The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump’s new target: Elijah Cummings
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President Trump spent the weekend engaged in a distracting Twitter war with a powerful African American House committee chairman, calling him a “racist” who represents a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested” Baltimore district.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, has been in the president’s crosshairs in part because his panel is probing the condition of the administration’s detention facilities for migrant children at the southern border, which Cummings has called “government-sponsored child abuse.”
Last week, his panel authorized subpoenas for text and email messages sent by Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, allegedly using personal rather than government email and text accounts in violation of law.
Cummings defended his work in Congress on behalf of constituents in his district, which includes affluent and low-income communities, as well as his committee’s role in probing the administration’s executive performance.
“Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors,” Cummings tweeted. “It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents.”
The Hill: Trump doubles down on attacks against Cummings and Baltimore.
The New York Times: Trump accuses black congressman, allies of being racist, deepening feud.
The Hill: Trump argued there was nothing racist in his criticisms of Cummings or Baltimore, a majority-black city with a high-crime rate in Maryland, a state that has not backed a Republican for president since 1988.
White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney defended the president’s Twitter barrage against the congressman, arguing that Trump’s assertion that “no human being would want to live” in Cummings’s district had “absolutely zero to do with race” (The Hill).
The president’s social media back-and-forth — which consumed the weekend’s cable coverage with video clips from Baltimore, newspaper editorials and columnists’ debates — fed off techniques Trump has used before to dominate news using combative and divisive Twitter language that appeals to his base. The themes often involve race, gender, crime, contrasts between life in big cities and rural America, and caustic criticisms of Democrats and the news media.
The sparring prompted a defense of Cummings from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the daughter of a former mayor of Baltimore; a tweet from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, which some Democrats found too passive, and a blast-furnace denunciation from The Baltimore Sun’s Editorial Board (The Hill):
“We would tell the most dishonest man to ever occupy the Oval Office, the mocker of war heroes, the gleeful grabber of women’s private parts, the serial bankrupter of businesses, the useful idiot of Vladimir Putin and the guy who insisted there are ‘good people’ among murderous neo-Nazis that he’s still not fooling most Americans into believing he’s even slightly competent in his current post.”
LEADING THE DAY
WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The Cabinet turnstile spun again on Sunday as Trump tweeted that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, a former Indiana senator, will step down Aug. 15. The president said he will nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), 53, a former federal prosecutor who served as mayor of Heath, Texas, for the post. He has no background in national intelligence. An acting director will serve until the Senate confirms a successor, Trump added (The Hill).
There are 17 intelligence agencies and organizations in the executive branch, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence was created after 9/11 to head the U.S. intelligence community, integrate domestic, international and military intelligence, and connect the dots as adviser to the president, the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security.
Trump privately complained for months about Coats, who was at odds with the president over Russia and the president’s public discomfort with the intelligence community. Ratcliffe impressed the president last week when the congressman tangled with former special counsel Robert Mueller during his House testimony (The New York Times).
Coats, during rare public appearances, appeared out of step with Trump and at one point disclosed to prosecutors how he was urged by the president to publicly deny any link between Russia and the Trump campaign (The Associated Press).
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Intelligence Committee ranking minority member Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) were among those who praised Coats in statements on Sunday.
Text of Coats’s resignation is HERE.
> 9/11 compensation fund: The president today hosts first responders at the White House for his signing of a permanent reauthorization for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, approved by Congress this month.
Q. Will victims’ advocate Jon Stewart be invited? Don’t bet on it. The White House didn’t directly answer the question posed by The Hill’s Brett Samuels .
> Trump & Congress: The president keeps in close phone contact with some GOP lawmakers, and it pays off. The constant contact is one reason Trump continues to defy predictions and retain strong Republican support on Capitol Hill (The New York Times).
CONGRESS: After Pelosi steered negotiations on a spending deal that netted Democrats increases in nondefense spending and led the conference on impeachment efforts, House Democrats who argued for her return to power have a message to the naysayers: We told you so.
House Democrats are reflecting on the first seven months back in the majority and are thankful Pelosi is the one leading their caucus. Recently, Pelosi has also brokered a truce between progressive and centrist factions that threatened to upend the entire House Democratic Caucus after she sided with centrists and brought up the Senate’s border supplemental bill in late June.
“Those of us who have supported her and supported her in her Speaker’s run this time … we don’t exactly go around saying ‘I told you so,’ but we could if we wanted to,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), a Pelosi loyalist and one of the Democrats’ chief deputy whips.
Pelosi has scored multiple major wins since she recaptured the gavel, including the 35-day government shutdown in the beginning of the year and the recent spending negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. She has also made it a point to protect the freshman members from competitive districts who helped hand Democrats the House, setting the party on course for the 2020 election.
