The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant'

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Thursday! 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 co-creators, and readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths each morning this week: Monday, 199,512; Tuesday, 199,884; Wednesday, 200,814; Thursday, 201,910.

Just days before announcing his choice of a woman to join the Supreme Court, President TrumpDonald John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE hinted that he’d made up his mind and was ready to dare Senate Democrats to oppose a nominee he hopes will have enough Senate support to be confirmed in November.  


“They are outstanding women,” Trump said of five female finalists he has been considering since Friday to fill the vacancy following the death of Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgDemocrats to boycott committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Mitt Romney did not vote for Trump in 2020 election The Senate should evoke RBG in its confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett MORE. “The person I will be putting up is highly qualified, totally brilliant, top-of-the-line academic student, the highest credentials. All of them have that, but the highest credentials. ... You’ll see on Saturday who that is. I can’t imagine why a Democrat won’t vote for this person.” 


Trump, who will announce his choice at 5 p.m. on Saturday, interviewed federal judge Amy Coney Barrett on Monday. She returned to the White House on Tuesday to meet separately with the president’s legal team and advisers. The president said Florida Judge Barbara Lagoa, who was also considered a top contender, “is on my list.” But he said he had no plans to meet with her.  


CNN: Barrett, a judge with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, emerges as a favorite ahead of Saturday’s announcement.


Trump’s suggestion that his nominee could win Democratic votes for confirmation before Election Day or in a lame-duck session after the next president is known is a taunt more than a prediction. Senate Democrats insist they are united in their opposition to a confirmation to the Supreme Court days before the elections. Among the 53 Republicans, Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDemocrats to boycott committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid Senate is leaning to the Democrats, big time, with a wave MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiDemocrats to boycott committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Senate to vote Monday to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court Senate GOP eyes Oct. 26 for confirming Barrett to Supreme Court MORE (Alaska) have objected to moving ahead until after ballots are counted.


Collins says she will vote no on a Trump nominee before Nov. 3. GOP senators say they trust her to navigate the tricky politics of her Senate contest. But a preelection vote would set up a high-profile break with the president just days before Election Day, which strategists warn puts Collins in a squeeze. The high court is a contentious issue among some Maine residents because of Collins’s 2018 vote to confirm Trump nominee Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughSusan Collins and the American legacy The Senate should evoke RBG in its confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court's Pennsylvania mail ballot ruling tees up test for Barrett MORE as an associate justice (The Hill).


The president’s appetite for partisan drama while accusing the opposition party of playing politics could be complicated during planned confirmation hearings in mid-October if conservative senators try to draw out the nominee about Roe v. Wade. That’s what Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyJustice Department charges Google with illegally maintaining search monopoly Conservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform Hillicon Valley: Trump refuses to condemn QAnon | Twitter revises its policy, lets users share disputed article | Google sees foreign cyber threats MORE (R-Mo.) and Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonCotton mocks NY Times over claim of nonpartisanship, promises to submit op-eds as test Barrett fight puts focus on abortion in 2020 election COVID outbreak threatens GOP's Supreme Court plans MORE (R-Ark.), both seen as potential 2024 presidential aspirants, may try during televised hearings. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports that conservatives are feeling emboldened about a court opening that could shift the ideological balance. Hawley wants Trump’s nominee to be explicit about her stance on Roe, which some Senate colleagues see as a potentially risky strategy.


The Atlantic: Trump takes away a lifeline for swing-state senators.


Politico: “This is the ultimate base play”: Trump looks for Catholic vote from court fight.


> Hundreds of masked mourners, many of them women of all ages who traveled long distances, lined up in Washington on Wednesday to pay their respects to Ginsburg, whose casket rested at the front of the Supreme Court building following a eulogy delivered by Chief Justice John Roberts and attended by justices, court colleagues, family members and friends. The president will visit the court today (The New York Times).


Mark Leibovich: A capital engulfed by sadness and rage.


