The Hill’s Morning Report: Trump shifts campaign focus from Senate to House
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President Trump on Friday will turn his attention to protecting the Republican majority in the House, making a stop in North Carolina to raise money for candidates running in districts the GOP needs to hold if they hope to preserve their majority.
The president will be on the ground in Charlotte for Rep. Ted Budd (R) and Pastor Mark Harris, who upset Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) in a primary earlier this year.
Charlotte Observer: Whirlwind trip puts Trump in the middle of competitive House races.
Harris needs the help – he had less than $300,000 in his coffers at the end of June, compared to $1.8 million for his Democratic challenger Dan McCready, a Marine Corps veteran and business owner.
Trump won Harris’s district by 11 points in 2016 but the nonpartisan Cook Political Report has the race rated as a toss-up.
Budd, meanwhile, is the favorite to win reelection – Cook has his race rated as “leans Republican.”
But Budd’s Democratic challenger Kathy Manning has been a fundraising juggernaut, outraising Budd by nearly $1 million this cycle and sitting on nearly twice the cash, as of the end of June.
A July poll found Budd with a 5 point lead in the race.
Trump’s fundraising swing is also a way to thank a couple of allies. Budd is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, the conservative group that contains some of the president’s staunchest allies.
Harris is expected to join if he is elected and has said he’ll support Freedom Caucus founder Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to be Speaker if Republicans are still in the majority.
The visit comes amid a crisis over North Carolina’s congressional maps. A panel of judges ruled this week that the Republican-drawn maps are unconstitutional, throwing the election into chaos with only 67 days until voters head to the polls.
USA Today: North Carolina’s GOP-gerrymandered map is unconstitutional, may have to be redrawn.
For Trump, the swing marks a departure from his Senate-heavy campaign schedule in the Midwest and Great Plains states.
The president has been holding campaign rallies for GOP Senate candidates seeking to oust incumbent Democrats in the states he won in 2016, such as North Dakota, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.
On Thursday night, Trump rallied supporters in Indiana for GOP Senate candidate Mike Braun, who is aiming to unseat Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) in a state the president won by nearly 20 points in 2016.
“You’re gonna beat Joe Donnelly. You have to, because we need the votes. Joe’s not going to vote for us on anything.” – Trump
The Hill: A brutal summer for Republicans comes to a close.
LEADING THE DAY
*** Proceedings for John McCain in Washington today: The senator’s flag-draped casket will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda beginning with a ceremony at 11 a.m. Members of the public can enter between 1- 8 p.m. On Saturday, a national memorial service for McCain at Washington National Cathedral for invited guests begins at 10 a.m. On Sunday, the senator will be buried at the US. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Md., following a private memorial service at 2 p.m. at the academy’s chapel.
The New York Times: At McCain’s funeral, tears, laughs and allusions to the man not invited.
TRADE & ECONOMY: Trump talked with Bloomberg journalists on Thursday during a wide-ranging Oval Office interview, and made some news.
> He rejected a European Union offer to scrap tariffs on autos, comparing the EU’s trade policies to those of China. “It’s not good enough,” Trump said of the offer from Brussels. “Their consumer habits are to buy their cars, not to buy our cars” (Bloomberg).
Trump was reacting to an offer from the top trade official with the EU, who said the bloc is willing to remove all tariffs on cars and other industrial products as part of a limited trade pact with the United States, but only if the administration dropped similar U.S. tariffs on imports (The New York Times).
> The president again said he may pull the United States out of the World Trade Organization (WTO) if that referee of the international trading system does not treat the U.S. better (Bloomberg). “If they don’t shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO,” he said.
> He again dangled his interest in indexing capital gains to inflation. Such a change would result in a tax break for most wealthy filers. The Treasury Department is studying whether it can bypass Congress and issue a new rule to accomplish that aim (Bloomberg), but Trump went no further than White House comments issued at the start of August.
> The U.S. clash with China over trade continues to drive Trump’s thoughts about escalating the tariffs battle he launched in June (Bloomberg). He wants to move ahead with a plan to impose tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports as soon as a public-comment period concludes next week, according to Bloomberg sources. Asked to confirm the plan in an interview with the news service on Thursday, Trump smiled and said it was “not totally wrong.”
> Trump repeated his confidence in Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, whom he appointed, but said he does not favor the central bank’s interest rate hikes. Here’s the backstory (The Associated Press).
> Retirement savings: Trump will sign an executive order in Charlotte, N.C., on Friday to promote access to workplace retirement savings plans (The Hill), and to direct the government to review changing the age threshold when retirees must begin withdrawing savings.
POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer has been on the road helping GOP lawmakers and local Republican groups raise money ahead of the 2020 midterm elections.
