- “I think it should be Ivanka. What about Ivanka as my VP?” Trump asked the assembled group, according to a new book by Gates set to be published Oct. 13. “Ivanka should be vice president,” he added.
- “…he brought up the idea repeatedly over the following weeks, trying to sell his campaign staff on the idea, insisting she would be embraced by the Republican base, Gates writes.”
DISPATCH FROM NEBRASKA: Joe Biden's chances of winning the White House could come down to suburbs like Papillon in this state, where I spent some time this weekend, and the cities they surround like Omaha.
Election forecasters say that's unlikely, but anything could happen in the unpredictable race between Biden and President Trump, who won Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District by two points in 2016.
Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman says, however, Biden is likely to pick up an electoral vote in the 2nd. This state and Maine are the only ones that award some of their electoral college votes by congressional district. Nebraska allocates two electoral votes to the overall state popular vote winner; the rest are divvied up among three congressional districts for a total of five overall.
- “This is the most likely electoral vote in the country to flip from Trump to Biden,” Wasserman told Power Up of Nebraska's 2nd district. “Biden’s lead here on average is greater than it is than any other place Trump won.” There’s yet to be a public poll of the district, but Wasserman said the private data he’s seen of the presidential contest led him to peg the race as “Lean Democratic. ”
- Trump is heavily favored to win the overall state — he secured Nebraska by 25 points in 2016 — and win the 3rd district, a less populated, rural 460-mile stretch encompassing more counties (75) than any other district in the nation. Local Democrats think they can make a play for the 1st district anchored by Lincoln, home to the flagship campus of the University of Nebraska. But that’s far less likely than prevailing in the Omaha metro area.
That being said this is 2020:
Both campaigns are also paying close attention to the 2nd district: And the election is already beginning here. Officials will begin mailing out absentee ballots to voters that request them later today. In person early voting begins Oct. 5., which is just a week away.
- In visits: Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff traveled to the Omaha-area on Saturday for an outdoor roundtable with veterans and military families, an important part of the district’s demographics considering nearby Offutt Air Force Base. The Trump campaign has dispatched second lady Karen Pence and Lara Trump to the district. Donald Trump Jr. has also visited, which he will do again Monday night in an event with Turning Point USA Action.
The Biden campaign is set to hammer the airwaves: As of last Thursday, Biden’s campaign had $915,000 worth of ads reserved through Election Day.
- Trump’s campaign was set to go dark, according to Medium Buying, an ad-tracking firm as they only had time reserved through today. But a pro-Trump super PAC has time scheduled through Wednesday, which is part of a $562,000 buy that beat both actual campaigns to TV screens by two weeks. Nationally, the Omaha media market is incredibly cheap compared to other state’s with swing areas and you can target the entire district at once. There’s also the bonus that some of the metro area bleeds into neighboring Iowa, which based on recent polling is also expected to be very competitive.
A Republican political operative in Nebraska familiar with the Trump campaign’s efforts dismissed the TV disparity and pointed out Barack Obama was buoyed in 2008 by a then-unprecedented ground game for a presidential candidate in the state. In keeping with its national approach, the Biden campaign is not going door-to-door here nor do they have an office, though they do have staffers organizing voters remotely. The Trump campaign has opened an office in Omaha and is personally contacting voters on the ground.
- “People who are prognosticating that [it's] going to go the direction of Biden think so because they believe that those urban/suburban, educated women … just hate Trump enough that they’ll vote for Biden and that’s like a hope and a prayer instead of a plan,” the operative said.
National polling does illustrate Biden’s advantage. Our Washington Post/ABC News poll released yesterday found suburban voters give a slight edge to Biden “with 52 percent supporting Biden to 47 percent for Trump,” our colleagues Dan Balz and Emily Guskin report.
- The gender gap is particularly telling: “Suburban men back Trump by 60 percent to 38 percent, while suburban women favor Biden by an even larger 66 percent to 34 percent.”
A new map: Nebraska Republicans were embarrassed by Obama’s flip of the 2nd district in 2008. So much so the officially nonpartisan but de facto GOP-controlled legislature redrew suburban Sarpy County, where Papillion is located, in hopes the new lines would deprive Democrats of working-class voters and further dilute Democrats in Omaha, the state’s largest city.
