The Hill's Morning Report - Is this a turning point in 2020 Dem presidential primary?




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Tuesday! 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. Find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenKamala Harris receives new Iowa endorsements after debate performance Watergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Deal on defense bill proves elusive | Hill, Holmes offer damaging testimony | Trump vows to block Navy from ousting officer from SEALs MORE’s presidential campaign is showing multiple cracks, headlined by a new poll released Monday, as he continues to maintain pole position in the primary field.


As Amie Parnes writes, since he launched his campaign four months ago, Biden’s chief selling point to voters has been a simple one: that he is far and away the most electable candidate in a head-to-head matchup against President TrumpDonald John TrumpWatergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book Obama: 'Everybody needs to chill out' about differences between 2020 candidates MORE, with his allies pointing to polls showing him performing well in key states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. However, Democrats say he has to offer more. 


“I hope the Biden folks are smart enough to realize that they can't run solely on the electability argument because I'm pretty confident that won't work out in the long run,” said Jim Manley, a former top aide to former Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid: Early voting states Iowa, New Hampshire 'not representative of the country anymore' The Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary Bottom Line MORE (D-Nev.) and former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). 


While the Biden campaign argues that the team is pressing other issues, the electability point remains the main one. Only last week, former second lady Jill Biden said the main reason the former vice president should be considered is his electability. 


Giving Biden’s opponents and detractors ammunition on Monday was a new poll released by Monmouth University showing the former vice president in a near three-way tie nationally with Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenKamala Harris receives new Iowa endorsements after debate performance Warren speech in Georgia interrupted by pro-charter school protesters Hillicon Valley: Senators ask Trump to halt Huawei licenses | Warren criticizes Zuckerberg over secret dinner with Trump | Senior DHS cyber official to leave | Dems offer bill on Libra oversight MORE (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersKamala Harris receives new Iowa endorsements after debate performance Wasserman Schultz makes bid for House Appropriations Committee gavel Overnight Health Care: Crunch time for Congress on surprise medical bills | CDC confirms 47 vaping-related deaths | Massachusetts passes flavored tobacco, vaping products ban MORE (I-Vt.). Compared with Monmouth’s previous poll released in June, Biden dropped 13 points, falling from 32 percent to 19 percent. Warren and Sanders each nab 20 percent (The Hill). 


Additionally, Biden kept up his string of gaffes late last week when he mistakenly praised Vermont when asked about his impression of Keene, N.H. He also momentarily forgot what building he was speaking at while on Dartmouth College's campus last week. He made light of the latter misstep during a campaign appearance on Friday in the first-in-the-nation primary state. 


“I want to be clear, I’m not going nuts,” Biden said of his visit to Dartmouth last week. “I’m not sure whether it was the medical school or where the hell I spoke. But it was on the campus.”


The New York Times: Warren is quietly telling Democratic insiders she is a team player who is seeking to lead the party — not stage a hostile takeover of it.


Axios: Trump's net approval rating sinks in every battleground state. 


While all eyes remain on the presidential contest, Republicans are increasingly looking at Senate races. They view their majority in the upper chamber as a firewall for the party as they remain concerned that Trump could lose his reelection bid next year.


As Jordain Carney and Max Greenwood report, Republicans see winning back the House majority next November as a steep climb, and hypothetical head-to-head match-ups show Trump trailing various Democratic rivals. 


While Republicans are still optimistic about Trump's chances and believe it’s early in the presidential contest, they see holding the Senate as an absolute necessity given how races for the White House and House are shaping up, and are playing their cards accordingly.


On the Democratic side, Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyThe Hill's 12:30 Report: What we learned from first impeachment transcripts Democrats unifying against Joe Kennedy Senate bid Ocasio-Cortez points to California fires: 'This is what climate change looks like' MORE (D-Mass.), the latest scion of the Kennedy political tree, announced Monday that he is looking at a possible primary campaign against incumbent Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySenators grill safety regulator over self-driving cars Hillicon Valley: Twitter shares more details on political ad rules | Supreme Court takes up Google-Oracle fight | Pentagon chief defends Microsoft cloud contract House, Senate announce agreement on anti-robocall bill MORE (D-Mass.), and took concrete steps toward a potential bid.


A run by the four-term congressman would be a generational battle against Markey, who won his Senate seat in 2013 after serving 37 years in the House, and a formidable matchup. While Kennedy is expected to be well-funded if he runs, Markey has $4 million in the bank and has already earned the support of most of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, including Warren, who cut an ad on behalf of Markey. 


