The Hill’s Morning Report — Trump, Biden could reap political rewards after FBI search
Political analysts on both sides of the aisle said on Sunday TV programs that former President Trump’s supporters are more firmly in his corner after the FBI search at his Mar-a-Lago residence last week.
Fans backed Trump before and after the FBI retrieved some super-secret material that he removed from the White House in 2021. They accept his objections, accusations and political assertions and embrace many of the GOP candidates he’s endorsed this year. The former president is unlikely to lose the backing of far-right conservatives based on a controversy over national security documents, pundits suggested, but he could alienate independent voters while also helping President Biden and fellow Democrats motivate a less enthusiastic progressive base.
How? By reviving the contrasts Biden and his party played up in 2020 against Trump and the GOP. Democrats can shift the conversation from talking about inflation to the anti-Trump contrasts that worked to motivate voters in the last presidential race. Biden early this summer tried to message to Democrats about “ultra MAGA” Republicans, only to find that Trump and his supporters hailed the denunciations.
▪ The New York Times: Why did Trump keep documents, some classified, when the government for a year sought to retrieve them?
▪ CNN: Biden got the vibe shift he needed. Now he’s looking to make it count.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants the midterms to center on Biden, hopeful that a referendum on the party in power in the White House will give his party a majority in the House or Senate, or both, next year. Trump’s return to front-page news coverage this summer and perhaps into the fall clashes with that plan.
▪ Niall Stanage, The Memo: The FBI search of Trump’s residence reset the political picture.
▪ The Washington Post: Trump’s secrets: How a records dispute led the FBI to search Mar-a-Lago.
▪ The Hill: Sunday talk shows roundup.
NBC News reported that Trump’s hasty and grudging departure from the White House after denying his 2020 loss helps explain how boxes of national security and other materials ended up in a Mar-a-Lago storeroom and became part of a dispute between the former president, the National Archives and then the Justice Department.
“It was a chaotic exit,” one NBC News source told the network. “Everyone piled everything — staff, the White House movers — into the moving trucks. When they got to Mar-a-Lago, they piled everything there in this storage room, except for things like the first lady’s clothes. Everything in a box went there.”
“He didn’t care. He didn’t care about the boxes. He was in a dark place at the time, if you remember. He didn’t even unpack things,” the source continued. “Over time, the staff moved them back in. If you had brought him into that storeroom, and asked, ‘Which are your presidential papers?’ he couldn’t tell you.”
One caveat from Sunday’s television political pundits: As Trump’s latest norm-busting controversy swallows other news coverage, Biden and Democratic candidates last week found themselves drowned out while trying to tell the public about what they see as the positives they delivered for health care, prescription drug pricing and climate change in legislation that will soon be signed into law.
Also trimming Biden’s sway are his low job approval poll numbers and the various Democrats who say or hint that the 79-year-old should limit his presidency to one term.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told ABC News’s “This Week” that Biden intends to run again in 2024 and understands Americans’ angst about high prices for gasoline, food and shelter (The Hill). Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told CNN on Sunday she expects gas prices, which have fallen nationwide below $4 a gallon, to continue to drop (The Hill).
Trump on Sunday kept his latest controversy alive by using his social media platform to call on the FBI to return documents reportedly seized at Mar-a-Lago, which he asserts are protected by attorney-client and executive privileges (The Hill). The former president has used the defense before in efforts to block records from being turned over to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot in a separate probe. A federal appeals court in December denied Trump’s claims of executive privilege to block the National Archives from turning over those records.
The New York Times reported Sunday that a Trump lawyer in June signed a statement to the Justice Department, prior to the government’s seizure last week of 27 boxes of documents and materials with national security sensitivity at the president’s residence and club, that all documents marked as classified were returned to the government.
The lawyer’s written statement could indicate that Trump or his team were not fully forthcoming with federal investigators, the Times reported. It could explain why the Justice Department in its search warrant executed last week cited a potential violation of a criminal statute related to obstruction. While executing the court-approved search, FBI agents seized 11 sets of documents that had some type of confidential or secret markings, including some marked as “classified/TS/SCI” — an abbreviation for “top secret/sensitive compartmented information.” That designation means information should be viewed only in a secure government facility because of its sensitivity.
▪ The New York Times: After early fury at Trump search, Republican lawmakers are split, particularly as threats emerged against law enforcement.
© Associated Press / Gerald Herbert | Boxes were moved Jan. 14, 2021, from the White House complex.
▪ The Wall Street Journal: Trump’s chaotic exit from the White House in 2021 is at the center of a federal probe and recent search of the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
▪ The New York Times: Here’s how presidential power to declassify government documents and materials works.
