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August 10, 2018

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is about to be heard.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has set the first day of Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing for Sept. 4. The proceedings are expected to last three to four days, ABC News reports. Opening statements from the committee will begin Sept. 4, and questioning of Kavanaugh will start the next day.

President Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the bench on July 9 to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. But before Kavanaugh's name was announced, many Senate Democrats pledged resistance to whomever Trump nominated and pushed to hold the confirmation vote until after the November midterm elections. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pledged to vote on Trump's nominee before then.

In what Republicans saw as a stalling tactic, leading Democrats demanded thousands of pages of Kavanaugh's records from his time working under former President George W. Bush and his last federal court nomination hearing. In particular, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, refused to meet with Kavanaugh until seeing the records. The Democrats eventually reversed course, recently agreeing to have one-on-one meetings with the nominee starting Aug. 15. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:42a.m.

Berlin announced Monday Germany will not make any additional arms sales agreements with Saudi Arabia in response to the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

"The government is in agreement that we will not approve further arms exports for the moment because we want to know what happened," said Economy Minister Peter Altmaier. Germany may also renege on past weapons deals still in progress, he said, indicating a decision would be announced "very soon." Berlin previously approved arms sales valued around $462 million to Saudi Arabia in 2018.

Altmaier urged the rest of the European Union to follow suit. "For me it would be important that we come to a joint European stance," he said, "because only if all European countries are in agreement, it will make an impression on the government in Riyadh. It will not have any positive consequences if we halt arms exports but other countries at the same time fill the gap."

President Trump has insisted the United States will not stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, relying on an argument about U.S. jobs that has been found seriously wanting. Bonnie Kristian

9:35a.m.

Every session of Congress since 2012, a group of bipartisan legislators has introduced a bill to update the short 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which currently states that a company has to accommodate pregnant women if it is already doing so for other employees who are "similar in their ability or inability to work." What that means in practice, Rep. Jarrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) tells The New York Times, is that if companies "treat their nonpregnant employees terribly, they have every right to treat their pregnant employees terribly as well."

A promising 2015 effort to update the act to mirror the Americans With Disabilities Act stalled after Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) balked and introduced a weaker alternative measure, the Times reports, noting that XPO Logistics has several warehouses in Memphis, in Alexander's home state. The bulk of the Times article recounts miscarriages at an XPO warehouse that serves Verizon. The women say they asked for less strenuous work when they got pregnant, brought in doctors' notes, and had their requests denied by supervisors. One of the miscarriages was this year, while the three others happened in 2014, before XPO acquired the previous warehouse operator.

One woman also died of a heart attack a year ago in the windowless warehouse, the Times reports, and "managers told workers to keep moving boxes as her body lay on the floor." Verizon said it is "deeply troubled but these allegations" at the XPO warehouse, while XPO said the allegations either "predate XPO's acquisition," were not reported to management, or were lies spread by Teamsters working to unionize the warehouse.

"Warehouses are among the fastest growing workplaces in the country, employing more than a million Americans," the Times says. You can read some of the heartbreaking stories of loss by women who miscarried after long shifts lifting heavy loads, were asked to get abortions, or were demoted after their miscarriage, at The New York Times. Peter Weber

8:50a.m.

President Trump has repeatedly said the upcoming midterm elections are about him. But it seems that rule only applies if Republicans stack up a bunch of wins.

In private, Trump has reportedly been saying that the midterms are not a referendum on him at all, Politico reports. Though Trump is optimistic about a "red wave," Politico reports that in the case of Republican losses, he thinks Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would be to blame. The president has reportedly been saying that "if they screw it up, it's not my fault." Never mind that he recently told supporters that "this [election] is also a referendum about me," per The Washington Post.

One aide told Politico that Trump would likely blame an unfavorable outcome partially on Ryan for sticking around as a lame duck speaker of the House. Another source said Trump would chalk losses up to the fact that candidates didn't adhere closely enough to his message, and so his own supporters didn't turn out.

Either way, it seems Trump has his fall guys picked out if things don't go as planned for the GOP next month. Brendan Morrow

8:34a.m.

Michael Myers finally came home this weekend, and it looks like he's here to stay.

Halloween, the new revival of the iconic horror franchise which sees Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) returning to face down Michael Myers 40 years after the events of the original classic, opened to a massive $77.5 million this weekend, per Box Office Mojo. This is the second-best debut for a horror film of all time behind only 2017's It, which made $123 million in its opening weekend. It's also by far the best opening ever for the long-running slasher series; the franchise's previous best was with Rob Zombie's 2007 remake, which made $26 million in its opening weekend, or the equivalent of $31 million today.

Halloween came just a few million dollars short of besting Venom's two-week-old record for best October opening, but it didn't quite reach the $80.3 million necessary to do so. Still, Blumhouse will clearly be thrilled with the performance of Halloween, as this is the horror studio's best opening weekend yet, besting the $52 million it made with the debut of Paranormal Activity 3 in 2011. Halloween reportedly only cost $10 million, meaning it brought in nearly eight times its budget just in the first few days of release.

