The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by National Industries for the Blind - Trump seeks to flip 'Rage' narrative; Dems block COVID-19 bill


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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 188,941. Tuesday, 189,215. Wednesday, 189,680. Thursday, 190,872. Friday, 191,791.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden leads Trump by 36 points nationally among Latinos: poll Trump dismisses climate change role in fires, says Newsom needs to manage forest better Jimmy Kimmel hits Trump for rallies while hosting Emmy Awards MORE, his surrogates and advisers on Thursday mounted an offensive against revelations made in Bob Woodward’s upcoming book, “Rage,” to soften Trump’s recorded concession in February that he publicly downplayed the risks of COVID-19, despite private knowledge about the severity of the virus.  

As Nathaniel Weixel, Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels report, the White House and Trump’s campaign are making a concerted effort to flip the narrative after excerpts and audio clips of the president’s interviews with the Watergate journalist became public on Wednesday, which set Washington ablaze. For a second day, Trump on Thursday called a previously unscheduled news conference. “There was no lie here,” he said.  

Trump explained he told Woodward in February and March he played down coronavirus risks because he sought to avoid creating panic. “I want to show strength as a leader,” he told reporters.

The president argued that if Woodward “thought it was a bad statement, he would have reported it” prior to the book’s release on Sept. 15. The author said he worked to corroborate Trump’s statements and soon the hazards of COVID-19 became public knowledge.

Trump used his White House megaphone on Thursday to try to change the subject, diving into a menu of GOP criticisms about Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden leads Trump by 36 points nationally among Latinos: poll GOP set to release controversial Biden report Can Donald Trump maintain new momentum until this November? MORE and the Obama administration.  

“When Joe Biden was vice president, his failed approach to the swine flu was disastrous,” Trump said. “And now he's telling us how to manage? He can't manage himself.”

Peter Baker, The New York Times: For a president who ‘needs to touch the flame,’ Bob Woodward was irresistible. 

While Trump says he didn’t want to spark a panic, experts believe the president had a better option at his disposal, according to The Hill’s Peter Sullivan: He could have calmly, but accurately, explained the airborne risks associated with COVID-19 and modeled the recommended precautions, including mask-wearing, which he avoided for months. 

“People are smart and pretty resilient,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “If you tell them what’s going on, you can do it in a way that doesn’t panic them.” 

The Hill: During a Thursday rally in Freeland, Mich., the president said he did not share classified information, as reported by Woodward about a new weapons system Trump reportedly disclosed to the journalist during their 18 conversations. 

CNN: Biden said during an interview conducted on Wednesday and aired on Thursday that Trump has “no conception” of national security and should not be the commander-in-chief of the U.S. military.

Sept. 11, 2001, will be marked today with a virtual ceremony at the Pentagon, dueling ceremonies in New York City and a truncated event in Pennsylvania as the coronavirus pandemic adds to the sorrow of honoring victims of the terrorist attacks 19 years ago, The Hill’s Rebecca Kheel reports. Trump will be in Shanksville, Pa., this morning and Biden is scheduled to arrive in the afternoon after first participating in a New York City commemoration.

The Washington Post: Biden and Trump mark Sept. 11 — and are marked by it. 






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CONGRESS: Senate Democrats blocked a “skinny” GOP coronavirus relief package on Thursday, deepening the stalemate between the two sides as lawmakers grow increasingly pessimistic that Congress can pass another stimulus package by Election Day. 

The Senate voted down the GOP’s $650 billion package, 52-47, as a deal on a larger, bipartisan bill continues to prove elusive. Thursday’s vote was the first time the upper chamber has voted on coronavirus-related legislation since April when it approved a $484 billion bill to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program. 

As The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes, the move was a political win for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOcasio-Cortez to voters: Tell McConnell 'he is playing with fire' with Ginsburg's seat McConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Video shows NYC subway station renamed after Ruth Bader Ginsburg MORE (R-Ky.) (pictured below), who pushed hard for at least 52 Republicans to support the measure after dealing with a deeply fractured conference throughout negotiations on the HEALS Act and the bipartisan talks that followed. Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSecond GOP senator to quarantine after exposure to coronavirus GOP senator to quarantine after coronavirus exposure The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by National Industries for the Blind - Trump seeks to flip 'Rage' narrative; Dems block COVID-19 bill MORE (Ky.) was the lone Senate Republican to vote against the bill. 

