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The Hill’s Morning Report — Presented by Goldman Sachs — Trump, Biden clash in a more civil debate

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Back by popular demand, it is Friday! Eleven days until Election Day. 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, 219,674; Tuesday, 220,133; Wednesday, 221,076; Thursday, 222,210; Friday, 223,051.


President Trump on Thursday night cast his challenger as a corrupt lifetime politician with a thin record of accomplishment, while Joe Biden warned Americans during the second and final debate that a “dark winter” of coronavirus infections and deaths looms because of mistakes the president made while responding to the pandemic. 

The final debate of 2020 was billed as Trump’s best opening to knock Biden off-balance or otherwise upend the trajectory of a race in which the Democratic nominee has consistently polled ahead of the incumbent in battleground states. It is unlikely that the final faceoff in Nashville, Tenn., which was fast-paced and tamer than the candidates’ September brawl, has dramatically altered the contest.

The president hammered themes his campaign has used for months against the former vice president: Biden’s 47 years in politics, assertions that he’s far-left, his supposedly indulgent ties with China and his plan on fracking.

“You keep talking about all these things you were going to do but you were there just a few short years ago. You know, Joe, I ran because of you,” Trump said. “You’re all talk and no action, Joe.” 

The Hill: A shift in tone dominates at the final Trump-Biden clash.

The New York Times: A mandate to be less like himself? It can be said that Trump tried.

Trump used innuendo to suggest that Biden “made money somehow,” that Biden’s brothers had shady business dealings and that Hunter Biden, the nominee’s son, was guilty of conflicts of interest. Multiple investigations have found no evidence of misdeeds by Hunter Biden. The Democratic nominee, who was expecting the president’s line of attack, replied, “My son has not made money from China. The only one who has made money from China is this one,” pointing to Trump. 

The Hill: Biden denies unethical behavior involving son Hunter. 

The Hill: Trump, Biden tangle over Wall Street ties, fundraising.

The Hill: Biden presses Trump to release tax returns after report on China bank account.

The Hill: Trump says “only” the immigrants with “the lowest IQ” return for their court cases.

Biden focused at the outset on the president’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, laying the blame for the virus’s continued spread and rising fatalities at Trump’s feet. After the president claimed that a vaccine “is ready” and will be available in “weeks,” and that the country is “rounding the corner” in curbing the virus, Biden told voters that they are heading into a “dark winter.”

“Learning to live with it? Come on. We’re dying with it,” Biden said of the virus, which has killed more than 223,000 in the United States. “Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America.” 

“Even today he thinks we’re in control,” the former vice president added, frequently looking into the camera and directing his remarks to an audience watching broadcasts or live streams of the event. “We’re about to lose 200,000 more people.” 

The Hill: Trump, Biden clash over coronavirus response, mounting death toll.  

The Associated Press: Trump, Biden fight over the raging virus, climate change, race.

Last month’s debate attracted a smaller TV viewership than seen in 2016, and Thursday’s audience is likely to be smaller still. ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox together pulled in 27.3 million viewers during the September debate, a drop of more than 21 million viewers compared with four years ago (TV Insider). 

Moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News, assisted by a mute feature that cut off the audio when either candidate spoke beyond a two-minute limit on opening comments, moved briskly through questions and garnered a compliment from Trump just hours after he criticized her on Twitter as biased. 

The Hill: Trump praises moderator Welker at debate after earlier criticism. 

Biden also fought back against accusations from Trump that he is going to institute a “Medicare-for-all” system of health care, reiterating that he supports adding a public option to the existing provisions of the Affordable Care Act, calling it “BidenCare.” 

“The fact that there’s a public option, that people can choose? That makes it a socialist plan?” Biden asked incredulously after Trump invoked Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) . “He thinks he’s running against someone else. He’s running against Joe Biden.” 

The Hill: Biden defends his health plan from Trump attacks. 

