The Hill's Morning Report - Lawmakers return to work as Dem candidates set to debate




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!

Hello Columbus Day!  In 1971, Americans gained a federal holiday to honor an explorer who thought he’d sailed to Asia in 1492 when he actually reached Cuba, later writing to Spain’s king and queen that natives he befriended on several islands were “timid and full of terror. ...But when they see that they are safe, and all fear is banished, they are very guileless and honest.” 

Members of Congress head back to Washington this week as Democratic presidential candidates return to the debate stage on Tuesday night.


Democrats in the House have at least four witnesses on the roster as they pressure President TrumpDonald TrumpWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Poll: 30 percent of GOP voters believe Trump will 'likely' be reinstated this year Black Secret Service agent told Trump it was offensive to hold rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth: report MORE with an impeachment inquiry that has clearly gotten under his skin, while top-tier White House contenders (Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle OVERNIGHT ENERGY:  EPA announces new clean air advisors after firing Trump appointees |  Senate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior | Watchdog: Bureau of Land Management saw messaging failures, understaffing during pandemic MORE vs. Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats have turned solidly against gas tax Overnight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 Democratic senators press PhRMA over COVID-19 lobbying efforts  MORE on capitalism, for instance) are poised to pummel one another as well as Trump as they prepare to debate in Ohio.


Sunday’s news included the emergence after months of silence of Hunter Biden, who through his lawyer defended his work in Ukraine and China, but said he wants to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. He said he is stepping down from the board of a Chinese firm and pledged to steer clear of future work abroad if his father is elected president (Bloomberg).


“Hunter undertook these business activities independently,” his attorney George Mesires said in a statement. “He did not believe it appropriate to discuss them with his father, nor did he.”





Struggling to prune a thicket of plots and subplots involving Ukraine, House investigative committees want to hear today from Fiona Hill, former top aide to Trump on Russia, and Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, on Thursday. Two other State Department diplomats also are scheduled to appear this week, even as the White House attempts to block all government witnesses from cooperating. 


Sondland, a major Trump campaign donor, plans to testify that the president told him to deny there was any quid pro quo with Ukraine involving military aid and an investigation of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenObama: Ensuring democracy 'continues to work effectively' keeps me 'up at night' New Jersey landlords prohibited from asking potential tenants about criminal records Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE’s actions in the country. The ambassador has told Congress he does not have the authority to furnish official texts or documents held by the State Department (The Associated Press).


Last week’s arrests of two U.S. citizens who did investigative work with Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiCourt sets Smartmatic dismissal date on Giuliani, Bartiromo, others Ukraine sanctions two businessmen tied to Giuliani Mo Brooks accuses Swalwell attorney who served papers on his wife of trespassing MORE aimed at Biden and have ties to Ukraine put the spotlight on the president’s personal lawyer and the source of funds that suspects Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Florida businessmen, tapped while allegedly making illegal campaign contributions to Republican candidates.


Reuters: Parnas served as a translator for lawyers representing Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash, who is battling extradition by U.S. authorities on bribery charges from Vienna, where he has lived for five years. 


House investigators have subpoenaed Giuliani to testify, which he has said he is unlikely to do. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffCyber concerns dominate Biden-Putin summit Senate on collision course over Trump DOJ subpoenas Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cybersecurity during summit with Putin MORE (D-Calif.) said last week that any administration efforts to block witnesses from cooperating with Congress will be treated as acts of obstruction.  


Bloomberg: Giuliani’s financial dealings with two arrested associates are under federal investigation.


The Associated Press: Trump backs Giuliani, but some aides wish the president would cut ties with the former New York City mayor. 


Politico: “Stop talking”: Trump advisers want Giuliani dumped.


The Associated Press: What’s next in the impeachment inquiry as Congress returns.


The Hill: Senate Republicans are barreling toward a high-profile fight over impeachment as they return to Washington.


The Hill: Five reasons Trump is in trouble with his Syria policy. 


The Hill: Republicans wrestle with impeachment strategy.


The Hill: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham quips key to working with Trump: We both 'like him' The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay Democrats scramble to unify before election bill brawl MORE (R-Ky.), who passed the hat this month among political supporters by pledging to “block” Trump’s possible impeachment, has said little else about the controversy. He’ll be pressed this week about GOP divisions in the Senate. 





POLITICS: 2020 Democratic candidates have begun to jockey ahead of Tuesday night’s debate, where all eyes will be on the front-runners in the Democratic field. Voters’ questions remain about whether the Democratic Party should nominate a senior citizen candidate and about the strength of Biden’s challenge to Trump.


Nearly two weeks after suffering a heart attack, Sander says he will return to the 2020 trail at this week’s Ohio debate and reassure supporters about his age and health. Before his emergency surgery, Sanders kept a breakneck campaign schedule and bristled at questions about his formerly raspy voice and his stamina. If elected president, he would be 79 on Inauguration Day. 


Sanders now anticipates being asked about his recovery and has tried to tamp down doubts, telling ABC News on Sunday that he will release his medical records. After initially saying he would dial back while in cardiac rehabilitation, the senator now says he will maintain an active campaign schedule.


According to a new CBS-YouGov poll of likely voters in early primary states released on Sunday, 43 percent say they are concerned that Sanders is too old to serve effectively as president. 


Sanders has attempted to turn his brush with mortality into a positive as he adds a personal touch to his interviews and appearances, Max Greenwood writes. The move is a departure from his strident, arms-raised messaging about a political revolution and the excesses of U.S. billionaires.


The Washington Post: Tuesday’s debate: A moment of truth for Sanders.


ABC News: Sanders draws contrast with Warren: She says “she is a capitalist through her bones. I'm not.”


NBC News: Biden's new ethics plan includes constitutional amendment to publicly finance elections.


The Hill: Meet Trump's most trusted pollsters.


As for Biden, the Ukraine issue continues to loom large as he sustains repeated body shots from Trump. While he is expected to be pressed on the topic from moderators, it remains an open question whether any of his Democratic competitors will bring it up. According to Bloomberg, Biden’s team has been warning other campaigns to steer clear of the issue.


Luckily for Biden, if Sunday is any indication, he may have some back-up. Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegHigh-speed rail getting last minute push in Congress Buttigieg: Bipartisan deal on infrastructure 'strongly preferred' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden ends infrastructure talks with key Republican | Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack | Texas gov signs bills to improve power grid after winter storm MORE argued that Hunter Biden is held to a different standard than Trump’s children. Nevertheless, the issue has put the former vice president on the defensive as he dips slightly in polls.


On the flip side is Warren, who is on the rise heading into Tuesday night’s event. Since the beginning of the summer, Warren has seen her support balloon among primary voters, propelling her past Sanders in poll after poll, including some showing her in the lead against Biden. Most recently, the CBS-YouGov poll showed Warren topping the former vice president by an 8-point margin in New Hampshire. 


“Warren’s campaign is firing on all cylinders,” Democratic strategist Jim Manley told The Hill. “She’s making inroads with voters and that’s reflected in the recent polls. Not only is she drawing big crowds, but she keeps churning out policy proposals. It’s impressive.”


The New York Times: The Democratic debate is coming to Ohio, where a party battle Is already underway.


The Cleveland Plain Dealer: Upcoming Democratic presidential debate highlights a question: Is Ohio a major battleground?


The Associated Press: Is Ohio in play? GOP tilt working against Democrats.


The New York Times: Macabre video of fake Trump shooting media and critics ss shown at his resort. 


The Hill: WHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets.





INTERNATIONAL: Syria & Turkey: It’s now the sixth day in a bloody Turkish offensive against the Kurds in northeastern Syria that has thus far resulted in Syrian government forces acting to defend the Kurds, the deaths of scores of Kurdish civilians, the reported release of some high-value ISIS prisoners, an exodus of tens of thousands of refugees and Trump’s decision to hastily withdraw all U.S. troops from northeastern Syria to send them to Iraq (The Associated Press).


Chaos in the region emerged rapidly after Trump tacitly approved the plans Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan revealed to him last week to begin a military offensive against the Kurds in northeastern Syria. Iran has offered to try to mediate an end to the escalating conflict, as has Trump. Turkish artillery struck near U.S. forces in Kobani, the city south of the border with Turkey, over the weekend, an event that reportedly was not an accident and sparked a terse Pentagon warning to Ankara (Reuters).


Turkish-backed Syrian rebels had seized control of the center of the Syrian border town of Ras al Ain by Saturday, a senior Turkish security official said. Trump again on Sunday defended his decision to move U.S. troops out of the way and to not intervene in the bloodshed. The president tweeted that the administration is consulting with senators from both parties about applying tough economic sanctions on Turkey, although Middle East experts predict that only the Syrian regime or Russia has the clout to halt Erdoğan’s invasion.


The Senate Armed Services Committee plans a closed-door hearing Thursday to examine events in Syria.


