The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Association of Manufacturers - Trump defends Ukraine motives while attacking Biden




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Monday! Our newsletter gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the up-early co-creators. Find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and CLICK HERE to subscribe!

 The autumnal equinox arrived today. Summer is officially kaput. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says his advice to impeachment defense team is 'just be honest' Trump expands tariffs on steel and aluminum imports CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group MORE’s dealings with world leaders will dominate U.S. headlines this week at the United Nations, in part because of who he won’t be meeting with (the president of Iran) and because of the drama surrounding a leader with whom he will confer on Wednesday, Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky.


Zelensky and Ukraine, according to multiple reports, are part of a formal complaint by a U.S. intelligence official filed in August asserting a series of Trump actions that included a July phone conversation, involvement with Ukraine as well as a reported “promise” made by the president.


The president and his lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiParnas says he has turned over tape of Trump calling for diplomat's firing Pompeo explodes at NPR reporter, asks if she could find Ukraine on a map ABC: Recording apparently captures Trump discussing Yovanovitch ouster with Parnas, Fruman MORE each appeared to affirm as well as condemn suspicions raised over the weekend that Trump discussed the release of U.S. foreign aid approved to help Ukraine while pressuring Zelensky and his government to dig for dirt about former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSchiff closes Democrats' impeachment arguments with emotional appeal to remove Trump Conservative reporter on Sanders: He's not a 'yes man' Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment MORE and his son Hunter Biden, who at one time was a board member with a Ukrainian energy firm, as a way to bolster Trump’s chances of winning reelection against a leading Democratic contender.


The president told reporters his conversation with Zelensky was largely “congratulatory” and focused on corruption in Ukraine. “It was largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Trump added without describing evidence.


The Associated Press: Trump suggests he raised Biden with Ukraine’s president during a July 25 phone call.


The Hill: Trump’s “promise” has the makings of a crisis for the president.


The Associated Press: At U.N., Trump to face questions about Iran, Ukraine, allies.


Trump and Giuliani succeeded in refocusing attention on Biden’s actions in the Obama administration after conservatives failed six months ago to produce evidence of wrongdoing. But at the same time, Trump has once again put himself at the center of multiple investigations about his own behavior, while Democratic presidential candidates call for his impeachment and lawmakers in both parties wonder what’s in the whistleblower’s complaint and say they’d like to see a transcript of whatever conversation or promise triggered the official’s alarm.


The New York Times: Biden’s actions in Ukraine. What we know and don’t know.


The acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, who has had the job little more than a month, has said Congress cannot see the official complaint. Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo explodes at NPR reporter, asks if she could find Ukraine on a map Huawei endangers Western values The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democrats turn to obstruction charge MORE and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinCommerce Department withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon pushback: reports  Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Bezos phone breach raises fears over Saudi hacking | Amazon seeks to halt Microsoft's work on 'war cloud' | Lawmakers unveil surveillance reform bill On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Mnuchin says officials working on new tax cuts | Watchdog charges former execs over Wells Fargo accounts scandal | Study questions Biden, Sanders tax plan claims MORE both argued on Sunday that transcripts of the president’s phone conversations with world leaders should never be released publicly. But hours after saying he discussed Biden with Zelensky, the president said he would consider what to release from a transcript, adding that the conversation was “perfect” (The Hill).


The Associated Press: Democrats blast the latest Trump crisis. But what will they do?


Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Social Security emerges as flash point in Biden-Sanders fight | Dems urge Supreme Court to save consumer agency | Trump to sign USMCA next week Veronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address MORE (D-Calif.), whose opposition to embarking on an official impeachment proceeding against Trump is well known, on Sunday wrote to House members of both parties to say the whistleblower complaint must be addressed immediately by Congress (The Hill). Pelosi also wants to make clear under the law that sitting presidents in the future can be indicted for criminal charges (The Hill).


"The Founders could never suspect that a president would be so abusive of the Constitution of the United States, that the separation of powers would be irrelevant to him and that he would continue, any president would continue, to withhold facts from the Congress, which are part of the constitutional right of inquiry," Pelosi said during an NPR interview on Friday.


Biden has denounced as political smears the innuendo by Trump and allegations by Giuliani that as vice president he advocated U.S. policy in Ukraine to benefit his son. He has called for a full investigation without raising the subject of impeachment, a response immediately championed by other presidential candidates including Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenKlobuchar plans campaign rallies across Iowa despite impeachment trial Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Wyden asks NSA to investigate White House cybersecurity | Commerce withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon objects | Warren calls on Brazil to drop Greenwald charges Warren pledges to release Trump records if elected MORE (D-Mass.) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro.


