Barbara Lee to announce bid for Democratic Caucus chair


Barbara Lee is pictured. | AP Photo

“We’ve been the backbone of the Democratic Party,” said Rep Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) of African-American women. “We should be in the face of leadership also.” | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

Congress

The California congresswoman could become the first African-American woman to hold a leadership spot in either major political party.

OAKLAND — Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, one of the party’s most outspoken progressive voices, will formally launch her campaign Monday to chair the House Democratic Caucus — a post that would make her the first African-American woman to hold a leadership spot in either major political party.

“When you look at the history of the Democratic Party and the Democratic leadership, African-American women…we’ve been the backbone of the Democratic Party — we should be in the face of leadership also,’’ Lee told POLITICO in an interview Sunday. Whether it comes to grassroots issues, or voter mobilization and political activism, she said, black women have long proven they can “lead not only our communities, but lead our country, on the very tough issues facing us.”

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Lee, first elected to Congress in 1998 in one of the nation’s most liberal bastions, argues she has a long record as a coalition-builder who has dedicated her career to issues of concern to both poor urban and rural voters. As the party prepares for the 2020 election cycle, the California congresswoman said, “these are issues that we can all unify around, like jobs and economic growth,’’ poverty, education and health care.

“The strength of our caucus lies in our diversity of experiences and ideas,’’ Lee said in a letter to be released Monday to her congressional colleagues announcing her bid. “Whether it’s working across the aisle to enact HIV/AIDS laws, or bringing the Sanders and Clinton campaigns together behind a cohesive and progressive Democratic platform, my career has been dedicated to finding common ground and delivering results.”

The announcement by Lee, who represents Oakland and the East Bay’s 13th Congressional District, sets up a battle with another Californian, Rep. Linda Sanchez. Sanchez last week announced her intention to seek the post now up for grabs with the defeat of Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, who was defeated in a June primary upset by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The Southern California-based Sanchez, the sister of former California Rep. Loretta Sanchez, became vice-chair of the House Democratic Caucus after defeating Lee by two votes in 2016 for the spot. The two will vie again after the midterm elections for the party’s fourth-most important leadership position — a post charged with communicating messages to every Democratic House member.

Lee came to national prominence after being the sole vote in the House in opposition to authorization of the use of force in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. That stance — widely criticized at the time — and her unfailingly progressive profile has earned her the staunch loyalty of her overwhelmingly Democratic district, where “Barbara Lee Speaks For Me” bumper stickers are commonplace.

But Lee has also gotten enthusiastic backing for her leadership bid from colleagues in diverse parts of the country — including Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.

“I’m very excited about her in a leadership role…She would be absolutely the best choice,’’ said Schakowsky, who told POLITICO Sunday she is actively campaigning on behalf of Lee for the post. She cited Lee’s “gutsy” leadership on issues like pushing for AIDS/HIV federal funding during the Bush administration, a move which “has saved millions of lives” in Africa, and for being outspoken on foreign affairs.

Behind the scenes, Schakowsky said, Lee has long been “a real doer,’’ with an “uplifting” and positive style that has benefited her party, such as when she served as a mediator between two bitterly opposed Democratic groups in the 2016 platform fight. “That is a role that Barbara Lee plays with finesse and elegance, making it all happen,’’ Schakowsky said.

Republicans have been quick to jump on speculation about Lee’s interest in a House leadership post, with some suggesting that Lee’s vote against authorization in 2001, along with her work to help normalize relations with Cuba, could make her an easy target for the GOP as the party heads toward 2020.

“Lee as Chairwoman might surpass @NancyPelosi or @KeithEllison as the most gaffe-prone member of Dem leadership — and that’s a high bar,’’ tweeted Jack Pandol, Western regional press secretary for National Republican Congressional Committee, last month.

Lee says she isn’t worried about being in the GOP’s sights. “They’re always going to do that,’’ she said. “I am who I am — but I’m certainly not an extremist.”