- Mitt Romney carried the 2nd by seven points in 2012, but Trump held on by only two four years later.
There is one Democrat who broke through. Former congressman Brad Ashford (D) ousted longtime GOP incumbent Lee Terry in 2014 running on a centrist message and seizing on Terry’s public comments about the government shutdown.
- Incumbent Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) ousted Ashford two years later. His chance at a third term is rated a pure “toss-up” by Wasserman. Our colleague Paul Kane delved further into the race.
“If you get too far left, you’ll lose the center of the Democratic Party and, obviously, you’ll lose whatever Republican you could get,” Ashford told Power Up, stressing a centrist message like he feels Biden offers is key to staying competitive in Sarpy County.
- To that point, Bacon has aired an ad using Biden’s owns comments to attack his challenger, Democrat Kara Eastman, over her support for Medicare-for-all. Biden and Obama have endorsed Eastman, who defeated Ashford in a 2016 primary and then lost to Bacon both that year and two years later.
🚨: “Former campaign manager for Donald Trump, Brad Parscale, who was replaced by the President less than four months until November’s vote was reportedly armed with a gun and threatening to harm himself at his Fort Lauderdale home on Sunday afternoon,” WPLG Local 10 News's Michelle Solomon reports.
- “The police, called by his wife, went to the house in the Seven Isles community, an affluent area in which the houses have access to the water. They made contact, ‘developed a rapport’ and negotiated his exit from the house, the police said in a statement. He was taken to Broward Health Medical Center under the Baker Act, which provides for temporary involuntary commitment,” according to the Sun Sentinel's Brett Clarkson, Austen Erblat, David Lyons, Brittany Wallman, and David Flesher.
- “Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Karen Dietrich said the encounter at [Parscale’s] home was brief. ‘We went out and it was very short. We went and got him help.’ Dietrich said he didn’t threaten police and he went willingly under Florida’s Baker Act, which allows police to detain a person who is potentially a threat to himself or others.”
- A statement from President Trump’s campaign communications director, Tim Murtaugh, per Solomon: "Brad Parscale is a member of our family and we all love him. We are ready to support him and his family in any way possible.”
- “Two campaign officials said they were aware of an incident and were investigating it. They spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the situation,” per our colleague Josh Dawsey.
At the White House
INCOME TAX: At least one October surprise has already arrived ahead of schedule. The New York Times's Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig, and Mike McIntire obtained Trump's tax returns extending over more than two decades — including recent information.
The much sought-after records paint a damning picture of a president “who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes.”
They also display the “hollowness, but also the wizardry, behind the self-made-billionaire image — honed through his star turn on 'The Apprentice' — that helped propel him to the White House and that still undergirds the loyalty of many in his base. Ultimately, Mr. Trump has been more successful playing a business mogul than being one in real life.”
- Bottom lines: “Donald Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750,” per Buettner, Craig and McIntire. “He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.”
- Key: “All of the information The Times obtained was provided by sources with legal access to it. While most of the tax data has not previously been made public, The Times was able to verify portions of it by comparing it with publicly available information and confidential records previously obtained by The Times.”
- “They report that Mr. Trump owns hundreds of millions of dollars in valuable assets, but they do not reveal his true wealth. Nor do they reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.”
- However, the financial pressure on Trump looms large: “ … he is personally responsible for loans and other debts totaling $421 million, with most of it coming due within four years. Should he win reelection, his lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president.”
- More to come: “This article offers an overview of The Times’s findings; additional articles will be published in the coming weeks.”
The workaround: “The collective and persistent losses he reported from [businesses that Trump owns and runs himself] largely absolved him from paying federal income taxes on the $600 million from “The Apprentice,” branding deals and investments. That equation is a key element of the alchemy of Mr. Trump’s finances: using the proceeds of his celebrity to purchase and prop up risky businesses, then wielding their losses to avoid taxes.”
- “Throughout his career, Mr. Trump’s business losses have often accumulated in sums larger than could be used to reduce taxes on other income in a single year. But the tax code offers a workaround: With some restrictions, business owners can carry forward leftover losses to reduce taxes in future years. That provision has been the background music to Mr. Trump’s life.”
