- “NBC News earlier reported the pause in advertising spending, noting that the campaign spent almost nothing on television or radio ads on Wednesday and Thursday, and had almost no ads booked through the end of August.”
At The White House
‘NEVER IN THE HISTORY’: The unquestioning fealty Republican members of Congress have paid President Trump wobbled this week after Trump floated the prospect of delaying the November election — a power he does not have.
A morning tweet that also baselessly alleged there will be mail-in voter fraud prompted Republican leaders who usually prefer to feign ignorance of Trump's Twitter feed to rebuff him. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the date of the Nov. 3 election is set in stone and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also rejected the idea.
- “Never in the history of the country, through wars and depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time, and we'll find a way to do that again this November 3,” McConnell told WNKY's Max Winitz.
- “ … never in the history of the federal elections have we ever not held an election and we should go forward with our election,” McCarthy told reporters at his weekly news conference.
- “All I can say is, it doesn’t matter what one individual in this country says, we still are a country based on the rule of law and we want to follow the law until either the Constitution is changed,” said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa).
- Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) tried to portray Trump's tweet as a joke “so all you guys in the press, your heads will explode and you'll write about it.”
Trump's constant push to undermine public faith in U.S. elections has intensified as he's sunk in the polls during the the coronavirus pandemic that's killed at least 148,000 Americans. The idea of delaying the election, however, was a red line for some who were previously tolerant of Trump and his allies' view of expansive presidential power.
Trump appeared undaunted by the incoming criticism and later tweeted he was simply trying to get the media to “finally start talking about the RISKS to our Democracy from dangerous Universal Mail-In-Voting (not Absentee Voting, which I totally support!).”
- “Already burdened with an administration that only briefly attempted a full-scale response to a public health crisis that has sickened millions of Americans and killed over 150,000 while ravaging the economy, Republicans on the ballot are increasingly being undermined by Mr. Trump’s response to his misfortune,” the New York Times's Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Martin, and Reid J. Epstein report.
- “Far from a strongman, Mr. Trump has lately become a heckler in his own government, promoting medical conspiracy theories on social media, playing no constructive role in either the management of the coronavirus pandemic or the negotiation of an economic rescue plan in Congress — and complaining endlessly about the unfairness of it all,” the Times's Alexander Burns writes.
Republican governors and secretaries of state across the country quickly dismissed the president's proposal and sought to hastily clarify any confusion. And the increasingly vocal anti-Trump contingency may have gained a few new members:
- Steven Calabresi, the co-founder of the Federalist Society who voted for Trump in 2016 and opposed his impeachment, rebuked the idea of delaying the election in a New York Times op-ed, calling it “fascistic” and “grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate.”
- “President Trump needs to be told by every Republican in Congress that he cannot postpone the federal election. Doing so would be illegal, unconstitutional and without precedent in American history. Anyone who says otherwise should never be elected to Congress again,” Calabresi writes.
- And Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.), who is retiring this year and has been critical of Trump, told FiveThirtyEight's Galen Druke he is unsure whether he'll vote for Trump this year: “We are not an authoritarian government where the head of state gets to decide on a whim when an election happens,” Hurd said on the podcast. “So no, this is Congress’s role, as you said. It should go forward as has been established. And ultimately, look, I’m of the opinion that we should be increasing the ways for people to vote, right, the more people that vote, the better off it is.”
Another problem for local and state officials: Trump's escalating attacks on mail balloting coincided with “new procedures described as cost cutting efforts” that have taken effect at the U.S. Postal Service, our colleagues Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Jacob Bogage scooped.
- “The U.S. Postal Service is experiencing days-long backlogs of mail across the country after a top Trump donor running the agency put in place new procedures described as cost-cutting efforts, alarming postal workers who warn that the policies could undermine their ability to deliver ballots on time for the November election,” Michelle and Jacob report.
- “ … postal employees and union officials say the changes implemented by Trump fundraiser-turned-postmaster general Louis DeJoy are contributing to a growing perception that mail delays are the result of a political effort to undermine absentee voting.”
New Hampshire's Republican governor:
Trump's threat came on the heels of some of the worst economic news of the pandemic yet.
- The U.S. economy shrank 9.5 percent from April through June — “the fastest the quarterly rate has fallen in modern record-keeping.”
- It also came against the backdrop of the funeral for civil rights icon John Lewis. Trump did not attend but three of his predecessors delivered public comments.
- President Barack Obama called out those “those in power who are doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting” without mentioning Trump by name.
Even as Trump has urged schools, restaurants and the economy to reopen as coronavirus deaths mount, fears he might try to move the election date have persisted. The Constitution gives Congress the power to fix the date of general elections and the 20th Amendment makes plain that Trump's four-year term would end on Jan. 20 if he loses — whether an election is held or not, our colleagues Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey and John Wagner report.