> Some Democrats worry that Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDemocrats to boycott committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination The Senate should evoke RBG in its confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Pelosi, Mnuchin push stimulus talks forward, McConnell applies brakes MORE (D-Calif.), 87, could fumble the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation battle. “I’m really surprised and taken aback by this. Because I try to be very careful and I’m puzzled by it,” Feinstein responded. “My attendance is good, I do the homework, I try to ask hard questions. I stand up for what I believe in.” Some Democrats privately fear that Feinstein, the oldest senator and one who is seen as reliant on staff preparation, could mishandle questioning or strategy and harm the party’s chances of winning back the majority. A group of Feinstein’s colleagues privately want Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Pelosi, Mnuchin push stimulus talks forward, McConnell applies brakes Schumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Durbin signals he isn't interested in chairing Judiciary Committee MORE (D-Ill.) or Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseHillicon Valley: Threatening emails raise election concerns | Quibi folds after raising nearly B | Trump signs law making it a crime to hack voting systems Trump signs legislation making hacking voting systems a federal crime Congress must repeal tax breaks for the wealthy passed in CARES Act MORE (D-R.I.) to serve as the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel for the upcoming nomination hearings, which are expected to be contentious (Politico).


The Hill: Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisObama to campaign for Biden in Florida Biden appears on Brené Brown's podcast to discuss 'empathy, unity and courage' The Hill's Campaign Report: Obama to hit the campaign trail l Biden's eye-popping cash advantage l New battleground polls favor Biden MORE (D-Calif.) faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle.





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2020 POLITICS & ELECTIONS: With less than six weeks until Election Day, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida Supreme Court reinstates ban on curbside voting in Alabama MORE continues to hold the advantage. However, there are some troubling signs that continue to give Democrats agita ahead of the November contest. 


The Washington Post: Biden makes his first campaign stop of the campaign in North Carolina to discuss education and housing disparities with Black voters (pictured below).  


The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes in his latest Memo that while Trump trails Biden on a number of issues, he has shown resilient strength on his handling of the economy — perennially the most important issue for many voters. A number of polls also show that Trump’s supporters are more enthusiastic than Biden’s.


The most important moment of the campaign since each party’s national conventions is also on deck as the first presidential debate is Tuesday, which will be the former vice president’s biggest test to date. How he fares in Cleveland could play a crucial role one way or another, even considering there are two other debates between the two nominees before Election Day. 


Despite Trump’s advantages on the economy and enthusiasm, Democrats remain hopeful that the other key issues in the campaign will play equally important roles and keep him from a second term in the White House, including the president’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Wednesday also brought another series of polls. In the six key battleground states — Arizona, North Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — Biden holds a 4-point advantage overall, according to CNBC and Change Research surveys. As The Hill’s campaign team detailed yesterday, Biden leads by 9 points in Wisconsin, 8 points in Michigan, 6 points in Arizona, 4 points in Pennsylvania, 3 points in Florida and 2 points in North Carolina. Biden campaigned Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C.


However, new ABC News-Washington Post polls show Trump holding 1-point leads over the former VP in Florida and Arizona among likely voters. Additionally, a new Monmouth University survey also has Trump leading by a single point in Georgia, which has not backed a Democratic nominee since 1992.


Thomas B. Edsall, The New York Times: Five things Biden and his allies should be worried about.


The Wall Street Journal: Trump’s team hunts for votes in person, while Biden’s works the phones.


Politico: The Republican National Committee is wiring cash to Texas. Is it a 2020 battleground?


The Hill: When asked about committing to a peaceful transition of power, Trump predicts he’ll win. “There won’t be a transfer. There will be a continuation,” he said. 





> Senate races: Colorado has moved toward former Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Democratic super PAC pulls remaining ads from Colorado Senate race MORE (D), who is challenging Republican Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDemocrats seek to block appeal of court ruling ousting Pendley, BLM land plans Senate is leaning to the Democrats, big time, with a wave Cunningham, Tillis locked in tight race in North Carolina: poll MORE, according to a new analysis. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report shifted the contest from “toss-up” to “lean Democrat” (The Hill).


> Surrogate watch: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Brazil's OECD candidacy is best chance for reform Watch live: Pompeo news conference MORE is positioning himself as a key backer for the president weeks before the election, an almost unheard-of role for America’s top diplomat but one the former GOP congressman has embraced as he holds political ambitions of his own. 


As The Hill’s Laura Kelly and Max Greenwood write, Pompeo appeared Wednesday in Wisconsin to address the state legislature in the Capitol. The visit was purportedly about foreign policy but has come under fire for being largely political and an attempt to promote Trump’s agenda in a key swing state ahead of November. Wednesday’s stop also comes nearly a month after Pompeo made an appearance at the Republican National Convention from Jerusalem while on official business, a move that critics pointed out violated his own guidelines banning State Department employees from participating in political events and has spurred an investigation by House Democrats over whether he violated the Hatch Act.