“I don’t know who else can go in that environment and address the issues like she did. I’m just, I’m in awe,” said Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), who represents a district Trump won in 2016, referring to the recent budget deal that raises the spending caps and the debt ceiling for two years (The Hill).
With the House out of town for August, attention turns to the Senate this week. It will consider the budget agreement before senators break recess at the end of the week. The bill is expected to pass overwhelmingly.
The Hill: Lawmakers point to entitlements when asked about deficits.
The Senate is also expected to confirm two key nominees before it leaves town: Kelly Craft, the current ambassador to Canada to serve as ambassador to the United Nations, and David Norquist to serve as deputy secretary of Defense, giving the Pentagon a permanent deputy after the confirmation of Defense Secretary Mark Esper last week.
One thing the Senate is unlikely to consider is election security legislation, as McConnell continues to block it despite warnings from Mueller during his hearings last week. Democrats continue to make noise about McConnell’s decision to block the legislation, but it doesn’t appear to faze the GOP leader. McConnell dinged Democrats for the move, saying they are trying to move “partisan” bills (The Hill).
> Mueller aftermath: The appearance on Capitol Hill last week by Mueller made waves in Washington, but it doesn’t appear it is moving the needle in some respects, including on public opinion.
According to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll:
“Among those who read, saw or heard about Mueller’s testimony, 47% said it made no difference in their views about impeaching the president. The public hearings had opposing impacts based on partisanship: among Democrats, 48% said they are more likely to support the process of impeachment that could ultimately lead to Trump’s removal from office, 8% said they are less likely to support impeachment and 44% said they feel the same as they did prior to Mueller’s testimony.”
“Whereas for Republicans, only 3% said they were more likely to support impeachment, 42% said they were less likely, and 54% were unchanged. Independents were split, with 26% saying they are more likely to support impeachment and 29% saying less likely. 45% of Independents said they feel the same as they did prior to Mueller’s testimony.”
Democrats have also found themselves defending Mueller’s appearance, though they do have a few misgivings. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he wished Mueller’s testimony would have been delivered in a “more narrative fashion.”
“I wish that he had testified in more narrative fashion, that the words didn’t need to be coaxed from him as much as they did,” Schiff said.
However, since Mueller’s testimony, 11 House Democrats have come out in support of starting a process to impeach the president, including four House members from Washington state (The Hill). In total, 103 House Democrats support opening an impeachment inquiry, only 15 away from the pro-impeachment crowd reaching a majority of the caucus, according to The Hill’s whip list. Nevertheless, the House pro-impeachment contingent is a long way from the 218 votes needed to start an impeachment inquiry.
The Hill: Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) calls for House to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
2020 POLITICS: It’s nervy times for some 2020 Democrats as pressure mounts and they look to make the most of the opportunity when they take the stage on Tuesday and Wednesday in Detroit for the second series of presidential debates.
Multiple Democrats are on the attack as they look to survive and advance in the primary process, especially ahead of the third debate in mid-September when the threshold for inclusion by donor metrics and polling increases, making the road more arduous for lower-tier candidates (The Hill).
Thus far, only five candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg — have reached the threshold and have qualified, raising the pressure for candidates to have a strong performance that helps catapult them into the next debate.
The headliner in Detroit is expected to be night two when Biden and Harris square off for the first time since their squabble over busing at the first debate. Biden, still the front-runner, is expected to be on the receiving end of attacks from many of his primary opponents, including Harris and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), with whom Biden has publicly feuded in the last week over their work on criminal justice.
“We are ready to expect the unexpected,” a Biden campaign adviser said. “Everyone is looking for their T-shirt moment.”
Along with the attacks from Harris and Booker, Biden’s team is expecting to take shots from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on trade and workers’ rights, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on women’s rights, and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro on the Obama administration’s deportations.
Niall Stanage: 2020 Democratic race enters do-or-die phase.
> Buttigieg stalls: One person who could use a boost in this week’s debates is Buttigieg, who is showing signs of slowed momentum in recent weeks after a shock-and-awe second fundraising quarter.
While Buttigieg is in a solid fifth place in polls, registering between 4 and 7 percent, he has been unable to make the big jump and join the top four in the race for the nomination. Along with the polling stagnation, Buttigieg has started facing tougher questions during public appearances, including about his struggle to build a following among black voters and his handling of a police-involved shooting in his hometown (The Hill).
“He has a very dedicated and passionate floor and a core of voters and donors and supporters,” said Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist. “But there is no question that he has work to do.”
> State Watch: A battle is breaking out in Seattle between mainstream Democrats and far-left socialists as voters prepare to pick a new city council next month.
