First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton share a stage
On a busy Friday, the big event today comes in Ft Lauderdale, where both Clinton and Bush – along with other top Democratic candidates and Dr. Ben Carson -- appear today to speak to the National Urban League conference. For Bush, it’s a moment to make his “Right to Rise” pitch to an audience that’s traditionally been one of the more friendly African-American groups to Republicans. But there are potential pitfalls here for Bush too; liberal group Center for American Progress has been highlighting Bush’s backing of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which it says has disproportionately affected minorities, and ‘Black Lives Matter’ activists have derided him for appearing to discount the importance of their rallying cry as a ‘slogan.’ Bush will talk one-on-one with NBC’s Lester Holt, so tune in tonight on NBC Nightly News and throughout the weekend on Nightly News, TODAY and Meet the Press to see the full interview.
Ben Carson is the other Republican speaking to the Urban League today
We’ve noticed that, when there are only one or two Republicans appearing at a Democratic-leaning event, Ben Carson is usually one of them. (He was the lone GOP candidate at the NALEO gathering last month, for example.) But no other Republicans are making the trip this time to Ft. Lauderdale, including Rand Paul, who’s campaigning in Iowa. It would seem like a positive platform for Paul, who spoke at the conference last year. He’s done conspicuous outreach in the past in the black community and is backing some of the criminal justice reforms championed by them. (His campaign attributes the nonappearance to a scheduling conflict.) By the way, one of us(!) will talk to Ben Carson on Sunday’s Meet the Press.
The Cuba Clash
After the Urban League, Clinton heads to Miami for an 11am ET speech calling for the lifting of the U.S. embargo against Cuba. According to excerpts, she’s expected to say "Today I am calling on Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell to step up and answer the pleas of the Cuban people. By large majorities, they want a closer relationship with America. They want to buy our goods, read our books, surf our web, and learn from our people. They want to bring their country into the 21st century. That is the road toward democracy and dignity. We should walk it together." Cuba is just one of several areas where Clinton is trying to cast the Republican Party as stuck in the past when it comes to engagement with the world. But it’s worth noting that her position isn’t as brave a stance as it once was (A Pew report found 72 percent of Americans in favor of lifting the embargo, including 59 percent of REPUBLICANS). It’s not even a particularly bold stance in South Florida, where the Cuban community is divided on this issue. By the way, here’s the response from the Rubio campaign to Clinton’s speech, per an aide: “President Obama and Secretary Clinton must learn that appeasement only emboldens dictators and repressive governments, and weakens America's global standing in the 21st century. As president, I will stand with the Cuban people and only support an end to the embargo that is accompanied by real democratic reform."
Clinton vs. the New York Times
Overnight, NBC News obtained a letter the Clinton campaign wrote to New York Times Editor Dean Baquet criticizing the newspaper's handling of its email story from last week, which turned out to get key pieces of information wrong. “Just as disturbing as the errors themselves is the Times’ apparent abandonment of standard journalistic practices in the course of its reporting on this story,” writes communications director Jennifer Palmieri. This wasn’t a short letter; it clocks in at almost 2,000 words with a blistering critique of the Times’ “egregious” errors. Here’s the one thing the Clinton campaign has in common with the right: a long-standing battle with the New York Times.
Another Clinton email dump
The State Department is expected to release another tranche of some four thousand emails today from Hillary Clinton’s private server. The release comes a day after McClatchy first reported that the classified emails stored on her server contained information from five U.S. intelligence agencies – AND after news that her lawyer has a thumb drive with copies of the emails, including the classified information.
There’s a lot of Clinton news out there, but two more stories today underscore a point we’ve been making since the Clinton Foundation controversy began. The Wall Street Journal writes that the Foundation “saw a significant increase in donations this year from fundraisers who also have volunteered to steer at least $100,000 each to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.” And the New York Times notes that the Foundation accelerated its fund-raising even as the Foundation was under fire for its solicitation of donations from abroad. No matter how much Team Clinton says that there is absolutely no relationship between donations to the Foundation and influence with a Clinton campaign/possible administration, these correlations just highlight that, if there was even a whiff of possibility for gaining additional influence through donations, donors certainly didn’t want to risk missing out on it. It’s the same concern that Dick Lugar brought up in Clinton’s confirmation hearing in 2009: “The core of problem is that foreign governments and entities may perceive the Clinton Foundation as a means to gain favor with the secretary of state,” he said. Replace “Secretary of State” with “a potential President” and the quote is still relevant
Document dump Friday
In addition to the big speeches and the State Department email dump, it’s the filing deadline for super PACs to report their hauls to the FEC. Once again, it’s a document dump Friday – and smack-dab in the middle of summer vacation time, too. What else gets dumped today on this very busy last Friday of July?
On the trail
Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham and Scott Walker campaign in Iowa… John Kasich holds a town hall in Keene, NH.