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🚨MEANWHILE, IN OSAKA: “Don’t meddle with the election,” President Trump told Russian President Vladimir Putin with a grin, David Nakamura, Seung Min Kim and Damian Paletta report. He made the comment as reporters asked if he would warn Putin not to interfere in future U.S. elections. The two also bonded over their disdain for journalists: “Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn't it? You don’t have this problem in Russia, but we do," Trump told Putin.
GRAB THAT TORCH: Never mind waiting for it to be passed. Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) stole the thunder from former vice president Joe Biden in the second round of the Democratic debate on Thursday night -- delivering a dominating performance and exposing weaknesses of the current front-runner on issues of race.
It was perhaps the most memorable moment of the Democratic primary so far: Harris confronted Biden about proudly describing his time working with segregationist senators at a fundraiser several weeks back that turned into a broader attack on Biden's controversial history on busing for school integration.
- “I do not believe you are a racist. I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground,” Harris told Biden. “But I also believe, and it’s personal . . . it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on segregation of race in this country.”
- It's personal: “And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing . . . There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day,” she continued, personalizing Biden's opposition to policies that might have prevented Harris from attending integrated schools. “That little girl was me.”
The clash put Biden on the defensive: Biden called the attack a "mischaracterization of my position across the board," insisting he "did not praise racists" and simply opposed federally-required busing. But Kamala wasn't having it: She shot back that racist state-level policies failed African Americans -- and that's exactly when "the federal government must step in."
- “Anyway, my time is up,” Biden said, cutting himself off from his defense. “I’m sorry.”
- Here's the full exchange, annotated by my colleagues Natalie Jennings and Eugene Scott.
It solidified Kamala as the biggest breakout of the night: The moment reverberated throughout the rest of the debate night and online, as the photo of Harris as a young girl her team pushed out on Twitter eventually found it's way onto shirts being sold in her campaign e-store.
.@KamalaHarris is actually the top trending topic in search on all of Google in the US right now— GoogleTrends (@GoogleTrends) June 28, 2019
Proving herself: Harris's forcefulness demonstrated her ability to go toe-to-toe with Trump, dominated post-debate coverage, crushed a bunch of flash polls, and also pulled in a record haul while doing so.
- Per CNN's Dan Merica: "Harris’ fundraising boomed after Thursday night’s debate and her clash with Biden, an aide told CNN. The campaign, the aide said, raised more money on Thursday – the day of the debate – than any day of the campaign other than Harris’ launch day and the day after the launch."
Will she move up?: "It was one of many authoritative moments for Harris, who channeled the forceful prosecutor approach that earned her national attention in Senate hearings with Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, Attorney General William P. Barr and others. Since drawing 22,000 people to her January campaign launch in Oakland, Calif., Harris has failed to seize a place in the top three in early polls, hovering just outside the tier consistently occupied by Biden, [Bernie] Sanders and, more recently, [Elizabeth] Warren," Michael Scherer, Toluse Olorunnipa and Chelsea Janes remind us.
Here are other highlights from the night:
MOST CLEANING UP TO DO: Biden turned out to be the target of many candidates onstage, the inevitable reality of being the front-runner. But he wasn't as adroit in defending his record or articulating his vision as those tuning in might have expected.
- Kamala performance leaves a mark: “Biden retains the goodwill of many Democrats, including African Americans, and continues to make the case that he is best positioned to defeat President Trump. But his performance probably will raise questions about his candidacy,” my colleague Dan Balz notes.
By the end of the night, his campaign was playing clean up over Biden's poor performance.
- “Not going well for Joe . . . the team is not handling it well right now,” a source close to the Biden camp texted towards the end of the debate.
- “I am not at all concerned about tonight. The exchange with Kamala clearly could’ve been better. But this one debate doesn’t change the dynamics of the race. Not even close. Just watch the polls that come out next week,” an elected official backing Biden told Power Up.
- Symone Sanders told PBS Newshour's Yamiche Alcindor: “We are not freaking out. We understood that when you go into the debate as front-runner that you can expect to take a little fire. We totally expected to take a little fire.”
From a senior adviser to Biden:
Let’s get real. @JoeBiden fought for civil rights for his entire life. He started his career as a public defender. To attack him because he worked to convince Repubs (yes, some with horrible views) to vote for the Voting Rights Act is outrageous and is exactly what Trump wants.— Cristóbal Alex (@CristobalJAlex) June 28, 2019
Key lines from Biden:
- “I’m still holding on to that torch,” Biden retorted after Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) urged him to usher in a new generation of political leaders.
- " . . . Our enemy is the gun manufacturers, not the NRA,” he said in response to a question whether he'd support a buyback program for assault rifles.
- “I think you are so underestimating what Barack Obama did. He’s the first man to bring together the entire world, 196 nations to commit to deal with climate change . . . But the first thing I would do is make sure that we defeat Donald Trump period,” he said in response to the first issue he would tackle as president.
