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10 things you need to know today: September 5, 2018

Harold Maass
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1.

Kavanaugh confirmation hearing disrupted by protests

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings got off to a chaotic start on Tuesday. Democrats unsuccessfully pushed for a delay in an uproar over more than 42,000 pages of documents from Kavanaugh's work in the George W. Bush White House that were released just hours before the hearing. Dozens of protesters were arrested outside. Trump tweeted that the disruption showed "how mean, angry, and despicable the other side is. They will say anything, and are only looking to inflict pain and embarrassment to one of the most highly renowned jurists to ever appear before Congress." Kavanaugh vowed in brief opening comments to always keep an open mind. "The Supreme Court must never, never be viewed as a partisan institution," he said. Questioning begins as the hearing continues on Wednesday. [The Washington Post]

2.

Former Sen. Jon Kyl appointed to fill McCain's seat

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced Tuesday that he had picked former Sen. Jon Kyl to fill the late John McCain's seat in the Senate. Under state law, the governor appoints someone to serve until a November 2020 special election, when voters elect someone to finish out McCain's term, which ends in 2022. Ducey said he didn't know whether Kyl would stick around until 2020, but that he had committed to serving through this session of Congress. Kyl has said he would not seek re-election. He is, however, a well-liked, experienced lawmaker praised both by supporters of McCain and President Trump. Kyl has been guiding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh through the confirmation process. "Now is not the time for on-the-job training," Ducey said. [CNN, The New York Times]

3.

New Woodward book portrays White House in a 'nervous breakdown'

Investigative journalist Bob Woodward's forthcoming book, Fear, depicts a White House undergoing a "nervous breakdown," where top aides vent privately about President Trump's ignorance of world affairs and pluck papers from his desk so he won't see or sign them, according to a copy of the book obtained by The Washington Post, where Woodward is an associate editor. According to the book, partly drawn from insider interviews on "deep background," the White House is sometimes paralyzed by Trump's anger about the Russia investigation. Woodward quotes White House Chief of Staff John Kelly as telling colleagues Trump is "unhinged." "We're in Crazytown," Kelly is quoted as saying. Trump tweeted that quotes attributed to Kelly and others were "made up frauds, a con on the public." [The Washington Post]

4.

Tropical Storm Gordon makes landfall near Alabama-Mississippi line

Tropical Storm Gordon came ashore just west of the Alabama-Mississippi border late Tuesday with top sustained winds of 70 miles per hour, just below hurricane strength, according to the National Hurricane Center. Authorities closed schools and issued state-of-emergency declarations along the Gulf Coast, where residents braced for heavy rains, high winds, and storm surge. "Our state will be ready for whatever Gordon may bring," Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey tweeted. In the storm's first fatality, a child was killed when a tree fell on a mobile home in Pensacola, Florida. The storm will move inland on Wednesday, weakening as it heads northwest through Mississippi. New Orleans authorities closed dozens of flood gates and Mayor LaToya Cantrell called for voluntary evacuations in areas outside the levee system. [USA Today, CNN]

5.

Report: Mueller offers to accept written responses from Trump

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team notified President Trump's lawyers that it would accept written answers to questions about possible collusion by Trump campaign associates in Russia's 2016 election meddling, The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing two people briefed on the matter. In their letter to Trump's legal team, sent Friday, Mueller's prosecutors did not request written responses regarding whether Trump tried to obstruct justice by undermining the Russia investigation. Trump's lawyers have said that executive privilege protects Trump from questioning on that issue. The letter was the latest move in ongoing negotiations about an interview with Trump. "We continue to maintain an ongoing dialogue with the office of the special counsel," Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said. [The New York Times, Reuters]

6.

Poll: Democrats' midterm advantage grows

As the congressional campaign season officially kicks off, a new Washington Post/ABC News generic ballot poll has some encouraging news for Democrats as they try to pick up enough seats to regain control of the House in the November midterm elections. Registered voters in the survey favor the Democrat in their district over the Republican 52 percent to 38 percent, or 14 points. That's an improvement from the 4-point lead Democrats had in April and closer to the 12-point lead they had in January. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents also say they are more likely to vote — 80 percent versus 74 percent for Republicans. [The Washington Post]

7.

Amazon's value hits $1 trillion

Amazon shares gained on Tuesday, briefly making the e-commerce giant the second publicly listed U.S. company to reach a market capitalization of $1 trillion. Apple reached the landmark on Aug. 2. It took the iPhone maker nearly 38 years to get there; Amazon made it in 21 years. Amazon has made investors happy by diversifying into new retail areas, and building customer engagement through smart speakers and its Prime service. "It says a lot about Amazon and its ever-increasing dominance of segments of the retailing world as well as the web services business," said Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia. "They have a tiny share of the worldwide retail sales market so there's a lot left to capture there." [Reuters]

8.

Ayanna Pressley pulls off latest Democratic primary upset

In the latest sign of a shifting electoral atmosphere, progressive challenger Ayanna Pressley beat 10-term incumbent Rep. Mike Capuano in a Tuesday Democratic congressional primary in Massachusetts. Pressley in 2009 became the first black woman elected to the Boston City Council, and she will be the first African-American woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress — there is no Republican on the ballot. "Change is on the way," Pressley said. Her victory came after a string of strong performances by black candidates in other states. Capuano's defeat followed that of another House Democrat, longtime incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley, who lost earlier in the summer to progressive newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York. Capuano conceded as early returns showed Pressley trouncing him. Pressley came out swinging at President Trump, calling him "a racist, misogynistic, truly empathy-bankrupt man." [Slate, The New York Times]

9.

U.K. prosecutors charge 2 Russians in absentia for nerve agent attack

British authorities on Wednesday charged two Russian men in absentia for the March 4 nerve gas attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. Sue Hemming, director of legal services at the Crown Prosecution Service, said there was ample evidence "to provide a realistic prospect of conviction" of the two men, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. A European arrest warrant has been issued but Britain won't "be applying to Russia for the extradition of these men" because Russia doesn't extradite its citizens. Police said they believe Petrov and Boshirov smuggled the military-grade Novichok nerve agent into Britain in a counterfeit Nina Ricci perfume bottle. The men have not yet been charged for the deaths of Dawn Sturgess and her boyfriend, who found the bottle June 27. Russia's foreign ministry said it knew nothing about the suspects. [Reuters, The Associated Press]

10.

Defending champ Sloane Stephens knocked out of U.S. Open in quarterfinals

Defending U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, this year's No. 3 seed, lost Tuesday to No. 19 Anastasija Sevastova in the quarterfinals 6-2, 6-3. Stephens, appearing affected by stifling New York heat, had trouble putting the ball away during crucial long rallies. "You don't win matches when you don't take your opportunities," she said after the match. Sevastova, 28, is the first Latvian woman ever to make the U.S. Open semifinals. She advances to a semifinal match against Serena Williams, who won her quarterfinal match Tuesday against Karolina Pliskova, 6-4, 6-3. [New York Post, Chicago Tribune]