The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden continues to grapple with Afghanistan chaos

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British armed forces work with the U.S. military to evacuate eligible civilians and their families out of Afghanistan

 

 

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Monday! 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. 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 to date: 628,503.   

 

As of this morning, 60.7 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 51.5 percent is fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg News global vaccine tracker.



Evacuations of Americans, allied personnel, and thousands of Afghan translators, interpreters and their families from the chaotic Kabul airport could stretch beyond the Aug. 31 deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, President BidenJoe BidenHow 'Buy American', other pro-US policies can help advocates pass ambitious climate policies Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Photos of the Week: Manchin protestor, Paris Hilton and a mirror room MORE said Sunday, despite efforts to speed the exodus from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan (The Hill).

 

Biden, who defended his decisions and rejected responsibility for the calamitous Afghanistan exit playing out in the capital, said he may be forced to adjust the deadline, although he said he and his team hope “we won’t have to extend.”

 

“I’m convinced I’m absolutely correct,” he said of his decision to end the war and withdraw the remaining 2,500 U.S. forces by the end of this month.

 

The president, speaking in the Roosevelt Room for 20 minutes after being briefed by top foreign policy and defense advisers on Sunday, said again that any Americans in Afghanistan who want to get out will be able to leave. He acknowledged the difficulty and dangers they and Afghans are facing while attempting to flee.

 

He touted the Taliban’s assurances so far that Islamist militants will not harm U.S. troops or Americans who are departing, but he also described his unwillingness to trust “just talk.” Biden acknowledged “pain and loss” felt by Afghans who say they are petrified they will be tortured or killed by Taliban fighters.

 

“We’ll see,” he said of Taliban pledges, acknowledging frenzy on the ground, danger to U.S. troops and the potential for terror attacks. “My heart aches for those people,” he added.

 

Reuters: Afghan guard killed Monday at Kabul airport by gunman during a firefight also involving U.S., German troops.

 

Biden said U.S. military at the Kabul airport were “moving back the perimeter significantly” to create a larger safe zone and adjusting “access around the airport” and entry gates that are accessible to Americans. He declined to comment on whether U.S. forces were entering the capital or other locations in Afghanistan to extract Americans and Afghans now in harm’s way. “I think you’ll see more Afghans get out,” he said without being specific.

 

 

President Biden speaks at the White House

 

 

CNN: ISIS terror threat forces U.S. military to establish alternate routes to the Kabul airport.

 

NATO said at least 20 people died over seven days in Kabul from shootings and being crushed by crowds near the airport (Reuters).

 

Jake SullivanJake SullivanSullivan raised normalizing relations with Israel during meeting with Saudi crown prince: report Biden struggles to rein in Saudi Arabia amid human rights concerns Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — World leaders call for enhanced cooperation to fight wave of ransomware attacks MORE, Biden’s national security adviser, did not rule out on Sunday that additional U.S. troops could be deployed to Afghanistan to complete the evacuation. “Every single day, the president asks his military commanders, including those at the airport and those at the Pentagon, whether they need additional resources, additional troops. So far, the answer has been no,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” (The Hill).

 

The Hill: Biden grapples with twin crises.

 

To hasten the slow pace of withdrawal, the U.S. military is flying eligible families out of Kabul to military bases in secondary countries, where they are processed, undergo security screenings and may wind up as refugees in a wide array of host countries.

 

The Pentagon over the weekend requested civilian passenger air carriers willing to help transport Afghans from staging points at air bases outside of Afghanistan to their designated next stops, including in the United States (The Hill). Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Nearly 200 Americans want to leave Afghanistan, State Department tells Congress Syria's challenge to Tony Blinken's conscience MORE (pictured below with Sullivan) explained the intermediary stops are in nearly two dozen other participating countries where emergency processing of Afghans can continue. “We need more planes in the mix to do that piece of it, to move them from these initial points of landing on to places that they’ll ultimately resettle,” he told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

 

The Hill: Exits are subject to Afghanistan’s rulers, Blinken says. Taliban “are in control of Kabul. That is the reality.”

