The Hill’s Morning Report — Debating the GOP debate
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There is no shortage of advice swirling around the GOP presidential contenders ahead of next week’s debate. The war-gaming is endless. Memos have been leaked. Advisers are whispering, posting their thoughts and showing up in TV studios with their wisdom.
What to say and do if former President Trump is a no-show, as he suggests he will be, or makes a surprise appearance in Milwaukee as both the party’s frontrunner and precedent-setting criminal defendant?
CNN reports that Trump is mulling how he might be absent on Wednesday while also taking some of the wind out of his rivals’ sails. Counterprogramming? A live interview? With whom? The former president was busy on Thursday, appearing on “Fox & Friends” and Fox Business. Interviews with conservative media in the past were Trump’s idea of preparation. One unnamed adviser told CNN that Trump needs no practice and has done none.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Thursday during a NewsNation interview on “The Hill” that she believes Trump will overcome his resistance and sign the party’s required loyalty pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee.
“I have a feeling if he wants to be on the debate stage, he’s going to sign that pledge,” she said. “He could still change his mind.”
Karl Rove, a GOP strategist and Fox News contributor who advised former President George W. Bush, told the network that if he were Trump, he’d get on the debate stage (The Hill).
“This is where you get to demonstrate, ‘I am the leader and I will remain the leader,’” said Rove, a Trump critic. “If he doesn’t show up, there are going to be people who say to themselves, ‘Didn’t he tell us, didn’t he mock Joe Biden for not debating and hasn’t he said he was the world’s greatest debater?’”
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who anticipates being pummeled by fellow debaters in Milwaukee and is searching for a jolt of momentum amid his slipping poll numbers, had no comment Thursday when The New York Times reported on memos that outlined debate tips for the governor, which were posted to a website by a firm behind the Never Back Down super PAC helping the campaign.
DeSantis was advised to “take a sledgehammer” to Vivek Ramaswamy, the political newcomer who is rising in the polls, according to the memos. He should “defend Donald Trump” when former New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie inevitably attacks the former president. And he needs to “attack Joe Biden and the media” no less than three to five times, according to the advice.
The documents suggest that DeSantis could say that Trump’s time has passed, and that the governor should be seen by voters watching the debate as “carrying the torch” for the movement Trump inspired.
The tips are so detailed and strategy-heavy that it appears that the super PAC, which recently had a top official, David Polyansky, leave for the campaign, is trying to dictate how the candidate should conduct himself on the debate stage, the Times reported.
Politico Magazine: The brawling bard of the debate stage trying to save DeSantis.
Meanwhile, House Republicans have hearings in mind for Capitol Hill with the goal of weakening President Biden’s political prospects while criticizing members of his administration.
The House Oversight and Accountability Committee is investigating the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan ordered by Biden in 2021 (The Hill). The State Department, in response to a request from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, agreed to send additional documents to Congress tied to the Afghanistan operation, which left 13 U.S. service members dead in Kabul as U.S. personnel departed.
House Republicans will continue to probe Hunter Biden’s past international business interests while asserting without evidence that the president personally profited from his son’s former clients. Biden has opted not to speak about his son’s troubles but retorted publicly, “I’m honest.”
▪ The Washington Post analysis: How Republicans overhype their Hunter Biden investigation.
▪ The Washington Post: How Hunter Biden’s plea deal collapsed over charges of misdemeanor tax violations and a gun charge. His case is now under investigation by a Justice Department special counsel and is widely expected to go to trial.
Not to be outdone, the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray to testify about alleged collusion and coercion with social media companies (The Hill). The attorney general and FBI director have denied any wrongdoing.
▪ The Independent: In the 2024 Democratic presidential primary, support for candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has fallen 3.5 percentage points, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released this week.
▪ The Hill: Gender-affirming health care havens have cropped up in Midwestern cities in defiance of some laws.
LEADING THE DAY
© Associated Press / Alex Brandon | President Biden on Wednesday talked to reporters.
Biden will host Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol at Camp David today, marking the first time the three nations’ leaders will hold a stand-alone meeting to discuss trilateral issues as threats in the region — notably from China and North Korea — are drawing the United States and its two most important Asian allies closer together.