As Seattle-native Reid Wilson reports, with homelessness skyrocketing in the area and crime running rampant, Democrats have grown furious with the incumbent city council, led by a self-identified socialist and Sanders fan, while the socialist faction is aiming to increase its power.
The fight pits Seattle’s mainstream mayor against one of the most progressive members of Congress, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and it shows the one thing socialists have in common with the president: They both think Amazon sucks.
The New York Times Magazine, by Michael Steinberger: The Optimist: Joe Biden is running to take the country back to a time before Trump. Is that what Democrats want?
The Washington Post: A conversation with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.): Mueller, climate change and the Democratic Party.
Bloomberg Businessweek: Elizabeth Warren has a radical plan to beat Trump at his own game.
The New York Times: Why aren’t 2020 Democrats talking about impeachment? Because voters aren’t asking.
The Washington Post: A different type of vibe: What does Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-Hawaii) run for president say about America?
The Associated Press: Vulnerable House Dems amass cash, adding to GOP challenge.
The Dallas Morning News: Beto O’Rourke’s mother has a few suggestions for her son after watching his White House campaign.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Democrats will have a better chance if they take a page from Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, by Karen Tumulty, political columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2YnEM1m
Trump, his allies and the betrayal of America, by Juan Williams, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/32ZWcEM
WHERE AND WHEN
Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, on the government’s resumption of capital punishment this year; Serhiy Leshchenko, member of Ukraine’s parliament and former investigative journalist, talking about election interference and Ukraine’s new president; and author Steve Kohn, who writes about whistleblowers. 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 convenes at 3 p.m.
The president holds a signing ceremony to enact the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund’s permanent reauthorization at 10 a.m., and Vice President Pence will attend before joining the president for lunch at 12:30 p.m.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will sit down for a conversation-style interview with Economic Club President David Rubenstein at 9 a.m. at the Ritz Carlton in Washington. Live stream at www.state.gov.
Attorney General William Barr and John Demers, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s National Security Division, are in London to participate in the Quintet and Five Country Ministerial.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, along with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, will be in Shanghai through Wednesday for trade negotiations with Vice Premier Liu He of China.
➔ International: Nearly 1,400 people were detained at an opposition protest as part of a violent police crackdown in Moscow over the weekend. The figure is the largest number of detentions at a Moscow rally this decade. Of the 1,373 individuals arrested, most were released from custody, although about 150 remained detained. Those arrested were protesting upcoming Moscow City Council elections (The Associated Press). In Hong Kong, police unleashed tear gas and rubber bullets in a battle with pro-democracy protesters, with protests extending into a second straight day after recent tumult over an extradition bill (The Associated Press). Diplomats from Iran and five world powers vowed on Sunday to salvage the remnants of the Iran nuclear agreement despite escalating tensions between Iran and the West since the U.S. exited the agreement (Reuters). Elsewhere in Iran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is seeking out new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and openly calling for closer ties between the two countries (The Associated Press).
➔ Federal Reserve: Economic growth slowed in the second quarter, government data showed last week, but indicators remain positive for continued expansion. Sylvan Lane describes the kind of data Fed governors are weighing as they meet this week amid market suspense about interest rates. Trump tweeted on Friday, “Q2 GDP Up 2.1% Not bad considering we have the very heavy weight of the Federal Reserve anchor wrapped around our neck. Almost no inflation. USA is set to Zoom!” …The U.S. economy slows (The New York Times).
➔ Puerto Rico governance: What comes next after Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s resignation, effective Aug. 2, and for an emboldened, mobilized electorate on the island? (The Hill). Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez, a Rossello ally, tweeted on Sunday she does not want to be governor and hopes Rossello will appoint a secretary of state before stepping down (The Associated Press).
And finally … ✍ More than 10,000 people in Appalachia will soon learn their crushing medical bills are being erased because two donors helped a nonprofit organization step in to purchase and forgive $10 million in accumulated medical debt.
“There’s a special letter that’s going out to each of these people,” said Craig Antico, founder of RIP Medical Debt, last week. “It’s from the donors, and it’s going to tell them they’re part of a larger campaign. They’re going to get a letter in a yellow envelope that says this is a no-strings attached gift from people in the community.”
Antico said the $100,000 donation to RIP Medical Debt, which settled the bills for $10 million in medical care for pennies on the dollar, came from Jim Branscome, a former journalist who became the managing director of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services, and author and journalist Bill Bishop. The two men told the nonprofit they wanted their donation to help people living in Central Appalachia, home to some of the poorest communities in the United States (NBC News). The Appalachian region includes all of West Virginia and touches 12 other states.