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Power Up: Trumpworld says attacks on minority congresswomen are actually good politics

with Brent D. Griffiths

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🚨: "Talks on getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons are at risk because the United States looks set to break a promise not to hold military exercises with South Korea, North Korea said on Tuesday," per Reuters's Hyonhee Shin

President Trump defended on July 15 a tweet were he said four liberal congresswomen of color should “go back” to their home countries. (Video: Reuters)

At the White House

VIEW FROM TRUMPWORLD: President Trump is doubling tripling down on his racist tweets telling minority congresswomen to “go back” to their home countries — and don’t expect him to reverse course anytime soon.

  • “It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” Trump said at the White House, when asked if he was bothered that people saw his attacks on Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.) as racist. “And all I’m saying — they want to leave, they can leave.” 

Politically expedient: That's how sources on the Trump campaign and on Capitol Hill see the move. The ensuing outrage that sparked Democrats to coalesce around the group of liberal congresswomen, who have been the center of party infighting, only helps feed Trump's preferred narrative that the party is beholden to it's far-left flank. 

  • Trump's tweets “yet again reinforced in the minds of many Americans that the Democratic Party is the party of AOC and Omar,” a Trump campaign adviser tells Power Up. The tone of the message, the adviser says, also plays well with the base as a reminder of Trump's hard line immigration policies. 
  • “Strictly from a political standpoint, his tweets seemed designed to get [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and the Squad back on the same team,” a second campaign adviser told Power Up of the quartet of lawmakers informally known as the Squad. “Being anti-Pelosi polls well with the base. Having Pelosi and the Squad back together polls even better.” 
  • A Senate aide said the feud about what's considered racist is a proxy fight for bigger divides between coastal and heartland politics: “We really do have two different countries out there,” one Senate aide told Power Up, saying many voters do agree with his comments about the Squad. 
  • Difference of opinion: “There was frustration in the White House that by going so far in his tweets, Trump had squandered the moral high ground, impeding the administration and his campaign’s ability to use Omar and Tlaib’s more controversial comments to political advantage,” Ashley Parker, Rachael Bade and John Wagner report

Saying the quiet part out loud: Yet Trump himself seemed to crow at the idea that he was the provocateur that put Democrats in a politically perilous position by sending the feud between Pelosi and the liberal freshmen to the wayside — for the time being: 

Unpopularity contest: Campaign officials pointed to a poll recently leaked to Axios's Mike Allen to support their theory of the case that members of the Squad and socialism are effective boogeymen for Trump's base and deeply unpopular among Trump voters. 

  • While the "anonymous poll" published by Axios does not meet some basic polling standards that most news organizations require with regards to transparent methodology, it sampled general-election voters who are white and have two years or less of college education. It found AOC and Omar are visible faces of the Democratic party but polling unfavorably. Socialism polled highly unfavorably.

PELOSI BOXED IN: Before Trump's tweets, the focus was on Pelosi's attempts to quash dissent within her ranks as she sought to push policies that would protect her majority and members who flipped Republican seats. 

But the the Squad ultimately was ascendant on Monday. The House introduced a resolution to condemn Trump's remarks as Pelosi vowed to "forcefully respond." And the liberal lawmakers were front and center at a news conference calling for an impeachment inquiry -- which not only bucks Pelosi's approach but quickly renewed the major debate that has divided the Democratic House caucus. 

  • “It is time for us to stop allowing him to make a mockery out of this Constitution. It’s time for us to impeach this president,” Omar said at the news conference  
  • Separately, Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) said that the fracas was enough to move forward with impeachment and said he'd “bring articles of impeachment to the floor of the House” by the end of the month, per my colleague Mike DeBonis
  • “I have had enough," Green said. "I believe a good many of my colleagues have had enough. We’ll find out how many. And I think the American people are fed up with this behavior . . . This is the only place, by the way, where the president can be checked. There’s no other place."

