The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden vs. Trump as Sanders exits race

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It’s Thursday. We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the daily co-creators, so find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and recommend the Morning Report to your friends. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 9,648; Tuesday, 10,993; Wednesday, 12,911; Thursday, 14,808.

It’s official: former Vice President Joe Biden will take on President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer chairman of Wisconsin GOP party signals he will comply with Jan. 6 committee subpoena Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon tells Russia to stand down Billionaire GOP donor maxed out to Manchin following his Build Back Better opposition MORE in November after Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSchumer finds unity moment in Supreme Court fight McConnell warns Biden not to 'outsource' Supreme Court pick to 'radical left' Briahna Joy Gray discusses Pelosi's 2022 re-election announcement MORE (I-Vt.) dropped out of the 2020 race on Wednesday.


Sanders made the announcement to supporters, lamenting that a path to winning the Democratic nomination had closed for him. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic hastened his decision to drop out, he said, although he initially considered it last month after a string of losses. 


“I wish I could give you better news, but I think you know the truth. And that is that we are now some 300 delegates behind Vice President BidenJoe BidenFormer chairman of Wisconsin GOP party signals he will comply with Jan. 6 committee subpoena Romney tests positive for coronavirus Pelosi sidesteps progressives' March 1 deadline for Build Back Better MORE and the path to victory is virtually impossible,” Sanders said, announcing the suspension of his campaign (The Hill).


“I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour,” Sanders continued. “While this campaign is coming to an end, our movement is not.”


READ: Sanders’s message to supporters as he dropped out of presidential race.


The Vermont Independent’s announcement came after more than a month of struggles inside his campaign, sparked by Biden’s massive win in South Carolina, the subsequent rallying of support behind Biden’s campaign by top Democrats, and major losses on Super Tuesday and March 10 that all but closed off Sanders’s chances of amassing enough delegates to win the nomination. The pandemic made it impossible for Sanders to hold large rallies to sustain momentum. 


Sanders’s decision to exit the primary is a disappointment for many progressives who held out hope when the senator was briefly the frontrunner with his Nevada caucuses victory in mid-February. As Jonathan Easley writes, Sanders and his allies could taste the nomination six weeks ago, not just for the candidate but also for a progressive movement eager to establish itself in the mainstream. 


Since the launch of his first presidential bid in 2016, the Vermont senator morphed into a political force that reshaped the Democratic Party. However, the millions raised from small-dollar donors and the mini army he created was not enough to push him over the finish line and become the party’s standard-bearer in Milwaukee this summer, much to the chagrin of his supporters.  


“It’s a huge disappointment,” said Bill Press, one of a small cadre of advisers Sanders consulted before launching his 2016 presidential bid and also a columnist with The Hill. “After doing better than anyone could have possibly imagined in 2016, he came into 2020 with a head full of steam. It was going so well, moving so fast, and then there was a perfect storm that gathered against him.”


Niall Stanage: The Memo: Sanders's influence endures as campaign ends.


The Hill: Biden credits Sanders for starting a movement.


According to the latest delegate count, Biden led with 1,217 to Sanders’s 914. Because many states moved their primaries out of April, the former VP is expected to officially hit the 1,991 delegate threshold on June 2. 


With Sanders out of the way, attention will now shift to a general election matchup between Trump and Biden, on whom the president and his team trained their expectations for more than a year. The race, however, has a different dynamic because of the impact of COVID-19, including the unexpected challenges to traditional campaigning and voting.


Earlier this week, Biden called Trump to discuss the virus and potential remedies for it. The call came after months of criticisms from each side, especially over Trump’s impeachment and subsequent trial that centered around his push for investigations into Biden’s son, Hunter Biden


The New York Times: Biden vs. Trump: The general election is here, and transformed.


The Washington Post: Trump campaign greets end of Democratic primary with two distinct campaigns against Biden.


The Associated Press: VP talk could intensify with Harris fundraising moves. 


The general election is also exciting Democrats as it is expected to bring former President Obama off the sidelines and into the political fray with a likely endorsement of his former vice president. 


As Amie Parnes reports, sources close to Obama and Biden say the two men have spoken “quite frequently,” as one put it, in recent days as Biden shifts gears towards the general election. While Obama steered clear of the Democratic primary, Democrats are antsy for him to reenter the political fray. According to sources, Obama is too. 


“He’s eager to go,” said one source close to Obama. “He’s been waiting for this election for almost four years.”


Democrats aren’t the only ones with Obama on their radar. During Wednesday’s coronavirus task force briefing, Trump raised questions about the Democratic primary, saying that Obama “knows something that you don’t know.” 


“It does amaze me that President Obama has not supported Sleepy Joe. It just hasn’t happened. When is it going to happen?” Trump said. “He knows something that you don’t know. That I think I know. But you don’t know” (The Hill).


