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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Today 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 daily co-creators, so find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and recommend the Morning Report to your friends.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths as of this morning, 176,809.
Former Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday he would “absolutely” consider serving two terms as president, if elected (The Hill).
His response during an ABC News interview amended his previous reference to potentially serving as a “transition president” following the Trump era. Biden will be 78 on Nov. 20 and would be the oldest candidate elected president. If he ran for reelection in 2024, he would be 81.
ABC’s David Muir asked if “transition president” meant Biden was committing himself to a single term.
“No, it doesn’t mean that,” Biden responded.
“So you’re leaving open the possibility you’ll serve eight years?” Muir asked.
“Absolutely,” Biden said.
During the interview, the candidate acknowledged that age and mental acuity are legitimate considerations for voters in 2020. It was reported last year that Biden signaled to aides that he’d serve a single term, if elected, elevating the importance of his vice presidential pick (Politico). The former vice president released a summary of his medical history on Dec. 17, which described him as “fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency” (The Hill).
President Trump is 74 and has nicknamed his opponent “Sleepy Joe” while his supporters repeatedly taunt Biden as dimmed by age and all but hidden away by campaign aides in his Delaware basement in front of a teleprompter.
“Watch me,” Biden told ABC during an interview conducted last week (The Hill).
Biden and Trump are scheduled to meet during the first of three debates on Sept. 29.
Politico: Biden also told ABC he’d lock down the country if the spread of the coronavirus warranted it.
ABC News: Biden to “Good Morning America” on his “you ain’t black” comment made on a radio show in May: “I shouldn’t have said it,” but argues there’s a “fundamental difference” with Trump on the issue of race. “I wouldn’t be here without the African American community.”
Fox News: Former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake joins more than two dozen former Republican members of Congress to launch “Republicans for Biden.”
Today, Trump and the GOP are prepared to kick off the party’s national convention in a sprint to try to defeat Biden in November. The incumbent president trails in national and battleground polls against his challenger amid the headwinds of a struggling economy and a deadly pandemic.
The GOP will officially renominate the president as part of a week-long MAGA celebration that will include events in Charlotte, N.C., the White House, in downtown Washington and at Fort McHenry in Baltimore. The festivities follow an all-virtual Democratic convention last week and a post-convention bump in polls for Biden and running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), according to surveys released on Sunday.
As The Hill’s Brett Samuels writes, Trump once again enters the GOP convention as the underdog, facing an increasingly narrow path to reelection as he has found himself on the defensive in multiple states and has had issues defining Biden as effectively as he did Hillary Clinton four years ago.
Trump and his allies maintain that the national and state polls paint a different picture than what they see internally, pointing to an intensity among the president’s base they believe is unrivaled on the other side of the aisle. However, the scene is vastly different than it was in 2016. Biden has a net-positive favorability rating, which was not the case for Clinton, and the coronavirus has ravaged the country, tanking the economy, which was among the president’s top selling points prior to March.
Niall Stanage: The Memo: Trump bets it all on the base.
Peter Baker, The New York Times: After another week of setbacks, Trump looks to change the story line.
The Washington Post: Trump looks to Republican convention for campaign reboot.
NBC News: White House transforms from people’s house to campaign venue.
On Sunday, the Trump campaign rolled out the list of speakers set to appear during each night of the convention, headlined by Trump’s speech on the South Lawn of the White House (seen below) on Thursday.
Axios’s Jonathan Swan reported that Trump is expected to make appearances during each night of the confab and that he and his family are set to play starring roles throughout the week.
Outside of Trump, the initial list of speakers features multiple GOP heavyweights who are possible contenders for the 2024 GOP nomination whether Trump wins or loses in November, including Vice President Pence, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).
Just as notable is the list of those who are not on the list, including a horde of other potential 2024 possibles, such as Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). Florida is a must-win state for Trump, but at the moment, the state’s governor and senators do not have speaking roles at the convention. Also omitted are Senate Republicans who face tough contests in November — except for Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) — and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a potential party leader in a post-Trump GOP and the highest ranking woman in the House Republican Conference, who has not shied away from criticizing the president on occasion (The Washington Post).
