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The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by JobsOhio – Showdown: Trump-Biden debate likely to be nasty

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Tuesday! 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 reported each morning this week: Monday, 204,758; Tuesday, 205,085. 

Worldwide deaths from coronavirus infections now exceed 1 million (The Associated Press).

The presidential campaigns are braced for an ugly and personal debate tonight between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, where nothing is off limits and Trump is forced to chase his challenger, according to polls in key swing states as hundreds of thousands of Americans cast ballots early (The Hill). 

Tonight’s 90-minute brawl between the 74-year-old showman and the 77-year-old former senator is the first of three scheduled debates between the presidential candidates and will be moderated in Cleveland, Ohio, by Fox News’s Chris Wallace.

For months leading up to tonight’s affair, Trump has ridiculed Biden. In the last week, Trump said at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania, Biden’s home state, that the former vice president is a “dumb guy,” adding that he’s “always known as the dumb guy.” The president has railed at his challenger for his caution about the coronavirus and for campaigning remotely from his home in Delaware. Trump asserted with no evidence that Biden’s many primary debates were impacted by medication and/or cognitive decay. 

Yet, the president’s repeated barbs have been accompanied by his campaign team’s efforts to raise expectations by describing the Democratic nominee as a skilled pro on the debate stage. On Monday, campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh labeled Biden a “master debater” (NBC News). 

Later in the day, the Trump campaign sent talking points to GOP lawmakers ahead of the debate stating that while Biden’s “alertness may be suspect,” he was still an able debater.

“DO NOT underestimate his abilities in a debate,” a congressional affairs staffer for the campaign wrote in red, bolded text. 

The Hill: 5 things to watch during tonight’s debate.

Julie Pace, The Associated Press: In debate, a last chance for Trump to define Biden.

The New York Times: Republican and Democratic strategists who have studied Biden’s debate style have found that he is prone to anger if provoked, which could make him lose his train of thought or come across as haughty. “We had a ton of tape on his debating style,” said Mark Wallace, a senior adviser to Sarah Palin when she debated Biden in 2008. “You could get under his skin.”  

Where to watch: Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic co-host the debate at 9 p.m. without commercial breaks. Broadcast networks ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX and major cable news networks Fox News, MSNBC and CNN will carry the event live, as will live-TV streaming services and major news outlets online. C-SPAN will stream the debate live online at and the audio-only feed on the C-SPAN radio app. Viewers can also watch Trump and Biden square off on C-SPAN’s YouTube account.

With the debate only hours away, the president and his team continue to dismiss coverage of his years of tax avoidance as a politically-motivated hit job, likening coverage to late-breaking banner headlines prior to the 2016 election. Trump tweeted on Monday that he has paid “many millions of dollars in taxes,” but added that he was “entitled” to depreciation and tax credits and was “extremely under-leveraged” regarding his debt and assets (The Hill).

The New York Times published a second installment on Monday night, delving into the tax records behind “The Apprentice” reality television career that offered Trump a $427 million lifeline and a new public persona as a self-made, self-saved mogul beginning in 2004. The Times describes Trump’s “genius” as monetizing a brand of fame, not running a company. He earned $197 million directly from the show and $230 million that flowed from the resulting fame through brand licensing and endorsements (more than $15 million for putting his name on a line of mattresses, for instance), according to his tax records. In addition, records show that Trump-branded golf properties he purchased with his TV-spawned earnings have lost millions of dollars for years. 

A White House spokesman called today’s report “fake news.” 

The Hill: House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) called for an investigation into sources used by The New York Times in its reporting about the president’s financial records, asserting on Monday that a “felony crime was committed. 

The president’s taxes will be a topic raised in Cleveland tonight and the Biden campaign went on the offense in anticipation. Jared Bernstein, a top economic adviser for the former VP, argued that Trump’s tax avoidance argues for simplifying the tax code to ensure wealthy individuals pay more and have fewer opportunities to deduct personal expenses as business. 

“The vast majority of us pay taxes and get on with life. But the richer you are, the more tax lawyers you employ, the more complex you can make your holdings — all of this can, as the piece shows reduce your tax liability to zero,” Bernstein tweeted (Reuters).

The Hill: Trump tax filings reported by The New York Times roil the presidential race. 

Niall Stanage: The Memo: Tax story hits Trump at a bad time. 

The Hill: Democrats blast Trump after The New York Times reveals he avoided income taxes for 10 years. 

The Hill: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says Trump’s tax practices show disdain for America’s working families.

The New York Times: Many Republican lawmakers initially greeted news of Trump’s tax avoidance with silence. 

The Associated Press: Ethics experts see national security concern in Trump’s debt.  

The Hill: Michael Cohen: Trump’s “biggest fear” is a “massive tax bill,” possible fraud charges.






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CONGRESS: Keenly aware of the impact the 2018 fight over Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Senate Democrats are wary of repeating it in the coming weeks as Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination moves throughout the upper chamber, with the 2020 election fresh in their minds.  

