The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump lays low as approval hits 18-month low
Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. You’ve made it to Thursday during a holiday-shortened week. The newsletter is on hiatus Friday to celebrate the Independence Day holiday, but check back on Monday when 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, 125,803. Tuesday, 126,141. Wednesday, 127,425. Thursday, 128,062.
President Trump continues to find himself embroiled in a multi-front battle as he deals with his fading reelection prospects and the widening coronavirus pandemic, but has receded from public view as he trains his focus on other issues.
In a rare move, Trump has not held a public event since Friday, deciding instead to spread his message through tweets and TV interviews as he prepares to attend Friday’s Fourth of July celebration at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
However, with the coronavirus pandemic on the move and the economy continuing to struggle, the president’s focus has been displaced, according to The Hill’s Brett Samuels. Trump’s tweets in recent days have focused extensively on television ratings and threats against those who deface monuments, with allies urging the president to confront these challenges head on and show he is capable of leading through a turbulent stretch.
“Traditionally the president would be out front with positive messages on these kinds of national crises, but that’s not Trump’s style. He’s offense only. He leaves defense to others,” said Dan Eberhart, a GOP fundraiser and CEO of oil drilling company Canary.
“The administration may want the president to get out front, but Trump’s style makes that impossible,” Eberhart added.
Notably, the president has taken a back seat to a number of administration officials this week. Vice President Pence traveled to Arizona and Texas on Wednesday and Sunday, respectively, as each state continues to post record single-day totals in confirmed COVID-19 cases. Pence’s travels will continue today as he heads to Florida, where he will meet with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on the coronavirus response.
Pence and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany have also been the public faces of the past week, with Pence resuming coronavirus task force briefings and McEnany making appearances in the briefing room while Trump steps back.
Trump’s scarce public appearances this week come amid one of the lowest moments politically for his presidency. The president’s approval rating during the pandemic and recession has tumbled to the lowest point since February 2019, 41.5 percent, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average.
Reuters: Hundreds of former George W. Bush administration officials to back Biden, group says.
The Washington Post: In wake of Trump’s Tulsa rally, his campaign is still contending with the fallout.
Adding to the campaign’s troubles, it was outraised for a second consecutive month by the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which announced late Wednesday that they raised a combined $141 million in June and $282 million in the second fundraising quarter (The Hill). Both figures eclipsed those of the Trump team and the Republican National Committee, which posted $131 million last month and $266 in the second quarter (The Hill).
The news comes a month after Biden and the DNC outraised Trump and the RNC for the first time, $80.8 million to $74 million. According to The Washington Post, Trump is expected to return to in-person fundraising next week in Hillsboro Beach, Fla. The last fundraiser Trump attended was on June 11 in Dallas — his first appearance back on the campaign trail since the pandemic started.
Robert Costa, The Washington Post: Trump supporters hope to use conservative anger at Chief Justice John Roberts to energize troubled campaign.
NBC News: MoveOn endorses Joe Biden.
Thomas B. Edsall: Trump wants a backlash. Can he whip one into shape?
The Associated Press: Trump, top officials defend response to Russia bounty threat.
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LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: Experts worry that the Fourth of July weekend means more COVID-19 community spread as revelers shrug off social distancing guidelines and mask-wearing. “I am very concerned,” Joshua Barocas, a physician and assistant professor of medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine, told The Hill, citing spikes in new infections seen after Memorial Day weekend.
With headlines such as “COVID-19 out of control,” public anxiety over the coronavirus pandemic is at the highest level it has been in more than a month, a Reuters-Ipsos poll showed on Wednesday. Eighty-one percent of American adults said they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the pandemic, the most since a similar poll conducted May 11 and May 12.
Arizona, Florida, Texas, South Carolina, Nevada and Montana saw the largest coronavirus case increases over the last week, as measured per 100,000 residents (The Washington Post).
Is the national angst enough to persuade some people to rein in cavalier behavior during a summer holiday? Perhaps. Officials’ advice this week is “celebrate at home.” The recent surge in coronavirus cases in more than half the states is expected to keep more Americans homebound over the weekend. Projections for limited travel and spending during the next few days are economically painful but of benefit, at least in the eyes of infectious disease experts (The Hill).
In Geneva on Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said new outbreaks of COVID-19 are to be expected in most countries, but the director-general warned that nations that have a “fragmented approach” to containing the coronavirus “face a long, hard road ahead.” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus did not identify any country he had in mind during a virtual briefing. The United States has the highest COVID-19 death toll in the world (Reuters).
