The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Biden, Trump raise stakes in clash over civil unrest, police shootings
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 183,068. Tuesday, 183,598.
During dueling remarks on Monday, Joe Biden and President Trump sliced into each other against an emotional backdrop of police killings, violent demonstrations and public calls for racial justice in America.
Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, traveled from Wilmington, Del., to a steel mill in Pittsburgh to deliver a stark campaign speech that placed the blame for civil unrest squarely on Trump, asserting the president has inflamed tensions since the police killing of George Floyd in May, The Hill’s Jonathan Easley reports.
“This president long ago forfeited any moral leadership in this country,” Biden said. “He can’t stop the violence because for years he’s fomented it.”
The former vice president, who is trying to retain his shrinking lead in national polls as the contest enters its final two months, forcefully condemned rioting and looting and pressed for calm.
“I want to be very clear about all of this: Rioting is not protesting,” Biden said. “Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawlessness plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted. Violence will not bring change. It will only bring destruction. It’s wrong in every way. It divides instead of unites.”
The Hill: Biden brought pizzas to Pittsburgh first responders after his Monday speech (pictured above).
Trump appeared in the White House briefing room a few hours later to slam Biden as among the “radical left maniacs” he said are making America unsafe. “When you enforce the law, order follows,” the president added while explaining his administration’s approach and boasting about the campaign endorsements he’s received from organizations representing police officers and sheriffs.
“Biden’s strategy is to surrender to the left-wing mob. … I don’t think he even knows what he’s doing — and give them control over every lever of power in the United States government,” Trump said, briefly riffing while reading from prepared notes. “But when you surrender to the mob, you don’t get freedom. You get fascism.”
The president today will fly to Kenosha — a trip he predicted would be “very interesting” and an itinerary Gov. Tony Evers (D) asked Trump to reconsider.
Trump’s arrival follows the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot in the back by police more than a week ago. Trump has blamed Democratic mayors and governors, not police officers, for violence and protests seen this year in communities stretching from Portland, Ore., and Oakland, Calif., to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. He suggested the catalyst is not shootings of Black men by police, which the president called “mistakes” by good cops making life-or-death decisions in stressful situations, but rather the “surrender” of Democratic politicians in cities and states that refuse to crack down on violence.
The Hill’s Amie Parnes reports that it’s unclear which candidate may get the better of such raw arguments about the nation’s current upheaval. “Biden has an advantage and he’s held on steadily but 2016 taught us that races can change. It could move more in Biden’s direction and it could move in Trump’s. It could go either way,” said Madison, Wis.-based Charles Franklin, a professor of law and public policy and the director of the Marquette Law School Poll.
The Hill: Trump defends Kenosha suspect Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager accused of killing two protesters, as acting in self-defense.
Trump is expected to meet today with law enforcement and survey property damage, but he will not meet with Blake, who is hospitalized, or his relatives. Trump, who said he has spoken with a Blake family pastor by phone, did not acknowledge on Monday that the family has blamed him for inciting violence. An attorney working for the family later said the president spoke with a pastor tied to Blake’s mother after Jacob Blake’s father denied the family had a pastor (The Hill).
Trump on Monday criticized Black Lives Matter as “discriminatory” during a Fox News interview at the White House during which he also asserted with no evidence that Biden is somehow tied to unnamed people in cities in “dark shadows” who are “under investigation.” Trump said “some very stupid rich people” are funding protest groups, according to hearsay he said he picked up during the Republican National Convention (Fox News and Politico).
The Daily Beast: Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Monday told Fox News that the administration is “working on” corruption charges and “targeting and investigating” leaders of organizations, including the political movement Black Lives Matter. Wolf said he spoke with Attorney General William Barr about information that others may be “paying for those individuals to move across the country.”
“We know they are moving around,” Wolf continued. “We have seen them in D.C., in Sacramento, and elsewhere. They are organized. We have seen similar tactics being used from Portland and other cities across the country as well. So we know that the Department of Justice is also working on that as well.”
