The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump pivots on convention; GOP punts on virus bill

 

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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, 140,534. Tuesday, 140,909. Wednesday, 142,068. Thursday, 143,190. Friday, 144,305.

The United States on Thursday reported more than 4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections (the country hit 3 million cases on July 8, little more than two weeks ago) (The Hill).

President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary MORE is finishing a week in which his influence over GOP coronavirus relief legislation, the spread of a contagion and his political future all proved elusive and problems continued to compound in his push for a second term. 

On Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans and top Trump administration officials were forced to delay the release of their COVID-19 relief package after days of round-the-clock negotiations as divisions in the Senate GOP conference continue to create problems. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief agreement | Weekly jobless claims fall below 1 million for first time since March | Trump says no Post Office funding means Democrats 'can't have universal mail-in voting' Overnight Health Care: Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal | US records deadliest day of summer | Georgia governor drops lawsuit over Atlanta's mask mandate Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal MORE (R-Ky.) was slated to start rolling out parts of the GOP’s proposal on Thursday morning before revealing that the rollout would start on Monday, pointing to the White House for the need to delay.

"The administration has requested additional time to review the fine details, but we will be laying down this proposal early next week. We have an agreement in principle on the shape of this package," McConnell said from the Senate floor (The Hill). 

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOvernight Health Care: Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal | US records deadliest day of summer | Georgia governor drops lawsuit over Atlanta's mask mandate Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations MORE echoed the comments, saying that the two sides have a “fundamental” deal on an intra party $1 trillion proposal, pointing to the need to finalize and sign off on legislative text as the final hurdle. According to White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsOvernight Health Care: Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal | US records deadliest day of summer | Georgia governor drops lawsuit over Atlanta's mask mandate Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal Pelosi: COVID talks will resume when GOP offers T MORE, the package will still be around the $1 trillion total they set out to keep the package at earlier in the week. Lawmakers had already approved roughly $3 trillion in relief spending since the pandemic started. 

"We've made very good progress with our Republican colleagues. ... If you look at a very comprehensive bill where you're spending $1 trillion, there's a number of legislative initiatives that we've got to go through, line by line," Meadows told reporters.  

As The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes, the main problem lawmakers are running into revolves around time. The Senate is expected to depart Washington for a month long recess on Aug. 7, giving lawmakers only two weeks to pass a bill as enhanced unemployment benefits are slated to expire at the end of July. 

The Hill: Congress set for brawl as unemployment cliff looms.

The Washington Post: White House, GOP kill payroll tax cut but flounder on broader coronavirus bill.

One part of the bill that will be similar to the $2.2 trillion CARES Act is a provision that will give direct checks to some Americans. Mnuchin said that the bill will include the “exact same” language, giving $1,200 checks to Americans who make less than $75,000. The one-time payment is expected to be scaled down once again until it hits an income level of $99,000 per year, with the funds being phased out at that point. 

The move is a big change for McConnell, who had indicated during the July Fourth recess hopes of capping the income level of those receiving checks at $40,000 (The Hill). 

The Hill: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSusan Collins asks postmaster general to address delays of 'critically needed mail' Trump says he'd sign bill funding USPS but won't seek changes to help mail voting On The Money: Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief agreement | Weekly jobless claims fall below 1 million for first time since March | Trump says no Post Office funding means Democrats 'can't have universal mail-in voting' MORE, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerIn the next relief package Congress must fund universal COVID testing Ocasio-Cortez's 2nd grade teacher tells her 'you've got this' ahead of DNC speech New poll shows Markey with wide lead over Kennedy in Massachusetts MORE (D-N.Y.) say emerging GOP coronavirus plan “falls very short.” 

The Hill: Senate passes bill to prevent debt collectors from garnishing stimulus checks.

The Hill: Wave of evictions could be coming for nation's renters.

> Lewis update: Funeral plans for the late Rep. John LewisJohn LewisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Harris launch Trump offensive in first joint appearance More than 50 Confederate monuments have been removed since Floyd's death: report Trump rips Bill Maher as 'exhausted, gaunt and weak' MORE (D-Ga.) were released on Thursday, and include a final pilgrimage by the civil rights activist from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala., and lying in state in the U.S. Capitol as part of six days of ceremonies to celebrate his life (Montgomery Advertiser).

