The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Defiant Biden defends US exit from Afghanistan

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Wednesday, the first day of September! 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 each morning this week: Monday, 637,539; Tuesday, 638,711; Wednesday, 640,108.

President Biden on Tuesday defended his decision to end the U.S. war in Afghanistan this week, describing it as “a wise decision,” “the best decision for America” and a promise he kept to voters.


The president said the end of America’s longest war was his decision, but also the consensus of Pentagon and diplomatic advisers. He used a 26-minute, mid-afternoon White House address to respond to criticisms at home and abroad about the chaotic pullout and the decision to stick with an arbitrary deadline that allowed for Kabul airlifts of 5,500 Americans and an estimated 100,000 Afghan allies but left between 100 and 200 American citizens and thousands of potentially eligible Afghan evacuees behind.


The Hill: President digs in with forceful defense of Afghanistan withdrawal.


Niall Stanage: The Memo: Defensive Biden tries to put Afghanistan behind him.


Biden, aware that Republican lawmakers on Tuesday again accused him of “abandoning Americans” in Afghanistan, said U.S. citizens and allies who chose not to leave or did not get to Kabul before evacuations ended would still receive U.S. assistance to leave the country, but he did not specify how.


The Hill: Biden says there is “no deadline” for remaining Americans who want to leave Afghanistan.


The Washington Post: Administration in touch with Americans choosing to remain in Afghanistan for now.


The Hill: House Republicans, led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyOcasio-Cortez: 'Embarrassment' that Democratic leaders are delaying Boebert punishment Overnight Defense & National Security — Lawmakers clinch deal on defense bill Nunes resignation sets off GOP scramble on Ways and Means MORE (Calif.) (pictured below), are working to amplify conservative criticism of Biden’s handling of the U.S. pullout from Kabul, and on Tuesday called for a vote on legislation that would keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan until all Americans are evacuated.


The Hill’s Mike Lillis, Cristina Marcos and Scott Wong report that House Republicans have launched a full-scale political attack on the president and his administration tied to Afghanistan and international policy, a campaign aimed at Biden’s falling job approval and next year’s midterm elections. 



House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)



It is highly unlikely that U.S. service members would soon return to Afghanistan, based on Biden’s assertion that U.S. “boots on the ground” are unnecessary to battle terrorists there. But a recent ABC News-Ipsos poll found overwhelming bipartisan support for keeping U.S. forces in Afghanistan until all Americans and Afghan allies who want to leave are able to make it out. Progressives overwhelmingly say they support the president’s decision to end the war, despite misgivings about a costly, painful military withdrawal (The Hill). 


The Hill: The United States is expected to rely on unmanned drone strikes for future military operations in Afghanistan. 


The Washington Post: In politics, Afghanistan is a dividing line. A Pew Research Center survey conducted before the end of Kabul evacuations found support for the U.S. troop withdrawal but criticism of Biden’s exit. Close to half of Democratic respondents rated the president’s performance positively before his Tuesday deadline, while just 7 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents approved.


The president did not use his speech to describe what comes next for Afghanistan or the Taliban fighters who seized control, but he repeated his blunt warning to ISIS-K terrorists in the country, who he says are responsible for Thursday’s deaths of 13 U.S. service members in a suicide blast at the Kabul airport. “To ISIS-K, we are not done with you yet,” Biden warned. “We will not forgive or forget,” he added, repeating his vow to “hunt” for all those responsible to ensure the United States makes Islamic State militants “pay the ultimate price.”


Reuters: With Kabul airport closed, fearful Afghans rush for borders with Pakistan and Iran.


The New York Times: Faced with risks of famine and financial collapse, the Taliban spent a day celebrating victory and called for international engagement. And the United States faces a choice to shun or tolerate the group.


The Hill: U.S. service members injured in last week’s deadly attack in Kabul are recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.


The president insisted again that the two-decades-long war had mistakenly “morphed” from a goal of crushing al Qaeda after the attacks of 9/11 to nation building in Afghanistan, a country in which he said the United States has no prevailing national security interest. He described the toll and tragedies of the long U.S. military commitment to Afghanistan but not any gains.


