The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - As virus concerns grow, can it get worse for Trump?

 

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Back by popular demand, it is Friday. 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. Tuesday, 120,402. Wednesday 121,225. Thursday 121,979. Friday, 124,415.

COVID-19 is out of control in parts of the United States. The federal government left the challenge of containing the disease to the states, and the resulting patchwork of responses and precautions failed to stop transmissions and rising hospitalizations. 

There is one major question: What have officials and the public learned since February about the stealth and lethality of COVID-19? Is the primary impetus to save lives, to pause but continue reopening or to leave the future wide open to individual decision making? A New York Times graphic, “How the Virus Won,” explains how federal and state actions from mid-February to June failed to contain the coronavirus.   

During a visit to battleground Wisconsin on Thursday, President TrumpDonald TrumpJulian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy Overnight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results MORE spent 1 minute during a 29-minute speech focused on the public health crisis, saying “it came from China” and “hit 188 countries … not good.”  The president was with White House adviser Peter Navarro and Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossHouse panel, Commerce Department reach agreement on census documents China sanctions Wilbur Ross, others after US warns of doing business in Hong Kong DOJ won't prosecute Wilbur Ross after watchdog found he gave false testimony MORE. None of them wore masks. They toured a shipbuilding plant in Marinette and assured a largely mask-free audience standing outdoors that the U.S. economy would recover in the third quarter and soon be “bigger and stronger than it ever was before.” Staged for the cameras and accompanied by Trump’s campaign theme music, the president’s prepared remarks were focused on Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector and the plant’s lucrative U.S. Navy contracts

Politico: Trump sidesteps grim coronavirus surge to sell a happier message. 

The administration will hold a public briefing today to discuss the coronavirus, the first in many weeks. Vice President Pence has recently been advising Republican officials to point to slowing fatality statistics as a positive indicator, and he and the president have inaccurately stated that rising coronavirus infection rates are the result of increased testing (The New York Times). Pence will speak from the Department of Health and Human Services, not the White House, at 12:30 p.m.  

Especially in the South and West, states are in the grip of a catastrophe, focused on new COVID-19 transmissions and surges of sick patients admitted to crowded hospitals. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Thursday that his state will pause its efforts to reopen the state’s economy. Abbott, pictured above, has warned of a mounting disaster for days, as new cases of the contagion rise precipitously in Houston, where people gathered beginning in May without masks or social distancing (photo below). Other cities in trouble include the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area and Austin, San Antonio and El Paso. 

Texas finds itself under siege four months after the first COVID-19 infections emerged in the United States, now faced with more than 50,000 active coronavirus cases and a patient load that is challenging its health care system. The Lone Star State, which reopened early, saw more than 5,000 confirmed new cases on each of two successive days this week (The Hill).

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisSchools without mask mandate 3.5 times more likely to have COVID-19 outbreaks: CDC study Texas limits business with Ben & Jerry's over Israel move Overnight Health Care — Presented by Indivior — CDC panel approves boosters for some, but not based on jobs MORE (R) said Thursday that he will not move to the next phase of his state’s planned reopening. On Wednesday and Thursday, Florida reported more than 10,000 new cases, bringing its total to more than 114,000. Across the state, long lines have returned at testing sites (The New York Times). When he visited with Trump in the Oval Office before his state reopened on April 30, DeSantis boasted that “Florida has done better. … We had a tailored and measured approach that not only helped our numbers be way below what anyone predicted, but also did less damage to our state going forward.”

The Associated Press: Governors who quickly reopened backpedal as virus surges.

The Associated Press: Around the world, the virus is taking a stronger hold in large, populous countries including the United States, South Africa, Mexico and India. South Korea and Australia are experiencing new outbreaks.

As The Hill’s Jessie Hellmann reports, public health experts say states experiencing surges in transmissions must act now or risk losing control of the outbreaks. As the situation worsens, governors’ decisions could determine the trajectory of the epidemic, which threatens to overwhelm hospitals and lead to thousands more deaths. The revival of summer travel activity, well documented by commercial airline traffic and data pulled from cellular phones, underscores the jeopardy nationwide.  

The Associated Press: U.S. virus cases are near an all-time high as governors backtrack.

