official, who said that the questions were designed to go over the line and that he struck the right tone."

The bottom line: "Kavanaugh has complained about the stories focusing on his family and has grown 'incredibly frustrated' at times, in the words of one associate, but he has not sought to drop out of the running ... He has said privately and publicly that he is eager to testify."

Be smart, from Jonathan Swan: This leak from the (until now) closely guarded Kavanaugh prep room is extraordinary and damaging. It provides a big, sensitive target for Democratic questioning at Thursday’s hearing.

3. Parents face tougher rules to get immigrant kids back
Honduran Eilyn Carbajal hugs her then-8-year-old son Nahun Eduardo Puerto Pineda (right) after they were reunited at the Cayuga Center, in New York in August. (Richard Drew/AP)

"[T]housands of immigrant families are experiencing ... increasing hurdles ... to take custody of sons, daughters and relatives who crossed the border on their own," AP's Gisela Salomon and Claudia Torrens report:

  • "The Trump administration has imposed more stringent rules and vetting."
  • "The requirements include the submission of fingerprints by all adults in the household where a migrant child will live."
  • "Many of the parents ... are poor and ... share homes with others who are unrelated or in the country illegally. Many of those roommates have been reluctant to submit their fingerprints."

"[T]his information will now be shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement — something that did not occur in the past. ICE said this week that the agency has arrested 41 sponsors [adults who take custody of immigrant children] since the agencies started sharing information in June."

  • Stunning stat: "More than 12,000 [migrant] children are now in government shelters, compared with 2,400 in May 2017."

P.S. "Trump administration officials announced [yesterday] that immigrants who legally use public benefits like food assistance and Section 8 housing vouchers could be denied green cards under new rules," the N.Y. Times reports:

  • "The move could force millions of poor immigrants who rely on public assistance for food and shelter to make a difficult choice between accepting financial help and seeking a green card to live and work legally" in the U.S.
Bonus: Pic du jour
(Olivia Hampton/AFP/Getty Images)

When "truth" melts: This ice sculpture of the word "truth" was installed yesterday by the artistic collaboration Ligorano/Reese, with the U.S. Capitol in the background, to protest the caustic state of politics.

4. How Palo Alto drives California
This green-doored garage, behind the former Palo Alto home of Hewlett-Packard founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, is designated the "Birthplace of Silicon Valley" for the audio oscillator they began developing there in 1938. (Kimberly White/Corbis via Getty Images)

California scooped up just under $1 billion from nearly 9,000 tax returns filed in 94301 (Palo Alto, home of Stanford and the "birthplace of Silicon Valley") in 2016 — more revenue than from any other ZIP Code in California, the L.A. Times' Melanie Mason reports:

  • Why it matters: As Democrat Gavin Newsom and Republican John Cox campaign for governor, taxes paid "in Palo Alto’s 94301 and a handful of other affluent ZIP Codes ... will determine whether promises to build more houses, overhaul healthcare or invest in schools can actually be kept."

Be smart: "Economists and politicians have long said that California’s volatile revenue base leaves the state at risk for a painful budgetary reckoning when the economy slumps."

5. Data du jour
Sheldon and Miriam Adelson arrive at the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem in May. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate, and his wife, Miriam, have given $55 million in the last few months to groups dedicated to retaining Republican control of Congress, the N.Y. Times Jeremy Peters reports:

  • Why it matters: "That makes them not only the largest donors to national Republican electoral efforts in this election cycle, but the biggest spenders on federal elections in all of American politics, according to publicly available campaign finance data."

"Despite initially harboring qualms about President Trump’s leadership, the Adelsons have found much to like ... unflinchingly pro-Israel, unaccommodating to Middle Eastern adversaries and dedicated to deregulation and lower taxes."

  • "In private in-person meetings and phone conversations, which occur between [Trump and Sheldon Adelson] about once a month, he has used his access to push the president to move the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and, more recently, cut aid to the Palestinians."
  • "Trump has done both, triggering a backlash from some American allies."
6. 1 dog thing
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens via AP

"'Blue Boy' is getting a long-awaited makeover, and the public can watch as one of the world's most recognizable paintings gets ... some splashes of fresh paint ... in time for the eternally youthful adolescent to mark his 250th birthday," AP's John Rogers reports from San Marino, Calif.

  • "Thomas Gainsborough's stunning oil on canvas [c. 1770] featuring a British youth dressed nearly all in blue has been one of the most sought-out attractions at Southern California's Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens since its arrival in 1921."

Giving the painting its first substantial restoration in at least 97 years, the Huntington's senior paintings conservator, Christina O'Connell, will toil in the same area where "Blue Boy" has hung:

  • Visitors will be able to walk up and watch what she's doing.

"'Blue Boy,' it turns out, ... had a dog until Gainsborough painted it out of the picture. The kid's furry friend was discovered in a 1994 X-ray."

  • "You can still see its front paws, which Gainsborough cleverly turned into rocks when he blended the rest of the canine into the landscape."