July 17, 2018
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Everyone predicts Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will face tough questions, especially about Roe v. Wade, when he eventually undergoes his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But two Democratic senators — Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Patrick Leahy (Vt.) — were there for Kavanaugh's last hearing. And they think Kavanaugh may have fudged a few answers.

In 2006, Kavanaugh faced the Senate committee after receiving a lifetime nomination to the D.C. Court of Appeals, The Atlantic reports. Kavanaugh had previously worked for former President George W. Bush, so Durbin and Leahy asked about his involvement in administration decisions during the war on terror. That included how detained terror subjects were treated in the early 2000s.

Kavanaugh denied knowing anything about the torture of detainees at the time, and he was confirmed. But two stories from The Washington Post and NPR soon reported that Kavanaugh discussed torture with White House lawyers in 2002, telling them that Justice Anthony Kennedy — whose impending retirement has spurred Kavanaugh's nomination to the bench — wouldn't support indefinite detention of U.S. citizens, per The Atlantic.

Durbin told NPR that the revelation made him feel "perilously close to being lied to." He wrote Kavanaugh to ask for clarification, and tweeted the same letter the day after Kavanaugh's SCOTUS nomination. Apparently, Kavanaugh never responded. Leahy wrote to the U.S. attorney general, but was denied a criminal investigation, The Atlantic says. He "still has questions about how truthful" Kavanaugh was last time around, per his statement after Kavanaugh's July 9 nomination.

Now, Kavanaugh is set to appear once again before the Senate, and Durbin and Leahy are still on the committee. And judging by Durbin's and Leahy's tweets, they haven't gotten over that one question. Read more at The Atlantic. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:16 p.m. ET
Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

The Republican National Committee announced Monday that it received unprecedented financial support last month, raising $14.2 million and breaking a record for July donations in a non-presidential election year, reports CBS News.

The organization has raised a total of $227.2 million this cycle. "We've used our unprecedented grassroots support to build the biggest field program we've ever had to defend our House and Senate majorities," RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel told CBS. "History might be against us, but we're making sure every voter knows we're the party of results. All the Democrats have is resistance."

The RNC has five times as much funding as the Democratic National Committee as November's midterm elections loom closer. Democrats are hoping to flip 23 Republican-held districts to take control of the House, while the GOP hopes to fend off opponents in an effort to maintain a majority. Read more at CBS News. Summer Meza

1:15 p.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump may hate the media, but his West Wingers sure love Meet the Press.

The longtime Sunday show is where Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani coined the soon-to-be-iconic phrase, "Truth isn't truth." It's where White House counselor Kellyanne Conway invented "alternative facts." And it's one of the many weekend talk shows seeing new life in the Trump era, The Atlantic says.

Sunday morning favorites like Meet the Press and Face the Nation are known for hardball questions and longform interviews. That's exactly why former President Barack Obama's administration avoided them, opting for unconventional press opportunities such as podcasts and comedy shows, The Atlantic points out.

Trump's ultra-active Twitter feed may suggest he's similarly avoiding the mainstream press, but The Atlantic says that's not quite true. Ex-White House adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman dropped a recording of Chief of Staff John Kelly on Meet the Press, and Conway fired back on ABC's This Week. Those Sunday news bits turn into Monday's headlines and set the agenda for the coming week.

Sunday shows wrap up the previous week in an hour and help viewers fact-check the Trump administration, Face the Nation showrunner Mary Hager tells The Atlantic. This Week showrunner Jonathan Greenberger similarly said Sunday shows have a "mission" to help viewers "make sense of" the current White House. And it all makes Sunday shows "more relevant and more important than ever in the Trump era," Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace tells The Atlanticporn star lawyers, conflicting White House staffers, and all.

Read more about Sunday morning's revitalization at The Atlantic. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:49 a.m. ET
Chris Covatta/Getty Images

Rep. Beto O'Rourke's (D-Texas) campaign is heating up, in part thanks to his odious opponent.

O'Rourke is running to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and the gap between the two candidates keeps shrinking. BuzzFeed News on Monday noted that an important part of O'Rourke's growing popularity is a growing disdain for Cruz, as voters tire of his pompous politics and support for President Trump.

The Senate hopeful isn't putting all his eggs in one Cruz-hating basket, though: O'Rourke has run an impressively energetic campaign, BuzzFeed News notes, driving all over Texas to drum up support from apathetic Democrats and moderate voters. The grassroots effort has raised more than double Cruz's fundraising haul, without taking any money from PACs, which BuzzFeed News describes as politically enthralling to voters who feel frustrated by politicians' assumptions that Texans will always vote red.

For voters that feel left behind by Cruz, O'Rourke is an exciting alternative, convincing crowds that establishment politics don't have to be so divisive and cynical. That notion is popular among moderate voters and even some wary Republicans who worry that Cruz's reputation slows down any hope of progress. "They hate [Cruz] in Washington," one voter in Abilene, Texas, told BuzzFeed News. "So how's he supposed to get anything done?"

