The Hill's Morning Report: More bad news for House Republicans

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Another day, another retirement for House Republicans after Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHouse Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts Hurd says Democrats, media are being manipulated by Iran Bottom Line MORE (Texas) announced he will leave Capitol Hill at the end of 2020, potentially handing a seat to the Democrats and bringing the total number of GOP retirements to seven with 15 months until Election Day.


Even before Hurd announced his decision Thursday evening, House Republicans were gearing up for a spate of new retirements after five other lawmakers announced in just over a week their intention to leave Congress at the end of this term. But multiple Republicans believe Hurd’s retirement hurts more than others given that he represents a true swing district and because of his ability to appeal to portions of the electorate some in the GOP have been unable to.


Hurd, 41, is the only African American lawmaker in the House GOP. With a background in the CIA and immigration expertise acquired in a sprawling district along the Texas border with Mexico, Hurd earned respect from many of his colleagues in both parties. He frequently challenged Trump’s policies without making it personal. 


“It’s a gut punch. Will is shaping the future of the party by his work,” said one House Republican in reaction to Hurd’s exit. “For him to step out of the House is a tough blow to our efforts to design the party for the next decade.”


One GOP strategist pointed to Hurd’s victories in his district, which is 71 percent Latino and touches nearly 800 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, noting that Hurd was one of the few who won last year when almost no other Republicans of his ilk did.


“Hurd is a tough member to replace. There’s a reason the guy won his race in one of the worst years for Republicans in a long time,” said one Republican strategist. “This will be a competitive race. It’s incumbent to find a good, well-funded candidate very quickly.” 


“All retirements aren’t created equal. But this one hurts,” the strategist added. 


Hurd won his 2018 contest by a half a point over Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, who announced late Thursday that she will run again for the seat.


The retiring congressman said in a statement that he will leave “in order to pursue opportunities outside the halls of Congress” in technology and national security sectors. Other Republicans say they are departing for more acute reasons, including the party’s transition to the minority, displeasure with the toxic environment on Capitol Hill and being term-limited on key committees important to their constituents. 


"Members hate being in the minority and think we're going to get our ass kicked in 2020, and there will be a ton more retirements soon,” said a second GOP strategist, predicting that there could be upwards of 15 retirees this cycle.  


The strategist noted that there likely won’t be as many as last cycle – 23 – because more made the move last year. 


House Republicans say there may be term-limited ranking members pondering departures ahead. And Texas Reps. Kenny MarchantKenny Ewell MarchantHouse GOP wants Senate Republicans to do more on impeachment Ethics sends memo to lawmakers on SCIF etiquette Ethics panel investigating Rep. Hastings over relationship with staffer MORE (R-Texas) and Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulTop Indian official canceled congressional meeting over inclusion of Jayapal: report Republican group asks 'what is Trump hiding' in Times Square billboard Conservative group hits White House with billboard ads: 'What is Trump hiding?' MORE (R-Texas), like Hurd, won close races in 2018.


“[Texas is] the new California,” said the first GOP strategist. Hurd is the second House Republican from the Lone Star State to announce retirement, following Republican Rep. Pete OlsonPeter (Pete) Graham OlsonHouse Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts Overnight Energy: Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel | GOP lawmakers push back on bill to make greener refrigerators, air conditioners | Green groups sue Trump over California fracking plans Republicans push back on bipartisan bill to make greener refrigerators, air conditioners MORE, who made his announcement last week.


Democrats smell political blood in Texas and predicted hours after Hurd’s news broke that others will follow him. However, most of the retirements are in districts that are reliably Republican; Hurd and Olson are exceptions.


“Republicans across the Lone Star State are terrified of losing their seats in 2020 and Will Hurd just joined the list,” said Avery Jaffe, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Democrats will win this seat and if Will Hurd doesn’t believe he can keep his job in a changing Texas, his colleagues must be having second thoughts too.”


The New York Times: Will Hurd, only black Republican in House, is retiring from Congress.


The Texas Tribune: Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd to retire from Congress after holding on to a district Democrats are desperate to flip. 


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WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders apologizes to Biden for supporter's op-ed Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Trump' if the US doesn't elect progressive Democrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover up,' 'national disgrace' MORE, frustrated after more than a year of trade negotiations with China, tweeted on Thursday that the United States would impose a 10 percent tariff on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese imports beginning Sept. 1, another escalation in a trade war he suggests Beijing may be trying to drag out through the U.S. presidential election.


Trump’s decision, which China warned will be met with reciprocal punishment, increases the likelihood that the world’s two largest economies will be locked in a protracted trade dispute for months, if not years (The New York Times). Trump’s announcement followed half a day of what the administration called “constructive” talks that ended Wednesday between U.S. and Chinese negotiators in Shanghai. 


