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September 21, 2017
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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the co-sponsor of the Republican health-care bill, was overheard on his cell phone at Reagan National Airport calling on colleagues to vote for the legislation despite "all its imperfections," The Associated Press reports. AP learned that Fox News host Sean Hannity was on the other end of the line.

"We're going to vote," Graham added to Hannity in an interview. "Everybody will be held accountable."

Graham is not the only one to think that Republicans are moving forward on less-than-ideal legislation, though. On Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told The Des Moines Register that "I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn't be considered." He explained, though, that "Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill."

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week. Jeva Lange

3:37 p.m. ET
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The Russian government will supply Syria with a long-range missile system within the next two weeks, The Wall Street Journal reports. The announcement comes one week after a Russian aircraft was downed in Syrian airspace, killing 15 Russian servicemen and prompting the Kremlin to place blame on Israel.

Russia previously announced plans to send Syria an S-300 missile system in 2013, but the delivery was postponed at Israel's request, the Journal reports. The defense system can intercept multiple targets within 250 kilometers, per the Journal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin previously labeled last week's aircraft downing as the result of "tragic circumstances," Israeli news outlet Haaretz reports, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said it was Syria who took the plane down. But Russia's Defense Ministry on Sunday rejected claims presented by the Israeli Air Force last week labeling Syria as the responsible party, the Journal reports, instead asserting the fault was Israel's.

Netanyahu and Putin spoke on the phone after Monday's announcement, with the former warning that the missile transfer would "increase the dangers in the region," per the Journal. Marianne Dodson

2:55 p.m. ET

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Monday wrote a letter calling the sexual assault allegations against him "false," "uncorroborated," and "grotesque."

In the letter, written to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the committee's ranking member, Kavanaugh defended himself against new allegations from Deborah Ramirez, who says Kavanaugh exposed himself to her while they were in college. He also reiterated his denial of the wrongdoing alleged by Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh forcibly groped her while they were in high school.

"There is now a frenzy to come up with something — anything — that will block this process and a vote on my confirmation from occurring," wrote Kavanaugh, who said these "smears" threaten to "debase our public discourse."

"Such grotesque and obvious character assassination ... will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from service," he predicted, asserting that he would "not be intimidated into withdrawing." Kavanaugh additionally said the allegations were part of a "coordinated effort" to destroy his reputation, which he said is based in his dedication to "the equality and dignity of women."

Kavanaugh and Ford are set to testify Thursday about Ford's allegations before the committee. Read the full letter below, via Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur. Summer Meza

2:11 p.m. ET
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On Sunday, Deborah Ramirez alleged in an interview with The New Yorker that Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party while they were both students at Yale University. But rumors of the incident have swirled for months in Yale circles, New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer said Monday.

Ramirez's allegation came after Christine Ford told The Washington Post that Kavanaugh forcibly groped her in high school. Kavanaugh has denied both allegations.

The timing of the New Yorker's report has invited questions from critics who wondered why the news broke so close to the end of Kavanaugh's confirmation process. But the article's co-author, Jane Mayer, told NPR on Monday that a group of Yale graduates emailed about this alleged incident back in July, after Kavanaugh was nominated by President Trump but before any other sexual misconduct allegations had emerged.

During the course of her reporting, Mayer read these emails, she told NPR. And speaking to the Today show on Monday, she explained, "The story broke overnight [Sunday], but it dates back 35 years." Ramirez didn't come to The New Yorker, Mayer said, but rather "the classmates at Yale were talking to each other about it, they were emailing about it ... and eventually word of it spread. It spread to the Senate. It spread to the media. And we [at The New Yorker] reached out to her."

A participant in that email exchange was one of the individuals mentioned in the New Yorker piece, Mayer said — a classmate who declined to be named but who said that he recalls hearing about the Ramirez incident at the time it happened. He was not actually at the party, but "independently recalled" many of the same details Ramirez provided, per The New Yorker.

Mayer and co-author Ronan Farrow noted that they were not able to confirm the alleged incident with any eyewitnesses. You can watch Mayer's Today appearance here. Brendan Morrow

1:30 p.m. ET

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is apparently keeping his job for now.

After rumors swirled that Rosenstein would be leaving his position Monday, the White House disputed accounts that he would resign or be fired. At Rosenstein's request, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CNN, "he and President Trump had an extended conversation to discuss the recent news stories." Rosenstein attended a previously scheduled meeting at the White House on Monday.

