The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate

 

 

 

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Wednesday! 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.



Progressive and centrist Democrats sparred Tuesday night over whether ambitious ideas such as “Medicare for All” and free college tuition are “political suicide” when it comes to defeating President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE.

 

The 10 candidates in Detroit on Tuesday, including Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy Sanders doubles down on 'Medicare For All' defense: 'We have not changed one word' Sanders, Warren back major shift to fight drug overdoses MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy Sanders, Warren back major shift to fight drug overdoses Rendell: Biden 'baked in' as Democratic nominee MORE (D-Mass.), set the stage tonight for former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenScaramucci attends charity event featuring Biden in the Hamptons Klobuchar knocks Trump: 'This negotiating by tweet hasn't been working' Rendell: Biden 'baked in' as Democratic nominee MORE, who leads in recent polls, to weigh in as a progressive pragmatist who believes voters want experience and electability coupled with real-world proposals that can persuade Republicans and independents to move away from Trump next year.

 

The CNN format on Tuesday, which encouraged fast-moving, sharp exchanges among the candidates, was unlikely to change the makeup of top tier of Democrats currently leading in polls and fundraising. But the questions about health care, immigration, guns and climate change drilled down into whether progressives, including Sanders and Warren, could explain why their calls for big structural changes are doable in an era of divided government and poisonous partisanship. 

 

The Hill: Sanders, Warren battle centrists in testy debate.

 

The Hill: Intraparty rift emerges on Detroit debate stage. 

 

The Hill: 5 takeaways from combative Democratic debate.

 

The Hill: Top moments from Detroit debate.

 

The Hill: Former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneySanders doubles down on 'Medicare For All' defense: 'We have not changed one word' Democratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows The Hill's 12:30 Report: Stocks sink as Trump fights with Fed, China MORE (D-Md.): “Why do we have to be the party of taking something away from people?”

 

The Hill: Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockDemocratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows The Hill's 12:30 Report: Stocks sink as Trump fights with Fed, China The Hill's Morning Report: How will Trump be received at G-7? MORE to Warren on immigration: “You are playing into Donald Trump’s hands.” 

 

The Hill: South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegSunday shows preview: Trump ratchets up trade war with China Democratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates MORE: “It is time to stop worrying about what the Republicans will say.”

 

The Hill: Warren, Bullock spar over “no first use” nuclear policy.

 

Biden tonight aims to rebound from a sub-par debate performance, giving him a rematch with Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSanders doubles down on 'Medicare For All' defense: 'We have not changed one word' Obama reveals his summer playlist Democratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows MORE (D-Calif.) after their high-profile battle in late June.

 

While Biden has regained the polling advantage he lost immediately following the June 28 debate, his allies believe the former vice president is poised for a bounce-back performance despite looming attacks and some tense back-and-forth exchanges with Harris and Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSteyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE (D-N.J.). Some see the opportunity ahead of Biden as similar to the situation former President Obama faced in 2012 after he lost decisively to Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney: 'Putin and Kim Jong Un deserve a censure rather than flattery' A US-UK free trade agreement can hold the Kremlin to account Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity MORE in the first debate in Denver but was able to rebound in the next go-around. 

 

“He doesn’t have to go in and just like burn the place to the ground and be carried out in adulation,” said Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperEPA ordered to set stronger smog standards America is in desperate need of infrastructure investment: Senate highway bill a step in the right direction FARA should apply to Confucius Institutes MORE (D-Del.), who has endorsed the former Delaware senator. “But he’s very much focused on what he did well in the first debate and what he needs to do better in the second debate. He is a pro. You don’t do this stuff for 40 years at very high levels and not be able to do better.”

 

“I think Joe, frankly, did a whole lot better than Barack did in that first debate with Mitt Romney,” Carper said after making the comparison to Obama. “Can he do better? Should he do better? Yeah, he will.” 

 

After health care played a starring role in Tuesday night’s debate, it’s certain to do so again, especially between Biden and Harris over his defense of the Affordable Care Act and support for a public option and her support for a variant of a “Medicare for All” system, which Biden has dubbed a “have-it-every-which-way” plan. 

