with Brent D. Griffiths

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The Policies

B-SCHOOLS SAY IMMIGRATION CHANGES ARE URGENT: The deans of nearly 50 business schools are calling on President Trump and congressional leaders to quickly overhaul the country’s immigration policy for high-skilled workers. 

Why they say it's urgent: The U.S. is losing critical talent from other countries that’s essential to the growth of the American economy as rapid advances in technology restructure the future of work as we know it. 

  • The open letter appears in the Wall Street Journal today and was provided exclusively to Power Up: 

What they want: The leaders from the business schools of Yale, Columbia, Stanford, Duke and New York University and others want the Trump administration to remove the limits on visas granted to individual countries, reform the H-1B visa program to increase the chances that top skilled talent gains entry to the U.S., and even create a so-called “heartland visa” to encourage the flow of such skilled workers to parts of the U.S. “that could most use the vitality of these talented individuals.” 

  • They seem to be making an appeal to Trump’s focus on the economy: “A combination of our outdated laws, artificial regional and skills-based caps on immigration, and recent spikes in hostility are closing the door to the high-skilled immigrants our economy needs to thrive,” the deans write. 
  • How it impacts business schools: “For the first time since we started keeping track of these data, the past three years have seen a reduction in the number of foreign students studying in America’s universities and business schools.” 

A Sputnik moment?: Bill Boulding, dean of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, told Power Up that it was "not too dramatic” to compare the U.S.'s current standing in the global race for high skilled immigrants to a kind of Sputnik moment. 

  • Boulding, who stressed that the open letter is a bipartisan appeal made in the national interest by deans with varying political backgrounds, said high skilled immigration is more important than ever since the U.S. “is in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution." 
  • Key: “If you don’t have the talent and the knowledge as the rules of economic engagement are being reset, there is an extraordinarily long term risk to the U.S. economy being left behind relative to our current position,” Boulding told us. 

There's a substantial imbalance between applicants for H1-B visas and limits the U.S. has imposed on them: "Following the expiration in 2004 of the 195,000 cap, the number of H-1B visas now annually available has diminished to an adjusted cap of 85,000. Issued on a first-come, first-served basis, every year the demand for H-1B visas outweighs the supply. For instance, in 2019 190,098 H-1B petitions were filed for 85,000 visas," according to a white paper released today by the Graduate Management Admission Council. 

The Trump effect: Trump, who has previously called for a merit-based immigration system that prioritizes high skilled immigrants, has instead effectively discouraged foreign workers from seeking jobs in the U.S. Our colleague Tracy Jan has written extensively on how Trump has made the process "increasingly difficult for companies to hire skilled foreign workers … despite the president's call for a merit-based immigration system that prioritizes the admittance of people who are skilled and want to work.” 

  • Denial rates for H1-B visas have spiked under the Trump administration: Data from the National Foundation for American Policy that analyzes data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) show that denial rates have "increased significantly, rising from 6% in FY 2015 to 32% in the first quarter of FY 2019 for new H-1B petitions for initial employment." 
  • And application rates are down: The number of petitions for "high-skilled" H-1B visas received by USCIS fell last year for the first time in five years -- from 236,000 for the 2017 to 199,000 for 2018, according to a 2018 report from the American Immigration Lawyers Association. 
  • Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric seems to be having an impact: The GMAC's white paper also finds that the current social climate in the U.S. has instilled a sense of fear in prospective business school candidates surveyed. 
  • By the numbers: "The majority of Indian (54%) and Chinese (50%) candidates surveyed in 2018 agreed that the political environment would prevent them from applying to a US business school. Forty-four percent of Indian candidates and 58 percent of Chinese candidates agreed fear for their safety and security would prevent them from pursuing a US degree," according to the study. 
  • The growth of the foreign born population in the U.S. has also slowed: Data from the Census Bureau’s annual survey of Americans) shows that the foreign-born population in the U.S. grew by about 203,000 between 2017 and 2018. By contrast, between 2010 and 2017, the average growth was about 640,000 foreign born citizens per year.  

Unofficial changes to the H1-B application process -- and longer visa processing times-- are preventing companies from getting the talent they need, according to Julia Gelatt, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute. She also told Power Up the increase in H1-B denials are a result of USCIS heightening scrutiny of foreign applicants. 