▪ The Hill: Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who was reelected in 2020, refused on Sunday to tell NBC News if he would vote for Trump in 2024.
▪ Politico: Biden keeps South Carolina (the state that revived his 2020 campaign), guessing about 2024 as Democratic aspirants circle overhead.
LEADING THE DAY
➤ MORE POLITICS
Trump and his allies have defeated most of those who voted to impeach him for his role in the events of Jan. 6, 2021. But the hurdles to topple the lone GOP senator standing for reelection this fall who voted to convict him.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) will take part in the state’s primary on Tuesday but is trailing Kelly Tshibaka, Trump’s pick in the race, according to recent polls. However, observers tell The Hill’s Julia Manchester that the incumbent senator shouldn’t be overly worried yet.
Alaska’s new electoral system could be the perfect recipe for Murkowski to win a fourth full term in office. Tuesday’s contest features an all-party primary, followed by a ranked-choice vote in the general election — meaning the moderate senator is all but guaranteed to advance this week even if she isn’t the top vote-getter.
“She can’t lose anything and we think the electorate is going to skew more Trumpy than the general and we think the electorate is going to be more partisan across the board,” John-Henry Heckendorn, an Alaska-based political consultant, said, referring to the primary, adding that will likely change in November.
“The bar is low for Murkowski in the primary because she’s likely to be favored, one would imagine, by a larger and less partisan electorate in the general,” he said.
Also on the ballot this week is Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who is the underdog against Harriet Hageman, Trump’s hand-picked candidate, heading into Tuesday.
Recent polls have shown Hageman leading by a wide margin. Cheney has unabashedly campaigned on her support for the U.S. Constitution, her concern for the Republican Party under Trump and her unwillingness to pander to voters on what she sees as key principles in an attempt to retain her seat (The Hill).
▪ Mark Leibovich, The Atlantic: Liz Cheney, the Republican from the state of reality.
▪ The New York Times: In Wyoming, likely end of Cheney dynasty will close a political era.
▪ Reuters: Idaho top court allows near-total abortion ban to take effect.
▪ The New York Times: Why abortion has become a centerpiece of Democratic TV ads in 2022.
▪ The Hill: These Black candidates could make history in November.
Meanwhile, potential political violence reared its head once again on Sunday as a man fatally shot himself after crashing his vehicle into a barricade at the U.S. Capitol.
According to the U.S. Capitol Police, the man drove his car into the barricade one block east of the Capitol. He exited the vehicle, which became engulfed in flames, and then fired several shots in the air, alerting officers to the scene, according to the Capitol Police. The man fatally shot himself when officers approached him. No Capitol Police officers appear to have fired their weapons.
According to Capitol Police, the man apparently was not targeting any members of Congress. Lawmakers are on recess until early next month (The Hill).
Additionally, acclaimed author Salman Rushdie, 75, is recovering after a gruesome attack by a knife-wielding assailant during a New York lecture on Friday. Rushdie remained in critical condition Sunday with a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and in one eye but was said to be on the mend, according to his agent. The motive of Rushdie’s attacker is under investigation (The Associated Press).
Iran on Monday denied involvement in the attempted murder, but offered a justification for it due to the decades-old fatwa issued against the longtime author (The Associated Press).
▪ NBC News: FBI and Department of Homeland Security warn threats to federal law enforcement have spiked since Mar-a-Lago search.
▪ The Hill: GOP lawmakers adopt “defund” rallying cry for FBI, not police.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and a group of lawmakers arrived on a congressional delegation in Taiwan on Sunday, a move that is certain to heighten tensions in the area shortly after Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) visit earlier this month.
Markey, along with Reps. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.), and Del. Aumua Amata Radewagen (R-American Samoa), will meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and other local officials, including individuals in the private sector. On the agenda for discussion: the recent boost in domestic production of semiconductors and lowering tensions in the Taiwan Strait.
The move is notable, as it comes less than two weeks after Pelosi’s visit, which elicited a significant response from China in the form of days of threatening military drills off the surrounding waters of the country, including missiles, warplanes and warships (The Associated Press). Sure enough, the Chinese announced that more military exercises would take place off the Taiwanese coast in response to the visit. According to China’s Defense Ministry, the drills are a “resolute response and solemn deterrent against collusion and provocation between the U.S. and Taiwan” (The Associated Press).
Markey, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, said that the trip is “meant to reaffirm U.S. support for Taiwan and encourage stability and peace.” They are set to leave the island at some point today on a U.S. government plane.
▪ Reuters: Taiwan says 11 Chinese military aircraft crossed Taiwan’s median line.
▪ The Hill: GOP report knocks Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal, eyes post-midterm scrutiny.
© Associated Press / Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs | Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in Taiwan on Sunday.