 

Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyThe Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate Democrats press Trump Treasury picks on donor disclosure guidelines Pennsylvania school district turns down local businessman's offer to pay off student lunch debts MORE (D-Pa.), a Biden backer, believes that while Democrats battle with the former vice president to pull him to the left, he should make the contrast with Republicans and make that the centerpiece of his health care argument. 

 

“I think too many Democrats are letting them off the hook on sabotaged budget cuts and supporting lawsuits,” Casey said, referring to the Trump-backed lawsuit seeking to invalidate the Affordable Care Act. “I’ve told him it’s important to make the case on issues where Republicans are, frankly, not getting enough questions about the support for the lawsuit.”

 

The White House contenders on Tuesday agreed on a list of foes beyond the president, including the National Rifle Association, pharmaceutical and health insurance companies, big money influencers and lobbyists, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTwo years after Harvey's devastation, the wake-up call has not been heeded McGrath releases ad blasting McConnell with coal miners in Kentucky: 'Which side are you on?' Prediction: 2020 election is set to be hacked, if we don't act fast MORE (R-Ky.), and “Republican talking points.”

 

Also appearing on Tuesday were former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharKlobuchar knocks Trump: 'This negotiating by tweet hasn't been working' Sunday shows preview: Trump ratchets up trade war with China Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates MORE of Minnesota, Ohio Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanDemocratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows The Hill's 12:30 Report: Stocks sink as Trump fights with Fed, China The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE, former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperDemocratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows If the Democratic debates were pro wrestling, de Blasio is comic relief Hickenlooper day-old Senate bid faces pushback from progressives MORE and author Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonMarianne Williamson on Trump: We have a little bit of a 'mad King George' in charge Democratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE

 

Along with Biden, Harris and Booker, the participants tonight are former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangSanders, Warren back major shift to fight drug overdoses Obama reveals his summer playlist Surprise: Andrew Yang's favorite president is a Republican MORE, Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardDemocratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates Gabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates MORE (D-Hawaii), Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandDemocratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Gabbard, Steyer inch toward making third Democratic debate MORE (D-N.Y.), Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeDemocratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows The Hill's 12:30 Report: Stocks sink as Trump fights with Fed, China The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE, Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetSanders doubles down on 'Medicare For All' defense: 'We have not changed one word' Democratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE (D-Colo.) and New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioSanders, Warren back major shift to fight drug overdoses Democratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows If the Democratic debates were pro wrestling, de Blasio is comic relief MORE. It is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. The next debate will be in September.

 

Dan Balz: Evolution or revolution? Democrats’ ideological divisions broke into the open in their Detroit brawl. 

 

The Associated Press: Should Democrats go big, or get real?

 

The New York Times: What Kamala Harris doesn’t want to be asked at the debate.

 

Jonathan Allen: The Warren-Sanders wing comes up short.

 

 

 



LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS: A week after Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeHillicon Valley: YouTube disables 200+ accounts over Hong Kong misinformation | Lawmakers sound alarm over Chinese influence efforts | DHS cyber agency details priorities | State AGs get tough on robocalls | DOJ busts online scammers Lawmakers sound alarm on China's disinformation campaign in Hong Kong President Trump is right: Mainstream media 'do a very good job' MORE (R-Texas) played a key role in questioning former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE, he is now taking center stage in what is shaping up to be a fierce political battle, throwing his potential nomination to serve as the director of national intelligence into question. 

 

With Democrats breaking with tradition and ready to oppose him, Ratcliffe will likely be forced to rely on only Republican votes to get his confirmation across the finish line. With the 53-47 edge for the GOP, Ratcliffe can lose only three votes. He also is facing a potentially tough vote in the Senate Intelligence Committee, where Republicans hold an 8-7 advantage. That prospect is setting up a high-wire act for the Texas congressman as many senators view him as an unknown and don’t know much about him. 