The Oakland congresswoman says that as the daughter of a WWII and Korean war veteran who was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, she has the tools needed to address those more conservative and crucial voters who may have cast ballots for President Obama, and have abandoned the party for President Trump.

“Poverty affects everyone: rural, urban, people of color and white working class,’’ she said. “We have a lot more in common that not…and the Republicans and Donald Trump have tried to divide us.”

“But when you listen to, and talk to white working class men who have lost jobs, I feel their pain,’’ she said. “Because in African-American communities, we get that….I know many Trump districts and rural districts and I know how people are struggling and suffering,’’ she said. “It’s about communicating that, and that’s what I want to do — bring people together.”

Lee, at 72, also says she recognizes critics in the party who have criticized House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s continued leadership and who suggest a new generation of younger Democrats are needed to rise to such prominent posts.

But, she said, “millennials and young people know my record — it’s really about our ideas, how we engage with people and how we listen to what the new generation is saying to us,’’ she said.

The key is to “make sure we open up the paths of opportunity to everyone,’’ she said. “I’m right there in terms of generational input and understanding that the path is important — but we have to build on that and mentor young people, and younger members and open up space so members can move up.”

Already, Lee has already won kudos from some of the younger voices on the Democratic progressive front. Ocasio-Cortez, who has quickly emerged as a prominent progressive voice, is among them: she recently expressed admiration for Lee, saying she was not inclined to back Nancy Pelosi as Speaker should Democrats take back the House in November, but asked: “Is Barbara Lee available?”

Rep. Ro Khanna, the freshman Democrat who represents Silicon Valley, said recently that if Lee ran, he would work hard to win her the backing of the entire 78-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, of which he is a member.

“I think she’d be terrific. We’ve never had an African-American woman in the leadership in this party. And look at who won us the Doug Jones seat [in Alabama], look at who the most mobilized constituency has been — it’s been women, of course, and African American women,” he said. “And it’s about time that an African-American woman is in leadership and I can’t think of a better person than Barbara Lee. I mean she has really become an icon in Congress. Even Republicans admire her sheer guts for opposing the war vote.”

Heather Caygle contributed to this report.

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Wavering Rand sets off Supreme Court spectacle

Rand Paul is one of a handful of senators who’ll determine whether Brett Kavanaugh lands on the Supreme Court — and the Kentucky Republican has every intention of maximizing his leverage.

Paul is again inviting fellow senators to play the will-he-or-won’t-he guessing game when it comes to his decision — expressing grave concerns about Kavanaugh’s approach to personal privacy while insisting his vote could go either way, depending on what the judge says in the coming weeks and months.

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“I am honestly undecided. I am very concerned about his position on privacy and the Fourth Amendment. This is not a small deal for me. This is a big deal,” Paul said in an interview last week. “Kavanaugh’s position is basically that national security trumps privacy. And he said it very strongly and explicitly. And that worries me.”

The calculation, of course, isn’t that straightforward. GOP senators and strategists are skeptical that Paul would be willing to buck President Donald Trump, with whom he’s close, on such a monumental vote. For senators, it doesn’t get much bigger than a vote to confirm or reject a Supreme Court justice in waiting.

With Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) absent from the Senate, Paul could tank Kavanaugh if he joins with all Democrats in opposing him. And Paul has been more publicly critical of Kavanaugh than moderate Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, two other pivotal GOP votes.

Paul must also reckon with the possibility that if Kavanaugh’s nomination fails, Republicans could lose the Senate this fall and with it the ability to confirm Trump’s nominees unilaterally.

Yet the civil libertarian community is bashing Kavanaugh. And Paul is still the de facto leader of that wing of his party given his views on privacy, torture and non-interventionism.

The GOP senator has not come out as strongly against Kavanaugh as he did against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for whom he eventually voted, and CIA Director Gina Haspel, who he followed through in opposing. Other like-minded Republicans have been more adamant.

“There are many potential nominees with a conservative record on abortion, guns, and regulations,” Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), the most outspoken of them, wrote on Twitter. “The only question is will the Senate confirm one who is really bad on the #4thAmendment, when so much is at stake in upcoming digital privacy battles.”

