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McConnell calls Trump on Kavanaugh tweets

After President Donald Trump tweeted criticism of the woman who came forward accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the President to say his tweets did not help, two people familiar with the call confirmed to CNN.

Posted: Sep 24, 2018 10:47 AM
Updated: Sep 24, 2018 11:06 AM

President Donald Trump embarks upon another "America First" crusade at the world's foremost diplomatic institution this week. For some Republicans, his absence from Washington comes at an opportune moment.

With at least six one-on-one meetings with global counterparts, a major foreign policy address, and a maiden run chairing the Security Council, aides hope this week's agenda at the United Nations General Assembly can sufficiently occupy the President's attention away from the Brett Kavanaugh sexual assault allegations, which most concur is best played out without Trump's intervention.

But already on Monday, Trump inserted himself into the fray, describing the latest claims of misconduct as spurious and non-credible.

"He is a fine man with an unblemished past and these are highly unsubstantiated statements from people represented by lawyers. We should look into the lawyers doing the representation," Trump said as he departed from an early morning session focused on global drug issues at UN headquarters.

"We'll see how it goes with the Senate. We'll see how it goes with the vote. I think it could be -- there's a chance that this could be one of the single most unfair, unjust things to happen to a candidate," the President said. "For people to come out of the woodwork from 36 years ago and 30 years ago and never mention it, all of a sudden it happens, in my opinion, it's totally political."

This week, even as Trump is looking to trumpet his protectionist foreign policy at the UN, the dramatic swirl of events surrounding expected testimony on Thursday morning from the woman who accuses Kavanaugh, Trump's Supreme Court pick, of sexually assaulting her in 1982 will consume Washington as well as the second allegation of inappropriate sexual behavior by Kavanaugh that was levied late Sunday, an incident which Kavanaugh and the White House quickly denied.

If the pivot toward global statesmanship means Trump can avoid inflaming an already precarious confirmation process, that would satisfy many Republican lawmakers, who are proceeding with caution amid a fraught political moment that coincides with a national reckoning on matters of sexual abuse and harassment.

Caution was the original strategy last week, when the allegation first emerged. Trump praised his nominee but avoided overt criticism of his accuser, a restraint aides watched with a mixture of relief and muted shock.

Those feelings turned to dismay when Trump threw off his bridle during a pre-dawn tweeting session from his hotel room in Las Vegas last Friday. He questioned Ford's credibility and asked why she did not report her assault to authorities at the time.

That was viewed by senior Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as deeply unhelpful. McConnell said as much to the President during a phone call later on Friday.

Since then, Trump has desisted in tweeting about Ford, or much of anything else. That is a pattern aides hope will continue as he embarks upon an intensive four days of diplomacy in his hometown.

But the prospect of Trump remaining quiet appeared to gain new uncertainty after a second allegation of inappropriate behavior was published in the New Yorker.

Trump's team discussed the latest allegations against Brett Kavanaugh with him over the course of Sunday, ahead of the story's publication, according to a White House official. Trump himself hadn't spoken to Kavanaugh by early evening.

Multiple senior officials in the White House privately expressed concerns last week that a second Brett Kavanaugh accuser would emerge in the coming days.

'America First' agenda in action

His first event on Monday -- a UN session focused on the worldwide drug problem -- is listed on his schedule as starting at 8:15 a.m., hours before his official day typically begins in Washington (Trump, an early riser, usually spends mornings in "executive time," which he uses to watch recorded cable news programs and sometimes tweet).

The rest of his agenda at the UN is designed as an unapologetic embrace of the "America First" creed that has, over the course of the last year, alienated traditional US allies, fostered budding trade wars, and led to questions about the entire liberal order.

"I've always said United Nations has tremendous potential but it has not lived up to that potential," Trump said in a video posted to Twitter on Sunday. "It's always been surprising to me that more things aren't resolved because you have all of these countries getting together in one location but it doesn't seem to get there. But I think it will."

Aides say he'll use his centerpiece address to the General Assembly on Tuesday morning to highlight issues of sovereignty, including decisions by the US to retreat from global institutions like the International Criminal Court and the UN Human Rights Council.

At the same time he'll trumpet achievements struck outside the parameters of international bodies, like his historic diplomatic opening with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It was only a year ago that Trump derided Kim as "Rocket Man" from the UN's green marble rostrum.

Even though North Korea continues to advance its nuclear program, Trump has cited an absence of missile tests and the return of American solders' remains as signs of progress. He'll confer on Monday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who recently returned from Pyongyang and hopes to further the rapprochement, including potentially brokering a formal end to the Korean War.

Diplomacy in motion

Trump's itinerary in New York puts an emphasis on venues where he can project strength while avoiding awkward run-ins. He meets with his two chummiest global friends, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and French President Emmanuel Macron, along with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who openly praises Trump's decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

He's also slated to meet embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May, currently consumed with wrangling Brexit negotiations, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a strongman leader in the mold of some of Trump's preferred global partners.

The flurry of diplomatic engagements has kept Trump's team busy with preparations, though Trump himself is not known to prepare extensively for meetings with foreign leaders.

Aides say they expect Trump to remain abreast of the Kavanaugh developments from afar, even as he shuttles to meetings with friends and like-minded allies. In New York, he is also expected to engage his network of longtime friends and advisers during down moments, a glimpse of his past life as a brash real estate impresario. Trump has rarely returned to his hometown as President, citing the havoc his presence would wreak on traffic.

