The Hill’s Morning Report – Dems debate if Biden’s conduct with women disqualifying
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Although he continues to sit on the sidelines of the 2020 fray, former Vice President Joe Biden remained the party’s No. 1 talking point Monday after a second woman in a matter of days accused him of improper contact.
As Alexander Bolton and Amie Parnes write, Biden is facing a crisis after Amy Lappos accused the Democratic presidential front-runner of inappropriate touching at a 2009 fundraiser in Greenwich, Conn., adding to the scrutiny of Biden’s past behavior and testing his longtime relationships with fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill.
The news prolonged what has already been an extended news cycle focused on the former vice president, who is not expected to allow these allegations to stand in the way of a likely presidential campaign. While Biden found himself alone as no one in the 2020 pool defended him after Lucy Flores made her claim Friday night, he found more friendly reactions from some of his former Senate Democratic colleagues.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), his former home-state Senate colleague, defended Biden repeatedly Monday. He chalked up his friend’s actions to Delaware being a “very friendly state” where political leaders embrace people in the open. He also argued that Biden should not be disqualified from the 2020 race over the accusations.
“I don’t believe so. I believe he’s taken the right approach … I think his words are well chosen. He’s made it clear his intent was never to make people feel uncomfortable or any kind of harm. Delaware is a very friendly state. Delaware is a state where it’s leaders hug people, men and women, young and old. We kiss babies. We do it in public.
It’s also important to always put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes and ask how would I want to be treated if I were in their shoes, and if someone feels uncomfortable it’s important that we not make them feel uncomfortable.”
Some high-profile women also came to his defense. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) agreed that the claims should “not at all” disqualify Biden from the 2020 conversation, although she declined to comment on how much it may endanger his campaign prospects.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) agreed that it should not disqualify him, adding that she still supports him assuming that he runs for the highest office in the land.
“I’ve known Joe Biden for 25 years. He’s a warm, tactile person. He reaches out and touches, and it’s like this and that.” Feinstein said, reaching out and grabbing her male staffer by the arm as an example. “It’s hardly sexy.”
“That’s not his intention. It’s a new thing that people have been affronted by it. Over 25 years, I’ve never seen that before.”
However, the news, particularly of a second accuser, made some Senate Democrats visibly uneasy Monday night. Multiple members declined to comment about the news of Biden including Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), who told reporters that she hadn’t heard about the second accusation as she speed-walked out of the Capitol.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) kept up her criticism of the former vice president, saying that he “demeaned” Flores with his inappropriate touching and that he has to “address this more directly” if he runs.
> Eight 2020 candidates appeared before the “We the People” confab in Washington before a crowd of liberal activists, where many jumped at the chance to support some of the top priorities of the progressive crowd.
The Washington Post: Presidential candidates leap to embrace liberal demands — but will it cost them?
“Every candidate who was asked expressed support for abolishing the Electoral College, restoring voting rights to convicted felons, and naming Election Day as a national holiday. They agreed to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and end privately financed prisons. They all pledged to reenter the Paris climate accord on their first day in office.”
The Hill: South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg becomes first winner in fundraising primary
The Hill: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) posts $12 million haul in opening months of 2020 campaign
> Morning Report exclusive: Wesley Hunt, an Army veteran and a Houston-area businessman, announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination to take on Rep. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (D-Texas) in Texas’s 7th Congressional District on Tuesday. Fletcher defeated former Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), a longtime incumbent Republican in a seat that is viewed in GOP circles as prime territory for them. HUNT’S LAUNCH VIDEO
Hunt has one big supporter in his pocket: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). McCarthy helped recruit Hunt to run, including a trip to Houston, and has routinely talked about him as an exemplar candidate the GOP needs to run to help win back the House.
“He fits the district very well. He’s got a young family, just had his first child, a daughter, and this is a man who believes in service, understands the district well and is a natural-born leader,” McCarthy told the Morning Report.
> ABC News: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) released 12 years of tax returns, saying that “transparency and accountability are fundamental to good governance.”
> The Hill: Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) officially announced that he will run to replace the outgoing Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) in 2020. With the move, Luján will give up any House ambitions after running for the House Democratic campaign arm for two cycles and serving as the No. 4 Democrat in leadership for the 116th Congress.
LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS: Democrat-led House investigations aimed at the Trump administration are speeding toward clashes with the executive branch.
Democrats are poised to challenge the Trump administration with subpoenas, if necessary, to compel cooperation with oversight investigations. The White House and administration lawyers prepared for months for an anticipated onslaught of Democratic inquiries with the potential that Trump could eventually dig in and decide to invoke executive privilege.
On at least three fronts –- White House security clearances, a census question about citizenship status, and the production of the full report by special counsel Robert Mueller –- House Democratic committee chairmen want to enforce deadlines the Trump administration has indicated it will not meet.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, has relied for information on a federal official identified as a whistleblower to pursue the process used to grant White House security clearances under Trump.
The Hill: Nine White House officials of interest in the security clearance probe.
Niall Stanage: The security clearance controversy is yet another potential black eye for Trump and the West Wing.
Cummings and his Democratic committee colleagues are preparing to subpoena Carl Kline, the former White House personnel security director who was reportedly involved in granting a high-level security clearance to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, as well as to other officials against the recommendations of security specialists (ABC News).
A witness, Tricia Newbold, told Cummings’s staff she maintained a list of as many as 25 White House officials whose clearance applications initially were denied. Those denials were overruled by senior officials inside the White House (The Hill).
“These individuals had a wide range of serious disqualifying issues involving foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use and criminal conduct,” according to a committee summary of Newbold’s testimony (Politico).
