Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Monday! Our newsletter gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Co-creators are Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver (CLICK HERE to subscribe!). On Twitter, find us at @asimendinger and @alweaver22.
President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are ‘strongest we’ve had so far’ Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE is scrambling to refute criticism about his stewardship of the economy as the rising odds of a recession pose a dire threat to his reelection.
Trump and his top economic aides are on the defensive this week after signals of an impending downturn sent financial markets into shivers last week.
“I don’t think we’re having a recession,” Trump told reporters on Sunday as he returned to Washington after a 10-day break in New Jersey. “We’re doing tremendously well. Our consumers are rich. I gave a tremendous tax cut and they’re loaded up with money.”
The president also tweeted his confidence that sky-is-falling economic predictions are wrong. But he has been nervous enough to privately consult with bank CEOs and market watchers by phone to get their input.
“Our economy is the best in the world, by far,” the president wrote shortly before ending his New Jersey vacation on Sunday and returning to Washington. “Lowest unemployment ever within almost all categories. Poised for big growth after trade deals are completed. Import prices down, China eating Tariffs. Helping targeted Farmers from big Tariff money coming in. Great future for USA!”
Trump has publicly refuted the idea that his tariffs on imports from China raised prices for American consumers, ate away at U.S. farmers’ market share and injected costly uncertainty into U.S. businesses, which were forced to improvise to alter their supply chains. Instead, the president blames Federal Reserve monetary policy, Democrats in Congress and the news media for talk of a recession (The Hill).
While Trump is not responsible for slowing global growth, economists say his trade battles with China and Europe have taken an unmistakable toll. Consumer spending remains the engine of U.S. expansion, and the president was sufficiently anxious about the make-or-break holiday shopping season that he put a hold on additional tariffs on Chinese goods through Dec. 15.
As Niall Stanage reports, the president tells voters again and again that it’s the Trump economy that makes him worthy of a second term. If the U.S. economy contracts, unemployment rises or financial markets nosedive next year, the president’s grip on the White House severely weakens (The Hill).
The Associated Press reported that Trump, susceptible to conspiracy theories and quick to see himself at the center of things, has expressed worries in private about Wall Street but is skeptical about some economic indicators, wondering if the media and establishment figures are manipulating the data to make him look bad, according to two Republicans close to the White House.
The U.S. manufacturing sector, which has a starring role in Trump’s narrative about “America First” economic renewal, is contracting, reports Niv Elis. The sector has already seen two straight quarters of decline, meeting the technical definition of a recession. In 2016, Trump persuaded voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as other industrial states, that shuttered plants would reopen, return to the United States from Mexico and Asia, with jobs and wages in manufacturing recovering in the process. In a world of global competition, robotics, new technologies and cheap international labor, that is not the manufacturing story of 2019 (The Hill).
The New York Times: Is a new recession imminent? Here’s how one could happen.
The Washington Post: American consumers are holding up the global economy, but for how long?
The Associated Press: Economists survey: 34% expect a U.S. recession in 2021.
The Hill: Trump faces crucial decisions on economy, guns.
More administration news … Both The New York Times and The Washington Post published Sunday features about Trump’s hardline immigration adviser, Stephen MillerStephen MillerTop immigration aide experienced ‘jolt of electricity to my soul’ when Trump announced campaign New green card restrictions likely would’ve excluded Trump and Cuccinelli’s ancestors Chris Wallace becomes Trump era’s ‘equal opportunity inquisitor’ MORE. … The New York Times reports an exodus of migrants from Central America is being driven by violence against women, at the same time that the United States seeks to deny those women asylum.
LEADING THE DAY
POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Democratic presidential candidates have found a reliable line of attack in targeting the president throughout this calendar year: criticizing his handling of racially divisive and violent incidents, headlined by those in Charlottesville, Va., and El Paso, Texas.
As Brett Samuels writes, candidates have grown increasingly comfortable labeling Trump a racist or a white supremacist, pointing to his equivocations in the aftermath of the August 2017 Charlottesville white nationalist rally and the similarities between the anti-immigrant manifesto of the alleged El Paso gunman and Trump’s own rhetoric.
