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: 'Haven't thought about' pardons for Mueller target Pence: Rocket attack 'proves that Hamas is not a partner for peace' Conservation remains a core conservative principle 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 BlackburnTaylor Swift says she wants to get more involved in politics Bipartisan lawmakers introduce resolution supporting vaccines Hillicon Valley: Cohen stuns Washington with testimony | Claims Trump knew Stone spoke to WikiLeaks | Stone, WikiLeaks deny | TikTok gets record fine | Senators take on tech over privacy 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 CorkerTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Brexit and exit: A transatlantic comparison Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger 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 KushnerJordan: Mueller report should end congressional investigations into Trump Fox's Chris Wallace challenges Nadler on whether no more indictments means no 'criminal collusion' Five things we know about Dems' sprawling Trump probe 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 CaseyTrump officials take bold steps on Medicaid Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Trump health chief reveals talks with states on Medicaid block grants | New head of FDA faces tough test | Trump officials defends work requirements in court Trump health chief reveals talks with states on Medicaid block grants 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 McCarthyMcCarthy: 'Case is closed' on Trump and collusion House leaders need to modernize Congress for the sake of America Overnight Energy: McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal | Centrist Dems pitch alternative to plan | House Republican likens Green New Deal to genocide | Coca-Cola reveals it uses 3M tons of plastic every year 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 ScaliseThis week: Congress set for next stage of Mueller probe fight Why do so many Democrats embrace hate speech? Conservatives wage assault on Mueller report 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 RosensteinWhy Mueller's hedge on obstruction decision was a mistake The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Dems eye next stage in Mueller fight Dem rep on collusion: 'Impossible' to 'write it off completely' just going off Barr summary 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 ManafortTrump: 'Haven't thought about' pardons for Mueller target Trump: Mueller acted honorably Sanders: 'No discussion' of pardoning former Trump aides 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 CoatsOvernight Defense: Pentagon lists construction projects at risk from emergency declaration | Officials deny report on leaving 1,000 troops in Syria | Spy budget request nears B Trump administration requests nearly B for spy budget Dems request probe into spa owner suspected of trying to sell access to 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 Jeanine Pirro is 'absolutely right' to suggest Omar's hijab means she's against Constitution Trump Jr. defends Tucker Carlson: 'This is how to handle the outrage mob' Fox News confirms exit of Eboni K. Williams 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 PencePence hosts openly gay Irish prime minister and his partner for breakfast The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Senate GOP clash over Yemen, border security Karen Pence leads US delegation to Special Olympics in UAE MORE are enjoying a break in Hawaii through Aug. 4.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoIlhan Omar tells Muslim group to 'raise hell' over discrimination Seven questions AIPAC attendees should ask of Democratic presidential wannabes Five things to watch as AIPAC conference kicks off 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 HarrisJam-packed primary poses a serious threat to Democrats in 2020 Pence hits 2020 Dems for skipping AIPAC Ex-GOP lawmaker Handel to run for her former Georgia seat in 2020 MORE (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenJam-packed primary poses a serious threat to Democrats in 2020 Pence hits 2020 Dems for skipping AIPAC Poll: Biden, Sanders lead Trump in Iowa 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.