A president has the power to grant security clearances to anyone he wishes, but House Democrats are exploring whether clearances granted to the president’s relatives and senior officials who are in close proximity to the president circumvented national security or other risks.
Separately, the House Judiciary Committee set a deadline today for the Justice Department and Attorney General William Barr to produce the complete Mueller report. Barr says he’ll furnish a redacted version to Congress later this month. House Democrats led by Pelosi insist they want to immediately read the entire report along with Mueller’s investigative evidence, rather than Barr’s four-page summary.
Cummings also prepared a resolution to permit the issuance of subpoenas to Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Gore to testify as well as to Barr and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to produce records in connection with the committee’s investigation into the addition of a controversial citizenship question with the 2020 census.
Other developments in Congress … A $13.45 billion disaster aid bill stalled in the Senate on Monday (The Hill) and Trump blamed Democrats and said Puerto Rico already received too much federal help after hurricanes (The Hill) … The House Homeland Security Committee meets today to hear testimony about whether suspected terrorists attempt to enter the United States via its southern border with Mexico … On Monday, a major setback for Dems: After winning back the House, they are too fractured to pass a budget resolution (The Hill).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump is considering appointing an immigration adviser or czar to his administration to coordinate cross-cutting issues in agencies and departments, a type of federal position Republicans in Congress and conservative pundits assailed with gusto during the Obama administration.
The Associated Press reports the president is considering at least two potential far-right conservative appointees: former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Trump this week revived his signature focus on border security, pressing Congress to reform asylum laws, threatening to close the Mexican border and renewing his effort to get foreign governments to cut off the flow of immigrants. The president’s legislative proposals have little chance of clearing Congress but are popular with his base (The Hill).
The Associated Press: Trump’s threat to close the border stirs fears of economic harm.
> Health care: The president late on Monday used a series of tweets to suggest the “really good” health care replacement he has in mind for ObamaCare, which he days ago asked Republican senators to write, will wait until after the 2020 elections, when he says he wants the GOP to hold majorities in the House and Senate. Trump’s statement affirms his belief — controversial within his party — that eliminating the Affordable Care Act should be part of the GOP’s election-year platform (Reuters).
> 2020 census: Democrats and state leaders worry that the Census Bureau, a year out from the decennial national tally, is poorly prepared for a mammoth task that costs billions of dollars and involves hundreds of thousands of workers (The Hill).
> Kushner addresses security clearance: White House senior adviser Jared Kushner told Fox News Monday night that during his time in the White House he has been “accused of all different types of things” that “turned out to be false” regarding concerns about his security clearance (The Hill)
> Housing and Urban Development (HUD): The Trump administration is scrutinizing whether Silicon Valley’s largest tech companies, including Facebook, enable discrimination in housing. HUD reportedly is investigating Google and Twitter for the same reasons (The Hill).
> U.S. sanctions — Iran: The Trump administration is considering additional sanctions against Iran that would target areas of its economy that have not been hit before. The administration wants new sanctions imposed close to the May 8 anniversary of Trump’s signed withdrawal of the United States from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and several world powers, officials said on Monday (Reuters).
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The Trump health care pivot, by John Feehery, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2FQCUrR
How the United States can stay in the Paris climate agreement, by Amy Myers Jaffe and Daniel Scheitrum, opinion contributors, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2FT7ukN
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 10 a.m., followed by legislative business at noon. The House Financial Services Committee meets at 10 a.m. for a hearing about the Fair Housing Act and the digitization of the housing market. Pelosi will be interviewed at 7:45 a.m. during a Politico Playbook live event. Information HERE.
The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and considers post-cloture debate rules, the so-called “nuclear option,” for confirmation of certain nominees. Energy Secretary Rick Perry testifies about his department’s proposed budget before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at 10 a.m.
The president meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, whose term now extends to 2022. In the evening, Trump speaks at an annual political dinner hosted at the National Building Museum in Washington by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Vice President Pence meets in his White House office at 1 p.m. with relatives of six Citgo executives detained by the Maduro regime in Venezuela.
➔ Brexit: Parliament failed on Monday to find a consensus for any options it considered in a series of votes about how to withdraw from the European Union. The United Kingdom remains in Brexit turmoil along with Prime Minister Theresa May just days before a deadline (Reuters). Brexit’s uncertainties have constrained economic growth, discouraged investment and marred Great Britain’s reputation as a haven for commerce (The New York Times).
➔ Public health: New York, Washington, New Jersey and California continue to experience outbreaks of measles this year. More people have been infected in the first three months of 2019 than in all of last year, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CNBC).
➔ Supreme Court: The Constitution does not guarantee a prisoner sentenced to capital punishment “a painless death,” a divided Supreme Court said on Monday, paving the way for the execution of a convicted murderer who sought to die by lethal gas rather than lethal injection because of a rare medical condition (Reuters).
➔ Banking: Wells Fargo’s persistent problems and unprecedented federal penalties pose obstacles to the bank’s relationships in Washington. The financial institution is now searching for a new chief executive (The Hill).
➔ Elizabeth Holmes: The much-publicized founder of the defunct medical testing company Theranos, who faces trial on felony fraud charges, is engaged to be married, which landed her on the pages of Brides magazine.
And finally … ⚾ Oh baby! The Nats meet the Phillies today, and Bryce Harper is boasting about more than great baseball and his recent (lucrative) departure from Washington. Harper and his wife Kayla made headlines on Monday with some savvy personal storytelling on Instagram: A tiny Harper is expected.
The major question heading into tonight’s game remains: Will Nationals fans boo him?
“I’m not sure what to expect,” he told The Washington Post last month.
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