Kavanaugh set to begin confirmation hearings

As Judge Brett Kavanaugh prepares to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearings, President Trump blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions over the Justice Department's decision to bring charges against two GOP congressmen.

Posted: Sep 5, 2018 1:42 AM
Updated: Sep 5, 2018 2:07 AM

President Donald Trump couldn't wait to launch into the fall political season, an intense 10-week conflagration that marks a hugely consequential chapter in his turbulent presidency.

He spent Labor Day, when campaign politicking goes into overdrive, unleashing a raging tweet storm blasting his beleaguered Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other favorite targets, such as fired FBI Director James Comey, officials leading the Russian probe and the media.

But the critical period that might lay the foundations for the nation's ideological course for years and even decades to come will truly get underway on Tuesday morning when confirmation hearings start for Trump's second Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh.

The likely confirmation of Kavanaugh will drag the court to the right and make an ardent conservative, Chief Justice John Roberts, the bench's swing vote. It is a scenario that may take several Democratic presidencies to undo, could supercharge conservative voters and will on its own elevate the Trump presidency to undeniable historic significance.

The battle that unfolds in Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building will also juice the fight between the parties before November's midterm elections -- the culmination of weeks of political combat that could have grave implications for the Trump presidency itself.

The elections, for the entire House of Representatives, one third of the Senate and a clutch of critical gubernatorial and statehouse races, will mark the first time a nationwide electorate has had the chance to cast judgment on Trump's tumultuous impact as the 45th president.

If history is any guide, Trump could be slammed by a corrective wave building since his 2016 election triumph that sweeps Democrats to significant gains, including the possible capture of the House. This would be a nightmare scenario for Trump, since it could tighten a vise of investigations around his White House or even lead to impeachment hearings.

But if the President drives his fabled political base to the polls in sufficient numbers to save the House he would surely interpret his triumph as validation of his tempestuous style and emerge more powerful and even less constrained than ever before.

In between the Kavanaugh hearings and the midterms, a succession of challenges loom, from the Mueller investigation to the stuttering effort to force North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, that will have considerable implications for Trump and the rest of the world.

'Good job Jeff'

Everyone else might have been enjoying the last long weekend of summer on Monday. But for Trump, there is no off season for attack politics. After aborting an apparent trip to play golf on a steamy Monday afternoon, he set off on a Twitter tear against some of his favorite targets.

First, he lambasted Sessions, this time over corruption indictments laid against Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York, the first two House members to endorse him.

"Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff....," Trump tweeted.

The intervention held a mirror up to Trump's mood and nature: It revealed his nervousness about the midterms and his disdain for the traditional firewall between the White House and the Justice Department, meant to guard against the politicization of the law.

It again hinted at the thin ice under Sessions, who Trump appears to believe should be acting as his own personal protector and lawyer rather than as an independent guardian of justice.

Several Republican senators appear to have softened their support for Sessions in recent weeks, sparking speculation that the President could dismiss him after the midterm elections, a period that could be especially volatile if Democrats win the House. Trump told Bloomberg Sessions' job was safe at least until then.

Some Trump critics fear that the President could dispense with Sessions, who is recused from the Russia investigation, in order to get an attorney general that could frustrate it or even prevent the public release of any final report that Mueller chooses to write. It remains unclear however whether the President could get a nominee with such an agenda through Senate confirmation.

Trump on Monday also seized on a more positive aspect of his midterm election message, the strength of the economy, at the start of the week that will include the latest jobs report from his government.

"The U.S. is respected again!" Trump wrote, as he retweeted a message from his press secretary, Sarah Sanders, from which GOP leaders would love him never to deviate.

"Our economy is booming, millions are working again, and our country is back on the right track thanks to President @realDonaldTrump's policies. Happy Labor Day!" Sanders wrote.

Robust economic growth and low unemployment constitute the best incentive Republicans can put before voters this fall. But there is also an argument to be made that Trump's approval ratings -- he dipped to just 36% in one recent poll -- should be far higher given current prosperity. The fact they are not could be a warning sign that Trump's disinclination to reach out to voters that do not already support him could help doom many Republican lawmakers come November.

The mystery of the Russia probe

Another dark cloud hanging over the midterm elections is the Russia investigation.

Washington is waiting to see whether special counsel Robert Mueller will make any significant moves in the intensely political period ahead or whether he will choose to try to insulate his prosecutors from Republican accusations of trying to influence voters.

The White House has given every sign that it would welcome a campaign season clash with Mueller as a way to fan scare talk of impeachment that could convince any wavering Trump voters that their champion needs their support at the polls. Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani has promised to put out his own report debunking notions of Russian collusion or obstruction of justice.

