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THE I-WORD: A slew of 2020 Democrats are calling for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh in the wake of a New York Times report detailing a new allegation that he exposed himself to female classmate at Yale University.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation, delivered with a 50 to 48 vote shortly before the midterms, was widely credited with helping Republicans maintain their Senate majority. The new allegation now re-injects the divisions over Kavanaugh’s nomination squarely in the center of the presidential campaign, renewing the national dialogue around the #MeToo movement.
- The nutshell: The story raised questions about whether Kavanaugh lied under oath during his Senate confirmation process — and if the FBI conducted a thorough background check into the nominee. The Times reported that Max Stier, who witnessed the alleged incident, notified senators and the FBI — but it was not investigated.
These candidates explicitly called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment:
- Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.): “He was put on the Court through a sham process and his place on the Court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice.”
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.): “Last year the Kavanaugh nomination was rammed through the Senate without a thorough examination of the allegations against him. Confirmation is not exoneration, and these newest revelations are disturbing. Like the man who appointed him, Kavanaugh should be impeached.”
- Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke: “ … The Senate forced the F.B.I. to rush its investigation to save his nomination. We know he lied under oath.”
- Former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro cited similar reasons: “And Congress should review the failure of the Department of Justice to properly investigate the matter.”
Other candidates were more circumspect:
- Vice President Joe Biden — whose treatment of Anita Hill during Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s Senate confirmation hearings in 1991 is seen by many on the left as a blemish on his resume — did not call for Kavanaugh’s impeachment but rather further investigation into “the truthfulness of [Kavanaugh’s] testimony to Senate,” per a statement obtained by CBS News’s Jason Silverstein.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also did not use the I-word: “The revelations today confirm what we already knew: During his hearing, Kavanaugh faced credible accusations and likely lied to Congress. I support any appropriate constitutional mechanism to hold him accountable.”
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) called Kavanaugh’s confirmation process “a sham” and accused Attorney General William P. Barr of “shielding” relevant documents pertaining to the investigation conducted by the FBI into Kavanaugh’s sexual assault allegations.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Justice Brett Kavanaugh: “My concern here is that the process was a sham. I don’t think you can look at impeachment hearings without getting the documents … and the attorney general is shielding documents” https://t.co/gxl9RihwwF pic.twitter.com/0QOM4kIuSv
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) September 15, 2019
Good luck with that: You’re probably wondering just how realistic the prospect of impeaching Kavanaugh actually is. Whether it’s a president or a federal judge, the procedure for impeachment is largely the same. A majority of the House must vote to impeach, followed by a trial held by the Senate “for the underlying misconduct,” per my colleague Deanna Paul.
- A conviction requires the support of two-thirds of the Senate, which is all but impossible to happen under the current GOP-controlled Senate, which has 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats.
More than anything, the calls to impeach Kavanaugh are a rallying cry to galvanize the Democratic base, serving as a reminder of how much is at stake this election.
- “[The] Kavanaugh fight compares only to the 2016 election as a modern Democratic trauma,” our colleague Dave Weigel writes. “Not only did Democrats fail to stop his Supreme Court nomination, a consensus of Republicans and political strategists argued that by echoing accusations against him, Democrats energized conservative voters and tipped key Senate races toward the GOP.”
- Remember?: “The saga turned Kavanaugh into an updated Clarence Thomas: Conservatives successfully placed him on the bench while simultaneously turning him into a martyr. He was living proof of how liberals smeared their enemies, of how President Trump would stand up to fight them.”
- Flipping the script this time: “The 2020 Democrats know that ‘remember Kavanaugh’ was a strong rallying cry in Indiana and Missouri; they’re [now] betting that in the Midwest, and in especially in their own party’s primaries, the court fight is remembered in a very different way.”
Bigger picture: The renewed scrutiny of Kavanaugh also highlights Trump’s blanket dismissal of allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault — against him or those key to his political agenda. Trump this weekend wasted no time seizing the opportunity to praise Kavanaugh, whose confirmation he has touted as a highlight of his own presidential record.
- Trump tweeted: “Brett Kavanaugh should start suing people for libel, or the Justice Department should come to his rescue. The lies being told about him are unbelievable. False Accusations without recrimination. When does it stop? They are trying to influence his opinions. Can’t let that happen!”
- Trump may not stay impervious forever to backlash from the Me Too movement, as we touched upon last week. With a potentially record number of millennial women expected to turn out this election cycle — and polling data showing baby boomer and independent suburban women are less enthused by Trump — his refusal to acknowledge corroborated allegations against Kavanaugh could be problematic come next November.
At The White House
TRUMP CONSIDERS MILITARY RESPONSE TO SAUDI OIL ATTACKS: “Trump said Sunday that the United States was prepared to respond to the devastating attacks on two oil installations in Saudi Arabia that halved the state oil company’s production output, while Iran rejected U.S. accusations that it was responsible,” our colleagues Kareem Fahim, Anne Gearan, Erin Cunningham and Steven Mufson report.
- Trump refused to say Iran was behind the attack, “as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had on Saturday, or specify whether he was contemplating a military response,” Kareem, Anne, Erin and Steven write. “He said he was waiting to hear from the Saudis on ‘who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!’”