House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump says his advice to impeachment defense team is 'just be honest' Schiff says Justice Roberts should rule on witnesses Schiff sparks blowback with head on a 'pike' line MORE (D-Calif.), whose panel will hear testimony from Maguire on Thursday, says if an investigation reveals that Trump pressured Ukraine to gather dirt on Biden to influence an election, Congress may have no choice but to pursue impeachment (Reuters).


The ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinCalifornia Democrat Christy Smith launches first TV ad in bid for Katie Hill's former House seat Biden wins endorsement of Sacramento mayor Roberts under pressure from both sides in witness fight MORE of California, on Saturday called on Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham Barr DOJ says surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Page lacked evidence Senators press DHS over visa approval for Pensacola naval base shooter Democrats sharpen case on second day of arguments MORE to release to Congress the whistleblower’s complaint to the intelligence community’s inspector general, noting that scant reported information thus far could suggest “abuse of presidential authority, plain and simple” (The Hill).





POLITICS: In a primary campaign featuring personal barbs at many turns, Warren is doing something rare: She’s not partaking, using her campaign time to focus on her policy proposals rather than toss personal grenades at her opponents.


As Amie Parnes writes, throughout her ascendency in the 2020 primary campaign, Warren has refused to make her points on a personal level, which her aides and allies believe has been an effective strategy for their campaign thus far. The campaign argues that every time a candidate goes on the attack, the favorability of both candidates decline. 


One notable example has been how she has treated Biden, the only candidate directly ahead of her in the race for the party’s presidential nod. In the most recent debate, Warren argued back and forth on issues such as “Medicare for All” but never resorted to a direct shot akin to the one attempted by Castro, which was deemed an ageist attack by other 2020 candidates. Warren’s most pointed shot at Biden also came months ago when she criticized him for being on the side of credit card companies during his Senate tenure. 


However, Warren has decided she’d rather use her time to talk about her own positions and what she calls "big ideas." 


The Associated Press: Biden, Warren face same challenge in Iowa: keeping momentum.


The Hill: Warren comes under new pressure over Medicare for All and higher taxes.


Time: Inside Elizabeth Warren's selfie strategy.


The Associated Press: Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBlack caucus in Nevada: 'Notion that Biden has all of black vote is not true' The Hill's 12:30 Report: House managers to begin opening arguments on day two Patrick backs reparations in unveiling 'Equity Agenda for Black Americans' MORE (D-N.J.) could end campaign if fundraising doesn’t pick up.


> Guns: Democrats are warning that former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s (D-Texas) proposal that would require Americans to sell assault weapons back to the government could be a political problem child for Democrats and come back to bite them with moderate and independent voters next year.


Some Democrats believe O’Rourke’s stance plays into the hands of conservatives, who have long argued that more incremental proposals by Democrats to curb gun violence will eventually lead to a broader crackdown on gun ownership. For example, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other pro-Second Amendment groups will likely fundraise off of O’Rourke’s stance, while Democrats will be forced to say whether they agree with the 2020 candidate on the topic. 


“I think we should be focused on the stuff that we can get across the finish line, and I think that was a bit of a gift to the NRA,” said Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichDemocratic senator blasts 'draconian' press restrictions during impeachment trial Health care, spending bills fuel busy year for K Street Schumer introduces bill requiring GDP measure inequality MORE (D-N.M.).


Under O’Rourke’s plan, Americans who own assault-style weapons would be required to sell them back to the government. Those who refuse to do so would be fined. The anti-gun push, which ramped up after the mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, has come as his chances to nab the Democratic nomination have faltered (The Hill). 


The Associated Press: In gun buyback talk, how do you round up so many weapons?


Mark Leibovich, The New York Times Magazine: Beto O’Rourke wants to talk guns with anyone who will listen.


Politico: Trump campaign pessimistic about winning Michigan again.


The Hill: New Hampshire feels overlooked in Democratic presidential race.


> Lipinski fights back: Rep. Daniel LipinskiDaniel William LipinskiMore than 200 lawmakers urge Supreme Court to 'reconsider' Roe v. Wade Democratic group to only endorse attorney general candidates who back abortion rights Democrats unveil impeachment procedures MORE (D-Ill.) is trying to get by a tough Democratic primary once again, and he’s turning to help from some of his friends to do so. 


As Scott Wong and Mike Lillis report, Democrats are rallying around Lipinski, a Blue Dog Democrat who has come under fire from some progressives for his pro-life stance, after a group of liberal lawmakers came out to support his opponent, Marie Newman, who narrowly fell to Lipinski in the 2018 primary. Among them is House Democratic leadership, which continues to support Lipinski and is urging rank-and-file members to do the same.





