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The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Trump goes birther again; no deal on COVID-19 package

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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, 162,938. Tuesday, 163,465. Wednesday, 164,537. Thursday, 166,027. Friday, 167,242.

President Trump waded into the waters of birtherism once again on Thursday as he questioned whether Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is eligible to serve as vice president or president (she is), incurring a barrage of criticism from Democrats. 

The president’s comments came in response to a reporter during a press conference on Thursday night. As The Hill’s Brett Samuels notes, Trump referred to a recent column by John Eastman, a conservative attorney, who called into question the citizenship status of Harris’s immigrant parents. Harris was born in Oakland, Calif., making her a natural-born citizen and eligible to be president or vice president (Politifact). 

“I just heard that. I heard it today, that she doesn’t meet the requirements,” Trump said. “And by the way, the lawyer that wrote that piece is a very highly qualified, talented lawyer.” 

“I have no idea if that’s right. I would have assumed the Democrats would have checked that out before she gets chosen to run for vice president,” Trump continued. “I don’t know about it. I just heard about it.” 

The Eastman column was retweeted by Jenna Ellis, a Trump campaign adviser, who falsely asserted that Harris’s eligibility is “an open question.”  

Harris is the first woman of color to be named to the presidential ticket of a major political party. Democrats and some Trump critics were quick to hammer the president for peddling misinformation on live TV about the senator.  

“Donald Trump was the national leader of the grotesque, racist birther movement with respect to President Obama and has sought to fuel racism and tear our nation apart on every single day of his presidency,” said Andrew Bates, a Biden spokesman. “So it’s unsurprising, but no less abhorrent, that as Trump makes a fool of himself straining to distract the American people from the horrific toll of his failed coronavirus response that his campaign and their allies would resort to wretched, demonstrably false lies in their pathetic desperation.”  

Trump’s remarks came shortly after he launched an offensive against the Democratic ticket, accusing former Vice President Joe Biden of politicizing the pandemic with his call to require Americans to wear masks outdoors to curb coronavirus transmissions. 

As Niall Stanage writes in his latest memo, while Trump is in the early stages of taking aim at Harris, there are major political pitfalls for the GOP as he does. The president’s standing among female voters of all ages has eroded during his term. Name-calling and false innuendo tied to race and gender potentially hurt the president’s appeal among suburban female voters, who helped him win in key battleground states in 2016.  

Reuters: Biden campaign raises $48 million in 48 hours after naming Kamala Harris as VP choice.

The Washington Post: With early momentum, Harris to focus on connecting with minorities, activists, women in swing states.

Meanwhile, the president also returned to a controversy he is intent on stirring about mail-in voting, which he maintains without evidence leads to widespread voter fraud. After saying earlier in the day that he would oppose giving the U.S. Postal Service more funding ahead of the election, Trump told reporters a few hours later that he would not veto a bill that increases Postal Service funding ahead of Election Day.

“Sure. A separate thing. I would do it,” he said. “But one of the reasons the post office needs that much money is to have all these millions of ballots coming in from nowhere.” 

However, the president added that he is not prepared to direct the postmaster general to reverse some policies Democrats have criticized as undermining the reliability of the Postal Service (The Hill). 

> Conventions: The president revealed on Thursday that he will deliver his acceptance speech to delegates participating in the Republican National Convention from the White House lawn.

Trump announced his decision in an interview with the New York Post. He had weighed an address from Gettysburg, Pa., after canceling an in-person convention that was to be held in Jacksonville, Fla., because of Florida’s high infection rate with the coronavirus.  

The four-day virtual GOP event will also include a featured speech by Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), the only Black Republican senator, Bloomberg News reported. “Honoring the Great American Story” is the convention theme. 

Politico: Trump’s prime-time convention plan: A D.C. ballroom and government backdrops. The Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, an ornate federal building, will serve as a “central hub” for speeches and staff. The unusual arrangement is already drawing ethical concerns that federal resources will be used for campaign events and that administration officials will violate the law by campaigning for the president on government property. The president’s flagship hotel, already a gathering spot for Republicans, is a short walk from the Mellon Auditorium. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who are not constrained by the Hatch Act, are expected to deliver their campaign speeches on federal property during the GOP convention. 