Like its Democratic counterpart the week prior, the Republican National Convention is taking on a completely different feel as a result of COVID-19, which has forced the parties to rely on virtual events as large gatherings are unable to be held for the foreseeable future. As Morgan Chalfant notes, Trump hasn’t held a traditional rally since the infamous June event in Tulsa, Okla., forcing him to find other ways to get out his message and excite his supporters. In recent months, Trump has turned to official White House events and appearances in either the Rose Garden or the James J. Brady Briefing Room to pan Biden and Democrats or to roll out parts of his agenda.
The Associated Press: Trump delivered on some big 2016 promises, but others are unmet.
While Trump garners the lion’s share of attention, the week will also provide an opportunity for Pence to step into the spotlight as he is set to deliver his acceptance speech as the vice presidential nominee on Wednesday night.
The theme of Wednesday’s programming is “Land of Heroes,” with the vice president likely to pay homage to front-line workers and the country’s history during his address from Fort McHenry, the latter a nod to the campaign’s messaging that a Democratic win would fundamentally change the country.
As Brett Samuels reports, Trump allies and sources close to the campaign acknowledge that Pence does not excite voters in the same way Trump does, or the way Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) may invigorate the Biden campaign. But Pence has remained a steadfast ally of the president, who has returned the favor, with the VP emerging once again as a key player in the quest for a second term.
The Washington Post: White House counselor Kellyanne Conway will leave the West Wing at the end of August after working with Trump since he was a candidate for the presidency. Her husband, conservative lawyer George Conway, will step back from his role with the anti-Trump political action committee the Lincoln Project, reports Ashley Parker. The couple said they want to spend more time with their four children. George Conway tweeted that he continues to “passionately” support the defeat of the president in November, but will be doing less tweeting.
So I’m withdrawing from @ProjectLincoln to devote more time to family matters. And I’ll be taking a Twitter hiatus.
Needless to say, I continue to support the Lincoln Project and its mission. Passionately.
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) August 24, 2020
The Daily Beast: In the last four years, Trump son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner and Russian sovereign wealth fund CEO Kirill Dmitriev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, have communicated in private about ways the U.S. and Russia could work together.
The New York Times: How Stephen Bannon’s wall group used Trump ties and social media to raise millions of dollars in donations for a project that prosecutors allege included fraud.
Evan Osnos, The New Yorker: Can Biden’s center hold?
The Hill’s roundup of Sunday talk shows: Leaked audio of Trump’s sister reverberates.
The Washington Post: White House officials and the Trump campaign on Sunday dismissed secret audio in which Trump’s sister says “you can’t trust him.”
A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK
Facebook launches new Voting Information Center
Facebook is building the largest voter information effort in US history, starting with the new Voting Information Center, where you can find the latest resources about voting in the 2020 election. Our goal is to help register 4 million voters.
LEADING THE DAY
POLITICS & ISSUES: The GOP convention is choreographed to try to surmount Trump’s most prominent vulnerability among likely voters in all parties: criticism of his handling of the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic has dramatically altered the course of the presidential race and raised serious questions about the president’s leadership, reports The Hill’s Jonathan Easley.
Trump blames the coronavirus on China, state governors and Democrats. He has said it will “disappear” and that the heartbreaking U.S. death toll “is what it is.” Trump has championed unproven cures, embraced quack medical advice over the nation’s infectious disease experts and transformed mask-wearing to curb the spread of the virus into a partisan badge of individual freedom. Before the end of April, he urged the economy and schools to reopen, only to watch as the United States experienced a summer surge of transmissions and tens of thousands of deaths. As Americans move indoors this fall and the flu season begins, public health experts warn the pandemic will worsen.
> The economy: The president this week will play up what polls suggest is his strong suit against Biden: the economy (The Hill). Trump predicts strong economic rebounds in the third and fourth quarters, just early voting begins in many states. Economists, however, expect unemployment to hover near 10 percent this fall. About 7 in 10 Americans say the country is on the wrong track, and Trump’s job approval throughout his first term has remained well below 50 percent.
> Demographically speaking: The Charlotte, N.C., convention program will attempt to reach female voters, especially white suburban women, who supported Trump in 2016 but have cooled to the president in 2020, reports The Hill’s Julia Manchester. Issues the GOP will try to message to female voters are safety, health and law enforcement. Trump, seeking to frighten some voters, has suggested that American suburbs under a President Biden could fill up with low-income housing and minorities relocating from the cities.
