The Hill's Morning Report - Fight night: Trump, Biden hurl insults in nasty debate


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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Wednesday! 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; Wednesday, 205,998.

During a presidential debate laden with sarcasm and cross-talk that obscured any listeners’ hopes of sorting through clear policies or civil discourse, President TrumpDonald TrumpDOJ asks Supreme Court to revive Boston Marathon bomber death sentence, in break with Biden vow Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting DOJ tells media execs that reporters were not targets of investigations MORE denigrated Joe BidenJoe BidenFormer Rep. Rohrabacher says he took part in Jan. 6 march to Capitol but did not storm building Saudis picked up drugs in Cairo used to kill Khashoggi: report Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting MORE as “not smart” and the former vice president called Trump “a clown” and “a racist.”

During Tuesday night’s brawl in Cleveland, Trump pummeled Biden repeatedly with retorts, put-downs and interruptions during 90 minutes, to the point that moderator Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceSunday shows - Biden foreign policy in focus Pompeo defends Trump on Russia in Chris Wallace interview Lewandowski says Trump has not spoken to him about being reinstated MORE admonished the president to follow debate rules and let Biden talk. 

Biden, navigating the hijinks, shook his head, smiled with evident annoyance and faced the cameras to speak directly to the American people, vowing to trust in scientists, respond effectively to the coronavirus and safely reopen the economy, offices and schools.

“Under Trump, we’ve become weaker, sicker, poorer, more divided and more violent,” Biden said. 

The president complained that Biden, allied with what he called “radical” Democrats, sought to “shut down the country” and keep it that way until after Election Day. By the time Trump boasted in yet another rapidfire barrage, “I’m the one who brought back football,” the former vice president looked on, incredulous. 

The Hill: Biden and Trump clash at vicious, ugly debate. 

The New York Times: With cross talk, lies and mockery, Trump tramples decorum in debate with Biden.

Dan Balz, The Washington Post analysis: Trump sets tone for the worst presidential debate in living memory. 

According to a post-debate poll conducted by CBS News/YouGov, 69 percent of respondents felt “annoyed” by what they saw, with only 17 percent saying they felt “informed.” Forty-eight percent declared Biden the victor compared to 41 percent for Trump. Ten percent deemed the debate a tie.  

Trump, who is trailing in the polls, was looking for a clear win and didn’t get it. According to pollster Frank Luntz, who held a focus group over Zoom with undecided voters immediately following the debate, some made up their minds not to vote because they were so turned off by what they saw and heard. 

“I’ve never seen a debate cause this reaction,” Luntz said

Each candidate offered his own take about why Americans should trust them in the White House. The president said the economy would revive to vigorous growth by next year. He refused to say if he paid only $750 in federal taxes in 2016 and 2017, as reported by The New York Times, but assured Americans he paid “millions and millions” of dollars in taxes (The Hill). He warned, “if I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated,” he said he would challenge the outcome in November.

Biden touted his economic policy experience in the White House following the 2008-2009 financial meltdown. He said he would tackle climate change by rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. And he pledged in response to Wallace’s final question to wait to declare election victory, if there’s a close contest, until the winner is independently verified.     

Heading into Tuesday’s affair, Trump lowered expectations for the former vice president, whom he has called “dumb” and mentally slowed at age 77.

Throughout, Biden sought to contrast himself with the president’s governance, repeatedly pointing to the more than 200,000 dead from the coronavirus — laying the blame at the president’s feet for the U.S. epidemic. He also lobbed his share of barbs in the president’s direction, deriding him as the “worst president America has ever had,” and telling him multiple times to “shut up.” 

“It is what it is because you are who you are,” Biden said, referring to Trump’s response to a question about the COVID-19 death toll earlier this month when the president said: “They are dying. That's true. And you — it is what it is.” 

