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The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump vows federal response to Ohio, Texas shootings

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

About the best anyone can say about Wednesday’s events in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, following a pair of mass shootings over the weekend was that “do something” became, at least for the moment, America’s prevailing instruction.


President Trump flew to both cities to console victims and mourners. But he did so in a publicly combative style that drew protests from those who believe he brews racism and grievance, and attracted passionate rebuttals from his supporters, who argue that no president shapes the minds of armed murderers.


In the “do something” camp are the governors of Ohio and Texas, Mike DeWine and Greg Abbott, both Republicans. DeWine, under pressure from Ohioans to take action,  said on Tuesday that he’ll push for tough background checks and “red flag” laws, among other responses, while Abbott held a meeting with Texas officials on Wednesday and emerged with a plan for more discussions, possibly this month (The Texas Tribune).


“We need new and different strategies that go above and beyond what we did in the aftermath of dealing with shootings that took place at the school in Santa Fe,” Abbott said, referencing the 2018 shooting at a high school that killed eight students and two teachers. After that 2018 shooting, Abbott similarly called for roundtable meetings.


Trump, who has developed a pattern of endorsing and then abandoning proposed federal responses in the wake of mass shootings, knows the realities of the public debate: Congress has not passed major gun control legislation in two decades.


He said he’s generally in favor of tighter gun background checks, if the GOP-controlled Senate could muster enough votes. He knows the Senate will not. Trump told reporters that Congress lacks the “political appetite” to reinstate a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons, which expired in 2004. He is correct, but he has never put his presidential weight behind the idea that tough gun restrictions should be part of any national response to mass shootings.


“These are sick people,” Trump said. “It’s a mental problem.”


The Hill: President visits Dayton, El Paso amid protests calling for gun control.


“I’m looking to do background checks,” the president added, noting that he is consulting with House and Senate leaders about potential legislation. “I think background checks are important. I don’t want to put guns into the hands of mentally unstable people or people with rage or hate, sick people.”


Democrats in Congress and those running for president argue that the National Rifle Association (NRA) has a stranglehold on Republicans in Congress, and on Trump as he seeks reelection.


The Washington Post: Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) attacked Trump on Wednesday during separate speeches using scathing words and different messages.


The president’s response on Wednesday was that Democrats who fault his rhetoric, his policies, his motivations or his impact just want to score “political points” and are politicians who “aren’t doing very well.”


“I think my rhetoric is a very — it brings people together,” Trump said. “Our country is doing incredibly well.”


Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), who briefly flirted this year with a bid for the White House, greeted Trump on the tarmac when he arrived in Dayton, along with Democratic Mayor Nan Whaley. Brown, who said the president “was comforting” and “did the right things” while visiting Dayton, later complained that Congress cannot combat mass shootings because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the president are “in bed with the gun lobby” (The Hill).


McConnell built an extensive record as an opponent of gun restrictions during 35 years in the Senate and has reaped the benefits of a close relationship with the NRA (NBC News).


Nonetheless, the majority leader has turned to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and two other GOP leaders to seek a bipartisan compromise on federal “red flag” legislation, which would allow authorities to obtain a type of protective order — known as an extreme risk protection order, or E.R.P.O. — to remove guns from people deemed to be dangerous.


The Associated Press: Bipartisan Senate momentum may be growing toward a vote on a “red flag” proposal.


Some Senate Democrats have co-sponsored “red flag” measures, which remained in limbo since last year, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) argued on Wednesday that Republicans’ sudden enthusiasm for such legislation is a red herring. He said Senate Democrats want a floor vote on House-passed measures tightening background checks.


The Hill: Democrats argue a federal “red flag” law would not be enough.


Partisan divides in America over guns run deep. But large majorities of both gun owners and non owners have favored limiting access to guns for people with mental illnesses and individuals who are on federal no-fly or watch lists. They have also embraced background checks for private sales and for sales at gun shows, according to an in-depth Pew Research Center study conducted in 2017.


FiveThirtyEight explained on Wednesday how views about gun control have changed in the last 30 years: “The big-picture trend appears to be that, after bottoming out in the polls almost a decade ago, gun control has gotten more popular recently.”


The Hill: Trump “all in favor” of background checks but doubts will of Congress.


The Hill: Trump slams Ohio Democrats after his visit to a Dayton hospital.


The New York Times: What could a domestic terrorism law do?


Not all murderous rampages involve guns. A 31-year-old man wielding a knife stabbed and killed four people and wounded two, apparently at random, during a bloody two-hour drama across two Southern California cities on Wednesday. The suspect, whose motivation was described as “rage,” was arrested (The Associated Press).





POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: With the recent tragedy in El Paso dominating news coverage and the public conversation, the spotlight is back on former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), who has canceled his scheduled campaign events in recent days and has focused on the community he once represented in Congress. He is also focused on Trump, calling the president “a white supremacist.”


