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GOP to Kavanaugh's accuser: Testify on Monday or we'll move on

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Senate Holds Hearing On School Safety And Parkland School Shooting
Senate Judiciary Committee member Orrin Hatch, left, talks with Chairman Charles Grassley before a hearing on Capitol Hill on March 14, 2018. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — On Sunday, after the Washington Post reported Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Republicans were divided. Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Susan Collins, R-Maine and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called to delay Kavanaugh’s confirmation and hear from Ford.

But after Ford’s attorneys wrote to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, that Monday’s scheduled hearing was too soon (“The hearing was scheduled for six short days from today and would include interrogation by Senators who appear to have made up their minds that she is ‘mistaken’ and ‘mixed up’”) and that an FBI investigation should occur before she testifies, Republicans are much more unified.

Testify on Monday, they say, or they’ll move ahead with a vote on Kavanaugh.

“After learning of the allegation, Chairman @ChuckGrassley took immediate action to ensure both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh have the opportunity to be heard, in public or private. Republicans extended a hand in good faith. If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote,” Corker tweeted, per NBC’s Frank Thorp.

Flake added, “When Dr. Ford came forward, I said that her voice should be heard and asked the Judiciary Committee to delay its vote on Judge Kavanaugh. It did so. I now implore Dr. Ford to accept the invitation for Monday, in a public or private setting. The committee should hear her voice.”

So Republicans are a lot more unified on Wednesday morning than they were 48 hours ago, although we haven’t heard directly yet from either Collins or Murkowski since Ford’s attorneys sent that letter.

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Democrats to GOP: You’re creating another Anita Hill moment

But this GOP unity also comes with risk. “Democrats are warning that Republicans risk creating an atmosphere similar to the hostile environment that greeted Anita Hill’s testimony nearly three decades ago,” NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell writes. “‘I agree with her 100 percent that the rushed process to hold a hearing on Monday has been unfair and is reminiscent of the treatment of Anita Hill,’ Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.”

Caldwell also notes that Democrats are pointing to the terms originally offered by Republicans for Ford to testify “as creating an environment similar to the one that greeted Hill. ‘She’s going to be put forward totally disadvantaged, being victimized, and it is totally reminiscent of Anita Hill,’ said Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and member of the Judiciary Committee said on Tuesday.”

And the Washington Post recounts how Ford’s life has been upended after her accusation. “At 10:28 Tuesday morning, a Twitter account with a white ­nationalist talking point for its handle posted Christine Blasey Ford’s personal address... Ford has received a flood of supportive messages since The Post reported her identity Sunday, according to a person close to her, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. But she has also faced a stream of harassing messages and threats. 'No one believes you,' one message said. 'Karma is a [expletive] and it will be visiting you very very soon.'"

More from the Post: “Ford and her family have moved out of their home as a security precaution, and she and her husband are staying apart from their two children. “She’s spending her time trying to figure out the logistics of her life as it is now and how to keep herself and her family safe,” the person said.”

Fact-checking Trump on using the FBI to investigate the accusations against Kavanaugh

Twice yesterday, President Trump said that the FBI shouldn’t be involved in investigating the accusations against Kavanaugh. “I don’t think the FBI really should be involved because they don’t want to be involved. If they wanted to be, I would certainly do that. But as you know, they say this is not really their thing,” he said before his bilateral meeting with Poland’s president.

And in his news conference later in the day, Trump added, "The FBI ... said that they really don’t do that; that’s not what they do."

But according to NBC’s Pete Williams, it is UP TO THE WHITE HOUSE to ask the FBI to look into these matters.

“When the FBI conducts a background investigation of a presidential nominee, it vacuums up all kinds of information about the nominee, including claims from people interviewed by agents, and dumps it into the file,” Williams reports. “It does not, however, investigate whether or not derogatory information is true – unless it's asked to follow up by the White House. Several current and former DOJ and FBI officials say this has always been the practice, and some say there is actually a longstanding formal memorandum of understanding between DOJ and the White House about this.”