“Everything had changed,” he said of the choice he believes he inherited from three of his predecessors, including former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden Supreme Court study panel unanimously approves final report To advance democracy, defend Taiwan and Ukraine Press: GOP freak show: Who's in charge? MORE at a time when Biden served as vice president, and former President TrumpDonald TrumpSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Crenshaw slams House Freedom Caucus members as 'grifters,' 'performance artists' Senate confirms Biden's nominee to lead Customs and Border Protection MORE, who cut a deal with the Taliban to pull U.S. forces out of the country by May of this year.


The Hill: Pakistan said its military killed 11 Islamic State militants in a raid on Tuesday.


The Washington Post: Rep. Markwayne MullinMarkwayne MullinCongress needs to act on the social determinants of health GOP lawmaker says he did not threaten US Embassy staff in Tajikistan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Supreme Court lets Texas abortion law stand MORE (R-Okla.) unsuccessfully tried twice in the course of a week to carry out unauthorized schemes to enter Afghanistan to rescue Americans, seeking assistance from the U.S. ambassador to Tajikistan and the Defense Department in Greece. His requests were rejected as dangerous and potential violations of law. Mullin’s behavior has alarmed top U.S. officials who say he has gone to extraordinary lengths to defy U.S. warnings. Mullin’s current location is a question mark. He has never served in the armed forces.



Taliban fighters in Kabul



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Kamal Bell, Founder of Sankofa Farms


CORONAVIRUS: Although COVID-19 vaccination mandates have become the norm in parts of the country, financial penalties by employers do not seem likely to follow as the U.S. encourages more individuals to get vaccinated.


Delta Air Lines made waves recently by announcing that it will impose fines and penalties for unvaccinated workers. However, The Hill’s Karl Evers-Hillstrom writes that other companies are not following suit. 


Experts tell The Hill that while there’s momentum behind requiring shots, with regular testing as an alternative, businesses seem unwilling to make employees pay out of pocket if they decide against a vaccine. They do warn, though, that companies may have to consider such steps down the line if mandates prove ineffective.


Elsewhere on the vaccine front, European Union (EU) officials announced on Tuesday that 70 percent of adults have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as the 27-state bloc has steadily risen toward the top of vaccinated regions (The New York Times). 


The EU overtook the U.S. among fully vaccinated adults last month, although the U.S. has seen an uptick in inoculations in recent weeks due to the delta variant. According to ABC News, the U.S. saw a 17 percent increase in those receiving their first dose following the full approval of Pfizer and BioNTech’s jab. Roughly 404,000 Americans were receiving a first dose each day in the week prior to the full approval, with that toal jumping to 473,000 per day since then.


The Washington Post: Pace of U.S. vaccinations picks up with 14 million first shots in August.


Reuters: Japan finds another Moderna vial suspected to contain foreign substance.


The Hill: Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerHillicon Valley — Chinese disinformation accounts removed GOP resistance to Biden FCC nominee could endanger board's Democratic majority Bottom line MORE (R-Miss.) says he's recovered from COVID-19. He had been fully vaccinated before testing positive with mild symptoms.


The Hill: Health officials defend boosters after top Food and Drug Administration scientists announce retirements.


> State watch, COVID edition: Individuals will be required to present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test at businesses, including restaurants, bars and gyms, in Honolulu, Hawaii, starting on Sept. 13 (KHON2).



The sun rises in Hawaii



In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom WolfTom WolfPennsylvania K-12 mask mandate rejected by state court Overnight Health Care — Presented by Rare Access Action Project — White House unshaken by mandate ruling Pennsylvania governor allowing school districts to modify, end mask mandate MORE (D) announced a new mask mandate for K-12 and daycare students, with the state’s Department of Health requirement going into effect on Sept. 7. The directive comes after most of the state’s 500 school districts did not impose any sort of restrictions ahead of the school year (The Associated Press). 


In the Sunshine State, the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald reported on Tuesday that the Florida Department of Health changed its reporting to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of death data in a way that is “giving the appearance of a pandemic in decline.” 