The New York Times: Syria live updates.


The Hill: Pentagon confirms Trump pulled 1,000 U.S. forces out of Syria.


The Washington Post: Unswayed by top advisers, Trump doubles down on decision to withdraw U.S. troops.


The Hill: Furious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria.


The Associated Press: Fear that Turkey’s invasion could fuel a broader war.


The Washington Post: Turkish-led forces film themselves executing a Kurdish captive in Syria (and video goes viral).


Axios: Trump's Erdoğan bluff kicked off the Turkish invasion.


> China: U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods that were set to rise on Tuesday under Trump’s previous orders have been suspended in the wake of a preliminary set of agreements announced between the two governments on Friday (Reuters). “There was a lot of friction between the United States and China, and now it’s a lovefest. That’s a good thing,” Trump said on Friday.


> Russia & Syria: The New York Times compared flight logs, video analysis, witness accounts, radio recordings and time logs to establish evidence that during just 12 hours in May, the Russian Air Force bombed four hospitals in Syria to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad maintain power in the eighth year of the country’s civil war. The bombardment in May is a fraction of such attacks this year.

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!


Bring order to the impeachment process, by conservative editorial page editor Nolan Finley, The Detroit News. https://bit.ly/2McsMN7


Sharp cuts in immigration threaten the U.S. economy, by economist Austan Goolsbee, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/2pgJ2Ux


Talk Shows: The Hill rounded up key news and opinions from Sunday’s television.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Josh Orton, national policy director and senior adviser for the Sanders campaign, on the senator’s latest proposal to end corporate greed and corruption; Elena Botella, contributing writer for The New Republic, on her article about her work for Capital One; Sam Feinburg, chief operating officer and executive director for Helena; and Max Greenwood, campaign reporter for The Hill, who previews the Democratic presidential debate in Ohio on Tuesday. Find Hill.TV programming at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m.


The House returns to work on Tuesday at 2 p.m.


The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. on Tuesday to resume consideration of the nomination of Barbara McConnell Barrett to be secretary of the Air Force.


The president has no public events on his schedule.


You’re invited to The Hill's upcoming newsmaker event, Innovation Runway: The Cutting Edge of Aviation, at the Newseum on Oct. 23 at 8 a.m. Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Ted Cruz says critical race theory is as racist as 'Klansmen in white sheets' Pentagon pulling 'certain forces and capabilities,' including air defenses, from Middle East MORE (R-Texas), Rep. Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenNewest Boeing 737 Max takes first test flight Democrats seek answers from Boeing, FAA after production issues with 737 Max, Dreamliner jets Democrats debate fast-track for infrastructure package MORE (D-Wash.) and Daniel Elwell, deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, will discuss changes in American aviation that affect consumers and the nation. Information is HERE


The Library of Congress opens its Main Reading Room to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. — one of only two days annually during which visitors are welcome to see the spectacular room located on the first floor of the library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. SE, near the Capitol. Docents are on hand between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to help visitors learn more about the library’s holdings, history, art and architecture. 





State Watch: For the seventh time since June 1, police in Fort Worth, Texas, shot a civilian, killing a 28-year-old black woman inside her own home on Saturday. A white officer, aiming through a window, shot Atatiana Jefferson, who died in a bedroom. Six of seven people shot by police in Fort Worth since June died (Fort Worth Star-Telegram).


Tech: Millions of Flickr images were sucked into a database called MegaFace, a mammoth facial recognition database containing the images of 700,000 individuals. Now some of those faces may have the ability to sue (The New York Times).


NBA and China: The president and lawmakers are directing their ire at the NBA, not China, as the fallout continues after Houston Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong last week. Despite the shared unease about China, the NBA has been the focus of attacks, giving Democrats the chance to take on a major U.S. corporation for putting profit over principle and Republicans another opportunity to go after a league they have butted heads with before (The Hill).


And finally … Gymnast Simone Biles made history on Sunday by winning her fourth and fifth gold medals to close the world championships in Stuttgart, Germany, on Sunday, breaking the record for career world medals and giving her 25 total, including 19 golds, the most for any gymnast, male or female (The Associated Press). 


The reigning Olympic and five-time world champion in the prestigious all-around competition, Biles, who is 4 feet, 8 inches tall and keeps her medals locked in a safe, competed in what is likely her final world championships. In a challenging feat for any 22-year-old gymnast, Biles has her eyes locked on a second Olympics next summer at the 2020 Tokyo Games (The Washington Post).