The Hill's Morning Report — Trump, Pence barnstorm swing states

 

 

 

Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report and happy Thursday! 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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President TrumpDonald John TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border MORE and Vice President Pence are barnstorming swing states with 68 days to go before the midterm elections.

The president is in Evansville, Ind., on Thursday, where he’ll hold his 10th rally in the Hoosier State since announcing his bid for president in 2015.

Trump will be promoting Republican Mike Braun, who is trying to take out Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (D).

Donnelly is one of 10 Senate Democrats up for reelection in states the president carried in 2016. Trump won Indiana by nearly 20 points but the only recent survey of the Senate race found Donnelly with a 12 point lead.

Usually on a campaign stop like this, conservative outside groups would coordinate with the president to amplify his message. This time, the conservative group Freedom Partners, which is part of the network helmed by Charles Koch, will be running ads in Evansville in opposition to the president’s tariffs (YouTube).

Meanwhile, Pence is keeping an even more aggressive campaign schedule.

The vice president was in Michigan on Wednesday in support of GOP upstart John James, the African-American veteran of the Iraq War who is considered a long-shot to unseat Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowLand conservation tax incentives should inspire charitable giving, not loopholes Four names emerge for UN position: report Democrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal MORE (D) in a state the president turned red for the first time in nearly 30 years.

 

 

On Thursday, Pence will hit both Minnesota and Wisconsin.

In Minneapolis, Pence will raise money for the state party. Minnesota is second only to California for the state with the most “toss up” House races, according to the nonpartisan election handicappers at The Cook Political Report.

There are two vulnerable House Republicans here – Reps. Erik PaulsenErik Philip PaulsenLawmakers beat lobbyists at charity hockey game The 8 House Republicans who voted against Trump’s border wall Minnesota New Members 2019 MORE and Jason LewisJason Mark LewisMLB donated to GOP lawmaker who made controversial comments about women, minorities Minnesota New Members 2019 Overnight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — Medicaid expansion gets extra boost from governors' races | Utah's expansion to begin April 1 | GOP lawmaker blames McCain for Dems winning House MORE. Paulsen is one of 23 House Republicans up for reelection in a district Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDem strategist says Clinton ‘absolutely’ has a role to play in 2020 Left-leaning journalist: Sanders would be 'formidable candidate' against Trump Clinton hits EPA for approval of pesticide dump: ‘We need bees!’ MORE won in 2016.

But Republicans also have a rare opportunity to go on offense for House seats in Minnesota, with two open seats in rural districts that might represent their best chance at turning blue seats red this cycle.

Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharKlobuchar ate salad with her comb, ordered aide to clean it: report Sanders endorses Oakland teachers strike Dem strategist says Clinton ‘absolutely’ has a role to play in 2020 MORE (D-Minn.) and Tina SmithTina Flint SmithContractor back pay not included in shutdown deal Push to include contractor back pay in funding deal hits GOP roadblock Dems seeking path to Senate majority zero-in on Sun Belt MORE (D-Minn.) are both up for reelection this year but they’re favorites to win their respective races.

Still, Trump and Pence have been visiting Minnesota to lay the groundwork for their 2020 reelection campaign. Clinton carried the state by less than 2 points in 2016.

From there, Pence will stop in Milwaukee on Thursday night to campaign for GOP Senate candidate Leah Vukmir.

Vukmir is challenging Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinKlobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up Dems offer smaller step toward ‘Medicare for all' Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Powerful House committee turns to drug pricing | Utah governor defies voters on Medicaid expansion | Dems want answers on controversial new opioid MORE (D-Wis.), another top target for Republicans in a state the president turned red for the first time since 1984. Trump edged Clinton by less than 1 point in Wisconsin in 2016.

 

 

LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Democrat Andrew Gillum’s surprise victory in the Florida gubernatorial primary on Tuesday night sets up one of the most fascinating races of the cycle.