The major difference is because of a minor change as Florida changed how it reports deaths. Instead of counting deaths by the date they were recorded, as Florida did until three weeks ago, it now tallies the fatality count by the date the person died, which makes the death count seem like it is on a downward trend at present. As the report notes, that’s because there’s a lag.


WESH 2: Volusia County, Fla., voted last night to adopt a mask mandate.


Max Greenwood, The Hill: Florida’s GOP strongholds buck Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisMore voters would pick Trump over Biden if election were held today: poll 17 Democratic state AGs back challenge to Florida voting limits The Memo: Media obsess over Trump's past as he eyes comeback MORE (R) on virus measures. 


The Hill: Montana governor issues rules requiring schools to consider “parental concerns” about masks.


The Associated Press: Vaccinations in rural India increase amid supply concerns.


GULF COAST RECOVERY: The aftermath of Hurricane Ida has left hundreds of thousands of Louisiana residents without electricity and water, among other necessities, as officials move ahead with clean-up efforts across the region. 


“We have a lot of work ahead of us and no one is under the illusion that this is going to be a short process,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said during a stop as part of an aerial tour to observe the damage left behind by the storm. “We're going to be with you all for the long haul” (The Advocate).


According to The Associated Press, Louisianans lined up at gas stations across the region, with New Orleans announcing locations throughout the city where people could get a meal and momentarily enjoy some air conditioning. The city is also using transit buses to provide additional air conditioning as cooling sites, with drive-thru locations to provide food, water and ice distribution coming today, according to Mayor LaToya CantrellLaToya CantrellNew Orleans lifting mask mandate amid falling infection numbers Curfew on New Orleans lifted following Hurricane Ida Louisiana revokes licenses for nursing homes that sent residents to warehouse during Ida MORE (D).


According to, the power blackout that has lingered since the storm ripped through the city on Sunday could start to be lifted late tonight, far earlier than previous estimates indicated. Entergy New Orleans did not say how much power will be available as that will depend on the number of transmission lines that can be restored in the coming hours and days.


In total, more than 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi were left without power after thousands of miles of power lines were knocked out.



Utility poles lean over a street following Hurricane Ida



Bloomberg: New Orleans on Tuesday imposed a night-time curfew to prevent crime in its darkened streets as power remained out following Hurricane Ida.


On the sporting scene, the New Orleans Saints are expected to stay away from the city for more than a month, meaning that they will likely play their first home game on Sept. 12 at a location that has yet to be determined. 


Saints head coach Sean Payton indicated there’s a good chance the team will “host” that game somewhere on the road, potentially in either Dallas, where the team is practicing, or Houston.


“And we've got enough fans in this area and Houston and certainly from Northern Louisiana that we think that would be something that's very realistic,” Payton said (ESPN).

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! 


A dishonest Afghanistan accounting, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board.


Joe Biden’s critics lost Afghanistan, by Ross Douthat, columnist, The New York Times.



The House will meet at noon on Sept. 3 for a pro forma session. The full House will not be active until Sept. 20. ... McCarthy speaks today at the Nixon Presidential Library in California about House Republicans’ foreign policy agenda. 


The Senate convenes on Friday at 1:30 a.m. for a pro forma session. Senators are expected back in Washington on Sept. 13.


The president and Vice President Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. The president will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the White House at 2 p.m. The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant and Laura Kelly report that the two presidents are expected to talk about Russia’s aggression as the U.S. commits $60 million in military aid to Ukraine. Biden and Harris will receive a weekly economic briefing at 4:30 p.m. Biden will also be briefed by his homeland security team about hurricane recovery in the Gulf Coast. 


U.S. special presidential envoy for climate John KerryJohn KerryClimate policies propel a growing dysfunction of Western democracies Kerry calls out countries that need to 'step up' on climate change Those on the front lines of climate change should be empowered to be central to its solution MORE was in Tokyo on Tuesday and flew to China overnight to promote global efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions (Bloomberg News and CNBC).  


The White House press briefing is scheduled at 1 p.m. 


