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GOP pollster: Republicans may hold on to the House in midterms

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GOP pollster John McLaughlin said Sunday that Republicans may be able to fend off Democrats' efforts to take back control of the House in November's midterm elections. 

Speaking on AM 970's "The Answer" in New York, McLaughlin told host John Catsimatidis that the key to a Republican victory next month is retaining enthusiasm felt by GOP-leaning voters following the successful confirmation of President Trump's second Supreme Court nomination, Brett Kavanaugh.

"You’re seeing Republicans in the areas where Trump did well go up in the polls because the Trump voters are reengaged," McLaughlin said.

"If, over the next three weeks, they keep those Trump voters engaged, [then] we have a shot at holding the House, but we’ll definitely pick up some U.S. Senate seats," the pollster continued.

McLaughlin, who served as Trump's top pollster during his 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton, asserted that Republicans should take a page from Trump's book and go on the offense.

"The Republicans, they need to play offense," McLaughlin said, adding that the party's target should be House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has battled opposition from within her own party in recent months.

"The person who is the most unpopular national figure is Nancy Pelosi. And the Democrats are hiding her," McLaughlin continued. "The president needs to take her on and expose her because she stands for higher taxes, open borders, fewer jobs. She stands for basically a weaker America."

Democrats are battling for a net gain of 23 seats in the House to retake the lower chamber next month. Republicans hold the advantage in the Senate, where Democrats are seeking to close a two-seat gap.

Republicans trailed Democrats by 13 points on a generic congressional ballot among likely voters in a CNN poll released this week. FiveThirtyEight's election forecast currently gives Democrats a 79 percent chance of winning control of the House next month.

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White House limits scope of the FBI's Kavanaugh investigation

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The White House is limiting the scope of the FBI's investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, multiple people briefed on the matter told NBC News.

While the FBI will examine the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, the bureau has not been permitted to investigate the claims of Julie Swetnick, who has accused Kavanaugh of engaging in sexual misconduct at parties while he was a student at Georgetown Preparatory School in the 1980s, those people familiar with the investigation told NBC News. A White House official confirmed that Swetnick's claims will not be pursued as part of the reopened background investigation into Kavanaugh.

Ford said in Senate testimony Thursday that she was "100 percent" certain that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school. Ramirez alleged that he exposed himself to her when there were students at Yale. Kavanaugh has staunchly denied allegations from Ford, Ramirez and Swetnick.

See AlsoJeff Flake said he demanded an FBI investigation because the Senate 'is coming apart at the seams'

Instead of investigating Swetnick's claims, the White House counsel's office has given the FBI a list of witnesses they are permitted to interview, according to several people who discussed the parameters on the condition of anonymity. They characterized the White House instructions as a significant constraint on the FBI investigation and caution that such a limited scope, while not unusual in normal circumstances, may make it difficult to pursue additional leads in a case in which a Supreme Court nominee has been accused of sexual assault.

The limited scope seems to be at odds with what some members of the Senate judiciary seemed to expect when they agreed to give the FBI as much as a week to investigate allegations against Kavanaugh, a federal judge who grew up in the Washington DC area and attended an elite all-boys high school before going on to Yale.

Sen. Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, who led an 11th hour move in the Senate committee for an FBI inquiry, said he thought the bureau would decide how to carry it out. His Democratic colleague Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island said he expected the FBI probe to include "adequate staffing," support from the committee for "rapid immunity and subpoena decisions as needed, plus the ability to investigate claims of a "penchant for drunkenness and inappropriate treatment of women, particularly where specifically related to incidents under investigation."

An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment, referring questions to the White House.

A White House official did not specifically dispute limitations on the scope of the FBI's investigation but denied the White House was "micromanaging" the inquiry.

White House spokesman Raj Shah said that "the scope and duration has been set by the Senate. The White House is letting the FBI agents do what they are trained to do."

The Senate has only said that supplemental FBI background investigation "be limited to current credible allegations against the nominee and must be completed no later than one week from today."

White House counsel Don McGahn, who has shepherded Kavanaugh's nomination since president Trump chose him for the high court on July 9, is taking the lead for the White House in dealing with the FBI on the investigation, those involved in the process told NBC News.

See AlsoBernie Sanders wants FBI to probe whether Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath

A U.S. official briefed on the matter said its not unusual for the White House to set the parameters of an FBI background check for a presidential nominee. The FBI had no choice but to agree to these terms, the sources told NBC News, because it is conducting the background investigation on behalf of the White House.

If the FBI learns of others who can corroborate what the existing witnesses are saying, it is not clear whether agents will be able to contact them under the terms laid out by the White House, the two sources briefed on the matter said.

Some areas are off limits, the sources said.

Investigators plan to meet with Mark Judge, a high school classmate and friend of Kavanaugh's whom Ford named as a witness and participant to her alleged assault.

But as of now, the FBI cannot ask the supermarket that employed Judge for records verifying when he was employed there, one of the sources was told. Ford said in congressional testimony Thursday that those records would help her narrow the time frame of the alleged incident which she recalls happening some time in the summer of 1982 in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Two sources familiar with the investigation said the FBI will also not be able to examine why Kavanaugh's account of his drinking at Yale University differs from those of some former classmates, who have said he was known as a heavy drinker. Those details may be pertinent to investigating claims from Ramirez who described an alleged incident of sexual misconduct she said occurred while Kavanaugh was inebriated. Ramirez's lawyer said Saturday that she had been contacted by the FBI and would cooperate.

The conditions under which the FBI's reopened background check are occurring appears to differ from the one envisioned by Flake, who used his leverage as a swing vote to pressure the Trump administration to order the FBI investigation.

