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The Hill’s Morning Report – Mass shootings put spotlight on Trump, Congress

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It’s Monday! 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.

President Trump this morning will speak to the nation following two mass shootings over the weekend that killed 29 people and injured 50 as a result of what he said is “a mental illness problem” that has escalated “for years and years” in America.


Democrats, at least one Republican and many presidential candidates on Sunday said Trump’s own actions to denigrate immigrants, incendiary rhetoric about “invasions” of migrants across the southern border with Mexico, and willingness to stoke racial and ethnic fears are partly responsible for a national atmosphere of anger and violence and what some called “white nationalist terrorism.”


“He is a racist, and he stokes racism in this country,” former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a presidential candidate and former El Paso, Texas, city councilman, said of Trump on Sunday (The Hill).


Hate has no place in our country,” the president said, while defending his administration’s record of seeking to prevent mass shootings (The Hill).


The president and his White House advisers dismissed the finger-pointing as Democratic scapegoating during a time of tragedy.


The Hill: Democrats point to Trump rhetoric on immigration in the wake of two mass shootings.


Politico: String of gun deaths reshapes Democratic primary. The immediate aftershocks of the shootings were felt by the three candidates whose home states were affected: Tim Ryan in Ohio, O’Rourke and Julián Castro in Texas. They tore up their campaign schedules and rushed to their home states amid a crush of news media interest.


Trump said he spoke over the weekend with the attorney general, the FBI director, governors and lawmakers and federal flags were lowered to half-staff. “We have to get it stopped,” he said. “This has been going on for years, for years and years in our country.”


Trump has been president through at least 11 mass shootings in the United States. There was a time when he boasted he was tough enough to take on the National Rifle Association. He proposed changing gun background checks, favored limits on high-capacity ammunition clips and followed through to ban bump stocks. “It’s time,” he told a bipartisan group of lawmakers in early 2018. “We’ve got to stop this nonsense.” Trump also vowed to take action during an emotional televised White House event with victims and parents following the Parkland, Fla., school shooting just a year after his inauguration.


Today he confronts current and former lawmakers, primarily Democrats, who urged him to call the Senate back in session to enact a House-passed measure that tightens background checks (The Hill). Trump is not expected to accede to those requests.


Trump is under pressure. He is being assailed by progressive critics as a racist because of his eagerness to condemn African American Democrats in Congress by name, because he encouraged four female lawmakers to “go back” to their countries and because he stoked supporters at a Greenville, N.C., rally before they chanted “send her back.” Last week, he appeared to mock a foe in Congress, powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), on Twitter after the congressman’s Baltimore home was burgled.


On Sunday, Trump praised police and law enforcement for swift action in response to the shootings in El Paso on Saturday and in Dayton, Ohio, just 12 hours later.


The Associated Press: Law enforcement said police stopped the Ohio gunman in 30 seconds.


In Texas, a heavily armed shooter traveled nine hours from his home in the Dallas area to a busy Walmart close to the Mexican border in El Paso and opened fire in what authorities are investigating as domestic terrorism and possibly a hate crime. The 21-year-old suspect, Patrick Crusius, killed 20 people before being apprehended.


Authorities believe Crusius is probably the author of a rambling, hate-filled manifesto posted on the 8chan website shortly before Saturday morning’s shooting. It appeared to be written as a “response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas” with denunciations of “race mixers” and “haters of our collective values” (The Washington Post).


Hours later in Dayton, another white male suspect, Connor Betts, 24, of Bellbrook, Ohio, who was also heavily armed, shot and killed nine people and injured dozens of others while trying to enter a nightclub. He killed his 22-year-old sister, Megan Betts, and died at the scene as police responded. A motive remains unclear.


The two shooting sprees are not believed to be linked.


The Associated Press: While in high school, Betts allegedly was investigated and suspended for creating a “kill list” and a “rape list”involving classmates.


The Associated Press: List of the most recent shootings in the United States.





POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Sen. Kamala Harris’s (D-Calif.) campaign is looking to rebound after an uneven debate performance last week, headlined by the attacks from multiple 2020 rivals in her first debate as a top-tier presidential candidate 


Along with expected shots from former Vice President Joe Biden after the June debate on busing in Miami, Harris was targeted from those back in the pack, including Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), as they tried to make waves and break out of the lower tier. 


The California Democrat said she knew she was entering a new level of scrutiny since she had vaulted into contention, but she’s garnered mixed reviews thus far and the damage inflicted from Gabbard’s blistering attack on her tenure as California attorney general remains up in the air. Harris’s time as attorney general was long seen as a potential liability for her, particularly since the Black Lives Matter movement took shape. 


The campaign has since come out firing on Gabbard, labeling her an “apologist” for Syrian President Bashar Assad and defending Harris’s time in Sacramento (The Hill). 


