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Kavanaugh Gets A Green Card From Senate; FBI Granted Permission to Investigate

When asked if he would consider replacing Kavanaugh, Trump said, "Not even a little bit." He said the Senate has to do what it thinks is right.

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Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., speaks during the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Sept. 28, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington.VOA
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President Donald Trump on Friday directed the FBI to launch a new investigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at the request of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In a statement, Trump said the updated investigation, which follows sexual misconduct allegations, “must be limited in scope” and “completed in less than one week.”

The decision is a reversal for the administration, which had argued that Kavanaugh had already been vetted.

The Judiciary Committee voted to send the nomination to the full Senate after securing a vote in favor of the nod from Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona, who had requested the delay and additional background investigation of Kavanaugh. Before voting, Flake consulted with Democrats, who repeatedly had demanded that the FBI investigate the allegations.

Ultimately, the vote by the committee of 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats was along party lines.

“I’m not expecting them [Democrats] to vote ‘yes’ but not to complain that an FBI investigation has not occurred,” Flake said. “This country is being ripped apart here and we’ve got to make sure that we do due diligence. I think this committee has done a good job, but I do think that we can have a short pause and make sure that the FBI can investigate.”

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Republican Senator Jeff Flake reacts during a confrontation with a protester in an elevator in Washington, Sept. 28, 2018 in this still image obtained from a social media video. VOA

The committee vote followed a day of dramatic testimony by the Kavanaugh, an appellate judge, and Christine Blasey Ford, a woman who has accused him of sexual assault when they were teenagers in 1982. Both told their stories to the Judiciary Committee separately in lengthy hearings.

Kavanaugh has angrily denied the allegation that he sexually assaulted Ford at a gathering at a home in suburban Washington.

Kavanaugh needs at least 50 votes to be confirmed by the 100-member Senate. Vice President Mike Pence would cast the deciding vote if the Senate is evenly split. If all Democrats vote against Kavanaugh, two Republicans would also have to do the same to block his confirmation.

Shortly after Flake announced his support of moving the Kavanaugh nomination to the full Senate, Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana said he would vote against the appellate court judge. Donnelly said Ford’s sexual assault accusation against Kavanaugh was “disturbing and credible,” and he repeated the Democrats’ call for the FBI investigation.

Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, a state that voted heavily for Trump, backed Flake’s call for additional FBI investigation. “We need to get politics out of this process and allow an independent law enforcement agency to do its job,” she said.

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Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 27, 2018.. VOA

Senator Doug Jones, a first-term Democrat from Alabama, also a state Trump won by a wide margin, said Thursday he was voting “no” on Kavanaugh’s bid for the Supreme Court. “The Kavanaugh nomination process has been flawed from the beginning,” he said, adding that Ford was credible and courageous.

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of swing state Florida also said Thursday he would vote against Kavanaugh. Republicans are trying to gain the vote of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, another state that Trump won comfortably, along with Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Bar Association calls for full background check

The American Bar Association late Thursday called on the Judiciary committee and the full Senate to delay the vote until the FBI has time to do a full background check on the claims made by Ford and other women.

“We make this request because of the ABA’s respect for the rule of law and due process under law,” the ABA letter to committee leadership said. “Each appointment to our nation’s highest court [as with all others] is simply too important to rush to a vote.”

Earlier Friday, committee Chairman Charles Grassley flatly dismissed the ABA’s request, saying, “I’ve explained many times an FBI investigation is not necessary. The ABA is an outside organization like any other that can send us letters and share their advice, but we’re not going to let them dictate our committee’s business.”

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Christine Blasey Ford testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sept. 27, 2018, in Washington. VOA

Shortly after the committee convened Friday, it voted 11 to 10 along party lines to reject a motion by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut to subpoena Mark Judge, who Ford said witnessed the alleged sexual assault.

“We have a responsibility to subpoena at the very least Mark Judge before we move to vote,” Blumenthal said. “It is our constitutional duty to do everything we can to uncover the truth after hearing yesterday that compelling testimony from Dr. Blasey Ford and we cannot vote in good conscience without hearing at least from Mark Judge.”

Before the motion was voted down, Grassley read from a letter that he received Thursday night from Judge in lieu of testimony.

“When I told the committee that I do not want to comment about these events publicly as a recovering alcoholic and a cancer survivor, I have struggled with depression and anxiety. As a result I avoid public speaking.” Judge’s letter went onto to say, “I do not recall the events described by Dr. Ford in her testimony.”

“That letter is no substitute for an FBI interview,” Blumenthal said.

Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota also called for an FBI probe and said Friday that Kavanaugh had the opportunity to do the same at Thursday’s hearing to clear his name.

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From left, Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., gather before a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept 28. 2018.. VOA

“Judge Kavanaugh could have easily said, ‘Mr. President, for this to move forward, I want to at least clear my name but mostly I want to have the American people know whether this is true or not.’ He could have done that. Why didn’t he do it? Because they are afraid of what they will find out.”

Kavanaugh’s testimony

“I have never sexually assaulted anyone, not in high school, not in college, not ever,” Kavanaugh told the senators. “I have never done this to her or to anyone.”

Kavanaugh cried as he spoke of how the ordeal has affected his family. He presented the senators with what he said were handwritten calendars from 1982 showing his activities and whereabouts. He said they did not include the party. He said he welcomes whatever investigation the committee wants but would not directly answer whether he would seek an FBI probe.

Kavanaugh acknowledged a love for drinking beer, but he also pointed to what he said were his outstanding academic record and dedication to high school sports and church.

Ford’s testimony

Ford told the panel she was “100 percent certain” a drunken Kavanaugh pinned her down on a bed, groped her, tried to take off her clothes, and put his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams for help.

Rachel Mitchell, a prosecutor chosen by Republican members of the committee to question Ford on their behalf, asked her about timelines and peripheral issues and did not challenge her basic account of sexual assault. But Ford’s account lacked firm corroboration of her claims by others at the party.

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U.S. President Donald Trump holds a news conference in New York. VOA

Trump stands by nominee

Trump nominated Kavanaugh to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Following Friday’s development, Trump told reporters at the White House that he thought Ford’s testimony was very compelling, adding, “She looks like a very fine woman to me.” He also said that Kavanaugh’s testimony, likewise, was “really something that I haven’t seen before,” describing it as “an incredible moment” in the history of the country.

When asked if he would consider replacing Kavanaugh, Trump said, “Not even a little bit.” He said the Senate has to do what it thinks is right.

Earlier, Trump tweeted that Kavanaugh’s testimony showed America why the judge was nominated.

“His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is, disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!” Trump’s tweet did not mention Ford.

Also Read: Christine Ford Testifies Against Brett Kavanaugh; Decision Pending

A senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, Ilya Shapiro, says it is not clear if anyone came out ahead after Thursday’s testimony.

“We’re at a dangerous point because if we have no more evidence and Kavanaugh’s rejected, that sets the precedent that accusations are enough to derail…and if he’s approved, then still there will be people who think that he’s a sexual assaulter or rapist and there he is sitting at the Supreme Court.” (VOA)

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Democrats Gain Fundraising Advantage In The US Midterm Elections

In the 2016 presidential election, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suffered an upset despite spending $387 million more than billionaire businessman Donald Trump.

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Former U.S. President Barack Obama participates in a political rally for California Democratic candidates during a event in Anaheim, California, September 8, 2018. VOA

In the battle for Congress, Democrats are winning the money game. But will it be enough for them to overtake Republicans?

In what is shaping up to be the most expensive U.S. congressional election in history, Democrats have had a distinct advantage in fundraising over Republicans throughout the midterm election cycle as they seek to break the GOP’s stranglehold on Congress.

While Republicans are widely expected to preserve their slim 51-to-49-seat majority in the U.S. Senate and possibly expand it, polls show the Democrats poised to take back the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in seven years. Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to retake the House.

On the ballot

All 435 House seats as well as 35 of 100 Senate seats will be on the ballot next month. Candidates vying for those coveted seats have raised a record $2.3 billion from individual donors and political action committees (PACs) through Sept. 30, according to the latest filings this week with the Federal Election Commission.

Overall, Democrats outraised Republicans by an unprecedented $410 million. In House races, Democratic candidates raised more than $850 million from individuals and PACs, compared with $577 million generated by Republicans. In Senate contests, Democrats hauled in nearly $490 million, compared with $353 million garnered by Republicans.

The average House campaign spends a little more than $1 million during a two-year election cycle, yet 30 Democrats have raised more than $2 million each so far this cycle.

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A combination photo shows U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, left, and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, right, speaking to supporters in Del Rio, Texas, Sept. 22, 2018 and in Columbus, Texas, Sept. 15, 2018 respectively. VOA

In the most expensive non-special House race this cycle, a closely fought contest in Southern California between Republican Young Kim and Democrat Gil Cisneros has cost more than $20 million. Among Senate contests, the most expensive race is between incumbent Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who have raised a combined total of nearly $100 million.

