The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Tensions boil over in Washington after bomb scares

The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Tensions boil over in Washington after bomb scares
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The mail bomb scare has ushered in a dark new era of politics in Washington, where the sky-high levels of vitriol and anger seem to reach new heights every day. 

For months, lawmakers have worried aloud that their increasingly heated rhetoric could lead to political violence. They’ve debated the extent to which it’s reasonable for protesters to confront their colleagues in public.

But any hope that a direct threat of political violence ahead of the midterm elections might result in a brief moment of unity has vanished amid an explosion of bitter recriminations and finger-pointing between the White House, Democrats and the media over who is to blame for the toxic and increasingly dangerous political culture.

The Hill: Unity fizzles as president, lawmakers and media point fingers.

AP-NORC Poll: Most Americans see a sharply divided nation.

 

President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE prides himself on being a fighter, not a uniter, and the furious debate about who is to blame for suspicious devices sent to top Democrats and CNN has unfolded according to his playbook.

After an initial call for unity, the president and his White House took aim at the media, alleging that the press are responsible for biased coverage against the administration that has set a toxic tone in the nation’s capital and beyond.

Trump tweeted this morning … at 3:14 a.m.:

 

 

            “You chose to attack and divide.” – White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responding to CNN President Jeff Zucker, who accused the president of fomenting anger that led to the attempted violence.

Democrats and many in the press reacted with fury, noting that Trump’s blaming of the media came on the same day that CNN’s headquarters had to be evacuated after it received one of the suspicious devices.

 

 

            “The ultimate guilt lies with the bomber. But there is a sickness in our politics that goes beyond this string of attacks. President Trump has encouraged, excused, and alluded to violence repeatedly, including against the specific people targeted this week. Trump’s refusal to take responsibility or stop the use of violent rhetoric is inexcusable and dangerous.” - Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsDemocrats face bleak outlook in Florida Democratic donors hesitant on wading into Florida midterm fights Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms MORE (D-Fla.) 

Mainstream media outlets held right-wing talkers responsible for planting seeds of violence. Conservative outlets fumed at what they described as a blackout when it comes to covering left-wing violence. And on and on it goes. 

Fortunately, no one has been injured by the package bombs. And by the way, no major campaigns we’re aware of went on hiatus during the hubbub. Trump returns to the trail tonight in Charlotte, N.C. Former President Obama, the intended recipient of one of the devices, is back on the stump today in Wisconsin.

The race to the midterms hit another gear, one with a brittle edge.

 

Perspectives

Jill Abramson: Trump’s rhetoric has stoked this violent time.

Steve Scalise: Violence and terror have no place in American politics.

Dana Milbank: Stop the mob, Mr. President.

Andrew McCarthy: The pipe-bombs story reveals why no one trusts the media.

John Nichols: The 2018 midterms have exposed a democracy in crisis.

Douglas Schoen: Political leaders must tone down their rhetoric before it’s too late.

 

 

 

***

CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: Trump and Vice President Pence will spend most of their time on the campaign trail between now and Nov. 6, as they try to save GOP’s House majority and build on the Republican majority in the Senate.

The president today is visiting North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, where Pastor Mark Harris (R), who upset Rep. Robert PittengerRobert Miller PittengerBottom Line North Carolina reporter says there could be 'new crop' of GOP candidates in 9th Congressional District race North Carolina board calls for new election in contested House race MORE (R) in a primary earlier this year, is trying to stave off Marine Corps veteran and businessman Dan McCready (D).

Democrats see the district as a prime pickup opportunity. McCready has outraised Harris and the Cook Political Report has the race rated as a “tossup.” Trump won the district by 11 points in 2016.

The Charlotte Observer: Why big names keep coming to Charlotte.

On Saturday, Trump is off to Murphysboro, Ill., to stump for Rep. Mike BostMichael (Mike) J. BostMORE (R) in a district the president won by 14 points last cycle. Bost is getting a stiff challenge from Democrat Brendan Kelly in a race that has attracted millions of dollars in outside spending (The Chicago Tribune). 

Obama will spend the day in Wisconsin, where he’ll work to boost Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinBiden sidesteps GOP on judicial vacancies, for now Democrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE (D), who appears to be in control of her race against Republican Leah Vukmir.

Vice President Pence, meanwhile, will touch down in three states today.

He’ll start in Roswell, N.M., for Rep. Steve PearceStevan (Steve) Edward PearceNew Mexico Democrat releases final Spanish-language ad in toss-up race Five Latinas who could be Biden's running mate New Mexico Dems brace for crowded race to succeed Udall MORE (R), who is running for governor against Democrat Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamDemocrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms Hochul makes New York the 31st state to have had a female governor New Mexico indoor mask mandate returns with new vaccine requirements MORE.

