The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes




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. Alexis Simendinger is doing solo duty this week while Al Weaver enjoys some R&R. Find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and CLICK HERE to subscribe!

President TrumpDonald John TrumpUPS, FedEx shut down calls to handle mail-in ballots, warn of 'significant' problems: report Controversial GOP Georgia candidate attempts to distance from QAnon Trump orders TikTok parent company to sell US assets within 90 days MORE threw some curveballs at Congress on Tuesday, softening his already tentative push for tougher bipartisan measures to thwart mass shootings and reviving his enthusiasm for economic stimulus through tax cuts, even as he insists the go-go economy is not heading toward recession.


Enactment of gun restrictions and adoption of major new tax cuts are each seen as highly unlikely before next year’s elections, especially without intense commitments from Trump to cut politically dicey deals with Congress. 


Bucking his conservative base on expanded gun background checks poses political risks, and the president sounded on Tuesday like a candidate who was disinterested in adding risk to his reelection terrain. On cutting taxes, Trump is in a bind. He’s told supporters the U.S. economy is in great shape, yet he’s nervous enough about a downturn to express enthusiasm for slashing payroll or capital gains taxes, both non-starters in a House led by Democrats. 


Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCongress exits with no deal, leaving economists flabbergasted Trump says he'll sign USPS funding if Democrats make concessions Pelosi calls Trump attacks on mail-in voting a 'domestic assault on our Constitution' MORE (D-Calif.) last week called the House back early to work on Sept. 4 to dive into tougher gun measures, and members of the Senate on both sides of the aisle are working to draft legislation to promote “red flag” laws, which permit law enforcement to confiscate weapons from people who may be a threat to themselves or others. It’s unclear if the GOP-led Senate will put any gun measure on the floor without Trump’s forceful advocacy.


The odds of that seemed to fade as the president, pressured by the National Rifle Association, mused aloud about a legislative “slippery slope” that could undercut the GOP’s solidarity behind gun rights. Trump’s comments retreated from remarks he made immediately after shootings earlier this month in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, when he said he could support “intelligent” gun background checks and advocated addressing mental illness. 


“A lot of the people that put me where I am are strong believers in the Second Amendment and I am also,” the president said in the Oval Office on Tuesday, noting he’s been reminded of concerns from his base. “They call it the slippery slope, and all of a sudden everything gets taken away. We’re not going to let that happen,” he said (The Hill).


The Hill: Hobbled NRA shows strength with Trump.


The Atlantic: Trump on Tuesday phoned the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre to say universal background checks are off the table, adding he wants to focus on “increasing funding” for mental-health care and directing attorneys general across the country to start prosecuting “gun crime” through federal firearms charges.


The New York Times: After lobbying by gun rights advocates, Trump sounds a familiar retreat.


The Washington Post: Parkland, Fla., students unveil a sweeping gun-control proposal and ambition for a youth voting surge in 2020.


Niall Stanage: Polls flash warning signs for Trump. 


Much more appealing to the president’s GOP supporters, especially if the economy contracts, might be talk of lowering tax burdens. A day after the president’s aides tried to tamp down reports that cutting payroll tax cuts was under serious discussion at the White House, Trump said it was indeed an idea under serious discussion, at least this week. He also mentioned his long-running enthusiasm for lowering taxes on capital gains (The Hill). Trump said he might not need Congress to index capital gains to inflation (Reuters).


The president’s interest in building tax-code fortresses against potential political jeopardy could influence his fall agenda with Congress. One idea Trump resists: retreating from U.S. tariff punishments against China, which most economists agree contribute to slower U.S. economic growth.


Those economic fears could give China greater leverage in negotiations. Beijing has warned that if the U.S. doesn’t lift the tariffs, China will continue to retaliate through the election, and it has already imposed retaliatory tariffs and stopped buying U.S. agriculture products (NBC News).


The Associated Press: President acknowledges China policies may mean U.S. economic pain.


The Washington Post: Fact-checking Trump’s remarks on the economy (spoiler alert: the attorney general in 1993 wrote that a president cannot index capital gains without Congress).





POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Democratic presidential candidates have one week remaining to meet the Democratic National Committee’s rules to qualify for the debate stage Sept. 12 and Sept. 13 in Houston, moderated by ABC News and Univision.