Two years ago, two red-state Democrats — former Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) — believed the Kavanaugh fight cost them their seats. As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes, Senate Democrats are concerned about getting overly aggressive with Barrett’s nomination as they do not want to turn off suburban women only weeks out from the November election and potentially hurt their standing battleground states for Biden and in contests that could decide the Senate majority. 

“I’m sick and tired of losing,” said one Democratic senator. “We had a Kavanaugh 1.0, which has informed people’s approach this time.” 

“We’re not going to go down that road again. People know what happened to Joe Donnelly, they know what happened to Claire McCaskill and they know what happened to [former Sen.] Heidi Heitkamp,” the senator said, referring to the North Dakota Democrat who lost her reelection bid weeks after the Kavanaugh vote.

However, some Democratic lawmakers worry that their colleagues could undermine that effort and overreach in reaction to pressure from incensed progressives. They are also concerned that Barrett’s religion — Catholicism — could once again play a role in her confirmation, just as it did in 2017 when she was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Catholics are key swing voters in three key states — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — two of which Biden likely must win to defeat Trump. 

Across the aisle, the president and congressional Republicans are on the verge of securing what they view as a key part of their legacy: A top-down reshaping of the federal judiciary.  

The GOP’s decision to move forward and fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat  will in all likelihood lock down a 6-3 conservative majority on the court for decades. As The Hill’s Jordain Carney points out, the battle over Barrett’s nomination is the culmination of four-year non-stop effort to fill judicial vacancies, including three on the Supreme Court and more than 200 at the appellate and district levels.

The Hill: Democrats unveil scaled down $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package. 

The Washington Post: Economic relief talks between White House, Pelosi suddenly resume as House Democrats make new offer.

Daily Caller: Department of Housing and Urban Development inspector general clears Secretary Ben Carson of wrongdoing in ethics investigation. 




MORE 2020 POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Republicans on Monday asked the Supreme Court to halt a major Pennsylvania state court ruling that extended the due date for mail ballots in the key battleground, teeing up a high-profile test for the high court a little more than a month before Election Day. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that election officials must accept ballots postmarked by Election Day as long as they arrive within three days. The ruling was seen as a win for Democrats, because Biden voters are more likely than Trump supporters to vote by mail in November. In a Monday filing, top officials from the state’s GOP-controlled legislature asked the high court in Washington to temporarily pause the ruling while they formally appeal to the justices (The Hill).

And speaking of state parties, The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports that party organizations outside of Washington have raised unprecedented amounts of money this cycle. The funds support all-important plans in the final weeks to mobilize on-the-ground enthusiasm to become actual votes.

Meanwhile, The Hill’s Rafael Bernal interviewed Mary Kay Henry, president of the powerful Service Employees International Union, who says communities of color will turn out to vote in November for Biden, although she maintains they are undercounted in polls. “We’re not going to lose this election,” said Henry. “We are going to make sure the voters in the communities that didn’t feel spoken to or feel like they had a reason to vote, are able to understand clearly why we have to elect Vice President Biden, Senator [Kamala] Harris and champions up and down the ballot.”

Addendum: Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) who recently endorsed Biden, has joined the candidate’s presidential transition team (The Hill). … Voter registration spiked in the days immediately following Ginsburg’s death (The Hill). … Former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale was knocked to the ground before his arrest by a SWAT team at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Sunday. He is hospitalized undergoing a psychiatric evaluation after his wife telephoned police. Ten weapons including three long guns were removed from his home by law enforcement (Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel).


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! 



The Supreme Court fight should drive Democrats and help Biden, by Brad Bannon, opinion contributor, The Hill.

The electoral college has its issues. So do the alternatives, by Charles Lane, columnist, The Washington Post.





Business-friendly taxes, a skilled & growing workforce, and a high quality of life make Ohio better for leaders and employees. If you run a business with room to grow, check out


The House will meet at noon.

The Senate will convene at 3 p.m., and resume consideration of the continuing resolution to extend government funding through Dec. 11. Funding for the government expires on Wednesday night. 

The president and first lady Melania Trump will depart for Cleveland this afternoon to participate in the first presidential debate beginning at 9 p.m. Trump and the first lady will return to the White House shortly after midnight.  

Vice President Pence will head to the Capitol for a 10 a.m. meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Supreme Court nominee Barrett. Pence at 2 p.m. will lead a coronavirus meeting in the White House Situation Room. At 4 p.m., the vice president and second lady Karen Pence fly to Lititz, Pa., for a campaign event and debate watch party at Meadow Spring Farm. The Pences are scheduled to be there less than an hour before returning to Washington. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is traveling in Greece and will visit the Holy See and Croatia later this week. This morning, the secretary visits Naval support and combat craft facilities on Crete. Pompeo met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Crete at 11:35 a.m. local time and the two men delivered a joint statement to the press at 12:35 p.m. before they shared a working lunch. The secretary will visit the Aptera archaeological site on Crete at 5 p.m.

The Texas Tribune Festival hosts live virtual conversations with Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (info for noon program is HERE), as well as former Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster ( 10 a.m., info HERE).