The New York Times: Only one in every 10 coronavirus infection out there is likely to have been identified, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Associated Press: U.S. health officials estimate that more than 20 million people have contracted the coronavirus to date, in a nation of 330 million people. 

 

 

New York: The situation in the Empire State appears brighter. Fewer than 1,000 hospitalized patients are suffering from COVID-19, which is the first time the number has dropped below four digits since March 18, according to Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Arizona recount to show Trump's loss by even wider margin Former co-worker accuses Chris Cuomo of sexual harassment in NYT essay NY health chief criticized over state's COVID-19 response resigns MORE (D).

North Carolina: Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a Republican, said Thursday that he plans to sue Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper for allegedly violating the state's Emergency Management Act through executive orders he issued during the coronavirus pandemic. In a letter to Cooper on Thursday, Forest said the governor has "repeatedly ignored the law, enacting mandates that selectively target the businesses and citizens of North Carolina without concurrence from a majority of the Council of State." Cooper has issued several executive orders since the onset of the pandemic. The most recent declaration was issued Wednesday, when Cooper ordered people to wear masks in public and extended the second phase of the state's reopening until July 17 (CNN). 

Iowa: Families of three deceased workers in the state sued Tyson Foods and its top executives on Thursday, saying their relatives contracted COVID-19 in a meat plant after the company put its workers at risk (The Associated Press). 

Virginia is taking steps to create its own workplace safety rules amid frustration with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which says it will not devise a nationwide COVID-19 standard (The Hill).

Washington, D.C.: The Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, the third largest hotel in the nation’s capital with 1,200 rooms and a 102-year history, faces an uncertain future because of COVID-19. It may shut down for good after closing temporarily in March (WJLA and WTOP).

 

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LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS: The president has seen his political situation grow more dire by the day as polls show his chances to secure a second term are faltering, making an already daunting path all the more difficult to navigate in the coming months.  

On Thursday, state polls released by The New York Times/Siena College and Fox News showed that Trump is losing across the board in expected battleground states, contests he won in 2016 and — even worse — states he was expected to win only months ago. According to the Times’s surveys, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFighter jet escorts aircraft that entered restricted airspace during UN gathering Julian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy FBI investigating alleged assault on Fort Bliss soldier at Afghan refugee camp MORE leads Trump by double digits in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — the three states that propelled him to the presidency in 2016 — and Trump trails by significant margins in Florida (6 point margin), North Carolina (9 points) and Arizona (7 points). Nationally, Biden leads by 14 points.

Meanwhile, Fox News’s polls didn’t produce much more favorable outcomes. They showed the president narrowly trailing Biden in Texas, Georgia and North Carolina, and losing by 9 points in Florida. While Republicans are generally optimistic that the president’s prospects are fine in Texas and Georgia, the other states are all genuine concerns — especially Arizona and North Carolina, as each state features a top-tier Senate race. GOP analysts interviewed by The Hill blame the incumbent’s current struggles to years of Trump-induced fatigue. The president’s shifting responses to the coronavirus have exacerbated his vulnerabilities with voters.  

"People just feel worn out,” said one GOP operative who advises a number of Senate campaigns. “Some of this is just the collective toll of the Trump show where people said, 'I’ve tuned into this enough’ and are looking for another program. They're sick of him not apologizing for anything, especially when he's wrong." 

Another GOP strategist was more blunt when asked for a current assessment of the president’s standing, pointing out that Trump’s numbers against Biden have dropped a full 10 points since the fall and that without a course correction, the president could be in for a shellacking of historic proportions. 

"They're really f---ing worrisome,” the second GOP strategist said of the recent round of polls. “If the election was today, it would be a horrific ass-kicking.”

"People are sick of the noise and chaos. Elections are about choices, and right now there's no election because there's no choice. Everything's a referendum about him,” the second operative added. “Can it be turned around? It's possible. But for some reason the campaign seems afraid to attack Joe Biden. That's their only chance.” 

An opening for Trump to improve his standing depends on the reemergence of Biden, Republicans suggest. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, the former vice president has largely campaigned from his Delaware home and has only recently emerged to take part in carefully constructed events. “There's no wear and tear,” the first GOP source added. 

