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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 ClintonJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE

> Former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderAlarm grows over Trump team's efforts to monitor polls The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden on Trump: 'He'll leave' l GOP laywers brush off Trump's election remarks l Obama's endorsements Obama endorses Warnock in crowded Georgia Senate race MORE

> Former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen Brennan50 former intelligence officials warn NY Post story sounds like Russian disinformation Not treason, not a crime — but definitely a gross abuse of power Trump fires off dozens of tweets while recuperating at White House MORE, in care of CNN

> Liberal donor and philanthropist George Soros

> Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Safeguarding US elections by sanctioning Russian sovereign debt Kamala Harris and the stereotypes we place on Black women 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 SchultzFlorida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum Five things to watch at the Democratic National Convention Michelle Obama wishes Barack a happy birthday: 'My favorite guy' 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 TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida 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 SchumerChuck SchumerTrump casts doubt on hopes for quick stimulus deal after aides expressed optimism Schumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo On The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Overnight Health Care: CDC expands definition of 'close contact' after COVID-19 report | GOP coronavirus bill blocked in Senate | OxyContin maker agrees to B settlement with Trump administration 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 SandersBernie SandersBiden endorses Texas Democratic House candidate Julie Oliver Ocasio-Cortez rolls out Twitch channel to urge voting Calls grow for Democrats to ramp up spending in Texas MORE (I-Vt.) presidential campaign opened fire on Republican lawmakers practicing for a congressional baseball game. House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats Cedric Richmond's next move: 'Sky's the limit' if Biden wins 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 McConnellOn The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Trump casts doubt on hopes for quick stimulus deal after aides expressed optimism Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid 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 CruzQuinnipiac poll finds Biden, Trump tied in Texas China could cut our access to critical minerals at any time — here's why we need to act The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Two weeks out, Trump attempts to rally the base MORE (R) leads Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) by 5 points.

North Dakota: Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag Romney calls first Trump-Biden debate 'an embarrassment' Netflix distances from author's comments about Muslim Uyghurs but defends project MORE (R) leads Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Showdown: Trump-Biden debate likely to be nasty Senate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 Harris faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle MORE (D) by 16 points.

Florida: Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonSenate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 Democrats sound alarm on possible election chaos Trump, facing trouble in Florida, goes all in MORE (D) leads Gov. Rick Scott (R) by 4 points.

New Jersey: Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezWatchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump Kasie Hunt to host lead-in show for MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' Senators ask for removal of tariffs on EU food, wine, spirits: report MORE (D) leads Republican Bob Hugin by 5 points.

Nevada: Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R) leads Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenHillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses Senators introduce bipartisan bill to help women, minorities get STEM jobs MORE (D) by 6 points.

More polling:

Reuters: Anger may help Democrats on Nov. 6.

USA Today: The “Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughSusan Collins and the American legacy The Senate should evoke RBG in its confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court's Pennsylvania mail ballot ruling tees up test for Barrett 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 RyanMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats 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 GrassleyOn The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Grassley: Voters should be skeptical of Biden's pledge to not raise middle class taxes GOP to Trump: Focus on policy 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 CoburnDemocrats step up hardball tactics in Supreme Court fight COVID response shows a way forward on private gun sale checks Inspector general independence must be a bipartisan priority in 2020 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 PenceTrump returns to campaign trail after COVID-19 diagnosis Karen Pence's office defends her appearing without a mask at debate The Hill's 12:30 Report: Campaigns react to virtual debate announcement 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 DeSantisRon DeSantisTrump jokes he'll 'find a way' to fire Gov. DeSantis if he loses Florida Exclusive poll: Biden up in Mich., Pa., tied with Trump in Fla. The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden hit campaign trail in Florida 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 PompeoTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Brazil's OECD candidacy is best chance for reform Watch live: Pompeo news conference 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