“We all need to realize that the Democratic Party is a party of a big tent, and so we have to be tolerant of other member's views and not go after each other in party primaries,” said Rep. Wm. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayLawmakers honor JFK on 56th anniversary of his death Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny Maloney wins vote for Oversight chairwoman MORE (D-Mo.), a Congressional Progressive Caucus lawmaker who faced his own primary challenge last year. 


“Apparently his district is connected to him, and they showed their support for him in the last cycle. So why we would interfere in other members' districts is just beyond me,” Clay said. 


House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules House revives agenda after impeachment storm House poised to hand impeachment articles to Senate MORE (D-Md.) made his voice heard last week, arguing that lawmakers who support insurgents are pushing a misguided strategy — one that could benefit Republicans at the polls. 


“We want to see the party as unified as possible,” Hoyer said. “We think it's very important to keep the majority, obviously, not just because we want to be in the majority, but because the values that the parties reflect [are] very, very disparate — as disparate as I've seen it in my entire career.”


The Washington Post: Trump’s takeover of GOP forces many House Republicans to head for the exits.


Politico: Democrats grapple for open congressional seat in the Bronx.


CONGRESS: The Senate is expected to follow the House’s lead and pass a stopgap spending bill this week to help avert a government shutdown that would take hold at the end of the month. But after weeks of tenuous negotiations, lawmakers are wondering if this is the new normal and the rest of fiscal 2020 will need to be funded by continuing resolutions (CRs). 


Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbySenate fails to get deal to speed up fight over impeachment rules Roberts under pressure from both sides in witness fight GOP senator on Trump soliciting foreign interference: 'Those are just statements' MORE (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, raised the possibility last week, saying the rest of the year could be funded by “continuous CRs.”


“That could be the endgame,” Shelby said. 


Funding troubles have morphed from a one-off fight over funding for the Department of Homeland Security into an all-out war that has extended to funding of other departments and agencies after the president’s decision to invoke emergency powers to pay for a border wall, which the Supreme Court upheld in late July. These fights have left some members resigned to a year filled with stopgap measures to keep the government’s lights on.


"I'm not going to faint dead away if we end up with a CR for the whole year," said Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) (The Hill).





> Gun violence: Trump is stringing along the debate over gun control by keeping alive discussions on expanded background checks, but just barely, as he continues to drag his feet and waits to announce what gun violence legislation he will support.   


Senate negotiators initially expected Trump to signal his preferred approach to gun violence prevention by Sept. 13, with that date pushed to Sept. 19 after no answers came.


That wait continues, although the Justice Department released a proposal that centers on expanding background checks along the lines of a 2013 plan that was sponsored by Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSchiff sparks blowback with head on a 'pike' line Schiff closes Democrats' impeachment arguments with emotional appeal to remove Trump Trump's trial a major test for McConnell, Schumer MORE (D-W.Va.) and 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.). However, Trump did not say where he stood on the bill, saying the blueprint was just a “series of concepts,” leaving lawmakers awaiting his word.


A senior Senate Republican aide said Trump appears to be dragging out the debate to keep his options open.  


“He doesn’t want to get into a fight with Second Amendment groups, but he doesn’t want to kill it either in case he might need it later on,” the aide said of the proposal.  


“So he’s telling senators, ‘Keep talking about it,’” the aide added (The Hill).




INTERNATIONAL: It’s Climate Week in New York during the United Nations General Assembly, and most member countries are expected to make pledges to reduce greenhouse gases or otherwise tackle manmade changes to the environment (The Associated Press). Trump — whose administration refutes scientific evidence that the Earth’s climate, sea temperatures and weather patterns are being altered by man-made causes — will headline an event about religious freedom scheduled while world leaders focus on climate change (CNN).


Politico: U.N. Secretary-General António Gutteres seeks to focus on concrete nation commitments to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, a goal even the climate-focused European Union won’t meet.    


> Iran: Trump ordered U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia to counter Iran’s aggression and has sanctioned Iran’s national bank as retaliation for missile and drone strikes on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, blamed by the administration on Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who last week accused Tehran of an “act of war” against the Saudis that also jeopardized Americans, on Sunday said the U.S. mission is to avoid war with Iran (Reuters).


Trump on Sunday said he has no plans this week at the United Nations to meet with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, adding, “I’m always open. …I would hear what they wanted.” 


Rouhani said in remarks on state television that the U.S. “maximum pressure” policy of sanctions on Iran has failed (Reuters). 

The Wall Street Journal: Trump faces long odds this week with his desire to try to make Iran’s actions a centerpiece at the U.N. 


> Israel: The process of selecting Israel’s next prime minister entered its second stage on Sunday. Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMOREs tenure appeared rocky as Arab parties in Israel threw their weight behind Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s rival in the country’s recent deadlocked second election (The Washington Post).