From there, Pence is across the border to Yuma, Ariz., on behalf of Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyFive takeaways from Arizona's audit results The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Senate passes infrastructure bill, budget resolution; Cuomo resigns Schumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up MORE (R), who appears to be gaining momentum in the Senate race against Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D).

The vice president will close out the day in Las Vegas, Nev., the sight of another Senate race where Democrats are eyeing a pickup. Polls find Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump-backed challenger to Cheney decried him as 'racist,' 'xenophobic' in 2016: report Texas abortion law creates 2022 headache for GOP Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE (R) running neck and neck with Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenHeller won't say if Biden won election Former Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Photos of the Week: Infrastructure vote, India floods and a bear MORE (D). A recent poll shows Heller up 6 points following a fiery debate with Rosen (The Hill).

 

Perspectives and Analysis

David Winston: Strong economic numbers are giving Republicans a late boost.

Gail Collins: Things are getting worse under Trump.

Bill Scher: The 15 races that will determine how Democrats approach 2020.

Morton Kondracke: Reform movement picks up steam ahead of midterms.

 

More on campaigns and politics … Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley announces reelection bid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B MORE (R-Iowa) has referred Democratic attorney Michael Avenatti for criminal investigation, alleging he and his client Julie Swetnick made false claims of sexual assault against Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughGraham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet Republicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh MORE (The Hill) … The Democratic National Committee has begun discussing internally how to handle the 2020 primary debates (The Hill)Missouri Senate debate centers around civility (The Hill) … Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampWashington's oldest contact sport: Lobbyists scrum to dilute or kill Democrats' tax bill Progressives prepare to launch counterattack in tax fight Business groups aim to divide Democrats on .5T spending bill MORE (D-N.D.) is hauling in huge amounts of small-dollar donations this month even as polls show her trailing Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerOn The Money — Democrats rush to finish off infrastructure GOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff The Memo: Biden beats Trump again — this time in the Senate MORE (R-N.D.) (The Hill).





LEADING THE DAY

BOMBS INVESTIGATION: A massive hunt for the package bomber intensified on Thursday with news that 10 such devices had been located. Authorities expressed confidence that the serial bomber would be found, and likely soon, based on the extent of forensic evidence and the potential for video records of package drop-offs by the sender(s).

Investigators homed in on leads pointing to Opa-locka, Fla., in Miami-Dade County, and officials said the bomb devices’ design came from the internet. All the suspicious packages were believed to have moved through the U.S. postal system at some point (Reuters).

 

CBS MIami 4: Opa-locka processing and distribution site handles mail for South Florida. 

The Washington Post: Mail bomb investigation intensifies.

The Boston Globe: Clues in the pipe bombs case.

CNN: Bomb suspect manhunt; FBI treating serial bomber as domestic terrorism. 

NBC News: What’s considered domestic terrorism, and who decides?

 

The sweeping investigation includes: The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Capitol Police, the U.S. Postal Service’s investigative unit, and state and local law enforcement in New York state, New York City, Washington, D.C., Florida and California.

 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: *** OVERNIGHT *** Trump invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit the United States, White House national security adviser John Bolton told reporters today while traveling abroad in Georgia. He said a scheduled meeting Nov. 11 in Paris between the two leaders during a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the end of World War I is expected to be brief. Trump and Putin held their first bilateral summit in Helsinki in July (Reuters).

***

Border fortification: Secretary of Defense James MattisJames Norman MattisFormer Defense Secretary Mattis testifies in Theranos CEO trial 20 years after 9/11, we've logged successes but the fight continues Defense & National Security — The mental scars of Afghanistan MORE, following the president’s newest direction to improve security at the U.S. southern border, is expected to deploy 800 to 1,000 active duty troops for logistical support to discourage a caravan of migrants from Central America from crossing into the United States (CNN).

Details of the deployment were being finalized on Thursday (Fox News). More than 2,000 National Guard troops already are at the border assisting homeland security personnel.

Although thousands of migrants from primarily Honduras and Guatemala are still more than 1,000 miles from any southwestern states, Trump has expressed his displeasure during his campaign rallies (and on Twitter) while declaring the caravan migration a national security concern.

 

 

Relying on a controversial interpretation of presidential authority, Trump is weighing whether he can seal the southern border with Mexico using executive action, possibly highlighting his decision during a speech about immigration on Tuesday. Such a move would end up in court, but would be a potential crowd-pleaser among many GOP voters a week ahead of Election Day (The New York Times). If the president goes forward, most Central American migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border would be prevented from gaining entry, according to sources familiar with the discussions (NBC News).

***

Drug prices: The president on Thursday said his administration is taking aggressive steps to lower pharmaceutical costs. A proposed regulation would create an "international pricing index" that would be used as a reference to set prices for drugs under Medicare Part B, the section of Medicare that covers drugs administered by physicians. Trump’s announcement, timed two weeks before the midterm elections, does not impact the prices of drugs dispensed to patients through pharmacies (The Hill).

