Inside Politics: Kavanaugh vs. Giuliani?

Democrats delve into Brett Kavanaugh's old memos as his confirmation hearing approaches, can Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker be beat, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson's questionable claim about Russian hacking, and the White House insists President Trump's vacation is anything but—it's all on Inside Politics.

Posted: Aug 13, 2018 4:45 PM
Updated: Aug 13, 2018 5:17 PM

Here are the stories our D.C. insiders are talking about in this week's "Inside Politics" forecast, where you get a glimpse of tomorrow's headlines today.

1. Trump's working vacation

The President spent the past week at one of his favorite places -- the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

But the White House wants everyone to know: this was no vacation.

"They are insisting the President was only there because they were doing renovations to the White House," CNN's Kaitlan Collins said. "Even though they did not mention these renovations before the President left to go to New Jersey."

Trump brought with him a table affixed with the presidential seal, in case anything needed to be signed. And the White House is releasing daily descriptions of his day -- which has included dinners with corporate titans like Apple CEO Tim Cook and Fox mainstays like Sean Hannity.

"It's not unusual for presidents to vacation," Collins said. "But Trump has long criticized his predecessors, his most recent one specifically, for golfing and going on vacation. So he tries to maintain that he's doing that when in fact he's golfing and on vacation."

2. Can Dems knock off Scott Walker?

Wisconsin holds its primary this week, with energized Democrats looking to pick a gubernatorial nominee who can finally beat Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

"Walker won in 2010, the Democrats tried to recall him but he won again, and then he won in 2014. So three for three," FiveThirtyEight's Perry Bacon said.

There are eight Democrats running for their party's nomination, none of whom are particularly well-known. They include the state's school superintendent, the mayor of Madison, a firefighter, and a farmer. A recent poll had "Undecided" topping the field.

"In a big Democratic year probably, if they can't beat Scott Walker this time maybe he'll be governor forever," joked Bacon.

3. Sen. Nelson's Russia claim

Things got strange last week in Florida's heated Senate race, which pits incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson against the sitting Republican Gov., Rick Scott.

Sen. Nelson suggested that the Russians have penetrated some counties' voting systems, a claim that drew scrutiny from state officials, who said they have no evidence to back up Nelson's claim.

"Nelson cited Mark Warner and Richard Burr, the two leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to make his case," CNN's Manu Raju reports. "But then Richard Burr issued a vague statement, not confirming it, not denying it, and saying talk to the FBI or Homeland Security."

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio issued his own statement that didn't dispute what Nelson said, but didn't confirm it either.

Even if Nelson's claim is true, Raju said it raises a number of questions. "Should he have disclosed information that perhaps is classified? Did he get out ahead of a news story?"

4. Kavanaugh gliding toward confirmation?

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley says Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing will be right after Labor Day -- even if Democrats don't have all the documents they've demanded from Kavanaugh's time in the George W. Bush White House.

And Democrats may be resigning themselves to the fact that they won't have the votes to block his confirmation.

Politico's Eliana Johnson said there's been no smoking gun in any of the documents released so far.

"Even with Neil Gorsuch, we saw accusations of plagiarism and some other things, and we haven't really seen anything like that with Kavanaugh," Johnson said. "So I'm looking to see whether he'll glide to confirmation or whether anything like that will come up."

5. Kavanaugh v. Giuliani

The documents Democrats seem most focused on are the ones that reveal his views on presidential power -- especially the newly-relevant question of whether a president can be subpoenaed.

Kavanaugh has unique insight into that question from his time as a deputy to Ken Starr, who issued and then withdrew a subpoena to President Bill Clinton after negotiating a deal for testimony in the Monica Lewinsky case.

Kavanaugh has argued that a sitting president cannot be indicted -- but "Inside Politics" anchor and CNN's Chief National Correspondent John King said newly-released documents reveal an interesting wrinkle.

"They actually offer Democrats fodder to mock the Trump legal strategy," said King. "Kavanaugh wrote it was a 'weak' legal argument to assert, as team Trump does, that a president cannot be subpoenaed to testify," added King. "And writing back then about articles of impeachment against Clinton, Kavanaugh said refusing for months to testify while repeatedly lying to the public and key witnesses about key facts were credible pieces of an obstruction of justice count."

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