The Hill's Morning Report - Warren cements front-runner status in first Dem debate




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.

With most of the heavy hitters taking the stage tonight, Wednesday was a big opportunity for Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenProgressive Mondaire Jones wins NY primary to replace Nita Lowey Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel Biden campaign announces second round of staff hires in Arizona MORE (D-Mass.), the lone front-runner on stage, and she made the most of her chances throughout the two hour affair.


As Jonathan Easley writes from Miami, Warren delivered a strong performance. While she did not lead the pack in speaking time — Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: California backtracks on reopening as cases soar nationwide; SoapBox CEO David Simnick says nimble firms can work around supply chain chokepoints to access supplies for sanitizers and hygienic materials In politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Democrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' MORE (D-N.J.) paced the group -- Warren stayed above the fray as she delivered lines from her stump speech throughout and did not find herself caught up in back-and-forths with any of her fellow Democrats. 


Even when other Democrats appeared to disagree with her, they declined to ding her by name, namely Booker and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Fauci says focus should be on pausing reopenings rather than reverting to shutdowns; WHO director pleads for international unity in pandemic response State election officials warn budget cuts could lead to November chaos Biden strikes populist tone in blistering rebuke of Trump, Wall Street MORE (D-Minn.). Additionally, Warren was treated as the true front-runner on stage and was given the first question at the top of the first and second hours. By virtue of her center stage position, she also closed out the debate with her closing statement. 


The debate was a culmination of a dream month for the Massachusetts Democrat, who has seen polls propel her to second place, neck-and-neck with Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden aspires to become America's auto-pen president Progressive Mondaire Jones wins NY primary to replace Nita Lowey OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden pledges carbon-free power by 2035 in T environment plan | Trump administration has been underestimating costs of carbon pollution, government watchdog finds | Trump to move forward with rollback of bedrock environmental law MORE (I-Vt.), who will debate tonight. 


Wednesday’s question-and-answer format, which produced only a handful of authentic debate exchanges, set the table for tonight’s marquee matchup featuring front-runner Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden campaign slams Trump's Rose Garden event as 'sad affair' New shutdowns add to Trump woes CNN cuts away from Trump's 'campaign-type' Rose Garden speech MORE, who is campaigning as a civility Democrat, and Sanders, who says he needs to do a better job of explaining his definition of socialism to voters.


Candidates on Wednesday night pitched their brands and prescriptions, making no effort to acknowledge or counter Biden’s standing as the candidate seen by the public for months as the Democrat best equipped to defeat Trump next year.


However, multiple Democrats took the opportunity after the debate to hit Biden. When pressed by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardFinancial firms facing serious hacking threat in COVID-19 era Gabbard drops defamation lawsuit against Clinton It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE (D-Hawaii) bashed Biden over his vote in favor of the Iraq War in 2003. Meanwhile, Booker took issue with the MSNBC host’s assertion that no one went after Biden on stage because everyone wants to keep the door open to being his running mate.


“I would accept Joe Biden being my vice president,” Booker said, adding that he would not accept the offer because a woman should be on the ticket.


If the former vice president was almost a ghost during the first debate, Trump, who was in Alaska during part of the televised event while flying to Japan (tweeting his review, “BORING!”), was the Democrats’ enemy to beat. Every contender on the Miami stage described the 45th president as a threat to the nation, a menace to other nations and a hazard to the rule of law and trust in government. Tonight’s 10 debaters will do the same.


While Warren had a strong night, the same cannot be said for former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), who seemed tentative and overly fond of stump-speech slogans during some key exchanges, including on health care and immigration, two issues near and dear to the hearts of most Democratic primary voters. 


One candidate who took full advantage of his openings was former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, had a 2,400 percent spike in Google searches midway through the debate.  


Another who tried to draw a clear contrast was Klobuchar. The Minnesota Democrat sought to frame herself as the Democrat without pie in the sky proposals, and the one with effective and realistic policy goals. 


“I don’t make all the promises everyone up here makes. But I can promise you this: I am going to govern with integrity. I am going to govern for you,” Klobuchar said.


She also garnered one of the biggest applause lines after Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden pledges carbon-free power by 2035 in T environment plan | Trump administration has been underestimating costs of carbon pollution, government watchdog finds | Trump to move forward with rollback of bedrock environmental law Biden campaign adopts carbon-free power by 2035 in T environment plan  121 University of Washington students test positive for coronavirus MORE (D) asserted that he was the “one candidate” who has “advanced the ball” on women’s rights, including abortion and health care.


