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2020 roundup: Terry McAuliffe won't run for president

WASHINGTON—The ever-expanding field of Democratic presidential hopefuls will not include former Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who announced Wednesday that he'll skip a White House bid. 

McAuliffe told CNN that while he could have beaten President Trump "like a rented Mule" he instead wanted to focus on helping Democrats in Virginia, where the two of the top three statewide officials admitted to appearing years ago in blackface and another is accused of sexual assault. 

The decision comes after months of speculation that the former governor and longtime Democratic fundraiser would jump in, sparked by his criticism of the party's embrace of "ideological populism." 

There are still a handful of other Democrats eyeing bids, most notably former Vice President Joe Biden, who would occupy the same moderate lane in which McAuliffe would have run. 

But with so many Democrats deciding to jump in, it's notable when one decides to sit on the sidelines. 

Keep reading on for more headlines from the 2020 trail you may have missed. 

  • Democratic candidates spent last month pushing for a release of the full Mueller report, so expect those calls to continue today as the redacted version is finally released. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand panned the attorney general's press conference as "propaganda," New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker accused Barr of trying to "spin" the Mueller report before its release and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted that "it's a disgrace to see an attorney general acting as if he's the personal attorney and publicist for the president."
  • California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris expressed "regret" over the "unintended consequences" of the truancy program she oversaw as state attorney general in a new interview with Pod Save America
  • South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg spoke with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Thursday about the Mueller report, his decision to come out as gay, and how his campaign is going to boost support from minority voters. 
  • After Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders drew the attention of both the Democratic field and President Trump with his Fox News town hall this week, Politico reports Amy Klobuchar has booked a town hall with the network. NBC is also reporting that Buttigieg is in talks with Fox for a town hall as well. 
  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, the only Republican running against President Trump, tweeted that it is "essential" that Robert Mueller testifies in front of Congress about his report on Russian election interference.

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NBC and MSNBC announce 2020 presidential campaign 'embeds'

WASHINGTON—The new class of NBC and MSNBC embeds is here and they're about to crisscross the country to cover one of the largest fields in modern presidential history. 

The 10 embeds will be regular contributors across NBC and MSNBC—they will report on air, write stories and become familiar faces on the MTP Blog as well, providing readers with their observations and insights from the campaign trail. 

Be sure to follow the NBC News 2020 embeds list on Twitter to be sure to never miss an update. 

 

Harris narrowly outspent Trump last week on Facebook

WASHINGTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., narrowly outspent the presidential field in Facebook ads last week, new data from the platform's political ad tracker shows. 

The Californian's campaign spent $94,443 between May 12 and May 18, primarily on ads criticizing the anti-abortion rights legislation being passed in state legislatures around the country, as well as general ads promoting her candidacy and fundraising organization. 

Nipping at her campaign's heels was President Trump's reelection campaign, which spent $94,159 last week. Most of those ads were either a contest to receive a signed "Make America Great Again" hat from Trump or an "official 2019 Trump Executive membership Card."

Former Vice President Joe Biden finished a close third in weekly Facebook spending with $92,555. His ads included donation appeals from his wife, list-building and fundraising efforts aimed at drawing a contrast with Trump and promoting Biden's rally in Philadelphia last Saturday. 

Following those candidates were Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren ($84,257 spent last week), New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ($83,055) and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet ($77,536).

Sanders: I’ll fight to ban private charter schools

ASHEVILLE, N.C. —  For-profit charter schools will become a thing of the past, and public funds for the expansion of public charters will be frozen until a national audit is completed, according to  a plan released by Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Friday. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., plans to roll out his complete education plan on Saturday, the 65th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision. On Friday, the campaign revealed a plank: significant reining in of charter schools. 

A campaign release says Sanders will fight to ban for-profit charter schools outright, and support and NAACP plan to place a moratorium on publican funds for charter school expansion until a state-by-state audit can be conducted to determine the impact of charter school growth around the country. 

Progressives have taken aim at charter schools in recent years for what they see as their siphoning off of funding for traditional public schools, and for the relative lack of accountability and oversight some receive. 

“Few charter schools have lived up to their promise," The Sanders campaign release reads.  "Instead, billionaires like DeVos and the Waltons, together with private equity and hedge fund executives, have bankrolled their expansion and poured tens of millions into school board and other local elections with the hope of privatizing public schools. Charter schools are led by unaccountable, private bodies, and their growth has drained funding from the public school system.”

Warren calls for federal laws to protect women's right to choose

WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., issued a call Friday for Congress to pass federal laws protecting access for women to reproductive care — including abortions — in the wake of a spate of state laws that ban or restrict the practice.