However, there were questionable moments for the former vice president that could dog him moving forward, especially among progressives. Early in the debate, Biden declined to take a position on whether to add seats to the Supreme Court, an issue Democratic activists have pushed in the aftermath of the late Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgOcasio-Cortez says Breyer should retire from Supreme Court Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema Juan Williams: Time for Justice Breyer to go MORE’s death (The Hill). On health care, Biden also brushed aside concerns that he supports a “Medicare for All” system that has been a pet issue of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders won't vote for bipartisan infrastructure deal Bipartisan infrastructure deal takes fire from left and right Politics of discontent: Who will move to the center and win back Americans' trust? MORE (I-Vt.), voicing support for building on the Affordable Care Act with a public option. And he repeated his opposition to defunding police departments, arguing there are “bad apples” among largely well intentioned police forces.

“The party is me. Right now, I am the Democratic Party,” Biden said about concerns that he wants to abolish private insurance and adopt a socialist platform. “I am the Democratic Party right now. The platform of the Democratic Party is what I, in fact, approved of” (The Hill).

It remains an open question whether the debate will change the hearts and minds of voters or persuade undecided voters. National Democrats do not believe that Tuesday night’s food fight altered the dynamics of the contest in its final 34 days. 

Niall Stanage: The Memo: Debate or debacle?

W. James Antle III, The Week: Vintage Trump goes debating in a new world. 

The Wall Street Journal editorial board: A depressing debate spectacle: Pro wrestlers are more presidential than either man Tuesday night.  

“Nothing fundamental about the race is changed by tonight,” Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) told the Morning Report. “I think the one ‘moment’ that may live on after this debate is Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacist groups. That was a softball and he whiffed,” Boyle said, referring to Wallace’s repeated questioning of Trump on the topic, with the president instead launching into an attack on Antifa. 

The White House will be pressed to explain Trump’s puzzling “stand back and stand by” direction to the Proud Boys, a far right group that celebrated the president’s remarks immediately after the debate (The Hill).  

The Hill: Democrats rip Trump for not clearly condemning white supremacists, Proud Boys, during debate. 

Biden’s campaign had a fundraising bonanza on Tuesday, telling reporters it raked in $3.8 million between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on ActBlue, breaking a previous single-hour fundraising mark (HuffPost). 

The Hill: 5 takeaways from the Trump-Biden debate clash.

The Associated Press: Fact-checking false claims flooding the Trump-Biden debate.

The Hill: Trump attacks Biden over son’s business dealings.

The Hill: Biden will keep debating Trump, campaign says.

Margaret Sullivan, The Washington Post media columnist: Chris Wallace tried — and failed —  to control Trump. Something needs to change. 

The next debates: Trump and Biden are to debate again on Oct. 15 in Florida at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, with C-SPAN’s Steve Scully as moderator, and on Oct. 22 at Belmont University in Nashville with NBC News’s Kristen Welker asking the questions. Vice President Pence and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris highlights COVID-19 vaccination safety, efficacy in SC event to kick off tour Kamala Harris is still not ready for primetime (much less 2024) Lara Trump calls on Americans at border to 'arm up and get guns and be ready' MORE (D-Calif.) will face off with moderator Susan Page of USA Today on Oct. 7 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City for the only vice presidential debate before Election Day. According to Axios, both campaigns indicated plans to move forward with the future debates

> Seeking to draw a debate-day contrast with Trump, Biden and Harris released their 2019 taxes on Tuesday. The documents included 22 years of tax returns for Biden and at least 16 years of documents for Harris. Biden and wife Jill, a teacher, reported an adjusted gross income of $985,233 in 2019 and paid a total of $299,346 in taxes, for an effective tax rate of about 30 percent. The couple reported $14,700 in charitable contributions. Harris and her husband, lawyer Doug Emhoff, reported an adjusted gross income of $3,095,590 in 2019 and owed taxes of $1,185,628, giving them an effective tax rate of about 38 percent. Harris and Emhoff reported $35,390 in charitable donations for the year (The Hill). Copies of the Biden returns are HERE

"This is a historic level of transparency and it will give the American people faith once again that their leaders will look out for them and not their own bottom line," campaign spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said. 