Mark Leibovich: Can Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden unite the Democratic Party?


The Hill: Trump urges Sanders supporters to join GOP after senator suspends campaign.


The Associated Press: Trump-Biden election off-limits for U.S. bettors (so far).





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CONGRESS: The Trump administration's effort to swiftly secure an additional $250 billion for small businesses ahead of Easter is progressing, although Democrats want the legislation to add at least another $250 billion for hospitals, states and food stamps


Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi sidesteps progressives' March 1 deadline for Build Back Better Let's 'reimagine' political corruption Briahna Joy Gray discusses Pelosi's 2022 re-election announcement MORE (D-Calif.) says the House cannot pass the small business relief sought by Republicans alone without other provisions because leadership needs a unanimous vote of those present while lawmakers are away from Washington (Reuters). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Actor John Krasinski films outside White House Biden's Supreme Court choice: A political promise, but also a matter of justice Let's 'reimagine' political corruption MORE (R-Ky.) is expected to try to pass a GOP measure today (The Hill). Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe Hill's Morning Report - Democrats sense opportunity with SCOTUS vacancy Schumer finds unity moment in Supreme Court fight Breyer retirement throws curveball into midterms MORE (D-N.Y.) negotiated on Wednesday with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinConservatives are outraged that Sarah Bloom Raskin actually believes in capitalism Suspect in Khashoggi murder arrested The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to tackle omicron risks with new travel rules MORE to seek a short-term deal (The Hill).


“I think we have a pretty good understanding with the Democrats,” Trump said on Wednesday, adding that small businesses have bipartisan support in Washington and that other needs supported by Democrats could be addressed down the road. “We can do a phase four [bill], and a phase four would be later.”


The Hill: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats press cryptomining companies on energy consumption Ocasio-Cortez: Supporting Sinema challenge by someone like Gallego would be easy decision Over 80 lawmakers urge Biden to release memo outlining his authority on student debt cancellation MORE (D-Mass.) urged Congress to eliminate a cap on total funding for small businesses in the coronavirus legislation.


Politico: In phone calls with lawmakers of both parties on Wednesday, Vice President Pence and Anthony FauciAnthony Fauci Romney tests positive for coronavirus Kid Rock says he won't show up at any of his tour stops with a vaccine mandate Overnight Health Care — ObamaCare gets record numbers MORE, director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told lawmakers that the worst coronavirus hot spots are showing signs of “stabilization.” Mnuchin (pictured below) used the calls to lobby lawmakers to quickly pass legislation to help the high number of small businesses that need loans to try to stay afloat while the economy remains shuttered.


The Hill: Democratic senators seek federal funding to help local news media outlets as part of the coronavirus stimulus legislation.


The Hill: House Democrats introduced a bill on Wednesday to thwart price gouging.






U.S. CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: Federal officials on Wednesday labored to strike a balance between coronavirus case data hinting at potential improvement and the grim tallies of fatalities in New York, New Jersey and Louisiana.


Fauci said it appears the White House projections of new cases and possible deaths heading into the summer will not be as high as initially estimated, a favorable sign. Part of the explanation appears to be the better-than-expected voluntary compliance by Americans with the guidance to wash hands, practice social distancing and abide by orders to stay home.


“Although one of the original models projected 100- to 200,000 deaths, as we're getting more data and seeing the positive effect of mitigation, those numbers are going to be downgraded,” Fauci said during a Fox News interview. “I don't know exactly what the numbers are going to be, but right now it looks like it's going to be less than the original projection” (The Hill).


CNN: Here’s why coronavirus case models, revised daily, show fewer deaths than feared: U.S. behaviors have changed.


The Hill: Fauci says, "I don't think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you. Not only would it be good to prevent coronavirus disease; it probably would decrease instances of influenza dramatically in this country." 


The conclusion that mitigation is working prompted Obama to tweet his encouragement along with a news article: “Social distancing bends the curve and relieves some pressure on our heroic medical professionals. But in order to shift off current policies, the key will be a robust system of testing and monitoring – something we have yet to put in place nationwide.”


The Hill: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday issued new guidance for essential workers who have been in proximity to confirmed cases of the coronavirus but were asymptomatic and now want to safely return to work.


Another hypothesis now debunked is that young people do better than seniors when infected with the coronavirus. Scientists looking at early data out of China, South Korea and Italy thought young people might be less at risk from serious respiratory distress and death from COVID-19. But a Washington Post analysis of available state data finds that 759 people younger than 50 have been killed by the virus in the United States, including many patients in their 20s and 30s with no known health vulnerabilities prior to infection.


There’s at least one more myth that science is clearing up: The coronavirus is unlikely to subside in warm weather, according to the National Academies of Sciences, countering the notion that COVID-19 might act like influenza and ebb and surge as a seasonal health threat (The Washington Post).