"Our democracy should not be held hostage by right-wing courts," the Democratic presidential candidate writes in a Medium post, "and women should not have to hope that Brett Kavanaugh and Donald Trump’s Supreme Court will respect the law."

Warren's plea for Congress to act on the issue comes as several states have placed restrictions on women's reproductive health, severely limited access to abortion. This week in Alabama, Republican governor Kay Ivey signed into law a GOP-passed bill banning abortion and criminalizing providers. Earlier this month, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, also a Republican, made law a bill that outlawed abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected — which can be as early as six weeks and before many women even know they're pregnant.

The Alabama law is meant to trigger a challenge to the protections of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade opinion — something Warren hopes to render moot with the passage of federal laws codifying the right to choose.

"Federal laws that ensure real access to birth control and abortion care for all women," her post reads. "Federal laws that will stand no matter what the Supreme Court does."

Warren is among the national Democrats advocating for repealing the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits women from receiving abortions from federally funded healthcare programs, like Medicaid and the VA. She also attacked the Trump administration for its rollbacks of Title X funding for family planning and its reinstatement of the gag rule

Buttigieg unveils wide-ranging policy positions

CHICAGO — After months of mounting criticism for lacking policy specifics, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has finally fleshed out his position on 27 different issues with a new issues page on his website, divided among the three major themes of his campaign: democracy, security and freedom.

The South Bend, Indiana, mayor is staking out a new position in favor of creating a nationwide gun licensing system, or registry. This puts Buttigieg in line with Cory Booker’s proposal and among the most liberal positions on gun control in the Democratic race. Previously, Buttigieg had been criticized by gun control advocates for being too soft on guns or being wishy-washy.

Buttigieg is also taking a stronger position than before on marijuana reform, saying the U.S. should legalize marijuana. Until now, he had said the U.S. needed to move in that direction, but had not outright said marijuana should be legalized.

But Buttigieg is taking a less-declarative position on reparations for slavery, a potent issue for the progressive base, saying only that he wants to “create a commission to propose reparations policies.”

You can see his full issues page here and here are some brief highlights:

  • College: Middle-income families at public colleges will pay zero tuition.
  • Gender pay gap: Large companies must publicly disclose their pay gap.
  • Federal abortion funding: Repeal the Hyde amendment.
  • LGBT rights: Pass the Equality Act.
  • Minimum wage: Raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
  • Voting rights: Introduce automatic voter registration, expand early voting.
  • Climate change: Implement a Green New Deal, commit to the Paris Agreement.
  • D.C. and Puerto Rico: DC’s House member and 2 senators should have voting power. Puerto Rico should have statehood if its people want it, and immediate representation in the Electoral College.
  • Electoral reform: Replace the Electoral College with a national popular vote.
  • Immigration: Comprehensive immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship for “immigrants living, working, paying taxes, and contributing to our American story, including DREAMers.”
  • Court reform: Create a bipartisan reform commission to recommend structural improvements to depoliticize the federal judiciary.

Ryan: I would "most definitely" have a Roe v. Wade litmus test for judges

WASHINGTON—Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, told MTP Daily on Thursday that if elected president, he would only appoint judges who support abortion rights. 

When asked Thursday whether he'd have a litmus test for his judicial nominees centered on their support for upholding the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, Ryan replied: "Yeah, I would."

"Most definitely. This is not something to be messed with," he said. 

"At this moment in history, people can try to dance around it--I will have someone who will protect Roe v. Wade, no question about it."

Ryan is not the first candidate to make this pledge—New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand made the same promise earlier this month, after a bill was passed in Georgia restricting abortion rights, and other candidates have called for the court to protect Roe v. Wade in light of the new anti-abortion rights laws passed in states like Georgia. 

But Ryan initially joined Congress as a pro-life Democrat, shifting left on the issue over the years.

2020 roundup: de Blasio makes his case

WASHINGTON—New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is now running for president, taking aim at President Trump. 

Bestowing on the president a Trumpian nickname of "Con Don," de Blasio told reporters Thursday that his experience makes him best suited to take down the incumbent president even if he's currently at the back of the primary polls. 

 "We need to get more unified. But that’s only going to happen in truth if we confront Donald Trump because he’s been the well-spring of so much of it," he said. 

"it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.  I’ve been in so many elections where the first polls had me way way back. I’ve won ten elections in a row, I haven’t lost an election."

Read more on de Blasio's announcement and read on for more from the trail. 

  • Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced a Defense Department ethics plan that includes: a four-year cooling-off period before certain Department officials could move to "giant contractors;" a similar four-year ban on former generals lobbying the Defense Department; limitations on the stocks that Defense Department employees can hold, and subjecting defense contractors to FOIA. Read more here
  • President Trump's annual financial disclosure shows that the revenue of his Florida Mar-a-Lago property went down while other Trump businesses had mixed results. 
  • Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams spoke to MSNBC on Thursday, reiterating that she's not shutting the door on a potential presidential bid.
Mark Murray

New Steyer ad blasts House Dems over impeachment

Need to Impeach, the Tom Steyer-backed group calling for President Trump’s impeachment, has released a blistering TV ad taking House Democrats to task for not acting on Trump’s alleged wrongdoing while in office.

“Our founding fathers expected YOU — Congress — to hold a lawless president accountable. And you’re doing nothing,” people in the ad say.

“He broke his oath of office. He’s defying you. He’s laughing at you. And he’s getting away with it,” they add.

Need to Impeach says this is a million-dollar buy that will air on national cable and in Iowa and New Hampshire.

 

Vaughn Hillyard

Inslee introduces clean energy jobs plan

WASHINGTON — Washington Governor and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Jay Inslee released the second installment of his Climate Mission plan Thursday, focused on creating millions of clean energy jobs.

Inslee billed the proposal as a boon to workers, estimating it would create 8 million jobs over 10 years. Over that same period of time it would cost the federal government $3 trillion, with a goal of spurring an additional $6 trillion in related investments.

The 38-page plan consists of 28 individual policy proposals, ranging from a new “Rebuild America” program that would recruit workers to make existing buildings more efficient to a “Green Bank” that would invest in clean energy projects and a fivefold increase in funding for new energy technology. The plan also seeks to ensure "good union jobs" and to support communities on the front-lines of damage from climate change.

Inslee spent the day Wednesday touring flood damage in Eastern Iowa, and on Thursday will highlight his plan with an event in Washington, D.C. at a water treatment plant.

Other elements of his "Evergreen Economy" plan include: doubling federal funding for public transit, a clean water program, funding for rural energy, and a mix of grants and tax credits to encourage businesses and individuals to make use of solar power and other renewable energy sources. It includes a plan to guarantee pensions and health care for coal workers and to retrain and hire them to work in new careers or on regional projects like environmental cleanup. 

The plan did not say how it would be paid for. Inslee spokesman Jamal Raad told NBC News there were “lots of ways to generate revenue” but “the real costly route would be inaction.”

Inslee released the first part of his national clean energy plan in early May, outlining a set of benchmarks that would move the U.S. to clean, renewable and zero-emission energy by 2035, end coal-fired power plant operations by 2030, and implement zero-carbon standards for new vehicles and buildings. 

And while Inslee launched his presidential bid with climate change as his signature issue, other candidates in the 2020 race have also taken up the mantle. For example, former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke recently proposed a $5 trillion plan to combat climate change.

In the crowded field of Democrats hoping to eventually take on President Donald Trump, Inslee has sought to differentiate himself by being the climate-minded candidate who will prioritize combatting global warming above all else should he be elected president. 

2020 roundup: Democratic presidential candidates blast new anti-abortion rights laws

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidates are lining up to condemn the recent legislation in Alabama and Georgia that put major limitations on abortion rights, as they look to signal to Democratic voters that their presidencies would protect abortion rights. 

Candidates are tweeting in opposition, talking about the laws in media appearances, and using their email lists to fundraise for abortion-rights groups specifically. In the case of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., she added a trip to Georgia for a round-table at the state house in response to the abortion bills. 

The laws, which supporters say are meant to directly challenge the constitutionality of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, are the latest example of how abortion is roaring back as a 2020 issue. Read more analysis from Monday's Meet the Press: First Read newsletter, and read on for more headlines from the trail. 

  • Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., promised to ban the exportation of AR-15-style weapons if elected president during a Wednesday town hall.  
  • Newly announced presidential candidate Gov. Steve Bullock, D-Mont., released 14 years of tax returns on Tuesday. 
  • Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard told the Joe Rogan Experience podcast that she would drop the charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and pardon Edward Snowden if she were president. 
  • The Nevada Independent analyzed a Change Research poll of likely Nevada Democratic caucus-goers that found former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the top. 
  • After Sen. Elizabeth Warren criticized Fox News as she publicly turned down a town-hall appearance with the network, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney offered to take her spot and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper touted his own appearance on Fox News Wednesday night as they argued Democrats should not be boycotting the network.