The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump threatens coronavirus funds for states easing voting

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is 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, 89,564. Tuesday, 90,369. Wednesday, 91,938. Thursday, 93,439.



President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE will arrive in Michigan today after threatening on Wednesday to withhold the state’s share of federal funding during a pandemic while falsely accusing officials of “voter fraud” because they mailed residents applications to obtain absentee ballots as a safety precaution.

 

Trump, who is intent on wooing voters in the key Midwestern swing state, used a tweet to mistakenly accuse Michigan of mailing actual ballots to 7.7 million voting-age residents ahead of primary and general elections, when it was applications that arrived in mailboxes. 

 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who has her hands full with COVID-19 cases and a massive dam break this week that caused flooding and evacuations in her state, said, "We've got to take politics out of this crisis moment and remember we're all Americans. We are all fighting for our lives here and for our economy, and we all gotta get this right and remember that one another is not the enemy."

 

The president said he spoke with Whitmer by phone on Wednesday, offering to send the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help with Michigan’s dam and flooding emergencies. “There’s a lot of water out there,” he said.

 

The Hill: Trump takes pandemic fight to Michigan.

 

Trump, who according to polls is trailing former vice president Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump campaign emails supporters encouraging mask-wearing: 'We have nothing to lose' Cuba spells trouble for Bass's VP hopes Democrats want Biden to debate Trump despite risks MORE in the Wolverine State, will visit a Ford Motor Co. community he spoke with in 2017 (pictured). The Ford plant, which otherwise frowns on “nonessential” tours during the health emergency, is assembling ventilators after Trump threatened to compel cooperation using the Defense Procurement Act. 

 

Whitmer, who is said to be on Biden’s long list of potential running mates, is keeping Michigan under stay-at-home orders until May 28, to the frustration of some residents who, like Trump, want to see restrictions lifted. More than a quarter of the total labor force in Michigan has filed jobless claims since March 15.

 

Meanwhile, Ford asked the White House to see that Trump wears a mask at the plant, but the president, who has never worn a face covering in public, indicated he may not start in Ypsilanti. “We’ll see,” he responded (CNBC). The company was forced to temporarily halt production at some SUV and truck plants on Tuesday and Wednesday after at least three workers tested positive for COVID-19. Ford said the workers became infected outside the workplace, but it underscores the challenges for many companies as they resume operations (The Associated Press).

 

Trump’s focus on absentee voting in Michigan and other battleground states he captured in 2016 underscores an unsubstantiated supposition among some conservatives that mail and absentee voting favors Democratic candidates, while in-person voting helps Republican tickets. The president, who mailed in his own Florida ballot weeks ago, asserts without evidence that the shift by states to options by mail undermines the integrity of election results. "Mail-in ballots are a very dangerous thing. They're subject to massive fraud," Trump told reporters on Wednesday.

 

The president stirred a tempest by threatening Michigan and deploying misinformation in his initial tweet on the subject on Wednesday, which he corrected hours later by adding the word “applications.” His original message: “Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election. This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!”

 

Local elections officials nationwide are choosing to mail applications for absentee ballots to millions of voters during the coronavirus crisis, potentially reshaping the dynamics of elections this year, even without input from local legislators (The Hill). 

 

Nevada is among the states moving to expand voting options. Its Democratic governor and Republican secretary of state sent ballots to voters for its June 9 state primary. A federal judge recently cleared Nevada’s decision to mail the ballots. Several states with Republican governors — such as Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia — have chosen to send absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. Maryland, which has a Republican governor, is sending the actual ballots to voters (CBS News). The trend has prompted angst inside the Trump campaign (The Washington Post).

 

Wisconsin presidential primary voters this spring were forced by a Republican-led legislature and the state Supreme Court to vote in-person just as the COVID-19 emergency roared, and at least 52 people who took part in the state’s primary were later diagnosed with the coronavirus (Time). 

 

More politics: Republicans have an Arizona problem at the presidential and Senate levels with five and a half months remaining until Election Day. As The Hill’s Jonathan Easley writes, the GOP is lagging in polls of both contests less than two years after Democrats had a banner 2018, which included Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-Ariz.) victory and a number of statewide wins despite the state being a Republican stronghold for the past 70 years. … Biden is conducting public tryouts with potential running mates, with one Democrat dubbing it “The Biden Reality Show” as the candidate wrestles with who might help him pull off a victory in November and help him govern (The Hill).