 

Biden said 11,000 people got out of Afghanistan over the weekend during a 36-hour period, which he called “an incredible operation” and a pace he believes can be sustained. Tens of thousands of people still want to leave.


Some allied governments drawn into the Kabul crisis are critical of the United States, although Biden says he has not heard such criticism during his conversations with counterparts (The Hill). The president said he will participate with Group of Seven leaders in a videoconference Tuesday to discuss the Afghanistan situation. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government as part of the G-7 meeting will push for economic sanctions against the Taliban under certain circumstances (India Today).

 

The U.K.’s Daily Mail reported that British officials have skewered Biden, and that aides serving Biden were “afraid” to challenge the president’s withdrawal decision and Sullivan’s assumptions about how the withdrawal of forces would proceed.

 

This line of public puzzlement is a theme among critics of the administration in Congress, including some Democrats, as well as among U.S. and international analysts and experts. Is Biden’s supposed foreign policy expertise frozen in 2009? Did he reach a decision to pull out all U.S. forces from Afghanistan and turn a deaf ear to naysayers who warned about the Afghan army’s weakness, or did fresh intelligence about Afghan corruption and the Taliban never move up the chain to the president’s attention because his perspective was known?

 

“He came in, and he wasn’t going to listen,” asserted New York Times Pentagon correspondent Helene Cooper during an NBC discussion on Sunday about Biden’s approach to the war in Afghanistan. On “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceChris Wallace on Colin Powell: He was 'very protective' of his reputation Liz Cheney is the Margaret Chase Smith of our time Sunday shows - Buttigieg warns supply chain issues could stretch to next year MORE asked, “Does the president not know what’s going on?”

 

Biden’s evolving, sometimes contradictory and occasionally outright false assertions since July about Afghanistan and the situation in Kabul resulted in tough fact-checking beginning on Friday and continuing through the weekend. Central to oversight hearings expected on Capitol Hill is why Biden and administration officials insist “nobody predicted” the rapid fall of the Afghan government, an assertion contradicted by reporting last week but repeated on Sunday by Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan GOP lawmakers worry vaccine mandate will impact defense supply chain Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Navy probe reveals disastrous ship fire response MORE during an exchange on ABC’s “This Week.”

 

In fact, there were U.S. intelligence, diplomatic and government watchdog predictions that the Afghan government was vulnerable to defeat by the Taliban. "It was a very hollow government and a hollow military," John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan, told CBS News. Last week, he issued a Lessons” report, one of many assessments he has released since 2012 based on his inspections in Afghanistan. His final report included excerpts from more than 700 interviews he conducted with senior administration officials. Douglas Lute, who served as a special adviser to former Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, told Sopko, "We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan. We didn't have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking. It's really much worse than you think."

 

Ryan Crocker, a former career ambassador in the Obama administration who held the top diplomatic job in Afghanistan and Iraq, is quoted in the report as saying the Afghan national police were “useless as a security force, and they're useless as a security force because they are corrupt down to the patrol level.”

 

CBS News: Crocker, during a Sunday interview, called the administration’s execution of the withdrawal from Afghanistan “catastrophic.”

 

Axios: No Biden firings likely, sources say.

 

The Hill: Sunday talk shows — Afghanistan’s collapse in the spotlight.

 

 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken

 



A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

Internet regulations are as outdated as dial-up

 

Facebook supports updated regulations, including four areas where lawmakers can make quick progress:

 

– Reforming Section 230
– Preventing foreign interference of our elections
– Passing federal privacy law
– Setting rules that allow people to safely transfer data between services



LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS: House lawmakers will return for a brief interlude in the lengthy August recess today amid a battle between Democratic leaders and a group of centrist members who are threatening to vote against the budget resolution that would open the door to a $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, a top priority of the Biden administration.