Clearly this means the franchise will continue, and producer Jason Blum had confirmed the studio hoped to make a sequel assuming Halloween performed well, Entertainment Weekly reported. The new film's co-writer, Danny McBride, has also said he has ideas for where the story can go next. Based on how quickly Blumhouse has produced follow-ups in the past, don't be surprised to see the franchise's killing spree continue as soon as next Halloween. Brendan Morrow

6:36a.m.

After Saudi agents killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, one member of the 15-man Saudi team that flew to Turkey apparently to abduct or murder Khashoggi left the consulate in the slain journalists clothes, CNN reported Monday morning, citing a senior Turkish official and surveillance video. The Saudi decoy, who Turkey identifies as Mustafa al-Madani, is captured wearing a fake beard and glasses that make him resemble Khashoggi, a Saudi national and U.S. resident. Al-Madani was captured on camera leaving the consulate with an accomplice by the back door, taking a taxi to a popular tourist destination, then ducking into a bathroom and emerging in his own clothes, sans beard and glasses, CNN reports.

Saudi Arabia apparently meant this ruse to serve as evidence that Khashoggi left the consulate alive, then disappeared elsewhere. Turkish officials tell CNN they suspect the Saudis abandoned that ploy when they realized Turkey had quickly figured out what they'd done to Khashoggi and recognized that their decoy would not stand up to scrutiny. Peter Weber

5:55a.m.

In weighing the U.S. response to Saudi Arabia's brutal murder or accidental killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, President Trump repeatedly brings up the $110 billion in arms sales he claims to have signed with the Saudis as a reason to maintain robust ties. And he doesn't frame that as a victory for U.S. defense contractors but as a job-creation engine — a claim that rose from 450,000 U.S. jobs on Oct. 13 to 600,000 and then, a few minutes later, a million jobs on Oct. 19. "Trump is not very precise with numbers, but this is getting ridiculous," says Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler, who gave Trump's jobs claims "Four Pinocchios."

First, those arms sales are mostly "smoke and mirrors," a combination of speculative sales, deals reached under the Obama administration, and a much smaller amount of contracts actually signed, Kessler notes. The details of the prospective arms sales "have been sketchy," The Associated Press adds, since Trump first announced them in May 2017. Second, Saudi Arabia says half of the spending on any signed contracts must take place in Saudi Arabia — in other words, on Saudi jobs. After Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia in 2017, the State Department described the deals discussed as "potentially supporting tens of thousands of new jobs in the United States," not "creating" jobs.

"Moreover," Kessler writes, "the Aerospace Industries Association says that in 2016 there were 355,500 manufacturing jobs supported by the entire defense and national security industry, generating $146 billion in annual exports. Thus it's hard to imagine that $110 billion in deals with Saudi Arabia, spread over a decade, would significantly add to that total, let alone more than double it." You can read more details at The Washington Post — though for anyone who has decided it's not worth suspending arms sales to a country waging an ugly war in Yemen over the admitted extrajudicial killing of a U.S. resident for criticizing his government, the details may be superfluous. Peter Weber

4:07a.m.

A CNN/SSRS poll of Florida's Senate and gubernatorial races released Sunday had some good news for Democrats that CNN says "could be an outlier" or "an indicator of renewed Democratic enthusiasm." In the gubernatorial race, Democrat Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, opened up a 12-point lead among likely voters over former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), 54 percent to 42 percent. Incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has a smaller 5-point lead over Gov. Rick Scott (R), 50 percent to 45 percent, within the poll's margin of error.

The Democrats, especially Gillum, are being buoyed by lopsided advantages among women, younger voters, and non-white voters. The Republicans have a wide lead on the issue of the economy and the Democrats dominate on the issue of health care. Gillum and Scott are seen getting a boost from their responses to Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle.

As CNN political analyst Mark Preston notes in the video below, the races are likely tighter than this poll suggests — according to the RealClearPolitics average, Gillum leads DeSantis by 3.7 percentage points, thanks largely to the boost from this CNN poll, and Nelson leads Scott by 1.3 points. FiveThirtyEight rates the Gillum-DeSantis race a "likely Democratic" pickup. Several reputable polls have registered greater Democratic enthusiasm.

SRSS conducted the CNN poll Oct. 16-20 on landlines and cellphones, contacting 1,012 adults, including 872 registered voters and 759 likely voters. The margin of error for registered voters is ±3.9 percentage points and for likely voters, ±4.2 points. "The Democratic advantages in the poll were similar across multiple versions of a likely voter model, including those driven more by interest in the campaign and those which placed stronger emphasis on past voting behavior," CNN notes. Peter Weber

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