As Amie Parnes writes, O’Rourke’s distress and anger along with his prominence in the aftermath of the tragedy — giving interviews, visiting the wounded, attending memorials and representing his community — has reminded some Democratic voters of why they rallied to him in the first place. It also has reopened a question: whether a genuine, authentic response to a horrific tragedy could have a political impact, giving new momentum to his fledgling campaign.  


Democratic strategists say they feel for a candidate seeking to speak out for his community at its most vulnerable moment.  


“Being from El Paso, he can speak of this tragedy from an incredibly personal standpoint and it makes his remarks very poignant and relevant,” said Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. “He comes off very authentic and he is speaking from his heart and soul on this tragic issue.”


> Sanctuary Cities: With Obama administration’s policies becoming a bigger issue in the Democratic primary, one question that has cropped up is whether Biden supports sanctuary cities.


Immigration was one of the foremost issues that came up during the second Democratic debate, including questions directed at Biden over the administration’s record on deportations. While he defended the record on immigration and deportations, the question remains unanswered on sanctuary cities.


As Jonathan Easley reports, At a 2007 Democratic presidential primary debate, Biden was asked directly if he would allow the cities to ignore federal law. “No,” he responded. When asked earlier this year about the topic, Biden’s camp responded by saying that he does not support Trump’s “crackdown” on sanctuary cities or the efforts to deprive them of federal money. 


Beyond that, it’s unclear whether Biden supports any enforcement efforts whatsoever. As recently as 2016, the Obama administration angered liberals by changing federal policy by encouraging sanctuary cities to abandon their stance of refusing to work with federal officials on deportation requests.





> Health care: While “Medicare for All” has become a major debate point in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, it soon may become one in Senate races as Democratic candidates run on protecting the Affordable Care Act and coverage for those with preexisting conditions. 


The ObamaCare and preexisting conditions strategy worked wonders in 2018 as Democrats helped flip the House on that message, but the ongoing debate on legislation championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and others is distracting from that message, potentially impacting Senate races in states where the proposal is unpopular. 


In Arizona and Colorado, where Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) are set to face tough races next year, their campaigns and allies have turned the attention to their potential Democratic opponents and are trying to tether them to the ongoing debate atop the Democratic primary (The Hill). 


The Hill: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock says Democrats “are well on our way to losing this election.”


The Hill: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) rolls out plan to invest in rural economy.


Politico: How Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) would handle farm, rural policy.


CONGRESS & INVESTIGATIONS: House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) let loose a vigorous defense of Baltimore and a biting critique of the president during a speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday, saying that  “the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior.”


Cummings, who delivered the long-scheduled speech in Washington, did not mention Trump by name, but it was evident who he was referring to as he discussed the rise of white nationalism and the recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. 


“As a country, we finally must say that enough is enough — that we are done with the hateful rhetoric, that we are done with the mass shootings, that we are done with the white supremacist domestic terrorists who are terrorizing our country and fighting against everything America stands for,” he said. “We are all sick of this.”


The comments came after a lengthy, public back-and-forth with the president, who repeatedly denigrated the area Cummings represents as “disgusting” and “filthy.”


“No human being would want to live there,” Trump tweeted at one point.





> McGahn subpoena: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is moving forward with plans to enforce a subpoena against Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, as Democrats increase pressure on the former top White House aide to testify before the panel. 


Pelosi announced Nadler’s move in a “Dear Colleague” letter Wednesday afternoon to lawmakers.


“On the litigation front, Chairman Nadler will file a complaint in court today to enforce a subpoena to compel former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify before the Committee as part of its investigation into obstruction, corruption and abuse of power by President Trump and his associates,” Pelosi wrote.


Nadler subpoenaed McGahn to testify on April 22, only days after former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report was released. McGahn defied the Judiciary Committee’s subpoena at the behest of the White House. 


In particular, Democrats on the panel want to ask McGahn about the president’s orders for McGahn to remove the special counsel amid his ongoing probe. McGahn did not follow the orders, and prepared to resign at the time of the requests (The Hill). 

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!


Why gun control is so hard to enact, by Jonathan Turley, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


Donald Trump’s redeeming moment, by Steve Israel, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Lindsay Singleton, an expert on Latin America, to react to the new Venezuela embargo; Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for The Intercept, to talk about progressive primary challengers; and Rafael Bernal, staff writer for The Hill, to discuss the Hispanic vote in 2020. Find Hill.TV programming at or on YouTube at 10 a.m.


The House and Senate continue to meet in pro forma sessions but are not scheduled to return for votes until Sept. 9.


The president will have lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 12:45 p.m.


Vice President Pence travels to London, Ky., to speak at Operation Coal Country Innovative Readiness Training, a Defense Department program that provides medical care in the field, at 1 p.m. at Eastern Kentucky University. He will return to Washington this afternoon.