Biden, Kishida and Yoon are expected to affirm publicly for the first time that their nations’ security is linked, and commit to consulting each other in the event of a regional security crisis. Analysts told The Washington Post that while the meeting will not result in a formal collective defense pact, it will still send a powerful political message to Beijing and Pyongyang.
“The message is, the three can’t be divided and conquered,” Danny Russel, a former assistant secretary of State for Asia, now vice president for international studies at the Asia Society Policy Institute, told the Post. “And that as powerful as the United States military is, that power is increasingly magnified by the strength of what Japan and [South] Korea contribute.”
The Hill’s Laura Kelly breaks down four key things to know about the summit.
▪ The New York Times: Biden is hosting the leaders of Japan and South Korea at Camp David as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spurs them to rapidly mend relations.
▪ Reuters: Biden chose Camp David for the first U.S.-Japan-South Korea summit because it has often been used to symbolize newfound or hard-won friendship, according to an administration official.
Next week, Biden and first lady Jill Biden will visit Hawaii on Monday to observe the impact of the Maui fires and join the state in mourning the loss of life and land that has occurred across the island. The president, first lady, and Gov. Josh Green (D) will meet with first responders, survivors and federal, state and local officials. In a brief video message aired on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday, Biden said the federal government has already sent hundreds of emergency personnel, thousands of meals, and essential supplies such as cots and blankets to the devastated town, where some 2,200 buildings were destroyed on Aug. 8 (Lahaina News and Reuters).
“We will be with you for as long as it takes, I promise you,” the president said. “Already from the darkness and the smoke and the ash, we see the light of hope and strength.”
The visit comes after Biden drew criticism from Republicans for not responding sooner; the president said he did not want his arrival to interfere with emergency relief efforts. He skirted questions about the topic Thursday, telling a reporter “not now” when asked for details regarding the trip (New York Post). The president was originally scheduled to fly directly from Camp David to Lake Tahoe, Nev., at the conclusion of this week’s summit and stay through Aug. 24; his trip to Maui will delay that vacation (Las Vegas Review-Journal).
▪ The Washington Post: Maui survivors say government help still lags.
▪ NBC News: Hawaii’s attorney general is asking a third-party organization to assess the wildfire response.
▪ The Hill: Maui official explains why sirens weren’t activated during wildfire evacuations.
White House officials have been holding meetings on Capitol Hill with a small but influential group of Democratic senators, updating them on the details of ongoing diplomatic negotiations with Israeli and Saudi leaders. It is part of an ongoing effort to quietly build support for any Senate vote that would be needed to cement a potential pact. Administration officials say Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is demanding a new security relationship with the United States as part of any deal to normalize relations with Israel. Details are murky but any new treaty with Saudi Arabia would require support from two-thirds of the Senate — a difficult hurdle to clear (The New York Times).
➤ TRUMP WORLD
Trump canceled a Monday “news conference” he had announced as an opportunity to release a 100-page report that he claims would bolster his assertions of voter fraud in Georgia in 2020. His lawyers thought it unwise and urged the former president not to hold the event (The Hill). Meanwhile, District Judge Aileen Cannon canceled tentative plans to hold an Aug. 25 hearing on a protective order for classified evidence in the Mar-a-Lago documents case. Cannon said in an order Thursday that the proceeding will take place under seal at a different time “and place to discuss sensitive, security-related issues concerning classified discovery” (CNN).
Trump’s lawyers are proposing an April 2026 trial in the federal case over his efforts to block the transfer of power after the 2020 election. That start date would fall more than two years after the Justice Department’s proposal of Jan. 2, 2024 (The Hill and The New York Times).
The former president faces multiple trials in the coming months, all while the 2024 campaign season gears up. PBS NewsHour explains why scheduling many trials for one defendant is complicated, and Axios breaks down how Trump’s court dates will disrupt his campaign calendar.
▪ NPR: Trump’s tweets count as an “overt act” in the Georgia case. What does that mean?
▪ The Hill: Rather than move away from the rhetoric that got him into legal trouble and has led to calls for some in the party to focus on the future, Trump has doubled down, repeating his claims that the 2020 election was “rigged” and “stolen.”
▪ CNBC: Trump keeps sounding off on his indictments. His attacks could hasten the criminal trials.