Ten have already made the cut by meeting polling and grassroots fundraising thresholds: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenOn The Money: Economists flabbergasted after Congress leaves with no deal | Markets rise as the economy struggles | Retail sales slow in July Congress exits with no deal, leaving economists flabbergasted Trump touts NYC police union endorsement: 'Pro-cop all the way' MORE, New Jersey Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerNew Jersey governor to announce state will move to mostly mail-in voting for November The Memo: Trump attacks on Harris risk backfiring On The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' MORE, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - The choice: Biden-Harris vs. Trump-Pence California Democrats back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup Obamas, Clintons to headline Biden's nominating convention MORE, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, California Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisOn The Money: Economists flabbergasted after Congress leaves with no deal | Markets rise as the economy struggles | Retail sales slow in July Trump touts NYC police union endorsement: 'Pro-cop all the way' USPS workers union endorses Biden, citing threat to postal service 'survival' MORE, Minnesota Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharElection security advocates see strong ally in Harris The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - The choice: Biden-Harris vs. Trump-Pence California Democrats back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup MORE, former Texas Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeBeto O'Rourke calls Texas GOP 'a death cult' over coronavirus response Hegar, West to face off in bitter Texas Senate runoff Bellwether counties show trouble for Trump MORE, Vermont Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFormer Obama speechwriter Favreau: 'Hilarious' some media outlets calling Harris a moderate Trump to counter DNC with travel to swing states Progressives look to flex their muscle in next Congress after primary wins MORE, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Energy: Major oil companies oppose Trump admin's methane rollback | Union files unfair labor practice charge against EPA USPS inspector general reviewing DeJoy's policy changes Former Obama speechwriter Favreau: 'Hilarious' some media outlets calling Harris a moderate MORE and entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangPoll: Majority of voters now say the government should have a universal basic income program The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump threatens Postal Service funding l Biden proposes national mask mandate l Democratic convention takes shape Bloomberg to speak at Democratic convention MORE (CNN).


What’s tough about the third round of primary debates? Candidates need to show contributions from at least 130,000 individuals, coming from at least 400 unique donors in 20 or more states. They also need to reach 2 percent in at least four DNC-approved polls before the Aug. 28 deadline.


The debate chase is one factor behind the summer obsession with early polling. Jonathan Easley and Max Greenwood report that new surveys suggest the strength of Sanders’s campaign is being underestimated. Sanders is clearly in the race nationally and in early voting states with Biden and Warren. The newest surveys also suggest his breadth of support is more diverse than Warren’s base; Sanders does better with blacks and Hispanics and with voters without a college degree.


The Hill: Sanders to unveil climate plan on Thursday.


And speaking of polling, Biden is enjoying a rebound in CNN’s latest survey, showing a double-digit lead over the rest of the Democratic field. The former vice president is at 29 percent, with Sanders at 15 percent and Warren at 14 percent. Why is his lead noteworthy? Because Biden has climbed, while Sanders and Warren have remained in place compared with their respective standings early in the summer (CNN).   


In other political newsRep. Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodObama announces first wave of 2020 endorsements The Hill's Coronavirus Report: GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani says DC policymakers need to do more to support ventures and 'solo-preneurs'; Federal unemployment benefits expire as coronavirus deal-making deadlocks The Hill's Coronavirus Report: iBIO Chairman and CEO Thomas Isett says developing a safe vaccine is paramount; US surpasses 150,000 coronavirus deaths with roughy one death per minute MORE (D-Ill.) on Tuesday announced support for an impeachment inquiry, becoming the second House Democrat representing a district carried by Trump in 2016 to back the move (The Hill) … California’s Harris, under pressure from progressives, will participate in a Sept. 4 town hall event focused on climate change and hosted by CNN, shifting her scheduling commitment to a donor event (The Hill) … Warren on Monday met her doppelgӓnger, Stephanie Oyen, at a St. Paul, Minn., rally and the two had some fun with the head-turning likeness (check out the photo) (The Hill) ... Seeking to overcome resistance from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcGrath reshuffles campaign in home stretch to Senate election GOP senator draws fire from all sides on Biden, Obama-era probes Chris Wallace rips both parties for coronavirus package impasse: 'Pox on both their houses' MORE (R-Ky.) to allowing election security legislation to come to the Senate floor, Republicans for the Rule of Law launches a series of ads today on Fox & Friends, NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Fox News Sunday targeting GOP senators in South Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kentucky, says spokesman Chris Truax.