- Top officials are reportedly divided over how to respond: “[The] was contemplating what U.S. officials characterized as a serious military response, though some in the Pentagon were said to be urging restraint. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Trump met with Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper on Sunday afternoon.”
- Murphy cautions against ‘bombing Iran’: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) cautioned late Sunday that “the U.S. should not be a part of this disaster” in a lengthy Twitter thread about the attacks.
And frankly, no matter where this latest drone strike was launched from, there is no short or long term upside to the U.S. military getting more deeply involved in the growing regional contest between the Saudis and Iranians.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) September 16, 2019
The Houthis, a rebel group in Yemen allied with Iran, claimed responsibility for the attacks. But U.S. officials believe the attacks did not come from Yemen, “meaning the Houthis either were not involved in the attacks or did not carry them out on their own,” our colleagues reported.
- “Administration officials, in a background briefing for reporters as well as in separate interviews on Sunday, also said a combination of drones and cruise missiles — ‘both and a lot of them,’ as one senior United States official put it — might have been used,” the New York Times’s Eric Schmitt, Farnaz Fassihi and David D. Kirkpatrick report. “That would indicate a degree of scope, precision and sophistication beyond the ability of the Houthi rebels alone.”
Outside the Beltway
UAW GOES ON NATIONWIDE STRIKE OF GM: “About 49,000 General Motors employees walked off the job at 12 a.m. Monday after negotiations between the United Auto Workers union and the Detroit-based carmaker broke down,” our colleagues Deanna Paul and Alex Horton report. “It is the first national UAW strike since 2007.”
- Ongoing talks between GM leadership and the union since July haven’t made progress on key areas: “The UAW said it is aiming to secure fair wages, affordable health care and better job security, among other things.”
- “In a statement, GM said it offered to create more than 5,400 jobs, add over $7 billion in investments and implement improved plans for profit-sharing and health benefits.”
- Teamsters have pledged to join in on the strike: “If the strike commences, more than a thousand Teamsters will refuse to transport GM vehicles to dealerships in a move of solidarity with UAW, said Bret Caldwell, a spokesman for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters,” Deanna and Alex write.
BREAKING LATE LAST NIGHT 🚨: “Purdue Pharma, the drug manufacturer accused of triggering the nation’s epidemic of opioid addiction through its sale of the profitable but highly addictive painkiller OxyContin, filed for bankruptcy Sunday,” my colleague Christopher Rowland reports.
The charges: “The Chapter 11 filing is expected to lead to the ultimate demise of a company that sold a fraction of the opioid prescriptions in the United States but nonetheless is most closely identified with the epidemic because of its pioneering role in the sale of narcotic pain pills. The company used aggressive, allegedly misleading, sales tactics to push physicians to prescribe millions of doses of its dangerously addictive pills.”
“The company’s move to seek financial shelter, part of a tentative settlement with thousands of litigants, will shift the focus to new wrangling over how potential proceeds will be divvied up by communities reeling under the burden of addiction and overdose deaths…. The bankruptcy also will raise the stakes on legal sparring over how much of the personal fortunes of the billionaire Sackler family, which owns Purdue, will be available to compensate plaintiffs.”
Key: “The controversial piece is going to be about how much the Sacklers need to kick in for the deal to work,’’ said Adam J. Levitin, a professor specializing in bankruptcy at Georgetown Law.
ICYMI: Our colleagues had another blockbluster story in their ongoing opioids files series. “Newly unsealed documents in a landmark civil case in Cleveland provide clues to one of the most enduring mysteries of the opioid epidemic: How were drug companies able to weaken the federal government’s most powerful enforcement weapon at the height of the crisis?,” Scott Higham, Sari Horwitz, Steven Rich and Meryl Kornfield write in their story on A1 this morning.
GRETA THUNBERG IS ON THE COVER OF TEEN VOGUE: Climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, is on the cover today of a special edition of the magazine pegged to a Sept. 20 climate strike and the upcoming United Nations summit on climate change.
We have a sneak peak for you on some of her Thunberg’s key quotes to reporter Lucy Diavolo:
- On whether people with economic security in richer countries have a responsibility to the climate movement: “We have to lead because we have already built infrastructure that other countries need to build, and it takes carbon dioxide to build that infrastructure and to make sure that people in poorer countries can be able to heighten their standard of living. We have to also give [poorer countries] the opportunity to adapt [to climate crisis]. Because, otherwise, it doesn’t make any sense.”
- On why teenagers are taking the lead: “I don’t think it will be up to us teenagers and children to actually solve the problem. We young people are building this up. They always say they have listened to us, so this is a chance for them to prove it.”
- On the balance between optimism and realism in talking about climate change: “That is what everyone is saying, especially in Sweden — that we cannot just say all these negative facts. We also have to tell positive facts so that people will not give up. I think we just have to tell the truth. Of course, we have to tell the positive news. But we also have to tell the negative news. We have to tell it like it is, because we cannot just hide facts from people.”
- How she responds to the hate she receives online: “I don’t really take it personal, because I know they are just so desperate, trying to find something to make me look bad. Because if I look bad, the climate movement will look bad. It’s sad to see all these people spending their time doing something like this when they could be doing some good instead. You could also see it as, since they are trying so hard to attack us, that means that we are making a difference. They see us as some kind of threat, and that means that we have actually succeeded in reaching people.