Despite some Texans' appreciation of Cruz's anti-abortion and pro-Second Amendment politics, many are disenchanted with his sanctimonious style. "I'm not a Democrat," said another Abilene voter. "But I'm sure as heck not voting for Ted Cruz." Read more at BuzzFeed News. Summer Meza

11:38 a.m. ET
Wikimedia Commons

College students who've swapped degrees for a life of video gaming can't be shamed anymore. The University of Akron is also swapping out 80 of its degree programs, building three state-of-the-art gaming spaces for its new esports teams instead.

The Ohio school announced the money-saving measure last week, revealing it'll phase out unpopular degrees to focus on stronger programs, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. Targeted programs include a Ph.D in electrical engineering and a bachelor's degree in interior design. The low-enrollment programs are available at similar institutions, and cutting them will save about $6 million to devote to other priorities, Akron explains.

One of those priorities? Video games. About $750,000 will go toward transforming three rooms into video gaming spaces, creating "the largest amount of dedicated esports space of any university in the world to date," the university says. Another $400,000 will be spent on operating costs each year, plus $70,000 for game licenses, league dues, and more, the Chronicle reports.

While Akron is drawing a lot of flack for the announcement, it's not an unusual move. Several other colleges have sprouted esports teams and facilities over the past few years, and Akron is just taking it to a new level, the Chronicle points out.

With any luck, this investment will make the eZips more successful than their real-football-playing counterparts. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:01 a.m. ET

A 16-year-old girl identified in court filings as C.R. was traveling with her adult sisters on a family trip to Mexico last fall when U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) agents stopped her at the San Ysidro pedestrian port in Southern California. A drug-sniffing dog had alerted to C.R., and the agents demanded she undress, relinquishing even her sanitary pad, and squat "while officers probed and shined a flashlight at her vaginal and anal areas." No drugs were ever found.

C.R.'s family is suing, and they are not the only ones. As The Washington Post reported Sunday, the last seven years have seen at least 11 similarly disturbing lawsuits accusing CPB of grossly invasive searches of women and underage girls at U.S. ports of entry.

In one case from 2016, a woman named Tameika Lovell was selected for a random search at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. Though she was allowed to remain clothed, Lovell's suit says an agent "placed her right hand into [Lovell's] pants 'forcibly' inserting four gloved fingers into plaintiff's vagina" and then separated her buttocks "for viewing." Again, no drugs.

In another case from 2012, an unidentified woman was detained on suspicion of drug smuggling at the Philadelphia airport. She was held for seven hours, shackled, forcibly taken to a hospital, and told she'd be detained "until she had urinated and defecated into a plastic container in the presence of an officer." Then, her lawsuit said, she was "tied to a bed with restraints, stripped naked by medical staff, and had a tampon removed from her vagina during a body search." She was also given intravenous sedation, catheterized, and subject to multiple scans. No illegal drugs were found. CPB and the hospital settled the case.

Read the full Post report here. Bonnie Kristian

10:25 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A memo for Democratic candidates from debate strategists Ron Klain and John Neffinger advises an aggressive approach to messaging in the 2018 midterms. The document, obtained by Axios, advises Democrats to stay on the offensive this year, to "smile ... and attack."

"Debates are much more confrontational now," argues Klain, who has worked with every Democratic presidential nominee since 1992. "The emphasis has shifted from persuading undecided voters to motivating your own supporters, and showing your supporters you'll fight for what you believe in."

That means goals like "staying above the fray" or "just getting my own message out" aren't good enough, the memo argues. This is not a time for going high when opponents go low.

Strategies thus include maintaining a small smile to look like you are the candidate having the most fun; preparing one-liner comebacks, especially if you're facing a Trump-y candidate who has a few favorite phrases; resisting the urge to play fact-checker on stage; and ending answers with direct attacks on the opponent. And when shaping the post-debate coverage, the memo concludes, "[l]ook for specific issues raised in the debate, especially (but not exclusively) gaffes or odd answers or behavior by your opponent." Bonnie Kristian

10:10 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The cloud of corruption surrounding New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is closing in.

Top lobbyist Todd Howe still had a sizable influence on the governor's administration long after he left his post as a Cuomo aide, emails obtained by The New York Times show. Howe was able to push multimillion-dollar construction deals in favor of his clients and arrange Cuomo mansion meetings just months before a federal investigation into several ex-aides' influence was launched.

Cuomo, who is seeking a third term this fall, has already seen two former aides convicted on corruption charges. Howe's cooperation with the federal probe helped make those convictions happen, the Times says — as did emails much like those the Times published Monday.

In one email, a handful of Cuomo officials were discussing how the governor opted not to announce multimillion-dollar deals with two business executives in his January 2016 State of the State address. Howe was looped into the email chain and suggested inviting the men to the Executive Mansion to smooth things over; another aide then made the arrangements. Similar emails show Howe inquiring into late payments the state owed two developers — the same developers also targeted in federal corruption cases, the Times reports.

Cuomo has tried to distance himself from Howe as he prepares to fight progressive actress and activist Cynthia Nixon in New York's Democratic gubernatorial primary. Read more about Cuomo's corruption worries at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

See More Speed Reads