The Hill: Do masks stop the spread of COVID-19? Scientific data says the answer is unequivocally yes.
The Hill: Trump says he’s “all for masks,” despite his reluctance to be seen wearing one.
New York: Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) says Gotham will not resume indoor dining next week as originally planned because of the rising infection rates experienced in other states (The New York Times).
Arizona: The Grand Canyon State on Wednesday reported a record number of positive COVID-19 cases and deaths (CNBC).
California: As virus cases surge, California is halting its multimillion-dollar coronavirus testing plan because of high costs (Los Angeles Times). California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Wednesday also imposed a round of tougher restrictions on businesses to combat a surge in cases. He ordered all indoor non-essential businesses to close in 19 counties across the state, including some of the most populous. Closures include bars, dine-in restaurants, indoor movie theaters and indoor tasting rooms at wineries. Restaurants may remain open for takeout meals (The Hill).
Georgia: Savannah Mayor Van Johnson (D) issued an emergency face-mask order that went into effect on Wednesday. The move flouted Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who says mask-wearing is optional in his state (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
Florida: On Wednesday, a new mask ordinance in Sarasota County took effect. Similar requirements have been adopted in the nearby towns of Anna Maria and Holmes Beach, all getaways along the Gulf Coast (Sarasota Magazine).
Ohio: The Ohio Department of Health reported 1,076 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, the first time daily reported coronavirus cases have exceeded 1,000 since a spike in prison testing in April (Cleveland.com).
Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on Wednesday issued a statewide order to wear masks when leaving home following the largest single-day increase in cases since early June (The Philadelphia Inquirer).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CONGRESS: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo), the No. 3 House Republican and highest-ranking GOP woman, has been challenging Trump on a number of key issues, raising eyebrows around the Capitol as speculation runs rampant that she could be positioning herself for a possible post-Trump world next year.
In recent months, the Wyoming Republican has challenged the president on a number of topics, including national security, his handling of the coronavirus crisis and his personal Twitter attacks — a rare move for any Republican, as most live in fear of political backlash from Trump, who is considered a kingmaker for the party.
Notably, Cheney on multiple occasions has taken on Trump unprompted, with her criticisms of his tweets accusing MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough of murder serving as a prime example. On Tuesday, her tweet featuring a photo of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, wearing a mask and the hashtag “#realmenwearmasks” was viewed as a not-so-veiled swipe against Trump, who continues to eschew wearing masks in public (The Hill).
> Defense bill veto?: Senate Republicans are concerned that Trump could create a political problem for the party with his threat to veto the National Defense Authorization Act over bipartisan language to rename military bases named after Confederate generals.
According to Alexander Bolton, GOP lawmakers are trying to wave the president off his veto threat and may end up delaying the bill to avoid a political disaster before Election Day. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday pleaded with Trump to go back on his threat to veto the $740.5 billion bill over a provision sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) mandating that the secretary of Defense rename military installations named after Confederate generals.
“I would hope the president really wouldn’t veto the bill over this issue,” McConnell told Fox News. “I hope the president will reconsider vetoing the entire defense bill, which includes pay raises for our troops, over a provision in there that could lead to changing the names” (The Hill).
> Infrastructure: House Democrats on Wednesday passed a $1.5 trillion green infrastructure plan that would surge funding to repair the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges, while setting aside funds for broadband, schools and hospitals.
As Rebecca Beitsch writes, the legislation was approved in a largely party-line 233-to-188 vote after the White House issued a veto threat, with the president saying that the package is “full of wasteful ‘Green New Deal’ initiatives.” McConnell said this week that the bill is dead on arrival in the upper chamber (The Hill).
Reuters: House passes bill to sanction Chinese banks over Hong Kong.
The Hill: House Democrats gear up for testimony from key former aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
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President Trump should wear a mask, by Marc Siegel, physician and opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2C1M8BV
Some decisions in the monuments debate are tough — some aren’t, by Albert Hunt, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2VwWvor
WHERE AND WHEN
The House will convene at 10 a.m. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will hold her weekly press conference at 10:30 a.m.
The Senate meets at 10 a.m. to continue work on the National Defense Authorization Act. A Senate Appropriations subcommittee meets at 10 a.m. with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield and National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins about the administration’s plan to develop and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine at some point. C-SPAN carries the hearing live HERE.
The president will speak at 11:30 a.m. at a Spirit of America Showcase event in the White House Grand Foyer.
