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 Biden2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul 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 RyanFormer Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled Krystal Ball issues warning to Biden supporters Saagar Enjeti: Crenshaw's conservatism will doom future of GOP MORE (R) in 2012 when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyProgressive Democrats ramp up attacks on private equity Deval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne Ocasio-Cortez jabs 'plutocratic' late entrants to 2020 field 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 Sanders2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Sanders doubles down on Bolivia 'coup,' few follow suit Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul MORE (I-Vt.) is embroiled in a battle with Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann Warren2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Sanders doubles down on Bolivia 'coup,' few follow suit Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul 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 HarrisKamala Harris endorses Christy Smith in bid to fill Katie Hill's seat Poll: Biden holds 11-point lead over Warren in Arizona Poll: Biden and Warren are neck and neck in California MORE (D-Calif.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul Buttigieg2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul Buttigieg surges to 10-point lead in New Hampshire: poll 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 ClintonDemocrats ask judge for quick ruling on McGahn subpoena Hillary Clinton: 'Every day Stephen Miller remains in the White House is an emergency' The Memo: Centrists change tone of Democratic race 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 TrumpDem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens 2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' 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 bizarre circle of Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg The Tea Party has died of hypocrisy Specter of Nixon impeachment looming over Republican Party 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 BoltonBolton returns to United Against Nuclear Iran as senior adviser Impeachment guide: The 9 witnesses testifying this week The Hill's Morning Report - Week two of public impeachment testimony MORE was in Israel, and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard Pompeo2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Netanyahu calls Trump administration reversal on Israeli settlements a 'huge achievement' UN pushes back on US reversal on Israeli settlements 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 KushnerUN pushes back on US reversal on Israeli settlements Pompeo announces Israeli settlements do not violate international law Trump to tour Apple factory with Tim Cook on Wednesday 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 Un North Korea: We won't 'gift' Trump with summit before concessions Overnight Defense: Ex-Ukraine ambassador offers dramatic day of testimony | Talks of 'crisis' at State Department | Trump tweets criticism of envoy during hearing | Dems warn against 'witness intimidation' | Trump defends his 'freedom of speech' Biden responds to North Korea: 'I wear their insults as a badge of honor' 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 LighthizerPelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House On The Money: Economy adds 164K jobs in July | Trump signs two-year budget deal, but border showdown looms | US, EU strike deal on beef exports Chinese, US negotiators fine-tuning details of trade agreement: report 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 BarrGOP rep predicts watchdog report on alleged FISA abuses will find 'problems' Barr defends Trump's use of executive authority, slams impeachment hearings GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse 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) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' 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 ShanahanDefense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall Why Dave Norquist is the perfect choice for DOD's deputy secretary 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 UdallBureau of Land Management staff face relocation or resignation as agency moves west Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog slams agency chief after deputy fails to cooperate in probe | Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act | Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows Hillicon Valley: Twitter to refuse all political ads | Trump camp blasts 'very dumb' decision | Ocasio-Cortez hails move | Zuckerberg doubles down on Facebook's ad policies | GOP senator blocks sweeping election reform bill 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 BassHillicon Valley: Google buying Fitbit for .1B | US launches national security review of TikTok | Twitter shakes up fight over political ads | Dems push committee on 'revenge porn' law Democratic lawmakers call on Judiciary Committee to advance 'revenge porn' law Lawmakers come together to honor Cummings: 'One of the greats in our country's history' MORE (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, will run to replace Luján.

 

One Democratic lawmaker said they could see Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoDonald Trump Jr. writes about Trump family 'sacrifices' during trip to Arlington National Cemetery: book Overnight Energy: Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest| Democrats inch closer to issuing subpoenas for Interior, EPA records| Trump's plan to boost ethanol miffs corn groups and the fossil fuel industry Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest MORE (D-Ariz.), the first vice chair of the CHC, Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) or Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarHispanic Caucus dedicates Day of the Dead altar to migrants who died in US custody Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to testify on Libra | Extremists find home on Telegram app | Warren blasts Facebook for not removing anti-Biden ad | California outlaws facial recognition in police body cameras | China rips US tech sanctions House Democrats introduce new legislation to combat foreign election interference MORE (D-Calif.) as potential contenders. Another lawmaker floated Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroCastro tweaks brother's beard: 'If I knew it'd look like that I wouldn't have suggested it' Live coverage: House holds third day of public impeachment hearings Live coverage: Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies in public impeachment hearing 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 MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyLive coverage: House holds third day of public impeachment hearings Impeachment witness: Ukraine 'gradually came to understand that they were being asked to do something' Impeachment guide: The 9 witnesses testifying this week MORE sidelined in the budget negotiations and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinNegative interest rates are uncalled for in today's strong economy House passes stopgap as spending talks stall On The Money: Supreme Court temporarily blocks House subpoena of Trump financial records | Trump touts 'cordial' meeting with Fed chief | Stopgap funding measure includes census money, military pay raise 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 SchoenUkraine scandal shows that foreign influence is a bipartisan affair Trump taps Monica Crowley to be Treasury spokeswoman The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Deadline approaches for 2020 Dems 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 CassidySchumer: Leadership trying to work out competing surprise medical bill measures UN Security Council to meet after Turkey launches Syria offensive Trump faces growing GOP revolt on Syria 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 BennetFox News anchor apologizes for saying Booker dropped out of 2020 race Klobuchar unveils plan to secure elections as president New poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa MORE (D-Colo.) got his start in politics as chief of staff to then-Denver Mayor John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperKrystal Ball dismisses Rahm Emanuel's 'Medicare for All' criticism as a 'corporatist mantra' Trump says remark about Colorado border wall was made 'kiddingly' Colorado governor mocks Trump for saying he's building wall there 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).