The New York Times, “The Daily”: The voters Trump is losing. 

The Washington Post: Black Americans say racism, policing top issues for November, favor Biden by huge margin, Post-Ipsos poll finds.

Peggy Noonan: The week it went south for Trump.

ABC News: “A push against Donald Trump”: Why some older women are turning away from the president. 

 

 

With the tide moving away from the president, his allies are warning him to change his public approach to the troubles voters are experiencing or even shake up the personnel inside his campaign. Internal finger-pointing about cratering poll numbers is inevitable, but Trump does not react well to critiques that he is not helping himself. 

As Jonathan Easley and Brett Samuels write, frustration is coming to a head in Trump World over the president's lack of discipline and his confrontational tone during a time of high anxiety about the contagion and a month of demonstration following the police killing of George Floyd. Some Trump allies worry that campaign manager Brad ParscaleBrad ParscaleAides tried to get Trump to stop attacking McCain in hopes of clinching Arizona: report MORE is in over his head and that shake-up is needed at the top following last week’s fiasco in Tulsa, Okla. Adding to the problems, sniping has increased between pro-Trump outside groups over how best to defend Trump and attempt to negatively rebrand the former vice president.  

The Associated Press: Trump zeroes in on base to overcome reelection obstacles.

Politico Magazine: Why Biden is keeping the Black Lives Matter movement at arm’s length. 

While the polling looks rosy for Biden now, there remains a concern among Democrats that the party could grow complacent as survey after survey shows the vice president leading and doing well in more states. As The Hill’s Amie Parnes reports, Democrats continue to have 2016-induced agita and are worried about Trump’s ability to surprise and win, fretting there might be a repeat four years later. 

“One of the great strengths Democrats bring to 2020 is that we’re not suffering from overconfidence,” said Robert Zimmerman, a prominent Democratic donor who is also a member of the Democratic National Committee. “We’ve seen this movie before.”

Democrats say they know things are working in their favor so far with Trump mishandling the COVID-19 pandemic, the racial unrest over the past month following Floyd’s death and the continued economic issues consuming the nation.

Democratic strategist Joel Payne cautioned that crises in June could look a lot different to voters four months from now: “They’re happening so far from the election.”

The Washington Post: Biden says he would require Americans to wear masks in public.

The Atlantic: Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTwo 'View' hosts test positive for coronavirus ahead of Harris interview Rep. Karen Bass to run for mayor of Los Angeles: report Biden taps big bank skeptic to for top regulatory post MORE’s (D-Calif.) shadow campaign for vice president.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CONGRESS: House Democrats today will ensure passage for the first time of a measure that would make Washington, D.C., the 51st state, a breakthrough but largely symbolic effort with a long history of progressive support, now up against opposition from Trump as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWe don't need platinum to solve the debt ceiling crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble House passes standalone bill to provide B for Israel's Iron Dome MORE (R-Ky.), who will not bring the bill to the Senate floor (The Hill). 

On Thursday, the House voted largely along party lines to approve a sweeping police reform measure aimed at curbing the use of excessive force by law enforcement in the wake of the death of George Floyd (The Hill). But efforts to respond to police misconduct and racial inequality have hit a wall on Capitol Hill, suggesting that nothing will change in federal law during an election year (The Hill). The vote was 236 to 181, GOP Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdFirst Democrat jumps into key Texas House race to challenge Gonzales Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Congress drawn into pipeline cyberattack, violence in Israel MORE (Texas), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble Fifth House Republican comes out in support of bipartisan infrastructure bill Democratic leaders racing toward Monday infrastructure vote MORE (Mich.), and Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble Fifth House Republican comes out in support of bipartisan infrastructure bill Democratic leaders racing toward Monday infrastructure vote MORE (Pa.) bucked their party and supported the Democrats’ bill (The Hill).

The Hill: Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Tech groups take aim at Texas Republican lawmakers raise security, privacy concerns over Huawei cloud services Debt ceiling fight pits corporate America against Republicans MORE (R-Ark.) delivered a scathing floor speech on Thursday objecting to statehood for Washington, D.C., and criticizing Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and former four-term home-rule champion D.C. Mayor Marion Barry (D), who left office in 1999 and died in 2014. Critics on social media said Cotton’s mayoral targets and comparison of the nation’s capital to Wyoming reflected racial bias.  