The Hill: Biden faces scrutiny for his age from other Democrats.


The New York Times: Democratic candidates praise labor — and the Obama legacy, too.


NBC News: Democrats’s focus on the White House may be crowding out the statehouse — and it might cost them big.


George F. Will: For the Democrats, it’s winnowing time.





> Electability: While Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) delivered in last week’s Democratic debate in Detroit and continues to earn plaudits for her campaign, questions continue to linger about her viability in a general election matchup with the president. 


Over the past two months, Warren has continued her ascent in the push for the Democratic nod. But while she has unveiled a string of policy proposals and has run a solid and consistent campaign, some Democrats say she has been unable to show how she can win over centrist Democrats, independents and even disenfranchised Republicans. They also believe she has made some missteps, including her decision to take a DNA test after the president repeatedly mocked her for her claim that she was Native American (The Hill). 


“Everyone remembers how she played right into his hands,” said one Democratic strategist who remains neutral in the presidential race. “You can’t fold when it comes to Trump. You can’t give him any room to prove a point. It was a really weak moment and it said a lot.” 


“I think a lot of people look at the moment and say she can’t go up against Trump because she’s not electable even if she is a damn good candidate,” the strategist added.


The Hill: Warren’s pledge to avoid first nuclear strike sparks intense pushback.


The Washington Post: No ‘joyful warriors’: Democrats fret over negative tone of primary fight.


The Wall Street Journal: Trump campaign plans an economy-focused pitch to women. Will it work?


Paul Kane: Ambitious House Democrat class of 2012 comes to grips with making the grade.


The Hill: Andrew Yang banks upstart campaign on $1,000 proposition.


CONGRESS: House Democrats find themselves walking a tightrope on impeachment as they try to appease the progressive wing of the party and protect centrists and lawmakers in key swing districts who could help determine whether they keep hold of the House next year. 


As Mike Lillis and Olivia Beavers report, House Democratic leaders, led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), are making a renewed push to intensify their ongoing investigations into Trump-related affairs, labeling the process impeachment without opening up a formal inquiry into the president, all in an effort to strike a delicate balance and satisfy all parties. Whether the messaging acrobatics work remains an open question among lawmakers.


The path “we are taking does not require a vote, so I guess for some people who are anxious to vote, to officially move forward, they will be disappointed,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the head of the party’s messaging. “For people who are not interested in voting, I guess they will be pleased.”


Pressure continues to swell for the party to launch a formal inquiry as the pro-impeachment crowd is expected to become the majority of the House Democratic Caucus this week. According to the latest whip list by The Hill, 117 lawmakers support opening an inquiry — one away from a majority. But the decision still rests with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has remained defiant about continuing on the course Democrats are on now, until 218 lawmakers support opening an inquiry.  


> GOP struggles: In the wake of Rep. Will Hurd’s (R-Texas) announcement that he will not run for reelection in 2020, pessimism has grown within Republican circles regarding their chances to retake the House next year. 


As Juliegrace Brufke and Julia Manchester write, Republicans will need to win 18 or 19 seats next November, depending on the results in the North Carolina Ninth Congressional District special election, and with each key retirement, the path to winning back the majority becomes more arduous. 


“It just requires a strong candidate and some additional resources, frankly, to build name ID and to deal with that because you aren’t the incumbent — that does make it harder to hold the seat, which is why you’re seeing from the shift in The Cook Political Report and some of those,” said one member about the challenges open seats present.


“The question is, can we gather the additional resources, raise the additional funds necessary to support that while also continuing the efforts to win the majority?” the member said. “History is not kind on this.


Republicans were dealt two more blows on Sunday in their efforts to keep the House. After weeks of speculation, Rep. Ken Marchant (R-Texas), who represents a seat in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs, is expected to announce his retirement on Monday, marking the eighth House Republican to do so this cycle. Marchant would also be the fourth Texas Republican to do so, giving Democrats another pick-up opportunity in 2020. In Maine, former Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine) announced that he will not run against Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) in a bid to reclaim his old House seat, a true toss-up district, citing family reasons for the decision. 


> On the mend: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is home recovering in Louisville, Ky., after tripping on his patio and suffering a fractured shoulder.


“He has been treated, released, and is working from home in Louisville,” said David Popp, a McConnell spokesperson, in a statement (The Hill).


McConnell’s injury came after he returned to his home state for the five-week August recess. The GOP leader, 77, spent Saturday in Fancy Farm, Ky., campaigning at the state’s preeminent political event as he gears up for his looming reelection battle next year. In his speech, McConnell fired back at Democrats labeling him “Moscow Mitch” as they heckled him wearing Cossack hats and related T-shirts (Lexington Herald-Leader). 


