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

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

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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrAttorney General Barr's license to kill Medical examiner confirms Epstein death by suicide Justice Dept. says Mueller report has been downloaded 800 million times 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 HarrisJoe Biden faces an uncertain path Biden: 'There's an awful lot of really good Republicans out there' Fighter pilot vs. astronaut match-up in Arizona could determine control of Senate 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 WarrenPossible GOP challenger says Trump doesn't doesn't deserve reelection, but would vote for him over Democrat Joe Biden faces an uncertain path The Memo: Trump pushes back amid signs of economic slowdown MORE (D-Mass.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape Steve King to Gillibrand: Odds of me resigning same as yours of winning presidential nomination We need a climate plan for agriculture MORE (D-N.J.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersJoe Biden faces an uncertain path Bernie Sanders vows to go to 'war with white nationalism and racism' as president Biden: 'There's an awful lot of really good Republicans out there' MORE (I-Vt.), and Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeAndrew Yang promises mass pardon to those imprisoned for nonviolent marijuana offenses 13 states file lawsuit over Trump 'public charge' rule Harris unveils plan to combat domestic terrorism 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 GaramendiHouse 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 (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 PerryThe Hill's Morning Report — DOJ's planned executions stir new debate Conservatives call on Pelosi to cancel August recess Conservatives ask Barr to lay out Trump's rationale for census question 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 BidenPossible GOP challenger says Trump doesn't doesn't deserve reelection, but would vote for him over Democrat Joe Biden faces an uncertain path The Memo: Trump pushes back amid signs of economic slowdown 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 TrumpO'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Objections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 McCarthyI'm not a Nazi, I'm just a dude: What it's like to be the other Steve King Trump finds consistent foil in 'Squad' Tlaib says she won't visit Israel after being treated like 'a criminal' MORE (R-Calif.), House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseManchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Sunday shows - Trump's Epstein conspiracy theory retweet grabs spotlight Sanders: Trump doesn't 'want to see somebody get shot' but 'creates the climate for it' MORE (R-La.) and Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyDick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report Steve King says 'left-wing media' and GOP leadership owe him apology after rape, incest comments GOP memo deflects some gun questions to 'violence from the left' 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 EscobarCongressional Hispanic Caucus calls for answers on Mississippi ICE raids Consoler in Chief like Biden is the perfect antidote to a Divider in Chief like Trump Democratic senator on possibility of Trump standing up to the NRA: 'That's just such BS' 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 HoyerLiberal Democrat eyes aid cuts to Israel after Omar, Tlaib denied entry Lawmakers blast Trump as Israel bars door to Tlaib and Omar Israel denies Omar and Tlaib entry after Trump tweet MORE (D-Md.) told reporters of the Escobar bill before making the announcement official on the House floor (Politico).

> Impeachment: Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkToni Morrison dies at 88 Former Virginia deputy AG: Trump's Twitter attacks a 'distraction' from 'substantive' critiques House Democrats inch toward majority support for impeachment 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 MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report 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 DeFazioHouse 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 (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 health chief: Officials actively 'working on' ObamaCare replacement plan Campaign aide: Trump asking questions shared by 'millions of Americans' with Epstein conspiracy theory Former acting solicitor general: 'Literally unfathomable' that Trump would retweet conspiracy theory about Epstein death 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 ObamaDick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report Forget conventional wisdom — Bernie Sanders is electable 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care MORE.

Matt Flegenheimer, The New York Times: Here’s why John HickenlooperJohn Wright HickenlooperThe Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down 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 FudgeHarris wins endorsement of former CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge The Hill's Morning Report — DOJ's planned executions stir new debate Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment 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 OlsonTexas faces turbulent political moment Another Texas congressman planning to retire Hurd retirement leaves GOP gloomy on 2020 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 RaskinHouse panel investigating decision to resume federal executions Pelosi, allies seek to keep gun debate focused on McConnell Pelosi backers feel vindicated after tumultuous stretch 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 Editor-in-Chief: Biden's lack of energy is an issue The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy The Hill's Morning Report — Will Congress do anything on gun control? 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 PompeoLatest pro-democracy rally draws tens of thousands in Hong Kong 63 killed in blast at Afghan wedding as Taliban, US negotiate troop withdrawal Trump meets with national security team on Afghanistan peace plan 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 TrumpDick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report Trump Jr. dismisses conflicts of interest, touts projects in Indonesia Ivanka Trump talking to lawmakers about gun reform legislation: report 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 UnHong Kong protests present Trump, Xi with painful choices North Korea launches missile tests, insults South Korean president Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move 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.