Trump must also worry about widening legal complications from the guilty plea lodged by his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen in a tax and fraud case in which prosecutors also granted immunity to the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization.

His worries on this score may intersect with the Kavanaugh hearings since a debate is expected on the extent to which the President should be exposed to legal scrutiny while in office.

Despite being an aggressive member of independent counsel Kenneth Starr's team during the Lewinsky scandal that led to Bill Clinton's impeachment, Kavanaugh now appears to believe that Congress should shield sitting presidents from civil and criminal cases and takes a sweeping view of executive power.

He is likely to face calls from Democrats to recuse himself from any such cases that make it to the Supreme Court.

Though the Republican majority in the Senate and the demise of the filibuster rule for Supreme Court nominees means Kavanaugh is likely to be confirmed, both parties will use this week's confirmation hearings to engage their most committed activists before the midterms.

Republicans will effectively be making good on a bargain that Trump made with evangelical voters -- an important part of his coalition that has held firm despite questions over his conduct and character -- following his vow to anoint authentic conservatives to the Supreme Court.

Democrats are likely to use the hearings to build on fears among liberals that the right to have an abortion could be at risk from the new Supreme Court's conservative lurch -- a factor that could send moderate voters flocking to the polls in November.

Trump will be sure to capitalize on the Kavanaugh hearing when he kicks his midterm campaign into a higher gear at the end of the week, with visits to Montana and North and South Dakota.

Before then, his administration is braced for the resumption of trade talks with Canada, following his warning to exclude the US ally and top export market from the new iteration of the North American Free Trade Agreement that he put at the center of his 2016 campaign.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 268672

Reported Deaths: 5917
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17928195
Hinds17030337
Harrison14510212
Rankin11315223
Jackson11054193
Lee9109147
Madison8663171
Jones6853120
Forrest6260125
Lauderdale6161196
Lowndes5582123
Lafayette5269101
Lamar508765
Washington4965125
Bolivar4164110
Oktibbeha411585
Panola389881
Pontotoc380460
Monroe3727111
Warren3716103
Marshall360172
Union360165
Pearl River3527106
Neshoba3516158
Leflore3132110
Lincoln308389
Hancock300963
Sunflower294277
Tate281862
Alcorn274055
Pike272984
Itawamba271263
Scott264055
Yazoo258456
Prentiss255454
Coahoma252455
Copiah251549
Tippah251551
Simpson244872
Leake238967
Marion228274
Covington224873
Grenada224673
Wayne216336
Adams216271
Winston208271
George206440
Newton201447
Attala197465
Tishomingo196361
Chickasaw190245
Jasper183138
Holmes172568
Clay168637
Tallahatchie158035
Stone153625
Clarke148762
Calhoun142022
Smith131926
Yalobusha124935
Walthall115438
Greene114929
Noxubee114526
Montgomery112936
Lawrence107917
Carroll106922
Perry105931
Amite102727
Webster98024
Claiborne90125
Tunica89621
Jefferson Davis89330
Benton86923
Humphreys85625
Kemper81220
Quitman7169
Franklin71017
Choctaw64013
Wilkinson60125
Jefferson57321
Sharkey45717
Issaquena1616
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 445909

Reported Deaths: 6896
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson651891049
Mobile32138590
Madison28596223
Tuscaloosa21703276
Montgomery20220336
Shelby19584138
Baldwin17496216
Lee13378109
Morgan12741145
Etowah12196189
Calhoun11626228
Marshall10513126
Houston9097168
Limestone842481
Cullman8363125
Elmore8283112
Lauderdale7986112
DeKalb7935112
St. Clair7915139
Talladega6552112
Walker6068184
Jackson605649
Colbert560194
Blount551794
Autauga544065
Coffee470569
Dale415186
Franklin378150
Russell362816
Chilton348079
Covington344681
Escambia342244
Tallapoosa3184109
Dallas314197
Chambers308575
Clarke307339
Pike267735
Lawrence256958
Marion255763
Winston235243
Bibb224751
Geneva214747
Marengo212031
Pickens201831
Barbour188240
Hale187444
Fayette181230
Butler175960
Cherokee167433
Henry161325
Monroe153521
Randolph148236
Washington144027
Clay131050
Crenshaw126245
Macon124337
Cleburne123627
Lamar121324
Lowndes117636
Wilcox109422
Bullock105829
Perry100518
Conecuh98222
Sumter90828
Greene78323
Coosa64619
Choctaw52224
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