In New York and New Jersey on Wednesday, deaths from the coronavirus spiked to a combined new high for a second straight day. The virus killed another 779 people in the Empire State over a period of 24 hours, a heart-breaking record, Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoJudge strikes down New York's indoor mask mandate Hochul raises .6 million since launching gubernatorial campaign Former aide says she felt 'abandoned' by Democrats who advanced Garcetti nomination as ambassador to India MORE (D) said, compared with 731 on Tuesday (The Hill). In New Jersey, 275 people died, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said, up from 232 on Tuesday.


Underscoring the dire threat in New York and New Jersey, 7,772 people have lost their lives to COVID-19 in those two states, more than in the rest of the United States combined. And in New York, more people have tested positive for the infection than in any country outside the United States, including hard-hit Italy and Spain (The New York Times). At least 40 percent of the COVID-19 tests in New York and New Jersey are positive, with a combined 11,000 new cases per day.


> Indiana: In Pence’s home state, at least three counties in Indiana have among the highest per-capita COVID-19 infection rates in the United States, topping the Seattle area and some counties near Detroit. “I know several of the people who have died. And if I don’t know them, I know somebody who knows them,” said Sean Durbin, Decatur County’s public health preparedness coordinator. “So you see the grief. You see how it hits home. That would be the biggest difference than a big city — is that we all know each other. It’s like somebody from your family dying” (The Associated Press).


> Washington: Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden, NATO eye 'all scenarios' with Russia Legislatures move to limit governor powers after pandemic What if politicians were required to tell the truth? MORE (D) on Wednesday made a decision suggesting his state is feeling more confident that its mitigation efforts have lowered the infection rate dramatically. “After consultation with local, state and federal leaders, the DOD [Department of Defense] field hospital currently stationed at the Century Link Field Event Center will be returned to FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] so it can be deployed to another state facing a more significant need," he said in a statement.


The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports, Washington and Oregon used effective techniques that can work in other states.





The Hill: States are increasingly taking action to reduce the threat of COVID-19 infection in prison populations.


The Hill: State and federal health officials are calling on people across the country not to travel or gather in groups ahead of Easter, Ramadan and Passover. 


The Associated Press: Trump’s myths and misinformation with some fact checking, from coronavirus testing to new jobs the president claims were created by his daughter. 


Politico: As the federal government churns out trillions of dollars in economic and pandemic relief, none of the oversight functions included the mammoth rescue package are operational and problems are evident just weeks after enactment. 


The Hill: Trump on Wednesday said the administration will freeze $452 million in appropriations to support public health efforts by the World Health Organization (WHO) while investigating its stance with China and the pandemic.


WHO got it wrong,” the president said for the second day without providing details of U.S. misgivings. “They minimized a threat very strongly. Not good.” 


WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (pictured below) denied the global health organization he leads showed bias in favor of China as a viral epidemic became known late last year. “Please don’t politicize this virus,” he said (The New York Times).


CORONAVIRUS & INTERNATIONAL: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is “improving” as he spent a third night in intensive care receiving treatment for  complications from infection with COVID-19. 


According to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the prime minister was sitting up in bed and "engaging positively" with workers at St. Thomas' Hospital in London. Downing Street added in a statement that Johnson “continues to make steady progress.”


The latest from the hospital is that the prime minister remains in intensive care where his condition is improving,” Sunak said on Wednesday. “I can also tell you that he is sitting up in bed and engaging positively with the clinical team” (BBC). 


Culture Minister Oliver Dowden added on Thursday that, “Things are getting better for him” (Reuters).


As of Wednesday night, Great Britain had 61,474 confirmed cases of the virus, while the death toll sits at 7,097. 


Bloomberg News: Italy, U.K. may extend curbs; German cases climb.


> China: Countries across the globe are keeping a close eye on Wuhan, the sprawling city of 11 million that sparked the coronavirus pandemic, as it slowly returns to everyday life after the nation ended a 76-day lockdown on Tuesday. 


The Hill’s Niv Elis takes a look at five things to watch as Wuhan tries to regain a semblance of normalcy and potentially provide a path back for other cities, states and nations to follow. Chief among those is whether new confirmed cases will spike.


“I think the pace of reopening is important to watch,” says Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S economist at S&P Global Ratings. “If they go too slow, their economy can’t pick up and they can’t take advantage of the fact that they’re the only player in town. If they go too fast, then the risk of a second wave becomes apparent.”


Also worth keeping an eye on is how the city comes back economically and if it resembles a “V-shaped” recovery that U.S. markets are hoping comes to fruition, and how soon businesses are back and running across the city.


The Associated Press: Countries start thinking about easing up on restrictions.


Reuters: China seeks to contain new coronavirus “silent carriers.”


