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Kavanaugh turmoil turns 'the swamp' toxic as Washington's ugly divisions deepen

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: Kavanaugh testimony breeds U.S. political turmoil; tornado-hit Ottawa neighbourhood of Arlington Woods now looks more like a logging operation; U.S. turns the screws on Canada in NAFTA negotiations

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and professor Christine Blasey Ford testify Thursday during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.


  • Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court will go to a vote, but the only certain outcome is more turmoil.
  • The tornado-hit Ottawa neighbourhood of Arlington Woods now looks like a logging operation.
  • The Trump administration continues to turn the screws on Canada in the NAFTA negotiations as the window for a three-country deal with Mexico gets smaller.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here

Washington's 'swamp' turns toxic

Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court is set to go to a full Senate vote, with the only certain outcome being more turmoil.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, the scene of yesterday's extraordinary and emotional testimony from both the judge and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accuses Kavanaugh of a rape attempt 36 years ago, greenlit his nomination this afternoon.

But Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who announced this morning that he would support Kavanaugh's elevation to the country's highest court, added some last-minute drama by calling for a week-long delay in the confirmation vote so that the FBI can investigate Blasey Ford's allegations.

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate judiciary committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, facing an allegation he assaulted Christine Blasey Ford. (Michael Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

Flake said he was trying to respond to the concerns of his Democratic colleagues. He added that he hoped to lower the temperature of the debate and "bring the country together."

Earlier in the day,  Flake had found himself in a live television confrontation, trapped in an elevator with two women who said they were victims of past sex assaults and who berated him at length.

"What you are doing is allowing someone that actually violated a woman to sit on the Supreme Court," one of the women said. "What are you doing, sir?"

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., removed any lingering suspense early Friday as to how he would vote on Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation. (Michael Reynolds/Associated Press)

The second shared her own story.

"I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me. I didn't tell anyone, and you're telling all women that they don't matter. That they should just stay quiet," she said. "You're telling me that my assault doesn't matter and that you're going to let people who do these things into power … that you'll let people like that go to the highest court in the land and tell everyone what they can do to their bodies."

Elsewhere in the Capitol, anti-Kavanaugh protestors staged sit-ins in the halls, scuffling with police and filling the air with chants like "arrest the rapists, not survivors."

Democratic Party calls for a full FBI investigation into Blasey Ford's allegations — echoed today by the American Bar Association, an organization that had previously endorsed Kavanaugh, as well as the dean of Yale Law School, his alma mater — have so far been rejected by Republicans. And a motion to subpoena Mark Judge — the other man who Blasey Ford says participated in the assault — was voted down this morning.  

What the public was left with instead was grandstanding from both parties and seemingly irreconcilable visions of what happened back in 1982 — as well as where America is headed now.

"I may be wrong, but I believed her," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, told the committee this morning. "And I believe Kavanaugh dodged and dissembled, ranted and raved, filibustered and prevaricated. I did not find him credible."

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., holds up documents as he comments on Brett Kavanaugh's testimony at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Friday on Capitol Hill. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said the controversy threatens to destroy the nation.

"This has never been about the truth. This has been about delay and destruction," he said. "And if we reward this, it is the end of good people wanting to be judges. It is the end of any concept of the rule of law. It is the beginning of a process that will tear this country apart."

It's not clear whether Flake's calls for a delay of the full Senate vote will be heeded. But either way, Kavanaugh's confirmation is not assured.

Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) shouts during Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Thursday. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

If the Senate breaks down along party lines, the Republicans have a one-vote majority, but a handful of legislators continue to waver, including Maine's Susan Collins and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski. In the event of a tie, Vice President Mike Pence will cast the deciding ballot.

And even if Kavanaugh makes it to the Supreme Court, that will not be the end.

In his impassioned, self-penned statement of defence yesterday, Kavanaugh did not disguise who he blames for his predicament — the Democrats.

"This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election. Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons. And millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups," he thundered.

"This is a circus. The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequences will be with us for decades."

A protestor is removed from the hallway near the Senate Judiciary committee hearing room after being arrested by Capitol Police on Friday in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

He is surely correct.

There is already talk of a possible attempt to remove a future Justice Kavanaugh from the Supreme Court under the impeachment process outlined in the U.S. constitution.

A sign that the states of America remain "united" only in name.

Neighbourhood turned logging operation

Reporter Nick Purdon and producer Leonardo Palleja report from the tornado-hit Ottawa neighbourhood of Arlington Woods.

The first thing that strikes you when you arrive in the Ottawa neighbourhood of Arlington Woods is that it's been transformed into a logging camp. Since the tornado touched down last Friday night there's really no other way to describe it.

Giant trucks roll by full of logs. The only sound you hear is the buzz of chainsaws. Everywhere is the smell of freshly cut pine.

Arborists and work crews clear trees felled by the Sept. 21 tornado that swept through the Arlington Woods neighbourhood in Ottawa. (Nick Purdon/CBC)

Arlington Woods used to be a kind of forest in the city. Hundreds of 150-foot white pines grew in the neighbourhood.

The tornado ripped many of them out of the ground or snapped them like matchsticks.

