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Tom Steyer proposes national referendum, term limits on Congress
WASHINGTON — Liberal billionaire and newly declared Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer on Thursday said that as president he would let voters make laws directly through regular national referenda.
It's part of Steyer's new structural reform plan, which also proposes fairly novel ideas like 12-year term limits on members of Congress, a national vote-by-mail system, public campaign financing, giving the Federal Elections Commission more teeth and different composition, and imposing independent redistricting commissions to tackle gerrymandering.
It also includes more standard Democratic fare like overturning the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and the ethics and elections reform package House Democrats put forward this year in their bill dubbed H.R. 1.
A national referendum, where voters can change laws at the ballot box, would tip the U.S. more towards direct democracy and away from the representative government envisioned by the Founders.
That and other of Steyer's ideas would likely face constitutional and legal challenges, let alone political ones in Congress, since the Constitution gives states, not the federal government, most of the power to govern elections.
National referenda would make the U.S. look more like Steyer's California, which has a robust history and culture of citizen-initiated ballot measures. Critics say California ballot measure campaigns are often pushed by wealthy individuals or special interests in the guise of populism, while proponents say they restore power to the people.
In a video touting his new plan, Steyer touts his work in California — and the millions he spent there — to advance ballot measures that led to higher taxes on cigarettes to fund health care, an oil extraction tax, and the closing of "corporate loopholes" in the tax code.
"Here's the difference between me and the other candidates: I don't think we can fix our democracy from the inside," Steyer says in the video. "I trust the people. And as president, I will give you tools we need to fix our democracy."
Elizabeth Warren releases new immigration plan
MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has released a new plan on immigration ahead of her speech at the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) National Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Thursday. Here are some of the key aspects of her plan include:
- Decriminalize immigration and focus enforcement on serious criminal offenses and make it a civil offense.
- Stop cops from serving as immigration enforcement agents.
- Promises to investigate Trump admin for abuses “perpetrated during the Trump era.”
- End detention unless necessary and private detention facilities, expand use of parole.
- Establish independent immigration courts.
- Cancel Trump admin travel ban, raise refugee allowances, strengthen asylum protections.
- Expand legal immigration, ease the naturalization process, reinstate DACA program and provide pathway to citizenship.
- Create an “Office of New Americans” to help immigrants transition and assimilate.
- Commits $1.5B annually for foreign aid to Western hemisphere.
Warren's proposals come amid growing reports of the mistreatment of migrants being detained at the border, congressional investigations into the administration's policies and reports that previously planned ICE deportation raids that were postponed three weeks ago are now scheduled to begin on Sunday. President Donald Trump is also expected to announce plans to use executive action to add a citizenship question to the U.S. census during a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Buttigieg: Citizenship question is racially motivated census manipulation
WASHINGTON — Mayor Pete Buttigieg is accusing President Donald Trump of “racially and politically motivated manipulation of the census” as the president works to add a citizenship question to the census despite being rebuked by the courts.
In an interview with NBC News’ Craig Melvin, Buttigieg predicts that asking about citizenship will lead to under-representation on the 2020 census, making “the whole country worse off.”
“There’s a reason why the courts ruled that this is wrong,” Buttigieg say. “I’ll let other scholars talk about why the president’s actions may be unconstitutional, but it’s very clear that it’s wrong.”
Buttigieg spoke hours before Trump was expected to use an afternoon news conference to announce he’s attempting to add the citizenship question to the census using executive action after the Supreme Court blocked the administration from including the question based on the rationale initially put forward.
Buttigieg’s remarks come as he puts a laser focus on increasing his appeal to African Americans and Hispanics who have been slow to warm to his campaign. His struggles in appealing to a broad cross-section of the Democratic primary electorate have raised growing questions about his continued viability in the primary.
The South Bend mayor also rebuked Trump over his administration’s planned immigration raids across the country, saying they are designed to “strike fear into people at a moment when fear is something we have got way too much of in this country.”
“If rumors start going around about raids — let alone if it starts actually happening — it immediately makes the community less safe, it makes people less likely to participate in the economy, less likely to talk to law enforcement when they need help dealing with something that really is a matter of danger,” Buttigieg said.
As he works to show black voters in particular that he’s the best candidate to improve their lives, Buttigieg earlier Thursday released an 18-page proposal dubbed the “Douglass Plan” that his campaign hopes will stand out as the most comprehensive of any put forward by a 2020 Democratic candidate.
Buttigieg said he’s been working on the plan “for months” as way to better answer black voters’ inquiries on the campaign trail about how he is best positioned to improve their lives.
“But this isn’t just aimed at black voters,” Buttigieg says. “Frankly, there needs to be a conversation with white America, with white audiences about how none of us can or should be willing to live in a system where these kinds of systemic racist dimensions persist.”
Amy McGrath repeatedly changes mind on Kavanaugh question
WASHINGTON — Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath, the party's top candidate in the race to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, changed her tune about whether she would have voted for Justice Brett Kavanaugh twice in a matter of hours — just a day after she launched her candidacy.
In an interview with Louisville's The Courier-Journal, McGrath said that she was "very concerned" about Kavanaugh's "far-right stances" and that she believed Christine Blasey Ford's allegation that he sexually-assaulted her while both were teenagers was "credible."
But she told the paper that "there was nothing in his record that I think would disqualify him in any way" and that "with Judge Kavanaugh, yeah, I probably would have voted for him."
That answer surprised some Democrats following the bitter fight over Kavanaugh's confirmation last year.
Later Wednesday evening, McGrath tweeted that "upon further reflection and further understanding of his record, I would have voted no," adding that "I know I disappointed many today with my initial answer on how I would have voted on Brett Kavanaugh."
The reversal put McGrath closer to how she addressed Kavanaugh's confirmation during her 2018 run for the House. Last July, she posted unconditional criticism on Facebook about the judge and accused him of being "against women's reproductive rights, workers' rights [and] consumer protections."
McGrath made a big splash when she jumped into the race this week against the Republican leader, raising $2.5 million in the first 24 hours of her campaign. But McConnell's team has been aggressive in trying to tar McGrath as too liberal for the state, and has taken particular joy in her reversal on Kavanaugh.
Sanders campaign adds more staffers to New Hampshire operation
MANCHESTER, NH — Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) presidential campaign is expanding its ground operation in New Hampshire with an announcement Thursday of five field office openings and an expanded staff focused on community organizing.
The Sanders campaign will now have 45 staffers working across its Manchester-based headquarters and Greater Nashua field office, with new offices set to open in West Lebanon, Manchester, Dover and Portsmouth.
“We’re taking nothing for granted,” Sanders’ New Hampshire State Director Joe Caiazzo told NBC News. “We’re going to work hard to bring the Senator’s economic populous message across the state to the doors of every voter.”
After carrying the N.H. primary against Hillary Clinton in 2016 with 60.4 percent of the vote, the Sanders campaign recognizes the new challenges of the 2020 race.
“It’s about reigniting our volunteer network and going and expanding our base, too,” Caiazzo said. “I think it’s a completely different race from last time with such a big field. I think many candidates in the race need to show really strong in a number of the early contests, so I think a lot of people are in the same boat.”
The campaign’s increased field presence reflects a strategic emphasis on door-to-door canvassing and phone banks, rather than launching television or radio ads.
“I’d venture to say that our volunteer network is larger than anyone else in the field,” Caiazzo said, adding, “We’re using staff to support the large volunteers to then go out there and talk to voters.”
Biden to lay out foreign policy vision aimed at putting the U.S. 'back at the head of the table'
Joe Biden on Thursday will argue that President Trump’s foreign policy has emboldened authoritarian states while diminishing America’s role leading the free world, and warn that the U.S. Has “one chance to get it right” after he leaves office.
The former vice president will outline the three pillars of his vision for America’s global leadership in what his campaign is billing as a “forward-looking” address, designed to highlight both a policy area Biden has considered one of his strengths and return the focus on the battle with the Republican incumbent.
Biden will vow to convene a summit of democratic states in the first year of his presidency and place a premium on acting in concert with U.S. allies, a senior campaign official said Wednesday in previewing the address. But the official would not say if Biden would address his 2002 vote to authorize the use of force against Iraq, another part of his Senate resume that rivals have seized on.
“There's probably a greater premium than there's ever been on working with allies and partners to deal with the greatest threats to the American people,” the official said. “No one nation acting alone can solve them and there's also no wall tall enough or strong enough to contain them. And yet, the president's 'America First' policy has actually turned into America alone.”
Biden’s three pillars would be to “repair and reinvigorate” America’s own democracy; pursue a global economy for the middle class; and putting the U.S. “back at the head of the table” in mobilizing allies to address global threats, from climate change, nuclear proliferation, cyber warfare to transnational terrorism.
"I think from the vice president's perspective, the world does not govern itself,” the official said. "If the United States is not playing a lead role in setting rules, shaping the norms and the institutions and govern relations in nations, either someone else will do it … or, just as bad, no one does it and then you have chaos."
In South Carolina on Saturday, Biden argued there wasn’t “anyone in this race more prepared to lead the world than me.”
"That sounds like I'm bragging," he continued, "but that's what I truly believe because I've been engaged with it my entire career.”
He acknowledged in that speech voting to “give authority to Bush” in 2002, but said that vote "didn't stop President Obama from within the first month turning me … to handle Iraq once we took office, giving me the responsibility to coordinate all the agencies, to bring home 150,000 combat troops including my son.”
The Biden campaign also previewed his attacks against Trump in a newly released digital video, which paints the president as embracing dictators, threatening war, leaving international agreements, launching trade wars and embarrassing the United States.
Buttigieg releases 18-page plan to help African Americans
WASHINGTON — Working to prove himself to African American voters, Pete Buttigieg is releasing an 18-page plan Thursday to improve conditions and opportunity for black Americans on everything from the health care, education and criminal justice systems to entrepreneurship and access to credit.
The wide-ranging plan constitutes Buttigieg’s initial version of a proposal for reparations for slavery. His campaign says it views it as a “complement” to H.R. 40, legislation working its way through the House to create a commission to craft a national reparations proposal. The legislation is widely supported by the 2020 Democratic candidates including Buttigieg, and Sen. Cory Booker has introduced a similar bill in the Senate.
“We have lived in the shadow of systemic racism for too long,” Buttigieg said in a statement announcing the plan, citing “a rise in white nationalism” and disparate educational and health outcomes for white and black Americans. “That should make us all wonder how the richest country on earth can allow this to happen under our noses.”
Buttigieg’s plan would:
- Seek to boost educational opportunities by offering free tuition at public schools for low-income students; canceling debts from underperforming for-profit colleges; and spending more on Title I schools.