- “The President has no power to change the date of the election,” Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at the University of California at Irvine, told them. “This is yet another statement by the President which undermines voter confidence and that seeks without evidence to undermine the legitimacy of voting by mail.”
The Constitution has not stopped other members of the Trump administration from teasing a delay, either.
- Earlier this year, White House adviser and first son-in-law Jared Kushner did not rule out postponing the election in an interview with Time Magazine's Brian Bennett: “I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other, but right now that’s the plan,” he said of holding the Nov. 3 election during a pandemic.
And his blitzkrieg against mail voting is raising red flags among some Republican pollsters who believe Trump's campaign is working against the party — and that GOP voters have internalized the message not to vote by mail:
- GOP pollster Glen Bolger described to Power Up a survey he got back this month from “a major swing state” that showed “Trump ahead among election day voters but among mail-in votes behind 15 to 75. That's significant.”
- “You want their voters to vote when they can,” Bolger added. “And that’s a real risk that some of our voters may not turn out on Election Day even though they say they plan to. You want them to vote when it’s convenient for them and [Trump's] approach kind of narrows it down to a pretty small funnel which is ElectionDday only. It’s a risk.”
- Democrats took the opportunity to encourage voters to request mail-in ballots:
Outside the Beltway
ECONOMY CONTRACTS AT RECORD RATE: “The U.S. economy shrank by a stunning 9.5 percent from April through June, a historic contraction and a stinging reminder of how much was lost in such a short period,” Rachel Siegel and Andrew Van Dam report. Negotiations over a new coronavirus stimulus package were stalled yesterday as emergency unemployment benefits were set to expire for millions of Americans.
- More details: “The drop in gross domestic product was the fastest the quarterly rate has fallen in modern record-keeping. As the ground beneath the economy buckled amid the pandemic, tens of millions of jobs were erased, businesses were gutted and the future of the economy became further intertwined with an uncontrolled public health crisis.”
Economists say this is another warning: “While Congress clashes over another stimulus bill and the virus forces more states to shut down bars and restaurants again, there is mounting fear that the economy could be held back even more, making a true recovery much more fraught,” our colleagues write.
- They are imploring lawmakers to go big in their plan: “Out of 25 economists surveyed by The Washington Post, 20 urged Congress to pass a stimulus of $2 trillion or more. The others, mostly conservative economists, agreed that Congress needs to act by mid-August. They favored a roughly $1 trillion package,” Heather Long reports.
- Those include some conservative voices saying now is not the worry about the debt: “This recession was a huge consumption shock. Health care, food, transportation, all those things collapsed,” Doug Holtz-Eakin, a former economic adviser to George W. Bush and John McCain, told our colleague. “We have to do things to ensure people’s safety and make them feel confident to go back out. Spend what you need to do it.”
On The Hill
WHITE HOUSE WILLING TO CUT LIABILITY SHIELD: “The White House is willing to cut a deal with Democrats that leaves out Senate Republican legislation aimed at protecting employers, hospitals and schools from coronavirus-related lawsuits, according to two people with knowledge of internal White House planning,” Jeff Stein and Erica Werner report this morning.
This would jettison McConnell's ‘red line’: “McConnell controls the Senate floor and could shoot down any deal that leaves out what he has said is a necessary component of any stimulus package,” our colleagues caution.
- The thinking inside the West Wing: “One of the people familiar with the administration’s thinking said the measure was ‘considered important but not absolutely essential.’”
- “On Wednesday, President Trump told reporters that the White House wants to move quickly to approve a partial extension of unemployment benefits and an extension of a federal eviction moratorium, which expired on Friday. Trump did not mention the liability shield,” Jeff and Erica report.
- More: “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also floated a partial stimulus package that would include the eviction moratorium and a reduced extension in unemployment benefits. Congressional Democrats have rejected the piecemeal approach, and Mnuchin has said the two parties remain ‘far apart’ on a broader package. ”
In the Agencies
DHS ASSEMBLED INTEL REPORTS ON JOURNALISTS IN PORTLAND: “The Department of Homeland Security has compiled ‘intelligence reports’ about the work of American journalists covering protests in Portland, Ore., in what current and former officials called an alarming use of a government system meant to share information about suspected terrorists and violent actors,” Shane Harris reports.
- More details: “Over the past week, the department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis has disseminated three Open Source Intelligence Reports to federal law enforcement agencies and others, summarizing tweets written by two journalists — a reporter for the New York Times and the editor in chief of the blog Lawfare — and noting they had published leaked, unclassified documents about DHS operations in Portland. The intelligence reports, obtained by The Washington Post, include written descriptions and images of the tweets and the number of times they had been liked or retweeted by others.”
OBAMA ISSUES CALL TO ACTION IN EULOGY FOR LEWIS: “Former president Barack Obama delivered a call to action in his eulogy of late congressman John Lewis, urging Congress to pass new voting rights laws and likening tactics by [Trump] and his administration to those used by racist Southern leaders who fought the civil rights movement in the 1960s,” Paul Kane and John Wagner report.