On the Democratic side, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was added to the packed slate of speakers (The Hill). The news angered some progressive activists who don’t believe a billionaire should address the party, according to CNN

Fox News: Hillary Clinton suggests she’s willing to serve in a Biden administration: “I’m ready to help any way I can.” 

The New York Times: How Biden chose Harris: A search that forged new stars, friends and rivalries.

New York Post: Trump says a spike in violent crime, high taxes could help him win New York in 2020 election. “We’re putting New York in play,” he said during an interview with The Post. Trump lost New York by 22 points in 2016.




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ADMINISTRATION: Trump announced a breakthrough Middle East agreement on Thursday, telling reporters that Israel and the United Arab Emirates would establish “full normalization of relations” and that in exchange Israel would forgo for now “declaring sovereignty” over occupied West Bank territory (The New York Times and The Associated Press). 

The Hill: Five takeaways from the Israel-UAE agreement. 

The president, speaking in the Oval Office, called the agreement, which is expected to be signed in Washington in several weeks, the “most important diplomatic breakthrough” in 40 years. 

He heaped credit on son-in-law Jared Kushner, a senior adviser, who told reporters that under the terms of the accord, “Muslims will be welcome in Israel.”   

Trump asserted that other countries would join a pact that solidifies opposition to regional power Iran, which the UAE, Israel and the United States view as the main threat in the conflict-riven Middle East (Reuters). 

The president discounted Palestinian objections that the UAE was “selling out,” telling reporters, “I think they very much want to be part of what we’re doing. … I think the Palestinians will follow.”  

On the other side, some Israeli settlers and their political allies expressed disappointment that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would forfeit his plan to claim sovereignty over West Bank territory. Trump says it is “more than taking it off the table, they agreed not to do it,” while Netanyahu says it’s still “on the table,” and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer by profession, said, “it’s not off the table permanently” (Haaretz). 

The Associated Press: Iran, Turkey lash out at UAE over agreement with Israel. 

The Hill: White House national economic adviser Robert O’Brien says Trump should be a front-runner for the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s not the first time the president and his team have mentioned their interest in winning a prize bestowed on former President Obama in 2009 for “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people.”  





CONGRESS: Negotiations toward a coronavirus relief package are at a standstill as White House and Democratic negotiators remain trillions apart on an overall price tag and the Senate officially adjourned for the month long August recess on Thursday. 

It’s been a full week since Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) last met to haggle in person over another massive COVID-19 relief deal, but recent days have been filled by a public back-and-forth between the two sides. 

On Thursday, the remarks escalated as Pelosi told reporters that talks will resume only when Republicans come to the table with an offer of at least $2 trillion — a number Mnuchin and Meadows have dismissed.  

The House in May passed a $3.4 trillion relief measure, and Republicans entered into negotiations with Democrats with a spending ceiling of $1 trillion. For Democrats, accepting less than $2 trillion would appear to be caving on priorities included in May’s Heroes Act, including assistance for schools, city and state budgets and for election security in November. Those are not items on the GOP wish list. 

“When they’re ready to do that, we’ll sit down,” Pelosi said during her weekly press conference in the Capitol (The Hill). 

“We are miles apart in our values,” Pelosi said. “Perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gave a damn. That isn’t the case. This is very far apart.”

As Pelosi spoke, Meadows addressed reporters at the White House briefing room, saying that the White House offered Democrats reasonable alternatives in short-term bills to extend unemployment insurance that recently expired and on other items. In the meantime, he pointed to executive actions released over the weekend. 

“The president has been very clear for us to be aggressive and forward-leaning to make sure that they get protected, and yet what we’re seeing is politics as usual from Democrats on Capitol Hill,” Meadows said (The Washington Post).

At the moment, GOP negotiators are open to a deal between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion, which Meadows told Senate Republicans during a conference call on Thursday, according to CNN



The impasse has led to an increasingly likely outcome: That any coronavirus relief package will have to wait until September as Democrats and the GOP have other pressing matters to attend to in the coming weeks. Namely, the Democratic National Convention, which starts virtually on Monday, and the Republican National Convention that starts a week later.