Congress might be out of town for much of the next month, but reverberations are still being felt after Democrats last week passed their $740 billion budget reconciliation package last week, which is set to be signed into law by Biden.
For much of the past week, House Republicans railed against $80 billion included in the proposal to boost the IRS, claiming that it was going to be used to hire an “army of IRS agents” to target small-business owners and middle-class Americans. However, the IRS, Democrats and outside experts all say the new enforcement money will mostly allow the IRS to focus on audits of the wealthy.
“Contrary to the misinformation from opponents of this legislation, small business or households earning $400,000 per year or less will not see an increase in the chances that they are audited,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in a letter late last week (The Hill).
▪ The Hill: “Shocked and disheartened”: How coal country is reacting to Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) climate deal.
▪ The Associated Press: Some Capitol rioters try to profit from their Jan. 6 crimes.
■ Democrats are on a dangerous path with drug pricing, by Douglas E. Schoen, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3C5aKXp
■ Spin doesn’t change that Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, both Iowa Republicans, refused to help with insulin shots, byThe Des Moines Register editorial board.https://bit.ly/3w4My3Q
■ China’s demographics spell decline not domination, by Niall Ferguson, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3bS6rnV
WHERE AND WHEN
The House will meet at 1 p.m. for a pro forma session on Tuesday. It will reconvene on Sept. 13.
The Senate convenes Tuesday at 8 a.m. for a pro forma session during its summer recess, which ends Sept. 6.
The president has no public events on his schedule. He is vacationing with his family on Kiawah Island, S.C.
Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will depart Los Angeles this morning for Kauai, Hawaii.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets in Washington at 2:30 p.m. with African Diaspora Youth and Exchange alumni.
🌏 In Russia today, former WNBA star Brittney Griner and her legal team appealed her Aug. 4 conviction on drug possession charges. She is serving a nine-year prison sentence (Reuters and The Associated Press).
The Supreme Court’s three liberals, Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson, are outnumbered by six conservative justices and look increasingly likely to find themselves on the dissenting side of major rulings.
As a result, their written opinions could eventually carry heightened symbolic importance for liberal judicial ideas in public life and as a collective historical marker at a time of conservative-led legal upheaval, reports The Hill’s John Kruzel.
© Associated Press / Win McNamee | Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, 2013.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a warning to Russian soldiers on Sunday, saying that those who shoot at or from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant will become “special targets” for Ukrainian forces. The plant was captured by Russia earlier in the war, but it is still being operated by Ukrainians as nuclear blackmail, according to Reuters. … The U.S.’s impact in the region has also increased in recent days as anti-radiation missiles that have been contributed to Kyiv have helped take out some of Russia’s most dangerous weapons systems. The missiles are part of the Ukrainian push to expel Russian forces from the country (The Hill).
The Wall Street Journal: Russia’s goal in attack on nuclear plant: take the electricity, Ukraine says.
➤ POX, PANDEMIC & HEALTH
The World Health Organization announced over the weeked it has renamed variants of the virus monkeypox in order to avoid offending “any cultural, social, national, regional, professional, or ethnic groups.” The Congo Basin and West African variants were reclassified as Clade I and Clade II, the latter of which has two subclades. The new names go into effect immediately (The Hill).
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,037,021. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 413, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
© Associated Press / University of Arizona and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service | A rare jaguar known as “El Jefe,” photographed in Arizona in 2015, has criss-crossed the U.S.-Mexico border over the years.
And finally … He’s at least 12 years old. He’s crossed the U.S.-Mexico border with stealth in the dark of night. He moves silently, carries no documents or water, and wears a distinctive coat.
“El Jefe,” The Boss, is a handsome jaguar and a celebrity among scientists who have seen him over the years in Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora in motion sensor images, recognizable by the spots that are like fingerprints (The Associated Press).
The rare northern jaguar’s ability to cross the border suggests that despite increased efforts to block human migration and drug trafficking, wildlife knows the territory well. If corridors are kept open. “it is feasible (to conserve) the jaguar population in the long term,” said Juan Carlos Bravo of the Wildlands Network, one of the groups in the Borderlands Linkages Initiative, a binational collaboration of eight conservation groups.
The first photograph of “El Jefe” was taken by a hunter southeast of Tucson, Arizona, in 2011. Conservationists were stunned when the jaguar, photographed again in Arizona in 2012 and in 2015, appeared in Mexico in November. He’s not just a survivor but an explorer.
Jaguars were thought to have disappeared from this country by the end of the 20th century because they were hunted in the southwestern United States for rewards offered by the government to promote cattle ranching. Remaining jaguar populations are concentrated in Mexico, Central America and central South America.