The Hill's Morning Report: Trump tries to rescue Ohio House seat as GOP midterm fears grow

 

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery MORE is headed for the Columbus, Ohio, suburbs this weekend, as he tries to rescue a Republican House seat in a red district that is suddenly up for grabs.

Recent surveys show state Sen. Troy Balderson (R) in a dead heat with Democrat Danny O’Connor ahead of their special election in Ohio’s 12th District on Tuesday.

The president holds a rally at Olentangy Orange High School in Lewis Center, Ohio, on Saturday in an effort to goose GOP turnout in a district that he won by more than 11 points in 2016.

That the race is even up for grabs is a troubling sign for Republicans with just over three months to go before the midterm elections. Republican groups have spent millions to protect former Rep. Pat TiberiPatrick (Pat) Joseph TiberiOhio New Members 2019 Many authors of GOP tax law will not be returning to Congress GOP Rep. Balderson holds onto seat in Ohio MORE’s (R) seat, which was occupied by Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) before him. It has been more than 30 years since a Democrat last held the seat.

Election forecasters increasingly believe Democrats will take over the House in November. A special election loss in Ohio’s 12th District will send Republicans into panic mode.

> Down south, another tough race for Republicans came into focus on Thursday night. Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTrump’s new Syria timetable raises concern among key anti-ISIS allies Dem lawmaker invites Parkland survivor to attend State of the Union Bipartisan senators press Trump for strategy to protect Syrian Kurds MORE (R-Tenn.) and former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D-Tenn.) won their respective primaries and will face one another to replace retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 Sen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy MORE (R-Tenn.) in November.

This is a must-win for Republicans if they hope to maintain or grow their slim 51-49 majority in the Senate. Early polling shows Bredesen with a small lead.

It has been more than two decades since Tennessee was last represented by a Democrat in the upper chamber.

Fortunately for Blackburn, she is popular among establishment Republicans and the grass roots. She’ll have the support of Trump and the deep-pocketed network of groups affiliated with Charles Koch, even as Trump and Koch publicly feud over policy and rhetorical tone.

The Hill: Bannon blasts Koch network ‘con artists.’

> Trump and the Koch network are on the same page on a major legislative issue as well.

The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports that the president is open to a compromise that would combine criminal justice reform and prison sentencing reform, a policy priority for White House senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? Rule change sharpens Dem investigations into Trump Drama hits Senate Intel panel’s Russia inquiry MORE, who has worked closely with the Koch network on the issue.

A senior White House official described the president as "positively inclined" toward a compromise proposal presented by Senate Republicans that would add some sentencing reform to a prison reform bill that overwhelmingly passed the House earlier this year.

But other than that, Trump and his allies are eager to retaliate against the Koch network for disparaging the president’s rhetoric as divisive and slamming his trade policy at a donor gathering over the weekend.

Politico reports that the RNC is warning candidates against accepting Koch network money, putting some Republicans in a bind.


“We have a long-term commitment to unite around issues that will help people improve their lives. Just as we have in the past, we will work together with the President, elected officials and others where we agree. And, where we disagree, we will do so in a civil way.” -– James Davis, spokesman for the Koch Network.

More from the campaign trail…

> Nashville businessman Bill Lee (R) held off a crowded field of contenders, including Rep. Diane BlackDiane Lynn BlackLamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee Juan Williams: The GOP's worsening problem with women How to reform the federal electric vehicle tax credit MORE (R), to win the Republican nomination for governor in Tennessee. Lee will face Democrat Karl Dean in the general election (The Hill).

> Trump on Thursday stumped for Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaTrump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 GOP trading fancy offices, nice views for life in minority Casey secures third Senate term over Trump-backed Barletta MORE (R) in Pennsylvania. Barletta is taking on Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyGOP wants to pit Ocasio-Cortez against Democrats in the Senate Biden speaking to Dems on Capitol Hill as 2020 speculation mounts: report GOP senators: Trump should not declare border emergency during State of the Union MORE Jr. (D), who is the favorite to win reelection. The president gave Casey one of his famed nicknames as he pleaded with the audience not to fall asleep while he disparaged the Pennsylvania Democrat.  

“Sleepin’ Bob, that’s it.” -– Trump

 

> On Josh Kraushaar’s latest “Against the Grain” podcast, Republican pollster Glen Bolger says Democrats will pick up between 20 and 50 seats in November … The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein writes that there are parallels between today’s protests and those of the 1960s. The difference, he says, is that social movements are more partisan than they used to be (The Atlantic).

