The Note: GOP fears what Trump can’t control -- and what he can

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Sept. 21, 2018, in Springfield, Mo.PlayEvan Vucci/AP
WATCH Deputy AG Rosenstein and Trump to meet Thursday

The TAKE with Rick Klein

What should frighten Republicans more at this moment: what President Donald Trump can't control, or what he can?

Trump can't control how his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, is perceived. The White House's best shot at shaping that before Thursday's hearing came on Fox Monday night, with Kavanaugh giving a rare pre-confirmation interview to make an emotional declaration: "I'm not going anywhere."

The president can control whether or how he fires Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. He can't control what that means for Robert Mueller's investigation.

Trump can control whether the week winds down with one last bang of a partial government shutdown. He can't control how the world reacts to his speech Tuesday at the United Nations.

A whole lot of meaning has been crammed into a few tense days this week. It's turning into a distillation of the hopes and fears of Trump era politics – where what the president can do might be just as dangerous for his party as what he can't.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

Debate season is here, along with a reminder that men and women who want to get to the U.S. Senate -- or stay there -- must talk to voters right now about the complicated judicial nomination before the chamber this week.

Texas senatorial candidates kicked off debates last week, and the two candidates competing for Tennessee's open Senate seat go head-to-head Tuesday night.

PHOTO: Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Beto ORourke shake hands after a debate for the Texas Senate seat at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Sept. 21, 2018.Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News/Pool via REUTERS
Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Beto O'Rourke shake hands after a debate for the Texas Senate seat at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Sept. 21, 2018.

If the Texas debate was any indicator, the high-stakes conundrum on Capitol Hill -- what to do with the president's Supreme Court nominee -- is proving tricky and delicate for all candidates, especially in these redder states.

Democrats have said they would win this year by focusing on economic issues such as health care, wages and jobs.

While cultural and law and order issues might rev up the Democratic base and dissuade tepid GOP voters, they are hardly pocketbook topics.

The TIP with Kendall Karson

In Mississippi's special election for U.S. Senate, Republican Chris McDaniel threw down the gauntlet on his opponent -- presumptive frontrunner Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith -- insisting she needs to fight "tooth and nail" to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

"I understand that as a lifelong Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton, it might be difficult for Cindy Hyde-Smith to advocate vocally for one of President Trump's Supreme Court nominees, but Mississippians are counting on her to stand and fight for them in the U.S. Senate," he said in a statement Monday.

McDaniel might not have the chance to debate Hyde-Smith, but that isn't stopping him from trying to corner her on supporting Kavanaugh and challenging her loyalty to Trump. The anti-establishment insurgent has been tenacious in his attacks on Hyde-Smith, a Trump-endorsed establishment Republican, hoping to out-Trump her in one of this cycle's most pivotal races.

Last week, after Christine Blasey Ford came forward as Kavanaugh's accuser, McDaniel stirred a lot of controversy defending Trump's Supreme Court pick when he told American Family Radio, "These allegations, 99 percent of the time, are just absolutely fabricated."

PHOTO: Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel looks on during a Tea Party Express campaign event at outside of a Hobby Lobby store on June 22, 2014 in Biloxi, Mississippi. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel looks on during a Tea Party Express campaign event at outside of a Hobby Lobby store on June 22, 2014 in Biloxi, Mississippi.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Trump speaks to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York at 10:15 a.m.
  • The president later holds bilateral meetings with the president of Colombia and U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
  • The president participates in the Security Council Presidency Reception at 6 p.m.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a research summit on opioid abuse in Washington, D.C., at 8 a.m.
  • Tennessee senatorial candidates Rep. Marsha Blackburn and former Gov. Phil Bredesen face off in their first of three debates at 6 p.m. local time.
  • DJ Khaled performs at a Democratic fundraiser hosted by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Jimmy Kimmel will emcee.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden and former national security advisers Susan Rice and H.R. McMaster speak at a foreign policy colloquium at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • QUOTES OF THE DAY

    "I am a good person. I have led a good life. I tried to do a lot of good for a lot of people. I am not perfect. None of us is perfect. I am not perfect, but I've never, never done anything like this." – Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in an interview Monday night with Fox News.