Dan Balz, The Washington Post: Trump did what he came to do in Nashville, but Biden was ready for what came at him. 

Biden attempted to appeal to voters of all stripes, invoking quotes akin to those made by former President Obama during his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. 

“If I get elected — I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I’m going to be an American president,” Biden said as part of his final answer of the night. “I don’t see red states and blue states. What I see is American, United States. 

The former VP also invoked a similar line during the coronavirus discussion, saying that while spikes are taking place in red states across the country, the states are part of America, adding that, “I don’t look at this in terms of the way he does — blue states and red states.”

The Hill: Biden: “I would transition from the oil industry.” Two Democrats in tough House races push back from his plan. 

With the debates in the rearview mirror, the Trump and Biden campaigns are expected to flood the battleground states in the coming 11 days as they make their closing arguments to voters. Trump will hold a pair of rallies today in Florida, with similar events scheduled in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin on Saturday. Biden will remain in his hometown of Wilmington, Del., to deliver an address on the COVID-19 response and the economy.

Vice President Pence will headline rallies later today in Ohio and Pennsylvania, while Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) makes an appearance in Georgia 

The Hill: Five takeaways from the final debate. 

The Associated Press: Debate takeaways: Round 2 highlights policy over petulance.

Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal: A good debate, and it’s not quite over.

Reuters: Six takeaways — from a more civilized evening to Trump’s signature hyperbole. 

The Associated Press Fact Check: Falsehoods and fumbles in Trump-Biden debate.

Does Trump have a path to 270 Electoral College votes? Yes. His most likely route, according to The Associated Press, hinges on winning two crucial battleground states: Florida and Pennsylvania. If he can claim both and hold onto other Sun Belt states he narrowly carried in 2016 — North Carolina and Arizona — while playing defense in Georgia and Ohio, which he won handily in 2016 but where Biden is now competitive, he would win a second term.

More than 49 million Americans have already voted as of this morning, according to the U.S. Elections Project, nearly 36 percent of the total turnout in 2016. 

Politico: “Warning flare”: New swing-state data shows massive Democratic early-vote lead.




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CONGRESS: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Thursday that negotiators are “just about there” in stimulus discussions as it becomes increasingly likely that any bill will have to wait for consideration in both chambers in the lame duck period after the elections.

Pelosi, appearing at her weekly press conference, told reporters that while the two sides are moving closer to a deal, they still have not reached consensus on the two key remaining issues that have divided them for months: funding for state and local governments, and a liability shield that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has demanded as part of any package.

“It’s only about time,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “I think it is in range for us to pass it before the election. But it’s not up to me to decide what the Senate does.”

“That’s the health care package that I think we’re in a good place on,” Pelosi said (The Hill).

As Pelosi and the White House move closer to a deal, Republicans are directing their ire at Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who they believe has made too many concessions to Democrats in talks, including a top-line figure of at least $1.9 trillion (Reuters).

The Washington Post: Senate Republicans fume as Mnuchin gives ground to Pelosi in search of a deal.

WHAS-TV (ABC-Louisville): McConnell claims “no concern” after photos show his hand bandaged, discolored. 

> Supreme Court: The Senate Judiciary Committee’s dozen Republican members voted on Thursday to send the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the full Senate. The committee’s 10 Democrats boycotted the chance to vote on the Supreme Court nominee and filled their seats with posters of Americans who they said would lose their health insurance if the court strikes down the Affordable Care Act. Barrett’s nomination is expected to receive a vote by the full Senate on Monday (The Hill and NBC News). 


 > Tech: The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Republicans led by Chairman Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who is in a tough reelection race, also voted on Thursday to subpoena the chief executives of Facebook and Twitter after both platforms limited the spread on their platforms of a controversial article published by the New York Post a week ago suggesting that Hunter Biden had organized a meeting between a Ukrainian businessman and his father, who was vice president at the time.  

