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 Ann WarrenTrump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy Sanders, Warren back major shift to fight drug overdoses Rendell: Biden 'baked in' as Democratic nominee 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 BookerSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch 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 Jean KlobucharKlobuchar knocks Trump: 'This negotiating by tweet hasn't been working' Sunday shows preview: Trump ratchets up trade war with China Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates 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 SandersTrump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy Sanders doubles down on 'Medicare For All' defense: 'We have not changed one word' Sanders, Warren back major shift to fight drug overdoses 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 BidenScaramucci attends charity event featuring Biden in the Hamptons Klobuchar knocks Trump: 'This negotiating by tweet hasn't been working' Rendell: Biden 'baked in' as Democratic nominee 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 GabbardDemocratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates 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 InsleeDemocratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows The Hill's 12:30 Report: Stocks sink as Trump fights with Fed, China The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch 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) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony 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 Kevin DelaneySanders doubles down on 'Medicare For All' defense: 'We have not changed one word' Democratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows The Hill's 12:30 Report: Stocks sink as Trump fights with Fed, China MORE (D-Md.) saying he trusts Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Pelosi11 Essential reads you missed this week Pelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Is there internet life after thirty? 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 McConnellTwo years after Harvey's devastation, the wake-up call has not been heeded McGrath releases ad blasting McConnell with coal miners in Kentucky: 'Which side are you on?' Prediction: 2020 election is set to be hacked, if we don't act fast 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 TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative 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 UnNorth Korea: Kim supervised test of 'super-large multiple rocket launcher' Trump 'not happy' with North Korea missile tests, but denies they violate agreement Japan must keep America engaged 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 PutinUS and Russia arms race would be detrimental to strategic stability Five things to watch as Trump heads to G-7 summit Biden blasts Trump's 'embarrassing' actions heading into G-7 summit 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 SchakowskyLawmakers jump-start talks on privacy bill The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller testimony gives Trump a boost as Dems ponder next steps On The Money: House to vote on budget deal Thursday | US, China resuming trade talks next week | Mnuchin backs DOJ tech antitrust probe 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 SmithRepublicans plot comeback in New Jersey The 9 House Republicans who support background checks The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants 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 GorsuchTrump wishes Ginsburg well after radiation treatment for tumor Ginsburg completes radiation treatment for cancerous tumor McConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster 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 RichmondHouse Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' Embattled Juul seeks allies in Washington Democratic lawmakers support Bustos after DCCC resignations 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 ClintonNew data challenges Trump's economic narrative The ideological divide on vaping has a clear winner: Smokers Prince Andrew says he didn't 'witness or suspect' criminal behavior from Epstein MORE
  2. Howard Dean
  3. George H.W. Bush
  4. John KerryJohn Forbes KerryKentucky basketball coach praises Obama after golf round: 'He is a really serious golfer' The enemy of my enemy is my friend — an alliance that may save the Middle East Democratic governors fizzle in presidential race 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 ClintonTrump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy The ideological divide on vaping has a clear winner: Smokers Biden struggles to hit it off with millennials 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 ObamaNew data challenges Trump's economic narrative Trump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy The ideological divide on vaping has a clear winner: Smokers 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 RomneyRomney: 'Putin and Kim Jong Un deserve a censure rather than flattery' A US-UK free trade agreement can hold the Kremlin to account Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity MORE
  4. Sarah Palin