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September 4, 2018

On Tuesday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin confirmation hearings for President Trump's second Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Democrats, who are demanding access to more of Kavanaugh's three million documents from his time working in George W. Bush's White House, are expected to press Kavanaugh for his views on abortion rights, gun laws, campaign finance restrictions, and regulations, all issues on which Kavanaugh's public record indicates he holds conservative or very conservative opinions. But with President Trump heading for a showdown with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, "executive power will be the elephant in the hearing room," says Justin Wedeking at The Washington Post.

Supreme Court nominees have been increasingly reticent to answer questions about their views on topics, and senators have become much more aggressive in their questioning, since the Senate decided to start televising confirmation hearings with former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in 1981, Wedeking says. And since in 2017, before Justice Neil Gorsuch's confirmation vote but after his hearings, "Senate Republicans changed the chamber's rules so that the minority party could not filibuster to block a vote on Supreme Court nominees," Kavanaugh may "feel he can be less forthcoming that earlier nominees" because he only needs 51 votes in the GOP-controlled chamber.

Democrats have seen only about 20 percent of Kavanaugh's Bush White House records, and President Trump, claiming broad privilege, has blocked the release of more than 100,000 documents approved for release by the Bush White House lawyer vetting the papers. Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) accused Democrats of pursuing a fishing expedition, but Trump's claim of executive privilege on documents from when Kavanaugh was Bush's staff secretary has Democrats curious. "I'm willing to wager there's a smoking gun here," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). "What are they concealing? What are they afraid the American people will see?" Peter Weber

7:55p.m.

Lisa Storie-Avenatti, the wife of Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti, is refuting reports that she was involved in a domestic dispute that led to Avenatti's arrest Wednesday in Los Angeles.

TMZ first reported Avenatti's arrest on suspicion of domestic violence Wednesday afternoon, saying his estranged wife was injured and filed a report against him on Tuesday. Storie-Avenatti's lawyer quickly released a statement to BuzzFeed News, saying that the TMZ article "is not true as it pertains to my client." Storie-Avenatti "was not subject to any such incident on Tuesday night," the attorney said. "Further, she was not at Mr. Avenatti's apartment on the date that this alleged incident occurred. My client states that there has never been domestic violence in her relationship with Michael and that she has never know Michael to be physically violent toward anyone."

In an update to the original article, TMZ says initially a law enforcement official told the outlet the "alleged victim was Avenatti's estranged wife. We now know it was not. The incident involved a different woman." Avenatti filed for divorce last November. Catherine Garcia

7:17p.m.

President Trump on Wednesday announced he is in favor of a bipartisan proposal to rewrite the country's prison and sentencing laws.

"It's the right thing to do," he said during an event at the White House. Called the First Step Act, this tentative legislative package adds to a prison overhaul bill the House passed earlier this year. It includes shortening mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent drug offenses and changes the "three strikes" penalty from life in prison to 25 years, The New York Times reports. It will also roll back some of the federal policies from the 1980s and 1990s that disproportionately affect blacks and fund anti-recidivism programs.

Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner is the biggest proponent of the package in the administration, and presented the deal to Trump on Tuesday. Trump urged Congress to agree to a final bill quickly so he can sign it. There are 2.2 million prisoners in the United States. Catherine Garcia

6:28p.m.

Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in her case against President Trump, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of felony domestic violence.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department told The Hollywood Reporter a report about the alleged abuse was filed on Tuesday.

A law enforcement official told TMZ Avenatti's estranged wife filed the report, and her face was "swollen and bruised." The official also said there was a confrontation between the two on Wednesday, which led to the police getting involved. The couple married in 2011.

UPDATE, 7:39 p.m. EST: An attorney for Avenatti's wife, Lisa Storie-Avenatti, told BuzzFeed News that TMZ's story saying she was injured is false. "Ms. Storie-Avenatti was not subject to any such incident on Tuesday night," the attorney said in a statement, adding that she was also not at his apartment on Wednesday. "My client states that there has never been domestic violence in her relationship with Michael and that she has never known Michael to be physically violent toward anyone." Catherine Garcia

5:28p.m.

Every day, 20 Americans die waiting for an organ transplant.

Scientists have long tried xenotransplantation — using organs from other species in humans — to combat a short supply of organ donors, with little success. But this method is seemingly on the verge of a massive breakthrough, and it could provide "a definitive solution to the organ crisis," a transplant researcher tells The New York Times Magazine.