The vice president will travel to Tampa, Fla., to meet with DeSantis to discuss the rising coronavirus caseload in the state and then take questions from the news media. The vice president will return to Washington this evening.
Economic Indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will release the U.S. employment report for June. Analysts expect historic job gains (The Hill), but economists suggest a nascent recovery is stalling (The Associated Press). The unemployment rate in May was 13.3 percent and the government reported the economy added 2.5 million jobs that month. A consensus forecast is for 12.3 percent unemployment in June.
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➔ International: Hong Kong police arrested a man on Thursday who is accused of stabbing a police officer during the Wednesday’s protests of the new security implemented by China. The individual was pulled off a London-bound flight after being identified as a suspect during a sweep of the flight. Overall, 370 people were arrested stemming protests against the law after it was enacted earlier this week, with 10 being arrested for directly violating the law as they carried materials pushing for Hong Kong’s independence (The Associated Press). … Russians approved constitutional changes on Thursday that would allow President Vladimir Putin to run for two more six-year terms and remain in the post until 2036. The Central Election Commission said that 77.9 percent of votes were in favor of updating the constitution to only 21.2 percent for those who voted against, though critics argue the outcome is illegitimate (Reuters).
➔ Tech: “I want to be unambiguous: Facebook does not profit from hate,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications, wrote in an open letter on Wednesday. Under fire from corporate and activist critics for publishing content that traffics in hatred, Facebook is on the defense. Clegg’s assertion was met with skepticism from some of the company’s critics. On Tuesday, the company announced it was taking down a network of accounts, pages and groups tied to the extremist “boogaloo” movement and banning the anti-government group going forward. Just hours later, BuzzFeed News reported that Facebook had for months been publishing — and profiting from — boogaloo ads advocating violence (The Hill).
➔ White House salaries: Presidents are required to report staff members and salaries each year to Congress, and it has been a custom since the Obama White House to disclose the report publicly. Trump has followed that model. His staff rosters reflect high turnover in the Executive Office of the President since 2017 and a creative use of the highest-compensation “assistant to the president” title, now paid $183,000 per year. Forbes reports that Trump’s staff is smaller and payroll leaner than was former President Obama’s at this point in his presidency. The latest White House salary list is HERE.
➔ Courts: A U.S. federal judge struck down Trump’s decision to curtail applications by migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. It was a legal setback for the administration handed down on Tuesday, following a recent Supreme Court defeat over another immigration policy. The administration failed to adhere to proper regulatory guidelines when it issued a fast-track rule requiring migrants who want asylum to first seek safe haven in a third country through which they traveled on their way to the United States, said U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee based in Washington, D.C. (Reuters).
➔ Streaming wars: “Mad Men” has found a new (and old) viewing home. The legendary show centering on Madison Avenue advertising during the 1960s will land on AMC, its original home, and IMDB TV, which is owned by Amazon, in a massive deal less than a month after the show left Netflix. IMDB TV will be the streaming home of the program from July 15 through Oct. 1, with AMC taking over the property then. The show will return to AMC after it aired on the network from 2007 to 2015. The financial details of the deal were not immediately known (The Hollywood Reporter).
And finally … ✔ Our Morning Report weekly quiz will be back next week following a break for the Fourth of July holiday. In the meantime, if you’re tracking fireworks displays or watching on TV, here’s what you need to know in a few key cities:
Washington, D.C.: Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) is discouraging people from congregating on the National Mall and risking exposure to COVID-19. Flyovers and fireworks arranged by the federal government will be visible but with social distancing in and around the nation’s capital on Saturday. Here’s some useful information about Saturday’s Salute to America, courtesy of WTOP.
New York City: In June, de Blasio told visitors and residents of the Big Apple they would not see just one gigantic fireworks display on the Fourth this year in order to curtail crowding and feared coronavirus transmissions. Instead, there will be many displays over several nights, capped by the “Macy’s Fourth of July Spectacular.” CBSN New York has details HERE.
Los Angeles: No, none, verboten. Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) banned fireworks displays during the holiday weekend, closed beaches and warned Angelinos to stay home (Deadline).
Keystone, S.D.: Friday’s planned extravaganza at Mount Rushmore featuring the president and pyrotechnics is not without controversy. Tribal leaders, environmentalists worried about wildfires and public health experts who bemoan the lack of social distancing without mandatory masks have raised objections. But 7,500 tickets have been distributed to people who want to witness dazzle at a monument known as “the Shrine of Democracy.” One certainty: Voters will almost immediately see campaign footage on social media and in ads following Friday’s event (The Associated Press).
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