 

As The Hill’s Cristina Marcos and Scott Wong write, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiJudge to hear Trump's case against Jan. 6 committee in November Kamala Harris engages with heckler during New York speech GOP lawmaker calls for Meghan, Harry to lose royal titles over paid leave push MORE (D-Calif.) is daring the group of centrist lawmaker to vote against the package as they protest her decision not to bring up the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure proposal for an immediate vote, siding with progressives in the process. In a nod to the nine centrists, many of whom face tough reelection battles next year, Pelosi is grouping both measures as part of a single procedural vote to immediately take up the bipartisan bill, but it is unclear whether that will be enough to satisfy their demands.

 

“I have no idea, but she is good at miracles,” said one House committee chairman about how Pelosi will steer her caucus through this situation.

 

The House will hold the procedural vote later today on the budget resolution, the bipartisan bill and a voting rights bill named for the late Rep. John LewisJohn LewisBiden injects new momentum into filibuster fight Patience with Biden wearing thin among Black leaders Biden, Harris mark 10th anniversary of MLK memorial MORE (D-Ga.), but most attention is trained on Tuesday, when the centrists could make their play. Rep. Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerModerates split over climate plans in Democrats' spending package Bleak midterm outlook shadows bitter Democratic battle Democrats downplay deadlines on Biden's broad spending plan MORE (D-N.J.), co-chair of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, indicated on Friday that the group of nine’s strategy has not changed. 

 

“The House can’t afford to wait months, or do anything to risk passing the historic infrastructure package,” Gottheimer said.

 

The Washington Post: “Curveballs and obstacles” face Pelosi this week as Democrats spar over $3.5 trillion budget plan.

 

Axios: Pelosi stares down dissenters.

 

Naomi Jagoda, The Hill: Five lawmakers to watch ahead of key House budget vote.

 

 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) answers reporters' questions

 

 

*****

 

CORONAVIRUS: Big news on the vaccine front is expected to arrive today as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is likely to give full approval to Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, a move that will likely lead to an uptick in vaccinations administered in the coming weeks.

 

The FDA’s decision has been awaited for weeks and clamored for by many for even longer, as vaccinations lagged for much of July. The spread of the delta variant and mandates by localities and businesses increased vaccination rates (The New York Times).

 

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who serves on Pfizer’s board of directors, told “Face the Nation” on Sunday that he has “no reason to believe” that reports of the pending full approval “aren’t accurate.” He added that the decision, coupled with the full approval of Moderna’s vaccine that is expected in the coming weeks, will give the legal greenlight to businesses and schools to mandate the shot.

 

“[Businesses and schools] feel they’ll be on stronger legal ground to mandate vaccination in that setting,” Gottlieb said. “I also think there are some consumers that have been waiting on this milestone, waiting for the full approval and an indication that the FDA is done evaluating the data set to give them more confidence about using the vaccine. So I would expect to see some uptick in vaccine utilization” (CBS News).

 

The FDA’s likely decision will come on the heels of the best vaccination stretch the U.S. has experienced in more than a month and a half. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the U.S. administered more than 1 million shots on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with the total just shy of that number on Sunday (The Washington Post).

 

The Washington Post: Third Pfizer dose significantly lowers risk of infection in seniors, Israeli data shows.

 

The Hill: People who received Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses will likely need a booster, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek MurthyVivek MurthyFauci says it's recommended to get same vaccine for COVID-19 boosters CDC director signs off on boosters of Johnson & Johnson, Moderna COVID-19 vaccines Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Boosters take a big step forward MORE says.

 

 

Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

 

 

Regarding the vaccination mandate issue, Education Secretary Miguel CardonaMiguel CardonaPresident, first lady honor teachers at White House awards ceremony Ilhan Omar to Biden: 'Deliver on your promise to cancel student debt' Florida Board of Education approves sanctions on eight school districts over coronavirus mandates MORE told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the government’s role is “very limited,” adding that it also doesn’t have the authority to tell universities that receive federal funding that they must require vaccinations. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, about 750 colleges and universities are requiring students to be inoculated by this fall.

