The Hill's Morning Report - Hurricane Dorian devastates the Bahamas, creeps along Florida coast




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. Al Weaver is holding down the fort for the week while Alexis Simendinger is on vacation. Find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and CLICK HERE to subscribe!

The U.S. continued to prepare for a weakened Hurricane Dorian to make landfall along the Florida and Georgia coasts on Wednesday as the Bahamas began recovery efforts in the wake of major destruction by the storm over the past couple of days.


According to the National Hurricane Service, the Category 2 hurricane is on track to move “dangerously close” to the Florida and Georgia coasts through Wednesday night, with it ready to move up toward South Carolina and North Carolina on Thursday and Friday.


“Maximum sustained winds are near 105 mph (165 km/h) with higher gusts. Some weakening is expected during the next couple of days, and Dorian is expected to remain a powerful hurricane during the next few days,” the NHC said in a Wednesday morning update. “Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles.”


More than 2 million were evacuated from the U.S. coastline in recent days, despite the storm’s weakening as its track moved further away from the Florida coastline. However, U.S. officials are still warning people near the coasts in those four states not to take any chances.


“Don’t tough it out. Get out,” said U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency official Carlos Castillo (The Associated Press).


Meanwhile, the Bahamas were left devastated by the hurricane, with some parts of the islands left completely ruined after the most powerful storm ever to hit the area moved up the U.S. coast. 


“It’s total devastation. It’s decimated. Apocalyptic. It looks like a bomb went off,” said Lia Head-Rigby, who helps run a local hurricane relief organization and flew over the Bahamas’ hard-hit Abaco Islands, in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s not rebuilding something that was there; we have to start again.”


Seven deaths were reported, and more information is expected to emerge in the coming days as more about the storm is known. One photo shot above the Bahamas shows the heaving flooding that has submerged parts of the island. 


“It was a horrific sight,” Bahamas opposition leader Philip Brave Davis said following a flight over the Abaco Islands in a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft. “Communities are cut off and roads are underwater still,” 


“People need mostly food, security and shelter,” Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said in a Facebook Live video alongside Brave Davis (Reuters).


President TrumpDonald John TrumpOvernight Health Care: US hits 10,000 coronavirus deaths | Trump touts 'friendly' talk with Biden on response | Trump dismisses report on hospital shortages as 'just wrong' | Cuomo sees possible signs of curve flattening in NY We need to be 'One America,' the polling says — and the politicians should listen Barr tells prosecutors to consider coronavirus risk when determining bail: report MORE tweeted Tuesday evening that while the U.S. may be spared the worst of the storm, it is sending crews to the Bahamas to help with the recovery.  


“The U.S. may be getting a little bit lucky with respect to Hurricane Dorian, but please don’t let down your guard. As it heads up the coast, lots of very bad and unpredictable things can happen!” Trump said. “On the other hand, the Bahamas have been devastated. We are sending crews to help!” 


The New York Times: President Trump, weatherman: Dorian updates and at least 122 tweets.





CONGRESS: With only days before lawmakers return from August recess, pressure is being heaped upon Republicans to act on gun legislation in the immediate aftermath of the shooting in West Texas a month after a pair of shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. 


With lawmakers continuing to talk about possible remedies and proposals for next week, all eyes remain on Trump to see what he will support, as Jordain Carney and Mike Lillis report. A trio of senators — Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog Testing struggles emerge as key hurdle to reopening country Democratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers MORE (D-Conn.), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPoliticians mourn the death of Bill Withers Pressure mounts for national parks closure amid coronavirus White House, Senate reach deal on trillion stimulus package MORE (D-W.Va) — continue to hold talks with the White House on expanding background checks, but what Trump will throw his weight behind is still an open question. Trump has continued to change his tune on what he would be open to backing, pointing to his possible support to expand background checks at one point before saying that the main problem is mental illness. 


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFlorida Democrat hits administration over small business loan rollout The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Dybul interview; Boris Johnson update Schumer says nation will 'definitely' need new coronavirus relief bill MORE (R-Ky.) told radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday morning that anything that comes to the floor will need the president’s support, raising the stakes on the negotiations between the White House and the three senators. 


“If the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly and I know that if we pass it, it will become law, I'll put it on the floor,” McConnell said. 


Democrats received a boon to their argument when Walmart announced that it will limit sales of ammunition and request customers not openly carry firearms, a move that drew the ire of the National Rifle Association. Also helping their argument: Tuesday’s news that the gunman in West Texas purchased his gun at a private sale after being denied in 2014 after a background check flagged a “mental health issue” (The Associated Press). 