Pelosi and McConnell announced on Thursday that Lewis will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on Monday, with the general public able to pay their respects on Monday and Tuesday, an honor recently given to former President George H.W. Bush, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainDemocrats hammer Trump for entertaining false birther theory about Harris Trump rips Bill Maher as 'exhausted, gaunt and weak' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - The choice: Biden-Harris vs. Trump-Pence MORE (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsTrump rips Bill Maher as 'exhausted, gaunt and weak' Bill Maher delivers mock eulogy for Trump The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden comes to Washington to honor John Lewis MORE (D-Md.).

According to the congressional leaders, Lewis will lie in state at the top of the Capitol’s East Front Steps during the public viewing, with those wishing to pay respects being required to wear a mask in compliance with District of Columbia guidelines. Lewis’s family also asked for mourners to not travel across the country to pay respects and for them to do so virtually (The Hill). 

 



 

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LEADING THE DAY

CORONAVIRUS: Trump announced on Thursday that the Republican National Convention, which he initially moved from Charlotte, N.C., to Jacksonville, Fla., because of friction with North Carolina’s governor over COVID-19 risks, won’t happen in Florida in August after all — because of the coronavirus risks to delegates and attendees. 

We have to be careful. And we have to set an example,” the president said during a briefing for reporters at the White House.

Trump, who pointed to U.S. maps showing hot-spot states colored crimson, conceded it would be inconsistent for the administration to now be advising people to stay out of crowded bars and restaurants because of a surge in infections at the same time the Republican Party invited 10,000 delegates and VIPs to attend a crowded convention in a state struggling to get COVID-19 transmissions under control. 

It was the latest example of Trump’s abrupt recognition that the coronavirus will not, as he has said many times, “disappear” soon and his handling of the crisis has undercut his standing with fearful, confused voters.

The Associated Press: Trump calls off Florida portion of GOP National Convention. A small group of GOP delegates will formally nominate the president on Aug. 24 in Charlotte, N.C., while other political programming shifts online.

“I’ll still do a convention speech in a different form,” Trump said, emphasizing that it was “not the right time” for the convention gathering. Speaking of the coronavirus, he added, “We want it to go away without a lot of death, without a lot of problems. … We didn’t want to take any chances.” 

The Hill: Florida (pictured below) and California experienced record daily numbers of coronavirus deaths on Thursday.

The New York Times: Texas and Florida have drawn the most national attention because of their rising COVID-19 infection rates, but the virus is also surging in the three states between them along the Gulf Coast: Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

> Warnings: Deborah Birx, infectious disease researcher and physician on the White House coronavirus task force, warned state and local leaders during a private conference call on Wednesday that 11 major cities are seeing rising infection rates in their COVID-19 test results and should take “aggressive” steps to intervene.

The cities she referenced, according to reporting by the Center for Public Integrity, are Baltimore, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Neither Birx nor Trump made such information public on Wednesday or Thursday.

New York Post and The Hill: Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci defends voting by mail if 'you don't want to take the chance' in person Museum unveils new Fauci bobbleheads after previous edition sells out Marlee Matlin: 'Unfathomable' that White House doesn't have sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings MORE, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says COVID-19 is unlikely to be “eradicated” but may be brought “under control.” On the Axe Files podcast with David Axelrod on Thursday, Fauci discussed Trump’s long wait before wearing a mask in public.

The Hill: The epidemic in the United States is worse than political leaders let on and they lack the political will to order changes that could stop the disease. It’s been a summer of lost opportunity to control COVID-19.

> Some states reopened too soon: White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayTrump hurls insults at Harris, Ocasio-Cortez and other women Trump and allies grapple with how to target Harris Conway: Harris is going to have to answer for marijuana prosecutions in California MORE, who has extensive experience as a pollster and managed Trump’s 2016 campaign, did an about-face on Thursday to shift blame from the administration to some states, which she said “blew through” federal guidelines and reopened bars and other outlets too early (Business Insider). Flashback: Trump in April urged states to reopen their economies, just weeks after many governors issued stay-at-home orders. He has repeatedly defended governors who did as he asked.