  • “It feels a lot tougher to get H1B visas these days,” Gelatt told Power Up. 
  • “There has been increasing requests for evidence" to prove that workers are truly highly skilled, Gelatt added. "Which is when USCIS says, ‘We need more evidence in order to be able to approve or deny this application.'" 

Final word: "Nationalistic silos will ultimately backfire against countries if talent is limited by their own borders. Countries earnestly trying to help their citizens could unintentionally end up doing the opposite," Boulding, who also chairs the GMAC board, writes in the introduction to the study. 

The Campaign

MORE DEMOCRATS VIEW WARREN AS ELECTABLE: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) isn’t just gaining in the polls. She's also the candidate Democratic primary voters see as the most electable.

That's according to Avalanche Strategy, a liberal communications firm, which found that now "Warren leads in both the traditional horse race question (29%) and as the preferred president when electability is factored out (32%)."

  • Avalanche CEO Michiah Prull explains in the study provided early to Power Up: “Warren’s rise in these polls suggests that voters increasingly believe that she can overcome the perceived electability gap and win the election. While many voters continue to believe that their fellow citizens may be less likely to support a female candidate, Warren appears to be persuading many that she can overcome this challenge." 
  • Avalanche tries to isolate voters' concept of electability by asking the question: If respondents had a magic wand, who would the make president? 
  • More on the poll: The survey was conducted from Oct. 1- Oct. 4 with a total sample of 1,043 likely Democratic primary voters and a 3% margin of error. 

Major caveat: But the survey also found that Democrats fear a female candidate will have a harder time defeating Trump. 

It's not me, it's you: Very few Democrats say that gender affects their own vote, but almost a majority say that it makes other people less likely to vote for a woman. When presented a list of choices, 70% of respondents said they based this on “combined narrative of systematic inequality in America.”

  • But the most interesting part is how Warren closes the gap. The survey finds that the senators’ supporters are slightly more likely to believe that being a woman makes it harder to win. But they believe Warren can overcome this challenge.

The Investigations

FIONA HILL DROPS BOMBSHELLS IN TESTIMONY: Fiona Hill, the White House's former top Russia adviser, told lawmakers that former national security adviser John Bolton was so alarmed by the effort to press Ukraine to investigate Democrats that he told her to talk to a White House lawyer about it, the New York Times's Peter Baker and Nicholas Fandos report.

  • Fireworks: "Mr. Bolton got into a tense exchange on July 10 with Gordon D. Sondland, the Trump donor turned ambassador to the European Union, who was working with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer" on the shadow Ukraine agenda. Hill testified that Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council John Eisenberg about the "rogue effort" by Sondland, Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, per the Times. 
  • 👀: "I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Bolton told Hill to tell White House lawyers. (The Times notes: "Another person in the room initially said Mr. Bolton referred to Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mulvaney, but two others said he cited Mr. Sondland.")
  • It wasn't the first time Bolton expressed concerns about Giuliani's campaign to HillTrump's personal lawyer was "a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up," Hill recalled Bolton saying. 
  • Hill said she confronted Sondland herself over concerns he was overstepping in Ukraine since it was not part of his portfolio: But Sondland said he was in charge of Ukraine, "a moment she compared to Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr.’s declaration that he was in charge after the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt, according to those who heard the testimony." Sondland apparently told her the president gave him the power to oversee Ukraine policy. 

More on why Bolton was so upset: "Bolton and Sondland met in early July with then-special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker, Hill and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Sondland’s agenda for Ukraine began to become clear, when he blurted out to the other officials present that there were 'investigations that were dropped that need to be started up again,' according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter. The officials understood him to be referring to Burisma, the energy company, and Biden — something that made Bolton go 'ballistic' after the meeting, the official said," our colleagues Karoun Demirjian, Shane Harris and Rachael Bade report.

  • The expanding probe: Investigators were discussing whether to question Bolton, our colleagues report. Bolton was Hill's direct superior on the National Security Council.

