national politics

Just over a month away from critical elections across the country, the wide Democratic enthusiasm advantage that has defined the 2018 campaign up to this point has disappeared, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

In July, there was a 10-point gap between the number of Democrats and Republicans saying the November elections were "very important." Now, that is down to 2 points, a statistical tie.

UPDATED 6:46 p.m. ET

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh strongly pushed back on an allegation of sexual misconduct from more than 30 years ago. The allegation was made in a letter by a woman who said the incident took place in high school.

"I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time," Kavanaugh said in a statement.

As Hurricane Florence makes landfall in the Carolinas, in Washington the focus is how the Trump administration will respond to the storm's aftermath, and the inevitable property damage, power outages and potential loss of life.

The federal response is coordinated by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The agency's reputation suffered last year following its lagging response to Hurricane Maria. And while President Trump and FEMA officials insist they're ready this time, there have already been missteps that have some believing the agency's confidence may be misplaced.

Updated at 8:15 p.m. ET

Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is close to reaching a plea deal that would avert a trial scheduled to start later this month in Washington, D.C.

No details were immediately available about the charges to which Manafort might plead guilty or whether he might cooperate with prosecutors, according to a person familiar with the matter. The person asked not to be identified.

The tentative deal was first reported on Thursday evening by ABC News.

Updated at 12:15 p.m. ET

President Trump denied the death toll of nearly 3,000 from hurricanes Maria and Irma, which swept across Puerto Rico a year ago, in a series of tweets Thursday morning.

"3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico," he tweeted. "When I left the island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths."

Trump then blamed Democrats for the figures, "to make me look as bad as possible."

Across the country Tuesday night, Democrats got good news in their effort to take back the House.

They advanced candidates in key races in California (after being concerned they could be shut out), put forward what party operatives see as the best candidates in suburban New Jersey, and they feel good about their candidates who won in New Mexico and Iowa.

Calling Washington “horribly dysfunctional,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott is challenging U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in an election that could be one of the most expensive and highly watched races in the nation.

For days, the Washington world waited for the presidential tweet that would end the troubled tenure of Scott Pruitt, the high-profile and high-maintenance administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

It was hard to imagine anyone surviving an onslaught of stories like those recounting Pruitt's living large on several continents — with eye-popping costs for travel and security.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Friday acknowledged there is "a lot of opposition" to President Donald Trump's plan to open most of the nation's coastline to oil and gas drilling.

Embattled Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, announced Friday that he has resigned from Congress, months after reports surfaced that he had used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim by a former staffer.

"While I planned on serving out the remainder of my term in Congress, I know in my heart it's time for me to move along and look for new ways to serve," the four-term congressman said in a statement.

Updated at 10:18 a.m. ET

As allegations continue to swirl about the president and a payout to a porn star to cover up a sexual encounter, evangelical leaders are organizing a sit-down with President Trump in June, four sources with knowledge of the planned meeting tell NPR.

Updated at 8:09 p.m. ET

President Trump says he was unaware that his attorney paid $130,000 to an adult film actress shortly before the 2016 election to prevent the woman from talking about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump.

The president told reporters traveling on Air Force One on Thursday that he didn't know where the money came from or why the payment was made.

"You'll have to ask Michael Cohen," Trump said. "Michael is my attorney. You'll have to ask Michael."

Fresh off her Sunday interview with CBS's 60 Minutes to discuss her alleged sexual encounter with President Trump, adult film actress Stormy Daniels is suing the president's personal lawyer Michael Cohen for defamation.

The suit from Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, against both Trump and Cohen was amended Monday in the U.S. District Court in California, asking for a jury trial to settle the claim of defamation against Cohen.

Updated at 7:50 p.m. ET

The Federal Trade Commission confirmed Monday that it is investigating the possible misuse of the personal information of as many as 50 million Facebook users. The probe comes after the social network admitted it suspended a firm that worked on behalf of the Trump campaign to use personal information gathered on Facebook to target potential Trump supporters.

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