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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Friday (thankfully). 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, 129,947. Tuesday, 130,306. Wednesday, 131,480. Thursday, 132,309. Friday, 133,291.

In a pair of decisions on the final day of its term, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE must turn over his financial records to a Manhattan grand jury but the court said Congress’s subpoenas for those documents, which the president tried to block, head back to lower courts. 

The upshot is that voters are unlikely to learn more before Election Day about the president’s opaque business operations, but the court rejected Trump’s claim that he’s exempt from cooperating (The Hill).

The justices ruled in a 7-2 decision that the Manhattan district attorney can gain access to eight years of Trump’s financial documents, including his personal and corporate tax returns. But in another 7-2 ruling, the justices tossed questions about subpoenas issued for similar records by three House committees to lower courts. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote both majority opinions and the dissenters in both rulings were Justices Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasFor Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court upholds religious liberty Defusing the judicial confirmation process Will the Supreme Court take ObamaCare off life-support? MORE and Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoFor Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court upholds religious liberty Alito to far-right litigants: The buffet is open No thank you, Dr. Fauci MORE

Although the president’s White House spokeswoman argued the decisions were a victory for the president, Trump appeared to think otherwise. He fumed on Twitter about “political prosecution” by the Supreme Court and agitated about an investigation by New York City District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., a Democrat, who is probing payouts through Trump’s former personal attorney to two women with whom Trump allegedly had affairs and sought to silence ahead of the 2016 election. Trump has denied having affairs with the women but admitted the payments.  

“It’s a pure witch hunt, a hoax,” Trump said on Thursday, “a political witch hunt.”

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiClub for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Governors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight MORE (D-Calif.) said the decisions were “not good news” for the president and she praised the court for supporting Congress’s oversight role. But Democrats conceded the justices’ ruling posed a delay in House investigations in an election year. Pelosi said the House would pursue all subpoena challenges related to Trump’s finances through the lower courts. "The Supreme Court today upheld a fundamental tenet of our democracy that no one is above the law," she said. 

CNBC: Trump rages at the Supreme Court over the tax records case. 

The Washington Post analysis: The Supreme Court issued a unanimous and biting rebuke of one of Trump’s “absolute” claims. Roberts reminded the president and his legal team: “We have twice denied absolute immunity claims by Presidents in cases involving allegations of serious misconduct.” 

Peter Baker, The New York Times: A conservative court and Trump’s own appointees declare their independence. 

The Hill: Five takeaways from the Supreme Court’s rulings on Trump’s tax returns. 

The Hill: Trump calls New York City a “hellhole” after the court rulings. 

The Washington Post analysis: The long political fight over Trump’s tax returns is likely to be over. Trump may have won. 

NBC News analysis: The Supreme Court rejects Trump again. This time it’s personal.

The Hill: Separately on Thursday, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision ruled that a large swath of Oklahoma belongs to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. The decision could upend the state's authority over much of the land and restrict it from taxing or prosecuting tribal members on the reservation.

 

 



 

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Report: Facebook leads industry on removal of hate speech

 

 

At 35,000 people, our safety & security teams work to keep our platforms safe 24/7. A recent EU report found we remove more reported hate speech than other major platforms. But any hate speech is too much — there’s more work to do.

 

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LEADING THE DAY

CORONAVIRUS: The president’s top infectious disease expert told The Hill on Thursday that regions of the country experiencing the worst COVID-19 infection rates should “pause” business reopenings and figure out how and why the disease is spreading.

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge US COVID-19 cases reach past 13 million Fauci: Pandemic likely won't improve by Christmas, New Year's MORE, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stopped short of repeating his Wednesday statement that the worst-hit parts of the country should reimpose shutdowns. 

"I would think we need to get the states pausing in their opening process, looking at what did not work well and try to mitigate that," Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said during a virtual event hosted by The Hill. "I don't think we need to go back to an extreme of shutting down” (The Hill). 

As Fauci was speaking, evidence piled up that some states experiencing the most dire outbreaks this week, including Florida, Texas, Arizona and South Carolina, opted to reopen for business early and without waiting long enough to meet the recommended federal public health benchmarks (The New York Times).

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who also spoke with The Hill at Thursday’s event, dismissed that idea. He said the outbreaks were not the result of decisions by state governments to allow businesses to open, but the result of people’s decisions to not wear masks and not practice social distancing as precautions against spread of the coronavirus.

"We don't believe it's about the fact of reopening in terms of a legal or regulatory structure," Azar said. "It's rather, how are we behaving within that context? Are we practicing appropriate social distancing, are we wearing facial coverings, especially in circumstances where we can't social distance?" (The Hill).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield, whose agency was pummeled by Trump this week over what the president says are excessively “tough” voluntary federal guidelines for the safe reopening of schools, said on Thursday that children are better off if they get back to classrooms and instruction, one way or another. 

Speaking at the same event organized by The Hill, Redfield said the CDC next week will clarify rather than replace previous guidance first issued in May and amended in June — and frowned on by Trump.

"I'm of the point of view as a public health leader in this nation, that having the schools actually closed is a greater public health threat to the children than having the schools reopen," Redfield said. 

The New York Times: The United States hit another single-day record on Thursday for new coronavirus cases, its sixth in 10 days. 

> Sunshine State: The COVID-19 contagion in Florida has broken infection records and set a new record for fatalities on Wednesday (The Hill). The situation looks bad enough to prompt conservatives to rethink a massive indoor Republican National Convention next month in Jacksonville, Fla. Yet, Disney World reopens on Saturday.  

Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans Group of Florida mayors calls on DeSantis to issue mask mandate DeSantis promises to keep Florida open despite recent coronavirus case surge MORE (R) wants schools to reopen for in-person classes and he told parents on Thursday that if they think they’re safe to visit Home Depot, their children are safe to attend school (Business Insider).  

Disney World believes tourists are ready for theme parks again, and the location near Orlando began selling tickets and hotel bookings on Thursday for the first time in months. Disney World reopens this weekend to hundreds if not thousands of tourists with children, all of whom are assured by corporate representatives that the make-believe mecca to Minnie and Mickey will be safe (WESH2 TV). 

“The world is changing around us, but we strongly believe that we can open safely and responsibly,” Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park chairman, told The New York Times. “For those that might have questions or concerns, when they see how we are operating and the aggressive protocols that we have put in place, they will understand.”

“This is our new normal. Our new reality,” he continued. “COVID is here, and we have a responsibility to figure out the best approach to safely operate in this new normal.

> Arizona: Republican Gov. Doug Ducey urged people in his state to voluntarily “stay home” because of the dramatic rise in coronavirus infections. He instituted a restaurant dining restriction of 50 percent of seating capacity indoors, but critics say the governor is not doing enough to halt the spread of COVID-19. Dozens of Arizona school board members on Thursday urged the governor in writing to delay until October the reopening of schools, which he had set for Aug. 17 (Arizona Central). Ducey suggested to reporters that the start of the new school year will depend on the trajectory of the contagion, but he was not specific. "It's going to happen when it's safe," he said.

> Community spread: U.S. medical centers have reported that more than 5,000 cases of COVID-19 were likely contracted by patients in facilities while seeking care for other conditions, adding to the spread of the coronavirus (The Wall Street Journal, subscription). 

> Masks: Starbucks announced Thursday that beginning July 15 it will require all customers to wear facial coverings while visiting any of its 9,000 U.S. locations. Customers who do not want to wear masks will be allowed to use Starbucks drive-thrus or use curbside pickup and delivery services. The Starbucks policy may supersede local ordinances in states and cities that do not require mask wearing in public (The New York Times). … Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) announced that beginning on Friday, the state will require all residents to wear masks in public for 30 days, citing an "explosion" of cases of COVID-19 (The Hill). 

> Taxpayer rescue?: After some vigorous lobbying, the U.S. Catholic Church received at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed funds aimed at corornavirus relief, with many millions of dollars going to dioceses that have paid huge settlements or sought bankruptcy protection because of clergy sexual abuse cover-ups. The church’s haul may have reached or even exceeded $3.5 billion, making a global religious institution with more than a billion followers among the biggest winners in the U.S. government’s pandemic relief efforts, an Associated Press analysis of federal data released this week found. 

 



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

2020 POLITICS: Pennsylvania was the center of the political universe on Thursday as former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force MORE and Vice President Pence made appearances in the eastern half of the commonwealth with less than four months until Election Day.

Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, appeared in Dunmore, Pa., which neighbors Scranton — Biden’s birthplace — to unveil his $700 billion jobs plan and issue a stinging rebuke of the president’s economic policies. The former VP struck a populist tone during the address, according to The Hill’s Jonathan Easley, saying that he would crack down on Wall Street and corporations he said have benefited at the expense of average workers.  

“When we spend taxpayers’ money, when the federal government spends taxpayers’ money, we should use it to buy American products and support American jobs,” Biden said at a metal works plant, adding that it’s “time that corporate American pays their fair share of taxes” (The Washington Post).

The speech represented the first major part of a four-part agenda to revive the economy from the coronavirus pandemic. 

Meanwhile, Pence headlined three events in the Keystone State: a luncheon with supporters outside Lancaster, Pa., and two events in the Philadelphia area, including one with the Fraternal Order of Police. The events come as Biden has seen his lead increase over Trump in the battleground state. According to the latest RealClearPolitics average, the former vice president leads by 6.5 percentage points. 

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Campaigning in Pennsylvania, Joe Biden and Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceTrump set for precedent-breaking lame-duck period Trump pardons Michael Flynn O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' MORE clash over how to fix America. 

Marc Thiessen, The Washington Post: An interview with President Trump: “The real hate is the hate from the other side.”

The New York Times: Trump is selling white grievance. The suburbs aren’t buying it.

 

 

While the pair were on the ground on Thursday, the president will make his return to the campaign trail on Saturday night in New Hampshire three weeks after he headlined a debacle-riddled rally in Tulsa, Okla., on June 20.

The rally will feature multiple changes, including one major one: It will be outside. The campaign is also stepping up its push to hold a safe event, including plans to provide hand sanitizer and masks to all attendees, as well as check temperature upon entrance. The campaign is encouraging attendees to wear masks, stopping short of a mandate to do so. The event is expected to start at 8 p.m.

NBC News: Trump camp eyes course correction for rallies: “We can't have a repeat of Tulsa.”

> Convention prep: With the Democratic National Convention almost a month away, officials are trying to iron out how to make the biggest splash with a gathering that will be largely virtual. 

While convention planners told delegates not to attend the convention because of COVID-19 concerns, they are sorting out everything from how delegations will vote to how principal speakers will give speeches without roaring crowds, according to The Hill’s Amie Parnes

“It’s a clusterf---,” said one ally to Joe Biden who is familiar with some of the discussions. “It will all come together I’m sure but there aren’t many answers right now.”

However, convention questions are a bipartisan issue these days as Republicans wonder who is actually going to show up to their event in Jacksonville, and whether it will be held inside or outside. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Biden and reproductive health rights Biden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls MORE (R-Ky.) said Thursday while in Kentucky that convention planning has been thrown for a loop as there remain many unknowns about how it will take place, calling it a “challenging situation.”  

“We’ll have to wait and see how things look in late August to determine whether or not you can safely convene that many people," McConnell, 78, said when asked if he would be in attendance.

According to a McConnell spokesperson earlier this week, McConnell has "every intention" of attending. On Thursday, a sixth Republican — Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsTrump's controversial Fed nominee stalled after Senate setback Business groups scramble to forge ties amid race for House Agriculture chair Republicans hold on to competitive Kansas House seat MORE (Kan.), 84 — indicated that he will not attend (The Hill). 

The Washington Post: Republicans weigh holding a convention outdoors.

The New York Times: DeSantis is said to quietly hinder fundraising for Trump convention.

Tim Alberta, Politico Magazine: Rep. Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinBickering Democrats return with divisions Questions swirl at Pentagon after wave of departures Overnight Defense: Another Defense official resigns | Pentagon chief says military 'remains strong' despite purge | Top contender for Biden DOD secretary would be historic pick MORE’s (D-Mich.) reluctant war with Donald Trump.

> Senate fight: Republican senators are brushing off signs they may not hold the majority after the November elections. While some agree it’s a fight and the situation appears bleak this month, others are upbeat, despite sagging polls and strong Democratic fundraising totals (The Hill).  

The Washington Post: Trump who? Senate GOP candidates in tight races avoid any mention of the president in campaign ads.

The Hill: Democrats hope for tidal moment in Georgia with two Senate seats in play. 