The Hill Virtually Live hosts a three-part Century of the Woman Summit on Wednesday beginning at 11 a.m. with female leaders and decision-makers to discuss progress and continued barriers. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Lilly Ledbetter, Ellevest’s Sallie Krawcheck, Hilda Solis, Tina Tchen and many more. RSVP for the event.

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


The Hill’s reporting team presents a special report on “Century of the Woman” with 100 profiles, including video and articles HERE.

➔ CORONAVIRUS: Robert Redfield, who leads the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggested in a conversation with a colleague on Friday that White House coronavirus task force member Scott Atlas is arming Trump with misleading data about a range of issues, including questioning the efficacy of masks, whether young people are susceptible to the virus and the potential benefits of herd immunity. “Everything he says is false,” Redfield said during a phone call made in public on a commercial airline and overheard by NBC News. Redfield, a virologist, subsequently confirmed that he had been speaking about Atlas, a neuroradiologist from Stanford University and the Hoover Institution who joined the White House in August. Atlas on Monday fired back during an interview to argue his advice to Trump is based on “current science” (Fox News).



> MORE Coronavirus: The Washington Monument is set on Thursday to welcome visitors after being closed for the past six months because of the coronavirus pandemic (CBS News). … Dubai announced on Monday new restrictions on nightlife in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. In the first round of restrictions since Dubai bars and restaurants reopened in July, tourism authorities rolled out plans to stop serving alcohol and other activities at 1 a.m., with delivery and room service offered after 3 a.m. (The Associated Press). 

BUSINESS NEWS: United Health Services, the healthcare giant with more than 400 facilities in the United States and the United Kingdom, was hacked beginning on Sunday, forcing hospitals into off-line, pen-and-paper adaptations to access and record patient, pharmaceutical and services information. “No patient or employee data appears to have been accessed, copied or otherwise compromised,” the company said in a statement (TechCrunch). … Restaurant groups are scrambling to secure funds to help an already hard-hit industry make a transition from summer to winter during the pandemic. One in six restaurants in the United States have closed since the coronavirus began spreading this year, and many industry watchers fear the next six months will be the undoing for small businesses in colder climates without options for outdoor dining (The Hill). … American Airlines and United Airlines are pressing for additional federal aid as a Sept. 30 deadline looms as part of the CARES Act to avert up to an estimated 100,000 job losses beginning this week (Barron’s). United announced on Monday that it avoided furloughed 3,900 pilots but says 12,000 others may lose their jobs if Congress does not act by the deadline (Business Insider). A compromise coronavirus assistance measure unveiled on Monday by Pelosi and Democrats includes $25 billion to stave off thousands of layoffs at passenger airlines, as well as $3 billion for airline contractors. She has not said when a vote may take place. 

COURTS: The Supreme Court with eight justices gathers today to conduct business for the first time since Ginsburg’s death. Justices are expected to agree to accept a handful of the thousands of petitions that were carried over from last term or filed during the court’s summer recess. The court’s more conservative justices may be inclined today to agree to hear disputes this term involving gun rights, labor unions and voting restrictions, emboldened by the expected Senate confirmation of Barrett to become the ninth justice (The Hill). … The Hill’s Peter Sullivan reports what could happen if the Supreme Court rules to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which currently provides health coverage benefits to 20 million people, including through Medicaid. The administration wants the court to declare the 2010 law unconstitutional, arguing repeal would open the door to enactment of simpler, cheaper private health insurance. But advocates for ObamaCare say private insurers could once again deny coverage or raise costs for millions of people who have pre-existing health conditions. 

➔ SPORTS: The American League baseball playoffs begin/NL playoffs start Wednesday … The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars to win the Stanley Cup on Monday, the franchise’s second title in 28 years of existence. The National Hockey League is the first major North American sports league to crown a champion during the pandemic (The Associated Press). … For horse racing fans, Saturday sees the 145th running of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore … The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night, 34-20, in a matchup of what many believe to be the two best teams in the NFL. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes starred once again, tossing four touchdowns and running for another, giving the Chiefs a leg up in the fight for home field advantage in the playoffs (ESPN).


And finally … Do not feed wild raccoons! These critters are losing their natural fear of humans and ganging up on people all over the place, including on the North Lawn of the White House where TV crews, seeking news tidbits, may look deceptively generous to the wildlife. At the very least, social media had some laughs at journalists’ expense on Monday (The Hill).

A pandemic-era phenomenon of marauding raccoons is also occurring in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, a park in Tewksbury, N.J, and in assorted backyards coast to coast, according to recent headlines (KPIX5 and 



Tags 2020 election Anthony Fauci Ben Carson Brad Parscale Brett Kavanaugh Chris Wallace Claire McCaskill Coronavirus Donald Trump economy Elaine Chao Heidi Heitkamp Joe Biden Joe Donnelly John McCain Karen Pence Kevin Brady Melania Trump Michael Cohen Mike Pompeo Mitch McConnell Morning Report Nancy Pelosi Presidential Debate Ruth Bader Ginsburg Supreme Court Terri Sewell trump taxes

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