Paul understands this is not a black-and-white call, and that political considerations will come into play. He has pointedly left himself some wiggle room to be convinced that the nominee understands where he’s coming from.

“Wouldn’t you rather have Kavanaugh than Ruth Bader Ginsburg? He’s probably good on economic liberty and overzealous regulation and things like that. So I don’t want to have it sort of in a vacuum,” Paul said. “I’ll have to weigh that versus other aspects that he may be a lot better than a Clinton appointee.”

A handful of red-state Democrats might end up backing Kavanaugh and take pressure off of Paul as potentially the deciding vote. But those Democrats are expected to withhold their opinions until all Republican senators have stated their intentions.

That means Paul could be headed for a familiar routine during his tenure: fellow Republicans pleading with him to be a team player and resist his impulses to go his own way. Many GOP senators have already come out in support of Kavanaugh before he’s even had his hearing, and some are beginning to gently prod Paul.

“There’s no doubt that Rand’s concerns about privacy and the Fourth Amendment are longstanding and genuine and existed long before this nomination. And I share many of those concerns,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). But not when it comes to Kavanaugh, Cruz said: “I think the body of Judge Kavanaugh’s work merit confirmation.”

“To me the best guide of what the likely outcome will be will be what happened with [Justice Neil] Gorsuch,” whom Paul supported, said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas. “They’re different human beings for sure, but they have similar experience and judicial philosophy.”

But Paul contends that Gorsuch and Kavanaugh differ markedly on privacy rights. He is most concerned with Kavanaugh’s views on government metadata collection. “In my view, critical national security need outweighs the impact on privacy occasioned by this program,” Kavanaugh, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, wrote in a 2015 opinion.

The senator said he’s worried that Kavanaugh “cancels out Gorsuch’s vote.”

“Gorsuch is probably the best on the Supreme Court right now on the Fourth Amendment and privacy. Better than anybody,” Paul said. “He believes that when you bank or have a phone that you do not give up your privacy interest.”

If Paul’s concerns about a high-profile Senate issue sound familiar, they should. He has a long record of becoming the center of attention in the Senate as the GOP’s contrarian: He shut down the government briefly once this year, threatened another shutdown, fought Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the PATRIOT Act in 2015 and famously filibustered former CIA Director John Brennan for 13 almost hours in 2013.

Paul and Trump are friendly despite Paul’s votes against some of his nominees. They spoke by phone last week after Paul came to Trump’s defense over his much-criticized meeting with Vladimir Putin. Privately, some Republicans believe Paul will ultimately fall in line, since opposing Kavanaugh could wreck the senator’s relationship with the president.

But allies of Paul aren’t so sure. Brian Darling, a former Paul aide who still speaks with the senator, said that Paul will push hard to see where Kavanaugh draws the line on privacy and legitimately could go either way.

“He very well could vote no if the senator doesn’t get some assurances that Kavanaugh has some respect for the Fourth Amendment,” Darling said.

“He has said he’s undecided. I haven’t seen very many Senate Republicans who have said they’re undecided,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has routinely teamed with Paul to fight what he views as intrusive surveillance programs. “This nominee’s record as it relates to metadata, as it relates to location tracking, is right out of the Big Brother program.”

In the interview, Paul said he’s worried that advancing technology makes out-of-control government monitoring of Americans a real possibility, one that could easily come before the Supreme Court — and Kavanaugh if he is confirmed. But he said it could be awhile before he reaches a conclusion after examining Kavanaugh’s record and speaking personally with the nominee.

Until then, Republican leaders are laying off Paul for the most part, figuring a heavy hand won’t work.

“I hope he’s gettable. I hope in the end he’ll be there,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 GOP leader. “He’s somebody who’s obviously going to come to his conclusions on his own.”