“You know it’s appropriate to see a bunch of Democrats running around with communist flags on their shirts,” McConnell said. “That ought to tell you where they want to take the country with the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, their whole agenda, to fundamentally change the country into something it’s never been. So I think them wearing shirts with the communist flags on it makes a lot of sense.”





> September chaos: With a deal to raise spending caps and the debt ceiling in the bag, lawmakers are now expected to tackle the next challenge after they return from August recess: funding the government.


Lawmakers will have only three weeks to prevent a second shutdown in a year that is set to start on Oct. 1 without congressional action. Congress will have to pass 12 government funding bills or a continuing resolution that would give negotiators more time while extending funding at 2019 levels (The Hill). 


“I think you better hold onto your hat in September because it’s going to be a fast track,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Things are going to move.” 

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


‘Gladiator’ politics isn’t helping us to pick the best president, by Christopher R. Hill, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


Greenland’s ice wasn’t expected to melt like this until 2070, by Thomas Mote, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Manny Garcia, the executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, to talk about the El Paso shooting, Hurd’s retirement and the upcoming Democratic debate in Houston; Jim Risen, senior national security correspondent at The Intercept, to discuss his recent story on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; and journalist Michael Tracey to weigh in on Gabbard’s 2020 chances. Find Hill.TV programming at or on YouTube at 10 a.m.


The House and Senate will get back to work on Sept. 9.


The president will deliver remarks at 10 a.m. in the White House Diplomatic Reception Room in response to mass shootings that occurred over the weekend in Texas and Ohio. Trump will have lunch with Vice President Pence. Whether Trump will travel to either state this week had not been announced overnight. The president is scheduled to tout U.S. manufacturing in Monaca, Pa., on Thursday while visiting a Shell Chemical cracker plant there (WPXI and KDKA2 CBS Pittsburgh).  


Pence will participate in an International Religious Freedom roundtable at 11 a.m. focused on China, with Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom. The event will be in the vice president’s ceremonial office at the White House. He’ll join the president for lunch at 12:30 p.m.


Pompeo is scheduled to make a diplomatic stop in Kolonia, Micronesia on his return to Washington Aug. 6 after travel in Thailand and Australia.


The National Conference of State Legislatures holds a conference in Nashville through Aug. 8.  


Economy: Trump’s tariffs on Chinese imported goods and continued threats to increase the levies while seeking a trade deal with Beijing pose a domestic economic risk for his 2020 reelection bid, report Niv Elis and Sylvan Lane (The Hill).


Iran: On Sunday, Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized an Iraqi oil tanker in the Gulf that they said was smuggling fuel, Iran’s state media reported on Sunday. Seven crewmen were reported detained in a show of power amid heightened tension with the West. A spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet said the United States had no information to confirm the media reports (Reuters). Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif today criticized U.S. sanctions imposed on him on Wednesday and accused the United States of closing the door to diplomacy. “Iran used to forgo some maritime offenses in … (the) Gulf but will never close (its) eyes anymore,” he said at a news conference (Reuters).


Melting: The Arctic, including Siberia, is warming at least twice as fast as the rest of the world, and the ancient permafrost is thawing. The changes in the landscape knock down structures, shift the migration patterns of animals and produce severe flooding in spring (The New York Times). … The Greenland ice sheet is in the throes of one of its greatest melting events ever recorded. Between June 11 and June 20, the once-frozen sheet lost the equivalent of 80 billion tons of ice. The fate of the island’s ice sheet is of critical importance to every coastal resident in the world because Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory, already is the biggest contributor to modern-day sea level rise (The Washington Post).


Slavery revised: An elite Washington, D.C., girls’ school once believed its founding nuns taught slaves to read. Instead, the school learned that its former nuns sold at least 107 slaves — men, women and children — over many years as a way to raise funds to expand the school (The Washington Post and The New York Times). 





And finally … Irish teenager Fionn Ferreira won $50,0000, the grand prize at the Google Science Fair, for his solution to a major water pollution problem, microplastic trash. His  achievement earned front-page headlines in Ireland, a Twitter salute from the Irish president and a hero’s welcome at the Cork Airport when he returned home.


A walk on the beach in his coastal hometown of Ballydehob led the 18-year-old to dream up a reliable, safe way to extract microplastics from water using magnets. Tiny particles of plastic pollute drinking water consumed worldwide as well as the natural environment. It was that problem that Ferreira — who is fluent in three languages, is the winner of 12 science awards and has a minor planet named after him — said sparked his thinking.


A panel of judges at the Google event considered science and technology experiments submitted by students 13 through 18 from around the world before awarding Ferreira a prize that he said will help fund his college education this fall (CNN). 




Tags Andrew Yang Bruce Poliquin David Cicilline Donald Trump Elijah Cummings Elizabeth Warren Jerrold Nadler Joe Biden Joe Manchin Mike Pompeo Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Tim Ryan Tulsi Gabbard Will Hurd

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