The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – After rough week, can Trump bounce back?
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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Monday. 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, 119,977.
More people are dying in the United States from COVID-19 every week than died during terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
President Trump is itching to rebound his political fortunes after a week that got progressively worse, headlined by a scathing tell-all book by one of his former top advisers and an underwhelming political rally on Saturday that attracted a fraction of the expected turnout and landed with a thud.
On Sunday, the president’s reelection team was in scramble mode as it tried to spin Saturday’s rally in Tulsa, Okla., which was attended by roughly 6,200 supporters after the campaign gleefully declared that more than 1 million people had requested tickets for it. Campaign manager Brad Parscale floated the possibility of blocking reporters from attending future rallies over their coverage of the light attendance, while the campaign declared hours after Saturday’s rally that more than 4 million unique viewers had tuned in, revising the number upward in a move reminiscent of the White House on the day after Trump’s inauguration in 2017.
The reaction from Trump World came as it deals with a stark political reality: That the president’s chances to secure a second term are in peril more than four months before Election Day, with polls showing an uphill battle against former Vice President Joe Biden.
ABC News: Former national security adviser John Bolton, during an interview about his just-released book, “The Room Where it Happened,” said Trump should not be president. “I don’t think he’s a conservative Republican. I’m not going to vote for him in November — certainly not going to vote for Joe Biden either. I’m going to figure out a conservative Republican to vote in,” he told Martha Raddatz.
“There really isn’t any guiding principle that I was able to discern other than what’s good for Donald Trump’s reelection,” Bolton told ABC. “There’s no coherent basis, no strategy, no philosophy, and decisions are made in a very scatter-shot fashion, especially in the potentially mortal field of national security policy. This is a danger for the republic.”
During an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep released this morning, Bolton explained, “I wrote this book as a matter of philosophy and belief in the importance of putting the facts about the Trump administration before the American public for them to make up their mind. I felt I had an obligation to do it. … I knew there would be trials and tribulations when you displeased Donald Trump.”
The Hill: Bolton denies saying he will back Biden over Trump in November.
As The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes in his latest memo, Trump supporters continue to cite 2016 when the president outperformed some polls and defeated Hillary Clinton. However, it does not mean Trump is above the laws of political gravity, with the 2018 midterms serving as a prime example. His approval numbers have fallen in recent weeks as the coronavirus and the protests across the country have taken their toll.
According to a pair of national polls released late last week, Trump trails Biden by 12 and 8 points. He also trails in five key swing states (Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona), according to the latest RealClearPolitics average.
In a bid to turn things around, the president is turning to the issue that put him on the map with many conservatives: Immigration. On Tuesday, Trump will travel to Yuma, Ariz., to commemorate the building of the 200th mile of new border wall. He also told Fox News in an interview on Saturday that he will announce new visa restrictions in the coming days, adding that there will be exclusions.
The New York Times: The president’s shock at the rows of empty seats in Tulsa.
The Associated Press: Trump rally highlights vulnerabilities heading into election.
The Hill: Sunday shows: Bolton’s bombshell book reverberates.
According to The Hill’s Jordain Carney, some of the president’s allies in the Senate are betting that an improved economy could be the ticket for the party to succeed in November. Lawmakers are hoping that a potential surge in economic growth following the coronavirus-induced recession will be politically beneficial.
“As long as it’s moving in the right direction and people have some hope — obviously we’ve been through a tough time, but I think if we see a V-shaped recovery, which I think most people are predicting now, then I think that will be a good issue to run on,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is up for reelection in the fall.
The Washington Post: For Biden and Democrats, confidence comes with a chaser: Fear.
NBC News: Biden builds out his presidential transition operation.
While Democrats remain confident in the vice president’s chances, they are looking for all on the left to pull their weight to ensure he denies Trump a second term. According to the latest reporting from Jonathan Easley and Amie Parnes, some within the party believe Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) needs to do more to make sure progressives fall in line in November.
