The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Cuomo wins and Manafort plea deal

 Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and TGIF! This daily email gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. (CLICK HERE to subscribe!) Alexis Simendinger is working solo for a spell while newsletter partner Jonathan Easley enjoys some R&R. Find her on Twitter @asimendinger.  


President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE has been encouraged to focus his attention on Hurricane Florence today as the massive and “slow-moving monster storm” endangers communities along the Southeast coast.

After the president churned up a swirl of criticism with disputed tweets Thursday morning, he’s been advised to concentrate his energies on Americans in danger today and set aside his skepticism about the death toll attributed to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year.

Overnight in flooded New Bern, N.C., authorities reported working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rescue people (The Charlotte Observer).


Reuters: By early Friday, more than 188,000 homes and businesses lost power in North Carolina and South Carolina as high winds and flood waters accompanied Florence.

The president, who will receive a hurricane emergency preparedness update this afternoon, on Thursday challenged a report that described what researchers identified as nearly 3,000 “excess deaths” that resulted from Hurricane Maria’s destruction.




Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott, in a neck-and-neck race against Democrat Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonDemocrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 Poll: Six Democrats lead Trump in Florida match-ups How Jim Bridenstine recruited an old enemy to advise NASA MORE to try to capture a Senate seat, immediately distanced himself from the president’s remarks, as did former Florida Republican Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisDeSantis wants statue of civil rights activist to replace Confederate figure on Capitol Hill Florida couple wins right to plant vegetables in front yard after years-long legal battle Former sheriff running for reelection after suspension over Parkland shooting MORE, a Trump favorite who is running for governor. 

They’re both campaigning to woo Puerto Ricans who fled the island last year and settled in the Sunshine State — where they may decide to vote in November. Florida is home to the second-largest percentage of Puerto Rican-Americans among the states, and Scott has traveled to the island again and again.

“I disagree with @POTUS,” Scott tweeted. “An independent study said thousands were lost … I’ve been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. The loss of any life is tragic; the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart wrenching. I’ll continue to help.”   

DeSantis’s campaign team just as swiftly issued a statement, eager to stave off political damage: "Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life. He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated."

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOcasio-Cortez top aide emerges as lightning rod amid Democratic feud Juan Williams: GOP in a panic over Mueller House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump MORE (R-Wis.) said he had no reason to dispute the mortality study conducted by George Washington University researchers.

Exasperated lawmakers, primarily Democrats, let loose:

“He’s got a sickness,” Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineAcosta defends Epstein deal, bucking calls for resignation Republican lawmakers on why they haven't read Mueller report: 'Tedious' and 'what's the point?' Schumer calls on Acosta to step down over Epstein MORE (D-Va.) said.

Warped mind,” said Florida’s retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenWomen lawmakers to play in Congressional Baseball Game following Title IX anniversary Press beat lawmakers to keep trophy in annual softball game K Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers MORE (The Hill).

“It is simply delusional,” Illinois Democrat Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, who also is retiring from Congress, responded.

“Disgusting,” said Rep. Ben Ray Lujȧn (D-N.M.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (The Hill).

The Hill: Trump sparks a backlash

The Washington Post (poll): Puerto Rico’s residents see a failure at all levels of government

The Hill: Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Roselló says it is “a fact” that 2,975 residents died as a result of Hurricane Maria

The New York Times: As a new hurricane roars in, Trump quarrels over the last one. 

The New York Times editorial board: The president honors only one victim in Puerto Rico – himself.

The Washington Post editorial board: Trump says he did great after Maria. In a survey, Puerto Ricans say otherwise.




POLITICS: *** OVERNIGHT ***  Former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortTop Mueller prosecutor Zainab Ahmad joins law firm Gibson Dunn Russian oligarch's story could spell trouble for Team Mueller Trump, Mueller, the issue of 'guilt' and a do-nothing Congress MORE has tentatively agreed to a plea deal with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE that will head off his upcoming trial in D.C., sources told multiple news outlets. The deal is expected to be announced in court today (The Hill, ABC).

> New York: Two-term Gov. Andrew Cuomo defeated progressive actress Cynthia Nixon in Thursday’s bitterly fought Democratic primary, which closed out a rollicking national primary season this year in which Trump loomed large in candidates’ appeals to voters (The Hill).