Yet, it still did not win the needed 60 votes to clear the procedural hurdle, with every Senate Democrat voting against the package — with Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisSocial Security and Medicare are on the ballot this November Harris honors Ginsburg, visits Supreme Court The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump and Biden vie for Minnesota | Early voting begins in four states | Blue state GOP governors back Susan Collins MORE (D-Calif.) being the only senator to not vote as she was campaigning in Florida. It also puts lawmakers back at square one as Senate Republicans expressed little optimism that an accord on an overarching relief package could be struck by Election Day. Congress is only expected to be in town until the end of September, as it is expected to pass a government funding bill by then, tightening the timetable for any deal to be reached (The Hill). 

“It’s a sort of a dead end street, and very unfortunate,” said Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by National Industries for the Blind - Trump seeks to flip 'Rage' narrative; Dems block COVID-19 bill GOP senators say coronavirus deal dead until after election Trump says he'll sign USPS funding if Democrats make concessions MORE (R-Kan.). “But it is what it is.”

In a video posted on Twitter, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election Florida senators pushing to keep Daylight Savings Time during pandemic Hillicon Valley: DOJ indicts Chinese, Malaysian hackers accused of targeting over 100 organizations | GOP senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal | QAnon awareness jumps in new poll MORE (R-Fla.) declared that lawmakers are “not going to pass another COVID relief bill before the election.” 

Appearing on Fox News after the vote, McConnell punted the question to the other side of the aisle. 

“[But] it makes you believe they really don't want to do another proposal. They want to wait until after the election and play games with this,” McConnell said.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerRepublican senator says plans to confirm justice before election 'completely consistent with the precedent' Video of Lindsey Graham arguing against nominating a Supreme Court justice in an election year goes viral Graham signals support for confirming a Supreme Court nominee this year MORE (D-N.Y.) dismissed Thursday’s vote, calling it “pointless” while adding that the GOP bill was “emaciated.” 

Discussions about a larger package among Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiAs families deal with coronavirus, new federal dollars should follow the student Sunday shows - Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death dominates Hypocrisy rules on both sides over replacing Justice Ginsburg MORE (D-Calif.), White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsAirline CEOs plead with Washington as layoffs loom Trump reacts to Ginsburg's death: 'An amazing woman who led an amazing life' Trump carries on with rally, unaware of Ginsburg's death MORE, Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinLawmakers fear voter backlash over failure to reach COVID-19 relief deal United Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid House Democrats plan to unveil bill next week to avert shutdown MORE and Schumer derailed in early August. They could not agree on the size and scope of a possible deal. Democrats have demanded that any bill must be in excess of $2 trillion, while the White House has not gone past a $1.3 trillion mark.  

Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press: Virus bill blocked in Senate as prospects dim for new relief. 

The Washington Post: Democrats block slimmed-down GOP coronavirus relief bill as hopes fade for any more congressional support.

Politico: Vulnerable Dems anxious over stalled COVID-19 talks. 

The New York Times: Americans continue to lose their jobs and need help as the economic recovery slows. State claims for unemployment insurance remained high last week (more than 857,000 workers filed new claims). Plus, new claims filed under a federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance rose to 839,000. The program provides assistance to freelancers, part-time workers and others who do not ordinarily qualify for state benefits. 



> Congressional districting & census: A panel of three federal judges ruled Thursday that Trump’s order to exclude people who are in the country illegally when redrawing congressional districts violates the law. The federal judges in New York granted an injunction stopping the president’s order, saying its harm would last for a decade. The judges prohibited Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossTrump 'very happy' to allow TikTok to operate in US if security concerns resolved TikTok, WeChat to be banned Sunday from US app stores The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by National Industries for the Blind - Trump seeks to flip 'Rage' narrative; Dems block COVID-19 bill MORE, whose agency oversees the Census Bureau, from excluding people in the country illegally when turning over figures used to calculate how many congressional seats each state gets (The Associated Press). 

> Whistleblower: House Democrats are pressing for more information after a new whistleblower complaint raised allegations of leaders at the Department of Homeland Security politicizing intelligence to appease the president.  

Brian Murphy, a career public servant and the former acting under secretary in DHS's Office of Intelligence and Analysis, alleges in a whistleblower reprisal complaint that top politically appointed leaders at the agency sought to modify or suppress vetted intelligence to match Trump’s public remarks.

As The Hill’s Olivia Beavers writes, the most alarming allegation in the complaint alleges there was an attempt by a top White House official, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, to have Murphy shift from providing intelligence reports centered on Russian interference efforts and instead focus on the threats of China and Iran.


