The Hill's Morning Report — General election season underway with marquee Senate races set

 

 

 

Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report and happy Wednesday! Our daily email gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch, co-created by Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger. (CLICK HERE to subscribe!) On Twitter, find us at @joneasley and @asimendinger.

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The marquee Senate matchups are set and general election season is underway.

Voters lined up behind key candidates last night in Arizona and Florida.

The Hill: Takeaways from Tuesday’s primary elections.

Two female House members will square off for Senate in the Grand Canyon State, where Reps. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallySinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — GOP again has momentum on Kavanaugh rollercoaster Arizona race becomes Senate GOP’s ‘firewall’ MORE (R) and Kyrsten Sinema (D) triumphed in their respective primaries. Arizona is a rare pick-up opportunity for Democrats, who are otherwise on defense in states President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown MORE won in 2016.

Reuters: In Arizona Senate race, McSally’s embrace of Trump carries risks.

In Florida, the Senate battle of political heavyweights will feature Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonMidterm polling data favors Democrats — in moderation Poll: Nelson and Scott tied in Florida Senate race Nelson campaign to donate K from Al Franken group to charity MORE (D).

 

And in the Sunshine State’s governor’s race, Trump’s endorsement proved to be gold once again, as Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisPoll: Gillum leads DeSantis by 4 points in Florida Trump's baby blimp arrives in Florida for Mar-a-Lago protest Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states MORE (R) won the hard-fought GOP primary and will move on to a general election contest against Democrat Andrew Gillum, a progressive who won in a surprising upset on Tuesday night.

The New York Times: A black progressive and a Trump acolyte win Florida governor primaries.

By The Wall Street Journal’s count, the president is now 36-2 in endorsements this primary cycle. Trump’s biggest loss was backing Sen. Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangeAnn Coulter believes Kushner wrote anonymous op-ed bashing Trump Mulvaney: Trump regularly asks why Roy Moore lost The Hill's Morning Report — General election season underway with marquee Senate races set MORE (R-Ala.), who fell in a special election primary to Judge Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreSexual assault is not a game — stop using women to score political points GAO investigating after employee featured in Project Veritas video Roy Moore dismisses Kavanaugh accusation: 'So obvious' when claims come 'just days before a very important event' MORE (R-Ala.). Trump also jumped into the Wyoming governor’s race late in support of conservative activist and donor Foster Friess, who lost in the primary.

The Wall Street Journal: How Trump is remaking the Republican Party.

There are still a handful of states that will hold primary contests on the East Coast over the coming weeks, but by and large the stage is set and general election spending is ramping up.

With Democrats favored to win back the House, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) on Tuesday placed its first independent expenditure during August for a November race.

The House GOP campaign arm was criticized for largely sitting on cash through the final month of the summer. But in coming weeks, the NRCC will unload tens of millions of dollars on the airwaves.

Democratic groups expect to match those efforts and target GOP members whose losses would be especially painful within the House Republican caucus. On Wednesday, the liberal group Equity Forward Action will launch a pair of six-figure ad buys targeting Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersGOP: The economy will shield us from blue wave Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker Conservatives blame McCarthy for Twitter getting before favorable committee MORE (R-Wash.), the top ranking woman in the House, and Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul Walden13 states accepted Sessions invitation to meeting on social media bias: report House GOP blocks Trump-supported drug pricing provision from spending bill GOP turns its fire on Google MORE (R-Ore.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

McMorris Rodgers’s seat is rated “lean Republican” by the Cook Political Report, while Walden is believed to be safe.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, a conservative group backed by billionaire activist Charles Koch is launching new multimillion-dollar ad campaigns across three states to boost GOP Senate candidates in tough midterm election fights.

Americans For Prosperity is putting nearly $5 million behind new ads in Wisconsin, Missouri and Tennessee attacking the Democratic Senate candidates for their records on taxes, government spending and health care (The Hill).

Trump and Vice President Pence will be fixtures on the trail, particularly in the 10 states where Senate Democrats are up for reelection in states the president carried in 2016.

Trump will be in Indiana on Thursday, where Republican Mike Braun is aiming to unseat Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyThis week: Kavanaugh nomination thrown into further chaos Doug Jones to McConnell: Don't 'plow right through' with Kavanaugh The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh MORE (D). And Pence will stump later today for GOP Senate candidate John James, an African-American and veteran of the Iraq war, as he tries to defeat Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowCongress prepares to punt biggest political battles until after midterms Trump attacks Dems on farm bill Trump is wrong, Dems are fighting to save Medicare and Social Security MORE (D) in Michigan.