The Iowa State Fair in Des Moines begins today through Aug. 18. 2020 Democratic presidential candidates Biden and Bullock are expected to stop by today.


Tariff tit-for-tat effects: In Germany, “the continued plunge in production is scary,” Bankhaus Lampe economist Alexander Krueger said, adding that a recession in the manufacturing sector was likely to continue due to the escalating trade dispute between China and the United States (Reuters). … Trump on Wednesday again argued the Federal Reserve should cut interest rates “bigger and faster.” Trump’s decision last week to impose new tariffs on Chinese imports threw the Fed another curveball that may force it to cut rates more than the central bank had hoped was necessary to protect the economy from trade-policy risks (Reuters). … U.S. businesses and farmers are begging Trump for relief from his escalating trade war with China (The Hill). …For every dollar collected by the U.S. Treasury from new tariffs on Chinese goods, a dollar is authorized to fund rescue programs for farmers who have been harmed by retaliation from China and other countries (The Wall Street Journal).


Immigration: At least 600 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents fanned out across Mississippi on Wednesday to round up undocumented workers laboring in chicken processing and other plants operated by five companies. The workers were processed for deportation, some taken away in plastic wrist cuffs in front of their children. It was the largest such government raid in a decade, and the companies involved may be charged with knowingly hiring workers who are in the country illegally. The companies will be investigated for tax, document and wage fraud (The Associated Press).   


Puerto Rico: The top court in Puerto Rico invalidated Gov. Pedro Pierluisis appointment on Wednesday, removing the former resident commissioner from the office he had held for just five days. The tribunal’s nine justices said the territory’s constitution was not followed, opening the door to another successor. Next in line to become governor is Secretary of Justice Wanda Vázquez Garced (The Hill).


Silicon Valley: The White House is drafting an executive order that would wield the power of the federal government against what Trump views as conservative bias or censorship of conservative viewpoints inside big tech companies based in California (Politico). … Twitter suspended a McConnell campaign account for posting a video of protesters cursing outside the senator’s home — specific content the company said violated its policy barring violent threats (The Hill).


Clemency: Trump said on Wednesday night that he is “thinking very seriously” about commuting the prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who is serving a 14-year prison sentence for wire fraud, extortion and soliciting bribes and was impeached and removed from office. The president, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, described his sympathy for Blagojevich after viewing the former governor’s wife on television making an appeal for clemency (Reuters).


Manifestos & mass shooters: From Pittsburgh to Christchurch, and now El Paso, white men accused of carrying out deadly mass shootings have cited the same fear: the extinction of the white race. The threat of the “great replacement,” or the idea that white people will be replaced by people of color, was cited directly in the four-page document written by the man arrested in the killing of 22 people in El Paso. Some experts who study the trend are concerned the concept of “replacement” is being embraced more readily by lone-wolf white terrorists and even some politicians, producing a particularly dangerous climate. Nearly 75 percent of extremist murders committed in the United States over the past decade were carried out by people espousing white supremacist ideology, according to research by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism (The New York Times).


In the Know: The Emmys have decided to follow the lead of the Oscars and are going hostless when they celebrate the year in television next month. Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier said the decision was made to spotlight all of the star-studded shows that ended in 2019 rather than have a host who could steal the show. “It’s our job to assess how to elevate the program … and what’s interesting about this year is how many amazing shows we’re saying goodbye to: Game of Thrones, Empire, Veep, Big Bang Theory,” Collier said (The Hill).





And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the dog days of August and summer getaways, we’re eager for some smart guesses about presidential vacations.


Email your responses to and/or, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.


In what Western state did former President Clinton and his family do some strategically public horseback riding and communing with nature during their summer sojourn in 1995 (and again in 1996)? 

  1. Montana
  2. Wyoming
  3. Idaho
  4. Washington


Democrats took turns knocking former President George W. Bush for taking vacations on his ranch near which Texas town? 

  1. The Woodlands
  2. Stonewall
  3. Crawford
  4. Magnolia


Which president took a four-month vacation, the longest in U.S. history? 

  1. George Washington
  2. James Madison 
  3. William Howard Taft
  4. Franklin Roosevelt


Former President Eisenhower played 800 rounds of golf while in office. During his first vacation as president, which famed golf course did he play? 

  1. Pebble Beach
  2. Oakmont
  3. Torrey Pines
  4. Augusta National




Tags Amy Klobuchar Bernie Sanders Charles Schumer Cory Booker Cory Gardner Donald Trump Elijah Cummings Elizabeth Warren Jerrold Nadler Joe Biden Lindsey Graham Martha McSally Mike Pompeo Nancy Pelosi Pedro Pierluisi Robert Mueller Sherrod Brown Steve Bullock Steve Israel

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