The Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck

 

 

 

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Monday! 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.



Democrats will make their first appearance on the debate stage this week as part of a two-night extravaganza in Miami that will serve as one of the first major moments of the 2020 campaign and could be a make or break moment for some candidates as they try to make a name for themselves with voters.

 

The sprawling field of White House aspirants got some practice on stage — with matching blue T-shirts —  in South Carolina during an annual weekend fish fry hosted by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who says he’s neutral in the presidential race.

 

While 20 candidates will take the stage on Wednesday and Thursday, all eyes are on former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden campaign cancels fundraiser with Mueller prosecutor Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here's why The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation MORE, who has come under fire from rivals and other candidates in recent weeks for multiple reasons but has maintained his frontrunner status.

 

Biden attended the fish fry in South Carolina, but this will be his first political debate since he faced off against former vice presidential challenger Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTwitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here's why Lobbying world John Ratcliffe is the right choice for director of national intelligence — and for America MORE (R) in 2012 when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyCoronavirus and America's economic miracle Former Romney strategist joins anti-Trump Lincoln Project Romney defends Joe Scarborough, staffer's widower: 'Enough already' MORE, now the junior senator from Utah, was at the top of the ticket trying to defeat former President Obama.

 

Democrats are wondering how Biden will handle his current status. As Niall Stanage writes, controversies over hot-button issues such as race and abortion have put a small dent in his campaign. Responses on both topics have left many Democrats dissatisfied and have sparked fresh questions about his judgment and about how long he can maintain pole position in the Democratic field.

 

Underneath Biden, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGloves come off as Democrats fight for House seat in California Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Unemployment claims now at 41 million with 2.1 million more added to rolls; Topeka mayor says cities don't have enough tests for minorities and homeless communities MORE (I-Vt.) is embroiled in a battle with Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenCOVID-19 workplace complaints surge; unions rip administration Gloves come off as Democrats fight for House seat in California Police killing in Minneapolis puts new scrutiny on Biden pick MORE (D-Mass.), who has found herself in the ascendant in recent polls, including some showing that she has surpassed Sanders in some instances. Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Police killing in Minneapolis puts new scrutiny on Biden pick MORE (D-Calif.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBiden hopes to pick VP by Aug. 1 It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Here's how Biden can win over the minority vote and the Rust Belt MORE (D) are trying to show that their best days are ahead of them and not in the rearview mirror as both have seen their poll numbers become stagnant over the past month.

 

For other candidates, they view this as the time to make their move, as almost everyone else has found it tough to crack 4 percent support in early states or nationally.

 

The Hill: 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the first Democratic showdown.

 

NBC News: Biden’s soft spots exposed, but Democratic rivals strike only glancing blows.

 

As tensions bubble to the surface and candidate-on-candidate sniping becomes commonplace in the primary, some Democrats are worried that the race is turning into a redux of 2016 when the back-and-forth between supporters of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTop Democratic pollster advised Biden campaign to pick Warren as VP Longtime Democratic pollster: Warren 'obvious solution' for Biden's VP pick How Obama just endorsed Trump MORE and Sanders became so bitter that supporters of the Vermont democratic socialist sat on the sidelines instead of supporting Clinton as the party’s nominee.

 

According to Amie Parnes, Democrats are concerned that it could help President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation Stocks open mixed ahead of Trump briefing on China The island that can save America MORE in a general election fight, as it did in 2016.

 

"Democrats will beat Donald Trump by making this a referendum on Donald Trump. But if they tear each other apart between now and the convention, they risk depressing their own turnout," said opinion contributor to The Hill and former Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump ramps up attacks against Twitter The Hill's Coronavirus Report: National Portrait Gallery's Kim Sajet says this era rewiring people's relationship with culture, art; Trump's war with Twitter heats up The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga says supporting small business single most important thing we should do now; Teva's Brendan O'Grady says U.S. should stockpile strategic reserve in drugs like Strategic Oil Reserve MORE (N.Y.), who twice served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

 

"They’ve got the most polarizing and unpopular Republican president in history, and it’s just political malpractice to be firing at each other instead of targeting him,” Israel added.

 

Paul Kane: Clyburn’s fish fry draws the Democratic hopefuls and illustrates a concern.

 

Although Democrats see warning signs there, they are also trying to focus on other issues that plagued them in recent campaign cycles. Among them is turning out Hispanic voters in Florida, as activists are launching an aggressive effort to court the state’s fastest-growing voting bloc.

 

Trying to avoid a repeat of their high-profile losses in 2018, activists are diving headfirst into the community this cycle and are doing so earlier than they have in the past. As Max Greenwood reports, the goals are to mobilize dozens of organizers in the state and to fine-tune Spanish-language outreach.

