The Hill's Morning Report - Female candidates search for liftoff in 2020 presidential race




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Thursday! Our newsletter gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Co-creators are Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver (CLICK HERE to subscribe!). On Twitter, find us at @asimendinger and @alweaver22.

*** BREAKING: WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange was arrested in London today after being evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy where he has been holed up for nearly seven years while facing charges of rape in Sweden (BBC). Timeline of Assange’s asylum HERE. The Justice Department, which has investigated Assange since at least 2011, filed secret criminal charges against him, it was inadvertently revealed last year (The New York Times). ***

Only months after Democrats elected a horde of women to the House in the 2018 election, Democratic women have had trouble breaking into the top tier of the 2020 primary. Of the six women running for the Democratic nomination, only one — Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisRick Scott blocks Senate vote on top cyber nominee until Harris visits border Head of Border Patrol resigning from post Migrant children face alarming conditions in US shelter: BBC investigation MORE (D-Calif.) — has broken through and is routinely mentioned as one of the front-runners, while others have struggled in early polls.


According to reporting by Amie Parnes, this has come as a disappointment and surprise to some top Democrats, especially with the rise over the past 18 months of the “#Me Too” movement and less than three years after the party nominated the first female to lead a major party’s ticket in American history.


According to one Democratic strategist, much of the problem is the double standard surrounding women that still exists even as “#MeToo” has changed the political landscape.


“I think a lot of what’s happening is despite gains that women have made, they’re still dealing with a lot of latent sexism and doubt standards both from how voters perceive them and how they’re covered [in the media],” said Democratic strategist Eddie Vale. “When one of the male candidates does something intellectual they are smart and new but when one of the female candidates [does the same thing], they’re too bland or wonky to connect with voters.”


The Associated Press: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Senators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Tim Cook called Pelosi to say tech antitrust bills were rushed MORE: 2020 Dem ticket doesn’t have to include a woman.


The Washington Post: Why hasn’t Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Overnight Health Care: CDC panel meets on vaccines and heart inflammation | Health officials emphasize vaccine is safe | Judge rules Missouri doesn't have to implement Medicaid expansion Democrats urge Biden to extend moratorium on student loan payments MORE achieved liftoff?


The Associated Press: Harris gets 1st Iowa endorsement from Democratic activist.


> The struggles have extended, in particular, to fundraising, as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Tech antitrust bills create strange bedfellows in House markup | Rick Scott blocks Senate vote on top cyber nominee until Harris visits border | John McAfee dies Klobuchar questions Amazon, Alphabet over smart-home devices Schumer vows next steps after 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster MORE (D-Minn.) failed to vault themselves with an impressive haul during the first fundraising quarter, as Max Greenwood and Jonathan Easley report.


Warren, who rolled out her campaign before all others, announced Wednesday that she raised $6 million, with the average donation sitting at $28, and has $11.2 million in the bank. However, she also spent $5.2 million in the first quarter for a hefty burn rate of 85 percent, while also reportedly having 170 full-time paid staffers on payroll. It also comes after she decided to swear off large donor events, which led to the resignation of her finance director.


Additionally, Klobuchar announced a $5.2 million haul last week, placing her behind Warren and the group of frontrunners and upstarts who posted strong quarters. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Briahna Joy Gray: Biden is keeping the filibuster to have 'a Joe Manchin presidency' On The Money: Biden to fire FHFA director after Supreme Court removes restriction | Yellen pleads with Congress to raise debt ceiling MORE (I-Vt.) led all candidates with $18.2 million raised, while Harris raked in $12 million. The totals for the two women also fell short of the totals for former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegHigh-speed rail getting last minute push in Congress Buttigieg: Bipartisan deal on infrastructure 'strongly preferred' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden ends infrastructure talks with key Republican | Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack | Texas gov signs bills to improve power grid after winter storm MORE, two upstarts who have taken the race by storm.


The two other women in the race, Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum House lawmakers introduce bill to overhaul military justice system Pentagon chief backs change to military sexual assault prosecution MORE (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardTulsi Gabbard on Chicago mayor's decision to limit media interviews to people of color: 'Anti-white racism' Fox News says network and anchor Leland Vittert have 'parted ways' New co-chairs named for congressional caucus for millennials MORE (D-Hawaii) have not released their fundraising totals, but neither has made a dent in polling thus far.