Cuomo will face Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro (R) in November, and a handful of minor-party candidates — including Jimmy McMillan, running on the Rent is Too Damn High Party line.

He may also face Nixon, who on Thursday won the Working Families Party nomination, yet again. A Nixon spokeswoman said no decision had been made about whether she would accept that party’s nomination to appear on the ballot in November.

Letitia James, defeating three rivals in New York’s Democratic primary for attorney general, on Thursday became the first black woman to win a major party statewide nomination. With her win, James, the New York City public advocate, positioned herself as a prominent face of resistance to Trump administration policies, a role that the New York attorney general’s office has embraced since the president took office (The New York Times). James will be heavily favored in November against Republican Keith Wofford, who ran unopposed in the GOP primary for attorney general.

> Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon spoke with The Hill’s Niall Stanage about the midterm elections, his continued personal distaste for the GOP establishment, and his efforts to rev voter turnout for candidates who support the administration. Bannon has returned to the battlefield (The Hill).

> Democrat Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerHarris slams DOJ decision not to charge police in Eric Garner's death The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Fundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race MORE’s "I am Spartacus" claim during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing last week is now a punch line in the political world. Booker told The Hill he did not intend to compare himself to the gladiator. Yet, some Democratic strategists think the New Jersey senator was smart to grab the kind of national media attention that will be required to stand out in two years, should he make a run for the White House. Many fellow Democrats praise Booker as an energetic fundraiser for the party, and an electric speaker during political events (The Hill).

In other political news … Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the surprise

Democratic primary victor in Florida’s race for governor, is already helping the Democratic Party raise money nationally … Allies close to Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' Sanders slams decision not to charge officer who killed Eric Garner Cardi B says voters let Bernie Sanders down MORE (I-Vt.) say they expect the 2016 presidential contender to give it another try in 2020 (as a Democrat) (The Hill) … GOP former presidential candidate Herman Cain (“nine, nine, nine”) formed a Super PAC, the America Fighting Back PAC, to support Trump’s agenda as well as GOP midterm candidates (The Hill) … FBI Director Christopher Wray told CBS News’s Norah O’Donnell during an interview, “I think Americans can have confidence in our election system.”  

And if you’re trying to figure out what’s ahead for Senate contests this fall, note that senior elections analyst Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics is puzzling it out, too. 


CONGRESS: Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have argued for weeks that they needed more time and more access to documents to consider the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. This week, California Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThe peculiar priorities of Adam Schiff Dem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors Senate Democrats skipping Pence's border trip MORE, the committee’s top Democrat, said she forwarded to the FBI for investigation a confidential letter she received about Kavanaugh (The Hill).

It remained unclear whether the FBI’s involvement will slow the push by Senate Republicans to hold a vote for the nominee on Sept. 20 in committee, and in the full Senate a few days later.

"That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities." – Feinstein

The Washington Post reports that the letter describes an alleged episode of sexual misconduct involving Kavanaugh when he was a high school student. Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooDemocratic chair: Medicare negotiating drug prices not moving before August House bill targets use of Pentagon networks for child pornography Bipartisan House duo unveils amendment to block Iran strike without Congress's approval MORE, (D-Calif.), conveyed the letter to Feinstein, the Post reported.

In a statement, the White House said Democrats sought to delay the confirmation process using an “11th hour” distraction. “Not until the eve of his confirmation has Sen. Feinstein or anyone raised the specter of new `information’” about the appellate court judge, a spokeswoman said. Kavanaugh has undergone FBI background checks numerous times during his government career.

> Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, reflecting on years of past Senate confirmation votes, observed disapprovingly that the Kavanaugh confirmation process was a “highly partisan show.” She spoke Wednesday to a Washington audience (The Washington Times).

> House GOP tax cuts: To help showcase Republicans’ most significant legislative accomplishment since 2017, GOP members of the House Ways and Means Committee approved a second package of tax cuts on Thursday (The Hill). House Republican leaders want to clear the package in the full House by the end of the month, but they know it will not clear the Senate (CNBC) … The Tax Policy Center estimates the second tax bill favored by Republicans could add a whopping $3.8 trillion to the federal deficit over a decade (The Washington Post).