The first attempt at xenotransplantation came in 1984, when doctors replaced a newborn's failing heart with a baboon's. The baby lived less than three weeks, but the story inspired a new generation of xenotransplantation researchers who are focused less on primates and more on inbred, pathogen-free pigs, per the Times Magazine.

Given primates' long breeding cycles, using them to essentially create an organ farm wasn't sustainable. But pigs ordinarily have multiple piglets in less than four months, and they're "uncannily humanlike in organ size and function," the Times Magazine notes. The main xenotransplantation complication came from humans' and pigs' divergent immune systems, which meant a human would probably reject swine tissue.

That's where Columbia University immunologist David Sachs' pathogen-free swine farm comes in. Sachs' pigs are genetically engineered so their organs grow to "about the same size as a human's," the Times Magazine writes, and Sachs says they're "very likely the most inbred large animals on Earth." Those swine, combined with what scientists call "brute-force immunotherapy," could lead to success in the first "pig-to-human skin graft" slated for later this month. If it's successful, a full kidney replacement for dialysis patients will come next. Read more at The New York Times Magazine. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:03p.m.

The secret to winning the lottery just might be persistence.

After playing the same numbers for 25 years, a man in Harlem, New York City, found a little bit of luck and won the largest jackpot in New York state lottery history — $343 million, reports Time. Robert Bailey, a retired federal government employee, was revealed as the Powerball winner at a news conference at the Resorts World Casino New York City on Wednesday.

Bailey, 67, purchased his ticket at a deli in Harlem ahead of the October 27 drawing, and was shocked when he saw the winning numbers online that night.

"I tried to remain calm and sat down to watch some shows I had on my DVR. I didn't sleep the rest of the night," he said, reports The Washington Post.

Bailey chose to receive the money in a lump sum, which, after taxes, is roughly $125 million, says Time. He will split the jackpot with a woman in Iowa, per the Post.

During the press conference, Bailey revealed that he plans to continue playing the lottery, and that he played Wednesday morning. He plans to use the winnings to buy a house for his mother and to travel. He also wants to use the money for the greater good.

“I plan to give back to Manhattan; that's where I'm from,” Bailey said to the Post. “I still want to be me. I can't let money change me. I'm going to keep doing the right thing.” Taylor Watson

4:37p.m.

The House's next GOP leader isn't blaming any Republicans for his party's smaller, largely homogenous new coalition.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) easily beat Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to become the GOP's next minority leader on Wednesday. Afterward, NBC News' Kasie Hunt reminded McCarthy that he's slated to lead an overwhelmingly white and male group in January, and he quickly jumped on the defensive.

Presidents typically lose seats "in their first off-year election," like how former President Barack Obama saw 63 spots flip red in 2010, McCarthy affirmed on Wednesday. After all, billionaire politician "Michael Bloomberg spent more than $100 million," to elect Democrats, McCarthy said, adding that "Bloomberg was very effective in defeating a lot of Republican women." House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) can be spotted behind McCarthy mouthing "That's true."

The number of Republican women in the House fell from 23 to 13 this election, reports The Associated Press. That means the House GOP will be 90 percent white men, while more than 60 percent of Democrats will be women, people of color, or LGBT.

McCarthy has long taken issue with Bloomberg's election contributions, declaring "we cannot allow [liberal philanthropist George] Soros ... and Bloomberg to BUY this election" in an October tweet. The tweet was sent just after a bomb arrived at Soros' home, and McCarthy later deleted it. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:08p.m.

Democrats are continuing to add to their new majority in the House of Representatives — the party just flipped a seat held by a Republican who was key in the GOP effort to repeal ObamaCare.

Andy Kim, who served as a national security aide to former President Barack Obama, defeated two-term Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) in the race for New Jersey's 3rd District, The Associated Press projected on Wednesday.

Prior to the election, this race had been classified as a toss-up by the Cook Political Report. Kim declared victory on Election Night, but MacArthur did not concede the race, per Asbury Park Press. Elected in 2014, MacArthur was the architect of the controversial MacArthur amendment, a part of the GOP's proposed ObamaCare repeal which would have allowed states to opt out of some of the health care law's requirements.

Since Election Day, Democrats have continued to pull off victories in key House races that had remained undecided last week. In New Jersey, in particular, they have made significant gains, as this is the fourth House seat the Democrats have won from the GOP in the state this year, reports The Hill. Kim's victory means that in the 116th Congress, New Jersey will have just a single Republican representative for the first time since former President Theodore Roosevelt's administration, The New York Times reports. Brendan Morrow

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