- The Ivanka solution: “Ivanka Trump, while working as an employee of the Trump Organization, appears to have received “consulting fees” that also helped reduce the family’s tax bill,” the New York Times's David Leonhardt writes in his breakdown of the investigative deep dive.
- “The Times investigation discovered a striking match: Mr. Trump’s private records show that his company once paid $747,622 in fees to an unnamed consultant for hotel projects in Hawaii and Vancouver, British Columbia. Ivanka Trump’s public disclosure forms — which she filed when joining the White House staff in 2017 — show that she had received an identical amount through a consulting company she co-owned.”
Nevertheless, Trump has maintained a costly lifestyle: “Even while declaring losses, he has managed to enjoy a lavish lifestyle by taking tax deductions on what most people would consider personal expenses, including residences, aircraft and $70,000 in hairstyling for television,” Leonhardt highlights.
The presidency has helped Trump's business. The investigation shows the president is receiving more money from foreign deals than previously known while he's been in the White House:
- “When he took office, Mr. Trump said he would pursue no new foreign deals as president,” per the NYT reporting team. “Even so, in his first two years in the White House, his revenue from abroad totaled $73 million. And while much of that money was from his golf properties in Scotland and Ireland, some came from licensing deals in countries with authoritarian-leaning leaders or thorny geopolitics — for example, $3 million from the Philippines, $2.3 million from India and $1 million from Turkey.”
Trump's IRS battle over an income tax refund: “ … confidential records show that starting in 2010 [Trump] claimed, and received, an income tax refund totaling $72.9 million — all the federal income tax he had paid for 2005 through 2008, plus interest. The legitimacy of that refund is at the center of the audit battle that he has long been waging, out of public view, with the I.R.S.”
- “Mr. Trump harvested that refund bonanza by declaring huge business losses — a total of $1.4 billion from his core businesses for 2008 and 2009 — that tax laws had prevented him from using in prior years.”
- “Whether Mr. Trump gets to keep the cash, though, remains far from a sure thing. Refunds require the approval of I.R.S. auditors and an opinion of the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, a bipartisan panel better known for reviewing the impact of tax legislation. Tax law requires the committee to weigh in on all refunds larger than $2 million to individuals.”
Trump claimed the Times reporting was wrong and told reporters he was not contacted to comment on the piece even though his lawyer is quoted on the record in the story. He also insisted he “paid a lot, and I paid a lot of state income taxes to New York State,” but still refused to himself release his tax returns.
- “Over the past decade, President Trump has paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government, including paying millions in personal taxes since announcing his candidacy in 2015,” Trump Organization lawyer Alan Garten told the Times in a statement.
- Read between the lines: “With the term ‘personal taxes,’ however, Mr. Garten appears to be conflating income taxes with other federal taxes Mr. Trump has paid — Social Security, Medicare and taxes for his household employees. Mr. Garten also asserted that some of what the president owed was ‘paid with tax credits,’ a misleading characterization of credits, which reduce a business owner’s income-tax bill as a reward for various activities, like historic preservation. ”
THE LEFT RESPONDS: Democrats are calling on Trump to disclose his tax returns. The Times reviewed tax data from two decades, but not the president's personal 2018 and 2019 returns.
- Pelosi weighs in: “It is a sign of President Trump's disdain for America's working families that he has spent years abusing the tax code while passing a GOP Tax Scam for the rich that gives 83 percent of the benefits to the wealthiest 1 percent,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded.
- Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) weighed in. Neal is leading the committee spearheading the House lawsuit to enforce a subpoena for the returns: “It is essential that the IRS's presidential audit program remain free of interference. Today’s report underscores the importance of the Ways and Means Committee’s ongoing lawsuit to access Mr. Trump’s tax returns and ensure the presidential audit program is functioning effectively, without improper influence,” according to a statement.
- AOC tweeted: “In 2016 & ‘17, I paid thousands of dollars a year in taxes *as a bartender.* Trump paid $750. He contributed less to funding our communities than waitresses & undocumented immigrants. Donald Trump has never cared for our country more than he cares for himself. A walking scam.”
- The Biden campaign quickly issued an ad last night via Twitter hitting Trump for paying little to no federal income taxes: "Teachers paid $7,239 Firefighters paid $5,283 Nurses paid $10,216 Donald Trump paid $750."