The president said the tariff rate could increase to as much as 25 percent, depending on whether the two governments strike a deal.


“I could always do more or I could do less,” he said.

The penalty, combined with the existing 25 percent tariff on $250 billion in Chinese goods, would cover almost all products the U.S. brings in from China (The Hill).

"China, they have to pay it," Trump told reporters. "They're paying for these tariffs. We're not. …Until such time as there is a deal, we'll be taxing them."


Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinSecurity for Trump's Mar-a-Lago visits cost local taxpayers million On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Senate approves Trump trade deal with Canada, Mexico | Senate Dems launch probe into Trump tax law regulations | Trump announces Fed nominees Senate Democrats launch investigation into Trump tax law regulations MORE wanted to give Beijing advance notice that Trump’s tariffs announcement was coming, but was overruled (Bloomberg).


The president’s action prompted a swoon in financial markets and retailers protested, arguing tariffs raise costs on goods American consumers purchase and will result in U.S. job losses (The Associated Press).


Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoCountries reach agreement in Berlin on Libya cease-fire push, arms embargo Trump Jr.: If 'weaker' Republicans only call for certain witnesses, 'they don't deserve to be in office' House Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't MORE, traveling in Thailand on Thursday for separate bilateral discussions, criticized China for what he called “coercion” in the Southeast Asia region following a meeting with a top Chinese diplomat (Reuters).


> North Korea: Trump on Thursday said the situation with North Korea’s missile tests “is very much under control,” arguing that the United States and Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnNorth Korea replaces its foreign minister: report Brent Budowsky: The patriotic duty of Senate Republicans US ambassador: 'I was personally surprised' North Korea did not send 'Christmas gift' MORE “never made an agreement” on testing of short-range missiles:


Pompeo joined the president in shrugging off Pyongyang’s tests as a danger, saying he remains hopeful that diplomatic talks with North Korea will resume “before too long” (The Associated Press).


We stand ready to continue our diplomatic conversation with the North Koreans,” Pompeo said in Bangkok. “We’re ready to go. We hope that Chairman Kim will deploy his team to meet with [U.S.] Special Representative [Stephen] Biegun so that we can continue the dialogue. … I’m optimistic that that will happen before too long, and we are looking forward to the chance to reconnect with them in a formal way diplomatically.”


Reuters: North Korea launched missiles today, for the third time in eight days, pressuring the Trump administration and South Korea.


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> Afghanistan: The United States is preparing to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan in exchange for concessions from the Taliban including a cease-fire and renunciation of al Qaeda. The initial deal — not completed — could end the nearly 18-year-old war (The Washington Post).


> Nuclear treaty: As anticipated, the administration today announced U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range-Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia “due to the Russian Federation’s continuing violation” of an arms control agreement negotiated 32 years ago. The United States plans to test a new missile in coming weeks that would have been prohibited under the pact (The Associated Press). “Russia is solely responsible for the treaty’s demise,” the State Department said in a statement.


> Justice Department: As The Hill reported Wednesday, former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyNYT: Justice investigating alleged Comey leak of years-old classified info Bernie-Hillary echoes seen in Biden-Sanders primary fight Rosenstein on his time in Trump administration: 'We got all the big issues right' MORE will not be prosecuted by DOJ for leaking memos he drafted in 2017 containing information subsequently classified by the department. Comey testified to Congress and wrote a best-selling book in which he described information-sharing with the news media motivated by his effort to trigger an independent Russia-Trump investigation, which became the special counsel probe conducted by Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE (The Associated Press).


> White House security clearances: The intelligence community’s inspector general (IG) denied a request from Senate Democrats to review the policies and procedures involved in the administration’s granting of White House security clearances. The IG said Trump would have to request such a probe (CNN).


"As a legal matter, the ICIG also lacks authority to unilaterally review compliance by the [Executive Office of the President] with policies and procedures governing security clearances," IG Michael Atkinson wrote to senators.




MORE CONGRESS: The Senate broke for the August recess on Thursday after it passed the bipartisan agreement to lift the spending caps and the debt ceiling for two years, with most Democrats and more than half of GOP lawmakers voting for the bill.


The Senate voted 67-28 to send the bill to Trump’s desk. The bill will add $320 billion to the deficit over the next two years, and $1.7 trillion over the next decade rather than automatic spending cuts that would have taken effect. The deal was the final piece of must-pass legislation the Senate needed to move on before leaving town for five weeks and returning after Labor Day. 


Trump had urged Senate Republicans to pass the bill due to the spending increases included for the Pentagon and veterans. Just a week earlier, only 65 House Republicans voted for the package when it passed the lower chamber (The Hill).


The Hill: Trump border fight throws curveball into shutdown prospects.


The Hill: The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal.


The Washington Post: Trump’s North America trade deal in limbo as Congress leaves town.