 

 

 



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LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted along party lines to subpoena a lobbying firm as part of wide-ranging investigations tied to the Obama administration and Hunter Biden, the son of the presumptive Democratic nominee.

 

The Senate panel voted 8-6 to approve to issue a subpoena to Blue Star Strategies, the firm that was a consultant to Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company that paid Hunter Biden to serve on its board. The subpoena asks for firm records from January 2013 through present day "related to work for or on behalf of Burisma Holdings or individuals associated with Burisma." 

 

The decision sparked fury among Democrats who believe the panel should be directing its powers toward the coronavirus pandemic rather than what they view as a partisan witch hunt, with the top Democrat on the committee warning against an “extremely partisan” probe. 

 

“This is not a serious bipartisan investigation in the tradition of this committee, and I do not believe we should be going down this road,” Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersHouse committee requests hearing with postmaster general amid mail-in voting concerns Senators press Postal Service over complaints of slow delivery Trump may have power, but he still has no plan to fight the pandemic MORE (D-Mich.) said during the committee meeting.

 

Blue Star Strategies indicated that it will comply with the subpoena (The Hill). 

 

The Hill: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video Trump says he's considering executive action to suspend evictions, payroll tax Trump won't say if he disagrees with Birx that virus is widespread MORE (D-Calif.) blasts Senate GOP subpoenas.

 

The Washington Post: HHS watchdog who exposed hospital shortages to testify before House panel.

 

> Wray feels the heat: GOP lawmakers are expressing their displeasure with FBI Director Christopher Wray as they question his hesitation to investigate what they have labeled “Obamagate.” Among other items, according to The Hill’s Olivia Beavers, Republicans are pressing Wray to provide more information about the FBI’s recently released field notes that show officials debating how to handle the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn

 

While the GOP has praised Attorney General William BarrBill BarrDemocrats' silence on our summer of violence is a tactical blunder Trump prizes loyalty over competence — we are seeing the results Rep. Raúl Grijalva tests positive for COVID-19 MORE’s decision to drop charges against Flynn, it is wondering why Wray isn’t leading the charge to investigate the government’s handling of the case.

 

“Where has Christopher Wray been in all this?” Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonThis week: Negotiators hunt for coronavirus deal as August break looms Sunday shows preview: White House, Democratic leaders struggle for deal on coronavirus bill Frustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal MORE (R-Wis.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, asked during a Fox News interview Tuesday.

 

 

 

 

> Remote vote: Pelosi on Wednesday formally authorized a 45-day period during which House members will be able to vote remotely due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

 

Pelosi made the decision after the House voted last week to hand the Speaker, in consultation with the Capitol physician and the House sergeant-at-arms, the authority to allow remote voting. Lawmakers who are unable to travel to the Capitol to cast votes in person can now authorize a colleague to serve as a proxy to vote on their behalf. The full House is expected to hold its next round of votes next week on Foreign Intelligence

Surveillance Act reauthorization legislation (The Hill). 

 

> CARES 2: Support for another coronavirus relief package is growing among Senate Republicans as they push to move a bill through the upper chamber next month in the wake of comments by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who warned that economic damage caused by the outbreak could last for years. 

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellProfessional sports players associations come out against coronavirus liability protections Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in talks with White House Top GOP senator urges agencies to protect renters, banks amid coronavirus aid negotiations MORE (R-Ky.) has maintained a “pause” almost a week after the House passed a $3 trillion relief bill containing a Democratic wish list of items. However, support is on the rise within the Senate GOP, including some of the most vulnerable lawmakers up for reelection in the fall, according to The Hill’s Alexander Bolton

 

“I think June doesn’t need to come and go without a phase four,” said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: INOVIO R&D Chief Kate Broderick 'completely confident' world will develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine; GOP boxed in on virus negotiations Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers zero in on Twitter after massive hack | US, UK, Canada allege Russian hackers targeted COVID-19 vaccine researchers | Top EU court rules data transfer deal with the US is illegal Lawmakers zero in on Twitter following massive hack MORE (R-Miss.), who has been in contact with representatives of airlines and other industries hit hard by the pandemic, adding that the desire to make substantial progress on another relief package next month is shared by “almost everybody” in the GOP conference “in their heart” even though they are not clamoring for support through the media.