While they concede Sanders has done more than he did four years ago to help Clinton, they still say the senator needs to use his influence with his supporters to ensure they turn out and chip in to Biden’s campaign with donations. The races in New York and Kentucky — where progressive candidates are taking on establishment candidates, as The Hill’s Max Greenwood previews — have only added to the unease felt by some Democrats.
The Hill: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) builds political army, and a fundraising machine to match.
The Hill: Sen. Kamala Harris’s (D-Calif.) path on police reform littered with land mines.
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LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: Forget about COVID-19 waves; America is still dog paddling through the severe turbulence of the original crisis. What’s changed are public impatience and complacency, not the coronavirus.
“These case counts are going to build,” Scott Gottlieb, a physician and former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” referring to states, including Texas, Florida and Arizona, where coronavirus positivity rates are rising, indicating community spread and not just broader testing. Gottlieb advocates for mandatory mask requirements nationwide. “This is an epidemic that’s expanding in these states,” he said.
Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, “I think right now, I don’t see this slowing down through the summer or into the fall.”
NBC News has an interactive map showing states with high infection rates.
As the week begins, questions swirl about Trump’s comment Saturday that he asked federal officials to “slow the testing down” because more COVID-19 tests nationally reveal higher numbers of infections, which the president called a “double-edged sword” as he focuses on economic revival. White House officials said Trump was joking during his Tulsa rally.
Sensing, as Biden did, that Trump committed an unforced political error among concerned voters worried about the contagion across party lines, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the House will seek answers from the White House coronavirus task force members who are expected to testify on Tuesday to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “The American people are owed answers about why President Trump wants less testing when experts say much more is needed,” the Speaker said in a statement (The Hill).
New York: Today begins phase two of Gotham’s reopening. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced the change on Saturday for New York City and said the mid-Hudson region remains on track to enter its third phase of loosening restrictions on Tuesday. Outdoor dining will be permitted during the second phase in NYC today. Playgrounds will reopen today in New York City, although team sports will not be permitted in parks for the time being (ABC7NY). … Cuomo was featured on ”CBS Sunday Morning,” which pointed out the governor’s popularity soared to 80 percent during the pandemic. “In my state, I owned the situation, for better or worse,” he said in an interview. The state reported the lowest COVID-19 infection rate in the nation in June. … A range of New Yorkers, never shy about expressing their views, talked with The Associated Press about today’s reopening. “We talk about being physically distant, which is important, but being socially active is important, as well,” said Melba Wilson, president of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, an industry group.
New Jersey: This week, visitors are allowed inside nursing homes, assisted living facilities, dementia care homes and pediatric transitional care homes in the Garden State. Personal care businesses reopen today, including beauty salons and barber shops, along with nail salons, massage parlors and tattoo shops.
Washington, D.C.: Today, the nation’s capital moves into phase two of eased coronavirus restrictions, based on improved numbers of infections and hospitalizations. That means the entire D.C. metro region has progressed into a second phase, which for Washington means a return to indoor dining and the reopening of stores, camps, swimming pools, worship services without singing and gatherings of up to 50 people.
Restaurants and stores will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity. Gyms, tanning salons and tattoo parlors can reopen as long as they maintain distance between their patrons, said Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) (The Washington Post).
Deadly numbers in the South: Alabama and many states in the Deep South are seeing spikes in coronavirus cases, alarming public health officials and people who have lost loved ones because of COVID-19. Over the past two weeks, Alabama had the second highest number of new cases per capita in the nation. South Carolina was fourth. Louisiana and Mississippi were also in the top 10 (The Associated Press).
Florida: Three restaurants were closed in Miami-Dade over the weekend because of patrons’ coronavirus violations. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (R) was one such violator, with photos to prove it (Miami Herald). The Sunshine State logged another record day of more than 4,000 coronavirus cases on Saturday, approaching 94,000 COVID-19 infections in the state (Tampa Bay Times).
