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At the White House

MISREADING THE ROOM: After a week of infighting among House Democrats, President Trump’s incendiary tweets managed to flip the script and unite the party — at least temporarily. 

Trump might have sought to capitalize on the tensions between four liberal congresswomen of color and Nancy Pelosi by insisting the high-profile freshmen should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” — and claiming that the House speaker would be “very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements.” Yet the tweets galvanized Democrats to come out in support of Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.). 

Trump's tweets, widely decried as a racist broadside, were also factually inaccurate: Three of the four were born in the U.S.; Omar was born in Somalia and became a citizen when she was a teenager after her family fled from civil war. 

  • From Pelosi herself: “When [Trump] tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to 'Make America Great Again' has always been about making America white again,” Pelosi (D-Calif.) tweeted. “Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power.” 
  • “I’ve been trying to figure out how to bring everybody together — I think the president just did that for us,” Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) told my colleagues Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis. “Nobody in our caucus is going to tolerate that kind of hatred.”
  • From Omar:

The backstory: The long-simmering feud among Democrats broke out into the open last week after Ocasio-Cortez accused Pelosi of “the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color” in an interview with my colleagues Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis, which prompted sharp pushback from the House speaker. But Trump's tweets prompted some notable changes in tone: 

  • Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), the co-chair of the Problem Solvers caucus who has sparred with the “Squad” over a laundry list of issues, defended the group of women. He tweeted: “The offensive comments made this morning about my colleagues are totally unacceptable and wrong. There is no place for it (in Congress or anywhere in our country)." 
  • The House Democrats account, which had just accused Ocasio-Cortez's chief Saikat Chakrabarti of unfairly criticizing another congresswoman of color, tweeted: 

A PATTERN: The language employed by Trump, delivered on the same day that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was scheduled to commence immigration raids in major cities across the country, drew comparisons to his previous racially-charged attacks — from calling Mexicans “rapists,” referring to countries in Africa and Latin America as “shithole” countries, and false accusations regarding President Barack Obama's birth certificate

  • “When it comes to race, Mr. Trump plays with fire like no other president in a century. While others who occupied the White House at times skirted close to or even over the line, finding ways to appeal to the resentments of white Americans with subtle and not-so-subtle appeals, none of them in modern times fanned the flames as overtly, relentlessly and even eagerly as Mr. Trump,” the New York Times's Peter Baker writes. 
  • "Trump is now turning the same birtherism he directed at President Obama against women of color serving in Congress. Everyone should call this what it is: racism,” tweeted Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.).
  • “Racists tweet racist things. What we should be focused on right now though, ESPECIALLY today, is that racists also create and enforce racist policies,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) tweeted about Trump. “They’re trying to deport people across Los Angeles as I type this. Stay focused. Know your rights.”

TRUMP IS TRACKING: In an attempt to return attention back to fractures within the Democratic Party, Trump tweeted later Sunday that it was "so sad to see the Democrats sticking up for  for people who speak so badly of our Country.... Whenever confronted, they call their adversaries, including Nancy Pelosi, 'RACIST.'" 

Yet there was a glaring absence of criticism from Republicans: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) declined to comment. The office of Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the GOP House leader, didn’t respond to a request for comment," per the Wall Street Journal's Natalie Andrews and Michael C. Bender.  

Flashback to 2016, per our colleague Philip Rucker:

  • It's a stark reminder that a cohort who previously spoke out against the president — Jeff Flake, Marc Sanford, Bob Corker, John McCain, Justin Amash — have either left the party, lost their seat, retired from Congress, or passed away. 
  • Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) came the closest to criticizing Trump on Sunday night, tweeting that the president was "wrong to say any American citizen, whether in Congress or not, has any 'home' besides the U.S.," but added that he still believes "non-citizens who abuse our immigration laws should be sent home immediately, & Reps who refuse to defend America should be sent home 11/2020." 

On The Hill

VIEW FROM THE CAPITOL: Our congressional reporter, Paul Kane, notes that Trump's tweet offers only a respite from the deeper problems at play among House Democrats, especially if the "Squad" starts to grow and dissent against Pelosi grows beyond four people with four votes. Here's @PKCapitol's take on the situation for Power Up: 

The past week’s infighting among Democrats will get put behind them, temporarily, as they close ranks to condemn Trump’s remarks. The longer term question is how Pelosi handles what is still a combustible mix.

  • If not for Trump, we would all likely be talking about Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s remarks about how there are “black faces that don’t want to be a black voice” at leadership tables. This is the sort of remark that older members of the Congressional Black Caucus will ask to have clarification on, no matter the Massachusetts Democrat’s denials that it was intended as a shot at CBC elders. 