- Combat the wealth gap by directing 25 percent of federal contracting dollars to small business owners from “underserved communities;” forgiving college debt for entrepreneurs who start and maintain small businesses that employ at least 3 people; and boosting investment in minority-owned banks.
- Address a criminal justice system Buttigieg calls “fundamentally racist” by ending mandatory minimums and incarceration for drug possession; cutting other sentences; legalizing marijuana; giving all former felons their voting rights back immediately; and creating a clemency commission independent from the Justice Department.
- Create “Health Equity Zones” in areas of the U.S. with health disparities to identify the causes in those areas and invest funding conditional on progress in narrowing those gaps.
- Combat voter suppression by creating automatic voter registration; normalizing online and same-day registration; making Election Day a holiday; giving Washington, D.C., full representation; and getting rid of the Electoral College.
Although Buttigieg has floated some of the individual proposals before, his presidential campaign is putting a spotlight on the comprehensive plan this week as he works to address growing concerns that his difficulty appealing to black voters may be too significant an obstacle for his upstart campaign to overcome.
Buttigieg had already been struggling to expand his support to include African Americans and other minorities when a crisis erupted last month over race and policing in South Bend, Indiana, where Buttigieg is mayor. After a white officer shot and killed a black man, Buttigieg was confronted by anger, mistrust and frustration from many black constituents who held him responsible. He eventually conceded failure during the first presidential debates in diversifying the police force and executing a body camera policy for police.
Greg Murphy wins GOP runoff in North Carolina's 3rd district
WASHINGTON — State Rep. Greg Murphy, a House Freedom Caucus-backed candidate in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District, handily defeated pediatrician Joan Perry in the GOP primary runoff Tuesday, taking nearly 60 percent of the vote to Perry's 40 percent.
The North Carolina race caught national attention after the conservative women's group, Winning for Women, launched it’s “20 in 20” action plan to elect 20 Republican women to the House in 2020. The group was backing Perry after Republican women in the House saw their ranks slashed from 23 to 13 members in the 2018 midterm elections.
“Joan ran a great campaign and we’re proud to have supported her from day one. We took a political outsider with no name recognition and helped elevate her through a field of 17 candidates into a two-person runoff. Primary support is critical to electing more women,” Winning for Women Executive Director Rebecca Schuller said in a statement. “This race is exactly why we are needed more than ever. We’re not stopping here, and we look forward to continuing our efforts to get more women in the House in 2020.”
While other big-name supporters rallied around Perry’s candidacy in North Carolina, like former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, it wasn’t enough to push Perry over the finish line.
Murphy will face-off against Democrat Allen Thomas in the district’s general election on Sept. 10.
McGrath raises a record $2.5 million on first day of Senate campaign
WASHINGTON — Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Amy McGrath raised more than $2.5 million in the first 24 hours of her campaign against Mitch McConnell — over $1 million of it coming in just the first five and a half hours after she announced, according to her campaign.
McGrath campaign manager Mark Nickolas said it’s the most ever raised in the first 24 hours of a Senate campaign. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee says the next closest was former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, who raised $1 million in his first day of his campaign in Arizona.
The haul is a sign of just how deep Democratic antipathy toward McConnell, the Senate majority leader, runs in the Trump era.
All of the $2.5 million came in online donations with an average donation of $36.15, her campaign manager said. The $2.5 million total doesn’t include any additional traditional fundraising money that may have been raised in the form of checks or promised campaign contributions.
McGrath’s race against McConnell promises to be one of the most expensive Senate races of the 2020 election cycle. McConnell, as the Senate majority leader, has a formidable fundraising machine — in 2014, he raised and spent over $30 million in his race against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Harris, Ocasio-Cortez to introduce 'fair chance' housing bill
WASHINGTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., plan to introduce legislation Wednesday aimed at reforming eviction and screening policies for federal housing assistance for people with criminal records.
The Fair Chance at Housing Act would make it more difficult for individuals and their families to be evicted for minor crimes as well as ban “1-strike” policies that allow for eviction after a single incident of criminal activity regardless of severity. The bill would also raise the standards of evidence used by public housing authorities when making screening or eviction determinations.
Additionally, the bill provides $10 million in bonus funding for homeless service providers and would increase administrative funding to help house ex-offenders.
“Too many people become involved in our criminal justice system and serve their time only to return home to face additional barriers to employment, education, and housing,” Harris said in a statement. “By requiring a higher standard of evidence and a more holistic review process, we are taking a significant step toward giving Americans a fair chance to succeed.”
The bill is Harris’ latest move to beef up her policy bona fides, especially as she looks to compete more directly with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., in the 2020 Democratic primary.
Housing barriers targeted at formerly incarcerated individuals disproportionately affect minorities and can increase a person’s chance of ending up back in prison, according to a study by the Prison Policy Initiative, a criminal justice non-profit think tank.
“The NAACP is pleased and proud to support this much-needed legislation by Senator Harris,” said Hilary O. Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy. “This legislation represents an essential step toward reducing recidivism by helping ex-offenders find stable housing upon exiting a jail or prison and by keeping their family free from punishment by association.”
Senate Democrats renew call for results of internal Acosta investigation
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are renewing a demand that the Department of Justice disclose the full results of an investigation into whether U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is guilty of "professional misconduct" in light of “shocking developments” regarding a sex crime prosecution he handled over a decade ago.
In a letter obtained by NBC News, Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., who have been pressing the department since April for information about its investigation into Acosta's previous handling of charges against billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, said “it is more important than ever” to provide an update on its probe and pledge to publicly release its findings.
Epstein is being charged with one count of sex trafficking conspiracy and one count of sex trafficking by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York in a newly unsealed indictment accusing the multimillionaire financier of exploiting a “vast network” of underage girls for sex.
Acosta was U.S. attorney for South Florida in 2007, when federal prosecutors struck a plea agreement allowing the wealthy financier and philanthropist to plead guilty to lesser charges in state court rather than face federal sex trafficking charges.
In its bail memorandum, the federal attorneys “cite discussions between Epstein’s lawyers and the Florida DOJ lawyers that demonstrate DOJ knew at the time about issues of obstruction, harassment, and witness tampering,” the senators wrote. Yet “Acosta subsequently did not bring charges for these offenses, once again illustrating the inequities in our justice system in favor of the rich and powerful,” they wrote.
Since the investigation began in February, “we have heard nothing since that time regarding its progress or anticipated time of conclusion,” the senators wrote in the letter to Corey Amundson, director of the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
Kaine and Murray say that the DOJ had earlier indicated it would share its results “as appropriate” and “consistent with past practices,” while not committing to sharing a full version with the public. And while they have acknowledged DOJ policies that “substantially restrict” public disclosure of its records in general, they contend that standard should not apply to Acosta.
“Americans are right to expect a thorough, unbiased, and transparent investigation pursued with all possible expediency. These needs are only enhanced by the involvement of a sitting Cabinet official in this alleged misconduct,” the senators wrote.
Tom Steyer reserves $1 million in TV ads on first day of presidential campaign
WASHINGTON — Newly declared Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer has already reserved about $1 million in TV ads in first four primary and caucus states, according to data provided to NBC News by ad tracker Advertising Analytics.
The California billionaire, who announced his candidacy Tuesday, has pledged to spend $100 million of his own money on his 2020 campaign and didn't waste any time at it.
On his first day in the race, he bought at least $1.05 million worth of broadcast ads in the biggest cities in Iowa, Nevada, South Carolina and Boston (which cover New Hampshire) — the four states that host the earliest contests in the Democratic nominating calendar.
So far, other candidates in the massive 2020 field have spent only minuscule amounts of money on TV commercials, preferring to devote their limited funds to hiring staff, opening field offices, and running cheaper digital ads.
McGrath to run against McConnell in Kentucky
WASHINGTON—Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath is throwing her hat into the ring against Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, a decision that gives Democrats a top candidate in the long-shot fight to dethrone the Senate Majority Leader.
McGrath revealed her decision in a Tuesday interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," evoking her past as a fighter pilot and her failed 2018 bid for the House where she raised tons of money but fell just short in dethroning GOP Rep. Andy Barr.
Many Democrats have been hoping McGrath would jump into the race against McConnell on the heels of a strong challenge to Barr in 2018, when she raised $8.6 million and brought significant national attention and endorsements to that race.
But while McGrath was able to close the gap in the red-leaning district to 3 points, she couldn't get over the hump. And there's only one other congressional district in the state more favorable to Democrats than the one she just lost in.
During her "Morning Joe" interview, McGrath sought to distance herself from the national Democratic Party ahead of her bid in a state President Trump won by 30 points in 2016.
Recalling the recent presidential debates, she said that she and her husband thought some candidates were "pulling a bit too far left."
And she attacked McConnell with a unique message not typically employed on the Democratic side—that McConnell is blocking President Trump from achieving his campaign promises.
"Trump promised to bring back jobs, he promised to lower drug prices for so many Kentuckians. And that is very important," she said.
"Who stops the president from doing these things? Well, Mitch McConnell. I think that's really important, that's really going to be my message—the things that Kentuckians voted for Trump for are not being done, he's not able to get it done because of Sen. McConnell."
McConnell's political team immediately sought to push back on that frame. In a video posted on Twitter, the campaign quotes McGrath describing herself as "more progressive than anybody in the state of Kentucky," criticizing Trump's signature border wall and arguing that Trump's election made her feel like "somebody had sucker-punched me."
Kirsten Gillibrand launches her first 2020 ad
WASHINGTON — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Tuesday released the first TV ad of her 2020 presidential campaign, targeting President Donald Trump for what she characterizes as his "broken" promises.
The ad features President Trump on the campaign trail in 2016 promising to fix infrastructure, lower drug prices and keep manufacturing jobs in the U.S.
According to the Gillibrand campaign, the 30-second ad is targeted to Obama-Trump voters and will be airing in key media markets in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan — pointedly three of the four formerly blue wall states that helped President Trump to victory in 2016.
It's the first TV ad by a Democratic presidential candidate to focus exclusively on the president's record. The Gillibrand campaign would not disclose how much they were spending on the ad but did say the cost is in the "five-figure" range for cable and digital buys over two days.
“Democrats are assessing this primary based on who is tough and smart enough to beat Donald Trump — and the only way to do that is by both exciting the base with a bold vision for the country and earning back the trust of voters who still feel left behind in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan,” said Gillbrand communications director Meredith Kelly.
Gillibrand will be traveling to Pittsburgh, Mahoning Valley and Cleveland, Ohio and then Oakland County, Flint and Lansing, Mich. on Thursday and Friday.
Warren flexes grassroots muscle, raises $19.1 million in Q2
PETERBOROUGH, NH- Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign on Monday announced it had raised $19.1 million in the second quarter of 2019, which spanned April to June.