“[Trump] has given aid and comfort to white supremacists. He’s done the wink and a nod,” Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTop Sanders adviser: Warren isn’t competing for ‘same pool of voters’ Eight Democratic presidential hopefuls to appear in CNN climate town hall In shift, top CEOs say shareholder value not top goal MORE (D-Mass.) told The New York Times just days after the El Paso shooting that killed 22 people, exhibiting a willingness on the Democratic side to use those terms.
Trump’s reelection campaign believes the allegations against the president reeks of desperation from the group of candidates vying to take on Trump next year.
“For two years, Democrats called President Trump a Russian agent, and now that the Russia Hoax has fallen apart, they’ve moved on to white supremacy,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said.
Dan Balz: Trump has one playbook, and very few plays left in it.
The Washington Post: Former Vice President Dick Cheney to appear at a fundraiser for Trump, RNC.
> Democrats after Cornyn: A slew of Democrats are lining up to challenge Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill’s Morning Report – Trump on defense over economic jitters Democrats keen to take on Cornyn despite formidable challenges The Hill’s Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape MORE (R-Texas) in 2020, showcasing the party’s optimism of flipping a Senate seat in the historically red state despite former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s (D-Texas) decision to forego a second consecutive Senate bid.
O’Rourke’s decision to run for the Democratic presidential nod has sparked intense interest in the race to face Cornyn: Seven Democrats have entered the primary, and one more could join in a state that has not elected a Democratic senator in more than three decades. Headlining the field is MJ Hegar, a military veteran who narrowly lost a House race last year, and Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards.
Democrats are optimistic they can take out Cornyn, who has served in the Senate for nearly two decades after O’Rourke nearly defeated Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump on defense over economic jitters Democrats keen to take on Cornyn despite formidable challenges MORE (R-Texas) last year. Strategists believe the primary field will present a formidable challenger to Cornyn due to its racial, age, and ideological diversity. However, Republicans view the large primary field as an advantage, arguing a contentious primary could bruise the eventual candidate and use up money ahead of the general election (The Hill).
Politico: Michigan emerges as crucial battleground in fight for the Senate.
The Hill: Republicans plot comeback in New Jersey.
> Polling: Anxiety is growing among politicos as they try to figure out the Democratic primary and, more specifically, polling that has shown a consistent top tier and a lack of moving and shaking among the rest of the candidates.
Surveys consistently show five candidates clear from the rest of the field, with former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenEight Democratic presidential hopefuls to appear in CNN climate town hall Hill Reporter Rafael Bernal: Biden tries to salvage Latino Support Biden, Buttigieg bypassing Democratic delegate meeting: report MORE leading, followed by Warren, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTop Sanders adviser: Warren isn’t competing for ‘same pool of voters’ Eight Democratic presidential hopefuls to appear in CNN climate town hall Top aide Jeff Weaver lays out Sanders’s path to victory MORE (I-Vt.) and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisEight Democratic presidential hopefuls to appear in CNN climate town hall Biden, Buttigieg bypassing Democratic delegate meeting: report The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump on defense over economic jitters MORE (D-Calif.) in some order and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegEight Democratic presidential hopefuls to appear in CNN climate town hall Biden, Buttigieg bypassing Democratic delegate meeting: report The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump on defense over economic jitters MORE rounding out the top five.
However, wild variations in the polls in recent days have experts questioning who is up and down, and whether the polls can be trusted as an accurate indicator of the state of the race, as many questioned them in the aftermath of the 2016 election.
Pollsters say the huge field of candidates is a challenge for the industry, which is also dealing with the continued migration away from landlines toward cell phones and online surveys, which some view as unreliable. Pollsters warn that current surveys shouldn’t be taken as a predictor of who will win (The Hill).
The New York Times: Julián Castro’s Obama moment.
More political headlines … Trump affirmed in remarks to reporters on Sunday that Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceThe Hill’s Morning Report – Trump on defense over economic jitters FEC chair calls on Trump to provide evidence of NH voter fraud Five years after Yazidi genocide, US warns ISIS is rebounding MORE will be his running mate in 2020 (Reuters). There had been some speculation that former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyThe Hill’s Morning Report – Trump on defense over economic jitters Haley: ‘Threats of China on full display’ in Hong Kong Juan Williams: Trump’s trouble with women MORE would be a candidate to replace Pence on the ticket (CNN). … Former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen BlancoKathleen BlancoMORE (D) died on Sunday at age 76 (The Associated Press).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CONGRESS: House Judiciary Committee members are cutting their August recess short and are expected to meet to discuss possible action on gun control legislation weeks in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio.
