The Hill's Morning Report — DOJ's planned executions stir new debate

The Hill's Morning Report — DOJ's planned executions stir new debate
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The Justice Department’s decision to resume federal executions after a hiatus of 16 years instantly set off a new round of political debate about crime and punishment ahead of next year’s elections. 

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Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrFederal prosecutors interviewed multiple FBI officials for Russia probe review: report Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe Mulvaney ties withheld Ukraine aid to political probe sought by Trump MORE on Thursday announced the government in December and January will use lethal injection to execute five death-row inmates convicted of murdering children. The government has not put a prisoner to death since 2003 (The Hill).

“Let me be clear: capital punishment is immoral and deeply flawed. Too many innocent people have been put to death,” Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisKamala Harris reacts to supporter who got tattoo of her handwriting Even with likely Trump impeachment, Democrats face uphill climb to win presidency Harris campaign releases web video highlighting opposition to death penalty MORE (D-Calif.), a former state attorney general and district attorney with a mixed record on the death penalty, tweeted Thursday while campaigning for the White House. “We need a national moratorium on the death penalty, not a resurrection.”

Other Democratic presidential candidates joined in expressing their opposition to Barr’s announcement, including Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash Ocasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment Ocasio-Cortez tweets endorsement of Sanders MORE (D-Mass.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerGabbard hits back at 'queen of warmongers' Clinton The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges Former public school teacher: Strikes 'wake-up call' for Democratic Party MORE (D-N.J.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersOcasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment Ocasio-Cortez tweets endorsement of Sanders Ocasio-Cortez throws support to Sanders at Queens rally MORE (I-Vt.), and Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeOvernight Energy: Farmers say EPA reneged on ethanol deal | EPA scrubs senators' quotes from controversial ethanol announcement | Perry unsure if he'll comply with subpoena | John Kerry criticizes lack of climate talk at debate John Kerry calls out lack of climate questions at debate CNN catches heat for asking candidates about Ellen, Bush friendship at debate MORE (D), who suspended the use of the death penalty in his state in 2014 (The Hill).

They questioned disparities of race and class in the application of the death penalty, described capital punishment as an ineffective crime deterrent and questioned its humanity.

Barr’s announcement that “we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system” occurred days before a Democratic presidential primary debate in Detroit next week, when race and equality are expected to be prominent issues.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said they were taken by surprise at the administration’s announcement. Rep. John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiThis week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington Trump labels Tlaib 'a despicable human being' Tlaib says Democrats have discussed detaining White House officials who don't testify MORE (D-Calif.) told the Morning Report he believes the decision is political. “The timing is for two potential reasons. One, the runup to next year’s election — tough on crime. The other is deflection, which the president uses every other hour,” he said.  

Rep. Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryEx-Trump aide to tell Congress she objected to Ukrainian ambassador's removal: report Ex-Ukraine ambassador arrives to give testimony GOP, Trump look to smother impeachment inquiry MORE (R-Pa.), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, said the resumption of federal executions was “totally unexpected,” but not unwelcome. “Look, I’m for punishing criminals,” he said on Thursday before House members departed Washington until September. “If somebody kills somebody, a member of a family, and that’s adjudicated appropriately and fully, I think it’s a form of deterrence and I just don’t like to see it languish on forever and ever in appeals.” 

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenCNN's Anderson Cooper mocks WH press secretary over Fox News interview Yang cautions Democrats: Impeachment might not be 'successful' Ocasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment MORE, who is in the process of amending his tough-on-crime Senate record from the 1990s and working, along with the other White House aspirants, to woo progressive and African American voters, released a new plan on Tuesday that calls for eliminating the death penalty.

More than 160 people have been sentenced to death since 1973 and later been exonerated, Biden’s plan states. The former Delaware senator said he now favors life sentences without chances for probation or parole at the federal level and would work to pass legislation to outlaw the federal death penalty as a way to encourage states to follow suit.