> Beyond COVID-19, health care remains a big election issue: Trump is eager to champion a policy achievement on prescription drugs before November and has turned to executive action. Although he said he’d unveil a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) this month and the administration has challenged the ACA’s constitutionality all the way to the Supreme Court, his plan is a mystery. He has issued executive orders on price transparency and drug pricing, neither of which is expected to result in immediate changes, and he has pledged that Republicans will protect insurance requirements under ObamaCare that cover pre-existing health conditions (The Hill).
The Associated Press: Trump has delivered on some big 2016 promises (two Supreme Court justices, a crackdown on illegal immigration and construction of more than 200 miles of border wall, plus keeping the United States out of foreign wars). But other pledges are unmet.
Speaking of the Supreme Court, The Hill’s John Kruzel reports that GOP candidates are using the high court as a campaign issue that has plenty of combustible material to work with.
> Forecasts, bets and preparations: Some in the business world are trying to prepare for a possible blue sweep in Washington in November, meaning one-party rule in the White House, House and Senate beginning next year, reports The Hill’s Niv Elis.
> Battleground states: The outcome of the presidential election depends on six key swing states: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. All six face challenges to prepare for mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic (The Hill).
> State Watch: Redistricting control is on the line in state elections (The Hill).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CONGRESS: Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is expected to face fierce blowback from House Democrats when he appears before the House Oversight and Reform Committee over cuts and changes at the United States Postal Service today.
DeJoy is making his second appearance before a congressional committee in four days, having testified on Friday to the GOP-led Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. As The Hill’s Olivia Beavers reports, the top Postal Service official is expected to repeat the same opening statement to the House panel that he delivered on Friday about changes to the agency.
House Democrats have clamored to hear from DeJoy in recent weeks, with some alleging that DeJoy — a rare non career Postal Service official — is instituting a series of changes in order to aid the president’s reelection chances. Among those changes are nixing overtime for mail carriers and removing some mail-sorting machines and ballot drop boxes.
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation the House passed on Saturday with support from 26 Republicans that would prevent the Postal Service from making any changes to its operations or levels of service that it had in place at the start of 2020.
“It makes absolutely no sense to implement these dramatic changes in the middle of a pandemic, less than three months before the November elections,” Maloney said during a recent floor debate.
The Hill: White House chief of staff Mark Meadows: Democrats’ Postal Service funding bill meant to make a political statement.
Reuters: Republicans, Democrats trade blame for stalled U.S. coronavirus aid legislation.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: [email protected] and [email protected]. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Betting on better drug trials to beat COVID-19, by Scott Gottlieb and Mark McClellan, opinion contributors, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/34mk6xk
We’re doing our best with Zoom. But we’ll still need offices — and each other, by Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/34lXMnw
A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK
How Facebook is preparing for the US 2020 election
— Launched new Voting Information Center
— More than tripled our safety and security teams to 35,000 people
— Implemented 5-step political ad verification
— Providing greater political ad transparency
WHERE AND WHEN
The House will meet at 10 a.m. on Tuesday for a pro forma session. The House Oversight and Reform Committee today will hear virtual testimony from the postmaster general at 10 a.m. regarding U.S. Postal Service operations.
The Senate meets at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday for a pro forma session. The full Senate is scheduled to meet on Sept. 8.
The president flies to Asheville, N.C., this morning to deliver remarks related to the coronavirus and the economy ahead of his cameo appearance at the start of the Republican National Convention (North State Journal). Today’s televised, in-person GOP convention roll call at 9 a.m. will include brief nomination speeches. The president will be back at the White House by 5 p.m.
INVITATION: The Hill has a new virtual 2020 Conventions Hub! Be part of digital events and get the latest news about the Republican National Convention. The Big Questions Morning Briefings tap the expertise of pollsters, party leaders and campaign veterans, moderated by The Hill’s editors each day through both conventions.
- JOIN conversations about the latest political developments shaping the country. RSVP for The Big Questions RNC morning virtual briefings daily at 11 a.m. EDT, featuring political analysts and editors who discuss up-to-the-minute trends and 2020 election developments.
- PLUS, The Hill’s special virtual afternoon briefings go deeper on key issues, including Energy & National Security TODAY. Check out the full schedule and RSVP!