The Senate is not expected to return until Sept. 8 without a deal in the interim. Negotiators are also not expected to meet in person in the near future, with Pelosi indicating that she will return to San Francisco and address next week’s Democratic National Convention from there (The Washington Post).

The Hill: Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal. 

The Associated Press: For Americans waiting on virus aid, no new relief in sight. 

More in Congress: With talks stalled, Schumer is set to throw his support behind the RESTAURANTS Act — a $120 billion grant program for independent restaurants — this morning, becoming the first of the big four congressional leaders to do so. Thus far, a bipartisan group of 27 senators and 177 House members co-sponsor the bill, which would be separate from the Paycheck Protection Program. “I am proud to stand with the Independent Restaurant Coalition and support the RESTAURANTS Act to give restaurants the relief they need to weather this crisis so they can eventually fully reopen and bring back to work millions of workers who have lost their jobs,” Schumer said in a statement. “Restaurants can’t wait.”


CORONAVIRUS: Five months into a pandemic that is out of control in many parts of the world, Americans, U.S. governors and the president are still debating masks worn indoors and outside to protect against COVID-19 spread.

On Thursday, Biden and Harris called for a nationwide mask mandate for outdoor activities, and the president, who has the authority to make that happen, responded that wearing face coverings is up to governors and individuals, not the federal government (The Hill and NPR).

The former vice president said on Thursday that “every governor” should require masks for the next three months, arguing the simple and inexpensive precaution would save more than 40,000 lives in that period. Biden cited unnamed public health experts for the estimate.  

“Every single American should be wearing a mask when they’re outside for the next three months,” Biden said. “Every governor should mandate mandatory mask wearing” (Reuters).

Trump, during an evening press briefing on Thursday, said “we will continue to urge Americans to wear masks when they can’t socially distance,” adding, “We want to have a certain freedom. That’s what we’re about.” 

The president challenged Biden’s recommendation for a mandate, saying, “I trust the American people … and Joe doesn’t.”

The Associated Press: Trump and Biden trade barbs over masks. 

In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) fanned the mask controversy in his state by announcing he dropped a lawsuit filed in July challenging Atlanta’s mandate for masks, promising to issue an executive order on Saturday that will effectively allow cities to keep their mandates on the books but will only allow them to enforce such requirements on government property, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Meanwhile, the United States notched more than 1,500 new deaths caused by COVID-19 on Wednesday, marking the deadliest day in this country since the end of May (CNBC).

> Vaccines: Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told The Hill’s Reid Wilson in an interview that he is skeptical that a Russian vaccine will prove to be safe and he promises to protect U.S. vaccine development efforts from political interference.


Harris can only hurt Biden, by Bradley A. Blakeman, opinion contributor, The Hill. 

Lose the nasty words, Mr. President — it does you no good, New York Post editorial board. 

Israel-UAE deal clears annexation muddle. But not for everyone, by diplomatic reporter Noa Landau, Haaretz analysis.

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE! 



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The House meets at 2 p.m. in a pro forma session. 

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session. The full Senate is scheduled to meet next on Sept. 8.

The president departs the White House this afternoon for Bedminster, N.J. He will speak to the City of New York Police Benevolent Association there at 5 p.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Is in Vienna, Austria, participating in a business roundtable this morning with Austrian Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel and with representatives of Austrian companies. Later, Pompeo participates in the launch of U.S.-Austria Friendship Tram with Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig and meets with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen. At midday, the secretary lays a wreath at the Holocaust Memorial with Austrian leaders of faith communities and then meets with Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, with whom he will share a working lunch. This afternoon, Pompeo talks with the news media along with the Austrian foreign minister and later meets with International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi. Later today, the secretary meets with staff and families of the U.S. Missions in Vienna, then sits down this afternoon in Vienna with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias. The secretary attends a working dinner tonight with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Pompeo  will continue his travels this week to Warsaw, Poland, before returning to Washington. 

Economic indicator: The U.S. Census Bureau reports at 8:30 a.m. on U.S. retail sales in July.