Since Trump first spoke at the UN a year ago, he has swapped out key national security aides for men more aligned with his worldview, including replacing Rex Tillerson with Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and ousting national security adviser H.R. McMaster for John Bolton.

Bolton made his name with sharp elbows and an unapologetic antagonism of the world body as envoy to the UN during George W. Bush's administration. That pugilistic approach will be felt through Trump's four days at the annual gathering, including during a Security Council meeting on Wednesday focused on non-proliferation.

Trump originally intended the meeting to focus solely on Iran, where his decision to withdraw the United States from the nuclear deal brokered by the previous administration would loom large. Several of the council's other members were parties to the agreement and oppose Trump's exit. Determining that a session centered only on Iran would require an invitation to President Hassan Rouhani, Trump's aide's shifted the focus to the broader proliferation issue.

But Trump still seemed intent on his original mission when he tweeted last week, "I will Chair the United Nations Security Council meeting on Iran next week!"

The message caused some consternation among diplomats, though American officials downplayed any changes to the agenda.

Overshadowing events

Seemingly every time a President hopes to have a moment on the world stage, events have a way of intervening. Terrorist events, natural disasters or political intrigue have overshadowed many a foreign trip, both in Trump's tenure and his predecessors'.

The beginnings of such a scenario began to play out Sunday, as Trump officials fanned out across television airwaves to preview his message this week at the UN. Developments in Washington, however, remained front and center.

Speaking on CNN, Trump's UN ambassador Nikki Haley -- one of the administration's highest-profile women with whom the President will spend countless hours this week -- seemed to distance herself from his earlier tweets casting doubts on Christine Blasey Ford's credibility.

"Regardless, you never -- it's not something that we want to do, to blame the accuser or to try and second guess the accuser. We don't know the situation she was going through 35 years ago. We don't know the circumstances," Haley said.

"Every accuser always deserves the right to be heard, but at the same time, the accused deserves the right to be heard," she said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 752108

Reported Deaths: 13816
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1033831790
Lake558431013
Allen41736693
St. Joseph37007565
Hamilton36617417
Elkhart29425461
Tippecanoe22938228
Vanderburgh22565400
Porter19369327
Johnson18486389
Hendricks17696317
Clark13233195
Madison13176344
Vigo12631253
LaPorte12429221
Monroe12226176
Delaware10970198
Howard10349224
Kosciusko9643121
Hancock8578147
Bartholomew8174157
Warrick7864156
Floyd7815180
Grant7248179
Wayne7164201
Boone6979103
Morgan6768141
Dubois6224118
Marshall6214116
Cass6024110
Henry5903110
Dearborn589878
Noble581688
Jackson509476
Shelby502396
Lawrence4753122
Gibson445595
Clinton443555
Harrison441775
DeKalb440385
Montgomery439890
Whitley406744
Huntington403381
Steuben400859
Miami395769
Jasper389155
Knox377691
Putnam373461
Wabash362383
Ripley347370
Adams345555
Jefferson336186
White332753
Daviess3035100
Wells295481
Decatur289892
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey274335
LaGrange273272
Scott270356
Clay267148
Washington246336
Randolph245183
Jennings235349
Spencer234531
Starke228159
Fountain222048
Sullivan214843
Owen212358
Fulton204043
Jay201032
Carroll193820
Orange188255
Perry187237
Rush175926
Vermillion175344
Franklin170435
Tipton166646
Parke149616
Pike138334
Blackford136232
Pulaski120847
Newton114936
Brown104443
Benton102614
Crawford102516
Martin91815
Warren84115
Switzerland8158
Union72810
Ohio57911
Unassigned0424

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1109697

Reported Deaths: 20213
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1289521469
Cuyahoga1158802216
Hamilton814201251
Montgomery525861049
Summit484551006
Lucas43384824
Butler39098606
Stark33355930
Lorain25689506
Warren24612305
Mahoning22388602
Lake21219389
Clermont20138253
Delaware18892136
Licking16671225
Fairfield16589204
Trumbull16560483
Medina15618273
Greene15292248
Clark14244306
Wood13296200
Portage13254216
Allen11919239
Richland11611211
Miami10857225
Wayne9153225
Columbiana9039230
Muskingum8909135
Pickaway8664122
Tuscarawas8654251
Marion8649139
Erie8058165
Ashtabula7171179
Hancock6999133
Ross6948163
Geauga6850151
Scioto6540106
Belmont6159174
Union585049
Lawrence5741102
Jefferson5683159
Huron5554122
Sandusky5444126
Darke5420129
Seneca5350128
Washington5321109
Athens524460
Auglaize502487
Mercer487785
Shelby477095
Knox4573112
Madison444566
Ashland435997
Putnam4336104
Defiance432399
Fulton432274
Crawford4046110
Brown402761
Logan387678
Preble3859105
Clinton379266
Ottawa373581
Highland360266
Williams348578
Champaign344959
Guernsey325254
Jackson318454
Perry297350
Morrow291940
Fayette285750
Hardin275765
Henry273867
Holmes2703101
Coshocton269360
Van Wert247264
Adams243156
Pike242835
Gallia240850
Wyandot234756
Hocking220663
Carroll197548
Paulding176642
Meigs148540
Monroe136345
Noble136239
Harrison114138
Morgan110124
Vinton85717
Unassigned03
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