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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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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. TGIF! 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.

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 BarrBill BarrThe Hill's Campaign Report: Two weeks to the election l Biden leads in new polls as debate looms l Trump pressures DOJ on Hunter Biden Trump remarks put pressure on Barr Meadows says Trump did not order declassification of Russia documents 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 HarrisTrump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally Overnight Defense: US, Russia closer on nuclear treaty extension after Moscow accepts warhead freeze | Khashoggi's fiancee sues Saudi crown prince | Biden nets hundreds more national security endorsements Democrats make gains in Georgia Senate races: poll 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 WarrenJustice Department charges Google with illegally maintaining search monopoly Overnight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing MORE (D-Mass.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDurbin signals he isn't interested in chairing Judiciary Committee Booker 'outs' Cruz as vegan; Cruz jokingly decries 'scurrilous attack' Why Latinos should oppose Barrett confirmation MORE (D-N.J.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersOcasio-Cortez rolls out Twitch channel to urge voting Calls grow for Democrats to ramp up spending in Texas The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Tipping point week for Trump, Biden, Congress, voters MORE (I-Vt.), and Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeDemocrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Pandemic politics dominate competitive governor's races OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden would face hurdles undoing Trump environmental rollbacks | Biden team weighs climate 'czar': report | Donald Trump Jr. urges hunters to vote for his father 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 GaramendiWuhan is the final straw: The world needs to divest from China GOP seizes on 'defund the police' to galvanize base Peace Corps faces uncertain future with no volunteers in field 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 PerryHillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it On The Trail: How Nancy Pelosi could improbably become president 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 BidenBiden holds massive cash advantage over Trump ahead of Election Day Tax records show Trump maintains a Chinese bank account: NYT Trump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally 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 TrumpBiden holds massive cash advantage over Trump ahead of Election Day Tax records show Trump maintains a Chinese bank account: NYT Trump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally 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 McCarthyMcCarthy: 'I would think I already have the votes' to remain as House GOP leader Conservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 MORE (R-Calif.), House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseJordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats Cedric Richmond's next move: 'Sky's the limit' if Biden wins Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety MORE (R-La.) and Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneySteve King defends past comments on white supremacy, blasts NYT and GOP leaders in fiery floor speech GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power Graham vows GOP will accept election results after Trump comments 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 EscobarPocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Trump's illness sparks new urgency for COVID-19 deal Hispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 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 HoyerTop Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate Trump orders aides to halt talks on COVID-19 relief This week: Coronavirus complicates Senate's Supreme Court fight MORE (D-Md.) told reporters of the Escobar bill before making the announcement official on the House floor (Politico).

> Impeachment: Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkPocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Democratic leaders: Supreme Court fight is about ObamaCare Rep. Robin Kelly enters race for Democratic caucus vice chair 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) 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 hearings on Wednesday. She follows Rep. Lori TrahanLori A. TrahanEthics panel finds Massachusetts Democrat didn't violate rules Democrats on House Armed Services panel 'dismayed and gravely concerned' with Esper The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Pfizer's Mikael Dolsten says vaccine development timeline being cut in half; House poised to pass 4 billion relief package MORE (Mass.), Rep. Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioTrump says talks on COVID-19 aid are now 'working out' Trump gambles with new stimulus strategy Trump infuriates business groups by halting COVID-19 talks 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 ConwayBillboard warns Trump's Iowa rally will be 'superspreader event' White House Halloween to be 'modified' to meet CDC guidelines: report Minnesota health officials connect COVID-19 cases to Trump, Biden campaign events 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 ObamaDemocrats make gains in Georgia Senate races: poll 'Democrat-run cities' fuel the economy, keep many red states afloat Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE.

Matt Flegenheimer, The New York Times: Here’s why John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Democratic super PAC pulls remaining ads from Colorado Senate race 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 FudgeOfficials urge social media groups to weed out election disinformation targeting minority voters Letter from Trump taking credit for aid now mandated in government food boxes: report This week: House returns for pre-election sprint 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 OlsonDemocrats, GOP fighting over largest House battlefield in a decade Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' The time for HELP is now: Senate should pass bill to expedite recovery following natural disasters 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 RaskinCOVID-19 and the problem of presidential succession Warren, Porter to headline progressive fundraiser supporting seven swing state candidates Democrats unveil bill creating panel to gauge president's 'capacity' 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) CusackThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association -Trump enters debate week after NYT obtains his tax returns The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden asks if public can trust vaccine from Trump ahead of Election Day | Oklahoma health officials raised red flags before Trump rally Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' 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 PompeoWar in the Caucasus: What happens without US leadership — but a chance to get it right Pompeo to meet separately with Azerbaijan, Armenia top diplomats Taking aim at online anti-Semitism 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 TrumpTrump slams Facebook, Twitter for limiting spread of New York Post's Biden story OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump creates federal council on global tree planting initiative | Green group pushes for answers on delayed climate report | Carbon dioxide emissions may not surpass 2019 levels until 2027: analysis Trump creates federal government council on global tree planting initiative 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 UnThe foreign policy canyon between Americans over China Blessing for Trump: a campaign devoid of foreign policy Bolton: North Korea 'more dangerous now' 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.