The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach

 

 

 

Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report and it’s 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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Washington is on edge as the FBI investigates a string of attempted mail bombings addressed to top Democrats. Crude devices tucked inside padded envelopes in New York City and its leafy suburbs, the nation’s capital, Florida and California reignited fears of political violence as a divided nation barrels toward Election Day.

The FBI is examining “potentially destructive devices” sent to:

> Former President Obama

> Former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonElise Stefanik seeks to tackle GOP’s women ‘crisis’ ahead of 2020 Russian pop star linked to Trump Tower meeting cancels US tour Graham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies MORE

> Former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderHolder: If Trump directed Cohen to lie, impeachment proceedings ‘must begin’ William Barr's only 'flaw' is that he was nominated by Trump Protecting voices of all voters is critical to free and fair elections MORE

> Former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanBrennan calls on Congress to end shutdown before negotiating border security: Not 'subservient' to the president Washington’s reflexive opposition to Trump on Syria Brennan hopes GOP abandons Trump in 2019 over 'malfeasance, corruption' MORE, in care of CNN

> Liberal donor and philanthropist George Soros

> Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersBuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president New progressive sheriffs in town ready to fight for Main Street On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (D-Calif.), a frequent Trump critic, was the intended recipient of two similar packages, one intercepted in Los Angeles and another at a Washington area mail facility, according to the FBI.

None of the devices discovered this week exploded and no one was harmed. The six-inch-long package bombs, each with a battery and containing powder and broken glass, were constructed from PVC pipe and covered with black tape, a law enforcement official who viewed X-ray images told The Associated Press. The white powder in the package sent to CNN was tested and determined to be harmless.

 

 

The FBI intercepted the packages for Obama, Clinton and Soros before they were received. The package for Holder was forwarded to a return address for the offices of Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzOcasio-Cortez speaks about 'justice' at Women's March Women's March expecting smaller crowds amid controversy over alleged anti-Semitism Women’s March official says group has ‘ignited political imagination of women’ MORE (D) in Florida. The package for Brennan that was sent to CNN resulted in the evacuation of the cable giant’s headquarters in New York City, leading to the surreal scene of anchors and journalists reporting on the breaking news event from the street.

“It is possible that additional packages were mailed to other locations.” – statement from the FBI.

The makeshift bombs are undergoing tests and inspection at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Va., on Wednesday.

The Associated Press: Trail of clues that can lead to the would-be bomber(s).

Timeline: Bomb threats jolt nation.

Speaking in the East Room, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values MORE condemned the “acts or threats of political violence” and called for unity as his audience stood to applaud.

“In these times, we have to unify. We have to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.” – Trump

The Washington Post: GOP leaders rush to condemn package bombs and threats to politicians, officials and the news media.

The Hill: Bomb attacks expose festering divisions.

Later, at a campaign rally in Wisconsin, the president’s message of common purpose shifted to criticism of Democrats and the media. Trump said citizens should not “mob people in public spaces” and that the press has a responsibility to “set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostilities and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories” (The Hill).

Some rally goers chanted “lock her up” about Clinton.

To Democrats and some in the media, Trump’s words about unity were empty. They pointed to the president leading chants against his political opponents at raucous rallies and whipping up anger against the press, which he has described as “the enemy of the people.”

“President Trump's words ring hollow until he reverses his statements that condone acts of violence. Time and time again, the President has condoned physical violence and divided Americans with his words and his actions: expressing support for the Congressman who body-slammed a reporter, the neo-Nazis who killed a young woman in Charlottesville, his supporters at rallies who get violent with protesters, dictators around the world who murder their own citizens, and referring to the free press as the enemy of the people." - Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerProtecting our judiciary must be a priority in the 116th Congress Baldwin's Trump plays 'Deal or No Deal' with shutdown on 'Saturday Night Live' Sunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal MORE (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiElise Stefanik seeks to tackle GOP’s women ‘crisis’ ahead of 2020 Our legislators must commit to making children a priority Dreamer: Dems 'should absolutely not' take Trump's immigration deal MORE (Calif.) in a joint statement.

 

 

In a nation all-too familiar with terror attacks, mass shootings and angry demonstrations, the packages filled with wired devices and plastered with Forever stamps are being treated seriously.  But the threats and assaults have not been confined to one side or the other since Trump became president.

In June of 2017, a former volunteer for Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) Sanders2020 Dems seize on MLK Day for campaign messaging Sanders knocks Trump in MLK Day speech Grassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices MORE (I-Vt.) presidential campaign opened fire on Republican lawmakers practicing for a congressional baseball game. House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseElise Stefanik seeks to tackle GOP’s women ‘crisis’ ahead of 2020 Democrats will push to retake vote on funding government after chaos on the floor Pelosi pulls State of the Union surprise on Trump MORE (R-La.) was badly wounded and nearly died, but has since recovered.