More politics … The music selected by presidential campaigns at rallies tell us something about candidates and their target audiences, but what? The New York Times analyzes 10 of those playlists … Colorado polling finds the top tier of presidential contenders bunched in a pack, with Sanders at 26 percent, Biden at 25 percent, Warren at 20 percent and Harris at 13 percent. Colorado Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetKamala Harris makes history — as a Westerner Expanding our health force can save lives and create jobs simultaneously How Congress is preventing a Medicare bankruptcy during COVID-19 MORE is polling in his state at 1 percent in the new Emerson poll …  In a key Texas House race, Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones's campaign said she raised more than $1 million in the first 98 days of her 2020 bid to represent Texas’s 23rd Congressional District, a seat held by Republican Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations Lawmakers introduce bill designating billion to secure state and local IT systems Democrats go big on diversity with new House recruits MORE, who recently announced his is not seeking reelection.






WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The president did a lot of talking on Tuesday. Here’s a recap:


Trump on Tuesday canceled an official state visit to Denmark in early September after its prime minister rebuffed his interest in buying Greenland. "Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time," Trump tweeted. "The Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct. I thank her for that and look forward to rescheduling sometime in the future!" (The Hill). Danes expressed shock and disbelief following the U.S. president’s abrupt decision (Reuters). Trump on Monday tweeted a mock composite photo of a high-rise Trump tower overlooking the sea along Greenland’s coast. “I promise not to do this to Greenland!” he wrote. The Washington Post explains how Trump became tantalized by a U.S. purchase of Greenland, a self-governing territory within Denmark, as a large real estate deal.  


The president railed at Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats. "I think Jewish people that vote for a Democrat — I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. The president and the GOP have sought to win over Jewish voters from the Democratic Party by criticizing statements by Reps. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibOcasio-Cortez celebrates 'squad' primary victories: 'The people triumphed' Omar fends off primary challenge in Minnesota Centrists, progressives rally around Harris pick for VP MORE (D-Mich.) and Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOcasio-Cortez celebrates 'squad' primary victories: 'The people triumphed' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - The choice: Biden-Harris vs. Trump-Pence Omar fends off primary challenge in Minnesota MORE (D-Minn.), the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Both have criticized Israel's government. "Where has the Democratic Party gone?" Trump added. "Where have they gone ... where they're defending these two people over the state of Israel?" (The Hill). In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE declined to comment (Reuters). In the United States, Jewish groups J Street and the American Jewish Committee were part of a chorus that denounced the president’s remarks (The Hill).


Trump repeated he’d like to see Russia included again in the Group of Seven (G-7) industrialized nations, returning to the Group of Eight format from which Russia was disinvited in 2014. Leaders of G-7 nations meet in southern France next week (The Hill). 


Trump said he may nominate John Sullivan, deputy secretary of State, to be the next U.S. ambassador to Russia, succeeding Jon Huntsman, who announced on Aug. 7 that he would resign as the top U.S. diplomat in Russia after two years in the Trump administration. Huntsman is expected to leave the post in October, and there’s credible speculation that he wants to run for governor in Utah (The Hill). Trump was responding to a report in The New York Times that Sullivan will be his choice to head to Moscow, if confirmed.





Vice President Pence said the U.S. Space Command will be up and running Aug. 29. Responsible within the Pentagon for planning and executing space operations, it will have 87 units by next week with capabilities that include missile warning, satellite operations, space control and space support (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!


Recessions happen when presidents overlook key problems, by Robert E. Scott of the Economic Policy Institute Policy Center, opinion contributor, The Hill.