Gillum, the first-term Tallahassee mayor, is a progressive with the support of Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSanders endorses Oakland teachers strike Dem strategist says Clinton ‘absolutely’ has a role to play in 2020 News media has sought to 'delegitimize' Tulsi Gabbard, says liberal journalist MORE (I-Vt.). The GOP candidate, Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisFlorida governor suspends mayor over allegations of attempted murder Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Trump bans abortion providers from family planning program | White House doesn't back GOP governor on drug imports | HHS declines to provide witnesses for family separations hearing White House doesn't back DeSantis on drug importation from Canada MORE (R-Fla.), is a Trump Republican, setting up a proxy war between the left and the right for a key governor’s mansion.

Expect Gillum to earn some early favorable media coverage as reporters scramble to write profiles about the progressive who burst unexpectedly onto the national scene.

 

 

But there are tricky politics ahead for Gillum, who has to prove he can raise enough money to run in Florida. There are also questions about whether he’s too far to the left for Sunshine State voters and an ongoing FBI investigation that has touched some in his orbit.

The Hill: Gillum to face tougher road in Florida after primary stunner.

Of course, DeSantis had a much choppier first 24 hours since winning the nomination. Cable news was buzzing about whether DeSantis had used a racial slur in urging Floridians not to “monkey this up.

The Hill: Toxic algae sludge seeps into Florida Senate race..

> Meanwhile, in Texas, polls show Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzInviting Kim Jong Un to Washington Trump endorses Cornyn for reelection as O'Rourke mulls challenge O’Rourke not ruling out being vice presidential candidate MORE (R) battling to fight off a surprisingly strong challenge from Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas).

The Dallas Morning News reports that Cruz has pleaded for Trump’s help but that the president has not yet scheduled a swing through the Lone Star State.

This much is certain: Things are getting nasty in Texas.

The Twitter account for the state Republican party sent out a series of tweets attacking O’Rourke for refusing to debate Cruz, including this one, which appears to be his mugshot from a DWI arrest more than 20 years ago:

 

 

More on the midterms … Democrats have a 6 point lead in the generic congressional ballot (Economist/YouGov) … Montana’s Democratic governor says it is not enough for the party to run against Trump (ABC News) … New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and liberal challenger Cynthia Nixon spar in rollicking debate (The New York Times).

The Washington Post (editorial board): Judges trying to fix gerrymandered North Carolina districts may cause mass confusion ahead of November elections.

> Looking ahead to 2020, The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports that the Senate Democrats with White House ambitions are already stepping up their political activity (The Hill).

Among those outside of the Senate who are also ramping up for a potential run – former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (Politico) and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (Politico).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

TECH & MEDIA: Trump’s vows to take action against Google and other internet companies that he says are biased against him and Republicans are challenged by the fact that there is little he or Congress can do, Bloomberg reports.

But the president is not letting up. Asserting that powerful political bias is at work in Silicon Valley appeals to Trump’s base, and continues to animate Fox News. Next week, the debate is expected to be part of public discussions during congressional hearings.

To keep the theme alive, Trump on Wednesday deployed an anti-Google slide show complete with a #StopTheBias hashtag.

 

 

The Senate Intelligence Committee plans a Sept. 5 hearing about foreign influence on social media platforms, featuring testimony from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, and possibly Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet, Google’s holding company (he has not confirmed that he’ll be there).

That afternoon, Dorsey also will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about Twitter and “transparency and accountability.”

Amazon, another tech company Trump enjoys pummeling on Twitter, ran into more trouble on Wednesday, this time from the left. Sen. Sanders plans to make his first visit to an Amazon warehouse next month, to register his complaints that in his view, Amazon employees get a raw deal.

The company responded on its website that the senator’s criticisms about poor pay and rough working conditions are “inaccurate and misleading” (Business Insider). The response also prompted news coverage unpacking why Amazon suddenly seems so concerned about its brand image.

Gizmodo: Why is Amazon scared of Bernie Sanders?