 

Republicans, meanwhile, are making their own push, including this week, as Vice President Pence is scheduled to campaign in Miami on Tuesday ahead of the Wednesday debate.

 

Elsewhere on the 2020 Democratic scene, the field of candidates unexpectedly grew to 25 on Sunday as former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), a retired two-star Navy Admiral, announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination.

 

A run by Sestak, who most recently lost two Senate bids in Pennsylvania, came out of left field not only to national Democrats, but also to Pennsylvania party goers. Two Pennsylvania Democrats told The Hill that they were completely blindsided by the news, with one saying that “0.0” people had any idea this was coming.

 

Additionally, the former suburban Philadelphia lawmaker is not well-liked among the party’s higher-ups in the state and has been known throughout the years as a difficult boss on Capitol Hill and as a nuisance to the party. As T.J. Rooney, a former Pennsylvania Democratic Party chairman, put it, Sestak is running a race no one asked for.

 

“Joe Sestak embodies some people in politics who are absolutely forgotten, but obviously not gone,” Rooney told The Hill on Sunday. “If you were a delusional, self-important gasbag and you have nothing better to do, you’d run for president. It's sad because it dumbs down an already overcrowded group to begin with."

 

“What people in Pennsylvania, Dems in Pennsylvania are talking about is who can win Pennsylvania, because if you can win Pennsylvania, you can win the presidency, and this guy has proven twice that he cannot win Pennsylvania,” Rooney said. “It's typical of this guy. It's just so, so Sestak. It's a ‘Sestak.’ He's become an adjective.”

 

The Washington Post: Black voters are cutting Biden some slack — for now.

 

The Associated Press: New phase in presidential race tests Dem aggression.

 

CNN: Buttigieg confronts leadership test in impassioned South Bend town hall.

 

The Washington Post: Harris, eyeing a prime debate opportunity, is still looking for a political niche.

 

 

 



LEADING THE DAY

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: After ordering and then pulling back military strikes against Iran last week, Trump this week is being pressed to clarify U.S. policy toward Iran and whether the administration has international partners backing its list of goals and decisions.

 

Trump has been praised as well as assailed for his last-minute decision to call off missile strikes against Iran on Thursday night, later explaining that he was uncomfortable with the U.S. military estimate of 150 Iranian casualties.

 

Among stated objectives Trump has described since 2017:

  • United States will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.
  • Administration withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
  • Administration says regime change in Iran is not U.S. policy.
  • Iran must end support for terrorist organizations in the Middle East and hostilities with Israel.
  • U.S. does not want a war with Iran.
  • U.S. supports economic sanctions to pressure the Iranian government.
  • U.S. military strikes should be proportional when Iranian casualties are a risk.
  • Administration supports the people of Iran.

 

Two Trump advisers who are the most hawkish about Iran traveled to the Middle East over the weekend. National security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonHave the courage to recognize Taiwan McConnell says Obama administration 'did leave behind' pandemic plan Trump company lawyer warned Michael Cohen not to write 'tell-all' book: report MORE was in Israel, and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Government watchdog: 'No evidence' Pompeo violated Hatch Act with Kansas trips Inspector general fired over leaks had been cleared of wrongdoing before ouster: report MORE departed on Sunday for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to discuss escalating tensions. The secretary arrived in Jeddah today (The Associated Press).

 

Trump and Pompeo say there are no U.S. preconditions for future talks with Iran (The Associated Press and The Hill).

 

Bolton, who was in Jerusalem on Sunday for a previously planned meeting with Israel and Russia, warned that Iran should not “mistake U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness,” adding that Iran does not have a “hunting license in the Middle East.”

 

Tehran has said it will breach the international cap set on its uranium enrichment on Thursday, and it dismissed the threat of new U.S. sanctions, planned by the Trump administration (The Wall Street Journal).

 

Trump is eager for cyber and other unconventional military options that can damage Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and urging U.S. intelligence and military experts to come up with new mechanisms to counter Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf region (The New York Times). Last week, U.S. Cyber Command conducted online attacks against an Iranian intelligence group that American officials believe helped plan this month’s attacks against oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz (The New York Times).

 

 

 

 

> Middle East peace plan: As tensions with Iran escalate, the Trump administration’s long-awaited blueprint for Middle East peace is set to be unveiled by White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump's strategy to stay in office Trump tries to soothe anxious GOP senators Press: King Donald's goal - no checks, no balances MORE at a conference in Bahrain on Tuesday and Wednesday. The plan calls for a $50 billion global investment fund to bolster the Palestinian and neighboring Arab economies and has attracted plenty of naysayers (Reuters). Palestinians rejected it, arguing they were cut out of the process (NBC News). White House document is HERE.