> And finally, a tangential political story. You may have witnessed the latest explosion in the White House briefing room between CNN reporter Jim Acosta and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders after Acosta was jeered by Trump supporters at a rally this week.

The Hill’s Amie Parnes reports on how the media environment has changed under the current administration (The Hill).

The clashes between the administration and the press are likely to continue because they’re helpful to both sides. Trump’s attacks on the media keep his base energized. His campaign has been fundraising off his battles with the “fake news” media. Reporters in Washington, meanwhile, are landing big cable news contracts and becoming media stars for fighting back.

We’ll close this section by drawing attention to three reporters operating outside of the Washington frenzy who were tragically murdered this weekend in pursuit of a story.

Columbia Journalism Review: Journalists ambushed in Central African Republic during investigation of Russian mercenaries.

LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS: The Senate was productive this week, but will be out of Washington next week.

Russia: A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation on Thursday that would drop “crushing” penalties on Russia. The measure includes some warnings for Trump, too (The Hill).

Health insurance: Senate Democrats on Thursday said they’ll try to block the administration’s push for cheaper, temporary health insurance coverage as alternatives to the Affordable Care Act (The Hill). (SEE also ObamaCare coverage highlighted in the Administration section, below.) Democrats assert that “junk” insurance plans will raise premiums and end insurance protections for Americans who have pre-existing medical conditions.

Supreme Court confirmation: The National Archives said it’s unable to produce before the end of October all the documents requested by the Senate related to Brett Kavanaugh, the president’s nominee to the court (The Washington Post). The Senate has requested more than 900,000 pages of material, the Archive’s general counsel said on Thursday (The Hill).

Senate Republicans are pushing back against Democrats’ requests for Kavanaugh documents (The Hill).

House - disaster funding: The Hill: It’s possible Congress may be forced to weigh supplemental federal funding for California wildfires and other natural disasters as part of legislation to fund the government in September, should such resources be depleted. Such a scenario would present House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyMandatory E-Verify: The other border wall Bret Stephens: Would love to see Hannity react when Dem declares climate change emergency Democrats veer left as Trump cements hold on Republicans MORE (R) of California with a political challenge, because he wants to help his state, be elected Speaker and also be seen as a fiscal conservative.

Also on Capitol Hill … House Majority Whip Rep. Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTexas man with politician hit list, illegally 3D printed rifle sentenced to eight years The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? Dems escalate gun fight a year after Parkland MORE (R-La.) received a threatening voicemail, for which a New York man was arrested and charged. Scalise last year was among victims shot by an assailant during a congressional baseball practice near Washington (The Hill).

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INVESTIGATIONS: Will he or won’t he? Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani told Politico that a decision will be made in the next 10 days about whether the president will sit for an interview with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE.

The president has said he has nothing to hide and is eager to speak with Mueller’s team. But Trump’s legal counsel has cautioned against the move, worried that it’s a perjury trap that exposes the president to enormous legal risks.

The Associated Press reports that Mueller’s team is willing to compromise on the terms of an interview, potentially limiting the scope of the questioning or accepting some answers in writing.

The Washington Post reports that Mueller’s team said it was willing to reduce the number of questions pertaining to obstruction of justice.

A reminder: An interview with the president would signal that the special counsel is nearing the end of its investigation.

More on the investigations front … Mueller wants to interview the Russian pop star who arranged the infamous Trump Tower meeting (NBC News) … Former White House aide Stephen Bannon is urging Trump to fire deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinEx-federal prosecutor: I would have 'owned' wearing a wire to record Trump The embarrassing return of Andrew McCabe The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight MORE (The Hill) … Suspected Russian spy found working at U.S. Embassy in Moscow (The Guardian) … Bookkeeper testifies that former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortMueller recommends Manafort serve at least 19 years in prison The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears CNN's Toobin: 'Almost unrecognizable' Manafort 'in danger of losing his life' in prison MORE was broke in 2016 (CNN).

 

 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

TECHNOLOGY: Facebook and Google are in Congress’s crosshairs of late. And the companies got there in part because their global reach challenges lawmakers’ concepts of corporate “responsibility” in a world in which Russia and China pose cyber threats to U.S. national security. Twitter, too, has raised alarm bells among some conservatives, and Apple’s climbing valuation over 21 years is a measure of both success and dominance...