A primary bid by Kennedy would also continue a family tradition as former President John F. Kennedy and former Sen. Robert Kennedy (D-N.Y.), the Massachusetts congressman’s grandfather, both challenged and defeated incumbent senators to win their seats (Reuters). 


Politico: “You are helping him”: Vulnerable Democrats grilled on impeachment.


In the House, Rep. Sean DuffySean DuffyOn The Money: Trump seeks to shift spotlight from impeachment to economy | Appropriators agree to Dec. 20 funding deadline | New study says tariffs threaten 1.5M jobs Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR Trump's defenders are running out of options MORE (R-Wis.) announced on Monday that he will be resigning from his seat in Congress in late September as he readies to care for his family. He and his wife, Rachel Campos-Duffy, are preparing for the arrival of their ninth child. In a statement, Duffy said that the baby “will need even more love, time, and attention due to complications, including a heart condition.


The announcement by Duffy, 47, will trigger a special election to fill the remainder of his term. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) will set an election date (The Associated Press).


The Washington Post:  GOP appointee resigns from Federal Election Commission, leaving it without a quorum.


Reuters: US officials fear ransomware attack against 2020 election.


The Hill: 2020 caucuses pose biggest challenge yet for Iowa's top pollster.


The New York Times: A Tom SteyerThomas (Tom) Fahr SteyerAs Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Steyer, Biden clash over climate credentials Steyer, Gabbard and Yang shut out of early minutes of Democratic debate MORE debate spot is in limbo. His money is poised to upend 2020 anyway.





WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump brought his volatile style of international engagement to the Group of Seven (G-7) summit over the weekend, using Twitter to condemn Chinese President Xi Jinping as an “enemy” on Friday before switching gears on Monday to heap effusive praise on Xi as a “great leader.” From retaliating with higher tariffs on Chinese imported goods on Friday to asserting on Monday there would be productive, “calm” trade talks with Beijing, Trump drove financial markets down and back up, and was described by some financial analysts as “a nuisance.”


The Associated Press: Trump’s inconsistent messages on China trade heighten risks.


The New York Times: As Trump swerves on trade war, it’s whiplash for the rest of the world.


The president dangled a future bilateral trade deal with Britain, flirted with the idea of multiple nations extending a line of credit to Iran and skipped a G-7 environmental working session that other world leaders attended.


The consensus mood-ring readings from the south of France: Trump is anxious about the state of the U.S. economy and about his chances for reelection (The Hill) and he leaned into his deal-making persona (The Hill). 


The president on Monday insisted the leaders who gathered by the sea in Biarritz were “united” and filled with bonhomie, even as reports circulated about tensions over the weekend among a collection of countries alert to slowing global growth and their deep differences with the United States over Iran, the utility of a trade war with China and the hazards of climate change. French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronFrance's Macron exposes profound shifts in global strategic priorities World leaders to gather in Israel for fight against anti-Semitism forum Putin is making a move while America is distracted MORE navigated around Trump over the weekend while also publicly hailing their warm relations.


The Associated Press: “We got along great.”


Trump used a lengthy press conference on Monday before flying back to the White House to root for Russia to participate in a future economic summit, arguing inaccurately, as he and other Republicans have over the years, that former President Obama kicked Russia out of the former G-8 to save face. President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinPutin: 'Thank God' election interference accusations have stopped amid US 'political battles' Live coverage: Impeachment spotlight shifts to Fiona Hill, David Holmes As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target MORE lost a seat as a guest at the group’s table by consensus agreement in 2014 after Russia invaded Crimea. Trump on Monday again praised Putin, as well as North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnTrump must regain his advantage over Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Harris accuses Trump of being 'punked' by North Korea MORE.


The Washington Post: 68 minutes with Trump in Biarritz. “Sorry, it’s how I negotiate,” the president said, defending his abrupt policy gyrations and rhetorical switch-backs. “It’s been very successful over the years.”


The United States will host the G-7 summit in 12 months, and Trump said he wants to locate the gathering in Miami at a resort he owns. The president said his interest in the Trump National Doral as the best setting in the United States for the 2020 summit hinges on its close proximity to an airport and its amenities. Trump brushed off suggestions that he would personally profit by steering the annual event to his own property (The Hill).