The Morning Report has learned that Spicer this week headlined a fundraiser for Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) in Charlotte at the home of Felix Sabates, the GOP donor and part-owner of the Charlotte Hornets basketball team.
Sabates, who has hosted fundraisers for Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.). presidential campaign, among others, told those in attendance that it was the largest ever turnout for one of his political events.
Hudson raised more than $100,000 for his reelection bid, his largest one-day haul of the cycle.
Attendees also heard from Ned Curran, the co-chairman of the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, who gave an update on the city’s preparations.
Spicer’s appearances at the fundraisers are a win-win for himself and the candidates – he promotes his new book, “The Briefing,” while his celebrity among conservatives acts as a draw for potential new donors.
In addition to Hudson, Spicer has headlined fundraisers for Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) and state Rep. Geoff Diehl (R-Mass.), who is challenging Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), as well as for local Republican parties in Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York and North Carolina.
> A little cleanup from Vice President Pence’s long day on the campaign trail on Thursday, at events that took him from Minneapolis to Milwaukee:
Speaking to the American Legion in Minneapolis, Pence praised the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) for his “lifetime of service,” calling him “one of the most unwavering advocates of our Armed Forces to ever serve.”
The veterans group had criticized Trump over the delay in issuing a directive to lower flags in honor of McCain (The Washington Post).
“I can assure you, America will always remember and honor the lifetime of service of United States Senator John McCain. By honoring him, we also honor all of you.” – Pence
More from the campaign trail … A group backed by Charles Koch has unveiled an initial list of candidates it is supporting in the House (The Associated Press) … The case of Keith Ellison: A broken relationship and accusations of emotional abuse (The New York Times) … Postal service improperly released sensitive information to a GOP super PAC (The New York Times).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➔ ADMINISTRATION & WHITE HOUSE: The Washington Post reports the United States soon plans to cancel funding to a United Nations agency that provides humanitarian help for Palestinian refugees. The administration’s expected call for a steep reduction in the number of Palestinians recognized as refugees would eliminate, for most Palestinians, the “right of return” to land contested with Israel and exacerbate humanitarian turmoil, especially in Gaza, analysts say.
> Trump, who has berated Attorney General Jeff Sessions privately and publicly and complained about him to GOP lawmakers and on Twitter, now says the former Alabama senator is safe in his job, at least until the midterm elections in November.
“I just would love to have him do a great job,” Trump told Bloomberg News on Thursday. Asked if he’d keep Sessions in place beyond November, the president declined to comment.
Trump remains angry with Sessions for recusing himself last year from involvement in the Russia investigation, which the president believes triggered the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. More recently, Trump raged that the attorney general “never took control” of unspecified management problems at the Justice Department (Bloomberg). Sessions, who was one of Trump’s earliest endorsers during the presidential campaign, disputed the president’s criticism last week in a sharply worded written statement.
> Directing his gaze at another top attorney in the administration, the president said he has an unnamed replacement in mind for White House Counsel Don McGahn, who will leave the West Wing sometime in the fall. Trump tweeted this week that McGahn would depart, which surprised some top GOP senators who said they admire his accomplishments and professionalism. Other staff lawyers have been exiting the White House Counsel’s Office, the size of which has shrunk by a third since 2017.
The president refuted news accounts that McGahn, whose job tasks him to represent the presidency, once threatened to resign if the president fired the special counsel (Bloomberg). Speculation about a new top White House lawyer has focused on Emmet Flood, who joined the West Wing team in May, bringing with him his experience helping former President Clinton during his impeachment and acquittal dramas.
The Associated Press: Trump allies raise alarm that the West Wing is unprepared and understaffed for what may lie ahead.
> Trump son-in-law and West Wing adviser Jared Kushner joined a Kentucky-focused effort to urge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring a criminal justice reform bill to the floor for a vote (McClatchy). McConnell has stated the bill will not hit the floor before the election, but left the door open for action in a lame-duck session.
“This is not a red state issue or a blue state issue, this is a real issue that Americans want to see advanced and they want to see politicians in Washington make progress.” – Kushner, during a conference call with bill supporters
➔ TECH & MEDIA: Trump on Thursday raged against the media in a string of personal attacks against news outlets and the executives that run them (The Hill). He continued railing against the press at the rally in Indiana on Thursday night (The Hill).
Trump singled out NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack and CNN President Jeff Zucker for attacks.
Trump and his allies have seized on a CNN report from late July that claimed Michael Cohen would tell special counsel Robert Mueller that the president knew in advance about a Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer promising opposition research on Hillary Clinton. The story was authored by famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, who Trump this week called “sloppy” and a “degenerate fool.”