2020 CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: Lawyers for Trump’s campaign are urging a federal judge in Las Vegas to block a state law and prevent mail-in ballots from going to all active Nevada voters less than eight weeks before the Nov. 3 elections and amid the coronavirus crisis. The campaign argues in a bid to keep its lawsuit alive that it is hurt by the state law passed in July by the Democrat-led legislature because it forces Republicans to divert resources to “educating Nevada voters on those changes and encouraging them to still vote.” Trump’s campaign argues that sending ballots to nearly 1.7 million active voters in Nevada will impede Republicans’ ability to elect candidates “because the law will ‘confuse’ their voters and ‘create incentive’ to stay away from the polls.” Mail-in ballots are due to be sent out in the next few weeks. The lawsuit has set off a rush of reaction. The Democratic National Committee and Nevada state Democrats want to take part in the lawsuit and attorneys around the country on all sides of the mail-in ballot debate want to jump aboard (The Associated Press).

> Russian interference: Microsoft Corp. recently alerted one of Biden's primary election campaign advisory firms that it had been targeted by suspected Russian state-backed hackers, according to four people briefed on the matter. The hacking attempts targeted staff at Washington-based SKDKnickerbocker, a campaign strategy and communications firm working with Biden and other prominent Democrats, over the past two months (Reuters). 

> Poll: A new Reuters-Ipsos survey finds that Trump’s reported remarks about “losers” and “suckers” tied to the U.S. military have not altered Republican support for his reelection. 

> Trump campaign pulls back on TV ad spending: Republican worries rise as the Trump campaign pulls back from television advertising (The Washington Post). (Trump is pictured below at a rally in Freeland, Mich., on Thursday). 

> Sports: On Thursday night, the Kansas City Chiefs stood for the “Star Spangled Banner,” with one player deciding to kneel, as the Houston Texans remained in the locker room for the anthem before entering the field in the NFL season opener at Arrowhead Stadium. Shortly after, both teams joined on the field and locked arms during a moment of silence to promote a fight for equality. According to ESPN, some fans booed as players joined together. As for the game itself, Kansas City was victorious, 34-20, as the franchise celebrated its Super Bowl LIV championship (The Hill). 

> Senate: In Maine, Planned Parenthood Votes created a new digital ad that takes aim at GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Most Americans think winner of election should pick next Supreme Court justice: poll Murkowski: Supreme Court nominee should not be taken up before election MORE ahead of tonight’s candidate debate between Collins and her challenger, state Rep. Sara Gideon (D). The ad, which ties Collins to Trump and McConnell, is part of a commitment to spend $1.7 million in Maine to try to unseat the incumbent based in part on her vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMcConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Names to watch as Trump picks Ginsburg replacement on Supreme Court Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight MORE. The Collins-Gideon debate in the closely watched contest is scheduled at 7 p.m. (Portland Press Herald). … The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports that Senate Republicans are scrambling to contain the fallout tied to Trump and Woodward’s book. “Most of us say, ‘What the hell is he doing talking to Bob Woodward at 11 at night?’” said one GOP senator.  



Three lessons from 9/11 — for now and into the future, by William C. Danvers, opinion contributor, The Hill.

Targeted stimulus crucial to keeping the U.S. recovery going, by Douglas Carr, opinion contributor, The Hill.


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The House will convene at 1 p.m. for a pro forma session. The full House will return on Monday.  

The Senate will meet Monday at 3 p.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of Mark C. Scarsi to be a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The president and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpMelania Trump: Ginsburg's 'spirit will live on in all she has inspired' The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - You might want to download TikTok now Warning label added to Trump tweet over potential mail-in voting disinformation MORE will travel to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., to participate in the 19th anniversary observance to honor victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks at 9:45 a.m. Trump at 3 p.m. will present the Medal of Honor to Delta Force Sgt. Major Thomas Payne for heroics during a nighttime raid in 2015 to liberate Iraqi hostages from an ISIS prison compound in the Iraqi town of Hawija ( 

Vice President Pence and second lady Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Pence elbow bump at NYC Sept. 11 ceremony The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by National Industries for the Blind - Trump seeks to flip 'Rage' narrative; Dems block COVID-19 bill Pentagon, Trump, Biden to mark 9/11 anniversary MORE will travel to New York City to participate in memorial ceremonies honoring the victims of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center twin towers. They will return to Washington this afternoon and the vice president will attend the White House Medal of Honor ceremony at 3 p.m.

INVITATION: The Hill Virtually Live hosts two newsmaker events next week: 

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.