> Congress & Trump tax returns: House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyOn The Money: House Democrats line up .5T in spending without budget | GOP takes aim at IRS | House Democrat mulls wealth tax Republicans open new line of attack on IRS To address labor shortages, Congress should try a return-to-work bonus MORE (R-Texas) expressed alarm that unnamed sources assisted The New York Times with detailed reporting about Trump’s tax filings and Brady called for an investigation of what he said could be a felony. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyHouse unveils antitrust package to rein in tech giants Iowa governor questions lack of notice on migrant children flights to Des Moines Senate crafts Pelosi alternative on drug prices MORE (R-Iowa) blamed the IRS for a prolonged audit of the president’s tax returns (The Hill). As The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda explains, the controversy about Trump’s reported federal tax avoidance over more than a decade puts the IRS into a new spotlight. Trump has said he would publicly release his tax filings when an audit is finished, although there is nothing that prevents him from choosing such transparency at any time. A push is underway among progressives to increase IRS appropriations for enforcement of tax laws that cover wealthy individuals.






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CONGRESS: Judge Amy Coney Barrett appeared for her first day of meetings on Capitol Hill on Tuesday as Senate Republicans rallied around her and fast-track her nomination for the Supreme Court with the expectation that she will be seated by Election Day. 

Barrett took part in eight meetings with Senate GOP members, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBipartisan infrastructure deal takes fire from left and right Jayapal to Dems: Ditch bipartisanship, go it alone on infrastructure The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Biden's European trip MORE (R-Ky.), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate confirms Garland's successor to appeals court Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema GOP senators applaud Biden for global vaccine donation plans MORE (R-S.C.), with Republicans exhibiting unanimous support for her thus far as they motor ahead in her nomination process (The Hill). 

“We’re glad to have her here and glad to get the process started,” McConnell told reporters at the beginning of their meeting.

While Republicans can’t wait to meet with her, Democrats have shown little appetite to do so, with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerIn Congress, what goes on behind closed doors? Senate Judiciary begins investigation into DOJ lawmaker subpoenas America needs a stable Israeli government MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenAdams, Garcia lead in NYC mayor's race: poll Exclusive: Democrat exploring 'patriot tax' on multimillionaires' wealth McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats MORE (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, already announcing they do not plan to meet with her (The Hill). Warren labeled the GOP’s moves an “illegitimate power grab” (The Hill).  

The Hill: Meeting Trump Supreme Court pick a bridge too far for some Democrats.

Democrats are also seeking to use the limited tools in their arsenal to delay any confirmation vote for Barrett. While they cannot stop the nomination from moving ahead, as Politico notes, they can force floor votes to protest going on recess or to keep committees from holding hearings longer than two hours.  

Republicans, however, are prepared to respond in kind, with Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSanders won't vote for bipartisan infrastructure deal Bipartisan infrastructure deal takes fire from left and right McConnell warns he's willing to intervene in 2022 GOP primaries MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 ranked Republican, saying “there’s a price to pay” in the form of more judicial nominees. 

“We're prepared for that if they decide they want to use motions to adjourn or try and use the tools at their disposal to keep us here, that's fine,” Thune said on Tuesday. “But that keeps them here too and what that means is we'll do more judges and more executive nominations that those guys don't like.”

Reuters: Republican senators say Barrett should not recuse herself from election cases that may go to the Supreme Court.

The Washington Post: Trump’s Supreme Court choice meets with GOP senators as Republicans fast-track nomination. 

The Hill: Advocacy groups spend big on Barrett confirmation fight.

The Hill: Industry eager for Barrett's views on financial regulations. 