Twenty-nine states have the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, and a map of those states looks a lot like the red-blue political demarcations of next year’s presidential contest. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Trump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash CNN's Anderson Cooper mocks WH press secretary over Fox News interview MORE, who considers his support for law enforcement and crime-fighting part of his brand, has long been an outspoken proponent of the capital punishment.

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A majority of Americans supports the practice, although the percentage has ebbed since the mid-1990s when crime rates were on the upswing. A Pew Research Center survey last year found 54 percent of Americans supported the death penalty for those convicted of murder (The Washington Post).

In yet another example of partisan divisions, most Republicans back capital punishment while most Democrats say they oppose it.

The Justice Department says the government will use the barbiturate pentobarbital as its method to execute Daniel Lewis Lee of Oklahoma; Lezmond Mitchell of the Navajo Nation, the only Native American on death row; Wesley Ira Purkey of Michigan; Alfred Bourgeois of Louisiana; and Dustin Lee Honken of Iowa. They are all to be put to death in Terre Haute, Ind. (The New York Times). 

The Associated Press: Federal executions raise death penalty’s 2020 stakes.

 



LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS: The House officially fled Washington last night after lawmakers passed the bipartisan deal to raise the spending caps and the debt ceiling for two years. The bill will now go to the Senate, which will take it up next week before adjourning for its August recess. 

The House passed the package, which boosts government spending by $320 billion over the next two years, by a 284-149 vote. Sixty-five House Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHouse Republicans 'demand the release of the rules' on impeachment GOP leader defends Mulvaney amid backlash over quid pro quo comments Republicans seek to delay effort to censure Schiff after Cummings' death MORE (R-Calif.), House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseHouse Republicans 'demand the release of the rules' on impeachment Scalise, Cole introduce resolution to change rules on impeachment Republicans seek to delay effort to censure Schiff after Cummings' death MORE (R-La.) and Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyHouse Republicans 'demand the release of the rules' on impeachment Republicans seek to delay effort to censure Schiff after Cummings' death House Foreign Affairs leaders introduce Turkey sanctions bill MORE (R-Wyo.), voted for the bill, while 16 Democrats voted against it. 

The package would suspend the debt limit through July 2021 and increase spending caps for the next two years. The United States would be on track to add an estimated $1.7 trillion to the deficit over the next decade when compared with the billions in automatic spending cuts that would have kicked in as a result of the 2011 Budget Control Act.

While most conservatives voted against the bill, they never made a concerted effort to press the president to oppose it. Trump tweeted earlier Thursday urging GOP lawmakers to back the measure, arguing that it “greatly helps our Military and our Vets.” The legislation boosts Pentagon spending to $738 billion, a reason some Republicans decided to vote for the agreement (The Hill).  

The House adjourned Thursday night after House leadership decided not to bring up legislation from Rep. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarLawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings Lawmakers, social media users praise photo of Pelosi confronting Trump Hispanic voters push campaigns to address gun violence MORE (D-Texas) that would overhaul migrant detention policies. It did not have the full support of the House Democratic Caucus. 

"There are a number of things that need to be dealt with ... and I think we need to do that in a thoughtful way. Not at the last minute," House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse Republicans 'demand the release of the rules' on impeachment Scalise, Cole introduce resolution to change rules on impeachment Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg defends handling of misinformation in political ads | Biden camp hits Zuckerberg over remarks | Dem bill would jail tech execs for lying about privacy | Consumer safety agency accidentally disclosed personal data MORE (D-Md.) told reporters of the Escobar bill before making the announcement official on the House floor (Politico).

> Impeachment: Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkMassachusetts Democrats call for 100 percent fentanyl screening of international mail from 'high-risk' nations Ten notable Democrats who do not favor impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Trump searches for backstops amid recession worries MORE (D-Mass.), the House Democratic Caucus vice chair, announced Thursday that she supports opening an impeachment inquiry, making her the highest-ranking House Democrat to move into the impeachment camp. 