“The Senate cannot ask the FBI to investigate the Ford letter, because Kavanaugh is the president's nominee, not the Senate's,” Williams adds.

And: “Here's another way to think of it: In doing background investigations, the FBI is acting as an agent of the White House. That's a separate role from its responsibility to investigate crimes. The Senate can always ask the FBI to investigate a potential crime that it becomes aware of (this is known as making referral), but it can't direct the FBI on how to investigate the background of a presidential nominee.”

So if the FBI is acting as the agent of the White House in these kinds of background investigations, it is inaccurate for the president to say “this is not really their thing.”

Just asking…

There are two final questions we’ll leave you with regarding this entire Kavanaugh-Ford matter:

What if Al Franken was still serving in the U.S. Senate? (Remember, he was on the Senate Judiciary Committee.)

What if Keith Ellison, not Tom Perez, won the race for DNC chair?

North Korea says it plans to shut down nuclear complex

Turning to non-Kavanaugh-Ford news… NBC News: “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says he plans to shut down his country's nuclear complex, halt missile testing and cease hostile acts toward South Korea as part of a new agreement unveiled Wednesday. The pact unveiled during a joint news conference held at the end of a two-day meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang also includes plans for the countries to host the Summer Olympics in 2032.”

But the New York Times cautions, “The offers Mr. Kim made on Wednesday ... indicated that he was willing to curtail his country’s ability to produce more nuclear warheads and ICBMs. But they say little about what he will do with his existing arsenal. Mr. Kim’s ultimate goal, analysts say, is to make the Trump administration complacent enough about the recent détente to ease sanctions in return for a mere freeze — not the dismantlement — of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs.”

“‘No matter how hard I look, I can find no real progress in denuclearization in today’s announcements,’ said Cheon Seong-whun, an analyst at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.”

Looking at the ad spending in the Top 25 House pickup opportunities for Democrats

Here’s the total general-election ad spending (TV, radio) as of yesterday in the House districts we’ve identified as the Democrats Top 25 pickup opportunities, according to data from Advertising Analytics:

AZ-2: Dem $456,000, GOP $264,000

CA-25: Dem $1.9 million, GOP $1.4 million

CA-39: GOP $1.4 million, Dem $783,000

CA-45: GOP $1.6 million, Dem $1.1 million

CA-48: GOP $1.2 million, Dem $803,000

CA-49: GOP $226,000, Dem $188,000

CO-6: GOP $2.3 million, Dem $2.1 million

FL-26: Dem $1.4 million, GOP $807,000

FL-27: N/A

IA-1: Dem $1.0 million, GOP $294,000

IL-6: GOP $2.4 million, Dem $1.2 million

ME-2: Dem $2.2 million, GOP $1.9 million

MI-11: Dem $58,000, GOP $0

MN-2: Dem $773,000, GOP $416,000

MN-3: GOP $2.2 million, Dem $660,000

NJ-2: N/A

NJ-11: Dem $641,000, GOP $131,000

NY-19: Dem $1.7 million, GOP $1.5 million

NY-22: GOP $2.6 million, Dem $2.3 million

PA-5: N/A

PA-6: N/A

PA-7: Dem $93,000, GOP $0

PA-17: GOP $269,000, Dem $535,000

TX-7: Dem $797,000, GOP $727,000

VA-10: Dem $1.3 million, GOP $1.2 million

So Democrats have the ad-spending advantage in 12 districts, Republicans lead in nine, and four have no spending for the general election so far.

The Top 10 House advertisers

And here are the top overall advertisers for House races through September 18, per Advertising Analytics:

  1. Congressional Leadership Fund: $25.0 million
  2. DCCC: $14.6 million
  3. NRCC: $9.5 million
  4. House Majority PAC: $5.2 million
  5. American Action Network: $5.1 million
  6. Patriot Majority USA: $4.6 million
  7. Women Vote!: $3.8 million
  8. Scott Wallace campaign (D in PA-1): $3.4 million
  9. Conor Lamb campaign (D in PA-17, PA-18): $3.2 million
  10. David Trone campaign (D in MD-6): $3.2 million