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The Hill’s Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-‘squad’ controversy

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President Trump successfully lobbied Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bar entry to two freshman members of Congress who planned to visit Israel next week to lodge complaints about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. 

{mosads}The president’s unprecedented involvement and Netanyahu’s assent on Thursday to initially deny entry to two Democrats, Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, ignited another round of partisan tension in Washington and renewed debate on the world stage about what the president and the prime minister are trying to accomplish. 

The Israelis backed off in part early this morning, allowing Tlaib to enter the Israeli-occupied West Bank on humanitarian grounds to see her 90-year-old grandmother in the region. Minister Aryeh Deri published a letter from Tlaib, saying she would respect any restrictions and would “not promote boycotts” during her visit. However, she is still not allowed to make the official visit as initially planned, and Omar remains barred from entering the region. 

Trump — who campaigned Thursday in New Hampshire and mentioned Omar once in passing during his 95-minute rally — has tried to divide the Democratic caucus by branding Omar and Tlaib, both women of color and both Muslim, as far-left House extremists. Representatives Omar and Tlaib are the face of the Democrat Party, and they HATE Israel!” he tweeted. Both lawmakers are critics of the president and Netanyahu, support Palestinian rights and have backed the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel (The Hill).  

I can’t imagine why Israel would let them in. But if they want to let them in, they can,” the president told reporters before his rally began in New Hampshire.

The Washington Post: Governing by grievance, Trump wields official powers against political enemies.

Netanyahu, for his part, said he is complying with a law adopted in his country in 2017 that bars entry to foreign supporters of the global movement to boycott Israel (The New York Times). The prime minister also faces a critical election a month from now.

“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit,” Trump tweeted. “They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”

Netanyahu, in a statement, defended his blockade against Omar and Tlaib. “The two-member congressional visitation plan shows that their intent is to hurt Israel and increase its unrest against it.”

Tlaib, whose megaphone grew on Thursday as a result of the controversy, tweeted a photograph of her smiling Palestinian grandmother. “The decision by Israel to bar her granddaughter, a U.S. Congresswoman, is a sign of weakness b/c the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening,” she wrote.

Omar tweeted that as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, oversight of U.S. foreign aid and support for human rights are part of her job, woven into the trip she and Tlaib planned to make. Trump, she continued, exported his Muslim ban to Netanyahu, and the prime minister “has consistently resisted peace efforts, restricted the freedom of movement of Palestinians, public knowledge of the brutal realities of the occupation and aligned himself with Islamophobes like Donald Trump.”  

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), one of a House foursome that includes Omar and Tlaib and is nicknamed “the squad,” tore into Netanyahu with the suggestion that unless all U.S. lawmakers are welcome in Israel, none should travel there (The Hill). 

Democratic leaders and a few Republicans in Congress, including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), protested on Thursday that treating elected members of Congress as threats to an ally because of their beliefs was a regrettable mistake between two stalwart democracies (The Hill). 

Lawmakers running for president, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), also assailed Trump and said Israel should admit the lawmakers. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement that “Israel’s denial of entry to Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar is a sign of weakness and beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel.” 

Collins argued that if Trump had stayed out of the controversy and Israel had welcomed the two congresswomen next week for their planned itinerary, it would have sent a powerful message. 

“Israel should allow U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar to visit. The Trump Administration made a mistake in urging Israel to prevent them from entering the country,” she tweeted. “Instead, the Administration should have encouraged Israel to welcome the visit as an opportunity for Reps. Tlaib, and Omar to learn from the Israeli people. We have to be willing to talk if we want people to change their views.” 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) noted that a bipartisan group of lawmakers traveled to Israel a few weeks ago, and he suggested Tlaib and Omar passed up an opportunity to join that group. 

A record 70+ members of Congress—Reps and Dems—came to Israel this month with open minds, open eyes, and open ears. It’s unfortunate that a few freshmen members declined to join this opportunity to hear from all sides. They should have come,” he tweeted.

Perspectives & analysis:

The New York Times Editorial Board: What are Trump and Netanyahu afraid of?