"I deeply respect the committee work of House Democrats to hold the President accountable, including hearings, subpoenas and lawsuits. All of our efforts to put the facts before the American people, however, have been met with unprecedented stonewalling and obstruction," said Clark, the No. 6 House Democrat, in a statement.

"That is why I believe we need to open an impeachment inquiry that will provide us a more formal way to fully uncover the facts."

Clark is the fourth House Democratic to announce support for opening an inquiry since former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network MORE’s hearings on Wednesday. She follows Rep. Lori TrahanLori A. TrahanHouse Democrats inch toward majority support for impeachment Trump bashes Mueller for 'ineptitude,' slams 'sick' Democrats backing impeachment Pelosi denies she's 'trying to run out the clock' on impeachment MORE (Mass.), Rep. Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioDemocratic chairman presses Transportation secretary over transparency in Boeing 737 Max probe Democratic lawmaker asks for probe of reports Chao favored Kentucky officials Hillicon Valley: Warren takes on Facebook over political ads | Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservatives | Civil liberties groups sound alarm over online extremism bill MORE (Ore.) and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (Del.). According to The Hill’s whip list, 95 House Democrats support officially launching an inquiry process against Trump —- fewer than half of the 235-member House Democratic Caucus.  

The Washington Post: Democrats struggle to figure out next move against Trump after Mueller hearing falls flat. 

The Hill: Appetite for Democratic term limits for leadership fizzling out.

 

 

> Saudi Arabia: The Senate is expected to vote Monday on overriding presidential vetoes of resolutions blocking arms sales with Saudi Arabia. 

Despite the scheduled vote series, they are not expected to override Trump’s vetoes given that the initial resolutions of disapproval passed with no more than 53 votes, well short of the necessary 67 votes. Trump vetoed the resolutions on Wednesday.

"This resolution would weaken America's global competitiveness and damage the important relationships we share with our allies and partners," Trump wrote in veto messages to Congress (The Hill).

The Hill: GOP chairman yanks Saudi bill after Democrats muscle through tougher language.

> Joint Chiefs: The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s top officer, to serve as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing Gen. Joseph Dunford when his term expires on Oct. 1. 

Milley was confirmed by an 89-1 vote after being nominated by the president in December. Sen. Jeff Merkeley (D-Ore.) was the sole vote in opposition. While the chairman of the Joint Chiefs does not command any military forces, Milley will advise the president, the Defense secretary and the National Security Council on military matters (The Associated Press). 

> Hatch Act: The House Oversight and Reform Committee announced Thursday that they have postponed a vote to hold Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayTrump embarks on Twitter spree amid impeachment inquiry, Syria outrage The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges Trump offers condolences on frequent foe Cummings: 'Very hard, if not impossible, to replace' MORE, counselor to the president, in contempt over her violations of the Hatch Act (The Hill).  

Reuters: U.S. lawmakers grill e-cigarette maker Juul over efforts targeted at schoolchildren.

 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

2020 POLITICS: Biden is no longer holding his fire at rivals for the 2020 Democratic nomination after taking heat for months as he readies for the second Democratic debates next week. 

As Jonathan Easley and Amie Parnes report, the former vice president has been absorbing shots from Sens. Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker on everything from his opposition to “Medicare for All” to his record on race with little to no pushback, leaving his allies frustrated by the passive approach. 

However, the sustained questions about his commitment to civil rights seemed to finally provoke Biden to action, with his latest missives against Booker’s record on incarcerations and criminal justice during his tenure as Newark, N.J., mayor serving as the most recent example. The former vice president also said that he would not be as “polite” with Harris at the next debate after their back-and-forth on busing in late June, describing her attacks as a crass political play and wholly disingenuous. 

Underlining the attacks is the continued push by Biden and others for support from African American voters and the former vice president’s need to rebound from an underwhelming debate performance last month in Miami to reestablish him as the undisputed front-runner for the 2020 Democratic nod.

“You can't be called the architect of mass incarceration and remain quiet,” a Biden ally said. “That's cruel and personal. That goes against his entire career. You can't let people say bullshit and not respond to it.” 