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WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump surprised Don McGahn, his White House counsel, by announcing on Twitter Wednesday that the lawyer who represents the presidency will be leaving this fall, “shortly after” what the president hopes will be the Senate confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

It was no secret in the West Wing that McGahn yearned to depart later this year, but the tweet raised eyebrows about whether McGahn leaped or was pushed (The Washington Post).

A leading contender to succeed McGahn is Emmet Flood, who was hired in May to join the counsel staff to advise Trump on the special counsel’s Russia investigation and questions about whether the president should submit to questions or an interview.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKids confront Feinstein over Green New Deal Trump selects Kelly Craft for United Nations ambassador Union leader says Green New Deal would make infrastructure bill ‘absolutely impossible’ MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - What to watch for as Mueller’s probe winds down Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes Drug pricing fight centers on insulin MORE (R-Iowa) expressed their admiration for McGahn and shared regrets that the legal liaison they relied on inside the West Wing is packing up.

 

 

Trump and the Steele dossier: On Wednesday, the president’s longrunning agitation about damaging allegations gathered about him during the 2016 presidential campaign resulted in his recommendation that the chief justice of the Supreme Court tell the head of a national security court to question officials with the FBI and Justice Department about their use of a so-called Russia dossier as part of a collusion probe. Trump singled out Justice official Bruce Ohr on Twitter, apparently quoting a Fox News analyst (Reuters).

Passports and the border: Individual cases identified by The Washington Post and interviews with immigration attorneys point to a dramatic shift in both passport issuance and immigration enforcement along the U.S. southern border with Mexico. The administration is accusing hundreds and possibly thousands of Hispanics of using fraudulent birth certificates, denying passports and proceeding with deportations. The State Department denies a policy change, but says the government works to prevent incidents of “citizenship fraud.”

FBI: Following Trump’s unsubstantiated tweets overnight on Wednesday referencing Chinese hacking, Clinton’s emails and “intelligence,” the FBI pushed back, saying the bureau found no evidence that the private servers Clinton used while secretary of State had been compromised (The Washington Post).

DOJ – campus sexual violence grants: The Justice Department on Wednesday announced it will award 57 federal grants totaling $18 million to help college and university campuses respond to sexual assaults, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking crimes. The schools receiving the campus grants are listed HERE.

Education: As the Justice Department offers those special grants, the Education Department is putting in place new rules dealing with sexual misconduct on college campuses, which would strengthen the rights of those accused of assault, rape and harassment, and reduce liability for colleges and universities. The department proposes to adopt a Supreme Court definition of “sexual harassment” (The New York Times).

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The Hill’s Policy Outlook: Our reporters take you inside the policy issues that will be in focus in Washington for the rest of the year.

Defense: Lawmakers near finish line on appropriations.

Health care: Pre-existing conditions fight takes center stage in midterms.

Latino: Showdown looms on border wall.

Technology: GOP, tech industry clash over claims of bias.

Finance: Congress races to pass annual spending bills.

Cybersecurity: Midterms to test new security efforts.

Energy and Environment: Environmental Protection Agency to focus on new power plant, water rules.

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

What did Pope Francis know? by Ross Douthat, opinion columnist, The New York Times.

Honor the bipartisan legacy of McCain with immigration reform, by author Matthew Soerens. https://bit.ly/2MZtwq7

 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House and Senate are scheduled to return to work after Labor Day.

Proceedings for McCain in Arizona today: A memorial service is scheduled at 10 a.m. Pacific at North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix. Former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenDem strategist says Clinton ‘absolutely’ has a role to play in 2020 It's Bernie Sanders vs. Elizabeth Warren in New Hampshire Harry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus MORE, who represented Delaware in the Senate for 36 years, will speak. Following the service, McCain’s casket will be flown to the nation’s capital. 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. Public access through the Capitol Visitor Center: Line forms 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 flies to Evansville, Ind., for a roundtable with political supporters and a reelection rally, then returns to the White House.

Pence travels to Minneapolis and Milwaukee today for official and political events.