 

The Associated Press: Deliberative Senate declines to debate more coronavirus aid.



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CORONAVIRUS: While some Americans say they’re eager to get back to business as usual, most don’t see the country returning anytime soon to what once was considered normal. Instead, Americans largely envision a protracted period of physical distancing, covered faces and intermittent quarantines ahead, perhaps until a vaccine is available, according to a new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Eighty-three percent of Americans are at least somewhat concerned that lifting restrictions in their area will lead to additional infections, with 54 percent saying they are very or extremely concerned that such steps will result in spikes of COVID-19 cases. Nonetheless, support for public health restrictions imposed to control the virus’s spread is no longer overwhelming. It has been eroded over the past month by a widening partisan divide (The Associated Press).

 

> Surrogates & persuasion: Trump allies are lining up “pro-Trump” physicians to go on TV to urge reopening the economy. CNP Action, an affiliate of the GOP-aligned Council for National Policy, is behind the push. A leaked recording of the hour long call was provided to The Associated Press by the Center for Media and Democracy, a progressive watchdog group.

 

> U.S. metrics: Why has the United States experienced so many COVID-19 cases and fatalities compared with tallies in other countries? It’s only partly explained by the large U.S. population of 325 million people and freedom of movement. Some countries may have miscounted COVID-19 cases, and some, such as China, have made adjustments to disease counts along the way, resulting in uncertainty about the actual toll (The Hill).

 

> Record day-over-day cases: The World Health Organization (WHO) reported a record number of COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour period on Wednesday. WHO experts are worried about the rising number of infections in poor countries, even as many rich nations have begun emerging from lockdown (Reuters). The coronavirus has infected more than 5 million people worldwide.



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!



OPINION

Don't mess with the Supreme Court, by Larry Diamond, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2LXU0GF 

 

In the battle of Biden vs. Trump, money may be less important than ever, by David Von Drehle, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/36nxQqv 



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WHERE AND WHEN

The House will convene a pro forma session Friday at 11 a.m.

 

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and will consider the nomination of Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeHillicon Valley: Google extending remote work policy through July 2021 | Intel community returns final Russia report to Senate committee after declassification | Study finds election officials vulnerable to cyberattacks Intel community returns final Russia report volume to Senate after declassification review Hillicon Valley: Feds warn hackers targeting critical infrastructure | Twitter exploring subscription service | Bill would give DHS cyber agency subpoena power MORE (R-Texas) to serve as director of national intelligence. The Senate Special Committee on Aging holds a hearing at 9:30 a.m. to examine the care of seniors amid the COVID-19 crisis. Witnesses can be heard live at www.aging.senate.gov.

 

The president travels today to Ypsilanti, Mich. He will meet with a group of African-American leaders at 2:15 p.m., and then tour Ford's ventilator assembly plant (Crain’s Detroit). In the state, rising star GOP Senate candidate John James, who is African American and once said he supported Trump “2,000 percent,” is profiled today by The Associated Press.

 

INVITATION to The Hill’s national virtual summit TODAY at 11 a.m., “Advancing the American Economy,” with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump won't say if he disagrees with Birx that virus is widespread On The Money: Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in stimulus talks | Prosecutors hint at probe into 'possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization' Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in talks with White House MORE, who will discuss his economic outlook with Editor-in-Chief Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani says DC policymakers need to do more to support ventures and 'solo-preneurs'; Federal unemployment benefits expire as coronavirus deal-making deadlocks Hillicon Valley: House panel grills tech CEOs during much anticipated antitrust hearing | TikTok to make code public as it pushes back against 'misinformation' | House Intel panel expands access to foreign disinformation evidence FCC chairman highlights focus on telehealth, online learning during pandemic MORE. The interview will be followed by discussions with Surgeon General Jerome Adams, lawmakers, leading CEOs and national health experts. Information and registration!  

 

The Washington Post hosts a virtual interview event with White House national economic adviser Larry KudlowLawrence (Larry) Alan KudlowMORE at 1 p.m. Live stream is HERE. 

