The Senate will vote this morning on whether to end debate on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, setting up a confirmation vote as early as Saturday. Key Republican senators, including Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have yet to announce their position on the vote. Yesterday, both senators Flake and Collins said that the recent FBI background report into Kavanaugh was “thorough” and did not corroborate Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations against the nominee. Democratic leaders said the report, which was withheld from the public and was made available in a single copy to senators yesterday, was “incomplete.” This is ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein: “The most notable part of this report is what’s not in it. As we noted by the White House, the FBI did not interview Brett Kavanaugh, nor did the FBI interview Dr. Blasey Ford. What we’ve heard from numerous people over the last few days seeking to provide information to the FBI, we have seen even more press reports of witnesses who wanted to speak with the FBI but were not interviewed. Deborah Ramirez’s lawyer said he was unaware of any corroborating witnesses who were interviewed.”
Meanwhile, the National Council of Churches has called for Kavanaugh’s nomination to be withdrawn, saying he showed “extreme partisan bias” during last week’s Senate hearing into sexual assault allegations by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. The group represents some 45 million churchgoers at 100,000 U.S. churches.
In an unprecedented op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, Brett Kavanaugh argues he has the judicial temperament to join the high court, writing, “I was very emotional last Thursday, more so than I have ever been. I might have been too emotional at times. I know that my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said.”
On Thursday, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens told an audience of retirees in Florida that he now opposes Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
John Paul Stevens: “I’ve changed my views for reasons that have no relationship to his intellectual ability or his record as a federal judge. He’s a fine federal judge, and he should have been confirmed when he was nominated. But I think that his performance during the hearings caused me to change my mind.”
The showdown over Kavanaugh’s confirmation comes as thousands of protesters converged on Washington, D.C., Thursday, where nearly 300 people were arrested at a loud, peaceful sit-in protest in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building. Among those arrested was comedian and actress Amy Schumer. Also protesting was a group of women who confronted Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch over his support for Kavanaugh. Hatch told the women to “grow up,” waving them off as he boarded an elevator in the Hart building.
Protester 1: “Why aren’t you—why aren’t you brave enough to talk to us and exchange with us? Don’t you wave your hand at me. I wave my hand at you.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch: “When you grow up, I’ll be ready.”
Protester 2: “We grow up?”
Protester 1: “You grow up! How dare you talk to women that way! How dare you!”
Later Thursday, thousands marched from Capitol Hill to a protest outside the Supreme Court. After headlines, we’ll have more on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with award-winning playwright and author Eve Ensler.
In Yemen, tens of thousands of people rallied in the streets of Taiz—Yemen’s second largest city—Thursday, protesting the collapse of Yemen’s economy amid a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led bombing campaign. Three-quarters of Yemenis—some 22 million people—are dependent on international aid, with an estimated 8.4 million people on the brink of starvation. This is protester Shehab Mohamed.
Shehab Mohamed: “We are starving, and our children are dying. The cities are under siege, and there’s unemployment. We want to tell the regime and the Saudi-led coalition that when hunger is the engine for these people, discussions, negotiations and treaties collapse, and the only solution is immediately supplying a loaf of bread.”
Thursday’s protest came as the head of a team of U.N. investigators accused Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of interfering with their investigation. Kamel Jendoubi says all sides in Yemen’s conflict have committed human rights abuses, with the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition responsible for war crimes including widespread arbitrary detention, rape, torture and the conscription of children as young as 8 years old. In August, Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama blocked an amendment by Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy that would have cut off U.S. taxpayer support to the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
Bloomberg is reporting that China inserted microchips into servers used by major tech companies such as Apple and Amazon that give backdoor access to data. The minuscule, “grain of rice”-sized chip would allow hackers to bypass security and remotely access the networks of these companies. Both Apple and Amazon are denying the claims in the report.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence accused China of interfering in the U.S. midterm elections in order to undermine President Trump and his agenda.