          

> Saudi Arabia: Trump, during an interview broadcast on Sunday with NBC News, said the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have been investigated enough without involving the FBI, and he repeated that the United States will not stop selling weapons systems to Saudi Arabia. A United Nations investigator recently said there is “credible evidence” that could implicate Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Khashoggi’s death. Salman has denied involvement (The Hill).   

 

> North Korea: Trump, eager to restart denuclearization talks with North Korea that failed in February, sent Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnKim Jong Un seeks to continue bolstering North Korea's nuclear capabilities, state media says Overnight Defense: State Dept. watchdog was investigating emergency Saudi arms sales before ouster | Pompeo says he requested watchdog be fired for 'undermining' department | Pensacola naval base shooter had 'significant ties' to al Qaeda, Barr says Trump says investigation into Pompeo shows 'screwed up' priorities MORE a letter, according to state media in Pyongyang. Pompeo confirmed the communication on Sunday, saying “I’m hopeful that this will provide a good foundation” for starting “important discussions with the North Koreans” (The New York Times and Reuters). The president will visit South Korea for two days this weekend following the Group of 20 economic summit in Osaka, Japan. Trump, who is considering a visit to the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, will meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Sunday (Reuters).

 

> Immigration: Trump said the federal government is doing a “fantastic” job under tough circumstances to deal with migrant children whose detention and treatment has come under repeated and harsh criticism (The Hill). PBS’s NewsHour reported on “inhumane conditions” for migrant children at one U.S. facility.

 

The president extended by two weeks his administration’s launch of deportation sweeps to round up undocumented migrants living in major U.S. cities, saying the additional time allows congressional Democrats to develop legislative solutions along with GOP lawmakers. NBC News reported the administration halted the raids because plans by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) leaked. The raids were set to begin on Sunday and many cities vowed not to cooperate (Reuters). Members of Congress on Sunday expressed skepticism that legislation to toughen controls on asylum-seekers would be passed in two weeks. Democratic lawmakers favor work toward comprehensive immigration changes, seen as a near-impossibility to enact before 2020 (The Wall Street Journal).

 

> Trade: U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerGOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 Pelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House MORE knows how to work effectively with Congress using deference, directness and consultation, lawmakers say (The Hill).

 

> Environmental Protection Agency: State attorneys general and environmental groups are gearing up for what could be a precedent-setting legal battle with the Trump administration over a rulemaking unveiled during the Obama administration to curb greenhouse gases at power plants (The Hill).

 

> DOJ vs. intel community: Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrFormer prosecutors outraged at decision to dismiss the Flynn case should focus on the real problems The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation More than two dozen former prosecutors, judges, active trial lawyers support DOJ decision to dismiss Michael Flynn case MORE is probing the intelligence assessment that Russia sought to help Trump win the 2016 election. The intelligence community is concerned that Barr may dispute a significant U.S. intelligence finding embraced by the CIA, FBI, the director of National Intelligence, the National Security Agency, special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE, and lawmakers on the House and Senate Intelligence committees (The Wall Street Journal).

 

> Pentagon: Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper today spends his first day leading the Defense Department, which is the nation’s largest employer, with more than 860,000 civilian employees and more than 1.4 million active-duty military personnel. Trump plans to nominate Esper to fill the Cabinet post permanently in the wake of former acting Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanHouse Armed Services chairman expresses confidence in Esper amid aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis Boeing pleads for bailout under weight of coronavirus, 737 fallout Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January MORE’s resignation last week (The Hill).



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CONGRESS: Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) members are growing concerned that their influence could wane after Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) leaves the House after next year and are pushing to make sure one of the top spots in leadership is held by a lawmaker from the caucus.

 

Luján, who is running for Senate to replace Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallDHS watchdog to investigate COVID-19 cases in ICE detention facilities Hispanic Caucus makes major ad buy for New Mexico Democratic candidate for House Senate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added legal protections MORE (D-N.M.), is the No. 4 House Democrat, creating a void that is alarming to CHC members. Although leadership elections are more than a year away, talk is already emerging that Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassDemocrats blast CDC report on minorities and COVID-19 Pelosi: George Floyd death is 'a crime' COVID-19 increases importance of implementing reforms to organ donation system MORE (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, will run to replace Luján.

 

One Democratic lawmaker said they could see Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoDozens of Democrats plan to vote remotely in a first for the House House members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes Arizona health department told university to stop doing COVID-19 modeling MORE (D-Ariz.), the first vice chair of the CHC, Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) or Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarDozens of Democrats plan to vote remotely in a first for the House Biden rolls out over a dozen congressional endorsements after latest primary wins Biden rise calms Democratic jitters MORE (D-Calif.) as potential contenders. Another lawmaker floated Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroJulián Castro launches PAC to support progressive candidates Minority lawmakers gain unprecedented clout amid pandemic The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden leads Trump by 6 points in new poll MORE (D-Texas), the current CHC chairman (The Hill).