The fault lines continue to be about generational clashes and tactics, not necessarily about policy outcomes. The divide isn’t going away anytime soon.

  • Near term: Pelosi’s leadership team clearly views Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff as an instigator that they want to force out of his job or at least marginalize him. 
  • The longer term issue: Whether the “squad” grows its ranks to include more and more lawmakers so that they can paralyze Pelosi’s ability to maneuver the way the Freedom Caucus -- with three dozen or so members at any given time -- paralyzed former Republican House speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan. 
  • If they do grow the squad ranks, the most important thing Pelosi’s people might have done is changing the rules on how to “vacate the chair”, as the motion is known that any member can use to force a new vote on the speaker. The old rules held Boehner and Ryan captive. The newer rules make it much, much harder to evict a speaker, giving Pelosi and her successors more freedom to maneuver. 

Even though Trump gave Democrats something of a "get out of jail free" card to end their spats, the feud will continue. A senior House Democratic caucus aide continued to condemn Chakrabarti on Sunday, telling Power Up: 

  • "On a personal level, the kind of attacks on members that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s staff engage in (whether it be her Chief or [spokesman]) are impossible for me to imagine ever doing. There’s a difference between productively shaking things up and disrespecting members with the aim of stirring up their left flank and jeopardizing their re-election." 
  • "Remember, there is one Speaker and four in 'the squad,' but hundreds of members in between who were elected to serve their communities and deserve to be stood up for amid character attacks," the aide added. 
 

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In the Agencies

NO SIGN OF LARGE-SCALE RAIDS: "The nationwide immigration raids that President Trump said would begin Sunday failed to materialize on the streets of major U.S. cities, even as his statement cast a cloud of fear that kept many families indoors. Immigration enforcement authorities said their plans to track down migrants with deportation orders would continue, but their operations over the weekend appeared more akin to routine actions rather than the mass roundups the president promised," per my colleagues Abigail Hauslohner and Nick Miroff. 

  • ICE acting director Matthew Albence declined to confirm whether a widespread operation was underway: “There’s not anything I’m going to say that would jeopardize my officers,” Albence told Abigail and Nick. “Operationally, we’ll never divulge details that would put our officers at any more risk than they already face in this toxic environment.”

  • Immigrant advocates said the threats so far were political grandstanding "that serves to frighten and intimidate families despite no apparent departure from ICE’s routine work of enforcing U.S. law.," per Abigail and Nick. 

Mood on the street: This weekend "many immigrants — those with legal status and those without — stayed home and avoided the prospect of encountering ICE officers," BuzzFeed News's Hamed Aleaziz and Adolfo Flores report.

  • “I went to the deli and I did not see a single Latino person on the street,” Lizbeth, a 21-year-old New Yorker who is protected from deportation through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program told BuzzFeed. “Our whole body is filled with fear. It’s just one of many days that we as a community expose ourselves to a society full of hate. We all no longer feel safe in a place that many of us call home."

The Campaign

BIDEN TAKES THE GLOVES OFF: Former vice president Joe "Biden’s fresh efforts to highlight distinctions with his rivals — over issues that ranged this weekend from health care and foreign policy, to electability and executive orders — come as he seeks to move on from weeks of scrutiny of his decades-long record, and to offer a more substantive and forward-looking vision beyond his early focus on defeating the president,” the New York Times’ Katie Glueck reports

  • Biden goes on the attack on health care: “He drew some of the starkest distinctions to date between himself and other top-polling candidates on the issue of health care,” Glueck writes.
  • The attack line: “‘I admire the rest of the field, from Bernie [Sanders] to Elizabeth [Warren] to Kamala [Harris] who want, you know, Medicare for All, but let me tell you, I think one of the most significant things we’ve done in our administration is pass the Affordable Care Act.’”
  • He plays up the cost of other plans: “But it doesn’t cost $3 trillion, and it can be done quickly,’ he continued, when asked about differences among the Democratic candidates. ‘I don’t know why we’d get rid of what in fact is working and move to something totally new. And so, there are differences.’”
  • Bernie responds by comparing Biden to the GOP: “‘Obviously what Biden was doing,’ Mr. Sanders said, ‘is what the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industries, Republicans, do: ignoring the fact that people will save money on their health care because they will no longer have to pay premiums or out-of-pocket expenses. They will no longer have high deductibles and high co-payments,” Glueck writes.
  • Bennet says Trump is loving fights on the left: “‘Donald Trump, you can see it in his face. He thinks the game is coming to him. You can see it in his face every day,’ Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), a presidential candidate who has argued forcefully for more centrist policies told our colleague Matt Viser about many candidates' pursuit of more liberal policies. 