On the Hill
THE KITCHEN SINK: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is pressing ahead to accelerate the confirmation process of Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, and planning to meet with her on Tuesday, an aide told our colleagues Anne Gearan, Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey. The GOP goal appears to be confirmation of
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) confirmed over the weekend hearings for Barrett will being Oct. 12 — and a panel vote on Barrett's nomination could come as soon as Oct. 22, according to Judiciary rules.
- “I expect they’re going to throw the kitchen sink at us,” Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), the No. 3 in Senate GOP leadership, told Anne, Seung Min and Josh. “But he said he was confident Barrett would be confirmed before the election ‘if everything moves along smoothly.’”
Democrats are currently weighing their strategy — what procedural tactics they can possibly employ to delay the process. But they've declared “they want to avoid the ‘process’ trap in the coming Supreme Court nomination battle,” according to our colleague Paul Kane, and focus on a “this policy-focused message could propel them to big wins in the November elections.”
- “We will use whatever tools we have, but at the same time, to me, one of the biggest tools we have is our voices and letting the American people know what’s at stake,” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), a Judiciary member, said.
- The message in a nutshell: “Now, with Barrett, a favorite of social conservatives, Republicans could have their fifth vote to overturn the [Affordable Care Act], strictly curtail abortion rights and possibly reject some of the court’s prior rulings on gay rights,” PK reports. “From moderates such as Bennet to liberals such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Democrats instead want to replicate their 2017 fight to defeat McConnell and preserve the ACA.”
- “You know, we didn’t have the votes when the Affordable Care Act came up in 2017, but people all across this country got engaged. And finally, it hung by a single thread. But here in the United States Senate enough Republicans stepped up and saved health care for tens of millions of people. Health care is on the table once again,” Warren told reporters.
That being said, there are some procedural tactics Democrats might utilize to throw a curveball into the process. And even more moderate Democratic members are embracing the approach:
- “The goal, senators and aides say, is to highlight what Democrats see as hypocrisy and a blatant abuse of power on the part of McConnell (R-Ky.), who blocked [Obama’s] Supreme Court nominee in 2016 but is pressing forward with the goal of confirming President Donald Trump’s pick, Amy Coney Barrett, before Election Day,” Politico's Andrew Desiderio reports. “McConnell needs only a simple majority after Republicans eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in 2017. And if Democrats can prevent Barrett from being seated on the court before Nov. 10, she likely wouldn’t be able to rule on the Trump administration’s effort to invalidate Obamacare.”
- “We know that the votes are not there [to block the nominee], but you do what you can to call attention to it,” said Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent, told Desiderio. “The issue is that this is a power grab.”
- “Process is everything,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). “So if you’re going to use the process to try to steal an election, then we’re going to use the process to try to do everything for that not to happen. ”
DEAR COLLEAGUES: Pelosi sent a letter to House Democrats on Sunday urging them “to consider whether the House might be pulled into deciding who is president when determining where to focus resources on winning seats in November,” Politico's Josh Bresnahan, Kyle Cheney and Heather Caygle report.
- “This could lead to more concerted efforts by Democrats to win in states such as Montana and Alaska — typically Republican turf but where Democrats have been competitive statewide. In these states, Democratic victories could flip an entire delegation with a single upset House victory.”
- “The Constitution says that a candidate must receive a majority of the state delegations to win,” Pelosi wrote. “We must achieve that majority of delegations or keep the Republicans from doing so.”
- “Pelosi has also raised the issue repeatedly in recent weeks with her leadership team. Other senior House Democrats told POLITICO they’d heard about these concerns from colleagues in recent weeks.”
Trump raised the topic of the obscure constitutional resolution at a rally over the weekend in Pennsylvania and in private: “In private, Trump has discussed the possibility of the presidential race being thrown into the House as well, raising the issue with GOP lawmakers, according to Republican sources,” per Politico.
- “And I don’t want to end up in the Supreme Court and I don’t want to go back to Congress either, even though we have an advantage if we go back to Congress — does everyone understand that?” Trump said on Saturday. “I think it’s 26 to 22 or something because it’s counted one vote per state, so we actually have an advantage. Oh, they’re going to be thrilled to hear that.”
In the media
THE DEBATE: The first presidential debate will take place tomorrow at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, moderated by Chris Wallace, the anchor of “Fox News Sunday."