 

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Green groups sue Trump over Endangered Species Act changes | Bureau of Land Management retirees fight plan to relocate agency | Wildfires in Amazon rainforest burn at record rate Bureau of Land Management retirees fight plan to relocate agency out west The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate MORE (R-Alaska), who has voted against other high-profile nominees, told reporters she didn’t know anything about Ratcliffe, while Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsThe Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate Senate braces for brawl over Trump's spy chief Overnight Defense: Esper sworn in as Pentagon chief | Confirmed in 90-8 vote | Takes helm as Trump juggles foreign policy challenges | Senators meet with woman accusing defense nominee of sexual assault MORE (R-S.D.) acknowledged that for Senate Republicans, the selection was “not someone we had heard of before.”      

 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsAn ode to Joe Manchin's patriotism on his birthday Susan Collins challenger hit with ethics complaints over reimbursements Overnight Health Care: Insurance lobby chief calls Biden, Sanders health plans 'similarly bad' | Trump officials appeal drug price disclosure ruling | Study finds 1 in 7 people ration diabetes medicine due to cost MORE (R-Maine), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said that she had a “special interest” in who succeeds outgoing Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray Coats10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall 11 Essential reads you missed this week Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move MORE because she helped write the law that created the position.     

 

“So I feel very strongly about this position and the importance of having someone with the integrity and skill and ability to bring all of the members of the intelligence together,” she said (The Hill). 

 

NBC News: Intelligence officials worry Trump's pick for top spy will politicize the job.

 

CNN: Trump may bypass protocol and the deputy intelligence director to name an acting chief while Ratcliffe awaits confirmation.

 

> Distraction: As they continue to deal with the ongoing feud between the president and Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsGOP Oversight report says Interior head met with group tied to former clients Nadler asks other House chairs to provide records that would help panel in making impeachment decision Nikki Haley voices 'complete support' for Pence MORE (D-Md.), minority lawmakers are sending a warning to Democrats ahead of 2020: Don’t take the bait. 

 

Trump kept up the back-and-forth with Cummings for a fourth day on Tuesday, and some Democrats believe it’s a diversionary tactic by the president to avoid discussing kitchen table issues, such as health care, that helped win them the House in November. 

 

"I hope we don’t take the bait," said Rep. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondHouse Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' Embattled Juul seeks allies in Washington Democratic lawmakers support Bustos after DCCC resignations MORE (D-La.), the former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, of which Cummings is also a powerful member. "The president always plays [the] race card when he is having a bad news cycle. [It's] easier to call people names, when you don’t have anything else to point to."

 

The anger at Cummings came soon after Trump’s bitter throwdown with four progressive minority lawmakers known as “the squad” (The Hill). 

 

 

 

 

> Impeachment: With a rising tide of House members supporting impeachment a week after Mueller testified on Capitol Hill, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJewish Democratic congresswoman and veteran blasts Trump's 'disloyalty' comments Schumer says Trump encouraging anti-Semites Saagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? MORE (D-N.Y.) declined to join in, saying on Tuesday that he backs Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Pelosi11 Essential reads you missed this week Pelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Is there internet life after thirty? MORE’s (D-Calif.) decision to wait for investigations and evidence to support a formal process.

 

“I believe that Speaker Pelosi is handling this appropriately,” Schumer said. 

 

Schumer’s decision to back Pelosi also comes as some Senate Democrats have come out in favor of opening an impeachment inquiry, including Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: Planned Parenthood to leave federal family planning program absent court action | Democrats demand Trump withdraw rule on transgender health | Cummings, Sanders investigate three drug companies for 'obstructing' probe Democrats demand Trump officials withdraw rule on transgender health The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate MORE (D-Wash.) and Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowUSDA cuts payments promised to researchers as agency uproots to Kansas City USDA eases relocation timeline as researchers flee agency USDA office move may have broken law, watchdog says MORE (D-Mich.) (The Hill).  

 

110 House Democrats currently are in favor of opening an inquiry against the president, including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelNadler asks other House chairs to provide records that would help panel in making impeachment decision Trump moves forward with billion F-16 sale to Taiwan Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid MORE (D-N.Y.) and Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonSecond Democrat representing Trump district backs impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate Progressives face steep odds in ousting incumbent Democrats MORE (D-Va.), a freshman lawmaker, who became the latest to back the push on Tuesday evening.

 

The Hill: Democrats worry diversity furor could spill into 2020 election.