 

 

And earlier this month, packages of what was suspected to be the lethal poison ricin were mailed to Trump and officials at the Pentagon.

Lawmakers have warned for some time that political anger around the country and on social media could lead to violence.

Wednesday’s events recalled past incidents of politically-fueled domestic terrorism, including the Unabomber, the Oklahoma City bombing and anthrax sent by mail to U.S. senators and members of the media after 9/11. (A partial list of acts of political violence in the U.S. can be found here http://bit.ly/2Jhaqrh.)

CNBC: New York officials and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Senate GOP eyes 'nuclear option' for Trump nominees next week Taiwan’s President Tsai should be invited to address Congress MORE (R-Ky.) describe packages addressed to Democrats as domestic terrorism.

As Washington hoped for an arrest and a swift conclusion to the FBI investigation, officials from both sides called for leaders to lower the temperature on political discourse before it’s too late.

            “It is a troubling time, isn't it? It's a time of deep divisions and we have to do everything we can to bring our country together. We also have to elect candidates who will try to do the same.” – Hillary Clinton while campaigning for Democrats in Florida.

 

 

 

 

Alexander Soros: The hate that is consuming us.

Dan Balz: Bomb scares and the politics of the apocalypse.





LEADING THE DAY

CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS:  *** FIRST IN MORNING REPORT *** The political action committee Republican Women for Progress (RWP), which supports candidates who will “act as a check” on Trump, is launching a new round of ads in support of five Democrats.

RWP was started by Republican women but will support candidates in both parties.

The new ad buys are going up for the following candidates:

RWP, which has raised $1 million since launching in September, is now on the airwaves in nine districts with the aim of “ending the [GOP’s] current Trump personality cult."

Senate polling roundup:

Texas: Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGroup aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video Howard Dean looking for a 'younger, newer' Democratic nominee in 2020 Congress can stop the war on science MORE (R) leads Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) by 5 points.

North Dakota: Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGOP senators would support postponing State of the Union Dems blast EPA nominee at confirmation hearing Hopes fade for bipartisan bills in age of confrontation MORE (R) leads Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOn The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction Gary Cohn criticizes the shutdown: 'Completely wrong' EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (D) by 16 points.

Florida: Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonFlorida lawmaker diagnosed with pancreatic cancer Rick Scott threw party at Florida governor’s mansion after DeSantis and family had moved in: report Restoration of voting rights by felons marks shift in Florida MORE (D) leads Gov. Rick Scott (R) by 4 points.

New Jersey: Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president More oversight of America’s international media networks a good idea Pro-Israel organizations should finally seek payback against Iran deal Dems MORE (D) leads Republican Bob Hugin by 5 points.

Nevada: Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump’s shifting Cabinet to introduce new faces Trump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 Progressive strategist says changing demographics will help Dems MORE (R) leads Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenInflux of women in Congress can improve women’s retirement security Overnight Health Care: DOJ seeks extension in ObamaCare lawsuit due to shutdown | Poll finds voters oppose court ruling against health law Press: White House not only for white males MORE (D) by 6 points.

More polling:

Reuters: Anger may help Democrats on Nov. 6.

USA Today: The “Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughKamala Harris staffer mocks O'Reilly for saying Harris 'lost' his vote for president Graham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World MORE Effect” may boost Democrats more than Republicans.

Perspectives and Analysis:

Frank Bruni: The GOP midterms strategy is all about fear and lies.

Heather MacDonald: Identity politics is in overdrive.

Adrienne Elrod: The “Year of the Woman 2.0” is approaching.

Nate Silver: Trump’s job approval is up, GOP chances of keeping the House are down.

Conrad Black: About that “blue wave.”

Stuart Rothenberg: The House will flip to Democrats.

More from the campaign trail … Trump trip to rural Wisconsin highlights GOP’s turnout concerns (The Hill) … A profile of Deidre DeJear, the first black candidate to win a major-party nomination for a statewide race in Iowa (The Hill) … House GOP candidates are taking their messaging cues from Trump, not Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump once asked Paul Ryan why he couldn’t be ‘loyal': book AEI names Robert Doar as new president GOP can't excommunicate King and ignore Trump playing to white supremacy and racism MORE (R-Wis.) (The Hill) … Five takeaways from Florida’s fiery final gubernatorial debate (The Hill).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The president and GOP candidates are focused on health issues as Election Day nears because voters across the political spectrum list that broad topic as a top concern.

Today, Trump will deliver a speech at the Health and Human Services department about steps the administration endorses to lower drug prices (STAT).

> Sens. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyCongress should stop tariff power grab, bring balance to U.S. trade policy Graham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Grassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices MORE (R-Iowa): An essential step to give Americans a break at the pharmacy counter (Op-Ed, The Washington Post).

The president is working to fight off campaign-season attacks from Democrats on everything from the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal votes to charges his party wants to slash Medicare and will back insurance companies that want to avoid covering long-running patient maladies (The Hill).