> Appropriations: The House and Senate on Thursday reached a deal to prevent a shutdown by passing a large package of spending bills, along with a continuing resolution that would fund the rest of the government through Dec. 7. The package would keep the government funded past Oct. 1, the deadline for Congress to act (The Hill) … The House did its part on Thursday afternoon, sending a large chunk of the budget to the president for his signature, following action a day earlier in the Senate (The Hill).

> Intelligence - `deep fakes’: Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffThe peculiar priorities of Adam Schiff Trump knocks Mueller after deal struck for him to testify Mueller to give extended testimony after appearance postponed MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, along with Florida Reps. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyHouse Democrats seek to move past rifts with minimum wage bill CBC lawmakers rip Justice Democrats for targeting black lawmakers for primaries Republicans say they're satisfied with 2020 election security after classified briefings MORE (D) and Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloDemocratic lawmaker pushes back on Castro's call to repeal law making illegal border crossings a crime The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz MORE (R) want intelligence officials to examine the national security threats posed by realistic forgeries of digital content, dubbed “deep fakes.”

“By blurring the line between fact and fiction, deep fake technology could undermine public trust in recorded images and videos as objective depictions of reality,” the House members wrote to Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke A brief timeline of Trump's clashes with intelligence director Dan Coats Chuck Todd on administration vacancies: 'Is this any way to run a government?' MORE, the director of national intelligence (The Orlando Sentinel).


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Trust the weather forecast and heed the warnings, by meteorologist Jordan Gerth, opinion contributor with the Hill.

Government ignorance is no excuse for another dreadful financial crisis, by Peter J. Wallison with the American Enterprise Institute, opinion contributor with The Hill.



The House meets in a pro forma session Friday at 1 p.m., and will be gone next week for Yom Kippur.

The Senate meets Monday at 2 p.m. to consider the Support for Patients and Communities Act.

The president receives an emergency preparedness update this afternoon.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoAs tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Trump's Huawei concession is 'the rope that could hang America' MORE meets with Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval at 4:30 p.m. at the State Department (The Economic Times). 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 a.m. reports import and export price indexes for August.


> Terrorists: Dozens of extremists convicted of domestic acts of terrorism who have served out their prison sentences are expected to be released into the United States over the next two years, raising concerns they could resume jihadist activity (The Hill).

> Do-over for asylum seekers: As part of a deal to settle lawsuits over the administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, the government agreed to reconsider the asylum claims of some 1,000 immigrant parents and children who were separated at the U.S. border. If the accord is approved by a U.S. district judge, the parents and their children will get a second chance to apply for asylum, even if the administration previously rejected their claims that they faced a “credible fear of persecution or torture” if sent back to their home countries (Reuters).

> Health coverage stat: Between 2013 and 2017, Los Angeles, Miami and Riverside, Calif., metropolitan areas experienced the largest increases in the rate of health insurance coverage among the 25 most populous metropolitan areas. Their rates of health insurance coverage increased by 9 percentage points or more, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau report that describes communities around the country.

> Those sauces!  ⭐⭐⭐The Inn at Little Washington, located more than an hour outside Washington, D.C., in Virginia, was awarded a third Michelin star on Thursday, a landmark achievement for the region hailed in the 2019 Michelin Guide (The Washington Post).



And finally … Kudos to Morning Report QUIZ CONTEST winners, who know a thing or two about hurricanes! We heard from dozens of readers, and the victorious this week are Patrick Alford, Lorraine Lindberg, Dara Erinashley, Norm Roberts, Jeanne C. Hall, Katherine Williamson, Mary Vita P. Treano, B.J. Ford and William Ferry.

They all guessed that hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are the same weather phenomena, appearing in different ocean locations, thus the correct answer was “false.”

They knew that the World Meteorological Organization draws up names for hurricanes – identifications used each season.

Katrina in 2005 was the costliest hurricane on record to date, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The first U.S. reconnaissance airplane to pass through a hurricane to gather data for government forecasting purposes made the flight in September 1944. Four U.S. Army Air Forces crews, working as the 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, flew in WB-25Ds with extra fuel tanks. (Readers Rick Mito and Tom Ledoux believe the first flight into a hurricane for weather data occurred almost accidentally in 1943, and they volunteered that date. However, we relied on a detailed Washington Post article for our quiz history about 1944.)

The Saffir-Simpson scale measures hurricane wind speed.