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Graham: Carter Page wiretap ‘not at all’ justified


Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 12, 2017, during the committee's confirmation hearing for FBI Director nominee Christopher Wray. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

“The whole FISA warrant process needs to be looked at,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). | Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo

Sen. Lindsey Graham called government surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page “not at all” justified Sunday, backing up President Donald Trump in his criticism of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court-approved wiretaps.

Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” the South Carolina Republican said, “The whole FISA warrant process needs to be looked at.” He called the Christopher Steele dossier that the FBI cited in its FISA warrant applications “a bunch of garbage,” and criticized the government for not being clear that the dossier’s research had been partially funded by Democrats.

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Page, who worked Trump’s presidential campaign on foreign policy, was under government suspicion for his ties to Russia. Documents released Saturday showed the FBI worried that Russia wanted to recruit him.

Trump has slammed the wiretap approval process, alongside his criticism of the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian electoral meddling and possible Trump campaign collusion.

In multiple direct appeals Sunday to the president, a famous consumer of TV news, Graham urged him to get proactive on preventing Russian attempts at interfering in upcoming U.S. elections — and to impose tougher sanctions on Moscow.

“You didn’t collude with the Russians, or at least I haven’t seen any evidence, but Mr. President, they meddled in the elections,” Graham said to the camera. “They stole [John] Podesta’s emails. They hacked into the DNC. It could be us next. It could be some other power, not just Russia. Harden our electoral infrastructure for 2018. Mr. President, Dan Coats is right. The red lights are blinking.”

“He’s been tougher than [Barack] Obama, but he hasn’t been tough enough,” Graham added.

The hawkish senator also issued a warning that China was pulling North Korea back from its stated moves toward denuclearization.

He said the U.S. should restart military exercises with South Korea and set a deadline for Pyongyang to return the remains of American service members killed in the Korean War.

“Mr. President, North Korea’s playing the same old game with you they’ve played with every other president. … You need to make sure that China and North Korea know and [believe] that you’re different than everybody else,” Graham said.

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Rubio warns of possible civil war in Nicaragua


Marco Rubio is pictured. | AP Photo

Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said the U.S. is working on standing up sanctions against Nicaraguan entities and individuals as punishment for the unrest. | Brynn Anderson/AP Photo

Sen. Marco Rubio on Sunday blasted the Nicaraguan government for its lethal crackdown on protests, cautioning that “the possibility of a civil war in Nicaragua is real.”

The Florida Republican said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that an escalation of the county’s months-long crisis “would trigger a migratory crisis. It would undermine our anti-drug efforts in the region. There is a direct national security interest for the United States in seeing democracy and stability in Nicaragua.“

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Tens of thousands of protesters have convulsed the Central American nation since April. Led by students, protests have railed against social security overhaul’s and President Daniel Ortega’s increasingly authoritarian rule. Nearly 300 people have died.

The U.N. warned last week of human rights violations by the paramilitary forces Ortega has used against protesters.

The one-time leftist Sandinista revolutionary led Nicaragua in the 1980s after the toppling of the U.S.-backed Somoza dictatorship. Since returning to power in 2007, he has consolidated power, done away with term limits and elevated his widely reviled wife, Rosario Murillo, to the vice presidency as a possible successor.

Rubio said the U.S. is working on standing up sanctions against Nicaraguan entities and individuals as punishment for the unrest.

He also blasted Ortega as “a dying man” and Murillo as “a lunatic,” saying that “there’s no future for them in power.”

And he castigated Nicaragua’s leaders for not staving off the protests with democratic concessions.

“All of this could have been avoided weeks ago,” he said Sunday. “The message to the Nicaraguan regime under Ortega was very clear, and that is: You call early elections, you allow legitimate elections, and this thing can move forward and everyone’s going to be fine. But if you soak your hands in blood, all of that’s off the table. They decided to soak their hands in blood. …

“That opportunity’s now gone for Ortega.”

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Gowdy criticizes Trump’s Putin invitation


Trey Gowdy is pictured. | Getty

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) also suggested that some members of the administration may need to consider leaving if the president continues to disregard their advice to stand firm against Russia. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy chastised President Donald Trump for inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington, saying Sunday that the White House needed to be tougher with Moscow.