Fox News: Poll: Biden holds commanding lead for Democratic nomination.

The Associated Press: 2020 tests if Dems can win enough black voters without Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaEven with likely Trump impeachment, Democrats face uphill climb to win presidency Clinton suggests Russia grooming Gabbard to run as third-party 2020 candidate The Hill's 12:30 Report: Washington mourns loss of Elijah Cummings MORE.

Matt Flegenheimer, The New York Times: Here’s why John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump seeks distance from Syria crisis Gardner dodges questions about Trump's call for Biden probe 2020 Presidential Candidates MORE and his banjo are still in the 2020 race. 

Molly Ball, Time: What do the Democrats stand for? Inside a fight over America’s future.

 

 

> DCCC feud: The House Democratic campaign arm is locked in a bitter feud with top African American and Hispanic lawmakers over the lack of diversity at the committee and comments they believe are tone-deaf as they look to keep their majority next year. 

According to Politico’s Laura Barrón-Lopez, Heather Caygle and Jake Sherman:

“ ‘There is not one person of color — black or brown, that I’m aware of — at any position of authority or decision making in the DCCC,’ said Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeHillicon 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 Harris wins endorsement of former CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge MORE (D-Ohio), a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. ‘It is shocking, it is shocking, and something needs to be done about it.’ ”

“And Fudge isn’t alone. Interviews with more than two dozen Democratic lawmakers, aides and strategists detailed months of frustration and unanswered questions about Bustos’ efforts to retain minority staffers in top positions, boost Latino voter outreach and hire firms run by people of color. They charged Bustos of being tactless when challenged by lawmakers of color. 

“‘The overall plan for Latino outreach seems to be some 1980s playbook, which doesn't work anymore,’ Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said.

“The DCCC declined to make Bustos available for an interview but said that the ‘DCCC has continued to increase diversity amongst our staff.’  

Abby Livingston, The Texas Tribune: Rep. Pete OlsonPeter (Pete) Graham OlsonWhat's causing the congressional 'Texodus'? Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Texas Republicans sound alarm about rapidly evolving state MORE (R-Texas) announces he won’t seek reelection.

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

Mueller's 'blockbuster' appearance turned into 'bomb' of performance, by Jonathan Turley, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2Y7kduM 

Why consumers must beware Libra, by Paul Kupiec, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2MgAINQ

 

WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinEx-Trump aide on Russia testifies for 10 hours as part of impeachment inquiry Oversight panel to subpoena Trump officials next week over deportation deferrals Democrats plow ahead as Trump seeks to hobble impeachment effort MORE (D-Md.) to react to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s hearings; Cenk Uygar, host and founder of “The Young Turks,” to preview next week’s 2020 Democratic debates; and Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackHill editor-in-chief: 'Hard to imagine' House leadership without Cummings The Hill's Editor in Chief Bob Cusack: Warren must have an answer on medicare for all, why impeachment is dangerous for Dems The Hill's Morning Report — Trump's impeachment jeopardy deepens MORE, editor-in-chief of The Hill, on the debates, impeachment and the death penalty. Find Hill.TV programming at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m.

The House is in recess through August and will return to Washington on Sept. 9.

The Senate reconvenes Monday at 3 p.m.

The president will meet with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoErdoğan got the best of Trump, experts warn Graham: I'm seeking to make Trump successful 'but not at all costs' Ex-Watergate prosecutor says evidence in impeachment inquiry 'clearly' points to Trump MORE and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan at the White House at 2 p.m.

Vice President Pence travels to Jacksonville, Fla., to join Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpCareer State official warned about Biden's son: report Trump speaks with NASA astronauts on all-female spacewalk Biden praises Buttigieg for criticizing GOP attacks: 'That's a good man' MORE at Operation New Hope, which provides skills training and support to individuals with a criminal history. Pence and the president’s daughter will tour Miller Electric Company in Jacksonville, where Pence will speak to employees about workforce development and apprenticeship, themes of the administration’s “Pledge to America’s Workers.” The vice president will return tonight to Washington.

