September 26, 2018

Prepared remarks released Wednesday show that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh plans to maintain his unequivocal denial of the sexual misconduct allegations against him.

Christine Blasey Ford has accused Kavanaugh of forcibly groping her at a party while they were both in high school. She and Kavanaugh will testify Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the matter. In prepared written testimony released Wednesday by the committee, Kavanaugh says he "never had any sexual or physical encounter of any kind with [Ford]," per CNN, and that he did not do "anything remotely resembling what [Ford] describes." While Kavanaugh does say that he "drank beer with [his] friends" in high school and "sometimes had too many," he writes that he was mostly focused on "academics, sports, church, and service."

Additionally, Kavanaugh says that the allegations against him are "last-minute smears, pure and simple" and that he has "never sexually assaulted anyone — not in high school, not in college, not ever." A second woman, Deborah Ramirez, accused Kavanaugh over the weekend of exposing himself to her at a party while they were both students at Yale University. A third woman, Julie Swetnick, alleged that Kavanaugh was present at high school parties where women were drugged and raped, via a sworn affidavit that was released Wednesday nearly simultaneously to Kavanaugh's prepared remarks.

In his prepared testimony, Kavanaugh also reiterates a claim that he made to Fox News during an interview Monday, suggesting that Ford might have him confused with someone else. He is "not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time," he says, but he denies that it is him. Kavanaugh has denied all of the sexual misconduct allegations against him. Read his full prepared statement at CNN. Brendan Morrow

5:33 p.m.

At least one person is happy about everything that's going on in Washington, D.C.

As everything that went down between President Trump and Ukraine comes to the surface, Russian President Vladimir Putin is literally saying "thank God" that eyes aren't on him anymore. "No one is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore," he said at a Wednesday economic forum in Moscow, per NBC News. "Now they're accusing Ukraine."

Intelligence officials have concluded Russia meddled in the 2016 election and will try to do so again, but Trump has ignored that and instead pushed the idea that Ukraine is somehow even more to blame. He explicitly told Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky that he'd like to see Ukraine investigate the 2016 election and baselessly claimed the country has a physical server holding the hacked Democratic National Committee emails. These unfounded claims have led to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into Trump and apparently left Putin thrilled that he's out of the conversation.

Just because Russia is out of the spotlight doesn't mean the country isn't still attempting to interfere in the 2020 presidential elections. Special Counsel Robert Mueller relayed a warning about Russian election interference during his congressional hearing back in April, saying it was likely happening as he testified. Putin himself seemingly joked last month that he's going to get meddling soon, though if we're being honest, that's probably not a joke. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:19 p.m.

As Bolivia's political situation intensifies, the country's interim government Wednesday produced audio it says consists of former exiled President Evo Morales ordering a blockade to prevent food from entering Bolivian cities. But Morales' supporters have dismissed the recording as fraudulent.

"Brother, don't led food into the cities, we are going to do a blockade, a true siege," someone whom the government says is Morales is heard saying in what is allegedly a phone call he made from exile in Mexico. "From now it is going to be fight, fight, fight."

The audio was released by Interior Minister Arturo Murillo one day after the military clashed violently with Morales' supporters who were reportedly blocking fuel from reaching the capital, La Paz, which along with several other cities throughout the country has been facing a food and fuel shortage since the standoff between the protesters and interim government began, per The Wall Street Journal.

Morales' backers, who have accused the military of orchestrating a right wing coup to remove the socialist Morales from power, argue that the government released the video in an attempt to distract the country as it conducts a crackdown on protesters who are demanding Morales' return.

Meanwhile, morales activists have reportedly shared videos showing soldiers firing live rounds at protesters. Morales called upon the interim government Wednesday to "stop this massacre of indigenous brothers who ask for peace, democracy, and respect of life in the streets." Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

4:53 p.m.

White House aides and Trump campaign officials were "freaking out" after being "blindsided" by European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony on Wednesday, which contained allegations of quid pro quo and pointed fingers at the president and other top administration officials, CNN's Jim Acosta reports.