The president has escalated his pledges that Republicans will protect people with pre-existing conditions. His vows are a direct response to Democratic candidates’ campaign success with health care policies generally. GOP candidates are trying to defend their party’s ObamaCare repeal votes in 2017 while juggling promises to insist on insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions faced by millions of Americans (The Hill).

On Wednesday, the president highlighted another national health concern raised by voters from coast to coast: the opioid crisis. Trump used an East Room event to sign a sweeping measure aimed at preventing deaths and treating addiction (The Hill).

***

Oil drilling: The Trump administration approved a company’s plan Wednesday to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska, the first time oil would be produced from federal waters in the Arctic (The Hill).

***

U.S - Saudi arms sales: Defense analysts question whether Trump knows the value to the United States of pending arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which he says are worth $110 billion and would produce a million jobs (The Hill). The Washington Post’s Fact Checker gave the $110 billion figure “four Pinocchios,” the highest rating for false information.

***

Trump’s iPhones: The president is not always a stickler about conversing with friends and supporters on secure phone lines, despite repeated warnings from aides and his cyber advisers. The Chinese are all ears and taking advantage of what they learn while listening in (The New York Times).

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

U.S. must stop helping Saudi Arabia in Yemen, and Congress must step in, by Sen. Bernie Sanders (The New York Times)

The dangers of one-party rule are becoming clear, by Kim Wehle, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2EJbjKL

Trump wages war on federal waste, by former Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach President Trump’s war on federal waste American patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access MORE (R-Okla.) and Adam Andrzejewski, opinion contributors, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2z06dn7

WHERE AND WHEN

The House and Senate will convene after Election Day.

The president will give a speech about lowering drug prices while visiting the Health and Human Services Department. He attends an evening reception commemorating the 35th anniversary of the attack on U.S. barracks in Beirut this evening. In Washington, Trump will meet supporters at a political roundtable and speak at a political dinner.

Vice President Pence and second lady Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceLady Gaga blasts Pence as ‘worst representation of what it means to be Christian’ Thank God — or don't — for private schools CNN's King questions taxpayers funding Karen Pence's security while teaching MORE travel to Panama City, Fla., to survey destruction and recovery after Hurricane Michael this morning. They’ll fly to Jacksonville, where the vice president will campaign for former Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisFlorida governor suspends Palm Beach County elections supervisor Florida governor threatens Airbnb over West Bank settlements Florida governor announces sheriff's suspension over Parkland shooting MORE (R) for governor, in his race against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D). Pence then heads to Vero Beach, Fla., in the evening to campaign for Republican Gov. Rick Scott in his effort to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). The Pences return to Washington tonight.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo: US 'absolutely not' getting out of the Middle East Pompeo taking meeting about running for Kansas Senate seat: report Ex-US envoy in ISIS fight: 'There's no plan for what's coming' after US troop withdrawal in Syria MORE speaks at 1:45 p.m. to the White House Fellows Foundation Leadership Conference at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington.

Economic reports: Released at 8:30 a.m., durable goods orders in September; advance U.S. trade report for September; U.S. weekly jobless claims; and at 10 a.m., pending home sales for September, which is expected to show a slowdown in the housing market.

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ELSEWHERE

> Russia: President Vladimir Putin warned Russia will target nations that agree to host intermediate-range nuclear missiles, if the United States deploys the weapons abroad after tearing up a Cold War-era pact between the two superpowers (The Associated Press).

> Finance: The tumbling stock market has erased its gains for the year (CNBC).

> Tech: Apple CEO backs privacy laws, warns data being “weaponized” (The Associated Press). … U.K. watchdog fines Facebook over users’ data breach (The Associated Press).

> Immigration: Senior Trump administration officials failed to inform employees of the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services about a “zero tolerance” immigration policy last spring, blindsiding those tasked with implementation and resolution following the resulting separation of nearly 3,000 migrant children from their parents, according to a congressionally requested report from the Government Accountability Office (The New York Times).

THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the World Series, we’re eager for some smart guesses about baseball, America’s pastime.

Email your responses to jeasley@thehill.com or asimendinger@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit five correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday. Batter up!

Which franchise has won more World Series titles than any other?

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Boston Red Sox
  4. San Francisco Giants

Who is the only U.S. president to have owned a stake in a Major League Baseball team?

  1. Donald Trump
  2. Ronald Reagan
  3. George W. Bush
  4. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Which franchise has never been to the World Series?

  1. Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Florida Marlins
  3. Texas Rangers
  4. Washington Nationals

Which pitcher hurled the only perfect game in World Series history?

  1. Don Larsen, New York Yankees
  2. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
  3. Jack Morris, Minnesota Twins
  4. Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks

Which president earlier in life was the captain of a New York academy varsity baseball team?

  1. Theodore Roosevelt
  2. Donald Trump
  3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
  4. Grover Cleveland