> Russia: President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinUK prime minister to call Putin in attempt to stop Ukraine invasion Belarusian president vows war if Russia, Belarus attacked Biden says he'll send troops to Eastern Europe in 'near term' MORE said Wednesday in a televised meeting with regional governors and top officials that the rest of the month of April will prove crucial in the country’s battle with COVID-19 and laid out new tax breaks to support businesses and workers, along with increased support for unemployed Russians.


Putin also compared the national fight against the virus to its battles against medieval invaders in the 11th and 12th centuries, saying that they will defeat those enemies in the same way.


“Everything passes and this will pass. Our country has been through serious tests more than once: when tormented by the Pechenegs and the Cumans, Russia coped with everything,” Putin said (Reuters).


According to the latest statistics, there are 10,131 positive cases and 76 deaths from COVID-19 in the country. 


The Associated Press: As outbreaks flatten in places, Japan, India see more cases.

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We are already in a deep recession. Can we make it a short one? by Jay Shambaugh, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Trump’s self-interest is at odds with safe coronavirus policy, by Michael J. Stern, opinion contributor, The Hill.


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The House will hold a pro forma session on Friday at 9 a.m. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyRhode Island state treasurer running for Langevin's seat in US House McConnell aims to sidestep GOP drama over Trump House Republicans bash Democrats' China competition bill MORE (R-Calif.) will hold a press conference call at 11:20 a.m.


The Senate will convene in a pro forma session at 10 a.m. Votes are not scheduled until April 20.


The president has lunch at 12:30 p.m. with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoUK court should slap down the US Justice Department in the Assange case Sunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion Pence to deliver keynote at fundraising banquet for South Carolina-based pregnancy center MORE, and at 2:30 p.m., Trump talks with mental health leaders and advocates by phone. 


Pence will lead an afternoon coronavirus task force meeting and participate in an evening news briefing.


Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell delivers a speech about the economy at 10 a.m., live streamed from the Brookings Institution in Washington.


Economic indicator: A preliminary consumer sentiment index for April will be released by the University of Michigan at 10 a.m. and is expected to show pessimism among consumers about a shell shocked U.S. economy.


The Hill on Monday launched The Coronavirus Report helmed by Editor-at-Large Steve Clemons. Daily emailed updates include exclusive video interviews with policymakers. Sign up HERE!


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


Trump tax returns: The Treasury Department’s inspector general sent a report to House Democrats on Wednesday on the handling of Democratic lawmakers’ request for Trump’s tax returns, The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda scooped. 


Tech: Drizly, an alcohol delivery app, is booming during the coronavirus pandemic with orders surging from Americans stuck home and states temporarily relaxing their liquor laws to help companies meet that demand. The company saw nearly 1,600 percent growth in year-over-year new customers at the end of March, CEO Cory Rellas told The Hill.


Airlines: Domestic carriers want federal relief but are finding little sympathy from consumers and some members of Congress as they argue they cannot afford to reimburse grounded customers, as required (NPR). … Flight attendants are increasingly fearful of contracting the coronavirus while continuing to fly (The Washington Post).


Eats for a good cause: The Washington Nationals teamed up with chef José Andrés’s global nonprofit to turn baseball stadium kitchens into a site from which to cook and distribute thousands of free meals to D.C. residents who need help during the pandemic. The first meals went out on Wednesday. With the city’s permission, World Central Kitchen and the team’s newly established charity arm, Nationals Philanthropies,  prepared hot meals for delivery by Uber Eats drivers to public housing in the Navy Yard and Southwest Waterfront neighborhoods, as well as the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy in Fort Dupont. Working with the city, the recipient list is expected to expand to help homeless populations and residents in underserved parts of the city (Eater DC).





And finally …  It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by Sen. Bernie Sanders dropping out of the 2020 race, we’re eager for some smart guesses about the Vermont senator.


Email your responses to and/or, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.


In the 2016 Democratic nomination fight, how many states and territories did Sanders carry?

  1. 15
  2. 19
  3. 23
  4. 26

How did Sanders announce his 2016 campaign?

  1. Campaign rally in Iowa
  2. Ben & Jerry’s commercial
  3. Press conference outside the U.S. Capitol
  4. Politics & Eggs in New Hampshire

At a 2020 primary debate in Detroit last July, what comment did Sanders make to Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanCooper becomes latest House Democrat to not seek reelection Marjorie Taylor Greene endorses JD Vance in Ohio Senate race The Hill's Morning Report - Biden, NATO eye 'all scenarios' with Russia MORE (D-Ohio) about his ownership of the “Medicare for All” issue?

  1. “That’s not yours. That’s mine.” 
  2. “I wrote the damn bill!”
  3. “You had NOTHING to do with that!”
  4. “Feel the Bern” 

Since the 2016 campaign, which comedian regularly portrayed Sanders on “Saturday Night Live”? 

  1. Jason Alexander
  2. Larry David
  3. Louis C.K.
  4. David Koechner