Wolf and Barr met with Trump at the White House on Monday.
The Hill: Trump compares police who use force to golfers who “choke.”
Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, along with Michigan, are swing states that helped Trump capture the presidency in the Electoral College in 2016, in part because of his support from older, white, non-college educated men. While Biden focused during his convention on Trump’s wobbly handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the president and his campaign have succeeded in changing the subject to themes they think resonate strongly with blue-collar white voters in cities and suburbs who back police and frown on the liberal tilt of the Democratic Party.
Biden’s 3.5 point lead is down from 8 points at the end of June in Wisconsin surveys, according to the RealClearPolitics average. The state is among 29, plus the District of Columbia, that will soon allow general election voters to cast absentee ballots by mail or in person for any reason.
The Hill: Senate Republicans seeking re-election are not all of like mind about Trump’s aggressive posture toward Black Lives Matter protests.
The Hill: Emerson College poll finds Trump-Biden race tightening post-conventions.
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LEADING THE DAY
2020 POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Progressives are hoping for a big night in Massachusetts as voters head to the polls today in the state’s Democratic primary brawl. Groups such as the Sunrise Movement and Our Revolution Massachusetts have gone all-in for Holyoke, Mass. Mayor Alex Morse, who is challenging House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal. Progressives are also defending Sen. Ed Markey, who seeks reelection while being challenged by delegation colleague Rep. Joe Kennedy III (The Hill).
The Hill’s Alex Gangitano scoops with a report HERE describing 23 Democratic House freshmen candidates to be endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
More in politics: Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., on Monday announced an independent investigation into school operations during the tenure of university president Jerry Falwell Jr., who resigned in August after conceding his knowledge of a long-running sexual liaison between his wife and a paid associate (The Hill). … Early voting begins this week in some states. The Hill’s Reid Wilson explains where it is taking place (and don’t forget that some voters will fill out their ballots ahead of the first presidential debate on Sept. 29). … Voto Latino, a voting advocacy group, says it reached 280,000 new voter registrations and aims for a total of 500,000 by Election Day. One key ingredient needed to meet that goal: funding. “We’ve raised $16 million,” Voto Latino CEO María Teresa Kumar told The Hill’s Rafael Bernal.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CONGRESS: House Democrats on Monday outlined a September agenda that includes funding the government for a few months beyond the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, as well as consideration of a House Judiciary Committee bill that would decriminalize marijuana and expunge nonviolent federal cannabis convictions. The House is scheduled to resume work in Washington on Sept. 14.
Democrats and the administration remain at loggerheads over the next coronavirus relief measure (The Hill), and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) next week will introduce a Republican-backed measure as an alternative to the Democrats’ $3.4 trillion version passed by the House in May (Reuters).
> Postal Service oversight: House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said on Monday that she plans to subpoena Postmaster General Louis DeJoy seeking documents she says he has been withholding from Congress. She said DeJoy has not turned over additional documents requested as part of a hearing last week; DeJoy told lawmakers he planned to resume some cost-cutting measures that have factored in widespread service delays, defying Democratic lawmakers who have sought to block his changes. DeJoy has testified that his cost-cutting and management changes will not impact on-time receipt of voters’ mailed ballots for November’s election. Maloney also sent a document request to Robert Duncan, chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors (Reuters).
CORONAVIRUS: As reports of COVID-19 infections have remained flat in 26 states and are falling in 15 others since July, nine states are experiencing rising caseloads and in the Midwest, some states are setting records including in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota (The New York Times).
> Abroad, a second wave of the coronavirus is gripping Spain (The New York Times); Hong Kong is beginning mass testing for COVID-19 (The Associated Press); and Russia has the fourth largest caseload of the virus in the world (The Associated Press).
> Herd immunity: Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist from Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution, who joined the administration as a pandemic adviser but is not an infectious disease expert, is urging the White House to embrace a controversial herd immunity strategy. Atlas joined the White House after he came to Trump’s attention because he criticized prolonged economic lockdowns during the pandemic.