CORONAVIRUS: Stanford University infectious disease specialists and researchers believe Trump is getting bad advice from one of their colleagues, Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who has been part of the president’s coronavirus team since mid-August. In an open letter released Sept. 9, Stanford medical experts objected to a list of statements Atlas has made about COVID-19. “Many of his opinions and statements run counter to established science and, by doing so, undermine public-health authorities and the credible science that guides effective public health policy,” they wrote. 

> Travel: The United States will end enhanced coronavirus screening of airline passengers arriving from overseas because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the procedures have “limited effectiveness” for identifying travelers who are sick or infected with COVID-19 (The Washington Post). 

> Working safely: JPMorgan Chase & Co. on Thursday told senior trading floor staff members they must return to the office to resume work by Sept. 21. During the pandemic, many major banks ordered employees to work remotely as a precaution, at least through the fall. Early this morning, the president tweeted out his support of the decision (The Wall Street Journal). … COVID-19 has forced a radical shift in working habits (The Economist). 

> State watch and COVID-19: Nebraska Gov. Pete RickettsPete RickettsThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by National Industries for the Blind - Trump seeks to flip 'Rage' narrative; Dems block COVID-19 bill Nebraska to drop almost all state-imposed COVID-19 mandates Are Republican governors living in a parallel universe? MORE (R) will end nearly all of his state’s social-distancing restrictions on Monday even as the number of new coronavirus cases has trended upward for months. The new rules will continue to limit the size of large indoor gatherings, such as concerts, meeting halls and theaters, but will drop all other state-imposed mandates in favor of voluntary guidelines (The Associated Press). … Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) urged residents of his state to fulfill their “patriotic duty to protect one another” as he reported the highest one-day number of coronavirus-related deaths Thursday — one day after the state’s death toll topped 1,000 from the pandemic. He pleaded for people to wear masks, practice social distancing and use precautions to halt the spread of COVID-19 (The Associated Press). … In Alabama, more than 630 University of Alabama students have been individually sanctioned for breaking rules dealing with COVID-19 precautions. Punishments include warnings, probation and suspensions, depending on the severity of the infractions. On-campus classes started on Aug. 19. The university, with an enrollment exceeding 38,000, has reported at least 1,889 cases of coronavirus infection (NBC News). … Well-known sports bar Capitol Lounge in the nation’s capital survived two fires, decades of partisan politics, but not the pandemic. The unofficial living room for Congress on Sept. 20 will shutter for good after 26 years (Roll Call). 

Administration: Trump on Thursday announced that Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Sunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election Trump steps up Iran fight in final election stretch MORE heads today to Doha, Qatar, for the beginning of peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government (The Hill). 

Burning: The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports from Spokane, Wash., on record-breaking wildfires on the West Coast. Millions of acres are burning across state lines at the beginning of a fire season that is projected to worsen. California, Oregon and Washington remain in flames. In heavily populated northwest Oregon, hundreds of thousands of people have been told to flee (The Associated Press). … “They know how to prevent megafires. Why won’t anybody listen?” (ProPublica). … Ten are dead in California from the deadliest fire of the year (The Associated Press). … Trump called California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomTrump dismisses climate change role in fires, says Newsom needs to manage forest better Evacuations ordered in California desert communities as wildfires burn Wildfire lectures from America's instructor-in-chief MORE (D) on Thursday to offer federal support to the state and condolences for the loss of life (The Hill).

Moving up: Jane Fraser, 53, on Thursday was named the first woman to lead a major Wall Street bank, promoted to be Citigroup CEO after serving as head of consumer banking there. In February, she will take the reins from CEO Michael Corbat, who plans to retire. The news was heralded as a major breakthrough in an industry where few women call the shots. Other top women of note: Bank of America Corp.’s operations and technology chief Cathy Bessant; Fidelity Investments CEO Abigail Johnson; JPMorgan’s consumer lending head Marianne Lake and its finance chief Jennifer Piepszak; and Alison Rose, CEO of British bank NatWest (Reuters).



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

These puzzle masters knew their NFL trivia (or Googled/guessed correctly) as the season kicked off Thursday night with a Chiefs victory: Ki Harvey, Mary Anne McEnery, Gary Breakfield, Bill Haines, Pam Manges, J. Patrick White, Hillary Marston and Mitch Adams.  

They knew that Drew Brees threw for the most yards during the 2010s (46,770). 

The Washington Football Team’s helmet will feature individual player numbers — the only NFL team to do so during 2020. 

Chicago Bears quarterback (and Philadelphia legend) Nick Foles is not expected to open the 2020 season as a starting quarterback.  

Finally, three teams will start the season in new stadiums. The Las Vegas Raiders open their first season near the strip at Allegiant Stadium, while the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers will jointly open SoFi Stadium.