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October 5, 2018

In a lengthy Friday speech announcing her support for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) sought to downplay the notion that he would skew particularly conservative on the bench.

"That Judge Kavanaugh is more of a centrist than some of his critics maintain is reflected in the fact that he and Chief Judge Merrick Garland voted the same way in 93 percent of the cases that they heard together," she said, referring to former President Barack Obama's pick for the Supreme Court, whom Senate Republicans refused to hear in 2016.

Collins said she felt certain that Kavanaugh's views were well within the "mainstream" of legal interpretation. She expressed doubt that Kavanaugh would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade and argued that he has a record of supporting same-sex marriage and working to rein in executive power. Kavanaugh has made it clear that he does not believe a president is "above the law," she argued. Critics have pointed to Kavanaugh saying it was "wrongly decided" that presidents should be subject to subpoenas as evidence that he would side with President Trump's argument of presidential immunity.

The senator walked through multiple hot-button issues to argue Kavanaugh actually agreed with Democrats on many of them. "One concern that I frequently heard was that the judge would be likely to eliminate the Affordable Care Act's vital protections for people with pre-existing conditions," she said. "I disagree with this contention." Watch one of the key moments from Collins' centrist argument below, via Fox News. Summer Meza

6:28p.m.

At least 19 students were killed and 53 wounded in a shooting at a vocational school in Crimea on Wednesday.

Of the wounded 12 are in serious condition. Police say the suspect, 18-year-old Vladislav Roslyakov, killed himself inside the Kerch Polytechnic College library. He was described as a "shy loner," The Associated Press reports, and local officials said he just recently was granted a permit to own a shotgun and only a few days ago purchased 150 cartridges. Sergei Aksyonov, regional leader of Crimea, said Roslyakov was "walking around and shooting students and teachers in cold blood."

There was confusion throughout the day, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying at one point the victims all died in an explosion at the same time Russia's Investigative Committee said the students were all shot. Explosive devices were found on campus. In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, and this is Russia's greatest loss of life in an act of school violence since the three-day school siege in Beslan in 2004, which left 333 people dead. Catherine Garcia

5:33p.m.

Indicted Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) is bringing in ex-White House strategist Stephen Bannon to help him stave off what could be a narrow loss this fall. In other words, his campaign isn't looking so good.

Since the congressman was indicted on insider trading charges in August, his formerly massive lead has nearly slipped to Democratic challenger Nate McMurray. His fundraising totals crumbled during the third quarter. And on Wednesday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee officially made the GOP-held district a top priority.

Collins, who was Trump's first public supporter in Congress, originally planned to suspend his campaign after being hit with criminal charges. The western New York Republican surprisingly revived his campaign in September, but his supporters didn't seem to get the message. Federal Election Commission filings released this week reveal Collins took in just $33,000 in the most recent fundraising quarter — a third of what he received in the quarter before that. Just about $750 of those dollars came from Collins' actual constituents.

In another blow, a Siena College/Spectrum News poll released Tuesday placed Collins a mere three points ahead of McMurray, well within the poll's 4.7 percent margin of error. The news led the DCCC to put New York's 27th Congressional District on its "Red to Blue" list on Wednesday, The Buffalo News reports. That likely means DCCC funding is headed McMurray's way.

Collins still has about $1 million to last the rest of the race, while McMurray has a little less than half that, per FEC filings. Collins also has Bannon slated to rally for him — and every other New York Republican — at a small-town fire hall in his district later this month. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:04p.m.

President Trump's confidence may leave him sorely disappointed.

Trump tweeted on Wednesday that college-educated women "will be voting for me" because they "want safety, security, and health care protections," and only he can sufficiently "supply" those things.

College-educated women largely didn't vote for Trump in the 2016 election — CNN exit polls show that 52 percent of college graduates overall voted for Hillary Clinton, and 42 percent went for Trump. More overwhelmingly, 72 percent of non-white college graduates voted for Clinton, and just 22 percent voted for Trump. The president's approval ratings plummet if polls look at women or college-educated voters alone.

While 52 percent of white women overall voted for Trump, and white women support him and the GOP at higher rates than non-white women, that seems to be changing. The Washington Post found in July that white women with college degrees now prefer Democrats by a margin of 47 points. Age matters, too: "Young women hate Trump," concluded Vox. Trump may be feeling pretty good about his odds with women voters, but the data shows he may need to stop tweeting things like "Horseface" to persuade any of them back over to his side. Summer Meza

4:21p.m.

The FBI arrested a Treasury Department adviser on charges of leaking the financial records of several subjects of the Justice Department's probe into Russian election interference, the DOJ announced announced Wednesday.

The adviser, Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, allegedly leaked confidential "Suspicious Activity Reports" regarding President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former business partner Richard Gates, among others, the DOJ complaint says. The leaks seemed to have informed 12 BuzzFeed News articles detailing GOP operatives' payments to Russia "to finance election campaign of 2016," The Daily Beast reports.