“The fact that we have to talk to you about Syria or other matters is very different from issuing an invitation,” Gowdy said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Those should be reserved for, I think, our allies.”

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The South Carolina Republican also suggested that some members of the administration may need to consider leaving if Trump continues to disregard their advice to stand firm against Russia.

That concern has dominated discourse in Washington since Trump’s summit with Putin in Helsinki last week, at which he spoke more harshly of the FBI than of Russia.

“It can be proven beyond any evidentiary burden that Russia is not our friend and they tried to attack us in 2016,” Gowdy told Bret Baier. “So the president either needs to rely on the people that he has chosen to advise him, or those advisers need to reevaluate whether or not they can serve in this administration. But the disconnect cannot continue.”

And Gowdy struck a tone of admonishment on Trump’s refusal to side with the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment of Russian electoral meddling — comments that the president later partially walked back.

“I’m glad he corrected it,” Gowdy said, “but when you’re the leader of the Free World, every syllable matters.”

Still, Gowdy urged Trump to separate concerns about Russian interference from the investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

“I have not seen one scintilla of evidence that this president colluded, conspired, confederated with Russia,” he said. “And neither has anyone else, or you may rest assured Adam Schiff would have leaked it.”

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Tim Scott: ‘So far, so good’ on Trump’s foreign policy


Tim Scott is pictured. | AP Photo

“We elected the president; he has to be our leader on global affairs, foreign affairs,” Sen. Tim Scott said on Fox News Thursday.

President Donald Trump’s handling of foreign policy is “so far, so good,” Sen. Tim Scott said on Fox News Thursday.

Asked if the American people deserve greater transparency on the president’s recent closed-door meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the South Carolina Republican answered: “I have confidence that what happened in the meeting is in the best interests of the country.”

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“We elected the president; he has to be our leader on global affairs, foreign affairs,” Scott continued. “So far, so good. We have to let him do what he is doing, and be in a position to hold him accountable if we find something has gone off the rails.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have criticized Trump in the wake of his Monday news conference with Putin, taking issue with his comments casting doubt on Russian election interference, expressing openness to the possibility of handing over Americans to Russia, and more.

Scott appeared to dismiss these critiques and others as “disagreements,” insignificant in the face of a “more secure” America.

“Are there areas where we have some disagreements? Certainly,” Scott said. “We have a conversation about trade and other issues. But the truth of the matter is that I believe America is more secure today than it has been in the last decade.”

Trump on Thursday took to Twitter to tease a second meeting with Putin, at which he hopes to “start implementing” some of the things they discussed.

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Trump judicial nominee pulled over racially charged writings


Mitch McConnell is pictured. | AP Photo

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pulled Ryan Bounds nomination after it became clear Thursday that a number of Republicans would oppose him over racially charged writings. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pulled the nomination of Ryan Bounds to serve on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals from the Senate floor after it became clear Thursday that a number of Republicans would oppose him over racially-charged writings in Bounds’s record.

The move came after Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) on Thursday morning flagged Bounds’s past commentary with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). The Florida senator then reviewed the record of Bounds, who was nominated by President Donald Trump. Rubio, who had grown close to Scott during his 2016 White House campaign, soon after sided with Scott against the nomination, according to two people familiar the matter.

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Scott had first raised concerns about Bounds on Wednesday, and spoke to the nominee on the telephone. After talking with Rubio on Thursday, the two senators met with Bounds in person. But neither conversation persuaded them.

“The nominee was not able to alleviate Scott’s concerns to show how he had grown since the writings from his younger days,” said one of the people.

Scott then met with McConnell about the matter, before airing his concerns at a Senate GOP lunch on Thursday. By the end of the meeting a number of other Republicans pledged to sink what would have been Trump’s twenty-fourth Circuit Court nominee. It became clear that the nomination was in trouble as the vote was delayed nearly an hour while Senate Republicans debated what to do about the doomed nomination.