CNN: Warren releases 2018 tax returns.


> Sanders relaunches “Medicare for all” plan; Dems divided (The Associated Press):


“Some Democratic 2020 hopefuls point to their support of Medicare for All to prove their progressive bona fides. But other Democrats say it’s not politically or economically feasible because of the large tax increases required, preferring instead to stabilize the Affordable Care Act and use it to expand coverage.”


Four of Sanders’s fellow senators and rivals for the Democratic nomination have signed onto the updated single-payer health care proposal. In addition to Gillibrand, they are Sens. Cory BookerCory BookerThousands sent to emergency rooms every year due to violent police encounters: investigation Democrats fear they are running out of time on Biden agenda Harris casts tiebreaking vote to confirm OPM nominee MORE of New Jersey, Harris and Warren.


Elsewhere on the political scene … Senate Majority PAC, the leading outside group supporting Senate Democrats, went up with a $200,000 ad buy in New Hampshire to boost Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenWhite House advisers huddle with Senate moderates on infrastructure Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Biden struggles to detail post-withdrawal Afghanistan plans MORE (D-N.H.), whom Republicans hope to knock off next year (Paul Steinhauser) … Former Vice President Joe Biden tops Harris and leads 2020 Dems in California poll (The Hill) … The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) tells The Hill in an email that Austin Chambers was today named the group’s new president.





INVESTIGATIONS: Attorney General William BarrBill BarrEnergized Trump probes pose problems for Biden Pavlich: Biden can't ignore defund the police contributions to violent crime spike Progressives slam Garland for DOJ stances on Trump-era cases MORE launched a thousand click-bait and chyron-ready headlines on Wednesday with these words: “Spying did occur.”


During a second day of congressional testimony, Barr expanded on his testimony from a day earlier about releasing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE’s report next week if possible.


He also disclosed that he ordered an internal Justice Department investigation of the circumstances under which the FBI’s Russia investigation in 2016 examined Trump campaign associates and contacts.


The president and Republican allies in Congress have long maintained that the FBI under former Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyMystery surrounds Justice's pledge on journalist records NYT publisher: DOJ phone records seizure a 'dangerous incursion' on press freedom Trump DOJ seized phone records of New York Times reporters MORE and former top Justice officials who were Democrats abused investigatory authority in an unsuccessful effort to thwart Trump’s candidacy, charges they have repeatedly denied.


The Hill: Barr launches an inquiry to determine if “spying” aimed at the Trump campaign by U.S. intelligence agencies was supported by facts, evidence and federal rules.


The New York Times: “I think spying did occur.”


“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr told lawmakers. “I am not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it’s important to look at them,” he said, adding that he sought to ensure there was no “improper surveillance.”


The president on Wednesday argued again that the Mueller investigation, which was initiated by the Justice Department in May 2017 to examine Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, masked an “attempted coup” that he believes began during the Obama administration.


His ire foreshadows the intense political drama ahead as a redacted version of the special counsel’s report heads to Congress and the public and sets off new battles as Trump seeks reelection and perhaps several dozen Democratic candidates compete for their party’s nomination.


“This was an attempted takedown of a president. And we beat them. We beat them. So, the Mueller report, when they talk about obstruction, we fight back. And do you know why we fight back?  Because I knew how illegal this whole thing was. It was a scam.  And what I'm most interested in … is getting started on going back to the origins of exactly where this all started, because this was an illegal witch hunt and everybody knew it, and they knew it too. And they got caught.” — Trump





The Hill: House Freedom Caucus members want the FBI’s watchdog to testify publicly after he concludes investigation of 2016 surveillance warrants.


The president faced another personnel challenge as Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday grilled Deputy Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Rosen, Trump’s nominee to become deputy attorney general, on a range of issues including his partisan views.


And there was at least one other topic that tested the president’s patience: efforts by House Democrats to gain access to his business and personal tax returns.


Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinDemocrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer Yellen provides signature for paper currency Biden's name will not appear on stimulus checks, White House says MORE confirmed Wednesday evening that the department would not fulfill Democratic requests for the tax returns, citing “serious issues concerning constitutional scope of congressional investigative authority." Trump has made clear he wants to block any congressional or investigatory avenue through which his IRS filings might be made public.


“While I’m under audit, I won’t do it,” he repeated. “If I’m not under audit, I would do it. I had no problem with it. But while I’m under audit, I would not give my taxes.”


Reuters: Court battle over Trump tax returns increasingly likely.







WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The president on Wednesday said he may decide to call up more troops at the southern border as he sizes up potential picks to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenLeft-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' House Republican condemns anti-Trump celebrities during impeachment hearing MORE concluded her brief tenure in charge of the department on Wednesday, and the number of vacancies and temporary agency heads is climbing.


Trump gave acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan high marks but did not promise to send the Senate a new nominee to lead the department immediately. “It could happen,” he said of the odds that McAleenan gets the nomination to succeed Nielsen. “He’s doing a great job.”


Answering reporters’ questions before flying to Texas on Wednesday, Trump chafed at news coverage that casts West Wing immigration adviser Stephen Miller as a Svengali behind the most muscular border and immigration initiatives.


“There's only one person that's running it. You know who that is?  It's me,” Trump said.


The Hill: “I’m going to have to call up more military.”


As the president mulls potential candidates who could succeed a slew of acting officials and fill DHS vacancies, Senate Republicans are pleading with the White House to halt the sudden spring cleanout of senior personnel (The  Washington Post).


Before her departure on Wednesday, Nielsen announced that Ronald Vitiello was stepping down as acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director. Trump last week pulled Vitiello’s nomination to lead ICE, saying he decided he wanted someone “tougher.”


Trump was asked on Wednesday if one of his allies, Kris Kobach, might be his leading contender to head the department. The controversial former Kansas secretary of state, who is beloved on the far-right, is actively campaigning for the DHS job, but GOP senators are publicly warning he would have a tough time getting confirmed (The Hill).


The president was noncommittal. “I respect him. I like him. And he's somebody that, you know, I have a lot of regard for,” he said.


Meanwhile, as the White House searches for policies that might deter Central American migrants and asylum-seekers from entering the country, the Pentagon approved a government request to find housing in the United States for 5,000 unaccompanied migrant children, at least through September (The Hill).


The Washington Post: Wait times at U.S.-Mexico border soar as officers reassigned to deal with migrants.


The New York Times: Migrants pour into a system that approaches its breaking point.


In other administration news … Trump said he’s leaving it “up to” Herman Cain, one of two unconventional choices the president has named to fill vacancies on the Federal Reserve Board, to overcome Senate opposition. “That’s up to Herman,” Trump told reporters … Homeland Security is not the only agency under crosshairs inside the White House. The administration would like to take executive action to carve up the responsibilities of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which has 5,565 employees, to redistribute the work to three other agencies and do away with OPM. Democratic lawmakers are howling (The Washington Post) … Trump signed executive orders on Wednesday to speed up oil and natural gas projects (The Washington Post).  


CONGRESS: House Democrats kicked off a three-day issues conference in Leesburg, Va., Wednesday facing questions about divisions in their caucus after failing to reach a deal on budgetary ceilings.


According to Mike Lillis and Niv Elis, A number of Democrats downplayed their decision to scrap the budget vote on Tuesday and argued it doesn’t foreshadow problems with funding the government later in the year. Nevertheless, it raised questions about whether divisions between centrists and liberals in the party could lead to the kinds of fractures the GOP experienced with the House Freedom Caucus during the past eight years.





The Hill: Treasury Department predicts $1.1 trillion deficit for 2019.


> The House voted Wednesday to reinstate Obama-era net neutrality rules prohibiting internet service providers from interfering with web traffic. Harper Neidig reports that the bill passed mostly along party lines (232-190) as only one Republican, Rep. Bill PoseyWilliam (Bill) Joseph PoseyLawmakers call on Biden to put billion toward coastal restoration Stop COVID unemployment benefits for prisoners and recoup billions in fraud READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results MORE (R-Fla.), voted for the bill.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCan Manchin answer his predecessor's call on voting rights? Biden at Sen. John Warner's funeral: He 'gave me confidence' Democrats' narrow chance to retain control after 2022 MORE (R-Ky.) declared Tuesday that the bill is “dead on arrival” in the upper chamber.