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

WHITE HOUSE: Trump on Tuesday denied that his days of attacks on Cummings, including calling the House Oversight and Reform Committee chairman a “racist,” together with his blistering criticisms about Baltimore, are part of a political strategy to please his supporters. Trump said he's "pointing out facts." 

 

"There’s no strategy. I have no strategy. There’s zero strategy," Trump told reporters (The Hill).

 

 

 

 

> Immigration: The number of migrants reaching the U.S.-Mexico border hit a five-month low in July, according to Mexico's top diplomat. Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard told reporters Tuesday that 87,648 migrants reached Mexico's northern border in July, the lowest number since February. Compared with June’s statistics, the July number marks a 16 percent drop in immigrants caught or turned away by U.S. authorities at the border. The decline comes after the Mexican government committed to protect its southern border in a bid to cut down on the number of migrants traveling through Mexico to reach the United States (The Hill).

 

> Migrant family separations: The Trump administration has separated more than 900 migrant children from their families despite a judge ordering the administration to stop separations more than a year ago, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleged in a court filing on Tuesday. The ACLU asked a federal judge to block the administration from continuing separations (The Hill).

 

> Arms control: The United States is poised to officially abandon a 30-year-old arms control treaty credited with helping end the Cold War. The close of a six-month window for the United States to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is fast approaching on Friday. The Trump administration announced it was leaving the pact in February. The focus is on what comes next in U.S.-Russia arms control, including the U.S. preparations to move forward with long-banned weapons (The Hill).

 

> Agriculture: More than half of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s subsidies to farmers tied to the trade war with China flowed to just one-tenth of the recipients in the program, according to a Bloomberg analysis. The president, seeking to ease the domestic pain created by his tariff policies, approved $16 billion in federal agriculture aid for 2019.

 

> World Trade Organization (WTO): Trump’s assault on the global system of rules that guide international businesses may be quietly scoring a major victory. Thanks to a U.S. veto on new appeals judges, the WTO’s dispute arm is expected to start slipping into the institutional equivalent of a coma at the end of this year. That has set off a scramble by the European Union, Canada and other countries to set up a temporary alternative allowing the use of arbitrators rather than three-judge panels to hear appeals (Bloomberg).

 

> Pentagon: Gen. John Hyten, Trump’s nominee to be the second-highest ranking general in the military, denied allegations that he sexually assaulted a subordinate in 2017, speaking for the first time about the controversy during his confirmation hearing on Tuesday (The Hill). Hyten’s accuser, Col. Kathryn Spletstoser, says he lied under oath to Congress (The Hill). 



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

The real tragedy of the Trump-Cummings feud, by Baltimore Bishop Donté L. Hickman, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2K4NE7V

 

Why I stand with Baltimore city and against Trump’s controversial comments, by former Baltimore prosecutor Deborah Hines, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2ZkQ4EQ



WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features The Hill’s Jamal Simmons, live in Detroit at the site of the Democratic presidential debates, and John Iadarola, host of “The Young Turks,” talking about the 2020 candidates. 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 9:30 a.m. resume consideration of the nomination of Mark T. Pittman to be a United States District Judge for the Northern District of Texas.

 

The president will greet Khaltmaagiin Battulga, the president of Mongolia, for a meeting lasting less than an hour this afternoon.

 

Vice President Pence will speak at 11 a.m. to the Young America Foundation’s 41st Annual National Conservative Student Conference held at The Renaissance in Washington, D.C.

 

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinMnuchin: Trump's 'as determined as ever' on China trade fight Sunday shows preview: Trump ratchets up trade war with China The Hill's Morning Report: How will Trump be received at G-7? MORE, along with U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerOn The Money: Economy adds 164K jobs in July | Trump signs two-year budget deal, but border showdown looms | US, EU strike deal on beef exports Chinese, US negotiators fine-tuning details of trade agreement: report The Trump economy keeps roaring ahead MORE, concluded trade talks with Vice Premier Liu He of China where they started — with evident differences. The session, which amounted to a working dinner and half a day of discussion, ended with a sharp response from China to Trump’s assertion that Beijing is stalling (Reuters). 