The president has denied knowing in advance about the Trump Tower meeting. Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, has since stated publicly that he was one of the anonymous sources for CNN’s story and that the claim is false.
Those outlets have updated and corrected their stories. CNN is standing by its report, maintaining that it relied on multiple sources — not just Davis.
Axios has reported that Cohen told lawmakers under oath that he didn’t know if Trump had foreknowledge of the meeting.
Full disclosure: Davis is an opinion contributor for The Hill.
Ben Smith: I helped create insider journalism. Now it’s time for it to go away.
> At the Evansville rally on Thursday night, the president also continued his attacks on the tech companies he has accused of censoring conservatives (The Washington Post).
“I’ve made it clear that we as a country cannot tolerate political censorship, blacklisting and rigged search results … We will not let large corporations silence conservative voices.” – Trump
Alexis C. Madrigal: Why Google doesn’t rank right-wing outlets highly.
More on tech and media … Twitter has rolled out its new policies on political ads, which will exempt news outlets (The Hill) … A judge has ruled that Alex Jones, who was banned from prominent social media outlets earlier this month, will have to face a defamation lawsuit brought by the parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre (HuffPost).
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McCain is not even buried yet, and the GOP is gunning to repeal the Affordable Care Act, by Ezekiel J. Emanuel, Sarah DiMagno and Aaron Glickman of the University of Pennsylvania. https://bit.ly/2wAS8Lw
Honoring Mollie Tibbitts’s memory with honesty, by Kevin R. Brock, former FBI intelligence specialist. https://bit.ly/2PREoVO
WHERE AND WHEN
The House and Senate are scheduled to return to work after Labor Day.
The president flies to North Carolina today and signs a directive designed to encourage employers to offer retirement savings plans to workers. Later in Charlotte, Trump headlines a private roundtable political event, followed by a speech at a GOP joint fundraising event. He returns to the White House in the evening.
Pence offers a tribute to McCain during the rotunda ceremony for the senator in the U.S. Capitol.
The Library of Congress Book Festival takes place on Saturday at the Washington Convention Center featuring 115 authors, including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor; former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; historian Doris Kearns Goodwin; Washington Post columnist and fiction writer David Ignatius; New Yorker staff writer and Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Coll; Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham; and Stuart Eizenstat, a former senior official during three Democratic administrations.
Invitation from The Hill: Sept. 12, newsmakers discuss “A Healthy Start: Infant and Early Childhood Nutrition,” featuring Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and Bobby Scott (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.
> Banking: Bank of America is accused by customers of freezing or threatening to freeze their accounts after asking about their legal status in the United States. BofA denies any change in its information collection policies. Proof of citizenship is not required to open a bank account in the U.S., says the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the federal agency that supervises branch banking. Banks have not received any new instructions to collect more information about customers (The Miami Herald and The Sacramento Bee).
> Labor: Trump canceled pay raises for most federal employees set to take effect in January, citing the budget. But experts say his decision frees up federal funds that can be spent elsewhere, resulting in no specific savings, and setting up a skirmish with Congress (The Hill) … The U.S.-Mexico trade pact announced this week is unlikely to lead to higher wages for low-paid auto workers in Mexico, according to analysts. Mexican auto workers are paid about one-tenth of what their U.S. counterparts earn (The Associated Press).
> What could be ahead for Julian Assange: The isolation of the controversial WikiLeaks founder intensifies into his seventh year living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (ABC News).
And finally … Kudos to the winners of this week’s Morning Report QUIZ CONTEST!! We’re talking about Arni Daroy, Elizabeth Murphy, Brenda Khankan, Susan Harber, Carol Katz, Ray Fleming, Mary Vita P. Treano, Susan Widmer, David Dupuis, Peter Delloro, Dara Umberger, Lorraine Lindberg, Patrick Alford, Sandy Sycafoose, John McIsaac, Peter Sprofera and Michael Paisner.
They correctly identified George W. Bush and Barack Obama as the former presidents tapped by Arizona’s John McCain before his death to deliver eulogies on Saturday at the Washington National Cathedral.
And they aced these, too:
A VIP-studded memorial service takes place today in Detroit for Aretha Franklin, who lay in repose on Tuesday in a gold-plated casket, wearing red patent leather high heels and surrounded by huge sprays of roses. (The correct quiz answer was “all of the above.”)
Playwright Neil Simon, who died in New York this week, got his professional start writing jokes for Sid Caesar and other comedians during the early days of television. Simon once called Caesar’s comedy creation “a spawning ground” for top writers in all fields of entertainment.
Ed King, the former guitarist for the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd who passed away last week, co-wrote the band’s 1974 hit “Sweet Home Alabama,” which lives on as a classic recorded by many artists.