“If the House-passed background checks bill would have been signed into law, this tragedy could have been avoided,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer names coronavirus czar candidates in plea to White House Democrats struggle to keep up with Trump messaging on coronavirus Schumer: Fired inspector general will be remembered as a 'hero' MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement in response to the report. “Leader McConnell—you have no excuse. The Senate must vote on the House bill next week—not a diluted bill, not a bill on other matters. We must take a vote on the House-passed bill to close these loopholes without delay.”


The Hill: Trump moving forward to divert $3.6 billion from military projects for border wall.


The Hill: McConnell: GOP would “absolutely” fill Supreme Court seat next year.





> Manchin stays: Manchin announced Tuesday that he will remain in the Senate for the rest of his term and will not seek the West Virginia governor’s mansion in 2020 against Gov. Jim Justice (R), who flipped from the Democratic Party to the GOP in 2017. 


Manchin’s decision came despite the fact that he repeatedly said that serving as the state’s governor — which he did from 2005 until 2010 — was the best job he ever held. However, he said in a statement that he believes he can be most effective in his current position. 


“I have always said that ‘public service is not self-service.’ So, when considering whether to run for Governor, I couldn’t focus just on which job I enjoyed the most, but on where I could be the most effective for the Mountain State,” Manchin said. “Ultimately, I believe my role as U.S. Senator allows me to position our state for success for the rest of this century.”


Manchin, 72, had been considered the favorite to retake the governorship if he decided to run. According to a MetroNews Dominion Post West Virginia poll released last week, Manchin led Justice with 49 percent support, compared to 39 percent for the incumbent Republican (The Hill).




POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenOvernight Health Care: US hits 10,000 coronavirus deaths | Trump touts 'friendly' talk with Biden on response | Trump dismisses report on hospital shortages as 'just wrong' | Cuomo sees possible signs of curve flattening in NY We need to be 'One America,' the polling says — and the politicians should listen 16 things to know today about coronavirus MORE continues to tout his electability as the main selling point of his campaign, but polls have consistently showed that Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOn The Money: Trump officials struggle to get relief loans out the door | Dow soars more than 1600 points | Kudlow says officials 'looking at' offering coronavirus bonds Overnight Energy: Trump floats oil tariffs amid Russia-Saudi dispute | Warren knocks EPA over 'highly dangerous' enforcement rollback | 2019 sees big increase in methane levels in air Ex-CFPB director urges agency to 'act immediately' to help consumers during pandemic MORE (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWisconsin Supreme Court blocks governor's effort to delay election The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden, Trump discuss coronavirus response; Wisconsin postpones elections Wisconsin governor postpones Tuesday's election over coronavirus MORE (I-Vt.) are not far behind the former vice president in hypothetical matchups with Trump, potentially undercutting his preeminent argument. 


As Niall Stanage writes in his latest memo, in a number of key states, Warren and Sanders run behind Biden in polls against Trump by 2, 3 or 4 points, rather than there being a widening gap separating the former VP from the two senators. Their performance does not disprove Biden’s argument, but it pokes holes in the idea that a left-wing candidate would be inherently unelectable in a general election.


On the primary scene, Biden’s campaign made waves on Tuesday when a senior adviser told campaign reporters during a briefing that Iowa is not considered a must-win state and that their operation is already putting in place infrastructure for Super Tuesday states.


“Do I think we have to win Iowa? No,” the senior adviser said, adding that the state is “critical”


“We think we’re going to win. We think it’s going to be a dogfight. … But we think there are several candidates in this field, there’s probably three or four, that are going to go awhile,” the adviser said (Politico). 


The Hill: 10 Democrats to fight to claim climate mantle at CNN forum.


CNN: Warren embraces Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeCalifornia to send 500 ventilators to national stockpile Juan Williams: Governors lead as Trump flounders Feds send ventilators to coronavirus hot spots around country MORE's climate change platform.


The New York Times: Life off the Democratic debate stage: Sparse crowds, daily indignities.


The New York Times Magazine: The Gospel according to Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden looks to stretch lead in Tuesday contests Pelosi: 'I usually always cast my vote for a woman' Pelosi: 'We'll have a woman president' someday MORE.