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 ScottTop Dems blast administration's proposed ObamaCare changes Virginia congressional delegation says it's 'devastated by’ Richmond Turmoil The Hill's 12:30 Report: AOC unveils Green New Deal measure | Trump hits Virginia Dems | Dems begin hearings to get Trump tax returns 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

> Economy: U.S. growth hit 4.2 percent in the second quarter, the strongest showing in four years, revised upward slightly by the Commerce Department (Reuters).

> Labor and trade: AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Wednesday praised the wage requirements in the revamped North American Free Trade Agreement accord announced by the Trump administration and Mexico (Bloomberg). 

> Health: Fewer Americans lack insurance, but the gap remains wide, especially in some states Trump won in 2016 (Bloomberg). The number of uninsured declined to 28.3 million in the first quarter this year, down from 29.3 last year -– and 48.6 million in 2010, the year the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

> Environment: Florida’s unusually prolonged red tide phenomenon is killing wildlife, tourism and businesses (The Washington Post). In the state, the longest red tide on record was a 30-month “marathon of misery” that started in 1994. This deadly episode is the worst in a decade.

 

 


THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means we have another Morning Report QUIZ CONTEST, drawn from recent headlines. This is a chance to win some newsletter fame on Friday by sending your best guesses to jeasley@thehill.com or asimendinger@thehill.com (and please put “Quiz” in your subject line).

Americans in August are saying farewell to icons and notables who enriched our politics, music, theater and films. If you’ve skimmed the news lately, these questions are a cinch.

Arizona’s John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGabbard hits back at Meghan McCain after fight over Assad Mellman: Where are good faith and integrity? GOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority MORE, who died at age 81, planned his own funeral, which involves events spanning five days, three cities and three states. Last spring, he telephoned two former presidents and asked if they would deliver eulogies for him when the time came. Which ex-presidents accepted his invitation, and will honor the Senate “maverick” at the Washington National Cathedral on Saturday?

  1. George H.W. Bush and Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonInviting Kim Jong Un to Washington Howard Schultz must run as a Democrat for chance in 2020 Trump says he never told McCabe his wife was 'a loser' MORE
  2. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton
  3. George W. Bush and Barack ObamaBarack Hussein Obama4 ways Hillary looms over the 2020 race Obama goes viral after sporting black bomber jacket with '44' on sleeve at basketball game Obama attends UNC-Duke basketball game MORE
  4. Jimmy Carter and Donald Trump

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, died Aug. 16, and a funeral takes place on Friday. But first, her many fans paid their R.E.S.P.E.C.T.s, taking the opportunity to file past the singer’s open casket over two days this week. Franklin, who was 76, is being eulogized in glamorous style, although she did not direct any of the details before she died from pancreatic cancer. What stood out about Franklin as she lay in repose at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on Tuesday?

  1. A 24-karat gold-plated casket
  2. Ruby-red, Christian Louboutin 5-inch patent leather shoes
  3. Tree-sized sprays of pink and violet long-stemmed roses
  4. All of the above

Playwright Neil Simon, 91, died in New York this week from complications of pneumonia. Hailed as Broadway’s master of comedy, Simon wrote “Barefoot in the Park,” “The Odd Couple” and “Biloxi Blues,” among many commercially successful plays, and he earned a Tony award and a Pulitzer Prize along the way. Simon’s career got its professional start how?

  1. In the early days of television
  2. Through stand-up sketches in clubs
  3. In U.S. government filmmaking
  4. In advertising

Ed King, the former guitarist for the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, died of cancer in Nashville last week at age 68. King, who got his start in the late 1960s with the band Strawberry Alarm Clock, co-wrote Lynyrd Skynyrd’s biggest hit, but decided to quit the brawling, hard-partying group in 1975. King hooked back up with a reconstituted version of the band in 1987 and toured and recorded for another decade. Years later, Edward C. King made it to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. What was the band’s billboard-soaring 1974 breakthrough?

  1. “Jesus is Just Alright”
  2. “Sweet Home Alabama”
  3. “Ramblin’ Man”
  4. “La Grange”