***

Trump’s cell phone security: The president dismissed as “fake news” a New York Times report that described his cell phone calls to friends and associates identified by unnamed government sources as insecure and grist for eavesdropping by the Chinese and Russians. The president has been advised to discontinue using his iPhones, but has refused, according to the newspaper. Politico published a similar account of Trump’s smartphone vulnerabilities in May.

 

 

China dismissed the newspaper account as fiction and wryly suggested Trump exchange his iPhone for a cell phone made by Chinese manufacturer Huawei (The Washington Post). Russia’s spokesman said Moscow was “amused” by assertions it listens to the president’s allegedly insecure phone conversations (The Hill).

 

 

 

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

Withdrawing from the U.S.-Russian INF treaty is a massive blunder, by Greg Thielmann, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2JhZd9M

Trump’s latest plan to slash drug prices has real teeth, by Max Nisen, opinion contributor, Bloomberg.



WHERE AND WHEN

The House and Senate will convene after Election Day.

The president speaks this morning at the Young Black Leadership Summit. Over lunch, he meets with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoTrump administration mulled kidnapping, assassinating Julian Assange: report Republican lawmakers raise security, privacy concerns over Huawei cloud services WashPost fact-checker gives Pompeo four 'Pinocchios' for 'zombie' claim about Obama Iran deal MORE. In the evening, the president headlines a political rally in Charlotte, N.C., and returns to Washington.

Pence will travel to Roswell, N.M., and Yuma, Ariz., to support GOP candidates. Tonight, he’ll travel to Las Vegas.

Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWashington still needs more transparency House Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week MORE will announce a new organized crime drug enforcement strike force during a trip to Cleveland. He speaks at 2 p.m. alongside Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and law enforcement officials.

Pompeo officiates at the swearing-in ceremony for Assistant Secretary for Conflict and Stabilization Operations Denise Natali at the Department of State at 4 p.m.

The Commerce Department releases its advance estimate of U.S. growth in the third quarter at 8:30 a.m., and economists anticipate a gross domestic product increase of approximately 3.3 percent compared with 4.2 percent in the second quarter. Expectations are for slower growth during the remainder of this year and next, as the stimulative effects of lower taxes and higher federal spending begin to ebb.

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ELSEWHERE

> Tech: Google protected three male executives accused of sexual misconduct over the past decade. The company paid an exit package of $90 million to Andy Rubin, the “father of Android,” while remaining silent about the software creator’s behavior (The New York Times). … Ride-share companies such as Lyft and Uber are linked by researchers to a rise in fatal traffic accidents (Business Insider). … Apple News’s radical approach lets humans rather than algorithms pick the news (The New York Times) … YouTube is getting better at curbing the spread of misinformation during breaking news, but Facebook and Twitter are still struggling (The Hill).

> Research: A scientist’s fraudulent studies put patients at risk (Science magazine).

> Red tape: Trump’s deregulatory efforts keep losing in court (Brookings Institution analysis report by Connor Raso). “The administration has prevailed in one case and either lost or abandoned its position in 18 cases.” 

> Entertainment: Megyn Kelly is negotiating her exit from NBC News following controversial remarks (CNN).



THE CLOSER

And finally … Kudos to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners! Baseball fans had no trouble coming up with the right answers. Congratulations!

MacGregor Obergfell, Shaun O’Brien, Sandy O’Neil, Lorraine Lindberg, Mary Vita P. Treano, Peter Delloro, Milt Mungo, Alan Gluck, William Chittam, Steve Valley, William Mattingly, David Jerrard, John Schwab, Chris Easton, Dan Hebert, Carl Hamilton, Glen Clark, Sandy Sycafoose, Norm Roberts, David Bond, Richard Chobot, Carol Katz, Jerry Fleagle and ML VanHyfte knew that the New York Yankees have won more World Series titles than any other franchise.

And they knew that George W. Bush is the only former U.S. president to have owned a stake in a Major League Baseball team, the Texas Rangers.

A franchise that has never made it to a World Series is the Washington Nationals. The Seattle Mariners have also never been. 

In World Series history, the only pitcher with a perfect game was Don Larsen of the New York Yankees.

As a teenager, Donald Trump was known among fellow students as a talented baseball player and he became captain of the varsity team at the New York Military Academy.

(ICYMI, when he was 12, the president wrote a poem about baseball that appeared in the yearbook: “I like to hear the crowd give cheers, so loud and noisy to my ears. When the score is 5-5, I feel like I could cry. And when they get another run, I feel like I could die. Then the catcher makes an error, not a bit like Yogi Berra. The game is over and we say tomorrow is another day.”)