The Washington Post Editorial Board: Barring Omar and Tlaib from Israel is un-Israeli. Trump’s cheering for it is un-American. 

Jonathan Allen: Netanyahu takes a big loss for Trump’s little win against ‘the squad.’

Aaron Blake: Did Trump and Israel get played by Omar and Tlaib? Some conservatives think so.

Matthew Lee and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press: Trump uses Israel to fuel partisan fires.

 

 

LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: The Democratic presidential field shrunk on Thursday as former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announced his exit from the race. He said  he’s exploring a potential bid for the Senate in what is expected to be a prime opportunity for Democrats to flip a seat in 2020.

{mossecondads}Hickenlooper made the news official in a video announcement to supporters, indicating that he will give a Senate bid a serious look despite repeatedly saying that he would not be a good fit for the Senate and that being a senator is not something he’s “cut out to be.” 

A potential Hickenlooper bid for the Senate could be a boon for Democrats, who tried to drop hints in the media over the past week that he would be in good shape if he did decide to make the jump. 

On Sunday, The Denver Post published polling connected to “a national Democratic group involved in Senate races” showing the former governor holding a commanding 51-point lead in the crowded Senate primary. A day later a super PAC known as the 314 Action Fund rolled out a “Draft Hick for Senate” campaign and released polling showing Hickenlooper leading Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) by double digits (The Hill). 

 

 

Republicans agree that Hickenlooper would be a formidable candidate, given the political mechanics of the state, which Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won by nearly five points in 2016. They also admit that Gardner is the underdog in a race against Hickenlooper, but note that Gardner also played that role in 2014 when he upset former Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.). They argue that Hickenlooper has weaknesses they can exploit.

“Even if Hickenlooper gets in, he’s still going to have a difficult fight,” said one GOP strategist. “[Gardner’s] still the same guy and capable of delivering an upset this time around.”

“Although it may sound good to some Washington Democrats for Hickenlooper to get out of the presidential race and enter the Colorado Senate race…what excites their base are fresh faces, and he’s not that at all,” the strategist continued. “I don’t think his entry in the race into the Colorado Senate race does more than earn a week of headlines.”

The strategist also likened the playbook against Hickenlooper to the same one used in the last two cycles against former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, where Republicans successfully labeled them as a bunch of has-beens and retreads. However, they concede the political conditions are different in Colorado than those four states. 

> Trump says a Democratic president would put economy at risk: The president told New Hampshire supporters the economy would “go down the tubes” if he loses in 2020. “You have no choice but to vote for me,he said a day after the largest decline in financial markets seen this year, triggered by fears of a possible recession. “Whether you love me or hate me, you’ve got to vote for me,” he told a crowd in Manchester, arguing that the value of Americans’ retirement accounts depend on his winning a second term (The Hill).

> O’Rourke back: Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) announced his plans to return to the campaign trail on Thursday after taking nearly two weeks to return to his hometown of El Paso, Texas, to comfort residents after a mass shooting. 

O’Rourke, who has struggled to gain traction and is facing calls to drop out and run for Senate, says he is redoubling his commitment to the presidential race. He attacked the president as a white supremacist, pointing to immigrant communities he says have been “terrorized” by the president, and called for new gun reforms (The Hill). 

“There have been some who have suggested that I stay in El Paso and run for Senate,” O’Rourke said. “But that would not be good enough for this community … we must take this fight directly to the source of this problem. The person who has caused this pain and placed this country in the moment of peril, and that is Donald Trump.” 

“As we head back to the campaign trail today, I know there is a way to do this better,” O’Rourke continued. “To those places where Donald Trump has been terrorizing … our fellow Americans, that’s where you’ll find me and this campaign. From El Paso, we’re heading to Mississippi to be with those families who have lost a loved one … because of the hostility of this administration to immigrants … anyone this president puts down, we will do our best to lift up.”

The former Texas congressman also dashed the hopes of many Democrats who were hoping he would drop his presidential bid in favor of a Senate race against Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), telling MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell that he will not do so under “any scenario.”

“I will not in any scenario run for the United States Senate,” O’Rourke said. “I’m running for president. I’m running for this country. I’m taking this fight directly to Donald Trump and that is what I am exclusively focused on doing right now.” 