“I just want to say there's three women up here that have fought pretty hard for a woman's right to choose,” Klobuchar said to a roar in the crowd. 


Throughout the event, big domestic and foreign policy issues dominated, from health care to gun control, and from climate change to 18 years of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. One topic raised at the tail end was former 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’s report and whether the House should begin an impeachment inquiry aimed at Trump’s actions, detailed in the report. Most candidates largely sidestepped the issue, with former Rep. John DelaneyJohn DelaneyCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Rodney Davis Eurasia Group founder Ian Bremmer says Trump right on China but wrong on WHO; CDC issues new guidance for large gatherings The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says country needs to rethink what 'policing' means; US cases surpass 2 million with no end to pandemic in sight MORE (D-Md.) saying he trusts Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiUS praises British ban on China's Huawei after pressure campaign Voter fraud charges filed against GOP Rep. Steve Watkins Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel MORE (D-Calif.) to determine how to proceed.


The Democratic National Committee scheduled primary debates seven months before the first voter will cast a caucus ballot in Iowa for a reason: to winnow more than two dozen candidates to a manageable number by the fall. Tonight’s event in Miami may offer hints about how fast that culling is going to happen. 


The Hill: Five takeaways from the first Democratic debate.

The Hill: Warren shines on Wednesday’s debate stage in Miami.

The Hill: Trump campaign calls first Democratic debate “best argument” for reelection.

CNN: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSara Gideon wins Democratic race to challenge Susan Collins Schumer pushes for elimination of SALT deduction cap in next coronavirus relief bill Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel MORE (R-Ky.), the Grim Reaper, haunts Democrats' debate.

The Associated Press: Health care, immigration top issues during first debate.

The Washington Post: Debate transcript (annotated).

Dan Balz: Democrats signal a turn toward liberal ambitions and government activism.

Jonathan Allen: The winner of the first Democratic debate: Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pitches Goya Foods products on Twitter Sessions defends recusal: 'I leave elected office with my integrity intact' Former White House physician Ronny Jackson wins Texas runoff MORE.

Jeff Greenfield: The landmine that just got laid for Warren.





CONGRESS & INVESTIGATIONS: The Senate and House are on a collision course as daylight remains between emergency spending bills passed by each chamber with no clear resolution in sight as lawmakers get ready to leave town today for the 10-day July Fourth recess. 


The Senate overwhelmingly passed a $4.6 billion package earlier Wednesday a day after the House approved a more restrictive version. However, the House bill has been unable to move forward. It couldn’t win a majority in the Senate as it failed to pass, 37-55, with three Democrats voting against the bill. Trump faulted the bill’s approach in remarks on Wednesday.  


“The House has not made much progress toward actually making a law, just more resistance theater,” McConnell said Wednesday morning. “The Senate has a better and more bipartisan way forward.”


“It’s a productive compromise that would go a long way to begin to address the border crisis,” McConnell added. “No poison pills, just a clean bill.”


Of the $4.6 billion in the Senate version, $2.88 billion would go toward the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency responsible for caring for migrant children. The office is at risk of running out of money in days, giving members increased urgency to pass something today. 


However, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus members are concerned about the Senate bill and argue that it gives the Trump administration too much say to direct spending for purposes they do not support. The House bill includes stricter conditions on facilities that hold migrants, and excludes money for the Defense Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency contained in the Senate bill (The Washington Post).


Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), however, says she will not bring up the bill and is hoping to reconcile issues in the two measures to strike a deal. Behind closed doors, however, she admitted that the Senate version is good legislation, adding that it’s not as good as the House package. 





> Mueller: The former special counsel’s decision to comply with a subpoena and testify next month is setting the stage for a big month on Capitol Hill. After months of public calls from their conference, House Democrats will finally get the chance to question Mueller, whose testimony is expected to create a firestorm as cable networks will likely carry the hearing live and create wall-to-wall coverage of his comments (The Hill). 


Additionally, House Democrats who currently support opening an impeachment inquiry into the president are hoping that Mueller’s testimony will help gather momentum and serve as a “turning point” to encourage supporters in the conference to open impeachment proceedings. According to The Hill’s whip list, 79 House Democrats support opening an inquiry, with 14 of those coming in just the last week. 


Although Mueller is not expected to stray far, if at all, from his 448-page report, Democrats say it will be a powerful opportunity to have the former FBI director publicly read the text or recall his findings publicly (The Hill).