INVITATION: The Hill has a new virtual 2020 Conventions Hub! Be part of digital events and get the latest news about the Democratic and Republican national conventions. The Hill dives into The Big Questions Morning Briefings daily during the conventions with pollsters, party leaders and campaign veterans moderated by The Hill’s editors.  

  • JOIN IN to talk about the latest political developments shaping the country. RSVP now for The Big Questions DNC and RNC morning virtual briefings each convention day at 11 a.m. EDT, featuring political analysts and editors who discuss up-to-the-minute trends and 2020 election developments. Reminder dates: Democratic National Convention, Aug. 17-20; Republican National Convention, Aug. 24-27.

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International: Lebanon: The FBI is joining the investigation into the causes of the deadly blasts in Beirut on Aug. 4, according to State Department officials (The Hill). … Russia is using an intelligence hacking tool codenamed “Drovorub” to try to break into Linux-based computers commonly used across computer server infrastructure, including in national security systems, the Defense Department and by the U.S. defense industrial base, according to a report by the National Security Agency and the FBI released on Thursday. The NSA and FBI connected Drovorub to a specific Russian intelligence team, the 85th Main Special Service Center, military unit 26165. The particular unit is associated with the same hackers who broke into the Democratic National Committee in 2016 (Reuters). 

U.S. economy: The S&P 500, an index that tracks the country’s largest publicly traded companies, has all but erased its pandemic losses and is poised to break a new record. The market’s performance is earning praise from Trump, although the yawning disconnect between ebullient market returns and the deep economic pain many Americans are feeling could be a setback for the president (The Hill). … Weekly jobless claims fell below 1 million last week, but remain high, according to Thursday’s government report (The Associated Press). White House acting chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Tyler Goodspeed told Bloomberg News that the drop in claims last week was “encouraging” but the U.S. economy “has a long way to go.” … The United States has hit a fiscal cliff with jobs, economic recovery hanging in the balance (Reuters).   

➔ Sports: No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic (pictured below), who tested positive for COVID-19 in June, said on Thursday that he will compete in the U.S. Open tennis tournament after initially saying he might skip it (The Associated Press). … After not playing for more than two weeks, the St. Louis Cardinals are set to take the field once again for a doubleheader on the road Saturday against the Chicago White Sox. The ballclub has not played since July 30 as they have had 10 players and eight staff members test positive for COVID-19 (ESPN). 



And finally …   Bravo to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners!  

These puzzle masters googled or guessed correctly when we posed trivia questions about vice presidential running mates: Mary Anne McEnery, John Donato, Donna Minter, Dylan Dombroski, Terry Pflaumer, Phil Kirstein, Donna Nackers, Candi Cee, Mike Ferrell, Joe Glauber, Patrick Kavanagh, Daniel Bachhuber, Scott King, Mike Roberts, Stuart Babendir, Jack Barshay, Shaun Donnelly, Luther Berg, RJ Agostinelli, Pam Manges, Peter J. Stewart and Joseph Albert. 

They knew that in 1972, Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern chose at the last possible minute then-Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Missouri to be his vice presidential running mate (pictured below). The McGovern-Eagleton ticket lasted just 18 days. McGovern discovered that Eagleton had been treated for mental illness, including with electroshock therapy, but had not disclosed the information at the outset.

GOP presidential nominee Richard Nixon “surprised everyone” and “irritated many” during his party’s convention in 1968 by announcing Maryland Gov. Spiro Agnew was his choice to be his running mate.

In addition to then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), former President Obama’s campaign strategists interviewed Evan Bayh of Indiana and Tim Kaine of Virginia as potential running mates in 2008.  

Harris on Tuesday made history as Biden’s pick, but not because of her gender. The first woman chosen to be a VP nominee of a major U.S. political party was Geraldine Ferraro in 1984. 


Tags 2020 election Benjamin Netanyahu Biden campaign Brian Kemp Charles Schumer Coronavirus Donald Trump Donald Trump presidential campaign economy Hillary Clinton Jared Kushner Joe Biden Mark Meadows Michael Bloomberg Mike Pence Mike Pompeo Morning Report Nancy Pelosi reopening Steven Mnuchin Tim Kaine Tim Scott VP Pick
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