- The topics: 1) The Trump and Biden records; 2) the Supreme Court; 3) covid-19; 4) the economy; 5) race and violence in cities; 6) the integrity of the election.
We reported over the weekend Trump, who has not had formal prep sessions, is planning on launching “blistering personal attacks on [Biden]and his family…Trump has told associates he wants to talk specifically about his opponent’s son Hunter Biden.”
- “The president is so eager to lay into his rival that he has called aides to test out various attacks, focusing on broadsides that cast Biden as a longtime Washington insider with a limited record of accomplishment, said another adviser, who like many interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly describe private talks," per Sean Sullivan and Dawsey.
- “I think it will be brought up in the debate,” Trump said recently at a rally in Fayetteville, N.C. “Where is Hunter?”
- “For [Trump] to demonstrate that the only case he can make for himself is to lash out at [Biden’s] children would be the ultimate admission that his presidency is a weak, pathetic failure,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates responded.
- Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie; senior campaign adviser Jason Miller; Jared Kushner; former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani; and Hope Hicks have been involved in the debate prep but the president has shown little interest in seriously studying up: “The president’s view is: He’s been president for four years, he’s been in training every day,” one ally said. “He thinks he doesn’t need any prep.”
As for Biden, he's been preparing with Ron Klain in mock debates. Along for the ride are “longtime Biden adviser Mike Donilon is also involved in debate preparations, as is senior adviser Anita Dunn, according to people with knowledge of the preparations.”
- “Biden and his advisers are anticipating a venomous barrage, according to a person with knowledge of their thinking, and they are preparing to counter with an affirmative case for a Biden presidency. The Democrat wants to stay focused on how he would address the coronavirus pandemic and the country’s economic problems, which he blames Trump for worsening.”
- Allies are warning the Democratic nominee not to lose his temper: “When you go at his family, he becomes hotter than hell, which is part of the thing I worry about,” John Morgan, a Florida trial lawyer and major Biden donor, told Sean and Josh. “I think what Biden has to be careful about is not letting his Irish temper blow when that happens.”
Uh…: During a press conference at the White House on Sunday, the president doubled down on his call for Biden to take a drug test after publicly questioning his rival's stamina and accusing him of “using drugs” to enhance his debate performance – a baseless claim.
- Biden's deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield responded in a strongly worded statement: “Vice President Biden intends to deliver his debate answers in words. If the president thinks his best case is made in urine he can have at it," she wrote. "We’d expect nothing less from Donald Trump, who pissed away the chance to protect the lives of 200K Americans when he didn't make a plan to stop COVID-19.”
- “For the record, Biden's longtime advisers and observers note that he doesn't even drink alcohol,” Politico's Marc Caputo reports.
Trump's wild charges might stem from the realization that lowering expectations for Biden – and attacks on his physical and mental stature – may backfire tomorrow:
- “… he has simultaneously set the bar so low for so long that many of his supporters — having watched unflattering, often manipulated clips of Mr. Biden in Trump campaign advertisements or on Fox News — are now expecting the president to mop the floor with an incoherent opponent in something resembling a W.W.E. match,” the New York Times's Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman report. “Democrats — and even some Republicans — believe that is not likely to happen.”
- “Brett O’Donnell, a Republican strategist who has coached candidates ahead of debates, said the Trump campaign might have given Mr. Biden an unintentional gift: ‘In trying to message that Biden may be unfit for office, the campaign also may have lowered expectations on his debate performance,’ Mr. O’Donnell said.”
- Bottom line: “The Biden campaign, meanwhile, has been telling people that no debate outcome will fundamentally change the contours of a race that has been defined, since March, by the president’s handling of the pandemic, even if the president performs well onstage,” per Karni and Haberman. “Mr. Biden’s hope on Tuesday night, according to someone familiar with the campaign’s strategy, is to continue making the election about the president’s accountability for the lives lost to the coronavirus, while trying to show what it would look like to have a leader in charge who doesn’t need to be fact-checked in real time, and who attempts to bring the country together.”
Correction: A previous edition of this newsletter incorrectly listed Turning Point USA as hosting an event with Donald Trump Jr. on Monday. Turning Point USA Action, the group's political arm, is the one hosting it.