> Election Security: Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump administration installs plaque marking finish of 100 miles of border wall Sanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate implications MORE (D-N.Y.) is keeping pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover up,' 'national disgrace' Romney pledges 'open mind' ahead of impeachment trial McConnell proposes compressed schedule for impeachment trial MORE (R-Ky.) to pass an election security package after the August break.


Schumer predicted to reporters that “pressure will continue to mount” on McConnell and Senate Republicans until they pass something aimed at protecting the 2020 elections from potential meddling by the Russians and other foreign adversaries (The Hill). 


"I do want to make one prediction: I predict that the pressure will continue to mount on Republican senators, especially Leader McConnell, and they will be forced to join us in taking meaningful action on election security this fall," Schumer told reporters during a pre-recess press conference.   


In recent weeks, Democrats have tried to bring bills to the floor using unanimous consent requests that have been blocked by Republicans, including McConnell, who has been dubbed by some as “Moscow Mitch,” leading him to issue a fiery rebuke on the Senate floor. 


“I was called unpatriotic, un-American and essentially treasonous by a couple of left-wing pundits on the basis of bold-faced lies. I was accused of aiding and abetting the very man I’ve singled out as an adversary and opposed for nearly 20 years, Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinDon't assume Iran will be behind the next big cyber attack Vladimir Putin will not be president for life but he is sure to have power Countries reach agreement in Berlin on Libya cease-fire push, arms embargo MORE,” McConnell railed (The Hill). 


Elsewhere in Congress … With the House out of town, Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarJayapal: 'We will end up with another Trump' if the US doesn't elect progressive Media's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Jayapal endorses Sanders MORE (D-Minn.) tweeted Thursday that she is in Africa with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWhite House appoints GOP House members to advise Trump's impeachment team House revives agenda after impeachment storm Democrats worry a speedy impeachment trial will shut out public MORE (D-Calif.), saying that the Speaker “didn’t just make arrangements to send me back, she went back with me” (The Hill).


POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: During a 90-minute reelection rally in Cincinnati on Thursday, the president unspooled a politically conventional checklist of contrasts between what he framed as his record of achievements and what he called excesses and extremes among Democrats in Congress and those campaigning for the White House.  


Trump assailed Democrats as destroyers of America’s inner cities — he mentioned Baltimore, Los Angeles and San Francisco — politicians who “deliver poverty for their constituents and prosperity for themselves.”


Largely sticking to his prepared text and interrupted several times by hecklers, Trump told the cheering crowd, “I don’t want to be controversial. We want no controversy.” He mentioned former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSanders apologizes to Biden for supporter's op-ed Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Trump' if the US doesn't elect progressive White House appoints GOP House members to advise Trump's impeachment team MORE and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenJayapal: 'We will end up with another Trump' if the US doesn't elect progressive Former health insurance executive: Current system is bankrupting country The American disease and death bowls MORE (D-Mass.) as punchlines, gently weaving his nicknames for them — “Sleepy Joe” and “Pocahontas” — into his storytelling.


There were no Ohio chants of “send her back,” which marred the president’s last rally in Greenville, N.C.  


Democrats have never been further outside the mainstream,” the president said while expanding on what he described as the economic and national security milestones of his leadership. “We’re not going to ever let our country go down the route of socialism,” Trump said, playing up many of the conservative and populist themes that helped him win in 2016.


“This movement is about your family and future and about the life and fate of your country,” he added. 


The Hill: Trump targets Democrats over state of U.S. cities.


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> Obama under attack: After a debate night that centered on the bashing of policies and the work of the Obama administration, Biden continued to defend the work of former President Obama while campaigning in Detroit Thursday morning. 


Biden called the attacks on the Obama record “bizarre,” with others lamenting that the attacks weren’t directed at Trump instead. On multiple occasions, 2020 Democrats criticized the Obama administration’s work on a number of issues, including deportations, immigration and health care. 


"I was a little surprised at how much incoming there was about Barack, about the president," Biden said. “I’m proud of having served him. I’m proud of the job he did. I don’t think there's anything he has to apologize for.”


"He changed the dialogue, he changed the whole question, he changed what was going on. And the idea that somehow it’s comparable to what this guy is doing is absolutely bizarre," Biden said, comparing Obama to Trump (The Hill).


Additionally, former Obama administration officials called on the Democratic field to train their fire away from the former president. Former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderParties to wage census battle with outside groups Welcome to third-world democracy and impeachment Uber settles sexual harassment charges for .4 million MORE warned candidates to “be wary” of attacking Obama’s record. 


“To my fellow Democrats. Be wary of attacking the Obama record.  Build on it.  Expand it. But there is little to be gained - for you or the party - by attacking a very successful and still popular Democratic President,” Holder tweeted.


As for Trump, he took note of the comments and made a point of calling out the Obama criticism from the outset of his campaign rally on Thursday night in Cincinnati. 


