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Sunday Politics


As tensions rise in the Gulf after an attack on Saudi oil facilities, the United States does not have a national security adviser. And we look at the Senate races that are in play. Can the Republicans stay in the majority in that chamber? Plus, new reporting on Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh and the reaction. Our own Mara Liasson is here with us. She's NPR's national political correspondent.

Good morning, Mara.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Four national security advisers in less than three years, Mara. What is it about that job? It seems like "Harry Potter" and the Defense Against the Dark Arts position. It constantly is changing. What gives?

LIASSON: Well, I think that the president has settled on a kind of model for what he wants. There's been two models for national security adviser. One, someone who's an honest broker, collects information throughout the government, presents it to the president so he can make his own decision. The other one is someone with strong opinions of their own - John Bolton fit that mode. But Trump says he wants to be his own adviser. He says, I take my own advice. And he doesn't want, I think, a national security adviser who has strong ideas of his own. And I don't even know if he wants someone who's more of a coordinator because he doesn't really use a process. He listens to his gut.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is there anyone else in this administration on the way out?

LIASSON: Well, that's a good question. There's always chatter about people. Actually, Secretary of State Pompeo, who, because of Bolton's departure, has now become the No. 1 foreign policy voice with no competition inside the administration. There's lots of chatter about whether he would leave to run for Senate from Kansas. Many Republicans would like to see him do that. He hasn't closed the door, but he said he'll serve as long as the president wants him to at the State Department.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, let's talk about those Senate races. What seats are on the - what seats do the Republicans worry about for 2020?

LIASSON: Well, we should say at the outset that to take back the Senate is a very steep, uphill climb for Democrats. They'd need to net three or four pickups depending if they get the White House or not, and they're widely expected to lose Doug Jones' seat in Alabama. So where else are Democrats looking for? There's Maine and Colorado, the two states that have Republican senators and states that Hillary Clinton won. There are two seats in Georgia. One is - Senator Perdue is running for re-election, and the other one is an open seat because Senator Isakson has retired. The Democrats are also looking to Arizona, where Martha McSally was appointed to take the late John McCain's seat. Astronaut Mark Kelly, who's Gabby Giffords' husband, is running there. So they're looking at a pool of seats. They're hoping that some of their presidential candidates drop out of the presidential race and run for Senate. But, again, I think taking back the Senate is an uphill battle for the Democrats.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Finally, Mara, The New York Times is reporting on sexual misconduct allegations first made during the hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh that stemmed from his college years at Yale. What's being reported?

LIASSON: Well, this is a story about allegations that were made at the time, but they weren't followed up by the Justice Department or by the committee at the time. Kavanaugh denied them. He said if this had happened - this is a story about him exposing himself to a woman at a party - he said it would've been the talk of Yale. The New York Times reporting says they found out that it, in fact, was the talk of Yale at the time. They also have a new allegation very similar that he also exposed himself to another woman. The bottom line is this won't affect Brett Kavanaugh. He's on the court. He has a lifetime appointment. The president has weighed in with some tweets today saying it's an - he's an innocent man treated horribly. He should consider suing people for, quote, "liable" - L-I-A-B-L-E - and that the Department of Justice should come to his rescue. I think this has a lot of Democrats reliving the Kavanaugh hearings, talking about what else they could do about it. And, of course, the president, who can't leave anything well enough alone, is now giving this some extra life.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson. Thanks, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.