BETO SAYS HIS FAMILY OWNED SLAVES: “Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke says he was recently given documents showing that both he and his wife are descended from people who owned slaves,” the Associated Press reports

  • The records: In a post Sunday night for the website Medium, the former Texas congressman writes that the documents showed that one of his paternal great-great-great grandfathers owned two women in the 1850s,” the AP writes. “He says records also showed that one ancestor of his wife, Amy, owned slaves while another was part of the Confederate Army.”
  • It’s now his responsibility to help address this legacy, he says: “I benefit from a system that my ancestors built to favor themselves at the expense of others,” O’Rourke writes. “That only increases the urgency I feel to help change this country so that it works for those who have been locked-out of — or locked-up in — this system. As a person, as a candidate for the office of the Presidency, I will do everything I can to deliver on this responsibility.”

ELSEWHERE ON THE TRAIL:

  • Buttigieg: “Ten Democratic presidential candidates took the stage Sunday afternoon in 90-degree weather to address would-be Iowa caucusgoers, but only Pete Buttigieg got a standing ovation,” that’s the lede from the Des Moines Register’s Stephen Gruber-Miller and Barbara Rodriguez's report on the annual Progress Iowa Corn Feed, a presidential cattle call in the home of the first-in-the-nation caucuses. 
  • Sanders: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said on Sunday that he thought Pelosi has been ‘a little bit’ too tough on AOC and her squad. Ocasio-Cortez was an organizer on Sanders’ 2016 campaign, but is reportedly being courted by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and others for her endorsement this time around.
  • Warren: Progressive activists at the Netroots Nation conference in Philadelphia praised Warren, and said she would be their top choice for president.
  • Money, money, money: Second quarter fundraising reports are due today by midnight to the Federal Election Commission. Most of the current top-tier candidates have already reported, but the verified final totals and the names of high profile donors still await us.

The People

MICK'S EMPIRE: "... [Mick] Mulvaney has focused much of his energy on creating a new White House power center revolving around the long-dormant Domestic Policy Council and encompassing broad swaths of the administration. One White House official described Mulvaney as “building an empire for the right wing," our colleagues Seung Min Kim, Lisa Rein, Josh Dawsey and Erica Werner report on the acting chief of staff's rise.

  • "He has helped install more than a dozen ideologically aligned advisers in the West Wing since his December hiring. Cabinet members are pressed weekly on what regulations they can strip from the books and have been told their performance will be judged on how many they remove," Seung Min, Lisa, Josh and Erica write. "Policy and spending decisions are now made by the White House and dictated to Cabinet agencies, instead of vice versa."
  • Cleaning house: "In the past two months, he has forced out the chiefs of staff at Health and Human Services, White House aides said, and the Labor Department amid policy disputes with them and their respective secretaries,"  Seung Min, Lisa, Josh and Erica write. Mulvaney also continues to clash with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
  • The Hill is over him: "But Mulvaney also faces significant obstacles on Capitol Hill, where he made enemies on both sides of the aisle during his three terms as a bomb-throwing House conservative. Democrats openly disdain him as a saboteur, while many key Republicans distrust his willingness to compromise, particularly on fiscal policy," Seung Min, Lisa, Josh and Erica write "Some GOP senators freely signal they would rather deal with any other a​​​​​dministration official than him."
  • The other push for 2020: "Mulvaney’s biggest successes so far have come in deregulation efforts, where he prods agencies to move faster in case Trump loses or Democrats win the Senate in 2020, advisers say."

Outside the Beltway

‘WORST SCENARIO’ FOR BARRY DIDN’T HAPPEN: “While issues remain, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Sunday evening Louisiana was largely spared from what could have been a disastrous hurricane,” the Advocate’s Will Sentell reports. “‘We leaned forward, we were prepared for the risks that had been forecast,’ [Edwards] said. ‘We are thankful that the worst scenario did not happen.’”

  • New Orleans was spared: “ . . . New Orleans, Baton Rouge and other waterlogged communities seem to have dodged the kind of full-blown natural disaster that seemed possible just a few days earlier,” our colleagues Tim Craig, Ashley Cusick, Mark Berman and Joel Achenbach report.
  • The threat is not over yet: “The amount of rain from Barry has generally been less than feared, but the depression still presents a threat of flooding as it crawls into Arkansas on Monday,’ our colleague Jason Samenow reports. “Flash flood watches cover Louisiana (except for the northwestern portion of the state), Mississippi, much of eastern Arkansas and western Tennessee.” (Barry was briefly a Category 1 Hurricane on Saturday, but then quickly weakened to a tropical storm and on Sunday afternoon weakened again to a tropical depression.) 

In the Media

IN OTHER NEWS: 

Viral

When the lights go down in the city: