BREAKING: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there are 695 measles cases in 22 states right now in part because of misinformation campaigns about vaccinations.
- “This is the greatest number of cases reported in the United States since measles was eliminated from this country in 2000,” the CDC said in a statement released last night.
- “Measles is not a harmless childhood illness, but a highly contagious, potentially life-threatening disease,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “We have the ability to safely protect our children and our communities. Vaccines are a safe, highly effective public health solution that can prevent this disease. The measles vaccines are among the most extensively studied medical products we have, and their safety has been firmly established over many years in some of the largest vaccine studies ever undertaken.”
- Reminder: Vaccinate your kids.
BIDEN-OBAMA 2020?: Joe Biden, who just minutes ago officially became a 2020 candidate, would like for voters to think of him as continuing the legacy of Barack Obama.
“We are in a battle for the soul of this nation,” Biden said in his announcement video (see above), which features video of the racially charged demonstration in Charlottesville, and goes all in on attacking President Trump, saying his words about the riots there “stunned the world” and “shocked the consciousness of the nation.”
- Key line: “If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation — who we are — and I cannot stand by and watch that happen.”
The former Veep's announcement video is a bold attack on Trump and his divisive and racially charged rhetoric. But before he jumped into the 2020 contest, Biden signaled he would also be running to continue Obama's eight-year legacy.
- Expect to hear this a lot: “I'm an Obama-Biden Democrat, man. And I'm proud of it,” he said during a speech at the International Brotherhood of Election Workers conference earlier in April.
But a number of Democratic strategists — including former Obama campaign staffers and donors — we talked to yesterday told Power Up that Biden's push to cast himself as an extension of his ex-running mate is going to be an uphill battle for the 76-year-old former Delaware senator who intends to jump into the 2020 presidential race today.
For one, Obamaworld — the former campaign aides and fundraisers who worked for the two-term president — has scattered, some lending their skills to one of the fresher 2020 faces. But perhaps more significantly, several Democratic campaign operatives said Biden isn't necessarily the heir apparent to Obama, despite being his No. 2 in the White House for eight years. They argue voters will judge Biden by the span of his decades-long career, and are worried the veteran pol hasn't yet found a winning formula for his own candidacy.
- “I think President Obama’s legacy is President Obama's and he was the president and had a very supportive partner in Biden and his approval ratings remain higher than Trump has had in a single day. But this election will be about where we are today and the future and not about Obama's legacy,” Joel Benenson, Obama's campaign pollster, told Power Up.
- “Voters are voting in the moment,” Benenson added. “No one casts a vote for historical purposes. They are in the moment and they're looking forward.”
- “Before Obama, Biden was viewed very differently, and I'd be wrong to tell you that you can't evolve. But how much of that was Obama and his branding and energy and how much was Joe?," a source close to Biden's campaign told us.
Stefanie Brown James, founder of the Collective PAC and Obama's 2012 national African American vote director, told us “a big part of why a number of people are looking forward to him jumping in — especially in the black community — is because they feel he was a big help to Obama in creating the legacy that he has.” But she said that ultimately, today's race is about Biden's “legacy and his future,” which will entail answering some difficult questions about his record on issues that are especially important to communities of color:
- “I would like for him to apologize for the way he voted in regards to the  crime bill and the way he didn’t fully support Anita Hill. But again, the world is completely different now,” James told us.
- “Though we supported President Obama, I think we still wanted to see more happening on behalf of black and brown communities, specifically black communities,” Cherise Scott, a 44-year-old from Memphis who attended the She the People Forum in D.C. on Wednesday told the Associated Press's Juana Summers and Errin Haines Whack. “I think Joe Biden’s great. I think Joe Biden was a hell of a vice president. But I wouldn’t vote for him for president.”
- “I know that we have been cultured to feel that only the white man can save us,” Roxy D. Hall Williamson, an organizer from LaMarque, Texas, told the AP. “I just don’t feel like Biden is our answer.
Obama's folks released a statement praising Biden this morning:
“President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made," said Obama spokesperson Katie Hill. "He relied on the Vice President’s knowledge, insight, and judgment throughout both campaigns and the entire presidency. The two forged a special bond over the last 10 years and remain close today.”
But there wasn't and isn't going to be an endorsement from the former president for Biden:
“President Obama is excited by the extraordinary and diverse talent exhibited in the growing lineup of Democratic primary candidates," said a source familiar with Obama’s thinking. "He believes that a robust primary in 2007 and 2008 not only made him a better general election candidate, but a better president, too. And because of that, it’s unlikely that he will throw his support behind a specific candidate this early in the primary process – preferring instead to let the candidates make their cases directly to the voters.”
💰: There's also the challenge of fundraising, a key component to survival in a crowded field in which Biden is scrambling to play catch up with limited institutional infrastructure.
- “He doesn't have a huge network, so it's really whomever from Obamaworld wants to support him,” a third former Obama campaign staffer told us. “He's zero for two and didn't have a whole lot around his other campaigns.”
Former Obama donors have also already started to coalesce around other candidates like Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) — Variety's Ted Johnson reports that Gwyneth Paltrow, who hosted a fundraiser for Obama in 2014, is co-hosting a fundraiser on May 9 for Buttigieg during a fundraising swing through L.A.
- “According to sources, there was some friction among Hollywood bundlers in the effort to land one of the events for Buttigieg on that date, a reflection of how his star has risen in the 2020 field. Some fundraisers agreed to hold events at a later date,” per Johnson.
- “There should be no expectation where donors go,” Benenson told us.” We’re in a very different moment today. I think Vice President Biden is going to be measured by his own performance fundraising in the first quarter he is out there — this whole notion of him being joined at the hip [with Obama] is a bit anachronistic.”
It remains to be seen if Biden's fundraising approach -- which at least probably needs to start by relying on getting cash the old-fashioned way from bundlers and big donors -- can compete against the current 2020 Democrats like Bernie Sanders, who can tap a sprawling network of small donors.
- Saying the quiet part outloud: “Everyone thinks Biden can’t get small donors because he’s moderate,” Ed Rendell, the former Pennsylvania Governor and Biden backer told the New York Times's Shane Goldmacher. “Baloney! . . . There is enough of a consensus there that those little old ladies — even if they’re a little on the progressive side — would write a $25, $50, $100 check to Joe, maybe four or five times in the next year.”
- And per Goldmacher: " . . . there is an inherent tension in the pursuit of big money in the current Democratic Party: the more of it that Mr. Biden gobbles up, the greater the risk of a backlash from a liberal base skeptical of the influence of the wealthy on the party.”
Here’s the invitation for Joe Biden’s fundraiser tomorrow night in Philadelphia. Of note: @SenBobCasey and six Democratic members of the Pennsylvania House delegation are expected to join. pic.twitter.com/XeDlJibS61— Holly Otterbein (@hollyotterbein) April 25, 2019
THAT GRANITE STATE GRIT: What candidates are up against in New Hampshire, via the New York Times's Jonathan Martin:
“There’s apparently a Texas saying: All hat, no cattle,” said Judy Dunbar, a retiree from Milford, N.H of Beto O'Rourke. “He just seems to talk a better game than he plays.”
Outside the Beltway
RECORD FINE: Facebook is expected to be fined up to $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations, the New York Times's Mike Isaac and Cecilia Kang report.
- “The penalty would be a record by the agency against a technology company and a sign that the United States was willing to punish big tech companies,” per Isaac and Kang.
- “For the Trump administration, penalizing Facebook would be a defining action . . . It would also be a milestone for the F.T.C., whose biggest fine for a tech company was $22 million against Google in 2012 for misrepresenting how it used some online tracking tools. The agency, which is charged with overseeing deceptive and unfair business practices, is riding a wave of anti-tech sentiment as questions about how tech companies have contributed to misinformation, election meddling and data privacy problems have stacked up.”
'ALL THE SUBPOENAS': Trump is stepping up his war against Democrats by declaring he will no longer comply with "all of the subpoenas” issued him by Congress.
Just this week, the White House has rebuffed efforts to probe how it approves security clearances, announced it would assert executive privilege to block former White House counsel Don McGahn from testifying on the Hill and said it won't meet lawmakers deadlines for submitting Trump's personal and business tax returns.
The Justice Department signaled yesterday it won't cooperate with a bipartisan subpoena from the House Oversight Committee for an official to testify about adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
- What to watch: Our colleague Seung Min Kim points out that Trump's approach has been partially made possible by congressional Republicans rarely challenging Trump for his first two years in office.
- Some House Democrats want to go all out holding administration officials in contempt and possibly even in custody for their refusal to cooperate with oversight efforts.
- Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told our colleagues Rachael Bade and Tom Hamburger the House should revisit the idea of instructing the sergeant at arms to find and jail those who defy subpoenas, a step Congress hasn’t taken since the 1870s.
- But not everyone is on board yet. “Trump’s no-cooperation stance has created a conundrum for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Democrats have long worried about appearing overzealous in their probes of the president. Trump, however, may leave Democrats no choice but to declare all-out war on his strategy,” Rachael and Tom write.
P.S. If things are this bad now, imagine what will happen if Democrats start official impeachment proceedings.
HERE WE GO... AGAIN?: Vice President Pence on Wednesday became the latest administration official this week to cast doubt on whether America is ready for a possible round two of Russian election meddling in 2020 by equivocating on how he would respond if such interference did occur.
Here's what happened when Pence was asked by NBC New's Vaughn Hillyard:
Vice President Mike Pence refuses to answer if 1) he regrets using hacked emails during the 2016 campaign & 2) if he pledges not to do so in the next presidential campaign. He walked away upon attempted follow-up. pic.twitter.com/l2TficTFn2— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) April 24, 2019
Just last week, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) slammed the Trump campaign for welcoming help from Russia, as special counsel Bob Mueller laid out in his report. Pence is not alone though:
- Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump's personal lawyers, on Sunday said there was "nothing wrong with taking information from Russians.”
- White House senior adviser Jared Kushner on Tuesday dismissed Russian efforts in 2016 as “buying some Facebook ads” and argued that actually the investigations into the Kremlin's interference campaign was the bigger problem. "The investigations, and all of the speculation that’s happened for the last two years, has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads,” he said.
- The New York Times reported on Wednesday that White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen not to bring up efforts to thwart possible Russian meddling in 2020 in front of Trump.
The Times's report is perhaps the most striking of all because intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, have said that foreign countries will once again view the 2020 elections as a chance to flex their muscles.
The good news is that our colleague Joseph Marks reports that DHS is finding that 2020 campaigns receptive to beefing up their cybersecurity operations.
NEW --> In statement to ABC, Dan Coats says he had the full support of the White House and NSC when they needed to brief the president in the run up to the 2018 midterms and says "that support has not changed." @leeferran https://t.co/HWGr7ObhMt pic.twitter.com/0xeZZpwI9C— Katherine Faulders (@KFaulders) April 24, 2019
SPEAKING OF RUSSIA: North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin met early this morning (our time) in the far eastern city of Vladivostok for their first ever talks, a signal Moscow can try to influence Pyongyang's nuclear program as much as if not more than Washington.
- “For the Kremlin, eager to play a role in high-stakes nuclear talks, the flashy summit will show Russia’s increasing political dominance around the globe. For Kim, meeting a world leader like Putin is an opportunity to save face after the failed U.S. talks,” our colleague Amie Ferris-Rotman reports from Moscow.
- “Looking very much the statesman in a black trilby hat and peacoat, Kim expressed joy at finally being on Russian soil, a land visited by his father and grandfather, both former leaders of North Korea, but not Kim himself until this trip,” Amie writes.
There was also no shortage of manspreading, according to the Associated Press's Eric Talmadge:
- “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un even managed to match Russian President Vladimir Putin’s manspreading — the two sat with knees spread wide apart as they chatted before the start of their first summit, which began Thursday in the Far East port city of Vladivostok,” per Talmadge.
The State Department, Amie reports, is keeping a close eye on things and “its envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, to Moscow last week to push for the country’s full denuclearization.” The Kim-Putin meeting comes two months after Kim's second summit with Trump broke down in Hanoi.
In the Media
WHAT WE'RE READING:
- This Khachapuri description: The Culinary Muse of the Caucasus. By the New Yorker's Lauren Collins.
- Scientists Explain a Common Fight in Basketball. By NPR's Merrit Kennedy.
- NSA Recommends Dropping Phone-Surveillance Program. By the Wall Street Journal's Dustin Volz and Warren Strobel.
- 3-Year-Old Found Alone at Border Is One of Many ‘Heartbreaking’ Migrant Cases. By the New York Times's Manny Fernandez and Miriam Jordan.
- Texas Executes White Supremacist for 1998 Dragging Death of James Byrd Jr. By the New York Times's Campbell Robertson.
- Merriam Webster's added some new words to the Dictionary in April 2019. "New additions include 'stan,' 'salutogenesis,' 'buzzy,' 'gig economy,' 'qubit,' and 'garbage time.'"