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WASHINGTON — If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wants the Senate to wrap up its consideration of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh this week, he probably won’t be able to wait for the FBI to do the same.

“The Senate will vote on Judge Kavanaugh here on this floor this week,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday morning. “After the FBI shares what they found, senators will have the opportunity to vote.”

Asked later in the day how long he would give senators to read and digest the FBI’s report on Kavanaugh before moving to a full Senate floor vote, McConnell downplayed the time lawmakers would need. “It shouldn’t take long,” he said.

But for the Senate to hold a final vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination by the end of this week, the GOP leader would need to start a procedural process on the Senate floor within the next day or two — well before the FBI is expected to hand over the results of its supplemental background investigation.

Senate Republicans have given the FBI until this Friday to complete the new investigation launched after Sen Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said last Friday that his support for holding a final vote would be conditional on the completion of a new probe.

Flake told reporters on Friday that the agreement was that the Senate would not move forward on the nomination until the investigation was completed. Some of his Republican colleagues vocally disagreed, arguing that the FBI investigation was just a delay tactic: The Senate, they said, should vote as soon as possible.

“If you think this is about a search for the truth, you need to put down the bong,” Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., a member of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters Tuesday. “This is about winning. This is about power. This is just, win, baby, win. It doesn’t matter what the cost. That’s all this has turned into, and it’s time to vote.”

Whenever McConnell officially starts the process, it would take around five days for it to culminate in a final vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination.

First, the majority leader would need to file a motion to end debate on the nomination. Technically, he can do this whenever he wants.

The following calendar day would be a waiting period, when there could be no votes related to the nomination.

The next day — one hour after the Senate convenes — the chamber could vote on the cloture motion to end debate. That motion used to require 60 votes. Not anymore: The number changed to a simple majority when the GOP used the nuclear option to confirm Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

That vote would signal the start of up to 30 hours of debate, equally divided between Republicans and Democrats — though there’s a possibility that Republicans could yield back some of that time, which would shorten that time period.

Then the full Senate would vote, with just a simple majority needed to confirm Kavanaugh.

For McConnell to stick to his end-of-the-week timeline, he would have to start the process on the Senate floor by Wednesday — a risky move, since it could irk Flake, along with fellow potential Kavanaugh swing voters Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

If both Collins and Murkowski — the only two Republicans who remain formally undecided on Kavanaugh — were to vote against the nomination, and no Democrats supported it, it would fail.

In other words: As of Tuesday, it was clear that McConnell could still technically stick to his ideal Kavanaugh vote schedule. Less clear was whether — with an eye on the outcome — he should.

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IRS agent admits giving Michael Cohen’s financial records to Stormy lawyer

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By Andrew Blankstein and Tom Winter

Federal prosecutors say an IRS investigator in California has admitted leaking confidential details of financial transactions by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen to Michael Avenatti, lawyer for Stormy Daniels.

John C. Fry has been charged in federal court with searching for and disseminating Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), reports filed by banks when they note potentially suspicious transactions.

Federal officials say they found telephone records that indicate Fry placed a phone call from his personal cell phone to that of Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti the day before Avenatti released details of Cohen’s financial transactions, and the day after.

Via Twitter, Avenatti disseminated information about Cohen’s receipt in 2017 of $500,000 from Columbus Nova, a company founded by a Russian billionaire, as well as payments to a Cohen company called Essential Consultants from other firms who do business with the federal government, including AT&T and aircraft manufacturer. The

The Treasury Department’s Inspector General’s Office announced after Avenatti’s disclosure that it would be investigating the source of his information.

Fry, 54, is an investigative analyst with the law enforcement arm of the IRS, the Criminal Investigative Division. He has worked for the IRS since 2008.

According to the complaint, he conducted numerous searches related to Cohen, and downloaded five SARs, including one related to a bank account for Essential Consultants.

The federal complaint says Fry verbally admitted providing the information to Avenatti when he was confronted by federal agents.

In a statement, Avenatti told NBC News, “I have done nothing wrong and did not violate any law whatsoever, just like reporters don’t violate the law when they do their jobs.”

Sarah Fitzpatrick contributed.



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Republican candidate Mark Harris calls for new election in disputed North Carolina House race

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 / Updated 

By Leigh Ann Caldwell and Dartunorro Clark

RALEIGH, North Carolina — Republican candidate Mark Harris on Thursday called for a new election in the disputed North Carolina House race.

“Neither I nor any of the leadership of my campaign were aware of or condoned the improper activities that have been testified to in this hearing. Through the testimony I listened to over the past three days, I believe a new election should be called,” Harris said. “It’s become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the ninth district seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.”

Harris’ request for a new election came after several days of a state Board of Elections hearing that is seeking to determine whether there was misconduct with mail-in ballots in the state’s 9th congressional district. Harris testified Thursday morning that he had no knowledge of the alleged illegal activities of a political operative hired by his campaign.

State investigators described the matter as a “coordinated, unlawful” mail-in ballot “scheme” in Bladen County run by political operative McCrea Dowless that included the collection of absentee ballots, which is illegal in North Carolina.

Harris testified Thursday that Dowless had repeatedly assured him that he would not be doing anything against the law in his absentee ballot operation. Harris said that after consideration and talking with others he trusted, he decided to move forward with the hire.

“I was comfortable enough with the recommendations of the individuals from Judge Marion Warren who at first told me about McCrae Dowless and what he did and all the way through in meeting with those individuals, I was comfortable enough at that point,” Harris said.

However, Harris’ son, John Harris, testified before the North Carolina State Board of Elections on Wednesday, saying that he warned his father about the illegal tactics of Dowless, casting doubt on Harris’ insistence that he had no knowledge of fraudulent election activity in last year’s election.

John Harris, an assistant U.S. attorney in North Carolina, testified that he told his father he had become concerned about the practices of the operative, McCrae Dowless, after studying the 2016 congressional primary in the same 9th District. He said that his father decided to hire Dowless despite his concerns.



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‘NOT SIMPLER!’ Philip Hammond LASHES OUT at Williamson over China trade talks GAFFE

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CHANCELLOR Philip Hammond has accused Gavin William of choosing his career over a trade deal with China which was thwarted after the Defence Secretary sent a Royal Navy ship to the South China Sea.

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