OPINION

Trump’s America Is slipping away, by Ronald Brownstein, senior editor, The Atlantic. https://bit.ly/3gCSXJg 

What Beijing lost with its border clash blunder, by Sadanand Dhume, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/2ZYnFpu

 

A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

How Facebook is combating hate and voter suppression

 

 

Facebook is taking critical, new steps to protect its platforms and the upcoming election:

 

— Strengthening policies against hate
— Expanding voter interference policies
— Launching new Voting Information Center

 

Get the latest.

 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets on Monday at noon for a pro forma session and returns to legislative business on July 20. 

The Senate meets on Monday at 5:30 p.m. for a pro forma session. 

The president flies from Washington to Miami to receive a briefing about counter narcotics operations by personnel at U.S. Southern Command at 12:35 p.m. Trump will speak there at 1:40 p.m. before traveling to Doral, Fla., to the Iglesia Doral Jesus Worship Center for a roundtable discussion about U.S. help for the Venezuelan people. Trump will travel from Doral to a private residence at Hillsboro Beach, Fla., for a roundtable campaign fundraiser at 5:30 p.m. The president will fly back to Washington and return to the White House before 10 p.m. On Saturday, Trump will fly to New Hampshire to headline an outdoor reelection rally in Portsmouth. The president says he will this weekend visit soldiers and clinicians at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, adding he will wear a mask while inside the hospital (The Hill).

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

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ELSEWHERE

Economic indicators: U.S. jobless claims filed during the week that ended July 4 numbered 1.3 million, down from 1.427 million the week before as states juggle reopenings and possible closings. The number of applications for help under the expanded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program also jumped, rising by 42,000 to more than 1 million claims (The Hill). … Bed Bath & Beyond announced this week that it will permanently close 200 of its stores within the next two years (The Hill). … Harley-Davidson announced on Thursday it will cut 700 jobs (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). … Wells Fargo will shed “thousands” of jobs beginning in 2020 (Bloomberg Law). … Kitchenware chain Sur la Table filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late on Wednesday and plans to close half of its 120 stores while it puts the 50-year-old business up for sale (CNN).   

International: Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon was found dead on Thursday, a day after he left his daughter a “will-like” message and was accused of sexual harassment on the job. According to police, his body was found in northern Seoul more than seven hours after authorities launched a massive search effort in South Korea. No cause of death was given (The Associated Press). … In the United Kingdom, members of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet warn the government is not ready to implement Brexit (The Guardian).

➔ Emissions: Environmentalists are sounding the alarm over the number of companies that aren't reporting pollution levels to the federal government during the pandemic. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently informed lawmakers that 300 facilities nationwide decided to take advantage of a new agency policy waiving a requirement to keep track of how much pollution companies discharge into bodies of water. Green groups say that while 300 is a small percentage of the facilities regulated by the Clean Water Act, the lack of monitoring poses long-term health and environmental risks, particularly since the reporting exemption won't be lifted until Aug. 31 (The Hill). 

THE CLOSER

And finally … A big round of applause for all the Morning Report Quiz masters who knew their stuff about former President George W. Bush (marking his birthday this week). 

Here’s a list of those who went 4/4 this week: Ki Harvey, Patrick Kavanagh, Kathy Dobe-Call, Donna Nackers, John Donato, Randall S. Patrick, Tim Burrack, Phil Kirstein, Daniel Bachhuber, Candi Cee, Elspeth Fehn, and Mike Roberts.  

They knew that “Big Time” was not among the nicknames Bush used for Karl RoveKarl Christian RoveMore conservatives break with Trump over election claims The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Pfizer, BioNTech apply for vaccine authorization Trump, attorneys step up efforts to reverse election's outcome MORE, his longtime top adviser. “Big Time” was one of his pet names for former Vice President Dick Cheney. 

Bush had two chiefs of staff during his time in the White House (Andrew Card and Joshua Bolten… two fewer than Trump has had in four years).  

In 2000, Bush jokingly lamented that his decision to sign off on a trade of Sammy Sosa to the Chicago White Sox during his tenure as managing general partner of the Texas Rangers was his biggest mistake in life.

Finally, Bush handed former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaObama: 'Hopeless' to try to sell as many books as Michelle Obama sold record-breaking 1.7 million copies of memoir in first week Media and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk MORE a cough drop during former President George H.W. Bush’s funeral, much to the joy of the internet (We also embraced those Quizzers who answered “Altoid,” because a cough drop and a mint are pretty darn similar).

 



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!