Under pressure: Some House Democrats viewed the Squad's news conference taking advantage of the moment to get more officials on the record about impeachment. 

  • Offices have started seeing an uptick in calls for impeachment even after the news conference, a House aide told Power Up. “So this has put pressure, once again, on Democrats who are on the fence." 
  • “Pelosi took a break from fighting with the Squad to back them up and now she's in another position where she's going to have to distance herself once again because the impeachment drumbeat is back,” the aide added. 

On The Hill

GOP RESPONSE: On the scale of 1 to Access Hollywood, Republican outrage to Trump's incendiary tweets barely moved the needle on Monday. The responses from GOP members were spotty: some condemned Trump, some defended him, others noticeably twisted themselves into knots to avoid directly answering the question, while some remained silent. 

'Silence can be corrosive': Former Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), formerly one of the toughest Republican critics of Trump in Congress who lost his seat to a primary challenger, tells Power Up that quite simply, “elected office holders on the Republican side don't want to cross the president for fear of consequences.” 

  • “The reality of the political process is that people in the game want to stay in the game,” Sanford told us. “Very few are going to put a philosophical point ahead of that. I mean, I started in politics with Lindsey [Graham] and he has had quite an evolution in terms of his thinking on Trump.”
  • “The silence can be corrosive and that's where it's not enough to put up with this kind of stuff,” Sanford said of the relative lack of outrage from his former colleagues about Trump's racist tweets. “I think all of us ought to be dutiful in speaking up against things that are outrageous, division and destructive.” 

THE BREAKDOWN: Sure enough, some Republicans defended Trump's comments and piled on to slam the squad: 

  • “Montanans are sick and tired of listening to anti-American, anti-Semite, radical Democrats trash our country and our ideals,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) wrote on Twitter, ending his message with an explicit endorsement of Trump and an American flag emoji. “This is America. We’re the greatest country in the world.”
  • “The immigrants I know, including my mother-in-law, are the people most disgusted by Rep. Omar’s ingratitude to the nation who rescued her family from an African refugee camp and gave her the equivalent of a lottery ticket to come to the USA,” Rep. Sean Duffy (R- Wis.), a former star of MTV's The Real World, tweeted. 
  • “Anyone in the US w a blame America 1st mentality for everything needs to do some serious self reflection, especially if they are a Member of Congress,” Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) tweeted.
  • From Graham: 

The most forceful reactions appeared to come from Republicans in more moderate districts -- or who are in tight races. 

  • “There is no excuse for the president’s spiteful comments — they were absolutely unacceptable and this needs to stop,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) tweeted.
  • “I think those tweets are racist and xenophobic. They're also inaccurate, right?," Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) said on CNN, one of the few Republicans to explicitly call the tweets racist. “The four women he's referring to are actually citizens of the United States. Three of the four were born here.”
  • Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) also told my colleagues she found Trump's comments racist: “Yeah, I do. They're American citizens.” She added: The Republican Party “has a stronger platform to talk about; that’s what we should be focusing on.”
  • “I disagree strongly with many of the views and comments of some of the far-left members of the House Democratic Caucus — especially when it comes to their views on socialism, their anti-Semitic rhetoric, and their negative comments about law enforcement,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said, “but the President’s tweet that some Members of Congress should go back to the ‘places from which they came’ was way over the line, and he should take that down.”
  • From Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah):

Some tried to split the baby, couching a light criticism in attacks on liberals. 

  • “The default to whenever the president says something: I's racist. I don't think he's got a racist bone in his body,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) told reporters. “He's got an approach that might let the other side talk about it. That's what I don't like.”
  • “Sometimes I disagree with my colleagues in the House on policy, especially the Democrat majority's veer toward socialism and recent left-wing approach on national security, immigration and health care,” Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.) tweeted, in a message that failed to even mention Trump. “These debates are an intended function of Congress. However, racially-motivated statements or behavior is totally unacceptable and unbecoming of our great nation.” 