McConnell then pulled the nomination from the Senate floor and said the nomination would be withdrawn.

As an undergraduate at Stanford, Bounds, now 45, had lamented organizations on campus that “divide up by race for their feel-good ethnic hoedowns” and called for those groups to be discontinued, among other racially charged remarks, according to a report from the Alliance for Justice. Those remarks were enough to turn off all 49 Senate Democrats, even the most conservative ones up for reelection this fall. All voted to block Bounds on Wednesday.

All 50 Republicans in attendance voted to advance the Bounds nomination on Wednesday, but after Rubio and Scott pledged to vote against the nominee’s final confirmation vote on Thursday, there was no way for the nomination to pass the Senate. Rather than hold a failed vote and put his members on the record on Bounds, the nomination was pulled from the floor.

“The nominee misled the committee and because the writings were of deep concern, the individual was not qualified to serve on the bench,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

Merkley and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said they spoke to Republicans about their concerns about Bounds.

Bounds’s failed nomination marks the second defeat of a high-profile Trump nominee this year. Veterans Affairs nominee Ronny Jackson withdrew his nomination after Democrats released damaging information about his work record in the White House.

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Schumer stalling on Kavanaugh meeting deepens White House rift


Chuck Schumer is pictued. | Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has refused to meet with Brett Kavanaugh until being assured by Republicans that the nominee’s voluminous document cache will be made available for review. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Senate minority leader has yet to arrange a meeting with President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick.

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Senate Democrats are snubbing Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, another salvo in the deepening cold war between President Donald Trump and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The politically strategic slight has raised hackles at the White House, which has been reaching out to Senate Democrats to schedule meetings but has found itself rebuffed at every turn. Some Democrats have said they won’t meet with Kavanaugh until Schumer does. Others have more benignly cited scheduling conflicts.

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Kavanaugh has made the rounds to nearly two dozen Republican senators since his nomination July 9, but so far has scheduled no meetings with Democrats.

“Judge Kavanaugh is ready and willing to meet with Senators that are willing to meet with him,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a written statement. He declined further comment.

Schumer has refused to meet with Kavanaugh until he wins Republican assurances that the nominee’s voluminous document cache, including materials from his years in the Bush White House, is made available for review. Senate Democrats so far have remained unified behind Schumer, playing to the liberal base that has pulled out all the stops to block Kavanaugh’s confirmation and denying the White House photo opportunities.

Tradition holds that Supreme Court nominees meet first with leadership from both parties before paying calls on rank-and-file senators, but it’s not clear how long Schumer can hold the caucus together. Some Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, two potential deciding vote on confirmation, are making plans for sit-downs with the nominee.

Schumer has demanded that Republicans adhere to what he calls the “Kagan standard,” named for Justice Elena Kagan, a President Barack Obama nominee who served in the White House under President Bill Clinton. During Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation process in 2010, Obama White House counsel Robert Bauer took the proactive step of asking the National Archives and Records Administration to release more than 170,000 documents related to her service, including emails.

Schumer has said a review of Kavanaugh’s voluminous paper trail, which could amount to more than a million pages, is the best way of understanding his views.

“It is no less than the standard my Republican colleagues demanded of Justice Kagan during her confirmation process,” Schumer said in a July 10 floor speech. “They asked for her entire records, a hundred-seventy-thousand documents were sent here. We need those documents, now more than ever because this new justice will be so pivotal in determining the future of our nation for so long.”

Republicans have labeled the so-called Kagan standard a stalling tactic and note that Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, met with Kagan on May 12, 2010, just two days after her nomination. That was three days before Bauer’s request to the archives and six days before the Senate sent its first document request to the Clinton Presidential Library.

“This is my sixth Supreme Court debate and I’ve never heard of such a thing,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said. “Schumer has already announced that he’s going to do everything he can to stop his nomination, so I take him at his word. This is a manifestation of that.”

Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa also called out Democrats on the Senate floor Thursday.