The Hill: Hopes for DC, Puerto Rico statehood rise.


The Hill: Employers sign on to give time off for voting.


CONGRESS: An 87-page investigatory report released jointly on Wednesday by the GOP-controlled Senate Homeland Security and Finance committees contained no evidence that Biden improperly manipulated U.S. policy toward Ukraine or committed any misdeed while serving in the Obama administration. Committee Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Biden: Johnson should be 'ashamed' for suggesting family profited from their name Graham wants to review ActBlue's source of small-dollar contributions MORE (R-Wis.) had boasted for weeks that the results of his panel’s probe would demonstrate Biden’s “unfitness for office.” Instead, the report released six weeks before Election Day rehashed unsubstantiated allegations that echo an active Russian disinformation campaign helped along by Trump. The investigation, as reported by news outlets over many months, reiterated that Hunter Biden had leveraged his father’s name in lucrative global business deals. It also concluded, as had been reported months ago, that the younger Biden’s work for Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company that was then mired in a corruption scandal while the former vice president helped shape American policy toward Kyiv, created an appearance of a conflict of interest that concerned some in Obama’s State Department (The New York Times).





> While Senate Republicans took aim at the Bidens, House Democrats on Wednesday turned the tables on Republicans and released a package of proposed “post-Trump reforms” intended to check the executive branch and prevent future abuses of power. The proposals include measures to restrain the president’s power to grant pardons and declare national emergencies, to prevent federal officials from enriching themselves and to accelerate the process of enforcing congressional subpoenas in court. It also includes provisions to protect inspectors general and whistleblowers, increase penalties for officials who subvert congressional appropriations or engage in overt political activity, and safeguard against foreign election interference (The Washington Post).


> In yet another example of partisan brickbats flying on Capitol Hill this week, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzQuinnipiac poll finds Biden, Trump tied in Texas China could cut our access to critical minerals at any time — here's why we need to act The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Two weeks out, Trump attempts to rally the base MORE (R-Texas) blocked a Senate resolution on Wednesday that would have honored Ginsburg and her judicial career. He objected to an amendment from Democrats referencing the justice’s dying wish, as quoted by her granddaughter, that the vacancy she created not be filled until after the election. Cruz objected that the amendment was partisan. Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerTrump casts doubt on hopes for quick stimulus deal after aides expressed optimism Schumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (D-N.Y.) said he disagreed and would not modify the amendment. Cruz objected again, and the nonbinding resolution did not pass (The Texas Tribune). 




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! 


Here we go again: Debates start Tuesday, by Karl RoveKarl Christian RoveNewt Gingrich: Albert Hunt's wrong about Republicans' responses The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden set for dueling town halls amid battleground blitz Wireless industry calls on Trump to oppose efforts to nationalize 5G amid Pentagon push MORE, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/2HrcDDM 


Supreme Court battle will have less effect in the election than you think, by former Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelBiden's debate strategy is to let Trump be Trump A tearful lesson of 2016: Polls don't matter if people don't vote The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' MORE (D-N.Y.), opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3coVkP0 


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The House will meet at 9 a.m. and begin legislative business at 11 a.m. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo On The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Overnight Health Care: CDC expands definition of 'close contact' after COVID-19 report | GOP coronavirus bill blocked in Senate | OxyContin maker agrees to B settlement with Trump administration MORE (D-Calif.) will hold her weekly press conference from the Capitol at 10:45 a.m. The House Foreign Affairs Committee at 10 a.m. will conduct oversight focused on recent decisions by political appointees affecting U.S. international broadcasting efforts and career federal personnel changes at the United States Agency for Global Media.


The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of Roderick Young to be a judge with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The Senate Banking Committee will focus on how COVID-19 is affecting the U.S. economy with testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Trump casts doubt on hopes for quick stimulus deal after aides expressed optimism Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid MORE at 10 a.m.


The president will pay his respects to Ginsburg with a visit this morning to the Supreme Court, where the late justice’s casket lies in repose today. Trump holds a campaign rally in Jacksonville, Fla., at 7 p.m.