The fundraising total, which more than tripled the campaign’s first quarter results, was the latest indication of a notable surge in support for the Massachusetts senator in recent months.
The fundraising total placed Warren in third place among Democrats who have reported their second quarter fundraising numbers, behind South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who reported raising $24.8 million, and former Vice President Joe Biden, who brought in $21.5 million. But Warren’s haul eclipsed that of progressive rival Bernie Sanders, who brought in $18.1 million during the same period.
Another top-tier Democratic rival, Kamala Harris, reported raising $12 million in the second quarter.
Warren announced early in her campaign that she would eschew traditional fundraising events altogether and focus her efforts on grassroots and online donations. Most other 2020 contenders have spent significant time on the traditional campaign finance circuit, with the exception of Sanders who is also relying on grassroots efforts.
The campaign says they now have 384,000 donors, with an average gift of just $28.
“You’re making it possible to build a presidential campaign without catering to wealthy donors— with no closed-door fundraisers, no Super PACs, and no money from Washington lobbyists, corporate PACs, or, for that matter, PACs of any kind,” Campaign Manager Roger Lau said in an email to supporters.
The Warren campaign finished the quarter with $19.7 million cash on hand. It had transferred $10.4 million from Warren’s Senate account earlier this year.
The Warren campaign has significant overhead, with a much larger paid staff in both Iowa and New Hampshire than her 2020 rivals. The campaign boasts over 300 staffers across the country, with 60% of those in the four first primary and caucusing states. Her relatively paltry $6 million fundraising total in the first quarter had some supporters concerned about paying for the ground game her campaign envisioned.
Warren has experienced a surge in support in recent polling, in early states and nationally, landing her in a close third or fourth place in most surveys. She was widely seen to have been among the top performers in the first round of debates. The campaign declined to share how much fundraising came from a post-debate bump.
Kris Kobach files for Kansas Senate race
WASHINGTON — Kris Kobach, the former secretary of state of Kansas who lost his bid for governor last year, has filed for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.
Kobach is popular on the right for his hard-line immigration record and relationship with President Trump. He leveraged that support into a narrow GOP primary victory in 2018 where he dethroned then-Gov. Jeff Colyer.
But Kobach then lost the red-state governor's race to Democrat Laura Kelly, a defeat that has made some national Republicans nervous that the conservative Kobach could imperil the party’s chances of holding on to this Senate seat if he’s the nominee in 2020.
“Just last year Kris Kobach ran and lost to a Democrat. Now, he wants to do the same and simultaneously put President Trump’s presidency and Senate Majority at risk,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez said. “We know Kansans won’t let that happen and we look forward to watching the Republican candidate they do choose win next fall.”
For those keeping track, this isn’t the first time the NRSC has come out against a Republican running for Senate. Just last month the NSRC cautioned against Roy Moore’s Senate run in Alabama.
There’s another announced GOP candidate in the Kansas race — state Treasurer Jake LaTurner. And don’t be surprised with Kobach’s filing if we might hear more “Mike Pompeo for Senate” talk.
Kobach is expected to hold a speech in Kansas later this afternoon.
Former Republican congressman will run for Senate against Mark Warner
WASHINGTON — Former Rep. Scott Taylor, the Virginia Republican who lost his seat in the 2018 midterms, announced his decision Monday to run for the seat held by Democratic Sen. Mark Warner in 2020.
Taylor made his announcement on "Fox and Friends," arguing that "we need a fresh start in the Senate" and highlighting his support for term limits. Warner is finishing his second term in the Senate after a stint as governor.
In a video released Monday morning, Taylor reminisced about his small-town childhood and how his participation in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program helped turn him away from a life down the "wrong path" as well as highlighting his service as a Navy SEAL.
And he evoked the scandals surrounding Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring (Northam and Herring admitted to wearing blackface decades ago and Fairfax has been accused of sexual assault) to take a swipe at Democratic leadership in the state.
Earlier this year, Warner called on Fairfax to resign if the allegations made against him were true. He also called on Northam to resign and joined the Virginia congressional delegation in condemning Herring.
Taylor, who lost his congressional seat to Democrat Elaine Luria last year, immediately becomes the highest-profile potential challenger to Warner. But he faces an uphill battle in a Virginia that has been moving away from Republicans in recent years.
The GOP hasn't won a statewide race since the 2009 gubernatorial election; Warner typically polls well in the state and is a solid fundraiser; and Taylor could be dogged by an investigation into his campaign regarding fake petition signatures it submitted on behalf of a Democratic candidate.
One of Taylor's former staffers has since been indicted for election fraud.
O’Rourke to kick off New Hampshire swing with focus on immigration reform
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke will bring attention to the border crisis when he returns here Friday, with plans to highlight his plans for immigration reform by attending a Lights for Liberty vigil to end human detention camps. O’Rourke is the first Democratic presidential candidate to announce participation in one of more than 500 vigils planned worldwide on July 12, which highlight inhumane and unsafe conditions experienced by immigrant children and asylum-seekers at detention facilities throughout the U.S.
“He will join us in New Hampshire to share his vision for a humane immigration policy written in our own image and urge Granite Staters to stand up and take action,” said Mike Ollen, O’Rourke’s New Hampshire state director. “Beto knows that in a democracy, where the people are the government and the government is the people, these inhumane policies are on all of us, and it’s up to us to change them.”
The event in Peterborough will kick off O’Rourke’s fourth visit to New Hampshire since announcing his run for the presidency, having visited all 10 counties in the state within his first visit. It also follows a sweeping immigration reform plan that he rolled out in May, which plans to reverse President Trump’s positions and actions while also aiming to rebuild immigration and naturalization systems.
O’Rourke has also visited three separate facilities holding migrant children in the last two weeks, including Homestead in Florida during the first democratic primary debate.
During his visit to the Homestead facility in Florida last month, O’Rourke said his “top priority is to stop these practices” and “to reunify every family that has been separated, and to make sure that we truly living our values and living our promise to this country. America means something, and we are losing that meaning every day that this continues.”
O’Rourke is taking his ideas on immigration reform directly to voters here in the first-in-the-nation state, aiming to ease fears of deportation for hundreds of New Hampshire DREAMers, protect residents with Temporary Protected Status, reform asylum laws, increase visa caps, eliminate concerns about future funding diversions and prevent transfers of northern border CBP agents to the southern border.
Merkley addresses why he hasn't endorsed Sanders again for 2020
WASHINGTON — Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., the only senator who endorsed Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential bid, said Sunday he hasn't repeated that endorsement for 2020 yet because he's looking forward to a "robust debate" among his party's presidential hopefuls.
Appearing on "Meet the Press," Merkley specifically pointed to the fact that "Hillary Clinton is not a candidate" this time when asked why he hasn't endorsed any candidate this cycle.
"We have a lot of capable individuals who are running who do understand the kitchen table. And I'm really looking forward to them laying out that vision, getting America excited about returning to the fundamentals of taking on health care, and housing, and education, infrastructure, living-wage jobs, the things that have been incredibly neglected and set aside by this administration," he said.
"Hillary Clinton is not a candidate. So we have a different set of cards this time, and I'm looking forward to hearing from all of them," he added, comparing the 2020 election cycle to the 2016 one.
Trump's Fourth of July event isn't completely unprecedented
WASHINGTON — When President Trump makes his Fourth of July speech at the Lincoln Memorial, flanked by military tanks and complete with a flyover of military jets, he won’t be the first president to insert himself into the holiday.
In 1970, in the midst of the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon had a previously-recorded speech played on screens in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The event was marketed as nonpartisan, just like President Trump’s event is being advertised, but it was largely overshadowed by anti-war protesters who screamed at speakers and waived the Vietcong flag. You can read the Washington Post's look back at the event here.
Nixon’s Fourth of July celebration, even though he wasn’t actually present, seems to be the only modern parallel for the event President Trump is planning. However, presidents have often used the Fourth of July to make speeches, and attend rallies.
At the bicentennial in 1976, President Gerald Ford spoke to a crowd in Philadelphia. In 2002, the first Fourth of July celebration after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush spoke in West Virginia about the newly deployed soldiers in the War on Terror. Prior to Nixon’s televised speech in 1970, President Truman made a Fourth of July address on the National Mall at the Washington Monument in 1951.
For the most part, presidents have spent the holiday at the White House with military families, attending naturalization ceremonies, or visiting other states — Teddy Roosevelt often made a speech in Oyster Bay, New York at his summer home Sagamore Hill.
Biden raised $21.5 million in second quarter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Former Vice President Joe Biden will report raising $21.5 million for his campaign in the second quarter of this year, reflecting a mix of traditional high-dollar fundraisers and small-dollar, online giving by his supporters.
The total lags behind at least two rivals who have also announced totals for the last three months, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders, who raised $24.8 million and $18 million, respectively. But the Biden campaign notes that he did not enter the 2020 race until more than three weeks after the start of the fundraising period, arguing that total beats his rivals on a per-day basis.
Biden’s total offers the first complete picture of his fundraising strength as the putative frontrunner in the Democratic primary race. In the first 24 hours of his campaign in late April, his campaign said he raised $6.3 million from almost 97,000 donors, the most of any other Democratic candidate.
In an email to supporters, the campaign says 97 percent of its donations were from so-called grassroots supporters giving less than $200, and that the average donation was $49. The campaign says it received 436,000 total donations from 256,000 donors. All of the money raised was for the primary election.
Biden has held 27 high-dollar fundraisers since entering, according to an NBC News tally. Though he has been criticized by some opponents who have rejected attending high dollar events, he often thanks his donors for writing large checks that allow him to compete in ways that he has “never been able to before” as the frontrunner.
At a New York City fundraiser, Biden told the crowd that his donors are “essentially saying, ‘I respect this person. I think this person will do a good job.'”
The campaign also has said Biden had some of his best online fundraising periods since last week’s debate.
Buttigieg rolls out new public service plan
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Pete Buttigieg Wednesday unveiled a new public service initiative as he kicks off a trip to the first caucus state for the 4th of July holiday. His proposal, called “A New Call to Service,” aims to build a network of 1 million National Service Members by July 4, 2026 — the 250th anniversary of America’s independence.
The South Bend, Indiana mayor’s three-step plan includes increased funding for local and national service organizations and developing new service corps to tackle issues including climate change.
Buttigieg says it's based on his belief that national service enables Americans to form connections between “very different” kinds of people, a lesson he learned during his military service.
“I served alongside and trusted my life to people who held totally different political views,” he said in a statement to NBC News, “You shouldn’t have to go to war in order to have that kind of experience.”
Buttigieg says he plans to fund the Serve America Act to increase service opportunities from 75,000 to 250,000 in existing federal and AmeriCorps programs. His campaign said funding this plan would cost approximately $20 billion over 10 years.