Air travel precautions: The airline industry is asking government officials to establish national guidelines for air travel in the COVID-19 era. Airline passengers are encountering a patchwork of rules for masks on planes and in airports, creating confusion and frustration among customers and companies. Airlines are creating their own policies, and airports are free to set their own standards for facial coverings (The Hill). … “Absolutely, it’s safe to fly,” Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday in response to a question about a whistleblower complaint that Transportation Security Administration employees are poorly prepared and protected to deal with COVID-19 as passenger air travel resumes.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump’s decision to fire U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in New York, with help from Attorney General William Barr, sparked a weekend of controversy over the president’s sudden move to purge a prosecutor in charge of high-profile cases, including an investigation of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney.
In a messy 24-hour drama inside the administration, Berman refused to resign and objected to Barr’s first choice to replace him, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton. Barr swiftly switched gears to advise Berman that Trump had fired him but told him he would be temporarily replaced by Berman’s own chief deputy, Audrey Strauss (The New York Times).
House Democrats — some of whom recall former President George W. Bush’s sudden firing of nine U.S. attorneys years ago as well as Trump’s recent decisions to replace other prosecutors — plan to hold investigative hearings, said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) (The Hill).
Flashback: 14 years ago, Bush became bogged down for months in damaging congressional and inspector general investigations examining his 2006 purge of nine U.S. attorneys, the circumstances of which contributed to the resignation of then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a Bush loyalist, who was accused of lying to Congress and politicizing the Justice Department. “The U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the United States President. I named them to 4-year terms; they served their 4-year terms,” Bush said during a press conference in 2007. “And I appreciate their service. I’m sorry that this — these hearings and all this stuff have besmirched their reputation.”
Trump’s constant churn through personnel, defense of allies who have been investigated, tried and sent to prison from New York, and resistance to being investigated from inside the executive branch are not going away before the November elections. The president and Barr have been criticized for eroding public trust in the independence of the Justice Department, and a chorus of criticisms from Bolton and former military advisers that Trump is unfit for reelection are growing louder during the 2020 campaign.
CBS DFW: Joseph Brown, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, abruptly resigned in May.
ProPublica: A group of federal prosecutors and agents from Texas led by Brown investigated the opioid dispensing practices of Walmart, the largest company in the world, for two years. They had amassed what they viewed as highly damning evidence only to face a major obstacle: top Trump appointees at the Department of Justice. (In 2020, nearly 51 percent of Walmart’s total political contributions have gone to Republicans, according to OpenSecrets.org.)
The Hill: Barr said Sunday that “developments” in U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the government’s Russia probe during the Obama administration are expected this summer. Barr told Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures” that Durham is “pressing ahead as hard as he can.”
Immigration: The president said he is planning to impose new restrictions on H-1B, L-1 and other temporary, employment-based immigration visas as the U.S. continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. Trump told Fox News during an interview on Saturday that he will make an announcement in the coming days, noting that it was “‘going to make a lot of people very happy” (The Hill).
Trump is expected to sign an order that suspends certain guest worker visas for the rest of 2020, NPR first reported on Saturday, citing multiple sources familiar with the plan.
Pentagon: The U.S. military is grappling with race and equality in the wake of nationwide protests. Trump has shut down a plan to strip Confederate names from 10 Army bases even as Congress gets involved. This week, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced an internal review aimed at finding ways to “ensure equal opportunity across all ranks.” The military services are examining racial disparities in their justice systems, removing Confederate symbols and listening to the views of African American service members (The Hill).
More from the administration: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has faced a turbulent past two months amid allegations of improper use of agency employees and claims he is critical of Trump behind his back, but he has been a presidential favorite and appears to be weathering the storms (The Hill). …Trump’s assertion that he is open to a complete “decoupling” from China is yet another sign of increasing tensions at a time when the president has made China-bashing a theme of his bid for a second term. Some observers worry that Trump’s efforts to appear tough on China could spark a serious crisis (The Hill). … Trump’s choice of Michael Pack, a conservative filmmaker, to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media has attracted harsh headlines following a rash of firings of Voice of America (VOA) senior editors 10 days after he started the job (The Hill). VOA is congressionally funded.