- The former president was explicit in the parallels he drew: “Bull Connor may be gone, but today we witness with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of Black Americans,” the nation’s first Black president said at Lewis’s final memorial service. “George Wallace may be gone, but we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators. We may no longer have to guess the number of jelly beans in a jar in order to cast a ballot, but even as we sit here there are those in power who are doing their darndest to discourage people from voting.”
- He also signaled future Democratic senators and a President Biden should ditch the filibuster: “A Jim Crow relic,” Obama said of the 60-vote threshold that he urged to be discarded in a push to renew and reinvigorate the Voting Rights Act. “Once we pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we should make it even better,” Obama said.
The split-screen of the day was striking: “Three presidents spoke in poetry, paying tribute to a fallen hero who believed — often against evidence to the contrary, including the cracking of his skull by state troopers — that America was good, its people driven by love to do right by one another. One president, the current commander in chief, did not attend the funeral of Rep. John Lewis but instead spoke of dark forces in the country and suggested that the United States not hold its next presidential election on time,” Marc Fisher writes.
In the Media
ROBERT DRAPER ON HIS NEW BOOK ABOUT THE IRAQ WAR: The Iraq War will forever be a defining moment in American history. The quagmire that came out of the conflict overshadowed one presidency while opening the door to another. U.S. troops returned home — some steadfast in the support of their mission, others questioning decisions that got them there — while the political battle over the war continues to reverberate in Washington.
For the nation at large, the war offered yet another inflection point where its most powerful institutions, including the one we work for, are left with its collective legacy. All the while, thousands of families bear the grief of the nearly 5,000 Americans lives lost — along with many more Iraqis — and tens of thousands who returned home with huge mental and physical wounds.
With this in mind, Power Up asked Draper about his book that published this week, “To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq.” (We've edited our conversation for clarity and length.)
- On how many officials feel differently about going to war?: “Very few. With almost no exceptions, those in the Bush administration with whom I spoke found fault in the timing and method but not the decision itself. I got the distinct impression that [former secretary of state Condoleezza] Rice had second thoughts — but this was entirely intuitive on my part, as she hasn't separated herself from her former boss, who himself has settled on a ‘time will tell' viewpoint. (which, I should point out, is a marked departure from Bush's previous line that ‘Iraq and the world are better off without Saddam.’)”
- On why Bush declined to talk to him and how he feels about the war: “I think the president was deeply disappointed by my 2007 book about him. He'd given me a great deal of access at a time when his approval ratings were in the basement, and I think he hoped my first draft of his history would amount to an unambiguous thumbs-up … At the risk of positioning myself as his psychoanalyst, I do think his paintings reveal a man delving into a deeper plane of self-inspection than he'd previously permitted himself. What's clear is that he's aware Iraq — not education reform, not tax cuts, not global AIDS, not his efforts to achieve a comprehensive immigration package — will define his legacy. Knowing that, it's unsurprising that he would bare his soul on that subject to a journalist.”
- What fact shocked Draper the most? And what is similar/different between 43 and 45?: “I think what surprised me most was the recognition that in the end, the intelligence — faulty though it was — didn't matter so much to him. Bush had it in his head that Saddam was evil, and after 9/11, evil had to be stamped out. Having said that, Bush never challenged the intelligence … Trump, by contrast, has denounced even the most irrefutable of intelligence, owing to his own political considerations. ”
WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Former GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain died of covid-19: “Although it is unclear where Cain, who was 74, contracted the disease, he was among several thousand people, most of whom did not wear masks, who attended a Trump campaign rally in Tulsa on June 20. Cain, who co-chaired Black Voices for Trump, was photographed maskless and not socially distancing at the event,” John Wagner, Robert Costa and Annie Gowen report.
- Tributes from GOP officials poured in: Trump called his friend a “powerful voice of freedom and all that is good.” McCarthy added Cain “led an accomplished life — business titan, cancer survivor, and Republican presidential candidate.”
- Read more about Cain here.
Basketball is back. Tributes to the Black Lives Matter movement abound: “As the NBA resumed its season Thursday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex outside Orlando, the absence of fans inside the league’s bubble was far from the only noticeable difference. Changes were made to the courts as well, with ‘Black Lives Matter’ printed in block lettering near the center of the floor. But perhaps the most significant aesthetic differences for this experimental conclusion of the season were the jerseys on players’ backs,” Ava Wallace reports. Her story includes a full list of what messages each player has chosen, if any, from an agreed-upon list.
- Before both games, every single player knelt together during the national anthem: Players on the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz linked arms and draped arms over each others’ shoulders, Cindy Boren reports. The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers repeated the scene later in the evening. The protests, which included coaches and referees, were both in violation of a long-standing NBA rule, but Commissioner Adam Silver said no one would be punished.
Both games went down to the wire: