The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate




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Good morning! Three more days until the South Carolina primary … six more days until Super Tuesday … 251 days until Election Day!

Democratic presidential aspirants in South Carolina on Tuesday accused front-runner Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOn The Money: Unemployment gains lower than expected | Jobs report lights fire under coronavirus relief talks Sanders says he can't support bipartisan COVID-19 relief proposal in its current form Progressives push for direct payments to be included in COVID-19 relief deal MORE (I-Vt.) of being a radical risk who could set back the nation’s fortunes for years to come if he’s the party’s nominee. But during the final debate before more than a dozen states vote over the next week, Sanders calmly pushed back, arguing that polls show he can beat President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE with a “movement” determined to expand the middle class.


“I’m hearing my name mentioned a little bit tonight,” Sanders said. “I wonder why.


Repeatedly, Sanders was lashed about universal health care, authoritarian regimes and the cost of his various proposals (The Hill). 


Among the most forceful attempted takedowns came from former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegJuan Williams: Clyburn is my choice as politician of the year 'Biff is president': Michael J. Fox says Trump has played on 'every worst instinct in mankind' Buttigieg: Denying Biden intelligence briefings is about protecting Trump's 'ego' MORE, who argued that a general election contest between the senator and Trump would be divisive for the country.


“If you think the last four years has been chaotic, divisive, toxic, exhausting, imagine spending the better part of 2020 with Bernie Sanders versus Donald Trump,” Buttigieg said. “We have an opportunity to set a different tone.”


Buttigieg also panned the senator for his remarks to “60 Minutes” about the revolutionary regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba, saying the debate this year shouldn’t be about “what coups happened in the 1970s and 80s.” 


The Hill: Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far.


The Associated Press: Sanders faces attacks in Democrats’ debate-stage clash.


Reuters: Raucous debate yields no clear challenger to Sanders.


The Hill: Five debate takeaways.


The Hill: Winners and losers from South Carolina debate.


Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Federal student loan payment suspension extended another month Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week MORE faced a high bar. The debate was his nationally televised chance to make a closing pitch to South Carolina voters and those in the Super Tuesday states who could soon make Sanders impossible for the rest of the field to catch. Biden forcefully criticized the Vermont senator about his expansive “Medicare for All” plan and long-ago votes backing gun manufacturers.


Sanders defended his ideas to bring all Americans into a government-run health care system and conceded without protest that his vote to give gun companies immunity from prosecution was “a bad vote.”


When pressed by the moderators, Biden did not commit to staying in the race if he does not win on Saturday night. According to the latest RealClearPolitics average, Biden leads Sanders by an 8-point margin. 


The Hill: Biden pledges to nominate black woman to Supreme Court.


The Hill: Biden, Sanders battle over Cuba, Obama.


Dana Milbank: Sanders is stirring up a sickening sense of deja vu.


The Hill: Sanders: Israel run by “reactionary racist” in Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE.


Former New York Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergBiden's great challenge: Build an economy for long-term prosperity and security The secret weapon in Biden's fight against climate change Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE was steadier in Charleston than he had been in Las Vegas last week, and because Sanders was the target, Bloomberg had openings to play offense.


“If you keep on going, we will elect Bernie. Bernie will lose to Donald Trump. And Donald Trump and the House and the Senate and some of the statehouses will all go red,” he told the audience, calling it a “catastrophe” that would tilt the Supreme Court and change the country for 20 years or more. 


I am the one choice that makes some sense,” Bloomberg added. “I have the experience. I have the resources. I have the record.” 


Reminiscent of the Nevada debate, Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenCan Biden find a third way between Trumpism and Obama-era globalism? Left seeks to influence Biden picks while signaling unity Schwarzenegger says he would 'absolutely' help Biden administration MORE (D-Mass.) took turns shooting back at the former New York City mayor over his dealings with China and nondisclosure agreements he reached with an unknown number of former female employees at his businesses. Warren charged, based on recent reporting, that Bloomberg once told an employee to terminate a pregnancy, an accusation that is not new and that he again denied.


The Hill: Warren, Bloomberg get in heated exchange over alleged treatment of female employees.


The Washington Post: Bloomberg improves from his last debate — but is it enough?


The Hill: Bloomberg attacks Sanders over reports of Russian interference.


The coronavirus inspired questions late in the evening as the epidemic continues to spread from China to 41 other countries. Bloomberg was the first to raise the issue, leading criticism on stage of the Trump administration’s response, including proposed budget cuts at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Referring to the president and his team, the former mayor said, “There’s nobody here to figure out what the hell we should be doing.”  


Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate committee advances bill for national Latino museum Senate committee approves nominations of three FEC commissioners Scammers step up efforts to target older Americans during pandemic MORE (D-Minn.) faulted Trump for not delivering a national address about the government’s response and the known details about the deadly virus. Instead, Trump has tweeted blanket reassurances that Americans are not in danger. “I’m not going to give my website right now. I’m going to give the CDC’s website, which is CDC.gov,"  Klobuchar said somberly. 


During the second half of the event, Trump tweeted a defense of his administration’s coronavirus preparedness, saying Democrats would be critical if “the virus disappeared tomorrow” (The Hill).


Dan Balz: Sanders takes fire in an unruly debate that left no candidate truly enhanced.


Jonathan Allen: Bernie Sanders, unleashed at the Democratic debate.


The next Democratic face-off among candidates is scheduled on March 15 in Phoenix and may look quite different in the wake of Super Tuesday. The event takes place two days before the Arizona primary and will be broadcast by CNN and Univision beginning at 8 p.m. ET. By the time that debate takes place, 24 states and multiple territories will have weighed in.





CORONAVIRUS: The first U.S. soldier with COVID-19 was reported today in South Korea among forces deployed in the nation that is battling the largest outbreak of the virus outside China (The Associated Press).


The prevailing hazard in the United States from the coronavirus on Tuesday was not the contagion itself but the evident spread of mixed messages, scrambled motives and decision-making that lacked one ingredient that’s irreplaceable in times of international emergencies: coordination.


The administration had at least six top officials weighing in publicly about the virus, including Trump, all with different messages, some in conflict. Tuesday surfaced dire warnings from various authorities about a brewing pandemic, potential supply shortages and economic Armageddon.


White House economic adviser Larry KudlowLarry KudlowMORE, ever the optimist, said the United States “has contained this.” That was shortly after a top infectious disease expert at the CDC warned of an “inevitable” outbreak within the United States and the possibility that “disruption to everyday life” could prove “severe.”


The coronavirus spreads so easily that public health experts believe U.S. containment will eventually falter. There have been 57 people in the country confirmed to be infected or recovering from the virus. Transmission beyond quarantines and travel restrictions could eventually stress hospitals, doctors and medical personnel. “If we see health care workers go down, that’s what will cause panic among the people,” said Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.  


The Hill: Public health experts raise U.S. alarm as coronavirus spreads globally.


NBC News: CDC warns Americans to prepare; not “if” but “when” U.S. outbreak hits communities.


The San Francisco Chronicle: To be prepared, San Francisco declared a coronavirus emergency in a city with no known cases of coronavirus infection.


The White House and lawmakers from both parties on Tuesday feuded about Washington’s stutter steps to reach consensus around a plan and agree on sufficient billions of dollars in emergency federal funding and a single set of facts to help rather than confuse the public.


The New York Times: How to prepare for the coronavirus. (And beware the price gouging.)


The Associated Press: How deadly is COVID-19? Scientists say it’s still too early to tell.


This morning, the worldwide death toll from the virus is 2,763 among 81,005 infections reported in at least 42 countries and multiple continents, according to the latest information. Brazil today reported its first case of coronavirus in a 61-year-old patient who visited Italy (Reuters).


The Hill: Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump’s coronavirus response.


The Federal Reserve, fielding calls to cut interest rates next month to mitigate the economic impacts of the coronavirus, said it’s too soon to decide. Vice Chairman Richard Clarida said the central bank continues to monitor the data (CNBC).


Around the world, impacts from the spreading virus are intensifying. Cases of the infection in South Korea rose to 1,146, with 12 deaths. The number of cases in Italy rose to 322, linked to the spread in five European countries (The New York Times). Algeria saw its first patient with the infection.


Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics, set to open in three months, say they can wait until late May to decide the fate of the Summer Games. Japan has reported 170 cases of the virus and one death (The Associated Press).


The Hill: Dow takes another huge hit amid fears of coronavirus.





CONGRESS: A week after rumors emerged that Attorney General William BarrBill BarrKellyanne Conway acknowledges Biden as apparent winner Trump Pentagon nominee alleged Biden 'coup': report Ex-FBI lawyer who falsified document in Trump-Russia probe seeks to avoid prison MORE might resign, Senate Republicans rallied to his defense on Tuesday during a private meeting in the Capitol and told him “we have your back,” according to The Hill’s Alexander Bolton.


While Barr never denied that he was considering leaving the administration, the Senate GOP made it abundantly clear on Tuesday that it wants him to continue to lead the Justice Department.


“We all have a lot of confidence in him. We think he’s doing a terrific job,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Unemployment gains lower than expected | Jobs report lights fire under coronavirus relief talks GOP senators back Christian school's push for COVID-19 carve-out Bipartisan governors call on Congress to pass coronavirus relief package MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters following the caucus lunch. 


Republican senators and aides said there was concern earlier that Barr might step down after coming under fire for his handling of the Justice Department’s prosecution of Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneBiden, Harris pledge to keep politics out of DOJ Flynn spurs questions of who Trump might pardon next OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 MORE, who was sentenced last week to more than three years in prison.


In the caucus meeting, Barr told Senate Republicans that he wants to make changes to the court process associated with Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in the wake of a damning watchdog report on efforts to surveil the Trump campaign in 2016. The changes by the Justice Department would be focused on regulatory matters. 


"He went over his recommendations and some internal reforms about FISA warrant application and surveillance technology being used," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham reports 'record-breaking' 9M haul during 2020 campaign Lawmakers pressure leaders to reach COVID-19 relief deal Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country MORE (R-S.C.). "He's going to do some things that he can do."    


Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Capital One — Pressure builds as UK approves COVID-19 vaccine Republican frustration builds over Cabinet picks Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE (R-N.D.) added that Barr “talked about things he would ... like to make through regulation” (The Hill).


NBC News: Trump says he wants “no help from any country” in reelection bid.





> Investigations: The House Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday issued a request for documents from the White House regarding the security clearance of John McEnteeJohn (Johnny) David McEnteeBiden rolls out new members of White House senior staff GOP lawmaker: Trump implementing a 'loyalty purge' amid firing of top cybersecurity official Esper firing hints at broader post-election shake-up MORE, a top aide recently rehired to lead the Presidential Personnel Office.  


McEntee, Trump’s former personal assistant, was fired in March 2018 for undisclosed security reasons, but was brought back to the White House in January to oversee the office tasked with vetting presidential appointments and recruiting candidates to work in federal agencies. 


In a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyHillicon Valley: Government used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 | Defense bill leaves out Section 230 repeal, includes White House cyber czar position | Officials warn hackers are targeting vaccine supply chain Defense policy bill would create new cyber czar position Sweeping financial crimes bill to hitch a ride on defense measure MORE (D-N.Y.) re-upped the panel’s request for documents it had previously made last year about McEntee's security clearance and background check (The Hill).


> Abortion: Senate Democrats blocked a pair of bills related to abortion on Tuesday, including one that would ban the procedure after 20 weeks with exceptions for the life of the mother and victims of rape or incest. 


The 20-week ban bill was brought up by Graham, while Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him McConnell in tough position as House eyes earmark return Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism MORE (R-Neb.) introduced the second piece of legislation that would penalize doctors who fail to "exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion." Neither bill received the 60 votes needed to proceed. 


Graham's bill failed in a 53-44 vote, with Democratic Sens. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyScranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Grassley tests positive for coronavirus Casey says he isn't thinking about Pennsylvania gubernatorial bid in 2022 MORE (Pa.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSanders says he can't support bipartisan COVID-19 relief proposal in its current form Progressives push for direct payments to be included in COVID-19 relief deal Rubio and Ocasio-Cortez spar on Twitter: 'Work more, tweet less' MORE (W.Va.) voting for it and GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Congress inches closer to virus relief deal Lawmakers pressure leaders to reach COVID-19 relief deal Biden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Congress inches closer to virus relief deal Lawmakers pressure leaders to reach COVID-19 relief deal Biden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him MORE (Alaska) voting against it. Sasse's bill failed 56-41, with Casey, Manchin and Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) voting for it (The Hill).




COURTS: The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the parents of a Mexican teenager who was shot dead over the border by an American agent are unable to seek damages because the teen was on Mexican soil. 


The court ruled 5-4 that the family of 15-year-old Sergio Adrian Hernández Guereca cannot sue Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa Jr., who killed Guereca in 2010, in U.S. courts. Justice Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoConservative justices seem prepared to let Trump proceed with immigrant census plan for now For Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court upholds religious liberty Alito to far-right litigants: The buffet is open MORE wrote for the court that while what happened is a tragedy, issues related to strong border security and international relations guided the ruling (The Associated Press). 


> Roger Stone: The president railed against the jury foreperson who voted to convict Stone, a longtime adviser and political ally of Trump, on Tuesday, arguing that she was “totally biased” in the midst of a hearing related to Stone’s conviction. 


Trump made the comments as he was being rebuked by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson over his missives against the jury. Federal prosecutors were also arguing against Stone’s push for a new trial due to the jury foreperson’s past statements on social media.


“There has rarely been a juror so tainted as the forewoman in the Roger Stone case,” Trump tweeted. “Look at her background. She never revealed her hatred of ‘Trump’ and Stone. She was totally biased, as is the judge. Roger wasn’t even working on my campaign. Miscarriage of justice. Sad to watch!” 