The vice president will travel to Eau Claire, Wis., and Minneapolis for a campaign bus tour. In Wisconsin, Pence will visit Midwest Manufacturing and tout the president’s record on manufacturing. In Minneapolis, he will participate in a listening session with law enforcement officers who support Trump’s reelection.


The Supreme Court: Ginsburg’s casket will lie in repose for a second day in the portico of the court building. The public can visit today from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. Ginsburg will lie in state in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall on Friday.


Economic indicator: The Labor Department will release a report at 8:30 a.m. on filings for jobless benefits for the week of Sept. 19.


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


STATE WATCH: Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) on Wednesday in Louisville announced that a state grand jury brought no charges against police for the killing of Breonna Taylor, 26, during a drug raid gone wrong. Prosecutors on Wednesday said two officers who fired their weapons at the Black woman were justified in using force to protect themselves (The Associated Press). The grand jury handed down three counts of wanton endangerment against officer Brett Hankison for shooting into Taylor’s neighbors’ homes during the raid on the night of March 13. The charges were not for any culpability in Taylor’s death. Hankinson was previously fired from the force (The Hill). The charges dismayed and angered demonstrators overnight in Louisville and in cities including Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Protests in Louisville were largely peaceful, but scuffles broke out between police and protesters and some demonstrators were arrested before two officers were shot while investigating reports of gunfire Wednesday night. Both officers are expected to recover and a suspect was in custody in the shootings (The Associated Press). Backstory: How did Taylor land in the middle of a deadly drug raid? (The New York Times investigation).


➔ CORONAVIRUS: Johnson & Johnson on Wednesday began an enormous late-stage human trial in the United States and in other countries to test the effectiveness and safety of a single-dose vaccine to ward off COVID-19 infection. Results are expected next year (The Associated Press). … Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican who has opposed the idea of mandatory mask-wearing, tested positive for COVID-19 (The Associated Press). … Members of the president’s White House coronavirus task force testified on Wednesday that the public should trust in the science of medicine, public health and vaccine development tied to the coronavirus (The Hill). Anthony FauciAnthony FauciScott Atlas: Fauci 'just one person on the task force' Budowsky: Trump's COVID-19 death toll dominates election Wisconsin COVID-19 cases climb ahead of Election Day MORE, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, scolded Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Top Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate MORE (R-Ky.), an eye doctor, for what Fauci said were incorrect statements and unfounded conjecture about COVID-19 (The Hill). Also testifying before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee were Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary at the Health and Human Services Department; Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield. … Commenting on the FDA’s proposed strengthening of federal vaccine approval protocols that would lengthen clearance before public use, Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he believed it sounded “political” and the White House “may or may not approve it.” ... The Hill’s Jessie Hellmann reports that scientists believe rising numbers of U.S. infections and continued deaths from the coronavirus will collide with a projected high-risk influenza season as Americans transition their winter activities indoors. … The coronavirus pandemic has been brutal to all forms of arts and entertainment and the Metropolitan Opera in New York City is part of the wreckage. It canceled its season through September 2021 (The New York Times).





➔ CLIMATE CHANGE: Companies are increasingly setting their own goals for carbon neutrality in the absence of a federal plan to address global warming, bracing their business for the stark financial realities wrought by climate change. But while the patchwork of climate goals may score points with consumers and increase pressure for major action, a corporate-led climate movement will still leave the U.S. lagging behind its global counterparts (The Hill).


And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by Ginsburg’s death, we’re eager for some smart guesses about the life of the late Supreme Court justice, who is being honored across Washington this week.


Email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.



Ginsburg was the first Jewish woman to serve on the Supreme Court. How many Jewish justices have served on the court in its history?


  1. Six
  2. Seven
  3. Eight
  4. Nine


In 1960, which Supreme Court justice rejected Ginsburg from a clerkship because of her gender?


  1. Felix Frankfurter
  2. Abe Fortas
  3. Earl Warren
  4. John Marshall Harlan


During her 27 years on the Supreme Court, with how many fellow justices did she serve?  

  1. 13
  2. 15
  3. 17
  4. 19


Ginsburg became the first Supreme Court justice to ___ in 2013? 

  1. Appear in person on “Saturday Night Live”
  2. Officiate a same-sex wedding
  3. Perform at the Met
  4. All of the above


Write-in bonus question: Ginsburg’s affectionately invented nickname “Notorious RBG” was a creative spoof on which entertainer’s moniker?