 

The Hill: Surgeon general: Vaccine requirements at businesses, colleges “a very reasonable thing to do.”

 

The Hill: U.S. can administer booster shots in this country while also enhancing global vaccinations, Murthy says.

 

The Wall Street Journal: Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock ruled out for top job, sources say.

 

> COVID-19 false information: The FDA is begging Americans not to self-medicate for COVID-19 with a livestock dewormer medication called ivermectin, a trend seen based on misinformation shared since the start of the pandemic. Reports of recent hospitalizations have accumulated in Mississippi and Louisiana among people taking the dewormer to try to treat or ward off the virus. On Twitter, the FDA was blunt: “You are not a horse,” the agency said. “You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it” (The New York Times).

 

Chicago Tribune: The Rev. Jesse Jackson, 79, and his wife were hospitalized with COVID-19. He was vaccinated in January.

 

The Texas Tribune: Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) tests positive for COVID-19.

 

The Hill: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) tests negative for COVID-19 four days after positive result, credits vaccine.

 

The Hill: Former President TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Twitter's algorithm boosts right-leaning content, internal study finds Ohio Democrat calls Vance an 'ass----' over Baldwin tweet Matt Taibbi says Trump's rhetoric caused public perception of US intelligence services to shift MORE was greeted with some boos on Saturday at his Alabama rally when he encouraged his supporters to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. “You know what? I believe totally in your freedoms. I do. You've got to do what you have to do. But I recommend, take the vaccines. I did it. It’s good. Take the vaccines,” Trump said.

 

The Mercury News: First U.S. COVID-19 deaths came earlier (January 2020) — and in different places — than previously thought.



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS: Democrats are growing increasingly nervous about the mounting number of retirements by their incumbents in competitive House districts that were carried by Trump in last year’s general election.

 

As The Hill’s Max Greenwood points out, two of the seven House Democrats who represent Trump-won districts — Reps. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosTwo House Democrats to retire ahead of challenging midterms Two senior House Democrats to retire Democratic retirements could make a tough midterm year even worse MORE (Ill.) and Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindTwo House Democrats to retire ahead of challenging midterms Two senior House Democrats to retire Democratic retirements could make a tough midterm year even worse MORE (Wis.) — have already announced that they won’t seek reelection in 2022.

 

The two key retirements have also come under scrutiny for Democrats as they worry about a tough midterm cycle, coupled with the possibility of multiple competitive primaries in swing districts that could put the GOP on a glidepath to the majority next year.

 

The Associated Press: Veterans are prized recruits as congressional candidates.

 

The Hill: Democrats scramble to reclaim lost ground in statehouse battles.

 

Adding to the good news for the GOP heading into 2022, the party flipped a state legislative seat in Connecticut last week in a district Biden carried by about 20 points. The loss led to the campaign manager for the Democratic candidate who lost to sound the alarm that the GOP's base is fired up and that the suburbs are no sure thing for the party in power heading into a perilous cycle (The Hill).

 

The Associated Press: New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden makes his pitch as tax questions mount Hochul gets early boost as NY gubernatorial race takes shape EMILY's List announces early endorsement of Hochul MORE (D) leaves office at Monday’s end and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) succeeds him at midnight.



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! 



OPINION

The school kids are not alright, by The New York Times editorial board. https://nyti.ms/3sDlNAs

 

A fiasco in full, by former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.), opinion contributor, National Review online. https://bit.ly/2WgnQib



A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

Why Facebook supports updated internet privacy regulations

 

Protecting privacy means something different than it did in 1996 — the last time comprehensive internet regulations were passed.

 

We’ve introduced tools like Privacy Checkup that help people control their information. Now we need updated regulations to set consistent data protection standards.



WHERE AND WHEN

The House will meet at 5 p.m.