Responding to Russia’s interference with the 2016 election, Facebook is working to jettison some political disinformation campaigns from its platform. Here’s a fascinating case study of a woman who was duped by an entity on Facebook (The Hill).

> Facebook’s new policy that requires the collection of specific purchaser information to buy political advertising on the platform is being criticized by a national coalition of organizations that assert the company is silencing advocates, minorities and immigrants (The Washington Times).

> In late July, Facebook announced that while it remains blocked in China, it will nevertheless set up a training subsidiary in the world's most populous country as an "innovation hub" to support Chinese developers, innovators and startups (The Associated Press).

The Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board: Facebook can’t be the only one policing democracy.

> McCarthy sent a letter to a powerful House chairman on Thursday asking that Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey be brought before Congress to answer for allegations the social media platform has been “shadow-banning” conservatives (Axios).

Some members of Congress are privately alarmed to learn this week that Google is planning to launch a censored version of its search engine in China that will blacklist websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest. The project – code-named Dragonfly – has been underway for more than a year between Google and Chinese government officials (The Intercept).  

And if wealth alone were a gauge of power, Apple Inc. is a behemoth. On Thursday, Apple became America’s first $1 trillion publicly traded company (The Washington Post). What is $1 trillion these days? Just 16 nations claim economic output of $1 trillion or more per year. 

The New York Times: Apple’s $1 trillion milestone reflects rise of powerful mega-companies.

In other tech developments…

> Five things to know about guns created with 3D printers, a topic in the news this week (The Hill).

ADMINISTRATION & WHITE HOUSE: The White House on Thursday sought to establish that it is taking election security seriously ahead of the midterms, holding a briefing with five top national security officials who insisted that the matter is a top priority for the administration.

"The president has specifically directed us to make the matter of election meddling and securing our election process a top priority, and we have done that." - Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsEx-Trump official says intel community's testimony interfered in US-North Korea talks Is a presidential appointment worth the risk? Intel agencies' threat assessment matters more than tiff with Trump MORE

The administration has been criticized for not taking election security seriously enough. The president has equivocated over whether he believes Russia interfered in the 2016 election, even as his senior officials warn that Moscow is looking to meddle once again in 2018.

The Hill: White House makes show of force on election meddling.

The Associated Press: Campaigns on their own as cyber threats roil midterms.

NBC News: The split screen on Thursday of administration’s warnings about Russian interference and Trump’s dismissal of a Russian “hoax”

> ObamaCare lawsuit: Four cities are suing the Trump administration for waging “a relentless effort to use executive action alone to undermine and, ultimately, eliminate” ObamaCare. Republicans in Congress were unable to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but the Trump administration has chipped away at the law by expanding insurance options that do not comply with the health-care law's rules, cutting funding for outreach to help people sign up for coverage, and shortening the sign-up period (The Hill). 

 “We’ve done a number on ObamaCare.” -– Trump on Thursday at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania.

NBC News: Trump’s undermining of ObamaCare violates the Constitution, new lawsuit charges.

> Emissions standards: The Trump administration rolled out a plan on Thursday to weaken the Obama administration’s stringent fuel economy and global warming standards for cars and strip California of its ability to determine its own vehicle regulations for greenhouse gas emissions (The Hill).

Reuters: U.S. states vow to fight Trump rollback on auto emissions.

> Air Force One travel: A hint of the investigations to come if Democrats take over the House in the fall ... A group of Democratic senators is asking Defense Department and Air Force watchdogs to launch an investigation into tours that Trump has offered aboard Air Force One (BuzzFeed News). 

 

*** QUOTE FOR YOUR COFFEE BREAK *** 

    “A lot of people tell me I remind them of Russell Crowe. And hopefully Russell Crowe in his heyday, not today … He needs to get back into the gym.” — Former White House aide Sebastian GorkaSebastian Lukacs GorkaGorka says subway murder proves illegal immigration 'is a national security threat' Dems call for revoking Kushner's security clearance Christie says Trump hired 'riffraff' in new book MORE


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The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley jeasley@thehill.com & Alexis Simendinger asimendinger@thehill.com. Suggestions? Tips? We want to hear from you! Share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!