> 2020 counties to watch: With the number of battleground states dwindling in 2020, Reid Wilson took a deep dive into the top 10 counties that will determine which way states vote next November. As Reid writes:


“Interviews with two dozen strategists, political scientists and observers show the ten counties across the country that will determine the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. The critical tipping points are as diverse as the American electorate. Some are suburban neighborhoods where both Trump and President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump touts 'friendly' conversation with Biden Biden hosts potential VP pick Gretchen Whitmer on podcast History's lessons for Donald Trump MORE won. Others are long-time Republican strongholds that show signs of slipping. Still others have voted Democratic since the New Deal, a coalition broken by Trump’s historic campaign.”


Among the top counties to watch: Erie County, Pa., Sauk County, Wis., Muskegon Country, Mich., and Maricopa County, Ariz. 


Elsewhere on the political scene … Democrat Mike Johnston, a former Colorado state senator, announced Tuesday that he is ending his bid for Senate, pointing to the entrance of former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperSenate GOP super PAC books more than million in fall ads Poll shows Daines, Bullock neck and neck in Montana Senate race Progressive challenger: How we overcame Chuck Schumer meddling MORE (D) as the main reason (The Colorado Sun).


ADMINISTRATION/INTERNATIONAL: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for a new election on Tuesday night after he was dealt a major blow in his Brexit push when Parliament voted 328 to 301 to take control of the Brexit agenda, allowing it a vote to prevent the United Kingdom from leaving the European Union without a deal on Oct. 31. 


Johnson needs two-thirds of Parliament to approve a new vote as the rebels continue to air concerns that a “no-deal” Brexit would have major effects on the British economy. The election is expected to take place in mid-October. The Tuesday night vote came after Johnson lost control of his working majority in Parliament (The Associated Press).  


> China: Trump is facing an acute challenge on China that could define his first term and impact his chances for reelection. 


While Trump has made tough talk and action against China a key prong of his administration’s work, a trade deal with Beijing has eluded his administration and  remains at arms length, with both sides ratcheting up tariffs on one another in a seemingly never-ending dispute. At home, the ongoing trade war with China has spawned uncertainty that has unsettled the stock market and global economy, as economists increasingly warn that a recession could be on the horizon. 


Trump efforts to secure a trade deal could serve as an all-or-nothing proposition for him politically. Striking a deal with the Chinese would be a major win for Trump, one he could herald on Twitter and at campaign rallies. One the other hand, failure could threaten his chances if voters impacted by the trade war sour on him. And if the economy does experience a downturn amid the trade war, it will offer ammunition for Democrats to lambast Trump ahead of 2020 (The Hill). 


The Washington Post: Trump encouraged Pence to stay at his golf resort in Ireland.





> Iran: France is making its strongest push yet to bring Iran into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, and it’s bringing its chequebook to the table to do so.


According to multiple reports, France is proposing a $15 billion line of credit for the Iranians in return for their cooperation with the four-year-old nuclear agreement, which the U.S. backed out of in 2017. However, to do so, they would likely need the U.S. to sign off on doing so.


The idea is “to exchange a credit line guaranteed by oil in return for, one, a return to the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) ...and two, security in the Gulf and the opening of negotiations on regional security and a post-2025 (nuclear program),” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. “All this (pre)supposes that President Trump issues waivers.”


The move by the French, which is supported by other European nations involved in the nuclear deal, would serve as a blow to the U.S.’s ongoing maximum pressure campaign against the Iranians, which is headlined by sanctions that were reinstated last year and sharpened upon earlier this year.  


The proposal is the latest chess move by French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronCOVID-19 — a make-it or break-it moment for the European Union US inaction is hurting the chance for peace in Libya Officials say Paris hospitals will be hit hard following coronavirus spike MORE, who has tried to bring the U.S. and Iran back to the negotiating table, including during the Group of Seven (G-7) meeting in France last week when he invited Iranian Foreign Minister Javid Zarif to attend. Trump and Zarif did not meet at the G-7, but Macron has indicated that he hopes the two sides will sit down in the coming weeks, potentially at the United Nations General Assembly in September. Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani opened the door to a meeting in recent weeks but backtracked soon after.


> Hong Kong: The government of Hong Kong is slated to meet on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the possible withdrawal of the extradition law that has sparked protests throughout the area in recent weeks (South China Morning Post).


Leader Carrie Lam, who has suspended the bill that would allow for residents of Hong Kong to be transported to China’s mainland for trials, is expected to meet with other top members of government, including members of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, with rumors spreading that she was on the verge of withdrawing it altogether. 


“Rumor is that she will announce the complete withdrawal of the bill,” said Michael Tien, a pro-government lawmaker, who was informed of the pending meeting (The Associated Press).

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!