In 2009, President Obama signed the original Serve America Act, allocating $5.7 billion dollars over five years to increase the size of AmeriCorps from 75,000 to 250,000 volunteers.
Currently programs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps are competitive but acceptance rates remain low, at 13 percent and 25 percent respectively. AmeriCorps was incorporated into JFK’s VISTA program in 1993, while the Peace Corp also began under JFK’s initiative in 1961.
Buttigieg’s plan would target students in high school, community college, and vocational schools, in addition to those who attend historically black colleges and universities and youth ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor working.
The next step in Buttigieg’s plan would be to create grant opportunities for local municipalities to create “service ecosystems” tailored to regional issues.
Buttigieg also hopes to create new service opportunities including a Climate Corps focused on resilience and conservation; a Community Health Corps to target mental health, addiction and substance abuse issues; and a Service Corps focused on mentorship and intergenerational service opportunities.
The policy would include consideration of public service in student debt forgiveness, vocational training, and hiring preference for service fellows.
The campaign has not yet released details on how much this proposal will cost or how they intend to pay for it. At least half the Democratic presidential field has talked about national service and a few have released their own policies on the issue.
Sanders pulls in $18 million from grassroots fundraising in second quarter
The Bernie Sanders presidential campaign on Tuesday announced it had raised $18 million in the second quarter of this year, which ended on June 30.
That figure is down slightly from the Vermont senator’s first quarter haul of $18.2 million, and far less than rival South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s $24.8 million second quarter haul. But Sanders is raising money entirely from grassroots contributors while Buttigieg is soliciting both grassroots donors and large individual contributors.
The Sanders campaign also transferred $6 million from Sanders’ Senate and political action committees and had $6 million left over from the first quarter, bringing its total amount of cash on hand to $30 million.
The campaign has received nearly one million individual donations, with 99.3 percent of the donations at $100 or less for the second quarter.
The average donation for the quarter was $18, the campaign said, with nearly half of donors under the age of 40.
Sanders has only held one fund raising event — a “grassroots fundraiser” at a bar in San Francisco on June 1 where a donation of $27 per attendee was requested. The campaign says $80,000 was raised at that event.
“We don’t have to raise the most money,” Sanders senior adviser Jeff Weaver said. “Most people in this country know Bernie Sanders.”
Weaver told reporters on the call that the campaign believes they can do with a little less than other candidates. “We are much more efficient than the others,” he said.
Delaney announces opioid policy plan ahead of 100th New Hampshire state visit
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney Tuesday released a new policy to combat the opioid epidemic in the United States. In a statement announcing the new policy, the Democratic presidential candidate says he “would implement policies to not only address the scope of the ongoing epidemic, but support policies to prevent new cases of addiction.”
Delaney’s policy plan details four key ways that he intends to fight the opioid epidemic in his administration:
- Strengthening prevention efforts by setting new prescription and education requirements for physicians and administrators, expanding access to alternative pain management options, strengthening federal enforcement to reduce the supply of illicit opioids, and holding pharmaceutical executives responsible for fueling the epidemic.
- Ensuring access to evidence-based substance use disorder treatment through maintaining funding to states for building out treatments, expanding mental health parity laws, expanding access to treatments in the criminal justice system, strengthening programs to help pregnant and post-partum women get access to treatment, and more.
- Investing in recovery programs to help those who enter stay in recovery through job training and placement services, including housing support and other social services.
- Funding for programs such as new block grants for states to implement a 2 cent tax on each milligram of an active opioid ingredient in a prescription pain pill.
Delaney will hold his 100th event in New Hampshire Tuesday, where local residents helped bring national attention to the worsening opioid crisis during the 2016 presidential election. It is a part of a three-day swing through the Granite State. New Hampshire ranks in the top five states with the highest rate of opioid-involved overdose deaths according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, with 420 related deaths last year. In the U.S., an average of 130 people die from drug overdoses involving opioids every day.
Going it alone: Booker proposes day-one immigration fixes that don’t need congress
DALLAS — As Democratic presidential candidates have struggled to explain how they would enact ambitious policy agendas over the opposition of a Senate that could still be controlled by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Tuesday laid out a slate of immigration proposals that could be enacted entirely by executive order.
“When kids are being stripped away from their parents and held in cages, I will not wait for Congress to solve this crisis,” Booker said in a statement, announcing the proposals. “On day one of my presidency, I will take immediate steps to end this administration’s moral vandalism.”
Booker's proposals focus on unwinding most of President Trump’s executive actions on the border, including ending the so-called “remain in Mexico” policy and immediately restoring protections for Dreamers and those with other forms of temporary legal status, and reversing the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.
The plan also focuses heavily on ending detention of migrants, both by phasing out contracts with private, state and local prisons, and by raising standards and accountability requirements for federal facilities, forcing them to either greatly improve conditions, or close.
With the release of his slate of executive actions, Booker joins other top tier candidates including former Vice President Joseph Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren, former congressman Beto O’Rourke and former HUD Secretary Julián Castro in outlining comprehensive immigration reform plans.
Tim Ryan rolls out plans for public education reform
BOSTON — Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, is rolling out a new plan to treat education as a federal right by investing $50 billion into federal programs to transform all public schools into community schools that blend resources from both the school systems and the communities that they serve.
These public community schools would focus on four distinct goals: integrated student supports; expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities; collaborative leadership and practices, and active family and community engagement.
In his proposal, Ryan gives a shout out to LeBron James,’ citing the Ohio basketball legend’s "I Promise School" in his congressional district as a model example of community schools. “But you shouldn’t need a superstar to come from your community to fulfill the guarantee of a high-quality education in this country,” Ryan says in the text of the plan.
Ryan is set to unveil his plan Monday at the American School Counselor Association Annual Conference in Boston before making two campaign stops in New Hampshire. His policy announcement comes on the heels of his comments at the first Democratic debate, in which he emphasized the need for social and emotional learning in every school.
“We need to start playing offense,” said Ryan during the debate last Wednesday. “If our kids are so traumatized that they're getting a gun and going into our schools, we're doing something wrong, too, and we need reform a trauma-based care.”
Ryan’s approach includes implementing policies in four key categories:
- Well-prepared and supported teachers and leaders: Support a diverse and well-prepared teacher work force by supplying them with the tools and resources they need, as well as health and wellness support.
- Wraparound services: Provide students and their families the support they need to learn effectively through nutritional services, as well as mental, social, and physical health services.
- Social-emotional and academic learning: Teach students conflict resolution and how to set goals, make responsible decisions, and maintain positive relationships.
- 21st Century college and career-ready pathways: Provide students with programs to explore their futures, including “curricula and a continuum of high-quality work-based learning opportunities rooted in modern business and industry practices.”
Ryan also added that as president, he would work with Congress to pass the Rebuild America’s Schools Act to invest $100 billion into school infrastructure.
Harris highlights long backing of LGBTQ marriage rights at San Francisco pride
SAN FRANCISCO — After a Democratic debate performance for which she was widely lauded, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., returned to her home state Sunday to tout her history of defending LGBTQ rights, particularly her support for gay marriage.
Speaking in front of thousands from outside San Francisco City Hall, where she first officiated weddings after California began recognizing same-sex marriages in 2004, Harris said she was a supporter early on.
“As you know, 15 years ago, [there were] not a lot of Democrats who were on board with it," she said. "But we said, ‘no, civil unions [are] not good enough. We’re going to perform marriages.’ And that’s what we did here in 2004.’ Remember that,”
Harris spoke to the annual pride breakfast in San Francisco before riding a red Mustang through the streets of the city. She then spoke from outside City Hall, recalling her decision as the California attorney general to not defend Proposition 8, a measure approved by California voters in 2008 that would have statutorily written marriage in the state to be only between a man and a woman
After years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately kicked the measure back down to a lower federal court, which had previously nullified the gay marriage ban in California.
“I was so proud to come right back here to San Francisco City Hall and perform the first marriage of Kris Perry and Sandy Stier,” Harris said on Sunday.
Perry and Stier, the two plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case, spoke at a fundraiser for Harris on Saturday night.
“Your leadership frankly by not defending [Prop 8] lead the way to the Supreme Court striking it down,” Kris Perry, one of the plaintiffs, said, “You led us all in a giant exhale over the end of a hateful law.”
In an interview with NBC News from the parade route on Sunday, Harris rebuked the current White House administration’s policies impacting LGBTQ individuals.
“We have a current occupant in the White House who has been silent on so many issues that have included an increase in hate crime, [and] a policy that has been about excluding and kicking out transgender men and women from the military,” Harris said. “I think this is a moment where everyone knows we want to have champions for equality in our country, and we don’t currently have that in the White House.”
Castro on his immigration plan: 'Nobody's talking about open borders'
WASHINGTON — Former HUD Sec. Julián Castro defended his proposal to decriminalize unauthorized border crossings during an appearance on "Meet the Press" Sunday, arguing that America needs a more "humane" and "effective" approach to the border.
Castro's plan drew widespread attention this week when he challenged former Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke on immigration.
When asked whether concerns about that part of his immigration plan could play into President Trump's criticism that Democrats are for "open borders," Castro swatted that characterization aside.
"Number one, the president is going to call Democrats as being for open borders no matter what we say. Nobody's talking about open borders," he said.
"We have 654 miles of fencing, we have thousands of personnel at the border, we have planes, we have helicopters, we have guns, we have boats, we have security cameras. States like Texas — my home state that I'm in right now — spent an extra $800 million on border security. That's just a right wing talking point."
He went onto argue that, on top of "maintaining a secure border," the American government should invest in Central and South American countries in order to improve the conditions so that less migrants try to come to America. He also pushed for an independent immigration court and an influx of more judges to help adjudicate immigration cases faster.
Harris campaign touts $2 million post-debate haul
MIAMI — Sen. Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign announced Saturday that it raised $2 million in the 24 hours following her participation in Thursday night’s Democratic debate in Miami, a haul that added up to the best single day of fundraising since the California Democrat launched her candidacy in January.
Harris spokesman Ian Sams said that 63,277 donors gave to the campaign in that 24-hour window, adding that 58 percent of those individuals were first-time donors. The average donation was $30.
By comparison, former HUD Sec. Julián Castro tweeted that more than 11,000 new donors contributed to his campaign in a similar time window while CNN reported that Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. brought in 4,000 new donors.
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign has yet to release comparative figures, though senior advisers touted “incredible” hauls that were the campaign’s best since its launch.
Biden already in mid-June hinted that he had raised $19 million for his campaign to date. The fundraising filing deadline for the second quarter for campaigns is on Sunday. He, as well as Harris, are attending fundraisers for their campaigns in California this weekend. Harris raised $12 million in the first two months of her campaign.