Trump has criticized Rosenstein, who appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller, for his oversight of the investigation into his campaign's involvement with Russian election interference. The deputy attorney general last week denied a New York Times report that he had advocated for invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

Trump is in New York on Monday for a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Sanders said that Trump would meet with Rosenstein in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. It's sure to be a busy day in D.C. politics — Thursday is also the day that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. CNN reports that Trump has been advised not to shake up the Justice Department until after Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings are complete. Summer Meza

12:11 p.m. ET
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Investigators in Montgomery County, Maryland, are looking into another allegation of sexual assault related to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, The Sentinel reported Monday.

Officials declined to provide many details about the allegations, which are from an anonymous witness, but said they stem from Kavanaugh's senior year in high school. The investigation means that there are potentially four women accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct: Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh forcibly groped her when they were in high school; Deborah Ramirez, who says Kavanaugh exposed himself to her while they were in college at Yale University; an anonymous woman who is working with attorney Michael Avenatti; and the anonymous witness who came forward to Montgomery County officials this weekend. Kavanaugh has denied any wrongdoing, and has called allegations against him a political "smear."

Investigators additionally told The Sentinel that they are interested in books written by Mark Judge, Kavanaugh's high school friend who was allegedly present during the attack Ford says she experienced. Judge's books describe a culture of heavy drinking while he and Kavanaugh attended Georgetown Preparatory School and allude to Kavanaugh's behavior at the time.

While The Sentinel reports that it is unclear whether the most recent investigation involves the same witness described by Avenatti, the attorney on Monday said it was "not the same woman I represent." Read more at The Sentinel. Summer Meza

Update 12:30 p.m. ET: Montgomery County police disputed The Sentinel's report, telling the Washington Examiner that police are not investigating any new allegations. "I have spoken with my chief of detectives, and neither of us have any knowledge of anyone coming forward to us to report any allegations involving Judge Kavanaugh," said police chief J. Thomas Manger. The Examiner additionally notes that the original report did not identify "investigators" as police, though local police would ordinarily be the first ones to look into such a report.

12:02 p.m. ET
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Conflicting reports emerged Monday about whether Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had resigned from his post or was on the cusp of being fired. While it's still not entirely clear which is the truth, there's a significant difference between the two.

As Washington Post reporter Aaron Blake explained on Twitter, President Trump has the legal authority to nominate a replacement for Rosenstein if Rosenstein resigns — but his ability to hand-pick a successor is less clear if he fires Rosenstein. The Federal Vacancies Reform Act gives the president the ability to temporarily replace an official if the person in office "dies, resigns, or is otherwise unable to perform the functions and duties of the office," per Politico. Legal experts note that the case of a firing is conspicuously absent from the law.

As Politico noted earlier this year, a similar situation arose when former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin left the administration. Shulkin himself said he was fired, creating a bit of a stir over whether Trump legitimately had the authority to nominate Robert Wilkie as acting secretary as he did, CNN reported at the time.

Several outlets, including CNN, are reporting that Rosenstein has not resigned and is instead heading to the White House expecting to be fired. Per Justice Department hierarchy, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco would be next in line to assume Rosenstein's role— and would take over Rosenstein's crucial responsibility of overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference. Brendan Morrow

11:22 a.m. ET
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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reportedly discussed resigning with Chief of Staff John Kelly, CNN reported Monday. Rosenstein is now reportedly en route to the White House and is "expecting to be fired," a source told Axios.

NBC News' Pete Williams reports that Rosenstein did not offer his resignation, but merely discussed it with Kelly, and that "if Trump wants him gone, they'll have to fire him ... [he] will refuse to resign and go quietly." Either way, reports Bloomberg, Rosenstein "isn't expected to be in the job after Monday."

Trump has criticized Rosenstein, who appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller, for his oversight of the investigation into his campaign's involvement with Russian election interference. The deputy attorney general last week denied a New York Times report that he had advocated for invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Trump is in New York on Monday for a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

CNN reports that Rosenstein may have spoken with Kelly on Saturday about resigning, but the two did not agree on certain conditions for his resignation. Now, Rosenstein is anticipating that his summons to the White House will result in his firing. Summer Meza

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