 

 

 

 

> The president’s request for more border funding is running into another stumbling block on Capitol Hill.

 

Lawmakers had hoped to get a bill to Trump's desk before leaving for the July Fourth recess, but both chambers appear ready to take up competing bills, a move that will kick the fight over the president's border money into next month.

 

The two bills largely align on the $4.5 billion funding level, but differ on a number of key provisions, such as funding for ICE and the Defense Department (The Hill).

 

> Senate Republicans want former Freedom Caucus member Mick MulvaneyMick Mulvaney12 things to know today about coronavirus Mulvaney: 'We've overreacted a little bit' to coronavirus The Memo: Trump agenda rolls on amid pandemic MORE sidelined in the budget negotiations and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinCoronavirus guidelines sent to every American cost USPS M The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Unemployment claims now at 41 million with 2.1 million more added to rolls; Topeka mayor says cities don't have enough tests for minorities and homeless communities House Democrats press Treasury on debit cards used for coronavirus relief payments MORE to take the lead for the White House as Congress readies to leave for the July Fourth recess and only 16 legislative days stand between them and the six-week-long August recess.

 

Already, Mnuchin is playing a bigger role as GOP frustration with Mulvaney mounts, but the former South Carolina lawmaker is still in the room. While he didn't talk much at the last meeting, some GOP senators believe he has an iron grip on the White House position, which opposes a two-year spending deal (The Hill).



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!



OPINION

Trump-Haley in 2020, by Andrew Stein, former president of the New York City Council, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/2RykYX3

 

Joe Biden teaches the country an important lesson on compromise, by Douglas SchoenDouglas SchoenSunday shows - Focus shifts to Judiciary impeachment hearing Bloomberg pollster: Candidate's campaign will focus on climate change, guns, education and income inequality Ukraine scandal shows that foreign influence is a bipartisan affair MORE, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/31RVhpm



WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Trita Parsi, the founder of the National Iranian American Council, to discuss the ongoing conflict with Iran, and Nate Snyder, a senior adviser at Cambridge Global and a former senior counterterrorism official at the Department of Homeland Security, to talk about 5G at 9 a.m. ET at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.

 

The House convenes at noon.

 

The Senate returns at 3 p.m. and resumes consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2020.

 

The president has his picture taken with this year’s presidential scholars at 11 a.m. He has lunch with Vice President Pence at 12:30 p.m. Trump will sign an executive order at 3 p.m. focused on transparency about health care prices and quality.

 

The Hill invites you to the “Future of Healthcare Summit” on Wednesday to discuss some of tomorrow’s biggest questions in health care with policymakers, health officials and industry leaders. Speakers include Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US virus deaths exceed 100,000; Pelosi pulls FISA bill Stakes high for Collins in coronavirus relief standoff Pass the Primary Care Enhancement Act MORE (R-La.); Dr. Amy Abernethy from the Food and Drug Administration; Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, who advised the Obama administration during enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; and Steve Papermaster, the CEO of Nano Vision. The event happens at Long View Gallery in Washington, D.C. To RSVP, take a look HERE.



ELSEWHERE

Supreme Court: The Supreme Court is set to hand down its much-anticipated decision on whether the Trump administration can include a citizenship question on the 2020 census (The Hill). The court has 12 cases remaining to decide this term, with some rulings expected today (Reuters).

 

State Watch: Spotlight Colorado: The Democratic presidential debates this week include a former boss and a former employee. Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetSenate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply Congress headed toward unemployment showdown Fight emerges over unemployment benefits in next relief bill MORE (D-Colo.) got his start in politics as chief of staff to then-Denver Mayor John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperThe 10 Senate seats most likely to flip OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Coal company sues EPA over power plant pollution regulation | Automakers fight effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards | EPA watchdog may probe agency's response to California water issues McConnell gives two vulnerable senators a boost with vote on outdoor recreation bill MORE, both of whom are running as long shots for the Democratic presidential nomination. On Thursday, the two men share a crowded debate stage (The Hill).

 

Mars: NASA last week detected high amounts of methane gas on Mars, leading to animated scientific discussion about possible life on the red planet (The New York Times).

 

 

 



THE CLOSER

And finally … Mac and Chessie are the names chosen for two bottlenose dolphins living in the Potomac River.

 

A public contest organized by the Potomac Conservancy and the Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project resulted in monikers that improved on the impersonal-sounding “D1 and D2.”

 

More than 1,000 dolphins have been sighted in the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay, and they’re building families. As the river becomes less polluted thanks to environmental efforts, the dolphins have been seen upriver close to the Harry Nice Bridge, which spans the Potomac connecting Virginia and Maryland. In the 1880s, dolphins were seen even farther up-river in Alexandra, Va., according to the conservancy (WTOP).