The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics launched this cool interactive political atlas to help you sort through all of the data: http://bit.ly/2wmXx9U

More from the campaign trail … Senate Republicans spent the weekend praising the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCongress must use bipartisan oversight as the gold standard The Hill's Morning Report — Ford, Kavanaugh to testify Thursday as another accuser comes forward Trump hits McCain on ObamaCare vote MORE (R-Ariz.) but most would prefer his replacement to be a more reliable GOP vote (The Hill) … Democrats and Republicans will spend more than $100 million on races for attorneys general this year as legal battles rage between the states and the Trump administration (The Hill).


LEADING THE DAY

TECH & MEDIA: Trump on Tuesday launched new attacks against the Silicon Valley companies that conservatives have accused of censoring right-leaning speech.

In a pair of morning tweets, Trump singled out Google, accusing the search giant of promoting negative news about him and hiding favorable media coverage.

Reuters: Trump accuses Google of hiding fair media coverage about him.

The president did not provide any evidence for the claim, which appeared to originate from an unscientific experiment at PJ Media that was promoted by conservative news aggregator The Drudge Report.

The Washington Post: Investigating Trump’s claims of rigged search results.

In a statement, Google denied that its search results algorithms are influenced by politics.

"Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don't bias our results toward any political ideology. Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users' queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment." – a Google spokesperson.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the president’s team is looking at what it can do to address the matter, although it’s unclear how the administration could force a private company to alter a proprietary technology.

 

 

Still, in going after Google and later broadening his attacks to Twitter and Facebook, the president was giving voice to a deep frustration that has been percolating among grass-roots conservatives.

The Memo: Trump takes aim at tech giants.

Republican lawmakers and influential right-leaning thinkers have been highlighting instances where they say Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been punishing conservative content-makers or making it more difficult to find their posts.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg will be asked about this at a Senate hearing next week. Google’s Sundar Pichai has declined to attend (Bloomberg).

The hearing comes as social media companies struggle to balance demands that they limit the spread of conspiracy theories and “hate speech,” while also remaining free of political bias and allowing for a broad range of content.

More on the tech front … Instagram rolls out effort to stop ‘fake news’ (CNBC) … Breaking from industry norms, Yahoo is scanning emails for data to sell to advertisers (The Wall Street Journal) … Trump unblocks more Twitter users in response to U.S. court ruling (Reuters).

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INVESTIGATIONS: House Republicans grilled Department of Justice (DOJ) official Bruce Ohr in a closed-door session for nearly eight hours on Tuesday.

The Hill: House Republicans say Ohr interview escalates surveillance concerns.

Ohr is the latest senior law enforcement official to attract the ire of Trump and his allies, who have been probing the origins of the investigation into Trump’s campaign and allegations of political bias at the DOJ and FBI.

Ohr has come under scrutiny for his ties to the opposition research firm Fusion GPS and British spy Christopher Steele. Steele compiled the infamous opposition research dossier on Trump that the FBI used in part to justify the investigation into Trump and his campaign.

Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS during the campaign.

GOP lawmakers said Tuesday that the FBI did not disclose some of these apparent conflicts of interest when it sought warrants to spy on members of Trump’s campaign.

 

 

Reuters: Trump, without evidence, blames China for hacking Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton2016 pollsters erred by not weighing education on state level, says political analyst Could President Trump's talk of a 'red wave' cause his supporters to stay home in midterms? Dem group targets Trump in M voter registration campaign: report MORE’s emails.

> The second trial for Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDem warns Trump: 'Obstruction of justice' to fire Rosenstein Ex-White House official revises statement to Mueller after Flynn guilty plea: report Former White House lawyer sought to pay Manafort, Gates legal fees: report MORE has been pushed back a week and will begin on Sept. 24.

Manafort’s lawyers are trying to get the trial moved out of Washington, D.C., arguing that the case is too politicized to take place in the nation’s capital (Reuters).

That move didn’t fly when the defense tried it in Manafort’s first trial in Alexandria, Va. A jury there found Manafort guilty on eight charges of bank and tax fraud.

In this second trial, Manafort and his former business associate are charged with illegal foreign lobbying.