The Georgia indictment against Trump lists 30 unindicted co-conspirators who are alleged to have aided in various efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. The individuals were not named or charged, but descriptions contained within the charging documents make many of their identities clear — and some are also known to have been cooperating with prosecutors. The Hill’s Zach Schonfeld breaks down what we know about the 30 unindicted co-conspirators.
▪ Reuters: Georgia law enforcement is probing threats after Trump grand jury was identified online.
▪ Fox Business: Trump warns the U.S. dollar is losing its dominance: “Our country is going to hell.”
▪ The Hill: Trump knocked “Fox & Friends” and the photos the network used of him as his debate decision looms.
Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes’s (D) office is conducting an ongoing investigation of an alleged attempt to use alternate electors after the 2020 presidential election to benefit former Trump, CBS News reports. Arizona is one of seven states that Trump lost in 2020 where his allies allegedly attempted to create a fraudulent slate of electors. It is not clear how long the investigation has been underway, nor is its status or its scope.
“We are taking this investigation very seriously, very solemnly,” Mayes told local media Wednesday, adding “we’re going to do it on our timetable as justice demands.”
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
The West African bloc ECOWAS is ready to intervene militarily in Niger should diplomatic efforts to reverse July’s coup fail, a senior official told army chiefs who were meeting in Ghana on Thursday. Niger military officers deposed democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26 and have defied calls from the United Nations, ECOWAS and Western powers to reinstate him.
Niger has strategic importance beyond West Africa because of its role as a hub for foreign troops involved in the fight against Islamist insurgents in the Sahel region and its uranium and oil reserves (Reuters).
CNN: The Biden administration is searching for ways to keep U.S. forces in Niger to continue anti-terror operations despite the overthrowing of the government.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday signed legislation extending martial law and a general military mobilization until mid-November, as Russian forces continued to bombard regions across the country. Parliamentary elections scheduled to take place this fall would have to be postponed if martial law is not lifted by then.
While many countries manage to hold elections during wartime, Ukrainian officials say this is impossible, given that the country is fighting for its existence, with roughly 20 percent of it occupied by Russian forces and millions of people displaced (The Washington Post).
▪ The New York Times: The first civilian cargo ship in a month leaves Ukrainian waters safely.
▪ The Hill: The U.S. sanctions four Russian operatives.
▪ The Washington Post: Russian spy agencies built a network of amateurs for operations including sabotage, assassination and arson — plots disrupted by Polish authorities.
▪ The Wall Street Journal: The ghost fleet helping Russia evade sanctions and pursue its war in Ukraine. Turkish companies have bought dozens of tankers that ship Russian oil.
▪ Politico: The U.S. gives final approval allowing F-16 training for Ukraine to begin.
The New York Times explores how narco traffickers unleashed violence and chaos in Ecuador. A presidential candidate’s assassination has focused global attention on the country’s extraordinary bloodshed fueled by powerful international and domestic crime groups.
▪ The Hill: North Korea is preparing ICBM tests and a spy satellite launch, according to South Korean intelligence.
▪ Reuters: Why is China not rushing to fix its ailing economy?
▪ CNN: The entire capital city of Canada’s Northwest Territories has been ordered to evacuate as hundreds of wildfires scorch the region, officials say.
▪ The Associated Press: As glaciers melt, a new study seeks protection of the ecosystems that emerge in their place.
© Associated Press / Matthias Schrader | The Rhone Glacier near Goms, Switzerland, in June.
■ Where is Biden’s Asia trade deal? by The Washington Post editorial board.
■ GOP presidential candidates are fanning the flames of China’s war rhetoric, by Yint Hmu, opinion contributor, The Hill.
WHERE AND WHEN
? Former first lady Rosalynn Carter is 96 today and will celebrate at home in Plains, Ga. Happy birthday! (The Associated Press).
The House will convene for a pro forma session at 10:30 a.m. Lawmakers return to Washington Sept. 11.