> Masks: Seventy-five percent of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, say they support requirements for face coverings as precautions to curb COVID-19 infections, according to a new Associated Press-NORC poll.

> Lost jobs, schools, floundering businesses: Trump on Thursday said nothing during his briefing about 1.4 million people in the United States who last week filed for unemployment benefits. It was the 18th consecutive week in which claims exceeded 1 million, and the total sent shudders through the financial markets because it was higher than analysts expected (The Associated Press).

Despite Trump’s concession that a GOP convention in Florida seems unwise in August for public health, he continued to urge governors and state officials to open schools in August and September for in-person instruction. The president’s argument centered on access to nutrition, socialization and physical and mental wellbeing provided to school children. What he didn’t say was that parents are reluctant to return to work if they are uncomfortable sending their children into classrooms.

NBC News: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releases guidelines for schools.

Children have strong immune systems,” he asserted inaccurately. “They seem to be able to fight [the coronavirus] off.”

In fact, some researchers have hypothesized that because children’s immune systems are undeveloped and immature compared with adults, COVID-19 may be less of a threat to children up to age 9 because of the specific way the coronavirus attacks cells. The new school year is seen by many scientists as a massive experiment involving youngsters.

“There is a huge puzzle over the dynamics in kids and what happens with kids,” Nick Davies, an epidemiologist and mathematical modeler at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told STAT News in June. “We don’t really have that one great database, piece of evidence, or experiment that has really settled this question.”

 



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: With just over 100 days until Election Day, the president saw his standing continue to falter as former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris to host virtual Hollywood campaign event co-chaired by Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling Trump plans to accept Republican nomination from White House lawn US seizes four vessels loaded with Iranian fuel MORE expanded his lead in a number of key battleground states, according to multiple new polls that were released on Thursday.  

According to two surveys, Biden leads Trump in Florida (pictured below), which is considered a must-win if the president wants a second term. In a Quinnipiac University poll, Biden leads by 13 points (51 to 38 percent), a margin that has grown by 9 points since their last poll released in April. 

In a second poll conducted by St. Pete Polls for the website Florida Politics and AARP Florida, Biden leads by 6 points, taking 50 percent of the vote to only 44 percent for Trump. In the previous poll taken in May, the two were in a statistical tie (The Hill).

Elsewhere, a trio of state polls by Fox News show the president down by substantial margins, including in two states he carried four years ago versus Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal Gloria Steinem: Selection of Kamala Harris recognizes that 'black women ... are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party' MORE. In Pennsylvania, Trump trails Biden by 11 points, a 3-point increase from Fox’s April poll. Biden also leads by 9 points in Michigan, a 1-point improvement from April. 

The Associated Press: Cognitive Test. Trump. Biden. Campaign. Flashpoint.

Politico: Kimberly GuilfoyleKimberly Ann GuilfoyleTrump's national security adviser tests positive for coronavirus The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump pivots on convention; GOP punts on virus bill Trump campaign raises million in virtual fundraiser MORE under fire for Trump fundraising disarray.

Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press: Joe Biden has a long to-do list if he wins the White House.

 

 

> Obama discussion: Biden and former President Obama defended their administration’s handling of police related issues and treatment of African Americans in a 15-minute discussion released on Thursday. 

In the video, the two vowed that they will handle the issue far differently than the Trump administration as they sought to defend the former VP from criticism among progressive groups for his handling of tough-on-crime stance he was known for.

“Our response was not to ignore those problems,” Obama said, discussing the  national awareness and anger about police brutality.

“Something that I’ve always admired about you, Joe, is your willingness to listen and learn,” Obama told Biden. “It is a sign of leadership when you are willing to hear other people’s experiences” (The Washington Post).

The Hill: Trump blasts Obama over ad featuring sit-down with Biden.

The New York Times: Michael BloombergMichael BloombergThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump threatens Postal Service funding l Biden proposes national mask mandate l Democratic convention takes shape Bloomberg to speak at Democratic convention Everytown on the NRA lawsuit: 'Come November, we're going to make sure they're out of power, too' MORE’s gun control group pours $15 million into races in 8 states.

Caitlin Huey-Burns, CBS News: What happens if the president doesn't accept the election results?