Vice President Mike Pence: “The American people deserve to know. In response to the strong stand that President Trump has taken, Beijing is pursuing a comprehensive and coordinated campaign to undermine support for the president, our agenda and our nation’s most cherished ideals.”
Pence’s warning to Beijing comes amid a growing U.S.-China trade war and as the Pentagon is reportedly planning a massive show of force in November, with warships and planes set to carry out exercises near China’s territorial waters in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait.
The Justice Department has indicted seven Russian agents for conspiring to hack the computers of anti-doping officials who uncovered a massive ring of Russian state-sponsored cheating by athletes ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said Thursday the seven agents have ties to the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence body; he said they went on to attempt hacks against other targets.
U.S. Attorney Scott Brady: “They targeted Westinghouse, a nuclear power company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that supplied nuclear fuel to the Ukraine. They targeted the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which was investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the poisoning of a former GRU officer and his daughter in the U.K. And they targeted a lab in Switzerland that analyzed the nerve agent used in that poisoning.”
The U.S. indictments came as the Dutch Defense Ministry said counterintelligence officials broke up a hacking attempt by four Russians last April, as they used sophisticated electronic equipment to try to break into the computers of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons from a parking lot in The Hague. The Dutch said the Russians had a receipt which showed they took a taxi ride from the headquarters of the GRU—Russia’s military intelligence service—to Moscow’s main airport. The four Russians arrived on diplomatic passports; they were later expelled from the Netherlands. Russia has rejected the U.S. indictments and the Dutch allegations, calling them part of a disinformation campaign.
The Trump administration is warning India it could face sanctions over its decision to purchase a $5 billion missile defense system from Russia. Talk of U.S. sanctions came as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin to New Delhi on Thursday. U.S. weapons makers Lockheed Martin and Boeing are seeking contracts worth billions of dollars to replace India’s aging fleet of Russian-built warplanes.
Brazilian voters head to the polls on Sunday in a hotly contested presidential election that could have major repercussions throughout the country and the region. The front-runner is far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro, who has praised Brazil’s military dictatorship and made numerous racist, homophobic and sexist remarks. His primary opponent, former president and head of the Workers’ Party Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, dropped out of the race from prison, where he has been since April on what many consider to be trumped-up corruption charges. His hand-picked successor, Fernando Haddad, is currently placing second in most polls. We’ll have more on Brazil with journalist Glenn Greenwald after headlines.
In Oslo, Norway, officials with the Nobel Peace Prize committee have named this year’s recipients.
Berit Reiss-Andersen: “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018 to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”
Dr. Denis Mukwege founded the Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1999. The clinic receives thousands of women each year, many of them requiring surgery as a result of sexual violence. Nadia Murad is a 25-year-old Yazidi Kurdish human rights activist from Iraq. She was kidnapped by the Islamic State and repeatedly raped as she was held as a sex slave for almost three years. After headlines, we’ll speak with Eve Ensler, who has worked extensively with Dr. Mukwege.
Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman died Wednesday in an Idaho nursing home at the age of 96. In 1988, Lederman won the Nobel Physics Prize for his pioneering work on subatomic particles. In recent years, he began suffering from dementia; in 2015, Lederman sold his Nobel Prize medal for $765,000 in order to pay for his mounting medical and nursing home costs.
And the 2018 MacArthur Fellows were announced on Thursday, recognizing leadership and dedication in a range of fields including the arts, sciences and human rights. This year’s recipients include pastor and activist Reverend William J. Barber, who helped spearhead the Moral Mondays movement, which protests issues related to voting rights, poverty, discrimination and environmental justice. Reverend Barber was being arrested as the fellowship was announced, as he joined a Chicago protest demanding McDonald’s increase their minimum wage. Other fellows include journalist Ken Ward, who documents the impact of the coal and natural gas industries in West Virginia, and Becca Heller, a human rights lawyer working on behalf of refugees.