TOP TALKER: Biden talked more than any other presidential candidate during the two Democratic debates this week, according to our WaPo team keeping track. Not sure how well that worked out for him.
BIGGEST POLICY FAULT LINE: Health care, again. This debate round featured Biden, the former veep who called Obamacare a “BFD,” versus Sanders, the candidate who made “Medicare-for-all” the lingua franca of liberals everywhere.
- Fighting words: "We will have Medicare for all when tens of millions of people are prepared to stand up and tell the insurance companies and the drug companies that their day is gone, that healthcare is a human right, not something to make huge profits off of," said Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.).
The defender of Obamacare: If Biden’s strategy was to parry every blow by mentioning Obama, health care provided him the biggest opportunity of all.
- “The fact of the matter is that the quickest, fastest way to do it is build on Obamacare, to build on what we did,” Biden said, adding “I'm against any Democrat who opposes … and takes down Obamacare and any Republican who wants to get rid of Obamacare.”
Harris goes all in, maybe: Joining the ranks of Sen. Warren (D-Mass) and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Harris was the only candidate to join Sanders to say they would eliminate private health insurance in favor of a government run-plan. (Harris’s evolution and explanation of her stance has been complicated at best.)
- Walk back: But after the debate, Harris said she misunderstood the question and did support a very limited offering of private insurance in some cases, according to NBC News reporter Vaughn Hillyard.
Pete Buttigieg challenges candidates to explain the path: The South Bend, Ind., mayor said it's not enough to just say you support “Medicare-for-all." He favored a government-offered plan, known as a public option, as a segue to single-payer.
- 'I would call it Medicare-for-all who want it,' he said: "You take something like Medicare, a flavor of that, you make it available on the exchanges, people can buy in,” Buttigieg said. “And then if people like us are right, that that will be not only a more inclusive plan, but a more efficient plan than any of the corporate answers out there, then it will be a very natural glide path to the single-payer environment.”
MOST LIKELY TO BE AN ATTACK AD: Every candidate raised their hand when asked whether their health care plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants. It was a striking image and a departure from the current law and caught the attention of the president almost immediately. The Trump War Room clipped the moment and pushed it out on Twitter as a moment to watch as well.
Note: “The Affordable Care Act does not provide insurance to undocumented immigrants, forcing them to seek care through emergency rooms, which drives up health care costs,” per BuzzFeed News's Ryan Brooks.
Reasons for change: “Our country is healthier when everyone is healthier when everybody is healthier,” Buttigieg said. “There are undocumented citizens in my community who pay. They pay sales taxes, they pay property taxes directly or indirectly. This is not about a handout, this is an insurance program.”
All Democrats just raised their hands for giving millions of illegal aliens unlimited healthcare. How about taking care of American Citizens first!? That’s the end of that race!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2019
MOST CONSISTENT: He raised his voice, turned red-faced, repeated well-worn lines from his stump speech and wagged his finger. It was the Bernie Sanders that we’ve all seen before. It was many of the senator's ideas — Medicare for all, a wealth tax, democratic socialism — that were the central point of debate on Thursday night.
- My colleague Aaron Blake counts Sanders among the winners for coming away largely unscathed: "Yes, he disappeared for a large portion of the debate as others squabbled. But he stayed on his message and did nothing to alienate his supporters. He also avoided the kind of attacks Biden got. If Sen. [Warren] was unspectacular but successful on Wednesday, Sanders seemed to emulate that, even as there was considerably more fighting going on around him."
MOST ACCOUNTABLE: Buttigieg was directly asked about the storm brewing at home in South Bend, in which a white officer shot and killed a black man. The mayor did something unusual on the national debate stage: he took accountability for what he called the "mess" at home.
- Per Aaron: "Buttigieg did something novel: Admit some fault. Asked why he had so few black police officers in a diverse city, Buttigieg responded, “Because I couldn’t get it done.” Humility is okay. And when talking about other issues like free college and health care, he managed to offer bold ideas but emphasize realism. If he can get past the problems in his hometown, his performance suggested future debates could be more fruitful."
- “It’s a mess. And we’re hurting. And I could walk you through all of the things that we have done, all the steps,” Buttigieg said. “It didn’t save the life of Eric Logan. And when I look into his mother’s eyes, I have to face the fact.”
- It did not quell criticism from his rivals: "But you're the mayor, you should fire the chief, if that's the policy and someone died," California Rep. Eric Swalwell interjected.
MOST INTERESTING THANKSGIVING DAY DINNER GUEST: Years, probably months from now, we may not remember spiritual guru Marianne Williamson’s candidacy, but we'll always have Thursday night. Call her a recurring Frasier character, someone you would bump into at Burning Man or even just that aunt at the Thanksgiving table. But you can’t call her boring:
- Responding to calls for generational change: “The fact that somebody has a younger body doesn't mean you don't have old ideas.”
- Her first priority: “My first call is to the prime minister of New Zealand, who said that her goal is to make New Zealand the place where it's the best place in the world for a child to grow up. And I would tell her, 'Girlfriend, you are so wrong, because the United States of America is going to be the best place in the world for a child to grow up.'”