**** 

ADMINISTRATION: U.S. District Judge Michael Simon on Thursday blocked federal agents in Portland, Ore., from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest or targeting force against journalists or legal observers at protests. The court’s temporary restraining order comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. Federal agents also cannot unlawfully seize photographic equipment, audio- or video-recording equipment, or press passes from journalists and legal observers, or order journalists or legal observers to stop photographing, recording, or observing a protest, the ACLU said (Oregon Public Broadcasting-OPB).

> Internal watchdogs: Attorney General William BarrBill BarrHillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations How would a Biden Justice Department be different? MORE backs the president’s decision to order federal law enforcement agents to crack down on urban street demonstrations in major cities, but internal watchdogs at the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security are probing those same decisions and operations. 

Two government watchdogs said Thursday that they opened investigations into the conduct of federal agents responding to unrest in Portland, Ore., following abuse of power allegations by members of Congress, objections from local officials and protests by the public.  

The Justice Department watchdog said it would investigate use of force allegations in Portland, while its counterpart at the Department of Homeland Security said it would examine whether officers from the agency improperly detained and transported protesters in the city last week. 

The Justice Department is also examining the training and instruction provided to the federal agents who responded last month to protest activity at Lafayette Square, near the White House. Among the questions being studied are whether the agents followed department guidelines on the use of chemical agents and less lethal munitions and whether they followed identification requirements (The Associated Press).

Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who was the first to lead the then-new department under former President George W. Bush, attracted Trump’s Twitter wrath on Thursday by publicly criticizing the administration’s decision to send federal agents into cities under the guise of fighting crime. Ridge, a former Pennsylvania governor, called the order a “reality TV approach” to a serious problem.  

“I'm not even sure they have a plan,” Ridge said on CNN on Wednesday. “Have they talked to the mayor? Have they talked to the chief of police? Have they talked to the U.S. attorney?”  

Trump called Ridge a “failed RINO” (The Hill).

> U.S.-China relations on ice: Beijing on Friday ordered the United States to shut its consulate in the city of Chengdu as direct retaliation for the U.S. closing of the country's diplomatic post in Houston, hours after Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo says he and Pentagon warned Russia against bounties on US troops in Afghanistan US blocking private charter flights to Cuba China's Confucius Institute designated as a foreign mission of Beijing MORE said the decades-long U.S. policy of engagement toward China has been a failure (NBC News). 

Interviewed on Fox News on Thursday, Pompeo brushed off a question about whether the administration is steering the United States into a new Cold War with China. Whether it is the indictments that have been handed down by the Department of Justice or the decisions we’ve made with respect to Hong Kong, all of those are aimed at inducing change inside the Chinese Communist Party for the simple purpose of protecting the American people,” he said after delivering a speech at the Nixon Presidential Library in California.

Pompeo said U.S. policy to work with China to bring about change there has not worked. "The kind of engagement we have been pursuing has not brought the change inside China that President Nixon hoped to induce," he said.  

> Justice Department: In more than two dozen U.S. cities, the FBI has interviewed visa holders it believes to be clandestine members of the Chinese military, the Justice Department said on Thursday. The department said it arrested three Chinese nationals for visa fraud, while a fourth remains a fugitive staying at China’s consulate in San Francisco. The United States believes the four were members of China’s military posing as researchers (Reuters). 

> U.S. Census Trump’s recent executive order excluding undocumented immigrants from the apportionment totals his administration says it will send to Congress would have a massive impact on the decennial process that determines congressional districts, shaving at least six seats off the Texas delegation and costing California dearly while benefiting smaller states with declining populations. Opponents of Trump’s executive order may make a persuasive argument in court that it is unconstitutional (The Hill). 

> Deregulation: The administration on Thursday repealed an Obama-era fair housing rule requiring communities that receive federal housing grants to take steps to eliminate housing segregation, and replaced it with a weaker standard that would allow municipalities to self-certify their efforts (Bloomberg Law). Trump said his target audience for the repeal of the rule is suburban housewives (The Washington Post).

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

Tech is about power. And these four moguls have too much of it, by Kara Swisher, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/2WRFGFf 

Dan Snyder is failing his public trust, by John Feinstein, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2WN04ar

 

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WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 9 a.m. and will continue working on fiscal 2021 appropriations measures, including State and Foreign Operations; Military Construction & Veterans Affairs; Agriculture; and Interior and Environment.    