> COVID-19: Talks between White House and Democratic negotiators on a coronavirus relief plan showed signs of life on Tuesday as Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinDemocrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer Yellen provides signature for paper currency Biden's name will not appear on stimulus checks, White House says MORE and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNew Mexico Democrat Stansbury sworn into Haaland's old seat Greene apologizes for comparing vaccine rules to Holocaust Overnight Health Care: Biden pleads for more people to get vaccinated | Harris highlights COVID-19 vaccination safety | Novavax COVID-19 vaccine shown highly effective in trial MORE (D-Calif.) spoke for a second straight day in an effort to reach a long-awaited accord despite eight weeks of little progress on the issue.  

“Our conversation was a positive one,” Pelosi told MSNBC. “We'll get back together tomorrow to see how we can find common ground and how we, again, help state and local government play the role it does. They’re our heroes.” 

However, just as it has since late July, the size and scope of any deal remains the key sticking point to reaching an agreement. House Democrats rolled out a $2.2 trillion package on Monday, which they are hopeful to vote on later today and includes $500 billion for state and local governments -- a major point of contention between the two sides. Meanwhile, the White House and Republicans are likely to throw their weight behind a $1.5 trillion proposal.

While the talks represent progress, the sides still have mountains to climb in the form of the $700 billion separating the two proposals and that the House is still expected to leave town on Friday for the final weeks leading up to Election Day. 

“The fact that Nancy Pelosi and the Treasury secretary are speaking is a very good sign … I’m really hoping we are inching toward a deal here,” said Rep. Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerOmar feuds with Jewish Democrats House moderates unveil .25T infrastructure plan Democrats debate shape of new Jan. 6 probe MORE (D-N.J.), co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus that last week put forth a $1.5 trillion bipartisan relief plan that helped revive talks. “It’s essential that we go home this week helping our families, communities and our businesses. Anything short of that is unacceptable.

Pelosi and Mnuchin are set to speak again today (The Hill). 


MORE 2020 POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: An estimated 32,000 former felons in Florida have seen their outstanding debts to the courts paid off by outside donors who are motivated to retire the balances and restore former inmates’ voting rights before an Oct. 5 deadline, just in time to turn ex-prisoners into participating voters before Nov. 3. Progressives are hoping for added ballots for Biden and Democratic candidates. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican, says the effort is an elaborate vote-buying scheme and she wants law enforcement to investigate. Billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergWhat the Democrats should be doing to reach true bipartisanship 5 former Treasury secretaries back Biden's plan to increase tax enforcement on wealthy On The Money: Biden ends infrastructure talks with Capito, pivots to bipartisan group | Some US billionaires had years where they paid no taxes: report | IRS to investigate leak MORE, who has endorsed Biden after competing in the Democratic primaries, has raised more than $16 million for the effort under the auspices of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. Other donors: John Legend, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, Ben & Jerry’s, Levi Strauss & Co., the Miami Dolphins, the Orlando Magic, the Miami Heat and Stephen Spielberg. What’s unclear is whether ballot-wielding ex-felons will have an impact in a state Trump won four years ago by nearly 113,000 votes (The Hill).



> Courts: In a highly unusual admission to a federal court on Tuesday, a lawyer for former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn said she briefed Trump about her client's case in recent weeks and urged the president not to pardon Flynn. Attorney Sidney Powell disclosed the detail during a hearing about the Justice Department’s decision to seek to drop a criminal case against Flynn. Under the judge’s questioning, Powell initially tried to invoke executive privilege but ultimately admitted that she recently spoke to Trump and to Jenna Ellis, a lawyer who represents Trump as well as his campaign. Judge Emmet Sullivan is considering whether to grant the department's motion to drop the Flynn charges, and has appointed an outside counsel to argue against letting the prosecutors walk away from the case. Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations he’d had with the Russian ambassador to the United States. He later decided to fight the charges (The Hill). … Trump reportedly began seeking Ellis’s legal counsel after seeing her defend him against impeachment charges on cable news shows (Law & Crime).


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!



Republicans are trapped on preexisting conditions, by Ronald Brownstein, senior editor, The Atlantic. https://bit.ly/348Xwqe 

Amy Coney Barrett is no threat to Obamacare, by Ramesh Ponnuru, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3n4cqqg





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 OhioisforLeaders.com.