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When to wear a mask and when you can skip it, by Faye Flam, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/37SP1RI
The pandemic has reshaped American fatherhood. Can it last? By Martin Gelin, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3encKLX
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 11 a.m. for a pro forma session.
The Senate will reconvene at 3 p.m. and resume consideration of the nomination of Cory Wilson to serve as a judge with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
The president will have lunch with Vice President Pence.
The vice president will lead a video conference with governors on the coronavirus response and recovery.
The Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, a nonpartisan voter mobilization organization representing the fastest-growing racial or ethnic population in the United States, hosts its annual leadership summit as a virtual event beginning today through July 2. On Saturday, representatives of the Trump and Biden campaigns will participate in a town hall forum sponsored by the organization. Find information about events and speakers HERE.
➔ International: An American lawyer is among the victims of a knifing rampage in a Reading, England, park on Saturday that has been labeled a terrorist attack. The Philadelphia Inquirer said Joe Ritchie-Bennett, 39, who lived and worked in Britain for 15 years, was among three victims stabbed to death. Arrested by police: 25-year-old Libyan Khairi Saadallah (Reuters). … Spain ended its national state of emergency on Sunday as it reopened its borders to allow European tourists back into the country for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak. Spanish citizens are now able to move freely throughout the country, with the government dropping its 14-day quarantine for visitors from the United Kingdom and countries in Europe’s visa-free Schengen travel zone (The Associated Press). … The United Kingdom will roll out a plan this week to wind down the coronavirus-induced lockdown and potentially the six-feet social distance rule, allowing businesses to reopen in early July (Reuters). … China is moving toward enacting a security law on Hong Kong by the end of the month after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress announced a three-day session in Beijing (The Associated Press).
➔ Reproductive rights: Chief Justice John Roberts is under a microscope as the Supreme Court prepares to issue its first major decision on abortion rights in the Trump era, which will give the clearest indication yet of the conservative court’s willingness to revisit abortion protections under Roe v. Wade. It’s a high-stakes test of Roberts’s role as the court’s new ideological center (The Hill).
➔ Recession’s impacts: The recession spurred by the coronavirus could have a more significant effect on air emissions than did stay-at-home orders, experts say. Emissions dropped by as much as 17 percent at the beginning of the pandemic (The Hill). … Early economic data suggests the recovery from the coronavirus-fueled recession will be slow and uneven. Unprecedented federal spending and lending helped large companies, but many smaller firms and the low-wage workers who depend on them have fallen through the cracks, prompting concerns from economists and the oversight commission charged with monitoring federal rescue efforts (The Hill).
➔ Intense weather: Verkhoyansk, a Russian town located within the Arctic Circle, reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) on Sunday, marking its hottest temperature on record. The Siberian town, which experiences a wide range of temperatures, has also recorded temperatures of negative-90 degrees Fahrenheit (The Hill).
And finally … ⚾ Baseball news keeps getting worse. … Every team in Major League Baseball will temporarily shut its spring training camp over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, a move that came after the Philadelphia Phillies announced on Friday that five players had tested positive for COVID-19. The closures come while MLB owners and players try to negotiate a deal to begin the season and raise the possibility the virus outbreak could scuttle all attempts at starting up this year. A person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press the spring complexes in Florida and Arizona (states with rising COVID-19 cases) will temporarily close because of recent events. The facilities will undergo a deep cleaning and disinfecting. No one will be permitted back inside without a negative test for the virus.
Cuomo said on Saturday that the New York Yankees and New York Mets would move their spring training camps for the upcoming season from Florida to New York. As of this morning, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) has not voted on a 60-game proposal after the owners made minor alterations to the offer over the weekend.