The White House had attempted to get an "early peek" at Sondland's remarks during the jittery hours before the impeachment hearing began, due to the perception that he was a "wild card" witness, The Washington Post reports. Sondland's attorney had refused those attempts.

It became clear during the testimony, though, that Sondland's confirmation that "everyone was in the loop" was bad news for Republicans, who pivoted to attempting to distance Trump from what Democrats say was an attempt to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on Hunter Biden, the son of his potential 2020 rival. Trump's campaign specifically zeroed in on Sondland saying that Trump "directly told him he wanted nothing from Ukraine," although Sondland did confirm that the requests of Trump's personal lawyer and fixer Rudy Giuliani "were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit" for the Ukrainian president, and that "Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States."

Trump campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany maintained that "over and over we've heard from Democrats and the media that the next hearing, the next witness, the next testimony would be the bombshell they've been promising, only to have it fizzle out like all the rest. It has happened yet again." But Ken Starr, the lead prosecutor during the Bill Clinton impeachment hearings, begs to differ: "This obviously has been one of those bombshell days," he told Fox News. Jeva Lange

4:36 p.m.

Al Pacino is widely regarded as one of America's great living actors, but in recent years, that hasn't stopped him from appearing in movies like Gigli, Righteous Kill, and Jack and Jill, which offered audiences two Adam Sandler performances for the price of one.

Why does Pacino sign up for such dreck? In a recent interview with GQ, Pacino admitted he has a "perverse" impulse to appear in bad films just to see if he can make them better. (Alas, they still don't give out an Oscar for Most Acceptable Part of a Piece of Garbage.) Read more at GQ. Scott Meslow

4:34 p.m.

Have you followed Marie Kondo's advice and thrown out everything in your residence that doesn't spark joy? Great! Now it's time to fill your residence back up again — and as long as your shelves are bare, why not buy all that stuff directly from Marie Kondo's online store?

And if you think it's a little hypocritical for the self-styled de-cluttering guru to sell you a bunch of overpriced junk, we're sure a sip from your $98 gem-infused water bottle will clear those bad vibes right up. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Scott Meslow

4:32 p.m.

Cynthia Erivo stars in Harriet, a based-on-a-true-story drama about the life of the legendary abolitionist Harriet Tubman — but 25 years ago, at least one Hollywood executive had a different star for a Tubman biopic in mind.

Per Entertainment Weekly, screenwriter and producer Gregory Allen Howard says that back in 1994, when he was pitching a Tubman-focused movie, one Hollywood executive proposed an unconventional choice for the lead role: Julia Roberts.

When someone in that meeting raised, well, the most obvious objection to Julia Roberts playing Harriet Tubman, the executive replied, "It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference" — a thesis that would surely have been put to the test by literally anyone who saw the movie. Read more at Entertainment Weekly. Scott Meslow

4:16 p.m.

Democrats might want to shield their eyes from the latest poll from Marquette Law School released Wednesday.

President Trump was shown leading all four of the party's top primary contenders — former Vice President Joe Biden; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — in head-to-head matchups in Wisconsin, which many analysts regard as one of the most important states in the 2020 election. Last month, three of the four, save for Buttigieg (whose deficit increased) had small leads over the president.

Of course, like all polls there's probably not any reason for Democrats to panic, just as there was no reason for Republicans to worry too much about the October survey. With the exception of Buttigieg again, Trump's leads are all either within in or nearly within the poll's margin of error or 4.1 percentage points.

Biden, meanwhile, was leading the Democratic field among Wisconsin voters with 30 percent of the vote, followed by Sanders at 17 percent, Warren at 15 percent, and Buttigieg at 13 percent.

The Marquette Law School poll was conducted between Nov. 13-17. The sample consisted of 801 registered Wisconsin voters who were interviewed over the phone. The margin of error was 4.1 percentage points. Read the full poll here. Tim O'Donnell

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