 

The Federal Reserve concludes a two-day meeting with a policy statement and a press conference with Chairman Jerome Powell at 2:30 p.m. The central bank has signaled it will cut the federal funds rate this week for the first time since 2008. The Fed’s decision may be consistent with Trump’s public lobbying but is independent of his druthers, Powell has said. Sylvan Lane reports what to watch (The Hill).

 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBill Maher says he's 'glad' David Koch is dead Trump spurs new wave of economic angst by escalating China fight Trump on North Korean projectile launches: Kim 'likes testing missiles' MORE is traveling through Aug. 6 to Bangkok (ASEAN ministerial meetings); Sydney (Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations); and Kolonia, Micronesia, the first visit to the Pacific island nation by a sitting secretary of state.

 

Administrator Seema Verma of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will discuss Democrats’ proposed “Medicare for All” ideas at 10 a.m. at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. The event is live streamed HERE

 

The Senate Appropriations transportation subcommittee will hold an oversight hearing at 9:45 a.m. on aviation safety and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) following two Boeing 737 Max crashes that killed 346 people.  The subcommittee will hear testimony from acting FAA Deputy Administrator Carl Burleson, Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Ali Bahrami, Deputy Associate Administrator for Airports Winsome Lenfert, and Deputy Associate Administrator for Security and Hazardous Materials Safety Angela Stubblefield. ...More: FAA hopes global regulators will approve the Boeing 737 Max to fly again (Reuters). … The origins of Boeings’ 737 Max crisis (The New York Times’s “The Daily” podcast).



ELSEWHERE

Tech: The $26 billion T-Mobile-Sprint mega-merger deal faces one last hurdle in a lawsuit from a group of state attorneys general looking to block it (The Hill).

 

State Watch: The rocky shore of mid-coast Maine has always been home to some of America’s largest lobster catches, but the last few years have been some of the best on record, thanks to warming ocean temperatures. Maine’s lobsters have found themselves in a climate change sweet spot. But the good news may be short lived (The Hill). … In California on Tuesday, Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin Christopher NewsomSanders, Warren back major shift to fight drug overdoses California signs into law tighter standards for police use of lethal force Water bottle tax penalizes California's rural poor MORE (D) signed a state law requiring U.S. presidential candidates to release five years of tax returns before they can appear on the state's ballot, a move aimed squarely at Trump (The Los Angeles Times).

 

Saudi Arabia: How Saudi Arabia makes dissidents disappear (Vanity Fair).  

 

Change your parachute: Carl Allamby, a former car mechanic who built a career telling customers what was wrong with their vehicles, found himself drawn to medicine. This year, at age 47, Allamby became a doctor and is now an emergency room diagnostician. “He’s got people skills most doctors don’t start out with – that customer relations mentality from his years in business,” said Dr. Steven Brooks, chairman of emergency medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Akron General hospital. “We were blown away by him” (Cleveland Plain Dealer).

 

 

 



THE CLOSER

And finally …  Explorer Robert Ballard, 77, the man who located the Titanic and John F. Kennedy’s World War II patrol boat, is setting off on Aug. 7 to Nikumaroro, an atoll in the western Pacific Ocean with an expedition to try to locate Amelia Earhart’s plane wreckage, if indeed her famous Lockheed Electra 10E wound up there on July 2, 1937. 

 

The mystery surrounding Earhart’s disappearance has never been solved, despite official and amateur sleuthing for more than 80 years. The working assumption has long been that Earhart’s plane ran out of fuel and landed or crashed in a remote location in the vast ocean. But it’s not the only theory about what happened to the aviator and her navigator Fred Noonan on the second-to-last leg of a daring journey that was to take them around the globe. Ballard’s search will be chronicled by National Geographic for a two-hour documentary airing Oct. 20.

 

The explorer’s technique, honed over more than 150 deep-sea expeditions, uses sonar to map the ocean floor and deploy a variety of remotely operated vehicles. The odds are long of finding conclusive evidence that Earhart was marooned on what’s known as Gardner Island. Where there’s “very high energy encounter of the ocean with a living reef,” Ballard concedes, an airplane would have been quickly pulverized.