“The American people elected senators to represent them, not the minority leader,” Grassley said. “When Senate Democrats have largely already made up their minds to vote against Judge Kavanaugh—and none of them have even met with him—their demands for an unprecedented paper chase sound more and more like a demand for a taxpayer-funded fishing expedition.”

The paper trail debate is more than political sparring. If Democrats can make the case that Republicans aren’t coming clean with a full document release, it could give swing-state senators cover to vote against the nominee.

“It’s incumbent on the senate as a whole to review all of the documents related to Judge Kavanaugh’s actions at the White House,” said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, which is fighting his confirmation. “The burden is on Brett Kavanaugh and the White House to demonstrate, through a full presentation of his entire record, that he’s the right person for the job.”

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Jeffries weighs bid for Democratic Caucus chairman


Hakeem Jeffries is pictured. | AP Photo

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) has been mentioned by colleagues as a potential replacement for the current caucus leader. But this is the first time he has publicly declared interest in the job. | Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo

The New York congressman said the race is something he’s going to look at closely ‘in the next several days.’

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the three-term lawmaker from New York and one of Democrats’ rising stars, is considering jumping in the race for Democratic Caucus chair, he told POLITICO Thursday.

Jeffries said the race is something he’s going to look at closely “in the next several days” but added an official announcement before members leave for recess next week is unlikely.

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Instead, Jeffries told POLITICO he will probably head into the five-week August break “without committing to one thing or the other” in hopes of not distracting from the bigger task at hand — the midterms.

“I still believe that we absolutely need to keep our focus on taking back the House,” Jeffries said.

Jeffries’ entrance into the race wouldn’t be a total surprise.

Since Rep. Joe Crowley’s primary loss in late June scrambled the Democratic leadership dynamic, Jeffries has been mentioned frequently by his colleagues as a potential replacement for the current leader of the Democratic Caucus. And sources close to Jeffries told The New York Times he’s likely to run for the position.

But this is the first time Jeffries has publicly declared he’s interested in the job.

Jeffries and other members eyeing the open spot may feel pressure to state their intentions sooner rather than later after Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), current caucus vice chair, announced she’s running for the post earlier this week.

Both Sánchez and Jeffries are close to Crowley, but the current chairman is not planning to endorse in the race because he won’t, as an outgoing member of Congress, have a vote in the election.

As the No. 5 Democrat, Sánchez already has a formidable whip and fundraising operation setup. And by declaring her intentions now, Sánchez can openly campaign for the job among her colleagues over the recess, potentially giving her a leg up over other members interested in the leadership slot.

Still, if and when Jeffries does decide to run, he would be a formidable opponent to Sánchez.

Already in the lower rungs of leadership — he is one of three co-chairs of House Democrats’ messaging arm — Jeffries is someone his colleagues say is poised to quickly advance, even in a leadership hierarchy that has long been ruled by Nancy Pelosi and her two deputies.

Several Democrats said they were impressed by Jeffries’ recent push to get a bipartisan prison reform bill through the House despite opposition from some leading Democrats and key civil rights groups including the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union. The bill ultimately passed the House in a 360-59 vote.

If Jeffries runs, it could divide support of the Congressional Black Caucus. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a fellow CBC member, has said publicly she’s considering running for caucus chair but hasn’t formally declared.

Other members who are said to be looking at the job include Reps. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Jeffries’ two co-leaders on the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), current chairman of the CBC, and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), top Democrat on the Intel Committee, are also mentioned as potential candidates.

Where Jeffries lands — even if he jumps in the caucus chair race — won’t be answered until after the midterms.

Multiple lawmakers have said privately they’d like to see him challenge Pelosi, who has led the caucus for nearly 16 years, for the top job.

Jeffries has ruled out the idea of taking on Pelosi. But Democrats close to him say they would push him to run for something higher ranking than caucus chair, the No. 4 leadership spot, in a post-Pelosi world.