> Michael Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis is backtracking on bombshell allegations he made to several media outlets. Davis was cited as an anonymous source in several stories claiming that Cohen was willing to tell special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE that the president had advance knowledge about a Trump Tower meeting between his son Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpCould President Trump's talk of a 'red wave' cause his supporters to stay home in midterms? Trump Jr. defends James Woods over Twitter lockout: 'The bias continues!' Goldstone regrets setting up Trump Tower meeting with Russians MORE and Russians promising opposition research on Hillary Clinton.

CNN first reported that story in late July. Davis now says he was the anonymous source referenced in the report, and that his claims were false.

BuzzFeed: Davis says he was a source for CNN’s Trump Tower story.

Several other media outlets followed CNN’s story and have since revealed that Davis was also a source for what became erroneous reporting.

NBC News: Davis says he was wrong about Trump Tower meeting.

CNN is standing by its report. Famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein had the lead byline.

CNN: Davis keeps changing his story on Trump Tower meeting.

Glenn Greenwald: CNN refuses to explain discrepancies amid allegations it misled audiences about “bombshell” Trump Tower report.

The Associated Press: Trump, Cohen lawyers stumble on facts.

Full disclosure: Davis is an opinion contributor with The Hill.

> Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRosenstein faces Trump showdown Solicitor general could take over Mueller probe if Rosenstein exits 13 states accepted Sessions invitation to meeting on social media bias: report MORE has been encouraged by some Republicans to resist the president’s public pressures and criticisms and remain at the Justice Department – and especially until after the midterms (The Wall Street Journal).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

INTERNATIONAL: North Korea: Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump returns to UN praising Kim | Iran in crosshairs later this week | US warns Russia on missile defense in Syria Bolton: Russian missile system sale to Syria a 'significant escalation' Overnight Defense: Trump identifies first soldier remains from North Korea | New cyber strategy lets US go on offense | Army chief downplays talk of 'Fort Trump' MORE says U.S. war exercises with South Korea were paused but never halted while denuclearization discussions with North Korea were ongoing. For the time being, those talks have stalled. “We turned off several [exercises] to make a good faith effort. We are going to see how the negotiations go and then we’ll calculate...how we go forward. I don’t have a crystal ball,” Mattis told journalists on Tuesday (The Daily Beast). The secretary added that smaller military exercises have been ongoing (Reuters).

Afghanistan: Mattis again rejected an idea, floated to Trump by a controversial private-sector contractor, to use non-Pentagon forces in Afghanistan (The Hill).

Canada: Pressure increased on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to cut a North American Free Trade deal with the U.S. as discussions began between Canada and the Trump administration in the wake of an announced agreement with Mexico (The Wall Street Journal) … Members of Congress looked askance at Trump’s announced U.S.-Mexico trade agreement (Reuters).

Russia: Moscow is poised to stage the country’s biggest war games in nearly four decades (Reuters).

Iran: The parliament in Iran voted on Tuesday to censure President Hassan Rouhani after his explanations of the country’s economic strife under U.S. sanctions. It was seen as a sign that pragmatists are losing sway to Tehran’s hard-liners (Reuters).

South Africa: South Africa’s parliament on Tuesday withdrew an expropriation bill it passed in 2016 that allowed the state to make compulsory purchases of land to redress racial disparities in ownership (Reuters). The thrust of the bill, which had not been signed into law, has been overtaken by a proposal by the ruling African National Congress to change the country’s constitution to allow the expropriation of land without compensation to owners.

> While traveling Tuesday in Cape Town, British Prime Minister Theresa May said Great Britain supports South Africa’s land reform program, provided it can be carried out legally, with transparency and through a democratic process (Reuters).

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!

OPINION

Cohen attorney Davis is more proof that 2018 is the year of lawyers living dangerously, by Jonathan Turley, opinion contributor to The Hill. https://bit.ly/2BYlz0i

Two cheers for Trump’s revamped trade agreement with Mexico, by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. “The preliminary update includes labor and environmental standards somewhat like those that Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaJudge denies bid to move lawsuit over Trump national monument rollbacks to Utah Tomi Lahren to former first lady: 'Sit down, Michelle' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins MORE wanted to add to NAFTA — and made the centerpiece of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump scuttled.”

WHERE AND WHEN

The House is out until after Labor Day.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hears from Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb about protecting patients from unsafe and ineffective treatments, and what Congress can do to encourage biomedical research.