 

The Senate convenes for a pro forma session on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. Senators are expected back in Washington Sept. 13.

 

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will meet with his national security team to discuss the situation in Afghanistan at 10 a.m. The president at 3:30 p.m. will host the Seattle Storm, 2020 WNBA champions.

 

Vice President Harris is in Singapore, where she said Monday that the U.S. should not get distracted by questions in Afghanistan other than completing the evacuation (The Associated Press). She visits Vietnam on Tuesday.

 

Second gentleman Douglas EmhoffDoug EmhoffThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations — Global supply chain bottleneck worries for U.S. economy The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Biden: We will fix nation's problems The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - New front in mandate wars; debt bill heads to Biden MORE will arrive in Tokyo to lead the U.S. delegation to the Paralympic Games and participate in meetings in Japan this week. Emhoff will return to the U.S. and meet up with Harris in Hawaii on Wednesday.

 

The White House press briefing is scheduled at 2 p.m.

 

Economic indicator: The National Association of Realtors at 10 a.m. will report on existing home sales in July.

 

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.



ELSEWHERE

➔ CYBER & TECH: Hackers have sharpened their skills to target schools and universities, many of which are attempting to launch fall classes amid a host of other challenges beyond their vulnerabilities to ransomware, cyber criminals and everyday hackers (The Hill).Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskPrince William urges focus on saving planet instead of space travel Democrats' electric vehicle push sparks intense lobbying fight Blue Origin is taking William Shatner to space — but can it distract from internal criticism? MORE has unveiled a humanoid robot he calls Tesla Bot that he says would use artificial intelligence created for vehicles (adaptations of autonomous driving technology now under scrutiny in cars because of its flaws and resulting accidents). He did not display an actual functioning facsimile of the robot, which he said would be 5-feet 8-inches tall, weigh 125 pounds and be built from lightweight materials. “We should be worried about AI,” said Musk, who has warned in the past about potential downsides of AI, such as lethal weapons. “What we're trying to do here at Tesla is make useful AI that people love and is ... unequivocally good” (CNET).

 

➔ STATE WATCH: In Tennessee, 17 inches of rain devastated rural parts of the state on Saturday, while 22 people lost their lives and many remained missing (The Associated Press). … Hurricane Henri weakened to become a tropical storm on Sunday as it made landfall in Rhode Island, with storm surge warnings lingering for parts of Long Island and southern New England (WPRI and The Wall Street Journal). Earlier on Sunday, Biden issued emergency declarations for New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. … Maine businesses are strained to hire enough workers amid the pandemic and a busy summer season. Vacationland is seeing a surge in what some call “revenge tourism” — throngs of visitors seeking relief after feeling trapped at home during the pandemic, reports The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch from lovely Bar Harbor, Maine. “The attitude is ‘I was cooped up all this time and hell or high water I’m getting out now,’” said Eben Salvatore, who runs a number of hotels and has seen record bookings this year after a lackluster 2020. The collision of eager vacationers and customers with a shortage of workers, which forces some businesses to reduce their hours or shutter some locations, has been reported nationwide this summer. 

 

 

A customer eats a lobster at the Rose Eden and Lobster restaurant in Bar Harbor, Maine

 

 

➔ SCIENCE DATA: The demand globally for information during the COVID-19 era accelerated a trend to release and share emerging scientific data more quickly to make it available to scientists, policy makers and the public in almost real time. The pandemic drove more preprint studies, which are available before being rigorously peer-reviewed by other science experts. Scientists say the medical community and the news media should better communicate the tentative nature of freshly released and evolving scientific knowledge, especially during an international public health crisis (The Hill and The New York Times).



THE CLOSER

And finally …   PANDA WATCH   Xiao Qi Ji celebrated his first birthday with frozen treats at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo on Saturday.

 

Behold.

 

 

Giant Panda Xiao Qi Ji (R) celebrates his first birthday with his mother Mei Xiang