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 ClintonUkrainian official denies Trump pressured president The Memo: 'Whistleblower' furor gains steam Missing piece to the Ukraine puzzle: State Department's overture to Rudy Giuliani MORE

> Former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderEric Holder says Trump is subject to prosecution after leaving office Eric Holder: Democrats 'have to understand' that 'borders mean something' Trump lawyers ask judge to toss out Dems' tax return lawsuit MORE

> Former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanTrump lashes out at former intel officials for criticism of Iran tweet Trailer shows first look at Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein Webb: Questions for Robert Mueller MORE, in care of CNN

> Liberal donor and philanthropist George Soros

> Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersBipartisan housing finance reform on the road less taken Manufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank Democrats' impeachment message leads to plenty of head-scratching 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 SchultzDemocrats walk tightrope in fight over Trump wall funds Parkland father: Twitter did not suspend users who harassed me using name of daughter's killer Hillicon Valley: Senate Intel releases election security report | GOP blocks votes on election security bills | Gabbard sues Google over alleged censorship | Barr meets state AGs on tech antitrust concerns 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 TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' 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 SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTimeline: The Trump whistleblower complaint DC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Ukraine could badly damage both Donald Trump and the Democrats 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 SandersWarren overtakes Biden in Iowa for first time: poll The polls are asking the wrong question Sanders unveils plan to eliminate Americans' medical debt MORE (I-Vt.) presidential campaign opened fire on Republican lawmakers practicing for a congressional baseball game. House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseScalise blasts Democratic legislation on gun reforms Liz Cheney calls for 'proportional military response' against Iran On The Money: Senate panel scraps vote on key spending bill amid standoff | Democrats threaten to vote against defense bill over wall funding | Trump set to meet with aides about reducing capital gains taxes 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 McConnellDC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Overnight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts 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 CruzState Department's top arms control official leaving Sanders NASA plan is definitely Earth first Trump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition MORE (R) leads Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) by 5 points.

North Dakota: Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerPrimary challenges show potential cracks in Trump's GOP Castro, Steyer join pledge opposing the Keystone XL pipeline EPA proposes rolling back states' authority over pipeline projects MORE (R) leads Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE (D) by 16 points.

Florida: Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonMedia and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity Al Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 MORE (D) leads Gov. Rick Scott (R) by 4 points.

New Jersey: Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezAs NFIP reauthorization deadline looms, Congress must end lethal subsidies Senate Democrats warn Trump: Don't invite Putin to G-7 Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid MORE (D) leads Republican Bob Hugin by 5 points.

Nevada: Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (R) leads Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenHillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections Senators introduce legislation to boost cyber defense training in high school Key endorsements: A who's who in early states MORE (D) by 6 points.

More polling:

Reuters: Anger may help Democrats on Nov. 6.

USA Today: The “Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughTrump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' Trump decries whistleblower story as 'another media disaster' The Hill's Morning Report — Trump's new controversy 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 RyanDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas 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 GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Trump: 'Great to see' Pelosi plan to lower drug prices Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower 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 PenceClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump pushes back over whistleblower controversy The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump issues Taliban warning at Sept. 11 memorial 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 DeSantisClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump Trump parts ways with key Florida adviser: report Death and destruction: A timeline of Hurricane Dorian 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 PompeoBolton replacement inherits tough challenges — including Trump Saudi Arabia says it will take 'appropriate' action if Iran's role in attacks confirmed Clarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump 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