The Senate will convene on Monday at 4 p.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of William Hardy to be a judge on the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

The president presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former Olympic track and field legend Jim Ryun at 11 a.m. He walks over to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building’s South Court Auditorium to sign executive orders at 3 p.m. aimed at lowering drug prices. He departs Washington for his property in Bedminster, N.J., this evening.

Vice President Pence and second lady Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceBiden pays his respects to John Lewis at the Capitol Trump will not visit Capitol to pay respects to civil rights icon John Lewis The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - High-ranking White House official tests positive MORE head to Indianapolis, Ind., and Marian University, where the vice president plans to meet with higher education leaders to discuss the administration’s push to reopen schools this year for in-person instruction. The Pences return to Washington this evening. 

The Washington Post Live talks with Dr. Fauci at 11:30 a.m. about “Coronavirus: Leadership During Crisis. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will be interviewed by journalist Robert Costa during a live stream event. Information 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

Entertainment: AMC Theaters announced on Thursday that it plans to reopen movie theaters across the U.S. in mid to late August after a lengthy shutdown due to the novel coronavirus. According to the company, the new reopening will coincide with the release of multiple notable theatrical releases, including “Tenet,” Christopher Nolan’s new movie, and Disney’s “Mulan” (The New York Times).

➔ Sports: Trump says he will throw out the first pitch at a New York Yankees game on Aug. 15 (The Hill). ...  Washington Football Team” is the replacement name for the Washington Redskins this year as a new name remains pending. Player uniforms retain the familiar burgundy and gold colors and numbers but not the Redskins name or logo (InsideNoVa.com). … Major League Baseball announced hours before the first pitch of the season that the 2020 postseason has been expanded from 10 to 16 teams. With the expansion comes a newly approved $50 million pool for the players, with an additional 22 playoff games (The Athletic). … The Los Angeles Dodgers sells stadium seat photo cutouts for $149 each to team fans to raise money for charity. There will be a special “Pups in the Park” section (picture below from a pre-pandemic event for fans). So far, the Dodgers raised more than $850,0000 by selling more than 5,000 photographic cutouts of fans who look a little like Flat Stanleys, ever eager to be “seated” in stadium seats this season (The Associated Press).

 

 

➔ Not enough social distancing?: A coyote caught the attention of a National Park Service employee while bounding through Washington, D.C., on Tuesday morning. The wild hunter was spotted in East Potomac Park by a park service tree crew supervisor, who snapped a photo. The park service tweeted the rare sighting, noting coyotes are more likely to make appearances in nearby Rock Creek Park. Park Service jokesters referred to the “wily coyote” as Apetitius giganticus, a fancifully invented scientific name for the cartoon character Wile E. Coyote (The Washington Post). Note: A bobcat was spotted in the same general location in January.

 



THE CLOSER

And finally … A big round of applause for all the Morning Report Quiz Masters who were ready for Opening Day and know their baseball stuff. Surely, many quizzers watched the New York Yankees defeat the Washington Nationals, 4-1, in a rain-shortened affair and saw Fauci’s [ahem] socially-distanced ceremonial first pitch.

⚾️⚾️⚾️ Here’s a list of those who went 4/4 this week: John Carlan, Patrick Kavanagh, Jerry Kovar, Kathy Dobe-Call, Allen Reishtein, Ellie and Zach Baden, Mike Roberts, Rich Davis, Mark Rubin, Jack Barshay, Jim Dykstra, Joe Santarella, Mary Miller, Ed Browning, J. Patrick White, John M. Cousins, Mike Axelrod, Candi Cee, Margaret Gainer, James D. Wells, Ki Harvey, Susan Reilly, John Donato, Ron Domingues, Michael Palermo, Phil Kirstein and Stuart Babendir.

They knew that the team with a new ballpark today (Globe Life Field) is the Texas Rangers.

Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman recently detailed his bout with COVID-19, which included a fever of 104.5 degrees. 

Much to the chagrin of baseball traditionalists, the 2020 season will include starting the 10th inning with a runner on second base.

Finally, Ryan Zimmerman was the Nationals player who opted out of the 2020 season. However, he said Wednesday that he plans to return for the 2021 season.