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OPINION

Another sloppy blue-state lawsuit, by Ramesh Ponnuru, The National Review. http://bit.ly/2LSbA1b

Trump critics aren’t deranged, they’re justifiably enraged, by Maria Cardona, opinion contributor for The Hill. http://bit.ly/2O7NPie

WHERE AND WHEN

The House is out until after Labor Day. 

The Senate is out until Aug. 13.

The president is taking a working vacation in Bedminster, N.J., through Aug. 13.

Vice President Pence and Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers wait for Trump's next move on border deal MORE are enjoying a break in Hawaii through Aug. 4.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight Overnight Defense: Trump to sign funding deal, declare national emergency | Shanahan says allies will be consulted on Afghanistan | Dem demands Khashoggi documents Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general MORE is in Asia through Aug. 5. He is in Singapore to participate in ASEAN ministerial meetings. On the way there, he told reporters that North Korea’s continued weapons work is counter to its denuclearization pledge made just weeks ago (Reuters).

The Labor Department releases its July jobs report today at 8:30 a.m. The data is expected to show a net gain of 190,000 for payrolls and a 3.9 percent unemployment rate, according to analysts, who are looking for additional indicators that the go-go economy has widened to draw a broader population off the sidelines and into employment.

Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Constitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Dems blast rulemaking on family planning program | Facebook may remove anti-vaccine content | Medicare proposes coverage for new cancer treatment MORE (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Constitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency Poll: Sanders, Biden seen as most popular second choices in Dem primary MORE (D-Mass.), both mulling 2020 presidential campaigns, are keynote speakers this afternoon in New Orleans at the progressive-fest known as Netroots Nation. (C-SPAN will broadcast the senators’ remarks.)

ELSEWHERE

> Pope revises catechism to say death penalty is 'inadmissible.’ Commits the church to working toward its abolition worldwide (National Catholic Reporter).

> America’s best employers for women 2018 (Forbes). From the Forbes list, the best employers for women in the Washington metro area (WTOP).

> Ernest Hemingway story from 1956 published for first time in The Strand Magazine (The Washington Post). 

 

THE CLOSER

And finally … We salute the winners of our Morning Report QUIZ CONTEST.

Readers this week matched quotes that included the phrase “witch hunt” with the presidents who uttered them. Our quiz masters: Pedro S., presidential historian Mike Purdy, Luke Rosche-Ritchie, B.J. Ford, William Mattingly, Rachel McGovern, Scott Deleve, Ron Wolfarth, Glen Clark, Patrick Alford, Sandy Sycafoose and John Hille, who emails us all the way from Western Australia.

And for the curious, the correct pairings:

President Trump, June 15, 2018:

“I have purposely, because of this ridiculous witch hunt, I have said I'm going to stay away from the Justice Department until it's completed. So I wanted to stay away. Now, that doesn't mean I have to, because I don't have to. I can get involved. But I don't want you people to say that I'm interfering, that I'm doing anything.”

President Johnson, Feb. 23, 1966:

We are committed now, however great the trial and tension, to protecting the right of free expression and peaceful dissent. We have learned to despise the witch hunt, the unprincipled harassment of a man's integrity and his right to be different. We have gained in tolerance, and I am determined to use the high office I hold to protect and to encourage that tolerance.”

President Truman, Nov. 14, 1947:

“Disloyal and subversive elements must be removed from the employ of the government … The overwhelming majority of federal employees are loyal citizens who are giving conscientiously of their energy and skills to the United States. I do not want them to fear they are the objects of any witch hunt. They are not being spied upon; they are not being restricted in their activities.”

President Obama, Sept. 20, 2009:

“I want to look forward and not backwards on this issue. On the other hand, I've also said nobody is above the law. …I trust career prosecutors to be judicious. I've made clear both publicly and privately that I have no interest in witch hunts. But, ultimately, the law is the law, and we don't go around sort of picking and choosing how we approach it.”

President George H.W. Bush, Oct. 31, 1992:

“Let's talk about character and trust. Gov. Clinton, over the last 24 hours, has been frantically flopping around like a bass on the side of the Arkansas River … These crazy charges you heard out of him last night are not new. We've responded to them over and over again; you taxpayers have spent about $40 million on this Democratic witch hunt, and I'm sick and tired of it.” 

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Correction: Rep. Beto O’Rourke, misidentified in Thursday’s Morning Report as a Republican, is, of course, a Texas Democrat.