The Washington Post Live hosts Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenBiden tries to tamp down tensions with Putin call Biden administration resists tougher Russia sanctions in Congress GOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions MORE (D-N.H.), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, for a 2 p.m. discussion about the future of Afghan women. Information HERE.


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



JEOPARDY! THE SEQUEL: Mike Richards, criticized for alleged past comments about women, Jewish people and poor people, will no longer be executive producer for “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune.” “We had hoped that when Mike stepped down from the host position at ‘Jeopardy!’ it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties we have all experienced these last few weeks. That clearly has not happened,” Sony Pictures Television executive Suzanne Prete said on Tuesday. Richards was one of several guest hosts who helmed the show after former longtime host Alex Trebek died in November. Sony, which produces the show, has returned to searching for a permanent host of the popular syndicated quiz show (NBC News).


POLITICS: Democrats are pouring late money into the race to save California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomAlarm grows over smash-and-grab robberies amid holiday season Newsom pledges increased spending on busting retail crime rings The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks up bright side beneath omicron's cloud MORE (D) in next month’s recall election (The Hill). … A slew of potential 2024 Republican presidential candidates are descending on Iowa, testing the political waters three years out from the state’s next presidential caucuses. Former President Trump is slated to hold a rally in the Hawkeye State in the near future after he garnered the attention of campaign watchers, hiring two Republican operatives in Iowa during August. Meanwhile, Sens. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonGOP senators introduce bill targeting Palestinian 'martyr payments' White House announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics Demand Justice launches ad campaign backing Biden nominee who drew GOP pushback MORE (R-Ark.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMcConnell faces GOP pushback on debt deal Democrats seek to avoid internal disputes over Russia and China GOP senators introduce bill targeting Palestinian 'martyr payments' MORE (R-Texas) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio calls on Airbnb to delist some properties in China's Xinjiang region Democrats seek to avoid internal disputes over Russia and China GOP senators introduce bill targeting Palestinian 'martyr payments' MORE (R-Fla.) have already or plan to campaign alongside local officials in the near future (The Hill). … Federal authorities have charged a Florida developer in connection with an alleged scheme to extort $25 million from the father of Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzCrenshaw slams House Freedom Caucus members as 'grifters,' 'performance artists' Press: GOP freak show: Who's in charge? McCarthy faces headaches from far-right House GOP MORE’s (R-Fla.) in exchange for the promise of a presidential pardon for any potential crimes from the FBI probe into sex trafficking allegations against the lawmaker (The Hill).


LIVE LONGER: Reducing global air pollution levels to meet the World Health Organization’s guidelines would boost average life expectancy by 2.2 years, a new study has found (The Hill).


TECH: Facebook will consider negative user feedback to reduce political content in the platform’s News Feed, according to the company on Tuesday. The update is part of Facebook’s revisions to its previously announced plan to cut down on political noise, having initiated the effort in February. Facebook added that it has learned that “some engagement signals” are better at indicating what posts users find valuable (The Hill).



Facebook logo is pictured on a laptop screen



And finally … It’s worth remembering that 72 journalists were killed in Afghanistan over the past 20 years, according to The Associated Press (UNESCO tallies 80). Seven journalists died in Afghanistan this year. 


In July, Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters photographer Danish Siddiqui, 38, was killed on assignment during a clash between Taliban fighters and the Afghan army. Siddiqui, (pictured below during a vigil in India, his home country), had been embedded with the Afghan commandos in Kandahar. He was the first foreign reporter to be killed in the conflict since U.S. and international forces began withdrawing from the country in May and the Taliban began a sweeping military offensive that ended this week (The New York Times). Siddiqui died after he was left behind when Afghan special forces were in retreat, Reuters reported.


ISIS-K adherents in May claimed responsibility for killing three female Afghan media workers employed by Enikass, a Jalalabad television station, targeting them because of their employment and their gender. Mursal Wahidi, 25, Sadia Sadat, 20, and Shahnaz Raofi, 20, helped record voice-overs for foreign programs (The New York Times). 



Candles are placed by journalists next to the portrait of Reuters journalist Danish Siddiqui


--Updated at 6:52 a.m.