Granite State voters largely impressed with debate performances
MANCHESTER, N.H. — While the political pundits have weighed in on the first 2020 Democratic debates, it's going to be the voters in early primary states who will ultimately choose the party’s presidential nominee.
Voters who took in the debates at watch parties across New Hampshire shared their impressions with NBC News after the two-night debate featuring 20 candidates.
In the towns of Londonderry and Dover, several undecided voters said they thought Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., did notably well in the first debate Wednesday night while former HUD Sec. Julián Castro was a surprise standout, and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke performed under expectations.
Zak Koehler and Rick Kincaid from Dover, NH, were among those who thought the first night's discussion was substantive.
“I actually liked how there was some back and forth between some of the candidates because you could see what they were actually feeling and what they wanted to talk about as a main issue in their candidacy,” said Koehler.
“It’s just nice to hear presidential candidates speak with full sentences and proper grammar and actually make a statement and back it up with a good argument,” Kincaid added.
Some attendees had hoped more New Hampshire-specific policies would have been addressed, including Jackie Wood, a senior citizen from Londonderry concerned about infrastructure.
“I'm in a rural town where my driveway is 300 feet straight up, and how am I going to go food shopping when I'm older?” said Wood. “I think we really [need] transportation, and that was not addressed at all."
On night two, voters at debate watch parties in Lebanon and Somersworth agreed that former Vice President Joe Biden underperformed while Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., stood out with strong moments, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., stuck to his messages, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg was specific in his answers.
“I was really impressed by the specific policy changes that Senator Sanders proposed and also Buttigieg,” said Weati Punni, a first time voter in Lebanon, NH. “I came in knowing that Bernie would [have] strong points but Buttigieg I was really surprised by.
“I think he really dropped the ball,” Punni also said of Biden. “Specifically with this challenge by Senator Harris on racial justice just wasn't really able to answer for his political past.”
“I think Kamala’s moment, when she said ‘that little girl was me,’ was a surprise to me and other people in the room that were watching,” said Crystal Paradis, an organizer from Somersworth, NH. “That was a really powerful way of bringing it back to a personal story."
Granite State voters will get to see more of the candidates in the coming weeks as ten contenders are set to visit — including Biden, Harris, Booker and Buttigieg.
Pete Buttigieg scores positive response from some South Bend debate-watchers
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A group of nearly 20 people gathered at the Greater St. Matthew Church in South Bend Thursday night to watch their mayor, Pete Buttigieg, on the presidential debate stage.
When Buttigieg was grilled about the police shooting that has roiled the city and the lack of racial diversity on the city's police force, the mostly black audience said they were pleased with his responses overall.
"For him to go on the stage and take ownership for what has happened in the city and what policies he's put in place that have failed, and taking that ownership and saying he's failed but he's working towards making something better? That meant a lot that showed that he's not just here to run, to be president," South Bend resident Edward Thomas said.
That "ownership" was in response to moderator Rachel Maddow asking Buttigieg why the South Bend police force under his leadership hasn't diversified. The city is 26 percent black, while the police force is only 6 percent black.
"I couldn't get it done," Buttigieg said Thursday night. He added, "I could walk you through all of the things that we have done as a community. All of the steps that we took from bias training to deescalation but it didn't save the life of Eric Logan."
However, some debate-watchers like Eli Cantu who has lived in South Bend for decades since moving from McAllen, Texas felt that the confidence Buttigieg exuded in his answers on the national stage is what was missing from the town hall the mayor held last week.
"I hate to say this, but I wish I would have seen that in the town hall. You know the way he was responding to some of these," Cantu said. Overall, though, Cantu was still impressed with Buttigieg. "He’s the one I was really looking at tonight. He made a good impact.”
Julián Castro's campaign says donations triple after debate
Julián Castro’s successful debate performance is turning into money for his campaign, which has some catching up to do in staff hiring in key primary states.
Castro’s campaign said it raised 3,266 percent more money Wednesday and Thursday — the nights of the Democratic debates — over what it had raised the two days prior to the debates.
Castro had his strongest fundraising day to date after Wednesday night's debate performance, the campaign said. The fundraising jump is nearly three times the amount raised over the previous best fundraising day and he nearly tripled donations, his campaign added.
The campaign would not release actual numbers just yet. The spike comes just in time as the books for this quarter close on June 30.
Castro’s campaign had raised just 1.1 million for the first quarter, putting him at the bottom of the pack in fundraising.
Although he qualified for the debates this week and on July 30 and 31 in Detroit, the campaign was uncertain whether he’d hit the required 130,000 unique contributions threshold for September’s debates.
“The new 130,000 donor debate threshold is designed to cut candidates like me from the running,” Castro said in a fundraising plea in early June.
RGA launches ad campaign against Andy Beshear in Kentucky governor's race
WASHINGTON — A Kentucky Republican organization supported by the Republican Governors Association is launching two new TV ads attacking state Attorney General Andy Beshear, the Democratic nominee for this November's election.
The two ads from Putting Kentucky First focus on Beshear’s support of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race, and his record as Attorney General. The ads were launched the same day as the first round of the Democratic primary debates.
“As the Democratic presidential candidates prepare to take the debate stage and expose their party’s far-left, radical agenda for all Kentuckians to see, Andy Beshear’s record shows that he stands with liberal Democrats and against the vast majority of Kentucky voters,” said RGA Communications Director Amelia Chassé Alcivar.
Incumbent GOP Gov. Matt Bevin and Beshear both faced tough primaries to win their respective parties’ nominations. Bevin won just 52 percent of the vote in his primary, and Beshear won his primary with 38 percent of the vote.
Bevin won his first term for governor in 2015 against the state’s former Attorney General Democrat John Conway. Bevin became the second Republican governor elected in Kentucky in 40 years, replacing Andy Beshear’s father, then-Gov. Steve Beshear.
Trump campaign targets Latinos in new Miami ads
MIAMI — The Trump 2020 campaign has taken out two full-page ads in twin Miami publications on the first day of the Democratic debates here. The English-language version, which touts Hispanic support for the president, is set to run in the Miami Herald. A Spanish-language ad emphasizing the same points will appear in its sister paper: El Nuevo Herald.
“Millions have followed the law to come to America, new immigrants should too,” the large color advertisement reads, right above a directive to text “VAMOS” to a signup number to register for information.
This comes as the campaign officially rolled out “Latinos for Trump” with a coalition kickoff in Miami headlined by Vice President Mike Pence Tuesday.
The ad features two photos: one of President Trump clapping and the other of several red-MAGA-hat-wearing young men who may be Hispanic, one of whom is wearing a Trump 2016 lanyard.
A brightly-colored box also includes statistics on the economy and low Latino employment rates, as well as mentions of Cuba and Venezuela — both hot-button issues in Hispanic communities.
The ad buy, which also includes a digital component, is further evidence of how the Trump campaign intends to compete for the Hispanic vote in critical battleground Florida, as well as nationally.
The state is home to more than two million eligible Latino voters, who can deliver an important 29 Electoral College votes next year, all the more reason Republicans are hoping to erode the more reliably Democratic-leaning Hispanic vote there and beyond.
Biden preps at 'debate camp' ahead of Thursday's faceoff
MIAMI — Joe Biden has ramped up debate preparations to include marathon practice sessions with longtime advisers, and a familiar face who helped ready the former VP for his most high-profile faceoff a decade ago.
Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has joined a dozen senior Biden confidants at a hotel in Wilmington to ready him for this week’s multi-candidate scrum in Miami.
It was not clear yet what role, or roles Granholm might be playing in the current practice sessions. The Thursday debate Biden headlines includes three female contenders — Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Marianne Williamson. But Granholm, who cannot endorse in the Democratic primary because of her role as chair of American Bridge, is familiar to the role having stood in as Sarah Palin during Biden’s 2008 vice presidential debate rehearsals.
Biden’s kitchen cabinet, including deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield, senior adviser Symone Sanders, policy adviser Stef Feldman as well as longtime advisers Steve Ricchetti, Bruce Reed, Mike Donilon and Ted Kaufman, spent nearly 11 hours with the former vice president in a windowless conference room Monday in the most intensive practice session to date.
The group only took occasional breaks including for lunch and dinner, which were delivered to the venue.
Until this week, Biden’s preparations largely centered around reading detailed policy briefings books assembled by his team, and informal discussions to sound out potential strategies.
Ron Klain, Biden’s first chief of staff as vice president and a veteran debate adviser who aided Hillary Clinton with her 2016 debate preparations in the primary and general election, has also returned to the fold.
Biden is expected to remain at what the team calls “debate camp” through Wednesday before traveling to Miami Thursday. Aides and the Democratic frontrunner himself have been downplaying expectations for a major substantive clash in the two-hour debate.
“It’s a little bit of exaggeration calling it a debate. I mean there’s not much time,” Biden told reporters earlier this month.
The format, with 1-minute answers and 30-second responses, “won’t allow for anything in-depth,” a Biden adviser said.
Advisers are also readying for his rivals to focus their attacks on Biden.
“We know candidates are looking for breakout moments in these debates. VP Biden doesn’t need a breakout moment,” the adviser said. “Any attacks from others during the debate will simply contrast with the vice president's positive message about his agenda and his emphasis on the extraordinary stakes of this election.”
Conservative judicial group launches million-dollar ad on Dems' 'secret' court list
WASHINGTON — The Judicial Crisis Network launched a $1.1 million ad campaign Tuesday morning calling on former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democratic presidential candidates to release the list of judges they’d choose from as potential Supreme Court nominees.
“President Trump was open and honest with the American people and has kept his promise. He released his list of judges, but Joe Biden and other Democrats running for president have yet to reveal theirs,” Judicial Crisis Network’s Chief Counsel and Policy Director Carrie Severino said.
President Trump promised to release a list of potential justices in March 2016. He released a partial list in May 2016 once he was the presumptive Republican nominee, and then added to the list in September 2016 after becoming the party’s nominee.
The Judicial Crisis Network’s ad says the Democrats running for president have built a “secret list” of judges they’d choose from.
“Democratic candidates and liberal groups are campaigning to pack the courts with liberal judges, while keeping their list secret. Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden and all Democratic presidential candidates should stop hiding and release their list of potential Supreme Court nominees so the American people can judge for themselves,” Severino said.
President Trump’s potential Supreme Court nominee list was published after former President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill Scalia’s seat in the spring of 2016. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold a confirmation hearing for Garland, saying the vacancy should not be filled during an election year.
In an interview Monday with The Hill, President Trump said he would nominate someone for the Supreme Court if a vacancy occurred between now and the 2020 election.
Some 2020 Democrats start ad buys in key states ahead of first debate
WASHINGTON — Ahead of this week’s Democratic presidential debates, some hopefuls are launching their first television ads in key states.
Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., did not make the cut to be on the debate stage this week but he will be on television around them. Moulton for America Tuesday released 30-second ads that will play during or right before the first debate in key state markets in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
“I won’t be on the debate stage tonight, so I’m introducing myself here. I served four combat tours in Iraq, a war I spoke out against. I’m progressive, I’m practical and I can beat Donald Trump,” Moulton says in the ad.
Meanwhile, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, has purchased ad time in four markets before, during and after the debate. Viewers in the Boston area, and several markets in Iowa and South Carolina will get to see Gabbard’s first ad which focuses on her military service.
“Meet Tulsi Gabbard, decorated war veteran who will end wasteful regime change wars and new cold war,” the ad’s narrator says.
Gabbard will be on the stage for the first night of this week's debates, Wednesday, June 26.
Here's how the RNC is preparing to counter the Democratic debates
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump may be flying to Japan on Wednesday for a global summit but his presence is sure to hover heavily over the Democratic debates in Miami this week.
While the president may weigh in on the proceedings via his Twitter feed, the Republican National Committee will be at full-throttle, wielding material it has been gathering on the opposition candidates since the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections.
Even so, Republicans face an unprecedented task in organizing research for the largest field of major Democratic presidential hopefuls in the modern era, who will spar over two nights of debates.
A team of about thirty staffers has pored over thousands of pages of public record requests and hundreds of hours of videos, ready to pounce the moment one of the contenders misspeaks or missteps in primetime.
Each Democrat has required a different approach to the research. Some like former Vice President Joe Biden or Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have been in public service for decades, making their opposition troves rich and deep. Others, such as South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, have thinner profiles.
The RNC has compiled long-term, in-depth investigative research on about half of the 20 candidates who qualified for Wednesday and Thursday’s events, according to a spokesman.
While the president will be halfway around the world at the G20 conference, Trump’s allies will be on offense, with resources deployed on the ground in Miami.
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel will oversee the effort.
“This week, the crowded field of Democrat candidates will use the debate stage to paint a glamorous view of their socialist proposals. With the advantage of a fully equipped war room and rapid response team, our job is to fact-check Democrats’ bogus statements and expose the truth behind their radical agendas,” McDaniel said in a statement to NBC News.
During the debate, the RNC will have a full “war room” monitoring every network and clipping and emailing top moments to its massive email and donor lists in real time as well as blasting them out on social media.
There will be four-dozen surrogates available as well, with an emphasis on Spanish-speaking content in battleground states where Hispanics make up a key demographic.
Republicans have prepared fact-checks on everything from the Russia investigation to the economy and how various Democrats plan to pay for their individual policy proposals.
For its part, the Trump 2020 campaign is letting the party take the offensive lead on the debates this week, but Vice President Mike Pence will hold a “Latinos for Trump” coalition rollout in Miami Tuesday, hoping to deliver a prebuttal before the first crop of Democrats take the stage Wednesday night.
Maine Democratic House speaker to run against Susan Collins
WASHINGTON — Sara Gideon, the Democratic Speaker of the Maine House, has jumped into the race against Republican Sen. Susan Collins.
Gideon announced her bid in a video on social media where she recounted her political career, highlighting her work on health care, job training and drug addiction.
She also framed herself as a the bulwark against controversial former Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage in the state legislature, arguing that she'll be able to take the same approach in Washington
"Getting things done for Mainers is what we are elected to do, not falling in line behind the demands of someone else," she said.
"It doesn't matter if that person is Paul LePage, Mitch McConnell or Donald Trump."
Collins presents a unique opportunity and challenge for Democrats.
They see her as newly vulnerable after she voted for the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whose nomination was roiled by allegations of sexual assault stemming from his teenage years.
But Collins is a mainstay in the state — she's been in the Senate since 1997 and has cruised to re-election since. And her Kavanaugh support could galvanize Republicans around her too.
Gideon speaks to that dynamic in her announcement video, arguing that Collins has lost her bipartisan streak.
Republicans panned Gideon's announcement, arguing that bipartisan streak will serve Collins well once again in 2020.
"Susan Collins is the most independent Senator in the country because of her ability to work across party lines to get things done for Maine,” said Nathan Brand, a spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Chosen by Schumer and Washington Democrats, Sara Gideon is an extreme partisan who will give away Maine’s voice to radical leftists like Pelosi and AOC.”
Inslee pledges to phase out fossil fuels
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Washington Governor Jay Inslee is proposing an aggressive plan to eliminate fossil fuel use in the U.S and transition the nation to 100% clean energy by taking on corporations and adding 8 million new jobs.
The “Freedom from Fossil Fuels” plan, being unveiled Monday, consists of 16 policy initiatives that include phasing out fracking and use of coal, creating a “climate test” for new infrastructure, introducing a climate pollution fee on corporations and establishing an office in the Department of Justice entirely focused on prosecuting environmental injustices.
"In order to build a more prosperous, just and inclusive clean energy future, our nation must confront the economic and environmental harm caused by corporate polluters," the campaign’s plan states.
The governor will officially announce his proposal from Everglades Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where there has been recent controversy over a real estate company trying to explore oil drilling in the wetlands.
Inslee has released three other plans has part of his “Climate Mission” including a plan on global action on climate change, a clean energy plan and an “Evergreen Economy” plan and is the only candidate who has made the environment the central focus of his campaign.
Biden previews immigration policy visions ahead of debate
WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden continued to ramp up his attacks on President Donald Trump Monday with harsh criticism of the administration’s hardline position on immigration, just days ahead of the first Democratic presidential debate in Southern Florida.
In a Miami Herald op-ed, Biden writes that Trump continues to threaten U.S. relations with Latin America by relying on campaign tactics of “vilifying immigrants to score political points.” He lists the administration’s latest threat to immediately deport thousands of undocumented immigrants, the decision to end aid to Central American countries and continued “horrifying scenes” of families detained at the border as examples to contrast the leadership he says would bring to the presidency as an experienced foreign policy expert.
“It’s clear Donald Trump is only interested in using his policies to assault the dignity of the Latino community and scare voters to turn out on election day, not addressing the real challenges facing our hemisphere,” he writes.
He adds, “at a time when the challenges we face demand a united, regional response, Trump repeatedly invokes racist invective to describe anyone south of the Rio Grande, including calling migrants ‘animals.’”
Biden says that Trump’s signature “build the wall” mantra is “a slogan divorced from reality.”
The “true solution” is to address the root causes of the migrant flow from Central America, Biden argues, calling for returning to a strategy he helped lead in the Obama administration to support economic and security initiatives in the Northern Triangle countries.
Biden calls for Congress to pass the DREAM Act to finally allow undocumented immigrants to come “out of the shadows through fair treatment, not ugly threats.” He also targets Trump’s “increasing belligerence” in handling the Venezuelan crisis and calls for granting temporary protected status to refugees from the South American country.
The broad immigration policy overview in the Miami Herald comes after Biden attacked what he called the “mindless” Trump approach to immigration in an interview Saturday with MSNBC’s Al Sharpton.
“Not only is that cruel, but imagine what it says to the rest of the world about who we are,” Biden said of children in detention centers. “This is absolutely mindless what he’s doing.”
Beto O'Rourke rolls out proposals to help veterans
TAMPA, Fla. — Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke is unveiling an expansive policy outline to address veterans issues on Monday, which includes revitalization of the VA and other improved veterans services and a proposed $1,000 new “war tax” on wealthy households that don’t include veterans or current servicemembers.
The former Texas congressman wants to pass on some responsibility of military service by imposing a $1,000 progressive tax on people making over $200,000 a year for every new authorized war the United States enters. That money would be funneled into what he calls a “Veterans Health Care Trust Fund,” which would support veterans’ medical services and other forms of care.
“It means that before we go to war again, after we’ve ended the wars that we’re already in, we’re gonna make sure that we understand the full cost and consequence of going to those wars,” O’Rourke told NBC News in an exclusive interview. “It’s not just deploying the women and men, the missiles and the bombs, it’s their care when they come back.”
O'Rourke has long called for bringing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a “responsible end,” and says he wants to invest half of the money being spent there — which he estimates is around $200 of $400 billion — into programs helping veterans.
The candidate is proposing to reshape the VA on several fronts, including implementing partnerships with research universities and standardizing electronic health care data. He wants to build upon existing “reverse boot camps” and work with federal agencies on various economic concerns for members of the military transitioning back to civilian life.
O’Rourke’s plan for veterans is the seventh major policy rollout of his campaign, but this is a topic that was at the forefront of his career prior to his vault into the mainstream public eye during the Texas Senate race last year. As a congressman, he held quarterly veterans town halls, served on both the Veterans Affairs and Armed Services committees, and worked on numerous pieces of veterans-focused legislation that became law.
Part of his proposal this week to address veteran suicide and mental health matters also includes allowing VA physicians to prescribe or recommend medical cannabis where it’s legal, while also ensuring VA providers communicate with veterans about safe and responsible gun storage.
He told NBC News Monday that his potential administration would “make suicide reduction our No. 1 clinical priority at the V.A.”
He also calls on Congress to increase funding to the National Institutes of Health to fight diseases prevalent with veterans, including doubling research into Alzheimer’s and other dementia's from $2.5 billion to $5 billion a year.
Bullock makes first trip to New Hampshire while the rest of the field is in South Carolina
MANCHESTER, N.H. — While nearly all the other 2020 Democratic candidates were in South Carolina this weekend, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock headed north to New Hampshire for his first campaign trip to the Granite State. With Bullock’s visit, every 2020 contender has now officially introduced themselves to first-in-the-nation primary voters.
All of the retail politics typical of a New Hampshire swing were on full display during Bullock's visit — he was escorted by influential state senators as he met voters at Concord’s Market Days Festival, held a brewery meet and greet, shook hands with diners at local Manchester haunts, and attended a Nashua house party hosted by a former New Hampshire attorney general.
Bullock entered the race five weeks ago. The house party was initially scheduled for March, but had to be postponed, along with Bullock’s announcement, due to working with the Montana state legislature to expand Medicaid.
“I only got into this formally a little bit over a month ago because I had a job to do,” Bullock said. “And if I had to choose between chasing 100,000 voters or providing health care for 100,000 people, easiest decision I’ll ever make.”
When asked why he chose to jump into such a crowded field rather than vie for a Montana Senate seat, Bullock told NBC News, “We need to win places we lost in addition to bringing out our base, we need to be able to make people believe that government works.”
“My whole life experience has been in the executive branch of things, I think I have something really meaningful to offer there, so that was the decision I made,” he said.
Bullock said New Hampshire is critical because at the end of the day, it’s the state that’s “going to sort out a lot of this.”