Proceedings for McCain in Arizona today: The late senator will lie in state at the Arizona State Capitol, on what would have been his 82nd birthday. A private ceremony begins at 10 a.m., followed by public access beginning at 2 p.m. Information: https://www.johnmccain.com/press/.

On Friday in Washington, D.C., McCain will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, which will be open to the public from 1- 8 p.m. All visitors must enter through the Capitol Visitor Center, according to the U.S. Capitol Police. The public will line up on Friday morning on First Street NW/SW, between Constitution and Independence Avenues, or Second Street NE/SE, between East Capitol Street and Independence Avenue, SE, until the U.S. Capitol opens at 1 p.m.

The president will announce a grant for a drug-free communities support program. In the evening, Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report — Ford, Kavanaugh to testify Thursday as another accuser comes forward Trump Jr. to Dem Senator: 'You admitted to hitting your wife so hard it gave her a black eye!' Melania Trump's spokeswoman gets Hatch Act warning for #MAGA tweet MORE will host a reception for the White House Historical Association on the state floor.

Vice President Pence flies to Michigan to again campaign for Republican Senate candidate James (WXYZ TV Detroit).

The Commerce Department at 8:30 a.m. releases a revised gross domestic product estimate for the second quarter. It will be closely watched because the strong preliminary 4.1 percent annual rate reported in July bolstered optimism about the economy’s expansion.

The White House Historical Association hosts the third of four days of its “Presidential Sites Summit,” through Aug. 30, featuring national speakers, scholars, journalists, former officials and the largest-ever assemblage of descendants of presidents. Invited association members and guests will attend a reception tonight hosted by the Trumps at the White House. Summit sessions: Willard InterContinental hotel, Washington. Information HERE.

Invitation from The Hill: Sept. 12, newsmakers discuss “A Healthy Start: Infant and Early Childhood Nutrition,” featuring Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottHealthy business vs healthy people — how will this administration address the two? Washington turns focus to child nutrition The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — McConnell warns of GOP `knife fight’ to keep Senate control MORE (D-Va.), and Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Brandon Lipps from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Hill’s Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack kicks off a conversation about maternal, infant and early childhood nutrition, and progress toward the goal of healthier eating. RSVP HERE.

ELSEWHERE

> Wages: Americans are making less money despite Trump’s promises (The Wall Street Journal). The hourly earnings of ordinary Americans are lower than they were a year ago, adjusted for inflation. Politically, the trend is considered a risk before the November elections. The president celebrates job growth and a sky-high stock market, but a majority of Americans say their finances have not improved.

> Puerto Rico: The mortality rate soared after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, far beyond initial official fatality estimates, according to an independent study commissioned by Puerto Rico’s department of public safety. Researchers determined that an additional 2,975 people died from September 2017 through the end of February due to the hurricane (ABC News). The risk of death was 45 percent higher for people living in low socioeconomic development towns and for men 65 years or older, research showed. … The White House reacted by saying it supports “full accountability” and “transparency” about the toll (The Hill).

> School shootings: The Department of Education may have greatly overestimated the number of school shootings, underscoring the lack of reliable data in reporting on gun violence (NPR).

> STDs: Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in the United States, setting a new record, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Less frequent condom use is a significant factor, and some experts believe dating apps such as Tinder are contributing to a trend that is largely preventable. Nearly 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were diagnosed last year in the United States, surpassing a record set in 2016 by more than 200,000 (NBC News).

> Stormy Daniels: `Two minutes’ and two hours, by Amy Chozick for Vogue.

 

 

 

> Art and artifacts: Cultural treasures made of plastic are falling apart. Museum conservators race to preserve modern artworks and historical objects that are disintegrating (The New York Times).

THE CLOSER

And finally … On the best of days, The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports, political battles over real estate on Capitol Hill are tricky, which is why the idea of renaming a Senate office building after John McCain hit a GOP buzz saw almost instantly.

Sens. Schumer and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP opens door to holding Kavanaugh committee vote this week Police arrest 128 protesting Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill GOP launches counteroffensive on Kavanaugh MORE (R-Ariz.) want to remove Richard B. Russell’s name from the building in which McCain had an office and redesignate it to honor the former Arizona senator who served in Congress for 35 years. Russell was a powerful Georgia Democrat and a segregationist who fought President Lyndon Johnson’s efforts to enact the Civil Rights Act. But mutterings among current Senate leaders about “process” and the need for “consultation” are a sure tell that McCain’s name won’t replace Russell’s any time soon (NPR).