> China and trade: U.S.-China discussions are continuing about trade in preparation for the arrival in Washington of Vice Premier Liu He of China for talks in October. No dates have been announced, but expectations are focused on Oct. 10 and Oct. 11 in advance of Trump’s planned increases in U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods on Oct. 15 and Dec. 15 (The New York Times).


> White House National Security Council: Robert O’Brien, Trump’s fourth national security adviser, inherits significant challenges, including the president himself (The Hill). O’Brien announced to reporters late on Sunday that he plans to appoint former journalist Matt Pottinger to be deputy national security adviser (CNBC). 

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!


China and India must step up on climate change, by John KerryJohn Forbes KerryDemocratic debates are magnet for lobbyists The Memo: Sanders-Warren battle could reshape Democratic primary Bring on the brokered convention MORE, opinion contributor, The Washington Post.


Close the Book on Shutdowns, by Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGraham vows Biden, Ukraine probe after impeachment trial GOP warns of 'drawn out' executive privilege battle over Bolton testimony  Senate Republicans confident they'll win fight on witnesses MORE (R-Wis.), The Wall Street Journal. 


Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features progressive comedian Sam Seder, host of talk radio’s “The Majority Report,” who unpacks weekend news; Devin Hansen, author of “Guts: The Lane Evans Story”; Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico, a candidate for the Georgia Senate seat held by Republican David Perdue, elected in 2014; and activist Renaldo Pearson, director of external affairs for RepresentUs, to discuss a planned “democracy walk” from Atlanta to Washington. Find Hill.TV programming at or on YouTube at 10 a.m.


The House meets in a pro forma session at 9 a.m.


The Senate reconvenes at 3 p.m. and resume consideration of Treasury Department counselor Brian McGuire, the nominee to be deputy under secretary at the department. 


The president is in New York, where he will speak at the administration’s centerpiece United Nations event, a “Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom” this morning. Vice President Pence will also participate. Trump will meet today with Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan, President Andrzej Duda of Poland (joined by Pence at 2:30 p.m.), Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea.


First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump beefs up impeachment defense with Dershowitz, Starr Trump welcomes LSU to the White House: 'Go Tigers' The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE will ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange at 9:30 a.m. 


Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan will discuss immigration policy at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington at 12:30 p.m.


Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDemocrats worry Trump team will cherry-pick withheld documents during defense Commerce Department withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon pushback: reports  Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Bezos phone breach raises fears over Saudi hacking | Amazon seeks to halt Microsoft's work on 'war cloud' | Lawmakers unveil surveillance reform bill MORE (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, delivers a speech about U.S.-China relations at the U.S. Institute for Peace in Washington at noon. Livestream information is HERE


Drug price controls are a hidden tax on manufacturers that puts critical R&D investments in new cures at risk. Support patient access to life-saving medicines, and the manufacturers and researchers that deliver them.


State Watch (literally): The push to grant statehood to the District of Columbia has powerful allies in Pelosi and Hoyer, but legislation to create the 51st state faces an uphill battle in Congress. The House Oversight and Reform Committee held the first hearing on D.C. statehood in more than two decades this week, showing how support for making the District a state has widespread support among Democrats. It's a shift from the last time the House considered the idea back in 1993, when the chamber (controlled by Democrats) resoundingly rejected a similar bill from Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonBicameral group of Democrats introduces bill to protect immigrant laborers Overnight Energy: Mark Ruffalo pushes Congress on 'forever chemicals' | Lawmakers spar over actor's testimony | House Dems unveil renewable energy tax plan | Funding for conservation program passes Senate hurdle Maloney wins vote for Oversight chairwoman MORE (D-D.C.). The longtime representative of the district’s bill currently has 220 cosponsors, but any action out of the House is likely dead on arrival in the Senate, which would have to approve the move. D.C. statehood would almost certainly elect two Democratic senators if it became a state (The Hill).


Planned Parenthood: The women’s health organization, other health groups and state governments will be in court today asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to block Trump administration changes that ban federally funded family planning providers from referring women for abortions. Observers say the case could eventually make its way to the Supreme Court (The Hill).


Cinema and science: How much of the new science fiction film “Ad Astra,” starring producer Brad Pitt, is plausible in the view of astronauts and scientists? A recent panel in Washington featuring Pitt, writer-director James Gray and two NASA officials explored where cinematic license collides with scientific accuracy (Air & Space magazine).  





And finally … From a worldwide Climate Strike on Friday to events this week tied to Climate Week and the annual meeting of the United Nations, young people are the climate change activists to watch (and hear), including 16-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden (CNN) and many other future-focused youngsters like her around the world (BBC).