The news report was based on unsubstantiated emails obtained from a laptop hard drive allegedly located in a repair shop. The president has attempted for years to tie the Biden family to alleged conflicts of interest in Ukraine, which the Bidens, father and son, have denied. Facebook limited the reach of the New York Post article while it tried to determine if it was part of a disinformation effort, such as Russia’s election interference seen in 2016. Twitter initially blocked the link to the article, then reversed its decision (The New York Times). Republican lawmakers and Trump assert that the social media behemoths censor conservative political content, an allegation they deny (CNET and The Hill).


MORE POLITICS: With 11 days to go, the Trump campaign has a significant cash deficit against the former vice president, adding one more obstacle as the president’s team hunts for a dramatic reversal.  

Heading into October, the Biden campaign had $177 million in cash-on-hand, while Trump’s reelection effort entered the final month with only $63.1 million. The disparity represents a stunning flip of the switch for the Trump campaign, which has raised and spent more than $1 billion this cycle, as The Hill’s Jonathan Easley and Julia Manchester note in a story that will post later this morning.

Biden’s financial advantage is on full display across the airwaves, which he is flooding as the president is unable to match him ad for ad given the cash crunch. The timing couldn’t be worse as he continues to trail in a number of key battleground states and is trying to make up a lot of ground in a short period of time.

“You come into the final two weeks of a campaign, those numbers really tell you a story,” said Democratic National Committee member Robert Zimmerman. “It shows you who has the energy, the grassroots support, and the momentum.” 

The New York Times: Trump’s cash crunch limits his options and prompts finger-pointing. 

Politico Magazine, Garrett M. Graff: Election gone bad: Guide to what could unfold in the minutes, hours and days after the last ballot is cast.

> Trump irked at CBS (calling attention to his interview): Hours before the debate, the president on Thursday broke an agreement and posted a White House unedited copy of a “60 Minutes” interview taped this week in which he objected to questioning by Lesley Stahl and ended the session after 40 minutes (The Hill). The CBS program will be broadcast on Sunday to include a separate interview with Biden conducted by Norah O’Donnell (after Trump’s preemptive post, CBS released a Biden interview clip HERE). The president said on Twitter that the Democratic nominee enjoys favorable news media coverage and that in contrast, Stahl’s questions showed “bias, hatred” and were “rude.” In a statement, CBS defended Stahl and said “we look forward to audiences seeing her third interview with President Trump and subsequent interview with Vice President Pence this weekend.

> Election security: The Hill: Five takeaways from the U.S. intelligence community’s assertion on Wednesday that Iran hacked voter registration data to interfere with the U.S. election through voter intimidation. Big questions: How do Tehran’s capabilities differ from Russia’s, and what can a decentralized U.S. election system do about it now? … On Thursday, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security said state-sponsored Russian hackers are targeting state and local government networks ahead of elections, and while Americans are voting, stealing data from at least two servers. Officials say they have no information that any election or government operations have been affected or that the integrity of elections data has been compromised (The Associated Press). … Russia poses a greater election threat than Iran, U.S. officials say. One official compared the Iranian action to playing single A baseball, while the Russians are major leaguers.(The New York Times).

> Iran: The administration on Thursday sanctioned Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi, a general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, citing counterterrorism authority (WKRG5).

> Marijuana: Voters in four states are likely to approve legal marijuana measures this year (11 states already have approved the use and possession of recreational marijuana) (The Hill). The four states are Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota (CNBC). The next front in the drive for legalization may be psychedelic mushrooms.


Can Biden restrain his party’s left? By Ted Van Dyk, opinion contributor, The Wall Street Journal.  

Can Trump’s spy chief be trusted? by David Ignatius, Washington Post columnist.



The House is out of Washington until after the election. 

The Senate will convene at noon. 

The president returns to The Villages in Central Florida at 4:30 p.m. for a campaign appearance before heading to Pensacola, Fla., for a 7 p.m. rally. On Saturday, Trump will be North Carolina, followed by Ohio and Wisconsin. 