“Folks in New Hampshire, they take their role seriously, so they want to get to know the candidates,” he said. “As much as at times people try to nationalize elections, this really is a person to person effort.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has made the most trips to the first primary state, with ten N.H. campaign swings according to NBC News' tally. And in the latest CBS News/YouGov poll, only two percent of Granite Staters are so far considering supporting Bullock for the nomination.
NBC News' Amanda Golden contributed to this report.
Americans weigh in on how to improve democracy
WASHINGTON — In a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Americans were asked about potential changes that could occur within U.S. democracy. The most popular answers, below, are added up by those who said the changes would improve democracy "a lot" or "just some."
- Term limits for members of Congress: 71 percent.
- Non-partisan commissions drawing congressional/state legislative districts: 66 percent.
- Election Day as a national holiday: 66 percent.
- Automatic voter registration for every adult citizen: 65 percent.
- Term limits for Supreme Court justices: 60 percent.
- Eliminating the Electoral College to decide presidential elections: 56 percent.
- Federal funding of congressional campaigns: 54 percent.
- Eliminating the filibuster: 44 percent.
Of course, there are significant partisan differences on these fixes: 81 percent of Democratic respondents said abolishing the Electoral College would improve democracy a lot/somewhat, versus just 32 percent of Republicans who agreed.
But the one fix where there’s bipartisan support is congressional term limits, with 81 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of independents and 67 percent of Democrats who think it would improve the U.S. democracy.
On World Refugee Day, one campaign staffer shares his journey
NEW HAMPSHIRE — Suraj Budathoki is a man of dates. March 5, 1990 is when he left Bhutan overnight at age nine as a political refugee with his family. February 24, 2009 is when he resettled in Atlanta, GA and began working two full-time jobs to support himself. December 5, 2009 is when he got to New Hampshire and soon after started taking classes at a community college, later earning a bachelor’s degree in political science and a masters’ degree in international relations.
And May 1, 2019 is when he started working for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign as his Constituency Director in New Hampshire.
Budathoki left Bhutan at a time when a sixth of the population was being evicted due to political persecution from an authoritarian government. But he says that when he finally got to America, he was unaware of how hard it would be to feel like he was succeeding.
Thursday was World Refugee Day, marked by the U.N. and Budathoki told NBC News that arriving in the U.S. was a shock. “When I came to the United States, I was unaware of the reality of America, the hardship, the recession,” he said. “I was unaware of all those things. And I was kind of traumatized.”
Budathoki says Sanders’ plans to address education and student debt, healthcare, income inequality and climate inspired him to get involved with the campaign.
"Suraj represents the promise of America and what this country can be,” Joe Caiazzo, Bernie Sanders’ New Hampshire State Director, told NBC News. “He overcame enormous hardships and built a life for him and his family in New Hampshire. Suraj became an entrepreneur, a leader in his community, and a role model not just for new Americans, but for all of us. We're lucky to have him on our team as we build our grassroots campaign throughout New Hampshire."
Budathoki said while he and other refugees see America as a beacon of hope, the country isn’t addressing the underlying causes of refugee displacement — supporting authoritarian regimes, implementing imbalanced trade policies and tackling climate change. “We have a responsibility to answer these issues,” he said.
Budathoki says working on the Sanders campaign has been his “proudest moment.” To future refugees who want to get involved in the political process, Budathoki said, “Fight for your right. Speak up. No one has the right to dehumanize you.”
Marianne Williamson walks back skeptical comments about vaccinations
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson Thursday walked back comments expressing skepticism about government-mandated vaccinations.
Appearing on "The View,” Williamson was challenged on remarks she made at an art gallery reception in Manchester, N.H. on Wednesday evening. When asked by an attendee about her perspective on medical freedom and choice, Williamson responded with her views on government-mandated vaccinations. “To me," she said, "it’s no different than the abortion debate. The U.S. government doesn't tell any citizen, in my book, what they have to do with their body or their child.”
She added, “I have met very sincere, very smart people on both sides of the vaccine issue. I understand infectious diseases are no small deal, but I have to say I know as a mother, if you're telling me that I have to put a needle into the arm of my baby and I don't feel good about what's in that needle, I'm not sure about that.”
"I’ve seen too many mothers with just tears in their eyes," she added, "with real fear. And that’s too draconian to me, it’s just too Orwellian to me."
On Thursday, Williamson said that as president, she would have a commission of scientists, not paid by “big pharma,” to research vaccines and infectious diseases. "The days of blind faith in big pharma are over," she said.
Pressed by "The View" co-host Meghan McCain on calling mandatory vaccines “draconian” and “Orwellian,” Williamson responded, “I think I misspoke in that one sentence.”
She later added, “I understand that public safety must come first, but I also understand that we must have a balance between public safety and the issues of individual freedom. I do not trust the propaganda on either side,” telling co-host Whoopi Goldberg, “I support vaccines.”
The latest Monmouth University poll released on Thursday shows Williamson at one percent, along with Mayor Bill de Blasio, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Republicans launch anti-Medicare for All ad campaign tied to Dem debate
WASHINGTON — As Democratic presidential candidates prepare to debate issues like health care next week in Miami, Republicans are preparing a major national ad campaign to try to turn public opinion against Medicare for All.
One Nation, a GOP group tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is launching a $4 million campaign on national broadcast and cable TV, as well as radio and digital platforms around the debate to highlight what it calls "horror-stories" from Canada's single-payer health care system.
A handful of prominent Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and California Sen. Kamala Harris, are backing a Medicare-for-All approach to health care.
The ad focuses on long wait times patients have had to endure for procedures like heart surgery, with a narrator warning, "Medicare for All would eliminate private insurance for 180 million people — you and every American waiting in the same government-run plan."
“We’re going to make sure every American understands that Medicare for All means paying more for lower-quality care, longer wait times and restricted choice,” said One Nation President and CEO Steven Law. “If you’re a union worker, a family dependent on employer insurance, or a senior relying on traditional Medicare, so-called Medicare for All will turn your world upside down.”
While many presidential candidates have said they support "Medicare for All," the term can actually apply to a wide variety of plans to overhaul the health care system.
Most candidates actually support an idea to give Americans the option to buy into a government-run system like Medicare, while Sanders calls for a more sweeping reform that would replace private insurance with a Canadian-style single-payer system like the ones described in the One Name ad.
The concept is a fairly new one to most Americans, which gives partisans on both sides have an opportunity to try to define it. Polls show a majority of Americans favor the idea of universal health care, but are confused about specifics of "Medicare for All."
One recent survey by a Democratic group found Americans favor an optional buy-in scheme, but are more hostile towards a full-blown Canadian-style system that would eliminate private insurance, giving Republicans an incentive to try to conflate the two in voters' minds.
Mike Pence to headline pre-Democratic debate Miami event touting Hispanic support
WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence will headline a speech on Tuesday in Miami to tout Hispanic support for the Trump-Pence 2020 ticket, just 24 hours before the first Democratic presidential debate there, according to two sources familiar with the plans.
The campaign is still finalizing the list of Latino leaders and business executives that Pence is expected to reveal in order to show support from a key demographic in the battleground state of Florida and beyond heading into next year’s election.
Tuesday’s speech will also mark the official rollout of the Trump campaign coalition and Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nunez will be announced as national co-chair of the campaign, these sources said.
While President Trump won’t be traveling for any specific campaign events or rallies next week, he will be gearing up for a trip to Osaka, Japan for the G20, and will likely be aboard Air Force One for the first night of debates.
On Wednesday night, the president told Sean Hannity he might live-tweet the back-to-back events, though initially he said he had not planned to and called a Wall Street Journal report that he might “fake news.” Moments later, Trump changed his tune and said “Maybe I will now.”
It would not be surprising for Trump to use his favorite social media platform to react to the Democratic candidates on stage in Miami but it’s unclear whether he will be able to watch the second night of debates in real time while he’s on the ground in Osaka.
Next week, the day before the debates, Trump is expected to speak at a closed press fundraiser in Washington D.C. The following morning, June 26, he will speak at the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference in Washington. He’s expected to leave for Japan at some point after that.
Sanders’ staff expands in early states as Warren rises
CHICAGO — Sen. Bernie Sanders', I-Vt., presidential campaign has been expanding its field operation in early primary states, making dozens of hires as polls show his Democratic rivals surging.
His Iowa team has grown in recent days to include to 43 field organizers — a significant increase from just a few weeks ago. In New Hampshire, the campaign says it has more than doubled its staff and is planning new field office openings across the first in the nation primary state. Advisers say similar moves are taking place in South Carolina and Nevada.
While the increases reflect significant growth, Sanders' state staffing and field office levels still lag behind Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has been rising in the polls. On Wednesday, Warren announced seven Iowa and four New Hampshire office openings.
Sanders’ advisers say the larger staff footprint will be used to better organize and mobilize volunteers as part of the “next phase of its organizing strategy.”
“We are seeing a lot of energy in our volunteers,” Sanders Iowa state director Misty Rebik told NBC News. “They’re coming out, they’re showing up, not only at big events when the senator is here, they’re coming up when the senator is not here.”
While campaign manager Faiz Shakir told NBC News these changes simply reflect a planned “strategy to build up through the summer and the fall,” the growth comes as polls show the race shifting.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has maintained a clear first-place position since entering the race, however multiple recent state and national polls have shown Warren challenging Sanders for second place.
When asked whether Warren's growth is threatening his position in the race, Sanders focuses on results that show him ahead when taking on President Trump. “Some of the polls have me doing a lot better than Elizabeth Warren, depending on the poll,” Sanders said to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell.
“If the American people are looking at the candidate who can defeat Trump, I’ll hope they’ll give serious consideration to our candidacy,” he said.
But Sanders has used his campaign to increasingly draw sharp contrasts with Biden, and most recently Warren. On Wednesday, Politico reported that "centrists" of the Democratic Party are warming to Warren.
Sanders retweeted a link to the story, saying, “the cat is out of the bag. The corporate wing of the Democratic Party is publicly ‘anybody but Bernie.’”
2020 spotlight will shift to South Carolina this weekend
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina will take center stage in the 2020 race this weekend, as 22 presidential hopefuls shift their focus away from Iowa and New Hampshire to this critical early primary state.
Nearly the entire field of Democratic candidates — aside from Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and former Sen. Mike Gravel, D-Alaska — are set to appear at House Majority Whip James Clyburn’s, D-S.C., annual fish fry, in what is likely to be the largest gathering of contenders before the first debate.
“This is going to be the biggest fish fry we’ve ever had,” Rep. Clyburn told NBC News, with a laugh. “I don’t know if they’re going to be able to produce enough fish for us.”
The fish fry, an event Rep. Clyburn started nearly three decades ago to say thank you to campaign workers, has become an important stop for Democrats seeking the nomination — offering the opportunity to woo voters, particularly those in the African American community.