- Her message to Trump: “You have harnessed fear for political purposes and only love can cast that out.... I'm going to harness love for political purposes. I will meet you on that field. And, sir, love will win.”
AMAZING OLD TWEETS BY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: A THREAD— Ellie Hall (@ellievhall) June 28, 2019
CUTEST COUPLES: Nothing is better than seeing a spouse cheer on their husband or wife in the debate. (An honorable mention goes to the Bidens who brought a contingent of the family to cheer him on.)
From Harris's husband:
From Buttigieg's husband:
In the Media
BEST OF THE REST: Other interesting themes and where we go from here:
- Going after Obama, ever so slightly: “Harris began making a case against Biden by offering delicate criticism of former president Barack Obama’s record of deporting millions of undocumented immigrants — saying that while she respected Obama, she disagreed with his deportation policy,” our colleagues Michael, Toluse and Chelsea report of the decision to rehash a searing debate for some from the Obama years.
- Buttigieg invokes his faith: “[He] was among the first to invoke faith onstage tonight when he explained why Democrats should call out what he called Republican hypocrisy about the morals involved with separations and child detentions at the border. Children there have been found in rough conditions,” NPR’s Jessica Taylor reports. “Buttigieg has sought to stand out on the campaign trail by talking comfortably and authentically about how his faith informs his politics.”
- Chuck Todd gives the candidates a “C-”: NBC's host gave the field a 'C minus' for their ability to follow directions, Politico's Michael Calderone reports. (Note: That's still a passing grade.)
- The last word from Dan Balz: “The first round of debates is now in the archive. Some moments on the highlight reels from both nights will live through the weekend and into the next week but probably will have a limited shelf life,” Dan writes. “Few anticipated that the debates would significantly alter the shape of the race, and perhaps that is the case. But Harris showed that things can change, and Democrats will leave Miami with a fresh sense of the possibilities before them.”
From the Courts
SUPREME COURT CONTROVERSY: Two much-anticipated Supreme Court moves on partisan gerrymandering and the Trump administration’s census citizenship question gave both parties something to cheer and jeer.
- The Supreme Court paused the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census form, our colleagues Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow report, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the court’s liberals.
Sent back to the Commerce Dept.: Agencies must offer “genuine justifications for important decisions, reasons that can be scrutinized by courts and the interested public,” Roberts wrote. “Accepting contrived reasons would defeat the purpose of the enterprise. If judicial review is to be more than an empty ritual, it must demand something better than the explanation offered for the action taken in this case.”
Trump -- and his allies -- were not pleased: “Can anyone really believe that as a great Country, we are not able the ask whether or not someone is a Citizen,” Trump’s tweet says. “Only in America!”
I want to Impeach Roberts and Trump would get another pick. Sounds good to me https://t.co/d0tlOWzXrZ— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) June 27, 2019
ON THE FLIP SIDE: As for the issue of gerrymandering, Roberts and the courts conservatives ruled that “federal judges have no power to stop politicians from drawing electoral districts to preserve or expand their party’s power, a landmark ruling that dissenters said will empower an explosion of extreme partisan gerrymandering,” Robert reports.
- "'We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” Roberts wrote. “Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions.'"
On The Hill
HOUSE DEMS SPLIT OVER SPENDING BILL: “The House passed a $4.6 billion emergency spending bill for the humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border Thursday, after Democratic leaders retreated from efforts to amend the legislation to add more restrictions on the Trump administration,” our colleagues Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis and Rachael Bade report. But the story of the day is just how many Democrats refused to back the proposal, an embarrassing showing for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the raw feelings that remain.
- Pelosi caves: “Ultimately, after hours of closed-door meetings with members of her caucus, Pelosi gave in to political reality and withdrew her proposed changes. The retreat underscored deep divisions among House Democrats that Pelosi had mostly been able to hold in check until now,” Erica, Mike and Rachael write of the speaker's failed efforts to change the Senate's bill, which were blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Pence.
- More on the speaker's standing: “More than 40 percent of Pelosi’s caucus broke ranks against her, leaving Democrats divided as Congress heads home for a 10-day break around the July 4 holiday,” our colleagues Paul Kane and Rachael report. “Almost every junior member of Pelosi’s leadership team opposed the legislation, along with several powerful committee chairmen. Those lower-level Democratic leaders are all eyeing the eventual departure of Pelosi, 79; House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, 80; and House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, 78, seeking to appeal to liberals in the inevitable succession fights.”
- Progressives are borderline apoplectic: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Corez (D-. N. Y.) slammed the bill and McConnell's role in it. But her chief of staff was even more explicit in a since deleted tweet, comparing moderate Democrats to “what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s.”
From Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus:
Since when did the Problem Solvers Caucus become the Child Abuse Caucus? Wouldn't they want to at least fight against contractors who run deplorable facilities? Kids are the only ones who could lose today.— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) June 27, 2019