The Senate is out until Sept. 5 and will hold a pro forma session at 1 p.m.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 8 a.m. Biden will host a trilateral summit with the leaders of Japan and South Korea at Camp David in Maryland. He will greet President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea and Prime Minister Kishida Fumio of Japan at 11 a.m. The trio will meet at 11:15 a.m. Biden will host a press conference with the two leaders at 3 p.m. Biden will depart Camp David this evening and travel with first lady Jill Biden from Joint Base Andrews to Reno, Nev., bound for arrival tonight at Lake Tahoe.
The vice president is in Los Angeles and has no public events.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken at 11:15 a.m. joins the trilateral Camp David meeting with Biden and the leaders of Japan and South Korea and will attend their 3 p.m. news conference.
The Biden administration’s effort to provide free COVID-19 shots to uninsured Americans will not start at retail pharmacies until mid-October, weeks after the government plans to make an updated version of the vaccine available to the broader public. The gap in timing, which comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations have ticked up in recent weeks, means that millions without health coverage will not be able to immediately get a no-cost vaccine at convenient locations, including CVS and Walgreens (Politico).
MarketWatch: Moderna says its updated COVID-19 vaccine is effective against the Eris variant, which is in wide circulation. The shot significantly boosted neutralizing antibodies against the Eris, or EG.5, variant, as well as the Fornax FL 1.5.1 variant that is starting to surge in parts of the U.S., the company said while announcing clinical trial data.
Seniors — not millennials or members of Gen Z — are the fastest-growing group of cannabis users, federal data show. As The Hill’s Daniel de Visé reports, the population of over-65s who have used marijuana has tripled in a decade, partly due to the aging of baby boomers, who came of age at a time when many young people smoked pot. Other factors include the legalization movement and attendant de-stigmatization of marijuana.
▪ Bloomberg News: The struggling marijuana industry eyes Ohio for a much-needed boost.
▪ The Hill: Ohio advocates who want to legalize recreational marijuana gathered enough signatures to get the issue on the November ballot.
▪ Healthline: Teens using marijuana are two to four times more likely to develop mental health disorders.
▪ The Hill: New E. coli strain blamed for multiple outbreaks of foodborne illness.
▪ The New York Times: “Miracles occurred that night”: The fate of beloved pets is a wrenching concern after fire destroyed Lahaina on Maui.
➤ ICYMI: INTRIGUING READS
© Associated Press / Dmitry Serebryakov | Detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in court in Moscow in June.
■ Russia has shown scant interest in prisoner swaps for dozens held in U.S. prisons, by Dustin Volz and Louise Radnofsky, The Wall Street Journal.
■ A tiny cabin, a little island and a big change: “Am I crazy?” by Steven Kurutz, The New York Times.
■ Want to buy this painting? First, you’ll have to audition, by M.H. Miller, T Magazine.
■ Let Venice sink, by Catherine Bennett, WIRED.
■ The looming Supreme Court nullification crisis, by Garrett Epps, Washington Monthly.
© Associated Press / AP photo | Women advocates for the right to vote picketed outside the White House gate in 1918.
And finally … Bravo to Morning Report Quiz winners! Today marks the 103rd anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, so we looked for some smart guesses about women’s right to vote in America.
Here’s who went 4/4 (plus *bonus-point victors): *Randall Patrick, *Paul Harris, *Jaina Mehta, Stanley Wasser, *Lynn Gardner, *Lou Tisler, Ki Harvey, *Patrick Kavanagh, *Richard Baznik, *John van Santen, Mark Roeddiger, Steve James and *Robert Bradley.
They knew that then-President Woodrow Wilson, who was worried about upcoming elections, told senators during a 1918 floor speech that giving female citizens the right to vote would deliver “justice to women.”
For decades, men offered many reasons to oppose constitutional voting rights for women, including that it was up to the states, that women were emotionally and intellectually incapable of reasoned decision, and that relenting to the “petticoat brigade” after years of lobbying would be emasculating. The best answer was “all of the above.”
The U.S. women’s suffrage movement borrowed from Britain the visually impactful idea of dressing in white.
Tennessee was the 36th and scale-tipping vote to approve women’s suffrage, making ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution possible.
Bonus point: * Tennessee Rep. Harry T. Burn, 24, earned a spot in the history books by backing suffrage in 1919 after his mother wrote him a letter saying, “don’t forget to be a good boy,” with a recommendation that he vote for ratification.
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