Pelosi has already declared she will run for speaker if Democrats win back the House. But with simmering angst in the caucus for change after more than a decade with the same top three leaders, and two dozen Democratic candidates saying they won’t support her for leader, her job isn’t guaranteed.

Some members say they would like to see a leadership overhaul — including replacing House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — when Pelosi leaves.

For now, Jeffries said he’s content to tout House Democrats’ new campaign slogan – “For the People” — which he helped craft as co-chairman of the DPCC. Democratic leaders unveiled their new midterm strategy, which will focus on health care costs, infrastructure and GOP corruption, at a closed-door meeting Wednesday.

“We’ve got a great new closing argument that we need to carry out to the American people that really distinguishes what we’re about and what they’re about,” Jeffries said.

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Dems plan longshot gambit to force action on Mueller protection bill


Jerrold Nadler is pictured. | Getty Images

“We do not take these actions lightly, but believe that we are left with no other choice given the circumstances,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Democrats are moving Friday to force Republicans to hold a hearing on a measure that would prevent President Donald Trump from unilaterally removing special counsel Robert Mueller.

Three Democrats on the powerful Judiciary Committee are invoking an obscure House rule that permits a handful of lawmakers to call for a “special meeting” on any bill. If the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), declines to approve the meeting within three days, the 40 members of the panel — 23 Republicans and 17 Democrats — have an opportunity to overrule him and hold the meeting anyway.

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“We do not take these actions lightly, but believe that we are left with no other choice given the circumstances,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, in a letter also signed by Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.)

It’s a longshot gambit — the Republican-controlled committee is virtually guaranteed to support Goodlatte. But it’s the latest effort by Democrats to spotlight inaction on measures they describe as increasingly urgent as Trump has more aggressively challenged the validity of Mueller’s probe.

Goodlatte aides were not immediately available for comment.

Mueller’s probe of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians has become increasingly perilous to Trump’s inner circle and has dogged the president as he’s attempted to forge closer ties to Putin — even against the advice of his senior national security and intelligence teams. Trump has decried the probe as a politically driven “witch hunt.”

But his attacks reached new and unsettling heights on Monday when Trump denigrated Mueller alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin. The display prompted bipartisan derision — one House Republican even described Trump as being manipulated by the Russian president. But that bipartisanship has stalled when it comes to any concrete actions.

The Judiciary Committee is the forum for much of the conflict in the GOP-controlled House because it oversees the FBI and Justice Department. Republicans leading the committee have poured their energy into investigating whether the origins of the Mueller probe were rooted in anti-Trump bias expressed by a handful of FBI agents in recently unearthed text messages. So far, internal reviews have found no evidence that the probe was tainted by bias.

Judiciary Committee Democrats, meanwhile, have become emboldened in recent weeks to use the few procedural tactics at their disposal to disrupt committee Republicans’ drive to undercut the Trump-Russia investigators. They were buoyed earlier this month when, during an intense grilling of FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, they used the rules and procedural motions repeatedly to stall the hearing and disrupt GOP lines of questioning.

Republicans have beaten back these Democratic procedural maneuvers and contended that Democrats are overlooking problems in the upper ranks of the FBI and Justice Department in order to take political shots at Trump.

In their latest effort, Democrats are planning to invoke a rule that has, according to the Congressional Research Service, never been successfully invoked in the House. A similar provision in the Senate rules came into play during an ill-fated effort to confirm former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld as ambassador to Mexico in 1997. At the time, then Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Jesse Helms refused to hold a hearing on Weld’s nomination and fellow Republicans attempted to convene one without him.

Under the rule, first adopted in 1931, the Democrats have called for a “special meeting” to consider a bill that would prevent Trump from firing Mueller without “good cause.” Any special counsel removed under this provision could challenge the effort in court. The measure has drawn bipartisan support, with at least seven House Republicans backing it.

If Goodlatte ignores their request for three days, the Democrats may solicit the support of other committee members to sidestep him and hold a meeting anyway. That would require at least four Republicans to sign on to their effort, an unlikely prospect on a committee riven by intense partisanship.

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