Republicans fared as well or better than the Democrats in raising campaign cash from corporate PACs, those high-powered fundraising operations with minimal disclosure requirements or spending restrictions. But the Democrats crushed Republicans in raising individual contributions through the internet or campaign fundraising events. O’Rourke, a U.S. House member from El Paso, Texas, reported last week that he had raised a record $30 million during the third quarter from 800,000 contributors.

Federal campaign finance law prevents individuals from contributing more than $2,700 to a congressional campaign committee in any one election, while allowing traditional political action committees to donate up to $5,000. However, so-called independent-expenditure committees, or “super PACS,” can raise and spend unlimited amounts to advance their causes or political parties.

“There is a tremendous amount of small-dollar energy going on the Democratic side,” said Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

“Democratic House candidates are raising small-dollar donations from donors across the country, who are doing what they can trying to win the House back for Democrats. Republicans are trying to counteract that with third-party groups and outside spending.”

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Fundraising edge, cash on hand

Moreover, Democratic challengers have outraised Republican opponents in a majority of several dozen House races seen as highly competitive. And as the campaign enters its final two weeks, data show Democrats have more cash on hand than Republicans, something that will allow them to fund a last-minute push to mobilize voters.

Sarah Bryner, research director at the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research organization, said the Democrats’ enormous fundraising edge is “fairly significant and fairly unusual.”

“The trend with election spending is just almost always up due to a variety of factors,” Bryner said. “But this election cycle we have a huge crop of well-funded Democratic challengers and that’s going to increase spending across the board as the incumbents they’re facing try to counteract that spending.”

Money is the lifeblood of American campaigning. Candidates and their consultants use funds to buy expensive TV airtime, pay for personnel and other campaign expenses, and hold events to raise more funds. Advertising represents the single largest expense of a congressional campaign.

Money will continue to pour in throughout the last two weeks of the campaign, helped by some deep-pocketed benefactors seeking to tip the balance in key races

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Michael Bloomberg, a former New York City mayor and U.N. Special Envoy for Climate Action, speaks in Washington. VOA

Last week, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he was giving $20 million to the Democrats’ Senate super PAC. Most of the money will go toward buying TV airtime for embattled Democratic candidates. That brings to nearly $100 million the amount the billionaire businessman has contributed to the Democrats this cycle, making him one of the largest donors.

“Given the rise of super PACs in the post-Citizens United era, it’s possible for people to make those huge donations late in the game,” Bryner said, referring to a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that found spending limits on outside organizations unconstitutional.

“Right now, this is the Wild West in the United States,” said Martin Frost, a former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and now president of the bipartisan Association of Former Members of Congress. “People can put as much money as they want in politics. Some of that money is disclosed and some of it is not.”

With Republican incumbents struggling in several dozen key races, party leaders and groups have begun to cut their losses, pulling funding from races they think the Democrats will win and reallocating resources to more competitive contests.

In its first act of triage in late September, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC, canceled a planned $3.1 million ad buy in two districts in Michigan and Colorado where the Republican incumbents are struggling, the Associated Press reported. That was followed by similar moves in several other congressional districts.

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Michael Steele, then-Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman, announces that he is dropping his re-election bid, Jan. 14, 2011, during the Republican National Committee Winter Meeting in Oxon Hill, Md. VOA

Infusions of cash or pulling the plug

Parties perform spending triage all the time. But the infusion of cash, such as Bloomberg’s $20 million donation, has put added pressure on the Republicans to pull the plug on uncompetitive races.

“What happens is races that are at the margins, where it’s just going to be a tough slog regardless, they’ll pull out of those races … and they’ll reallocate those resources into races where that $20 million by Bloomberg now may make a difference,” said Michael Steele, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Just how much of a difference the Democrats’ money advantage will make remains to be seen. Money is not always a guarantor of electoral success.

Also Read: President Donald Trump Key Force In Driving The Midterm Elections

In the 2016 presidential election, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suffered an upset despite spending $387 million more than billionaire businessman Donald Trump. In a special election for a congressional seat in Georgia last year, Democrat Jon Ossoff lost to Republican Karen Handel despite a $20 million fundraising advantage.

And O’Rourke’s massive fundraising advantage has failed to cut into Cruz’s substantial seven-point lead in the U.S. Senate race in Texas.

“A lot of people make a big deal about money and sort of think that’s the dark angel of American politics, but I can tell you there are … as many races there where the person with the most money loses as there are where that individual wins,” Steele said. “So at the end of the day, candidates still have to make a credible message, they still have to be credible themselves for the voters … to actually utilize the benefit of those dollars that are getting poured into that campaign.” (VOA)