The herd immunity plan would entail allowing the coronavirus to spread through most of the population to theoretically build resistance to the virus, while taking steps to protect nursing home residents and other vulnerable populations, according to five people familiar with the discussions.
Public health experts are still debating the concept of herd immunity as applied to what is currently understood about COVID-19. Such immunity involves achieving population resistance to infection through vaccination or after sickness and survival (The New York Times).
> Restaurant dining: New Jersey and California are once again allowing some limited indoor restaurant dining even as most states have already lifted such restrictions, according to the National Governors Association. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) said the state’s restaurants and movie theaters could open for indoor service on Friday for the first time since the coronavirus shutdown in March. But they must limit indoor patrons to 25 percent of capacity with social-distancing rules. “Masks are required to be worn at all times in the theater unless you’re pulling it down to put away a handful of popcorn,” Murphy said.
California will allow indoor dining in San Diego and San Francisco starting on Monday and lift some other restrictions in nine counties. Gyms, houses of worship and movie theaters can also reopen for indoor activities with limited capacity (Reuters).
> Thanksgiving? Are Americans stuck with Zoom for the holidays?: U.S. families trying to predict if they will be able to safely join relatives at the same table for turkey or ham and all the sides will remain in a quandary, according to public health experts, who list all the reasons the holiday season is hard to forecast. A vaccine is not widely expected by November; flu season and indoor activities could complicate COVID-19 transmission; school openings pose new risks and Americans are growing weary of constraints, restrictions and the unknown. “The decisions we make today will fundamentally impact the safety and feasibility of what we can do next month and by Thanksgiving,” said University of Texas disease modeler Lauren Ancel Meyers (The Associated Press). Thinking about travel for Thanksgiving despite the pandemic? The Los Angeles Times published a checklist of questions to ask yourself before you commit.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
The Democrats’ emerging path to the presidency: The Southwest and Southeast, by Whet Smith and Mark J. Rozell, opinion contributors, The Hill. https://bit.ly/32FdI1C
How to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, by Kathleen Silard, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2QGZ44l
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House will convene at 12:30 p.m. for a pro forma session. The House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis scheduled a hearing at 1 p.m. to discuss the need for additional economic assistance during the pandemic with witness Mnuchin.
The Senate meets at 7 a.m. for a pro forma session. The full Senate is scheduled to meet on Sept. 8.
The president travels to Kenosha where he will tour damaged property and visit an emergency headquarters, then hold a roundtable discussion about community safety at 1:30 p.m. Trump returns to Washington this evening.
Vice President Pence will campaign at a “Workers for Trump” event in Exeter, Pa., not far from Biden’s hometown of Scranton.
➔ Supreme Court: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who this summer received treatment for pancreatic cancer, conducted a wedding ceremony for family friends at an outdoor event over the weekend. The bride’s tweeted photo revealed the justice and the happy couple (TMZ).
➔ Travel: United Airlines is permanently jettisoning change fees for travelers on domestic flights who want to alter their ticketed itineraries without taking huge financial hits during these uncertain times. The company said complaints about airline change fees were at the top of the list for customers (NPR). Delta Air Lines and American Airlines on Monday joined United by dropping most such fees on domestic flights (The Associated Press).
➔ Courts: 52 former McDonald’s franchisees are suing the fast food chain for racial discrimination. Black plaintiffs filed the lawsuit today in a federal court in Illinois, where the company is headquartered. It is at least the third racial discrimination lawsuit filed against McDonald’s this year (CNBC).
And finally … In an ongoing comedic sketch taunting Danbury, Conn., just for the heck of it, late night funnyman John Oliver is offering to donate $55,000 to charity if the city’s mayor, Republican Mark Boughton, follows through on his jest to christen the “John Oliver Memorial Sewage Plant” as a form of retaliation “because it’s full of crap, just like you, John.”
Oliver says he’ll pony up the cash for Danbury-area charities if he can claim the unusual municipal tribute (plus the attendant ratings). The city council has to approve any renaming (The Associated Press and The Hill).