How to lose a war but not end it, by Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyHas Congress captured Russia policy? GOP leaders go into attack mode against Harris Republicans fear disaster in November MORE (R-Wyo.), Washington Post opinion contributor.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Jeff Weaver, Sanders’s presidential campaign senior adviser, who talks about 30 years working with the Vermont lawmaker; Tenae Stover, an airline catering worker and member of UNITE HERE Local 23, discussing a possible strike; miner Collin Cornetter, describing unpaid coal miners and their protests; and Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, directors of the documentary film “American Factory.” Find Hill.TV programming at or on YouTube at 10 a.m.


The House is in pro forma sessions until returning to Washington on Sept. 4 to begin consideration of legislation to respond to mass shootings.


The Senate continues to meet pro forma but is not scheduled to return for votes until Sept. 9. 


The president travels to Louisville, Ky., to speak at the American Veterans national convention this afternoon, where he’ll also hold a political roundtable and fundraising committee reception. 


The vice president travels to Roswell, N.M., to speak about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement at Elite Well Services in Artesia, N.M., after which he’ll visit the U.S. Border Patrol Academy at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at 2:45 p.m. Pence will fly to Salt Lake City and remain overnight.


Attorney General William BarrBill BarrEx-FBI lawyer Clinesmith to plead guilty in Durham probe Barr says some results on probe into Russia investigation could be released before election Hillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations MORE will be in Dallas today with Sen. John CornynJohn CornynEnough legal games — we need to unleash American energy Three pros and three cons to Biden picking Harris The Hill's 12:30 Report - Speculation over Biden's running mate announcement MORE (R-Texas), who is seeking reelection, and other officials to discuss efforts to reduce violent crime in the city’s neighborhoods. Barr will also tour a boxing gym staffed by the Dallas Police Athletic League and take questions from the news media at 2:45 p.m.


The Federal Reserve at 2 p.m. will release its minutes from the July Federal Open Market Committee meeting. 


Economic indicator: The National Association of Realtors reports at 10 a.m. on existing home sales in July. Analysts have been closely monitoring a softening housing market this summer.


Banks: U.S. banking regulators on Tuesday bowed to financial institutions by easing trading regulations applied to Wall Street banks, known as the “Volcker Rule,” handing them one of their biggest wins under the Trump administration. It took less than a decade of methodical lobbying by financial institutions to secure lighter restrictions than those enacted with the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law enacted in response to the 2008 financial meltdown. The revamped rule drew criticism from consumer activists and Democratic lawmakers who warned of potential risks to taxpayers (Reuters). The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation amended the “Volcker Rule,” which originally was devised to ban lenders that accept U.S. taxpayer-insured deposits from investing those deposits for their own gain. The original restriction (now scrapped) forced banks to prove that their short-term trades — those held for less than 60 days — were allowable under the law. Banks complained that the provision was burdensome and restricted legitimate trading (The New York Times).


Italy: Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced his resignation on Tuesday and accused League party chief Matteo Salvini, his own interior minister, of sinking the government’s ruling coalition and endangering the Italian economy for personal and political gain (Reuters). The Economist called it a “bombshell,” albeit one that was anticipated, adding that no one knows what comes next. … Meanwhile, Spain ordered a naval vessel on Tuesday to the Italian island of Lampedusa to bring migrants stranded there on a rescue boat to Mallorca after some jumped overboard, amid a prolonged stand-off with Italy’s government. Salvini and the Italian government forged a tougher line on African migration to Europe (Reuters).       


Pro basketball: Who’s in charge of enforcing the NBA salary cap? The New York Times’s Sopan Deb answers that question: With great minutiae comes great responsibility.”


And finally … Panda-monium this morning … bye-bye to Washington’s Bei Bei and hello to Norfolk’s red panda triplets! 


Bei Bei, a giant panda born at the National Zoo in 2015, on Thursday will celebrate his fourth birthday but is preparing to leave the United States to live in China as part of a panda-breeding agreement between the two countries. Always a crowd favorite in Washington, Bei Bei is the offspring of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian and was conceived by artificial insemination (WTOP).





Meanwhile, the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk announced this week that Masu, a 3-year-old red panda that came from Denver two years ago, delivered triplets in June, two males and a female, each now weighing a pound. The zoo is auctioning off naming rights for the photogenic cubs until Aug. 30 as a way to support conservation of the endangered red panda species. Information HERE (The Virginian-Pilot).