The House will meet at 9 a.m.

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

The president departs Washington this afternoon for Minnesota. He participates in a campaign fundraising reception in Shorewood, Minn., this evening. Trump headlines a campaign rally at Duluth International Airport in Duluth, Minn., at 8 p.m. CDT, then returns to the White House.

Pence will travel to Atlanta to speak to a conference of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. He will return to Washington, D.C. 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoSunday shows - Biden foreign policy in focus Pompeo defends Trump on Russia in Chris Wallace interview Pompeo: Decline of free speech on college campuses keeps me up at night MORE will visit the Holy See and Croatia this week.  

Economic indicators: The Bureau of Economic Analysis at 8:30 a.m. reports on U.S. gross domestic product in the second quarter, as well as corporate profits in the second quarter.

TODAY The Hill Virtually Live hosts a three-part Century of the Woman Summit beginning at 11 a.m. with female leaders and decision-makers to discuss progress and continued barriers. Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine ChaoThe FCC's decision to reallocate the safety band spectrum will impede efforts to save lives Top Democrat: FCC actions are a 'potential setback' to autonomous vehicles The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - US vaccine effort takes hit with Johnson & Johnson pause MORE, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), Rep. Terri SewellTerrycina (Terri) Andrea SewellAlabama museum unveils restored Greyhound bus for Freedom Rides' 60th anniversary Rep. Terri Sewell declines to run for Senate in Alabama Amazon union battle comes to Washington MORE (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 http://thehill.com/hilltv 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. 

Burial: On Tuesday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia in a private ceremony (Fox5DC).  

CORONAVIRUS: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced on Tuesday he will quarantine for two weeks as a precaution after contact with a member of his administration who tested positive for COVID-19 (The Associated Press). … Disney announced on Tuesday that it will lay off 28,000 employees as it struggles to return people to its theme parks, with its California-based parks still closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than two-thirds of those laid off are part-time workers, according to Josh D’Amaro, head of parks for the company. While Disney’s parks across the world, including in Florida, Paris, and Asia have reopened with limited capacity, Disneyland and California Adventure in Anaheim, Calif. remain closed (CNBC). … The Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings shuttered their facilities on Tuesday after three players and five team staffers with Tennessee tested positive for the virus. The NFL has not decided whether to move forward with Tennessee’s game on Sunday versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, and are considering moving the game back to Monday to allow for additional testing and contact tracing (ESPN) … In Germany, new coronavirus outbreaks prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel and governors of the country’s 16 states on Tuesday to plan new restrictions and fines. COVID-19 infections have been doubling monthly in Germany since June, meaning that if the rate is not slowed, the country could experience 19,200 daily infections by December (The Associated Press). 

➔ Breonna Taylor case: In Kentucky, Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) said on Tuesday that he never asked a grand jury to consider homicide charges against Louisville police in the shooting death in March of 26-year-old Taylor. He agreed to release grand jury tapes today and said the only charges he presented to the grand jurors against police were wanton endangerment. The grand jury this month issued charges against one officer, Brett Hankison, for endangering three of Taylor’s neighbors by firing through her home into an adjacent unit where bullets missed people. None of the officers was indicted in the killing of Taylor, who was shot five times after officers knocked down her door to serve a narcotics warrant (The Associated Press). … Cameron, once seen by some in Kentucky as a potential successor to McConnell and a rising Black GOP star, faces intense backlash because of his handling of the prosecution following Taylor’s death (Politico).



And finally … A toothy controversy between Malta and Great Britain’s 7-year-old Prince George ended with the bite of public criticism aimed at Malta’s over-eager culture minister, who sought to reclaim a prehistoric shark tooth, a gift from British naturalist Sir David Attenborough, 94, to the young royal during a recent visit to Kensington Palace. Attenborough found the fossil in Malta in the 1960s. For some peculiar reason, the tiny island nation thought it worth heaps of scorn to try to get it back (The Associated Press).