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump’s two days at the Group of 20 economic summit in Japan this week will be closely watched because of his planned sit-downs with the leaders of China and Russia, his sanctions squeeze on Iran and his eagerness to rekindle denuclearization talks with Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnJuan Williams: Trump's silence on Russian bounties betrays America Overnight Defense: Army launches command probe after slaying at Fort Hood | 'MAGA' listed as 'covert white supremacy' in military handout Kim Jong Un's sister says another summit with Trump unlikely, requests July Fourth DVDs MORE.


Brett Samuels offers a guide on what to expect on Friday and Saturday in Osaka, followed by Sunday discussions in South Korea with President Moon Jae-In. 


Trump will meet with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinAmerica cannot stand by while Russia plays games in Libya Congress pulls punches on Russian bounties firestorm Trump calls for 'sick' author of 2016 dossier to be jailed MORE on Friday (The Associated Press). But the main event will be the president’s Saturday meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, billed as a chance to revive trade talks rather than end up with a deal (CNBC). Trump believes China needs and wants an agreement for economic reasons. Some analysts believe Xi sees China’s leverage in the 2020 U.S. elections and Trump’s eagerness to champion something tangible while facing voters. 


“When tariffs go on in China, we are taking in billions and billions of dollars,” Trump told Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business on Wednesday. “We never took in 10 cents. Now you have another $325 billion that I haven’t taxed yet — it’s ripe for taxing — for putting tariffs on,” he said.


The president maintains that ramping up U.S. tariffs on imported Chinese goods makes money for the U.S. Treasury. Economic and trade analysts, however, say higher costs on Chinese goods are passed on to U.S. consumers, a risky economic scenario for families, farmers, small businesses and manufacturers heading into 2020. 


Bloomberg: U.S. voters divide along party lines on Trump’s China trade war in new poll. 


> Saudi Arabia arms sales: Trump is expected to veto a pending House resolution that would block U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Recognizing the president’s opposition, House lawmakers are weighing additional moves that they think could chill the U.S.-Saudi relationship (The Hill). Trump, who sees Saudi Arabia as a long-time U.S. ally in the Middle East, is scheduled to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman while attending the G-20 gathering.


> Social media: The White House plans a special event focused on social media as Trump steps up attacks on popular internet platforms suggesting big tech companies are biased against conservative perspectives and content (The Hill)


> Food and Drug Administration: In a high-stakes lawsuit, a pharmaceutical company is challenging the FDA for requiring animal testing of a new drug. The case has attracted the attention of animal rights activists and some lawmakers (The Hill).


> State Department: Sean Lawler, who was confirmed by the Senate as chief of protocol with the rank of ambassador, quit a State Department job that tasked him with assisting the president and international dignitaries at the White House. He may face an inspector general investigation following accusations that he carried a whip at work and intimidated staff. Lawler is not on Trump’s trip to the G-20 gathering as originally planned (Bloomberg). 


> The National Security Agency: The U.S. spy agency improperly collected American phone and text records in October, according to documents disclosed as a result of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit. The improper collection is not a first for the NSA. The ACLU is using the new documents to bolster its argument that the agency’s call records program should be shut down permanently (The Hill).




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


20 questions for Robert Mueller, by Jonathan Turley, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


Keep expectations low for breakthroughs from G-20's high-level meetings, by Christopher Steinitz, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Hill.TV host Krystal Ball, who is in Miami, and Marc Lotter, director of strategic communications for the Trump campaign, talking about the first night of the Democratic debates, and Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyHillicon Valley: Facebook civil rights audit finds 'serious setbacks' | Facebook takes down Roger Stone-affiliated accounts, pages | State and local officials beg Congress for more elections funds House Democrats press Twitter, Facebook, Google for reports on coronavirus disinformation Dingell pushes provision to curtail drunk driving in House infrastructure package MORE (D-Ill.), who weighs in on the future of Medicare at 9 a.m. ET at or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.


The House meets at 9 a.m. At 10 a.m., Congress’s Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission will hold a hearing about religious freedom of minority Christian populations globally, hosted by the commission co-chairmen, Reps. Chris SmithChristopher (Chris) Henry SmithChina sanctions Cruz, Rubio, others over Xinjiang legislation New Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Republican Rep. Chris Smith easily wins primary in New Jersey MORE (R-N.J.) and Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), with testimony from Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. The hearing in 2172 Rayburn will be live-streamed.  


The Senate convenes at 10 a.m.