Flake said Friday he thought the FBI should decide the scope of the investigation.

"They'll have to decide — the FBI you know, how far that goes," he told reporters. "This is limited in time and scope and I think that it's appropriate when it's a lifetime appointment and allegations this serious and we ought to let people know that we're serious about it."

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Jeff Flake Says He Was Moved By ‘Emboldened’ Women, Drive To Make Process ‘Fair’

"I had no idea."

“This country is being ripped apart here, and we’ve got to make sure we do due diligence,” Flake told committee.

Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s surprise impact Friday changing the course of Brett Kavanaugh’s expected quick confirmation to the Supreme Court was affected by encounters with women “emboldened” to share their experiences and his desire to “demonstrate that the process is fair,” he told reporters Friday.

He said it was “remarkable” how many people who “saw Dr. Ford [testify] were emboldened to come out and say what had happened to them. I heard from friends, close friends. I had no idea,” Flake told reporters. 

Flake referred to his “interactions with a lot of people — on the phone, email, text, walking around the Capitol, you name it.”

Yet Flake issued a statement Friday morning that he wasn’t convinced Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault was enough to deny the Supreme Court nominee a vote.

A short time later Flake was confronted as he entered an elevator by two survivors of sexual assault who challenged him on Kavanaugh in an encounter captured on video that went viral. “What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit on the Supreme Court. This is not tolerable,” one of the woman shouted. 

Flake, who left the elevator ashen-faced and clearly rattled, did not reveal to reporters if that encounter affected his ultimate decision concerning Kavanaugh. But he had already been talking the night before with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia about how to deal with the Kavanaugh accusations without rejecting his confirmation outright, sources told Politico. They had the power to block Kavanaugh’s confirmation on the Senate floor. 

Flake told reporters that his morning statement was a bid to keep Republicans calm about where he stood and not worry that he was going to bolt from their ranks. “I hoped that would help provide leverage,” Flake said.

But he was also determined to demonstrate “that the process is fair, even if Democrats are “not going to vote for” Kavanaugh, he added, Politico reported.

He reached out Friday to Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who’s a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and discussions began. After lining up support, Flake called for an FBI investigation into the accusations against Kavanaugh before the Judiciary Committee. He made clear that his vote on the floor of the Senate depended on such a probe of “not more” than a week.

 “This country is being ripped apart here, and we’ve got to make sure we do due diligence,” he told the committee.

“I wanted to support” Kavanaugh, Flake told reporters later. “I’m a conservative, he’s a conservative judge. But I want a process we can be proud of, and I think the county needs to be behind it.”

American Bar Association: Delay Kavanaugh Confirmation Vote Until FBI Investigates

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“Each appointment to our nation’s Highest Court (as with all others) is simply too important to rush to a vote,” the lawyers’ group says.

The American Bar Association late Thursday called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to delay a confirmation vote on Supreme Courtnominee Brett Kavanaugh until an FBI investigation can be completed into several claims of sexual misconduct.

“We make this request because of the ABA’s respect for the rule of law and due process under law,” reads the letter, a copy of which was obtained by HuffPost. “The basic principles that underscore the Senate’s constitutional duty of advice and consent on federal judicial nominees require nothing less than a careful examination of the accusations and facts by the FBI.”

The move is extraordinary in that the ABA gave Kavanaugh a unanimous “well-qualified” rating for the Supreme Court nomination, and the federal judge has boasted that he was “thoroughly vetted” by the lawyers’ group.

The letter, signed by ABA President Robert Carlson, came just hours after Kavanaugh testified before the judiciary panel in light of recent allegations that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford at a gathering when they were both teenagers in the 1980s. Blasey, who also spoke on Thursday, claimed that a young Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, attempted to take off her clothes and put his hand over her mouth to the point that she thought he was “accidentally going to kill” her.

Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegation, telling lawmakers on Thursday that the claim, alongside those of two other women, were “a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election.”

Republican members of the judiciary commitee said they still planned to move forward with a vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation Friday morning. After the tally, the nomination will move to a procedural vote in the full Senate on Saturday, although it’s unclear if the judge has the 50 votes needed to open debate on his confirmation on the chamber floor.

The ABA signaled in its letter that the nomination process was being rushed through without an appropriate investigation, effectively siding with Democrats who have called for the Justice Department to look into Blasey’s claims. 

“Each appointment to our nation’s Highest Court (as with all others) is simply too important to rush to a vote,” the letter, shown above, says. “Deciding to proceed without conducting additional investigation would not only have a lasting impact on the Senate’s reputation, but it will also negatively affect the great trust necessary for the American people to have in the Supreme Court.”

It concludes: “It must remain an institution that will reliably follow the law and not politics.”

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Here’s Bill Cosby’s Official Mugshot After He Was Sentenced For Sexual Assault

Bill Cosby was sentenced Tuesday to three to 10 years in prison.

“The day has come,” Judge Steven O’Neill told the disgraced comedian. “Your time has come.”

Bill Cosby, the disgraced comedian accused of sexually assaulting dozens of women over the course of his decadeslong career, was sentenced Tuesday to three to 10 years in prison for the sexual assault of one woman in 2004. Here’s his mugshot.

“The day has come,” Judge Steven O’Neill, of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania, told the 81-year-old before sentencing him on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault. “Your time has come.” 

Cosby was found guilty in April of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former women’s basketball coach at Temple University in Philadelphia. HuffPost reporter Alanna Vagianos, who reported from the courtroom on the day of his sentencing, noted that Cosby merely shook his head when told how long he would be in prison.

Actress Janice Dickinson, who has also accused Cosby of sexual assault, laughed as the former entertainer was led from the courtroom.

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