The committee is expected to ready a set of bills for consideration in the House when all lawmakers return to Washington on September 9. The legislation will include a high-capacity magazine ban, a measure to prevent people convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from purchasing firearms and a “red flag” bill to deny guns to those deemed to be a danger to themselves and others (Reuters).
A September 25 hearing on assault weapons is also on the docket for the committee as Democrats up their calls for those bills to be banned (The Hill).
> Cursing in Congress: Profanity — once considered a major no-no among those seeking public office — is now no longer considered an earth-shattering political snafu as it becomes a regular happening among lawmakers.
According to new research by GovPredict, obscene language not including the words “shit” and “f—” has been used at an all-time high by politicians, with 1,225 instances on Twitter so far this year compared to 833 in 2018. GovPredict CEO Emil Pitkin says that the information “shows a stark uptick in the overall usage of curse words by legislators on Twitter” (The Hill).
In a highly-publicized instance in the aftermath of the mass shooting in El Paso, O’Rourke let loose while speaking to reporters, dropping an F-bomb while expressing frustration with the president the news media.
“He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. Members of the press, what the f—?” said O’Rourke, who also dropped a “Jesus Christ” during a Sunday show interview.
> Twitter confusion: Sharing a name with a lawmaker can be a tricky business, particularly when the lawmaker in question is Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingThe Hill’s Morning Report – Trump on defense over economic jitters Steve King says ‘left-wing media’ and GOP leadership owe him apology after rape, incest comments 11 Essential reads you missed this week MORE (R-Iowa).
Steve King, a politics editor at Under the Radar magazine, often doesn’t know immediately what the Iowa Republican says when he draws attention online, but he knows exactly when he says it as notifications begin to flood in from his Twitter account.
“Sometimes I’ll be going about my day and you’ll start to get notifications,” King said. Like others with the same name as a public figure, King will often accidentally be targeted as online critics take to Twitter to call out politicians or debate the day’s latest controversy (The Hill).
INTERNATIONAL: Balking at experts’ projections of a global economic downturn, the Trump administration over the weekend continued to push for a trade accord with China. Officials from both countries will confer again within 10 days, and if progress is not evident, the Trump team will invite counterparts from Beijing to travel back to the United States, White House adviser Kudlow said (Reuters). Trump on Sunday declined to say if he spoke with President Xi Jinping of China. Reports said the two leaders had not spoken over the weekend.
> Hong Kong: Pro-democracy demonstrations continued peacefully on Sunday in heavy rain (Reuters).
> Afghanistan: At a time when Trump has been looking for a way to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 18 years of war, Afghans have expressed suspicions about a proposed peace deal between the United States and the Taliban (The Washington Post). Separately, Trump said on Sunday that peace talks are in flux. “We’ll see what happens. We’ve really got it down to probably 13,000 people [U.S. troops], and we’ll be bringing it down a little bit more, and then we’ll decide” whether to stay, he told reporters. Meanwhile, Islamic State fighters claimed credit on Sunday for a grisly suicide bombing at an Afghan wedding reception that killed 63 people (Reuters). Afghan President Ashraf Ghani promised on Monday to “eliminate” all of the caliphate’s safe havens (The Associated Press).
> Russia: French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronTrump criticizes France’s Macron for sending Iran ‘mixed signals’ Hillicon Valley: DOJ approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Trump targets Google, Apple | Privacy groups seek to intervene in Facebook settlement | Democrats seize on Mueller hearings in election security push On The Money: US growth slows to 2.1 percent | Trump vows response to French tech tax | Trump won’t give Apple tariff waivers | House panel releases documents on Nixon tax return request to bolster case against Trump MORE today hosts Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinThe Hill’s Morning Report – Trump on defense over economic jitters Can we do business with Kim Jong Un? Leadership analysis might give clues Russian defense minister: ‘We won’t do anything’ in Europe unless US places missiles there MORE in southern France ahead of the Group of Seven summit this month. Macron wants to talk to Putin about Ukraine and is attempting to show Russia it is not entirely ostracized from the club of leading industrialized nations (Reuters). … In Moscow, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Sunday that Russia will not deploy new missiles as long as the United States shows similar restraint in Europe and Asia. He was speaking in the wake of the Trump administration’s recent withdrawal from a Soviet-era nuclear arms pact that the White House accused Russia of violating (Reuters).