The president arrived today in Osaka to attend the G-20 economic summit.  


Vice President Pence speaks at the Great America Committee lunch in Washington at noon. He participates in the swearing-in of National Credit Union Administration Chairman Rodney Hood at 3 p.m. Pence tours the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s National Intrepid Center of Excellence at 4 p.m. The vice president then speaks with staff and patients.


The Bureau of Economic Analysis releases its third estimate of U.S. gross domestic product in the first quarter as well as corporate profits (revised) in the first quarter, both at 8:30 a.m. 


Supreme Court: Justice Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Facebook — Supreme Court allows federal executions in 2 a.m. decision Supreme Court clears way for federal executions In banning LGBTQ discrimination, did Supreme Court license sex discrimination? MORE joined with the court's liberal bloc on Wednesday to rule against a federal statute, finding it violated a sex offender's constitutional right to a trial by jury (The Hill). Justices also cut back on the power of administrative agencies, a goal of the conservative legal movement. But Chief Justice John Roberts on Wednesday parted company with four conservative colleagues and voted with the four-member liberal wing in retaining two key precedents (The New York Times). The court also struck down a Tennessee law on Wednesday that makes it hard for outsiders to break into the state’s liquor sales market (The Associated Press).


State Watch: California now requires background checks for all gun ammunition purchases (The Associated Press).


Congressional Baseball Game: Democrats continued their long-standing domination Wednesday night, defeating the GOP, 14-7. Rep. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondBlack Caucus unveils next steps to combat racism Gaetz tweets photo of teenage adopted son after hearing battle Tensions flare between Reps. Cedric Richmond and Matt Gaetz during police reform hearing MORE (D-La.) took home MVP honors after tossing a complete game for the Democrats, continuing his string of strong performances for the Democratic side. It was the 10th win for the Democrats in 11 years (Roll Call) … The game raised $1.3 million for Congressional Sports for Charity, a foundation that supports charities for children and families in the Washington, D.C., area (The Hill).





And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by headlines coming out of Miami last night, we’re eager for some smart guesses about presidential debates.


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


Which presidential candidate caused a stir during a town-hall style debate when he glanced at his watch?


  1. Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonLarry Hogan's hopes Davis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance McCain's reset: US-Vietnam relations going strong after 25 years MORE
  2. Howard Dean
  3. George H.W. Bush
  4. John KerryJohn Forbes KerryOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden pledges carbon-free power by 2035 in T environment plan | Trump administration has been underestimating costs of carbon pollution, government watchdog finds | Trump to move forward with rollback of bedrock environmental law Biden campaign adopts carbon-free power by 2035 in T environment plan  We haven't seen how low it can go MORE


During a televised debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960, which factor undercut appraisals of Nixon’s performance, according to many of the 70 million people who tuned in?


  1. Explanations of policies
  2. Five o’clock shadow, perspiration, sickly appearance
  3. Voice too loud
  4. Loud sighing


One of the most effective debate zingers in modern politics was “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” Which candidate said it? 


  1. Carol Moseley Braun
  2. Joe Biden
  3. Lloyd Bentsen
  4. Robert Dole


In her memoir following her 2016 election loss, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrat Dana Balter to face Rep. John Katko in NY House rematch GOP lawmaker: Don't believe polls showing Trump behind Biden Kyle Van De Water wins New York GOP primary to challenge Rep. Antonio Delgado MORE described an uncomfortable debate moment: “Maybe I have overlearned the lesson of staying calm, biting my tongue, digging my fingernails into a clenched fist, smiling all the while, determined to present a composed face to the world.” What was she recalling?


  1. Donald Trump, looming behind her as she answered a question
  2. Bernie Sanders, criticizing her paid speeches
  3. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe four China strategies Trump or Biden will need to consider Largest Democratic PAC portrays Trump as strongman in bilingual Florida ad Larry Hogan's hopes MORE’s 2008 dig, “You’re likable enough, Hillary”
  4. Brian Williams’s 2007 debate question asking her why “national polls indicate the majority of the general public has an unfavorable view of you”


Which candidate dropped “binders full of women” into a presidential debate?


  1. John Kasich
  2. John Edwards
  3. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyIllinois House Republican leader won't attend GOP convention in Florida: 'It's not going to be a safe environment' Judge seeks copy of order commuting Roger Stone sentence Top Mueller prosecutor: 'We could have done more' in Russia investigation MORE
  4. Sarah Palin