The comments came nearly two weeks after Barr told ABC News in an interview that Trump’s tweets about matters related to the Justice Department made it difficult to do his job and urged the president to stop doing so (The Washington Post). 


The Washington Post opinion: I was a juror in the Roger Stone trial. Attacking our foreperson undermines our service.


The Washington Post: Trump dials up his unusual battle with the judiciary.

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!


Create “a bipartisan caucus of incumbent senators who would be committed to making the Senate function as the Framers of the Constitution intended,” 70 former U.S. senators (including 18 Republicans) suggest as opinion contributors to The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/32qgJlW “The legislative process is no longer working in the Senate.”


Why religion is the best hope against Trump, by Jon Meacham, contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/2SXSSXK 


The House meets at 10 a.m. Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Overnight Defense: Trump orders troop withdrawal from Somalia | 13th US service member dies from COVID-19 | Trump loyalists added to DOD advisory board MORE will testify today at 10 a.m. to the House Armed Services Committee about the administration’s proposed fiscal 2021 defense budget. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar testifies to two House subcommittees today about the administration’s response to the coronavirus, first at 9:30 a.m. (Appropriations) and later at 1:30 p.m. (Energy and Commerce).


The Senate will next meet on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of Travis Greaves to be a judge with the United States Tax Court. Senate Democrats today will hold a closed-door retreat in Baltimore.


The president has no public schedule today.


Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo imposes visa restrictions on Chinese officials over 'intimidation' tactics Israel's new Gulf relations give Biden's team a new Middle East hub Pompeo knocks Turkey in NATO speech: report MORE meets with Kosovo President Hashim Thaci at the Department of State at 1 p.m. The secretary speaks at 4:15 p.m. at the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference at the department.


The Hill this morning hosts “America's Opioid Epidemic: Lessons Learned & A Way Forward” in Washington at 8 a.m. to discuss treatment for opioid addiction and recovery issues with Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Rep. David JoyceDavid Patrick JoyceCandymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety Stand-alone bill to provide relief for airlines blocked on House floor Republicans shrug off Kasich's Democratic convention speech MORE (R-Ohio) and Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoOvernight Energy: Trump officials finalize plan to open up protected areas of Tongass to logging | Feds say offshore testing for oil can proceed despite drilling moratorium | Dems question EPA's postponement of inequality training Democrats question EPA postponement of environmental inequality training Clark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race MORE (D-N.Y.). RSVP and information HERE


Catch The Hill’s Campaign Report newsletter, with the latest from The Hill’s politics team. Sign up to receive evening updates, polling data and insights about the 2020 elections. 


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.


Technology: Twitter pledged to proactively verify new accounts created by political candidates this election cycle, but an analysis by The Hill shows the company’s vow is falling short. Nearly 90 primary candidates in the five states holding congressional and gubernatorial primaries on Super Tuesday still have not received the company's coveted "blue check," with only a week until the vote, report Emily Birnbaum and Chris Mills Rodrigo. Why is the Twitter check mark so important? Because verification on the platform is a prized asset among upstart political candidates who challenge established politicians, many of whom enjoy significant followers on social media and ample funding.


Business: Disney announced on Tuesday that Bob Iger will step down as CEO after 14 years in the position to become executive chairman of the company. Bob Chapek, who most recently served as chairman of Disney parks, experiences and products, will replace him as CEO effective immediately, according to the company. Immediately following the announcement, shares of Disney dropped about 2.5 percent. Iger will remain executive chairman of Disney through the end of 2021, according to the company. Iger, the longtime executive, has been instrumental in making Disney a key player in the streaming game with Disney Plus, which launched in November and had 26.5 million paying subscribers during the first quarter (CNBC). 


Wild bird rescue: Central Park birders, the Wild Bird Fund and park rangers are racing to locate and rescue a common merganser duck described as in deep trouble and starving because a discarded piece of plastic is wedged over its pointy beak. It’s a cautionary tale about the hazards of throwaway plastic and an uplifting example of New Yorkers’ can-do devotion to their unnaturally natural world (The New York Times).





And finally … People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for, and they have the right to subject their children to it.” — fictional Judge Taylor in the book “To Kill a Mockingbird.”


Tonight, thousands of middle and high school students from all five New York City boroughs have been invited to see the hit Broadway adaptation of Harper Lee’s 1960 novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” at no charge. The special performance staged at Madison Square Garden is the first play welcomed to the arena, better known as the home of basketball, boxing and concerts. The entire Broadway cast, including actor Ed Harris as Atticus Finch, plans to perform at the event, which is backed by the Scott Rudin-led production and James Dolan, the executive chairman and CEO of The Madison Square Garden Company. Tickets were distributed to 18,000 students through the city’s education department (The Associated Press).