As for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — he dodged the question, teasing it for his news conference later today: 


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The Campaign

WHAT THE MONEY RACE TELLS US: While you were sleeping last night, the 25 Democratic presidential candidates dropped their latest filings on their fundraising hauls -- or lack thereof. Here's what you need to know:

Tier drops: The money race shows the two dozen-person field continues to sort itself into two tiers. "Candidates polling near the top of the field all reported drawing at least $10 million during the same three-month period period, federal filings made public Monday night show," Jenna and Michelle write.

  • High rollers: Mayor Pete Buttigieg ($24.8 million); former vice president Joe Biden ($21.5 million); Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts ($19.1 million); Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (about $18 million); Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California (nearly $12 million).

Beto's numbers were lackluster: "Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign raised $3.7 million in the second quarter of this year — far less than the roughly $6 million that his campaign said it collected on the first day of his candidacy," our colleagues Jenna Johnson and Michelle Ye Hee Lee report.

  • How far he has fallen: "During the first 17 days of his presidential campaign, he raised $9.4 million," Jenna and Michelle write. O'Rourke raised $80 million during his unsuccessful Senate run, an eye popping number that combined with the massive list of supporters who help power it set expectations very high.
  • His polling isn't much better: Nationally, O'Rourke is sixth in the Real Clear Politics average
  • But O'Rourke's campaign manager says they're in "a great position": "Hell, if I had a dollar for every time I was on a campaign that seemed left for dead, I’d probably exceed our average contribution," Jen O'Malley Dillon wrote in a note to supporters. 

Spending spree: "Low-polling Democratic presidential hopefuls drew in far less cash in the past three months than their more prominent rivals and spent almost all the money they raised trying to jump-start their campaigns — a precarious sign for their ability to survive a lengthy primary fight," our colleagues Michelle and Anu Narayanswamy report.

  • Riding the struggle bus: "Washington Gov. Jay Inslee raised $3 million and spent $3.25 million; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York raised $2.3 million and spent $4.2 million; former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper raised $1.15 million and spent $1.6 million; self-help guru Marianne Williamson raised and spent $1.5 million; Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio raised $889,264 and spent $541,111," Michelle and Anu write.

​​​​​​​The Dude abides:

And yes, there's always money in the banana stand:  

The Policies

BROAD CHANGES TO ASYLUM ARE COMING: "The Trump administration decreed broad changes to U.S. asylum policies Monday, a move aimed at slowing the influx of Central Americans who are crossing the Mexico border seeking refuge," our colleagues Nick Miroff, Arelis R. Hernández and Kevin Sieff report.

  • The details: "U.S. authorities will sharply restrict access to the nation’s asylum system for anyone who did not seek protection from other countries before crossing the southern border ...," Nick, Arelis and Kevin write. "The policy shift could result in the Trump administration deporting most aslyum-seekers back to their nations of origin." The administration plans to make the final move towards implementing the policy today.

Expect a court fight: "'The administration is effectively trying to end asylum at the southern border,' Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who has been contesting Trump administration immigration policies in court told our colleagues about his organization's plan to seek an injunction to block its implementation.

  • Critics say this undermines a key part of immigration law: ".... The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) contains broad provisions that allow foreigners who reach U.S. soil to apply for asylum if they claim a fear of persecution in their native countries," Nick, Arelis and Kevin write. 
  • The administration's response: "Administration officials have claimed that many asylum seekers are taking advantage of the safeguards to gain easy entry into the United States, typically surrendering to border agents and stating a fear of harm if deported."

The system is currently overwhelmed: "The majority of those who claim fear at the U.S. southern border are granted access to the U.S. immigration system, and many are released from custody while their claims are pending," Nick, Arelis and Kevin write. Because U.S. courts are clogged with a backlog of nearly 1 million cases, it can take months or years before asylum applicants go before a judge.

  • Just how bad things are: "In the past five years, asylum applications have nearly quadrupled, Justice Department statistics show."

In the Media