Separately, Hispanic leaders have joined African American advocates and others to urge officials to adopt police reforms following the revelation that a Latino man in police custody in Tucson, Ariz., became yet another fatality. Carlos Ingram López died while being restrained by police on April 21, but his death was not made public until Tuesday. The officers involved resigned last week and Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus offered to resign as well, as Mayor Regina Romero (D) expressed outrage. Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Final countdown: Senate inches toward last infrastructure vote Arizona state senator arrested on charges of sexual conduct with a minor House Democrats introduce bill restoring voting provision after SCOTUS ruling MORE (D-Ariz.), told The Hill, "You could have a progressive city council and the most progressive police chief, but with decades of bad policing and bad police culture, you're not going to turn it around easily. 

House Foreign Affairs Committee: Jostling among Democrats who want to chair the powerful committee has begun before the outcome of Tuesday’s primary contest becomes official for Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelNYC snafu the latest flub from a broken elections agency Cynthia Nixon backs primary challenger to Rep. Carolyn Maloney Democrats call on Blinken to set new sexual misconduct policies at State Department MORE (D-N.Y.), who appears to have lost his primary contest to New York’s Jamaal Bowman (D). Mail-in ballots continue to be counted in the Empire State. Rep. Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksHouse passes sweeping defense policy bill Overnight Defense & National Security — Iron Dome funding clears House Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Defense bill takes center stage MORE (D-N.Y.) received a boost from the Congressional Black Caucus to succeed Engel as chairman on the theory that diversity is now more important to the party than the customary bow to House seniority, which would have elevated the prospects of Rep. Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanOvernight Defense & National Security — Congress begins Afghanistan grilling US says about 1,500 citizens remain in Afghanistan How Congress can advance peace with North Korea MORE (D-Calif.) to steer the committee (The Hill).

 



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

New York primary elections signify the next generation of political leaders, by former Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelAnthrax was the COVID-19 of 2001 The lessons of Afghanistan are usually learned too late Do not underestimate Kathy Hochul MORE (D-N.Y.), opinion contributor, The Hill, https://bit.ly/3euXGMu

Wake up, America — see what's coming: Progressives push Democrats further left, spelling trouble for the nation’s cities, by Liz Peek, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3g0PzI0

 

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WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 9 a.m. and plans to vote on a measure that would make Washington, D.C., the 51st state.

The Senate will convene on Monday at 3 p.m. to resume consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act. 

The president at 2:40 p.m. in the East Room will speak to the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board. An hour later, he will depart Washington to spend the weekend at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., where the community there plans a Saturday rally for him (MyCentralJersey). 

Vice President Pence convenes a meeting at 11 a.m. of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and joins task force officials in a public briefing at 12:30 p.m., both at HHS. At 2 p.m., Pence will meet with airline executives in the Roosevelt Room (separately, aviation workers’ unions are asking Congress for another $32 billion in payroll aid amid the pandemic). On Sunday, the vice president will be in Dallas to attend a morning service at the First Baptist Church, where Robert Jeffress — one of Trump’s evangelical advisers — is the senior pastor. 

Economic Indicator: The Bureau of Economic Analysis will report at 8:30 a.m. on U.S. consumer spending in May. Analysts expect to see a bit of a rebound in spending last month, following a record drop in April.

Invitation: The Hill Virtually Live hosts a Pride Month summit on Tuesday at 11 a.m. to discuss civil rights in America with a focus on the LGBTQ community. Olympic medalist Adam Rippon, Rep. Sharice DavidsSharice DavidsKatie Hill launches effort to protect Democratic majority in House GOP ramps up pressure on vulnerable Democrats in spending fight Rep. Tim Ryan becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress MORE (D-Kan.), Chasten Buttigieg, Alphonso David, Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Gillibrand11 senators urge House to pass .5T package before infrastructure bill Hochul tells Facebook to 'clean up the act' on abortion misinformation after Texas law Democratic senators request probe into Amazon's treatment of pregnant employees MORE (D-N.Y.) and more join Editor-at-Large Steve Clemons. Register 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: For the first time in three months, the Eiffel Tower welcomed visitors as part of the national reopening in France during the coronavirus pandemic. The elevators remained closed off, so visitors were forced to climb 674 steps to the tower’s second floor under strict hygiene regulations (pictured below) (Reuters). … Mexican Finance Minister Arturo Herrera said Thursday that he tested positive for the coronavirus, tweeting that he is only experiencing “minor” symptoms. Herrera is the highest-profile member of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government to contract COVID-19. Mexico’s president has said he hopes to visit the White House late this month or early in July to mark the official beginning of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (Reuters). … The Senate voted unanimously on Thursday to impose sanctions on those involved in undermining the autonomy of Hong Kong, including the treatment of pro-democracy protesters and a push by China to impose a national security law on the territory (The Associated Press).

 

 

Economy: 1.5 million U.S. workers filed new state unemployment claims last week, the government reported on Thursday. It was the 14th week in which claims for jobless benefits topped 1 million. The total of those receiving unemployment benefits in the country has dipped below 20 million, still a staggering statistic (CNBC). … Federal programs enacted in March to buoy the economy through federal lending and direct payments to families suffered from administration delays, miscommunication and changing communications, plus design flaws, the General Accounting Office described in a detailed report released on Thursday (CNN).  … Macy’s announced it will lay off 3,900 corporate and management employees in a corporate restructuring (CNBC). … Chuck E. Cheese’s parent company announced on Thursday it is filing for bankruptcy (CNBC).

Supreme Court: Justices ruled 7-2 on Thursday that the Trump administration can deport some people seeking asylum without allowing them to make their case to a federal judge. The ruling applies to people who fail their initial asylum screenings, making them eligible for quick deportation, or expedited removal (The Associated Press). … On Thursday night, the Trump administration argued in a legal brief that the Supreme Court should strike down the entire Affordable Care Act (The Hill)

➔ Lobbying: Jack Abramoff, known for his 2006 conviction on felony federal corruption charges that landed him in prison, is likely going back to jail after he was charged with criminal conspiracy while making false and misleading statements to potential buyers of cryptocurrency. The infamous lobbyist pleaded guilty to the charges and faces up to five years in prison (The Hill).

THE CLOSER

And finally … Bravo to the Morning Report Quiz winners!  

Because former Vice President Joe Biden’s search for a female running mate is in the news, we looked for puzzle masters who have been following the veepstakes.

Here’s who went 4/4 out of the 60+ responses we received: Peter Stewart, Marty Trussell, Candi Cee, Thomas Miller, Neal Denton, Ki Harvey, John van Santen, Allison Wheeler, “Megrail,” J. Patrick White, “TT,” Paul Kujawsky, David Bond, John Ciorciari, Gary Breakfield, Mike Roberts, Sharon Banitt, Sue Kahil, Sue Dichter, Norm Roberts, BJ Ford, Stephen Staronka, John Donato, RJ Agostinelli, Ken Stevens, Carol Megrail, Sandy Walters, Luther Berg and Dara Erinashley. 

They knew that two women in U.S. history, Geraldine Ferraro (D) and Sarah Palin (R), were selected to be running mates alongside Democratic and Republican party nominees for president, respectively. (A few readers said the answer should be three, because Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats worry negative images are defining White House Heller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll MORE was the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016. However, we were pretty clear the quiz was about vice presidential picks chosen by Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.)  

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Officials want action on cyberattacks Senate panel advances antitrust bill that eyes Google, Facebook This week: Democrats face mounting headaches MORE (D-Minn.) this month withdrew from Biden’s search for a vice presidential pick. She said it is time for a woman of color to be on the ticket.

The Biden campaign added Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassDemocrats press Schumer on removing Confederate statues from Capitol Rep. Karen Bass to run for mayor of Los Angeles: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks MORE (D-Calif.), who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, to its VP vetting list this week, according to news accounts.

On our roster of four women reported to be running-mate contenders for Biden, Susan Rice, a former academic who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and as national security adviser to former President Obama, has the least experience running for, winning and serving in elective office — because she’s never been a candidate.