➔ Coronavirus: Therapy: On the eve of his convention, Trump on Sunday announced emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of convalescent plasma as a promising therapy in the early stages of COVID-19 infection in patients who are not on artificial ventilation. The use of plasma taken from the blood of patients who have been infected by the coronavirus and recovered contains antibodies to the virus and has been shown in new studies to reduce fatalities by 35 percent, considered a “major advance” in the treatment of the virus, the administration said.
The Associated Press: Other health experts said convalescent plasma needs more study. A rift has opened between the White House and medical specialists at the FDA about declaring more breakthroughs and successes against the coronavirus with greater speed before November.
Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar joined Trump in urging Americans who have recovered from infection with COVID-19 to consider donating their blood plasma through local donation sites. “Know if you donate plasma, you could save a life,” Azar said during a presentation in the White House press briefing room.
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn expressed confidence in the patient safety and effectiveness of convalescent plasma, an old technique used in medicine to boost immune defenses against infection. The government says it works to reduce fatalities while treating patients younger than 80 and in the earliest stages of infection.
STAT News explainer: Is convalescent plasma therapy safe and effective? The FDA’s emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma effectively licenses doctors across the country to begin treating COVID-19 patients by injecting the purified, antibody-rich plasma.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, recently intervened to discourage the FDA from issuing an emergency authorization for convalescent plasma, citing concerns about weak data. On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that the authorization for plasma therapy was on hold until more data could be reviewed. Neither Fauci nor Collins, who have no authority over the FDA, appeared at the White House with Trump, Azar and Hahn on Sunday. The FDA previously approved hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 compassionate use therapy and later withdrew the emergency authorization because it was deemed ineffective after numerous studies.
> Schools: In addition to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, East Carolina University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte are switching to remote instruction just a few weeks after the start of the academic year because of outbreaks of COVID-19 among students on campuses (The Hill).
> Coronavirus abroad: In Italy, people coming in from Mediterranean Sea resorts abroad as well as from the Italian island of Sardinia have accounted for a surge of new coronavirus infections. Thousands of travelers are being tested at Italy’s airports and some ports and just weeks before schools are supposed to start, Sunday marked the seventh straight day of increasing new infections (The Associated Press). … South Korea on Sunday saw the 10th consecutive day of triple-digit increases in cases of COVID-19 infection (The Hill). … On Sunday, India topped 3 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus, the result of high-density living, poor hygiene and the lack of (or impossibility of) social distancing. Regional testing has uncovered high percentages of residents with antibodies to COVID-19, indicating many cases of infection that are going undetected in India (The Associated Press).
➔ Environment: The Trump administration is expected to announce today that it is not prepared to grant a permit for a gold and copper mine in Alaska as the firm must address how the mine will not do significant damage to the environment. Multiple high-profile Trump allies and Republicans have opposed the project, including Donald Trump, Jr., saying that it would harm the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay (The Washington Post).
➔ Natural disasters: Gulf Coast residents are preparing for hazardous weather moving up through the Gulf of Mexico as named tropical storms (The Associated Press) and landfall is expected today in Louisiana (The Associated Press). The state is closing its coronavirus testing sites today and Tuesday and officials are warning residents that COVID-19 remains a transmission risk during emergency evacuations (The New York Times). Meanwhile, massive California wildfires killed one man and continue to burn in Northern California today (The Associated Press).
➔ International: Peaceful demonstrations continued to escalate in Minsk on Sunday as protestors briefly gathered near the home of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Protesters donned red and white and marched throughout the Belarusian capital (pictured below) (Reuters). … Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed on Sunday to a 100-day extension of budget talks to avoid setting up a fourth parliamentary election in two years. Netanyahu said that now is not the time to hold another election as the nation continues to grapple with the spread of the novel coronavirus and fallout from an agreement to normalize relations with the United Arab Emirates (The Associated Press). … Siberian doctors said on Monday that they saved the life of Alexei Navalny, a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but indicated that they did not find any trace of poison in his system. The revelation from doctors in Omsk comes after his allies said that he had been poisoned, with him being airlifted to Germany for treatment over the weekend (Reuters).
And finally … Mei Xiang is an international celebrity — an older mom who gave birth on Friday evening on closed-circuit video to a giant panda the size of a squirming hot dog. At age 22, with three previous offspring to her credit (now living in China), Mei is cradling, feeding and caring for her squealing speck of fur-less wonder at the National Zoo in the nation’s capital, and the world seems delighted by the whole thing. So far, so great!
Originally published: 2020-08-24 05:29:07