The nation is betting the farm, by Joseph Minarik, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


Winning the politics of the climate crisis, by Paul Bledsoe, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Kate Day, local committee chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, to discuss how Trump and 2020 Democrats are doing in the state, and a potential Senate bid by Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiHillicon Valley — Presented by Facebook — FCC fines mobile carriers 0M for selling user data | Twitter verified fake 2020 candidate | Dems press DHS to complete election security report | Reddit chief calls TikTok spyware Rod Blagojevich joins app where people can pay for personalized video message The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders repeats with NH primary win, but with narrower victory MORE; John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union, to talk about how the president’s trade war has impacted farmers; and Adrienne Watson, director of the Democratic National Committee’s war room, to preview the upcoming debate rules. Find Hill.TV programming at or on YouTube at 10 a.m.


The House and Senate return to Washington on Sept. 9. 


The president receives an update about Hurricane Dorian at 11:30 a.m., and has lunch with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS to label white supremacist group as terrorist organization for first time Trump administration eyes Afghan security forces funding for aid cut: report Trump says 40,000 Americans have been repatriated who were stranded abroad MORE at 12:45 p.m. He will also participate in the announcement of state opioid response grants at 2:15 p.m.


Vice President Pence departs Ireland for Iceland at 11:10 a.m. local time and will arrive at 12:45 a.m. Pence and second lady Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceWhite House: Anyone 'in close proximity' to Trump or Pence will be tested for coronavirus UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus Trump says first lady tested negative for coronavirus MORE have coffee with Icelandic President Guðni Jóhannesson at 2 p.m. The vice president will take part in a roundtable on U.S.-Iceland trade and investment at 2:30 p.m. and a briefing on North American security at 5:20 p.m. He will also hold a bilateral meeting with Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir at 6:45 p.m. ahead of his departure for London at 7:40 p.m.  


White House senior adviser Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpPrivate equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill On The Money: Economy sheds 701K jobs in March | Why unemployment checks could take weeks | Confusion surrounds 9B in small-business loans MORE is in Argentina to promote the economic empowerment of women in developing countries, the second part of her three country swing through South America.


Marijuana: The Drug Enforcement Administration last week announced that it would begin advancing applications for federally-approved marijuana growers. The announcement seemed to indicate a positive change from years of inaction and delay, but advocates and industry experts are skeptical that the administration is really moving to loosen restrictions on marijuana research (The Hill).


Lobbying: Two years ago, the founders of seven of D.C.’s fastest-growing lobbying shops were all under one roof — the now defunct Podesta Group. But the firm suffered a quick fall under the scrutiny of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s probe and following the indictment of former Trump campaign manager Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortJuan Williams: Mueller, one year on Juan Williams: Will the GOP ever curb Trump? Nadler seeks interviews with DOJ prosecutors that left Stone case MORE on a slew of charges, including illegal lobbying. Now, firms led by Podesta Group alumni are enjoying the K Street boom, but for many the Podesta Group has left a complicated legacy (The Hill). 


In The Know: He’s left the White House behind, but former President Obama isn’t done leaving a mark on popular culture. Whether he’s sharing his preference for Lizzo and Lil Nas X with the release of his music playlists, or telling readers they “can’t go wrong” with Toni Morrison novels as part of his summer reading recs, the ex-commander in chief isn’t surrendering his role as a big-time tastemaker (The Hill).





And finally … It’s rare when a 52-year-old decides to attend college. It’s even rarer when the student is a former Navy SEAL, and the school they’re attending is Yale University, but that’s the situation for James Hatch, who spent nearly 26 years in the Navy serving all over the world. Hatch is attending Yale this fall after applying to be an Eli Whitney scholar, a program for nontraditional students who have seen their educational careers interrupted.


Hatch’s military career ended in 2009 when he was injured while on a rescue mission to find Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who infamously had walked off his post. During Bergdahl’s trial, news emerged that Hatch had undergone 18 surgeries, suffered from post-traumatic stress and attempted suicide. 


However, Hatch has recovered with some help and is ready to move into the new chapter of his life, accompanied by his family and Mina, his PTSD service dog who attends classes with him and has become a hit among students. 


“I think everyone there has a little bit of this ‘impostor syndrome’ where you feel, ‘Oh, my gosh, am I good enough to be here,’” he said.


“My experience in academia is somewhat limited, at best,” he said. “But I want to learn, and I feel this can make me a better person. I also feel my life experience, maybe with my maturity — which my wife would say is laughable — I think I can help some of the young people out” (The Associated Press).