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How a Kavanaugh Senate vote could play out this week

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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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Doubling down, Trump calls congressman who body-slammed reporter a ‘tough cookie’

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TEMPE, Ariz. — President Donald Trump on Friday redoubled his praise for a Montana congressman’s assault on a reporter during the lawmaker’s campaign for Congress last year.

“Greg is a tremendous guy, tough cookie,” Trump said of Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., who was sentenced to 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management counseling and a $385 fine after he pleaded guilty to attacking Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian.

On Thursday night, at a campaign rally in Missoula, Mont., Trump lauded Gianforte to a cheering crowd.

“Never wrestle him,” Trump said Thursday night. “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my guy.”

He reiterated his admiration for Gianforte Friday at a signing ceremony for a presidential memorandum instructing members of his Cabinet to remove impediments to major water projects, including streamlining the environmental review process — a boon to farmers and a loss for environmentalists in Western water wars.

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Paul Manafort shows up to court in a wheelchair, learns sentencing date

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Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was rolled into a Virginia federal court Friday in a wheelchair, wearing a green prison uniform instead of his signature tailored suit.

The judge scheduled Manafort to be sentenced Feb. 8 for eight counts of tax evasion and bank fraud and dismissed the remaining charges against him.

Manafort, appearing visibly grayer, was pushed into court in a wheelchair, missing his right shoe.

“There are significant issues with Mr. Manafort’s health concerning confinement,” his lawyer, Kevin Downing, told the judge.

Downing requested that the court expedite Manafort’s sentencing so he could be moved to a facility better equipped to deal with his health issues.

A jury in Alexandria convicted Manafort on eight counts of tax evasion and bank fraud counts in August, but were unable to reach a verdict on 10 additional counts, leaving Mueller’s prosecutors to decide whether to retry him. The new ruling no longer gives them that option.

In September, Manafort took a plea deal based on separate charges filed by the Mueller team in Washington, agreeing to cooperate with investigators. Court filings in that case indicated that the prosecutors would seek to delay Manafort’s sentence in the Virginia case until they were satisfied that he had answered all their questions as part of his cooperation agreement.

Both cases against Manafort involved his political consulting for the Russian-backed government of Ukraine and its former president, Viktor Yanukovych, well before Manafort served briefly as Trump’s campaign chairman. Manafort was found guilty of intentionally dodging taxes on the millions he was paid for the work, by stashing it in overseas banks and using it to indulge his expensive tastes.

The Virginia federal judge, T.S. Ellis, denied an earlier request by Manafort to wear a suit to Friday’s court hearing.

“Defendants who are in custody post-conviction are, as a matter of course, not entitled to appear for sentencing or any other hearing in street clothing,” he said.

The judge said Manafort should be treated no differently.

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New York man arrested for threatening to kill senators supporting Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation

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A man was arrested in New York on Friday for threatening the lives of two U.S. senators for their support of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Ronald DeRisi of Smithtown, New York, allegedly left more than 10 voicemails for two senators to discourage them from voting to confirm Kavanaugh, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

Kavanaugh had a contentious confirmation process after he was publicly accused of sexual misconduct by three women, including Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor who testified he sexually assaulted her at a party when they were both in high school.

Neither of the senators who received messages was named in the criminal complaint.

“Nine millimeter, side of the f—ing head! If f—ing Kavanaugh gets in, he’s dead f—ing meat,” one message from Sept. 27 threatened. “Actually, even if Kavanaugh doesn’t get in, he’s dead f—ing meat.”

Another message, recorded on Oct. 6, only said “tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.” The caller included one senator’s home address in some of the calls, stating “we’ll be in touch.”

Image: Ronald DeRisi
Ronald DeRisi was arrested in New York after leaving voice messages threatening to kill two U.S. Senators for their support of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.Suffolk County Police

Federal prosecutors say DeRisi began leaving messages for the lawmakers on Sept. 27, the day Kavanaugh and Ford testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the allegations, and continued on after Kavanaugh’s swearing-in ceremony on Oct. 6.

Authorities traced the calls made to a pre-paid cellphone purchased with a debit card belonging to DeRisi, according to an unsealed affidavit by Lawrence O. Anyaso, a special agent with the United States Capitol Police.

Anyaso wrote that during the investigation he learned of a 2015 case in which DeRisi pleaded guilty to aggravated harassment in the second degree after calling someone’s home and office more than 15 times and leaving threatening voicemails.

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