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October 5, 2018

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she couldn't abandon "the presumption of innocence and fairness," and that's why she could ultimately support Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Collins announced on Friday that she would vote to confirm Kavanaugh, and said that sexual assault allegations against the nominee were likely false, despite "compelling" testimony from Christine Blasey Ford, who says that Kavanaugh forcibly groped her when they were in high school.

The senator cast doubt on Ford's recollection of the alleged assault, noting that she couldn't remember how she got home that night and that her friends couldn't recall the party. Ford's testimony was "sincere" and "painful," said Collins, saying that she believes she was assaulted and has been traumatized, but Kavanaugh deserves "fairness" in the face of allegations.

"Fairness would dictate that the claims at least should meet a threshold of more likely than not," said Collins. "The facts ... lead me to conclude that the allegations fail to meet the 'more likely than not' standard." However, she continued, the "#MeToo movement is real. It matters." She said we "must listen to survivors" of assault. Reaching the end of her comments on the allegations against Kavanaugh, Collins suggested Ford was part of a Democratic conspiracy. "Watching [Ford], I could not help but feel that some people who wanted to engineer the defeat of this nomination cared little, if at all, for her well-being," she said.

Collins' support for Kavanaugh has all but secured his confirmation. The Senate will make a final vote on Saturday. Summer Meza

7:14p.m.

The Judy Blume classic Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was first published in 1970, and after decades of turning down producers, the author has agreed to turn the book into a movie.

Blume granted the rights to producer James L. Brooks and Kelly Fremon Craig, who collaborated on the 2016 movie The Edge of Seventeen. Fremon Craig will adapt and direct Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, a book that she told Deadline is "a right of passage for women and girls." Margaret is a sixth grade girl dealing with moving, her parents having different faiths, making new friends, and the changes that come with growing up.

"It's rare for me to run into a woman or girl who hasn't read it and every time I've mentioned it to a woman, they clutch their heart and let out this joyful gasp," Fremon Craig said. "There's something so timely and full of truth, and I remember for me that at that age, it felt like a life raft at a time when you're lost and searching and unsure." She has just started working on the screenplay, and said Blume sent her an email saying "if someone were to make a film of one of her books, she hoped it would have the same tone and feeling that The Edge of Seventeen had." Catherine Garcia

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

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