In other congressional news … House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) held a courtesy meeting with ex-Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) Wednesday regarding a possible 2020 House run (The Hill) … McConnell conceded Wednesday that the Senate vote on the Green New Deal was a “show vote” (Fox News).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


Twitter and American public opinion are different, polling shows, by Josh Kraushaar, National Journal https://bit.ly/2Vxy2NE


Why more tax reform is inevitable, by Joseph J. Minarik, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2U9ZEXJ


The House meets at 2:30 p.m. on April 12. Democratic lawmakers are huddling today in Leesburg, Va., during an annual retreat.


The Senate meets at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of David Bernhardt to be secretary of the Interior.


The president and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats await Manchin decision on voting rights bill Biden plans to host Obama for portrait unveiling that Trump skipped: report Jill Biden, Kate Middleton visit school together in first meeting MORE will welcome President Moon Jae-in and Mrs. Kim Jung-sook of South Korea to the White House at 1 p.m. for a meeting scheduled to last less than an hour. Moon plans to ask the president to ease sanctions on North Korea, according to South Korean officials quoted by The Korea Times (TIME). Trump meets with World War II veterans at the White House at 2:15 p.m.


Vice President Pence flies to Nogales, Ariz., this afternoon to talk with U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and tour a section of border wall. He’ll spend the night in Omaha, Neb., in preparation for an event there on Friday.


Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden appoints veteran housing, banking regulator as acting FHFA chief Iran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' MORE will be in Philadelphia this afternoon to participate in a panel discussion about the opioid epidemic. The event at the University of Pennsylvania’s Irvine Auditorium begins at 3 p.m. and will be webcast. Info HERE.


Justice Department Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinHouse Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week Media leaders to meet with Garland to discuss leak investigations MORE will speak at 2:30 p.m. at the installation ceremony for new U.S. Marshals Service Director Donald Washington at the U.S. Marshals headquarters in Arlington, Va.


The Hill hosts a live newsmaker event from 9 to 10 a.m. with featured speaker White House national economic adviser Larry Kudlow to dive into the 2017 tax law, its impact and federal policies geared toward small businesses. Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack moderates and Elaine Parker, chief communications officer with event sponsor Jobs Creators Network, participates. Location and information: Washington Marriott at Metro Center.


Brexit: Representatives of the European Union met late on Wednesday in Brussels to discuss British Prime Minister Theresa May’s request for an extension until June 30 to work out a deal to withdraw from the bloc. The EU instead opted to give the United Kingdom until Oct. 31 to find consensus (NBC News).


Games without thrones on TV: James Holzhauer is a professional sports bettor who put his knowledge to the test and set at least two Jeopardy records, winning the most money in a single day and a record $244,365 during just four appearances thus far. (Past champion Ken Jennings took home more than $2.5 million during a 74-game winning streak in 2004, according to host Alex Trebek) (ESPN). Holzhauer explained to WIRED in an email how he applies game theory to make his bets.


Space: If you missed the first photo of a black hole in action, as revealed on Wednesday, take a look (The New York Times).





And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by The Masters    we’re eager for some smart guesses about the famed golf tournament as the 83rd edition tees off today at Augusta National in Georgia.


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


Who was the first non-American to win The Masters?


  1. Seve Ballesteros
  2. Gary Player
  3. Harry Cooper
  4. Bernhard Langer


Which famed golfer is credited with being a co-founder of Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters?


  1. Bobby Jones
  2. Ben Hogan
  3. Byron Nelson
  4. Walter Hagen


Which two players share record scores in the history of The Masters?


  1. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer
  2. Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth
  3. Arnold Palmer, Phil Mickelson
  4. Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods


Which CBS Sports announcer has anchored coverage of The Masters since 1989?


  1. Verne Lundquist
  2. Mike Tirico
  3. Jim Nantz
  4. Joe Buck