    "While I am frightened, please know, my fear will not hold me back from testifying and you will be provided with answers to all of your questions." – Christine Blasey Ford, the first of two women to publicly accuse Kavanaugh, in a personal letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley.

    THE PLAYLIST

    ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Tuesday's episode features ABC News Chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl – he has the latest on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's job status. Meanwhile, ABC News' Mike Levine tells us who would take over the Russia investigation should Rosenstein depart. And, ABC News Senior National correspondent Terry Moran tells us about the latest on the allegations surrounding Brett Kavanaugh – he says Republicans will "ram this guy through if they can." https://bit.ly/2Ohkpz8

    NEED TO READ

    Rod Rosenstein, Trump's embattled deputy attorney general, to meet with president on Thursday. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein came to the White House on Monday and met with chief of staff John Kelly with the expectation that he would be fired, but remains in the post, sources tell ABC News. (Mike Levine, Jonathan Karl, Pierre Thomas, John Santucci, Katherine Faulders) https://abcn.ws/2zqBIrQ

    Trump's lawyer calls for 'a timeout' in Mueller probe if Rosenstein leaves post. Speaking Monday on his radio program, Jay Sekulow called for a "a timeout on this inquiry," referring to Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 campaign, adding that "it clearly becomes necessary and appropriate ... that there be a step back taken here, and a review -- and I think it's a review that has to be thorough and complete" if Rosenstein is dismissed or resigns. (Lucien Bruggeman) https://abcn.ws/2xPNvxM

    Trump preparing for 2nd summit with Kim despite little nuclear progress. While critics have warned against holding another meeting when North Korea has taken no meaningful steps toward dismantling its nuclear arsenal, Trump had nothing but praise for Kim, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the potential sit-down as something of "enormous value" but only "if we can continue to make progress and have conversations." (Conor Finnegan) https://abcn.ws/2MZQPwa

    What lawmakers are tackling before midterm elections. With government funding set to run out on Sept. 30, the House will take up the Senate-passed spending bill that includes hundreds of billions of funding for the military and the Labor and Health and Human Services Departments. (Benjamin Siegel) https://abcn.ws/2Q3qS0B

    The 2018 primaries by the numbers. After a dramatic and historic primary season came to a close two weeks ago, voters are now just six weeks away from taking to the polls to decide the winners in the first major election since the inauguration of President Donald Trump. (Adam Kelsey, John Verhovek, Meg Cunningham and Sonnet Swire) https://abcn.ws/2pB8Ur2

    'I'm not going anywhere': Kavanaugh in emotional Fox interview. With his wife, Ashley, at his side and his voice breaking at times, Kavanaugh emphasized his desire for a "fair process" -- a phrase he used more than a dozen times. (Cheyenne Haslett) https://abcn.ws/2xPWS0w

    Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford: 'My fear will not hold me back from testifying.' Ford, who claims Kavanaugh assaulted her during a high school party in the early 1980s, wrote Republican committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley a letter offering to both publicly testify and tell lawmakers in person what took place. (Trish Turner and Jordyn Phelps) https://abcn.ws/2Dng3Vw

    Kavanaugh protests escalate with over 120 arrested on Capitol Hill. Around the same time as the majority of the arrests, walkouts were also taking place in workplaces and schools around the country -- including at Yale -- by women and men wearing black. (Cheyenne Haslett) https://abcn.ws/2NEeUgW

    Trump administration declines to label Rohingya slaughter 'genocide' in new report. The U.S. is not declaring Myanmar's violent campaign against the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority long persecuted in the country's northwest, to be "genocide" in a new fact-finding report. The decision comes one month after a similar report by the United Nations argued Myanmar leadership should be prosecuted for genocide, which is a deliberate campaign to violently destroy a particular group of people. (Conor Finnegan) https://abcn.ws/2QV7Iev

    If Kavanaugh doesn't make it, who's next? FiveThirtyEight takes a look at the options for Republicans. https://53eig.ht/2pBB9pj

    In a profile by The New York Times, Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Arizona Kyrsten Sinema talks about the three years she spent homeless as a child. https://nyti.ms/2zrfeXU

    Big changes are coming to The Note next week! Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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