 

Economic indicators: The National Association of Realtors at 10 a.m. releases its report on U.S. existing home sales in April. Yet another bleak report from the Labor Department about jobless claims will be released at 8:30 a.m. covering filings for unemployment insurance as of last week.

 

The One Campaign, a global organization focused on poverty and disease and founded by Bono, today begins a three-week campaign to highlight the need for a global defeat of COVID-19. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Fauci warns of 'really bad situation' if daily coronavirus cases don't drop to 10K by September Overnight Health Care: Trump criticizes Birx over Pelosi, COVID-19 remarks: 'Pathetic' | Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in talks with White House | WHO chief: There may never be 'silver bullet' for coronavirus MORE, director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Julia Roberts pair up to kick off #PassTheMic, in which entertainers and celebs take turns briefly surrendering the reach of their massive social media accounts to front-line workers and experts in economics, health and medicine to spread data-driven messages about responding to the coronavirus (The Hill). A launch video is HERE

 

The Hill’s Coronavirus Report has updates and exclusive video interviews with policymakers emailed each day. Sign up HERE!

 

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.



ELSEWHERE

International: Greece is preparing to welcome tourists and open seasonal hotels on June 15, with international flights beginning shortly after despite the COVID-19 outbreak. After hotels reopen, direct international flights allowing tourists into the country will resume July 1. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Wednesday that visitors would have to undergo a coronavirus test upon arrival, while Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said a list of nations approved to travel to Greece would be released before the end of the month. Germany, Israel and Cyprus are expected to be among the approved countries (The Associated Press). … Alitalia, the Italian airline, will resume passenger flights after June 2 (Reuters). … Domestic flights in India will begin to take off on May 25 (The Economic Times).

 

Regulatory roundup: Internal documents obtained by Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperHouse committee requests hearing with postmaster general amid mail-in voting concerns Senators press Postal Service over complaints of slow delivery Barrasso nuclear bill latest GOP effort to boost uranium mining MORE (D-Del.) about an administration rulemaking at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that guts the most significant climate standards of the Obama era show EPA staffers objected to claims that the rule will reduce climate change impacts. Rulemaking documents, first reported by E&E News, show the Office of Management and Budget said the rule lacked legal justification (The Hill). … The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has revoked rules that required lenders to ensure that potential customers could afford to pay the potentially staggering costs of short-term, high-interest “payday” loans (The Hill). … The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on Wednesday released new rules covering how banks should be judged under a 1977 anti-redlining lending law, breaking with two other bank regulators (The Hill).

 

➔ Giving back: Oprah WinfreyOprah Gail WinfreyOprah honors Breonna Taylor on cover of magazine 'Gone With the Wind' is gone with the protests — so what's next? Minnesota health officials say graduation ceremony exposed people to coronavirus MORE announced on Wednesday she will send grants to the cities she’s called home through the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation’s $12 million coronavirus relief fund. She will donate to organizations that help underserved communities in Chicago; Baltimore; Nashville; Milwaukee; and Kosciusko, Miss., where she was born (The Associated Press).

 

 

 



THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by key anniversaries of trans-Atlantic flights by Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, we’re eager for some smart guesses about the pair of groundbreaking pilots.

 

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

 

Today, a direct flight from New York to Paris is normally completed in less than eight hours. How long did Lindbergh’s landmark 1927 flight last (roughly)?

  1. 18 hours
  2. 23 hours
  3. 28 hours
  4. 33 hours

At which school did Earhart become a visiting faculty member shortly before she began planning her fateful flight around the world?

  1. UCLA
  2. Purdue University 
  3. Kansas University
  4. University of Iowa

Lindbergh completed his 1927 flight aboard the Spirit of St. Louis. In which city is the aircraft located today? 

  1. New York City 
  2. Louis
  3. Washington, D.C.
  4. Paris

When Earhart attempted to circumnavigate the globe in 1937, she departed Papua New Guinea and planned to reach ______ before she disappeared. 

  1. Hawaii
  2. Guam
  3. Howland Island
  4. Fiji

Which airline did Earhart and Lindbergh both promote commercially? 

  1. British Airways
  2. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
  3. Delta Air Lines 
  4. Transcontinental Air Transport

 



 

--This report was updated at 7:49 a.m.