> United Kingdom-Brexit: British officials on Sunday refuted a report published by The Sunday Times drawn from leaked official documents that predicted Britain would face shortages of fuel, food and medicine if it exits the European Union without a transition deal at the end of October (Reuters).
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Trump is right: Mainstream media ‘do a very good job,’ by Glenn C. Altschuler, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/30fEQls
In God’s country: Evangelicals view Trump as their protector. Will they stand with him in 2020? by Elizabeth Bruenig, opinion essay, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2ORBOm6
WHERE AND WHEN
Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. EDT features Jeff Weaver, senior adviser to the Sanders presidential campaign; and staff writer Rafael Bernal, who talks about Biden’s recent dust-up with Latino leaders. Find Hill.TV programming at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m.
The House is in pro forma sessions until returning to Washington on Sept. 4 to begin consideration of legislation to respond to mass shootings.
The Senate continues to meet pro forma but is not scheduled to return for votes until Sept. 9.
The president has no public events on his schedule.
The vice president will travel to Michigan to speak to the Detroit Economic Club at 12:10 p.m. EDT.
Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoAfghan president vows to take revenge after Islamic State attack on wedding The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump on defense over economic jitters Latest pro-democracy rally draws tens of thousands in Hong Kong MORE meets with Angolan Foreign Minister Manuel Domingos Augusto at 3 p.m.
The Washington Post Live 2020 interview series with presidential candidates turns to Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill’s Morning Report – Trump on defense over economic jitters F-bombs away: Why lawmakers are cursing now more than ever White House offers reassurances amid recession fears as 2020 candidates sound alarm MORE (D-N.Y.) at 9 a.m. with journalist Robert Costa. Information is HERE.
? State Watch: Illinois serves as a sobering example of why many states aren’t ready to secure their voting systems in 2020. Illinois is spending millions of dollars to safeguard its system, but it might not be enough as the number of nations committing data breaches multiplies (Bloomberg Businessweek). …State tax revenues from marijuana sales are a challenge to size up, let alone forecast, according to a new study released today by the Pew Charitable Trusts. State governments across the country are pulling in millions of dollars from taxes on legalized marijuana, but the revenue fluctuates wildly as new markets for a once-illegal product struggle to become established, Reid Wilson reports.
? Health care: Women’s access to birth control and reproductive health care nationwide could be drastically impacted by Planned Parenthood’s exit today from the federal government’s family planning program, which under the Trump administration restricts funding for abortion. Women in rural states such as Utah, Minnesota and Vermont may have difficulty locating reproductive care, whether or not they seek to terminate pregnancies, under the effects of Trump administration rule changes (The Hill) … U.S. fertility clinics are struggling with a growing number of abandoned embryos and the question of what to do with them (NBC News).
? News media: In an increasingly partisan and siloed news environment, and with Trump and other leaders stoking distrust in the media, “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceThe Hill’s Morning Report – Trump on defense over economic jitters Chris Wallace becomes Trump era’s ‘equal opportunity inquisitor’ Democrats point to Trump rhetoric on immigration in wake of two mass shootings MORE has earned a reputation as a tough but fair interviewer and debate moderator who has extracted provocative information and responses from world leaders and politicians. “People come up to me at airports or restaurants or whenever I’m out in public and praise me a lot for being fair,” Wallace, 71, said in an interview with Brett Samuels. “While on the one hand I appreciate it, on the other hand it kind of depresses me, because when I started out in the business, being fair was the baseline — that you tried to be as fair, as objective, as even-handed as you could be” (The Hill).
And finally … Joy Ryan, 89, confided to her grandson, Brad Ryan, a few years ago that one of her regrets in life was not traveling more. She had never seen an ocean or a mountain. So Brad, who is studying to be a veterinarian, decided to take his grandmother on a trip to a national park in 2015, which turned into 29 parks, and now they have a quest to see all 61 national parks together. Joy, whose sense of humor and adventurous spirit are chronicled on Instagram, Facebook and during many TV interviews, says, “We’re having a ball” (ABC’s “Good Morning America”). More video!! BuzzFeed News coverage is HERE.