The trees were what locals have always loved about their neighbourhood, what made it special. But during the tornado it was those same trees that destroyed many of their homes.

Linda Cruz stands in her home on Parkland Crescent in the Arlington Woods neighbourhood, where a huge white pine felled by the tornado destroyed her bathroom. (Nick Purdon/CBC)

Linda Cruz has lived on Parkland Crescent for 14 years. On Friday night the tornado snapped the 150 foot tree that grew in her backyard and dropped it onto her roof.

"The tree was so heavy that it just kept sinking into the house," Cruz says. "I came back the next day and it was getting lower and lower."

The white pine, which Cruz estimates weighed several tonnes, crushed her bathroom and caved in the ceiling of her bedroom. A structural engineer will decide whether her entire second floor will have to be replaced.

All Cruz knows for certain is that she won't be able to live in her home for at least six months.

She's only half joking when she says that the smell of freshly cut pine might be something that triggers PTSD in her future.

- Nick Purdon

  • WATCH: Nick Purdon and Leonardo Palleja's story about Arlington Woods tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

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Turning the screws on Canada

The Trump administration continues to turn the screws on Canada in the NAFTA negotiations.

The next pressure tactic will be the release of the text of its bilateral trade deal with Mexico, perhaps as early as today.

The details of that agreement were struck late last month. They have to be delivered to the U.S. Congress by Sunday in order to meet a 60-day voting window in advance of the Nov. 30 deadline for Donald Trump and Enrique Pena Nieto to sign the deal before the Mexican president officially hands power over to his successor on Dec. 1.

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, left, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer at a press conference during a round of NAFTA talks in Mexico City on March 5. Canadian negotiations with the U.S. in the months since then have faltered. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Broadly speaking, everyone already knows what's in the agreement:

  • A joint crackdown on digital piracy and counterfeit goods.
  • Some tweaks to labour and environmental regulations.
  • And most significantly, revised rules for the auto sector requiring that 75 per cent of what goes into a vehicle be made in either America or Mexico in order for it to pass into the U.S. duty-free.

But we will learn exactly what American negotiators gave up in order to persuade their Mexican counterparts to abandon the old dispute-settling panels — a key sticking point in the ongoing negotiations with Ottawa.

It's already clear that the U.S. Congress isn't exactly thrilled with the prospect of being handed a two-country deal in the place of an existing three-country trade pact. And the open question remains whether Trump can find enough votes to carry through on his threat and pass it.

An interesting side note to all the presidential bluster over NAFTA this week has been a sudden American interest in exploring new trade deals, even as the country rips up its old ones.

The United States has been pressuring Canada to cut a trade deal by Sunday. (Judi Bottoni/Associated Press)
On Wednesday, the U.S. and Japan announced the start of negotiations on a bilateral free trade deal, as an alternative to the multi-country Trans-Pacific Partnership that Trump has already rejected. (The move defuses the threat of American tariffs on Japanese autos — at least for now.)

And when Trump and Theresa May met that same day following a UN Security Council meeting, there was also apparently talk of a potential U.K.-U.S. trade deal after Britain's exit from the European Union this coming March.

"I would say President Trump and America want to do a good trade deal with us," the British PM told reporters. "It's in both our interests to do that good trade deal."

Although she may discover that the devil is in the details.

A few words on ... 

The Ford-Kavanaugh testimony.

Quote of the moment

"My only sin is the extrajudicial killings."

- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte defends his government's performance during a rambling speech in Manila yesterday, handing investigators from the International Criminal Court probing his war on drugs some fairly compelling evidence.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. (Aaron Favila/Associated Press)

What The National is reading

  • Trump administration sees a 4 C rise in global temperature by 2100 (Washington Post)
  • Dutch police arrest seven in plot to attack large event (Guardian)
  • Ex-Nazi interpreter Helmut Oberlander loses appeal on Canadian citizenship (CBC)
  • Muskrat Falls is biggest economic mistake in N.L. history, says Premier (CBC)
  • France's Le Pen wins back half of seized party subsidies (RFI)
  • Asteroid rovers send home new photos (CBC)
  • Smart devices could soon tap their owners as battery source (Science Daily)
  • Slugs have won, as landmark study shows that no home remedies work (Telegraph)

Today in history

Sept. 28, 1993: The magic of the Natural Law Party

The late Canadian illusionist Doug Henning thought he had a winning slogan for the 1993 federal election: "Your problems will disappear like magic!" The promise was that his Natural Law Party's core of 7,000 "yogic flyers" would create a perfect government, eliminating all stress via transcendental meditation, and creating "an integrated national consciousness." Sadly, Canadians grounded his vision, awarding the 231 NLP candidates only 0.63 per cent of the popular vote. But they still finished just two seats behind Kim Campbell's Progressive Conservatives.

The magic of the Natural Law Party

28 years ago
Duration 2:06
Magician Doug Henning and his yogic flyers make big promises in the 1993 federal election campaign. 2:06

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Jonathon Gatehouse

CBC Investigative Journalist

Jonathon Gatehouse has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, covering seven Olympic Games and authoring a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey. He works for the national investigative unit in Toronto.