“The Democrats spent more time attacking Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama marks MLK Day by honoring King for his 'poetic brilliance' and 'moral clarity' Biden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina National Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo MORE than they did attacking me, practically,” he said to cheers from his supporters. “This morning, that’s all the fake news was talking about. That wasn’t pretty.” 


Josh Kraushaar: Democrats rebuke Obama’s legacy at their own peril.


Politico: “Stay away from Barack”: Dems seethe over criticism of Obama.


The Hill: Team Biden projects confidence post-debate.


Josh Rogin: Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardButtigieg to attend MLK Day event in South Carolina after facing criticism Poll: Sanders holds 5-point lead over Buttigieg in New Hampshire Gabbard defeats man in push-up contest at New Hampshire town hall MORE’s (D-Hawaii) Syria record shows why she can’t be president. 


Peggy Noonan: More Gabbard, Delaney and Williamson, please.


The New York Times: Debates identify plenty of Democratic divisions, but not a consensus favorite. 


Elsewhere in 2020 politics … Booker’s campaign revealed Thursday that it had marked 24-hour fundraising record starting with the beginning of Wednesday’s debate (The Hill).


The Democrats’ debate was a panderfest, by Mark PennMark PennPoll: Majority say IG report revealed pattern of misjudgment by FBI Poll: Biden holds double-digit lead over 2020 Democratic rivals Majority say Pelosi should send impeachment articles to Senate: poll MORE, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Joe Biden versus Elizabeth Warren may be the ultimate primary battle, by Allan Lichtman, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) to discuss his 2020 presidential bid and the Detroit debates; Robby Soave, associate editor at Reason, to talk about Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyHawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Biden calls for revoking key online legal protection House poised to hand impeachment articles to Senate MORE's (R-Mo.) Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act; and Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackThe Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial Both sides of the aisle call for local, state, federal cooperation on homelessness The Hill's Editor-In-Chief: New concerns that Biden is Hillary 2.0 MORE, editor-in-chief of The Hill, for his weekly segment, “The DeBrief.” Find Hill.TV programming at or on YouTube at 10 a.m.


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


The Senate returns to work on Sept. 9. 


The president has an announcement about the European Union and trade in the Roosevelt Room at 1:45 p.m. He departs later for a weekend in Bedminster, N.J.


Vice President Pence travels to Atlanta to speak at the Resurgent Gathering at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta at 11:20 a.m. Later, he’ll be the keynote speaker at the 11th annual Teneo Retreat before returning to Washington.


Pompeo is in Bangkok and spoke Friday to the Siam Society and participates in the East Asia Summit ministerial, the ASEAN Regional Forum ministerial, and a bilateral meeting with Thailand Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai. Over the weekend, he’ll be in Sydney for Australia-United States ministerial consultations. Next week, Pompeo is scheduled to make a diplomatic stop in Kolonia, Micronesia.


Economy: The Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 a.m. reports on the U.S. employment situation in July.


News deserts: On Monday, the Warroad Pioneer in Minnesota, which printed about 1,100 copies per week for more than a century, joined roughly 2,000 newspapers that have closed in the United States over the past 15 years (The New York Times). … And journalism job cuts haven’t been this bad since the Great Recession (Bloomberg).


State Watch: Last year’s Paradise wildfire in California should never have happened, and will happen again, reports Mark Arax in California Sunday Magazine.


Working dogs forever: Snail mail Forever stamps now honor military working dogs, which we predict will be an instant hit. The U.S. Postal Service announced on Thursday that the new stamps include “stylized geometric illustrations” designed by USPS Art Director Greg Breeding depicting common service canines in the U.S. armed services, including the German shepherd, Labrador retriever, Dutch shepherd and Belgian Malinois. The red, white and blue stamps are available HERE. And for information about hard-working military dogs deployed around the world, check HERE.



And finally … Bravo to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners! Our puzzle was tough, we heard.


Here’s who aced the puzzle about Congress’s annual summer vacation: William Chittam, Donna Nackers, Candi Cee, B.J. Ford, Zev Lewis, Carol Katz, Ki Harvey, John Donato, Randall S. Patrick and Luther Berg.


Lawmakers’ August recess got its official, statutory start with the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970


The Capitol building in 1929 became more temperate with “manufactured weather,” otherwise known as air conditioning, courtesy of the Carrier Corporation


John Nance Garner was the former vice president who observed that “no good legislation ever comes out of Washington after June.”  


The House and Senate limit to three the number of days either can be in recess without the approval of the other chamber.   


Last summer, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced he would cancel all but a week of the August recess so that senators could get more work done in Washington. It was widely seen as part of a GOP political strategy to limit campaigning by vulnerable Senate Democrats before midterm elections.


© Library of Congress

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