Edwards, a senior adviser in the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, was apparently "entrusted" with the Suspicious Activity Reports, which banks file confidentially to report "potentially illegal transactions," a DOJ press release says. The reports pertained to Manafort, Gates, alleged Russian spy Mariia Butina, the Russian Embassy, and others related to to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, per the release. Edwards allegedly saved these files on a flash drive and sent them to an unnamed reporter, whom The Washington Post presumes is from BuzzFeed News.

Edwards is now facing one count of "unauthorized disclosures of suspicious activity reports," as well as one count of conspiracy to do the same, the DOJ said. BuzzFeed News has declined to comment. Her arrest comes days after another senior official pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during a leak investigation. Read the full Justice Department complaint here. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:08p.m.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) isn't giving up on repealing ObamaCare just yet.

The Senate majority leader said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday that the GOP might take another stab at repealing the Affordable Care Act after the midterm elections. "If we had the votes to completely start over, we'd do it," McConnell said, adding that this depends "on what happens in a couple weeks."

Senate Republicans came quite close to repealing at least parts of ObamaCare in 2017, but their efforts were ultimately thwarted with a 49-51 vote. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and the late Sen. John McCain were the deciding votes in the rejected "skinny repeal" bill, which would have ended major aspects of ObamaCare without permanent replacements. Some Republicans reluctantly voted for the "skinny repeal" despite concerns, thinking it would open negotiations with lawmakers in the House to create an actual ObamaCare replacement, but McCain, Collins, and Murkowski defected.

McConnell told Reuters that this failed vote is the "one disappointment of this Congress," adding that Republicans are still "not satisfied with the way ObamaCare is working." The GOP is currently expected to keep its majority in the Senate this November, but pundits say Democrats could likely take control of the House, which would end any hope of ObamaCare being repealed for at least another two years. Brendan Morrow

1:56p.m.

President Trump's appeal to seniors may not be working out as well as he'd hoped.

A Morning Consult/Politico survey published Wednesday found that among voters whose number one concerns are Social Security and Medicare, 52 percent said they would vote for a Democratic candidate in a congressional election if it were held today, compared to 33 percent who said they'd vote for a Republican. No specific candidates were named; voters were just asked generally which party they'd favor.

The poll also found that among voters who prioritize Social Security and Medicare, 60 percent disapprove of the job Trump is doing as president, while 37 percent approve. In the 2016 election, 53 percent of seniors voted for Trump. Additionally, the majority of these seniors' issues voters, 65 percent, say the country has gotten off on the wrong track. Overall, Social Security and Medicare was the second most prevalent issue — 17 percent consider it a top priority, coming in only behind the economy.

Respondents were polled in the days following a USA Today op-ed Trump wrote, in which he promised to defend Medicare and Social Security from "the radical socialist plans of the Democrats." The president argued Democrats would eviscerate the programs, disproportionately affecting seniors. Fact-checkers debunked many of Trump's claims, and it seems senior issue voters weren't buying it either. Seniors historically have skewed Republican, notes Morning Consult, but analysis suggests the demographic is coming around to Democrats' pledge to push Medicare-for-all.

The Morning Consult/Politico poll was conducted from Oct. 11-14 by speaking to 1,959 registered voters online. The margin of error is 2 percentage points. Brendan Morrow

1:32p.m.

Joe Arpaio lost his Senate bid earlier this year, and he blames The New York Times for ruining his chances of running again.

The former Maricopa County sheriff has accused the Times and a member of its editorial board of libel, Politico reports. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Arpaio says a Times opinion piece published after he lost Arizona's GOP Senate primary this year is full of "false, defamatory factual assertions" that could prove harmful when he runs for the Senate again in 2020.

Arpaio's 24-year stint as sheriff was marked by the opening of an outdoor tent jail he called a "concentration camp," federal lawsuits alleging he championed racial profiling, and a slew of other not-so-positive career highlights. He was convicted of contempt of court while fighting one of those racial profiling cases, and received a pardon from President Trump last year.

But apparently, a Times op-ed published after Arpaio lost the GOP primary for Sen. Jeff Flake's (R-Ariz.) seat is what actually made Arpaio look bad. In the piece, columnist Michelle Cottle writes that Arpaio's "24-year reign of terror was medieval in its brutality." The sheriff conducted "racial profiling on a mass scale," she wrote. In the suit, Arpaio contends these allegations were "carefully and maliciously calculated to damage and injure” his reputation within the law enforcement community, The Washington Post reports. Arpaio also worries the allegations will stymie donations as he runs for the late Sen. John McCain's seat, temporarily held by Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.).

Arpaio is seeking $147.5 million in damages as well as legal fees from the Times and Cottle, Politico details. The Times "intend[s] to vigorously defend against the lawsuit," a spokeswoman told the Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

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