The People

DEEP DIVE ON GORDON SONDLAND: The EU ambassador flipped-flop on his initial opinions about Trump -- but after becoming the envoy to Brussels began to believe that he could ascend even higher in the Trump administration, our colleagues Aaron C. Davis, Josh Dawsey, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Michael Birnbaum report.

  • The Portland, Ore., hotelier and philanthropist had long sought a high-profile appointment such as an ambassadorship in exchange for his work as a Republican bundler corraling wealthy West Coast donors, our colleagues write, and Jeb Bush dropping out of the 2016 primary was a major disappointment. 
  • "To realize his goal, Sondland made a political about-face and backed Donald Trump, a candidate he once said was out of touch with his 'personal beliefs and values on so many levels.' After the election, Sondland contributed $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee. And he began calling in political favors — including from Republican National Committee chairman turned White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus — to convince Trump that he could be a team player." 

Our colleagues scooped some more details on Sondland's testimony later this week:

  • He'll tell investigators Giuliani had control over a potential meeting between Ukraine's leader and Trump: "Trump told him, [Volker] and [Perry] that any face-to-face meeting he would entertain with the new Ukrainian president would have to be cleared by Giuliani," our colleagues write.
  • And Giuliani apparently made clear what was expected: "Sondland plans to say that over the following weeks, he and Volker, along with the acting ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor, learned that as a condition of such a meeting, Giuliani was demanding that Zelensky’s administration publicly announce it would tackle corruption, including singling out as a target Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company linked to Biden’s son."
  • Giuliani disputed this to our colleagues: He said Sondland "seemed to be in charge” of the overall effort and that Volker came up with the statement. Giuliani also said Volker and Sondland were involved with getting Ukraine to name Burisma.

The revealing ancedotes: "In public appearances and in private meetings, Sondland often came off like a version of Trump with the roughest edges sanded off, according to diplomats who interacted with him," our colleagues write.

  • Some of those Trumpian comments: Sondland "once declared to American business representatives that unlike his predecessors he would 'get s--- done,' according to people who were present. He called the European Union 'out of touch' and accused it of stalling on trade talks with the Trump administration. And he called himself a 'disruptive diplomat.'"
  • Sondland appears to have lavish tastes: Upon his arrival, "he began updating the U.S. ambassador’s baronial residence on the leafy outskirts of Brussels, an effort that was still underway last week, according to a guard who said the residence was closed for extensive renovations," our colleagues write, adding records show a $25,000 contract to an American rug company. It was “real 18th century Jefferson-in-Paris behavior,” a senior U.S. official said. (A person who has spoken to Sondland defended the upgrades as a necessary expense.)
  • And is aiming to be in Trump's Cabinet: "Current and former U.S. officials and foreign diplomats say Sondland seemed to believe that if he delivered for Trump in Ukraine, he could ascend in the ranks of government," our colleagues write. "A person close to Sondland disputed that notion, but other officials said Sondland had been talked about in the administration as a possible successor to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross."

At The White House

TRUMP CALLS FOR A CEASE-FIRE IN NORTHERN SYRIA: "The Trump administration called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to implement an immediate cease-fire in northern Syria and imposed sanctions against Turkey," our colleagues Seung Min Kim and Karen DeYoung report, "as the situation on the ground continued to deteriorate after [Trump’s] decision to withdraw U.S. forces."

  • Trump talks to Erdogan: Vice President Pence said that Erdogan and Trump spoke by phone. Pence said Trump “communicated to him very clearly that the United States of America wants Turkey to stop the invasion, to implement an immediate cease-fire and to begin to negotiate with Kurdish forces in Syria to bring an end to the violence." 
  • Pence is headed to Turkey: The VP announced that he and national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien would lead a delegation to Turkey in the "immediate future."
  • The sanctions "are aimed at Turkey’s Defense and Energy ministries, as well as three senior Turkish officials," our colleagues write. "Among them was the interior minister, a powerful position responsible for domestic security .... Along with the sanctions, Trump also said that tariffs on steel imports from Turkey will be raised 50 percent and that the United States has halted negotiations over a $100 billion trade deal with the country."
  • Mitch McConnell adds to bipartisan backlash after Trump's troop pullout from northern Syria: The Senate majority leader said he was “gravely concerned” about the U.S. response to the escalating conflict in Syria, Politico's Marianne Levine reports. "Abandoning this fight now and withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria would re-create the very conditions that we have worked hard to destroy and invite the resurgence of ISIS,” McConnell said. His statement did not mention Trump by name.