Politico: NRA struggling to counter gun control push. 

The Hill: Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats’ commitment.

The New York Times: Relationship between former President Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden looks rosy. It wasn’t always that simple. 

> Lewandowski for Senate?: The president threw his weight behind Corey Lewandowski, his former campaign manager, as he considers a possible bid for the Senate in New Hampshire. “I think he’ll be tough to beat,” Trump said during his rally in Manchester, noting that Lewandowski had not decided whether to enter the race.

Ahead of his appearance in the Granite State, Trump lauded his former campaign hand as “an outstanding guy” during an interview with the “New Hampshire Today” radio show, adding that he “would be a great senator.”  

“Well, first of all, I have to tell you that I think he would be fantastic. He’s got great energy. He’s terrific on television … He’s a really good guy,” Trump said in the interview. 

If Lewandowski decides to wage a campaign of his own, he would be the fourth Republican to launch a bid to try to unseat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) (The Associated Press). 

WMUR: Lewandowski leads GOP US Senate field in poll conducted by Trump pollster.  

The Hill: State officials beg Congress for more election security funding. 

Reuters: Georgia must use paper ballots by 2020 if new voting system not up and ready.  

Typo correction: Morning Report erred on Thursday by identifying Gardner as a Democrat. He is a Republican.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CONGRESS: House Republicans have expressed interest in supporting the primary opponent of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) next year in the wake of his most recent head-scratching remarks, this time on abortion, rape and incest. 

A pair of prominent House Republicans, Reps. Paul Mitchell (Mich.) and Steve Stivers (Ohio), told The Hill on Thursday that they are actively considering backing Randy Feenstra, a state senator who has outraised King in consecutive fundraising quarters. 

Mitchell said that he plans on donating the maximum amount to Feenstra, while Stivers, who chaired the House GOP campaign arm in 2018, says he is “considering my options on supporting his primary opponent,” adding that the state senator is a “good man” from what he has heard.

“I will be openly contributing to his primary opponent and encouraging others to do the same. Enough of his destructive commentary,” said Mitchell, who is retiring at the end of his term. 

“In my opinion, Steve King does not reflect the values or principles of our conference,” Mitchell added. 

In his latest incendiary remarks, King offered the Westside Conservative Club in Iowa a defense of his position that abortion should be illegal, including in cases of rape and incest.  

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled out anyone who was a product of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?” King said, according to the Des Moines Register.

The Associated Press: Even as some cringe, Steve King’s support may endure.

> Subpoena season: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) subpoenaed Lewandowski and former White House official Rick Dearborn on Thursday as Democrats’ make another attempt to gather testimony from key figures in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.  

Nadler said he is seeking the public testimony on Sept. 17 from the two Trump era officials who were involved in President Trump’s attempts to persuade former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal from overseeing the Russia probe.   

“Corey Lewandowski and Rick Dearborn were prominently featured in the Special Counsel’s description of President Trump’s efforts to obstruct justice by directing then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire the Special Counsel, and then by ordering him to lie about it,” Nadler said in a statement (The Hill). 

CNN: White House officials look at executive privilege for Lewandowski, who never worked at W.H.

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

GOP tax cuts are a national security threat, by Marik von Rennenkampff, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2HmNqrl 

The party of Robert F. Kennedy is gone, by Hugh Hewitt, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2MjkJzy

 

WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. EDT features Jesse Trentadue, an attorney who had a brother who killed himself in an Oklahoma jail, talking about Jeffrey Epstein’s prison death; Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, discussing the recent Iowa State Fair and other current events; and The Hill’s editor-in-chief Bob Cusack, who leads The DeBrief news update. Find Hill.TV programming at http://thehill.com/hilltv 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 is at his home in New Jersey and has no public events, and Vice President Pence has no public events.

The Working Families Party will hold a live question-and-answer session on Saturday with 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at 7:30 p.m. Information to participate is HERE.

“Clear the Shelters Day” takes place on Saturday at 300 participating animal shelters in the United States and Puerto Rico from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (including at least five shelters and rescue organizations in the Washington, D.C., area). Adoption fees will be waived for all animals in the shelters (regular adoption policies and application procedures apply). Last year, more than 1,400 pets found homes in the D.C. area, thanks to this annual event! Information is HERE.

ELSEWHERE

China: Beijing on Thursday vowed to counter U.S. tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese goods but called on the United States to meet it halfway on a potential trade deal (Reuters) … In New Hampshire on Thursday, the president predicted the U.S. impasse with China could end soon, or not. “The tariffs are working.I have a feeling it’s going to go fairly short. …And I don’t know, you know, maybe they want to do this for years,” he added … Trump on Thursday tweeted that Chinese President Xi Jinping should consider meeting directly with protesters in Hong Kong, saying it would lead to a “happy and enlightened ending” to demonstrations (Bloomberg) … Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin resisted for months labeling China a currency manipulator, but Trump won out two weeks ago, arguing with his secretary that the official branding would pressure China back to the trade negotiating table. Instead, the move aggravated tensions between the two countries. U.S. laws that govern the process of “currency manipulator” designations are intended to guard against political interference (The Washington Post). In New Hampshire on Thursday, Trump said the labeling of China as a manipulator of its currency was a campaign promise kept.  

U.S. history: American slavery began 400 years ago this month, so The New York Times Sunday Magazine created coverage that “aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.” 

Feathered beach force: Ocean City, N.J., has unleashed a posse of raptors — four hawks, two falcons and one owl — to take on unruly gulls that dive bomb vacationers, steal food from their fingertips and disturb the ambiance of the boardwalk in summer. The birds of prey are trained to chase away, not kill the seagulls (The New York Times).

 

THE CLOSER

And finally … Kudos to this week’s Morning Report quiz winners!  

Woodstock’s 50th anniversary this weekend inspired these puzzle champions: James Wells, Paul Blumstein (who sent us a photo of his Woodstock ticket!), Donna Nackers, Patrick Kavanagh, Candi Cee, Tim Burrack, Carol Katz, Burt Cohen (who also attended the festival), Allyson Foster, John Donato, Steve Geimann, Rich Gruber, Luther Berg (whose wife, Renée, was one of the concertgoers), Ki Harvey, Jerry Kovar (who was also in the festival crowd) and Noel St. Pre.  

They knew that the original idea behind “Three Days of Peace and Music” — as conceived in 1969 by four organizing partners — was to make enough money to build a recording studio in Woodstock, N.Y.

The legendary music festival attracted an overwhelming 400,000 and 500,000 people near Bethel, N.Y., in Sullivan County, forcing the organizers to make it a free event. They had sold 186,000 advance tickets for a three-day festival they initially hoped might attract perhaps 200,000 people. (The tickets had been priced at $18 in advance for three days, and $24 at the gate.)

The Woodstock weekend opened with Richie Havens and closed with Jimi Hendrix.

The festival is remembered for great music and a peaceful crowd, but also rainy weather that turned fields to mud, not enough restrooms and first aid stations, a sound system that made it hard for most revelers to hear the bands, an abundance of recreational drugs and a scarcity of food and water. Thus, the correct answer was “all of the above.” 

The 1970 Oscar-winning documentary “Woodstock,” directed by Michael Wadleigh, is credited with cementing the enduring appreciation for a gathering that became shorthand for an American generation.  

BONUS => The Associated Press this year created a six-minute mini-documentary about the festival HERE … And former Rolling Stone rock photographer Baron Wolman, whose Woodstock photographs have been shown around the world, recalls the 1969 weekend during an interview HERE.

 

 

Tags 2020 Democrats Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Benjamin Netanyahu Bernie Sanders Beto O'Rourke Bob Cusack Corey Lewandowski Cory Gardner Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton Ilhan Omar Israel Israel visit Jeanne Shaheen Jeff Sessions Jerrold Nadler Joe Biden John Cornyn John Hickenlooper Kevin McCarthy Marco Rubio Mark Udall Morning Report Nancy Pelosi Paul Mitchell Rashida Tlaib Robert Mueller Steve King Steve Stivers Steven Mnuchin Susan Collins

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