Vice President Pence will deliver remarks at a campaign rally in Swanton, Ohio, at 1 p.m., and in West Mifflin, Pa., at 4:30 p.m. On Saturday, he will travel to Florida for two campaign stops. 

Biden-Harris campaign events: Biden will deliver remarks at approximately 2:30 p.m. in Wilmington, Del., to describe his COVID-19 and economic recovery plans. The remarks will be live streamed. Harris will hold a campaign event in Atlanta this evening to highlight early voting. She will campaign in Ohio on Saturday. 

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


FEDERAL WORKFORCE: A new Trump executive order strips some employment protections from civil servants whose responsibilities include policy, making it easier to hire and fire career employees before a potential change in administration. Federal employee unions have described it as the biggest change to federal workforce protections in a century, converting many federal workers to “at will” employment (The Hill).

GEORGE FLOYD: A Minnesota judge on Wednesday dismissed a third-degree murder charge filed against the former Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck; a second-degree murder charge remains in place. Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill’s ruling, released on Thursday, said there was enough probable cause to proceed to trial on the second-degree murder charge and a manslaughter charge against former officer Derek Chauvin (The Associated Press).



CORONAVIRUS: Just three days after classrooms reopened for in-person learning, teachers in the Houston Independent School District, the seventh-largest public school system in the nation, staged a sickout to protest what they view as lax COVID-19 safety procedures (The New York Times). … At the Health and Human Services Department, Secretary Alex Azar is clashing with Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn and may oust him over strict vaccine standards defended by the FDA (Politico). … The FDA on Thursday approved antiviral drug remdesivir as an effective intravenous COVID-19 treatment  (The Associated Press). … In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday imposed a 10 p.m. curfew on all nonessential businesses including bars and restaurants and imposed other restrictions as coronavirus cases soar in the Windy City (The Chicago Tribune). … French Prime Minister Jean Castex, describing a “serious” COVID-19 situation, announced on Thursday that the government will extend on Friday a nightly curfew to cover two-thirds of the country, or 46 million people, likely for six weeks before a review. French public health authorities recorded more than 41,600 new virus cases, a daily high since the country began widespread testing. France is approaching 1 million cases since the start of the pandemic (The Associated Press). … At Macy’s stores in New York City, Chicago and San Francisco, Santa Claus is COVID-19 collateral damage this year. No “ho, ho, hos” for hordes of eager children and their parents, but Santa will still appear at the end of the televised Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (The Associated Press).


Presented by Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices

Florida voters call on Congress to provide relief 

 87% of bi-partisan voters in Florida said small businesses are very important to the American economy, but Congress has not done enough to help small businesses get through the pandemic. Learn more.


And finally   Bravo to the winners of this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Relying on savvy guesses (along with some grade-A Googling), readers knew their World Series trivia

Here are all the quiz kings and queens out there who got 4/4 on this week’s quiz: Patrick Kavanagh, Rich Davis, Terry Pflaumer, Kathleen Dobe-Call, J. Patric White, Matthew DeLaune, Gary Kalim, Allen Reishtein, Joel Volinski, Michael Palermo, Jeff Marston, John Donato and Joe Santarella. 

They knew that Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford hold the career records for home runs and strikeouts, respectively, in World Series history.

The Atlanta Braves team is the only franchise to have both won and lost a World Series while based in three different cities (Atlanta, Milwaukee and Boston).

Despite making two Fall Classic appearances, Hank Aaron did not hit three home runs in a single World Series game. 

Finally, the 1924 Washington Senators team is believed to be the first World Series champion to visit the White House, invited by former President Coolidge. 



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! 

Tags 2020 Debates 2020 election Amy Coney Barrett Bernie Sanders COVID-19 COVID-19 surge Death toll Donald Trump Environment Facebook fracking Health care Hunter Biden Joe Biden Kamala Harris Lindsey Graham Lori Lightfoot Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi NBC Steven Mnuchin Twitter Wall Street

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