Economic indicator: The Bureau of Economic Analysis at 8:30 a.m. reports on gross domestic product in the second quarter. Analysts expect that the economy grew at the slowest pace in more than two years in the second quarter (Reuters).

 

ELSEWHERE

Ballistic missiles: North Korea test-fired two new short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday, its first missile test since Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnUS proposed helping North Korea build tourist area amid nuclear talks: report Kim poses for photos on white horse on sacred mountain, plans 'great operation' Beware the 34th month of Trump's presidency MORE and Trump agreed to revive denuclearization talks in June (Reuters). Today, North Korea on state media said its new test of a tactical guided weapon was meant as a “solemn warning” to South Korea over that country’s weapons development and plans to hold military exercises with the United States (Reuters). The United States and South Korea urged North Korea to refrain from further provocations (Reuters). Pompeo said on Thursday he expects working-level talks with North Korea to take place within weeks and that the United States still sees a diplomatic way forward, despite Pyongyang’s missile testing. “We want diplomacy to work. We want Chairman Kim to deliver on the promise that he made to President Trump, which was that he would denuclearize,” Pompeo told Bloomberg television in an interview (Reuters).

State Watch: Automakers struck a potentially seismic deal with California to reduce automobile emissions, rejecting the Trump administration in a bitter battle over regulatory rollbacks. California and 13 other states have vowed to keep enforcing Obama-era air quality rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, a fight that led four major automakers to look outside Washington for some “much needed regulatory certainty” (The New York Times). ... Also in California, 1,000 community water systems are at risk of not delivering potable water because infrastructure is collapsing faster than action or budgets are responding. California has one of the most byzantine drinking water systems in the country, exacerbating the problems (The New York Times). ... In Michigan, the fight over recreational marijuana heads back to local ballots. Activists and local officials are at odds about pot businesses (The Detroit News).

Migrant tragedy: A packed wooden boat carrying about 250 migrants capsized off the coast of Libya on Thursday, resulting in 115 people declared missing and feared to have drowned, plus another 134 who were rescued by local fishermen and Libyan coast guards. The head of the United Nations rescue agency UNHCR called it “the worst Mediterranean tragedy of this year” (Reuters). Libya is a huge departure point for migrants making a perilous journey to try to reach Europe, and the UNHCR says one in four migrants drown at sea along the dangerous route (The Guardian). 

Farm subsidies: The Trump administration will pay farmers hurt by the trade war with China between $15 and $150 per acre in an aid package totaling $16 billion, officials said on Thursday, with farmers in the South poised to see higher rates than in the Midwest. The subsidies, which add to the government’s $12 billion in assistance last year, will be available in August (Reuters).

 

THE CLOSER

And finally … Congratulations to this week’s Quiz Winners, who whizzed through a spot of British politics!  

Taking a bow today are Donna Nackers, Zev Lewis, John Hille, Ray Fleming, Lorraine Lindberg, Paul Sandman, David Straney, Rich Davis, Itillery, Stephen Richard Staronka, John Donato, Thomas Schoener, Bill Garvin, Laura Silver, Terry Pflaumer, Greg Stetson, Monique Selman, Jack Barshay, Candi Cee, Carol Katz, Kevin Pollack, Patrick Kavanagh, Randall S. Patrick, Luther Berg, Allyson Foster and Peter J. Sprofera

Addendum: Regular quiz contender Dan Hebert is owed a sincere apology for our typo that flubbed the spelling of his name in the winners’ tributes last week. So sorry, Dan! 

This week’s winners knew that Winston Churchill was the first prime minister to serve the United Kingdom under the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

Meryl Streep won an Academy Award for best actress for her portrayal of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.” 

New Prime Minister Boris Johnson, prior to a run as foreign secretary, was mayor of London from 2008 until 2016. 

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair was a top ally of former President George W. Bush and supporter of the Iraq War.