INTERNATIONAL: The United States and Iran are talking about talking with one another, as The Economist described events in France over the weekend. The biggest news to come out of the G-7 was Trump’s stated willingness to turn to diplomacy with President Hassan Rouhani (Bloomberg). Macron, who with European allies wants to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, hopes to have paved the way after meeting with Iran’s foreign minister for a diplomatic solution to the standoff between Washington and Iran (Reuters). 


> Russia: Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGraham requests State Department documents on Bidens, Ukraine House GOP wants Senate Republicans to do more on impeachment Sondland testifies quid pro quo in Ukraine was real and widely known MORE (R-Wis.) said on Monday that Russia denied him a visa as a member of a U.S. congressional delegation because of his public criticism of Putin. Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, was slated to speak with government officials, American businesses and others during the planned trip (The Hill).


> Israel: Israeli drones bombed a Palestinian base in eastern Lebanon near the border with Syria early Monday amid rising tensions in the Middle East. Lebanon said the attacks violated a U.N. Security Council resolution that ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah (The Associated Press). And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE, who faces another election next month, also ordered the military on Monday to cut in half fuel transfers to Gaza in response to rocket attacks, raising tensions along Israel’s southern border in addition to those stemming from a renewed threat from the north amid reported Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon (The Associated Press).


> Amazon: G-7 nations on Monday pledged $20 million to help fight raging wildfires in the Amazon and protect the rainforest from commercial deforestation, even as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro accused rich countries of treating the region like a “colony.” The international pledges include a separate $12 million from Great Britain and $11 million from Canada. Ottawa has also offered to send firefighting planes to Brazil. Other groups are also contributing support to save a vast ecosystem that spans nine nations, absorbs the planet’s carbon dioxide and is home to one of every 10 known species on Earth (The Associated Press). Macron called the Amazon rainforest the “lungs of the planet.”




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South Korea-Japan spitting contest is a sign of U.S. weakness, by Steve Clemons, editor at large, The Hill. 


The future for President Trump and America rests with China trade war, by Dan Mahaffee, opinion contributor, The Hill.  


Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Sanders in the second part of an extended interview with Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball; New Hampshire political reporter Paul Steinhauser discusses Biden’s weekend visit to the state and talks about interviewing Yang; and Paul Glastris, Washington Monthly’s editor-in-chief, stops by to identify the best colleges for student voting. Find Hill.TV programming at or on YouTube at 10 a.m.


The House gets back to work on Sept. 4 to begin consideration of legislation to respond to mass shootings.


The Senate returns to Washington on Sept. 9. 


The president will have lunch with Vice President Pence.


Opioids: An Oklahoma judge on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million to the state in a landmark case against a major drug manufacturer alleging destruction of lives from prescription painkillers (The Hill). The closely watched case is a warning to dozens of other opioid makers, distributors and retailers, which face more than 2,000 similar lawsuits around the country. Johnson & Johnson, one of the world’s largest healthcare companies, said it would appeal (The New York Times).


Jeffrey Epstein: Nearly 30 women are expected to speak at a hearing this morning after financier Jeffrey Epstein killed himself before facing sex trafficking charges just over two weeks ago. The hearing was scheduled last week by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, who presided over the case prosecutors brought against the multimillionaire after the Epstein was arrested July 6 after he arrived at a New Jersey airport from Paris. The judge said he would give prosecutors, Epstein lawyers and any victims a chance to speak despite an ask by prosecutors that he toss out charges against Epstein following his death. It also comes on the heels of news that Epstein signed a will just two days before his suicide to put $577 million in assets into a trust fund, filing it in the Virgin Islands, making it more difficult for accusers to collect damages (The Associated Press).


In the Know: Monday was National Dog Day and former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama and Ellen Degeneres sing duet about latest book Michelle Obama receives Grammy nomination for audio version of memoir Hundreds turn out to see Michelle Obama on one-year anniversary of 'Becoming' MORE gave Sunny and Bo their own star turns on social media, making sure her more than 13 million Twitter followers got another look at the Obamas’ popular four-legged “balls of fur” (The Hill). Here’s a picture before the Portuguese Water Dogs bounded out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:





And finally … Something odd is floating in the South Pacific Ocean: Rocks, some as large as basketballs, as far as the eye can see. 


Imagine sailing your vessel into an undulating island of pumice stones spread over the water like a carpet the size of 20,000 football fields. One scientist thinks the newly discovered clots of pumice — spewed as lava from deep inside the Earth and cooled by water into mounds of bobbing, sulfur-smelling rubble — could slowly float toward Australia’s coastline, transport a host of marine life and potentially revive the ailing Great Barrier Reef (The Washington Post).