Global Power

ON THE GROUND: "Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad advanced Monday into several key towns across northeastern Syria after an 11th-hour deal with local Kurdish fighters, dramatically altering the balance of power inside the war-battered country," our colleagues Erin Cunningham, Sarah Dadouch, Asser Khattab and Dan Lamothe report.

  • The deal "aims to forestall a Turkish assault against the Kurds," our colleagues write: "Turkey has been pressing an offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters because of their links to Kurdish militants inside Turkey. The military campaign has been condemned by many of Turkey’s Western allies, including the United States, which have warned in part that the escalating violence could give the Islamic State a chance to regenerate its insurgency less than a year after the militant group’s territorial 'caliphate' was defeated."
  • Even a week of fighting has taken a huge toll: The United Nations reported "that as many as 160,000 people, including 70,000 children, have been displaced since the fighting in northeast Syria escalated nearly a week ago."

Aid groups have also been forced to pull out: "As the violence has spiked, aid agencies have been scaling back or suspending humanitarian operations because of shelling, road closures and other threats," our colleagues write. "All international aid groups have now withdrawn their personnel, according to the Kurdish Red Crescent."

  • Key quote: "This is our nightmare scenario. There are tens of thousands of people on the run, and we have no way of getting to them,” Made Ferguson, deputy country director for Syria at Mercy Corps, a U.S.-based aid agency, told our colleagues.

THE DEMOCRATIC DOZEN: 12, yes, 12 candidates, will share a single stage tonight in Ohio with under four months to go until the Iowa caucuses.

Here's a quick look at what the top-polling candidates need to do tonight:

Joe Biden: "I've got to be more aggressive," he told donors last week. While the former vice president was focused on his past debate performances, his campaign has been subject to scrutiny that initially failed to punch back hard enough against Trump's unproven allegations of corruption. But Biden has shifted in the last few days, the New York Times's Katie Glueck and Alexander Burns report. Now he's scorching Trump on the trail and rolling out an ethics plan.

  • Hunter speaks: For the first time since Trump began his attacks, Hunter Biden will speak publicly this morning. His interview on "Good Morning America" will be closely watched, particularly for how he handles criticism of his decision to serve on the board of Burisma. Hunter Biden resigned from his board seat on a Chinese company over the weekend and pledged to not conduct any foreign business should his father win the presidency.

Elizabeth Warren: As the Massachusetts senator continues to surge in the polls, "it's advantage Warren," as Mark Longabaugh, a senior adviser to Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign, told Politico's David Siders. But do the gloves finally come off tonight?

Bernie Sanders: This is his first debate since his heart attack. Our colleague Sean Sullivan reports the debate "is shaping up as a defining moment for Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is seeking to rebound from a heart attack that has clouded the future of his candidacy and the leftist political movement he has built over decades."

  • The contrast: "Buttigieg, 37, and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, 47 — will also appear onstage, creating the potential for lively discussions of age," Sean writes.

In the Media

VIOLENT VIDEO WAS PRODUCED BY TRUMP'S ALLIES: "The creator of a gruesome video that showed a fake [Trump] killing journalists and political opponents and that was played at a meeting of a pro-Trump group over the weekend is part of a loose network of right-wing provocateurs with a direct line to the White House," the Times's Annie Karni, Kevin Roose and Katie Rogers report.

  • More on those behind the video: "Another of the provocateurs, Logan Cook, who often has posted videos on MemeWorld, his website, participated in a social media summit at the White House in July and took his children to meet the president in the Oval Office, accompanied by Dan Scavino, the White House social media director," the Times reports.
  • The larger story: "The connections underscore how the president’s escalating war on what he calls the 'fake news' media has elevated people from the far-right fringe into presidential allies who defend him with extreme language and images."
  • Trump did not mention the video on Monday, but White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham condemned it. The three headliners of the conference: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Donald Trump Jr. all said they did not see the video and also condemned it.


Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer played Woody on "Dancing with the Stars'" Disney night.