While he could be a kingmaker in the state, Clyburn says he isn’t likely to endorse a candidate ahead of the primary, telling NBC News, “It would be a bit selfish for me to go out and please my political inclinations and threaten the foundation on which we are trying to build a new, vibrant South Carolina Democratic Party.”
Rep. Clyburn said he hopes candidates present specifics on how they intend to make the “greatnesses of our society accessible and affordable.”
“That's where we’re coming up short,” he said. “Why don't we connect with these people? … You can’t just can’t say, ‘I'm for you, but I can't come and hang out with you, I can’t come and be a part of the dreams and aspirations that you adhere to.’ That’s a big mistake we make.”
In addition to the fish fry, many of the candidates will also make appearances at the state party’s Blue Palmetto dinner, the South Carolina Democratic Party Convention and a Planned Parenthood Action Fund forum.
Some contenders — including Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.— have also scheduled meet and greets and other weekend events in the state.
Swing district Democrat Katie Porter announces support for impeachment proceedings
WASHINGTON — Rep. Katie Porter, a Democrat from a swing district, announced her support for an impeachment inquiry Monday, providing more fuel for a growing number of Democrats who support at least beginning such proceedings and further pressuring reluctant House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Porter, a first-term Democrat representing Orange County, California, said in a social media post that she came to the decision after “weeks of study, deliberation, and conversations” with voters.
“I didn’t come to Congress to impeach the President,” Porter said. “But when faced with a crisis of this magnitude, I cannot with a clean conscience ignore my duty to defend the Constitution. I can’t claim to be committed to rooting out corruption and putting people over politics and then not apply those same principles and standards in all of the work I do.”
While more than 65 Democrats have officially backed impeachment proceedings, the vast majority are from safe, solidly Democratic districts. Porter joins Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey as the only two lawmakers who barely won their election against Republican incumbents in the last election to endorse an impeachment inquiry. Porter won her race with 52 percent of the vote and Malinowski with 51.7 percent. Both are on Republicans' target list of seats to win in 2020.
During a town hall discussion with voters in Tustin, Calif., last month, she said that there had been “a turning point” on the issue of impeachment after special counsel Robert Mueller’s public statement and after the repeated defiance of Congressional subpoenas by the administration.
“The question is not whether a crisis is in our midst, but rather whether we choose to fight against it,” Porter said Monday. “I’ve reached a point of clarity in my decision. Congress must continue the work of Special Counsel Mueller.”
Pelosi has resisted calls to open an impeachment inquiry, saying just last week that the idea is “not even close” to having the support in the Congress to move forward. She maintains the position that it’s best to “investigate, legislate and litigate.” She points to the judiciary successfully ruling in Congress' favor in court challenges.
But if more members in districts like Porter’s come out in support for impeachment, it could be more difficult for Pelosi to resist.
An NBC News/WSJ poll released on Sunday found that a growing number of people are supportive of impeachment proceedings, an increase of 10 points — to 27 percent — in the past month. The number of Democrats who support impeachment hearings has risen from 30 percent to 48 percent.
Democrat Cunningham joins list of Tillis challengers for 2020 Senate race
WASHINGTON — North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis got another Democratic challenger for his 2020 re-election bid Monday when former North Carolina State Senator Cal Cunningham announced his decision to drop his campaign for run for lieutenant governor and seek the Senate seat instead.
Cunningham, an Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran, took direct aim at Tillis in his announcement video, saying the first-term incumbent is “part of the problem” and is standing in the way of progress for North Carolinians. He also said he’ll “go places that Democrats don’t always go” during his campaign. Cunningham ran for Senate once before in 2010, but finished second in the Democratic primary.
Cunningham’s announcement news follows leaked internal polling from President Trump’s 2020 campaign that showed him losing North Carolina to former Vice President Joe Biden by eight points — signaling North Carolina could become a state to watch up and down the ballot in 2020. Tillis won the Senate seat in 2014 when he defeated Democratic Sen. Kay Hagen by just 1.7 points. And both Trump and Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper won the state in 2016.
Tillis is facing entrepreneur Sandy Smith and businessman Garland Tucker III in the GOP primary. Cunningham joins Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller and state senator Erica Smith in the Democratic race.
Buttigieg on concerns about sexuality and electability: Americans 'will not discriminate'
WASHINGTON — South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg downplayed the possibility that voters might be concerned about his sexuality, arguing Sunday that being gay will not hurt his standing with socially conservative voters.
Some faith leaders have raised concerns about whether Buttigieg's sexuality could hurt his ability to gain traction, particularly among the more socially conservative black voters that make up a significant portion of the Democratic primary vote in the South.
But during a Sunday interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," Buttigieg noted that he won re-election by an overwhelming margin after he came out as gay in 2015 and said his experience combating "exclusion" helps him sympathize with a large swath of voters.
"We have an opportunity to reach into our own distinctive identities and use them to build bridges. To reach out to people different from us, knowing that anybody who has been on short end of an equation of exclusion has a way to sympathize with people who've had different experiences with exclusion in this country," he said.
"People, if you give them the chance, will evaluate you based on what you aim to do. What the results are, what the policies are. And I have every confidence that American voters, especially Democratic voters, will not discriminate when the opportunity comes up to choose the right leader for the future."
Watch the full interview from Buttigieg, who is running to be the first gay president in American history, in the video below.
Harris gets South Carolina grassroots support
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former Richland County councilwoman Bernice Scott and her “Reckoning Crew” of community activists announced Thursday they are backing Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., in the state’s presidential primary.
In 2016, the grassroots group of volunteers — largely comprised of African American women — worked to help propel Hillary Clinton to victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., in the state by going door-to-door, speaking to voters in the most rural parts of South Carolina.
Harris trails both former Vice President Joe Biden and Sanders in recent polling, and the endorsement could help the senator build momentum and secure the votes of African Americans, the largest group of Democratic primary voters in many southern states.
Scott is the grandmother of Jalisa Washington-Price, the Harris campaign’s South Carolina state director, but Scott said she and her “Reckoning Crew” made the decision after a careful process of elimination.
“Jalisa will tell you, ‘Meemaw’s got her own mind,’” Scott told NBC News. “My group is here to serve. And I saw that in her. I saw her ability to make you feel like you’ve known her all her life. And that’s a comfortable feeling.”
Harris has visited South Carolina seven times since launching her campaign—and has held more events in the state than any other 2020 candidate.
This weekend, four of her fellow contenders — Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke — will all make stops in Charleston to highlight their own economic policies specific to the African American community.
Activist Lawrence Lessig was once a presidential candidate, now he's interviewing them
WASHINGTON — Lawrence Lessig has a twinge of regret about not joining the massive field of candidates in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, so he’s doing the next best thing — starting a podcast to interview and cajole them to support his agenda of political reforms.
The prominent Harvard Law School professor and political activist briefly ran for president in 2016, an experience that he describes as both “the worst of times” and “the coolest thing I've ever done.”
He didn't make the Democratic debate stage last time, but thinks he would this year under new Democratic National Committee rules that prioritize small donors. "I kind of regret that in February when they announced the rules, I wasn't in a position to spin it up and try to run," he said during an interview over iced tea in Washington this week.
So instead, he’s using his new podcast to go deep with candidates on campaign finance reform, voting rights, gerrymandering and more, and to push what he calls "POTUS 1” — a play on the name of a similar bill House Democrats’ passed this year called HR1.
Lessig argues a future Democratic president should prioritize political reform before health care, climate change, immigration, or anything else, “because it makes everything else easier.”
The first episode of his podcast, sponsored by his group Equal Citizens, launches this week with an interview with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., whom Lessig praised as “better than I was” for her “democracy dollars” idea to give every American $600 to donate to candidates they support.
He’s not too impressed yet with the details put forward by the rest of the field, including his former Harvard Law colleague Elizabeth Warren, nor does he have much sympathy for the longshot candidates in the race, even though he once was one.
"I look at some of these candidates and I’m wondering why they’re running,” he said, saying he ran to advance a clear set of policy ideas, while some candidates today seem in it for themselves. “It’s like a vanity show.”
Buttigieg calls for 'Douglass Plan' to boost economic prosperity for African Americans
WASHINGTON — Pete Buttigieg is calling for a “new Marshall Plan” to create economic prosperity for African Americans, as he seeks to address his biggest vulnerability in the 2020 race: his struggle appealing to black voters who play a critical role in the Democratic primary.
Naming it “the Douglass Plan” after abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, Buttigieg is calling for reducing the number of Americans incarcerated by half. He also says he would triple the number of entrepreneurs from underserved areas and particularly entrepreneurs of color within 10 years, which he says would create 3 million jobs and $660 billion in new wealth for black communities.
Buttigieg also wants to reform credit scoring in the U.S., increase access to credit, expand the number of successful small businesses in black communities and increase the rate of federal contracts that go to minority and women-owned firms from 5 percent to 25 percent.
“Replacing racist policies with neutral ones will not be enough to deliver equality. We must actively work to reverse these harm,” Buttigieg says in an op-ed laying out the plan in the Charleston Chronicle. Buttigieg will emphasize the plan during a visit this weekend to Charleston, South Carolina, for the Black Economic Alliance forum.
The plan, which Buttigieg says should rival in scope the Marshall Plan that invested in Europe after WWII, appears to represent his initial attempt at a proposal on reparations for slavery.
In recent days, Buttigieg has said he would create a commission to figure out the best way to do reparations, noting that he supports the idea of reparations, but not as a cash check. Rather, he supports a program to address long-term structural inequities that linger from the era of slavery.
Buttigieg is still struggling mightily to attract minorities to his campaign, and particularly in South Carolina, where a recent poll did not show him registering at all among black voters. His rallies and events remain very racially homogeneous, including a foreign policy speech in Bloomington, Indiana, on Tuesday that was attended mostly by white attendees.
Harris proposes executive actions to help Dreamers
WASHINGTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. Wednesday released a new proposal to give Dreamers and other immigrants a pathway to citizenship through targeted executive action if elected president. Harris’ plan would break down the barriers Dreamers face in applying for permanent residency status and reinstate and expand DACA.
Harris’ executive actions would strike down obstacles such as the clause in current immigration law that bars Dreamers from applying for a Green Card if they have “accept[ed] unauthorized employment.” Instead, Harris’ Secretary of Homeland Security will grant work status authorization to DACA recipients retroactively. Another executive action would clarify that being brought to the U.S. as a child means Dreamers were not able to keep lawful status “through no fault of [their] own.”
The campaign estimates these executive actions would ease the pathway to citizenship for more than two million Dreamers.
“Every day in the life of a Dreamer who fears deportation is a long day. Dreamers cannot afford to sit around and wait for Congress to get its act together. Their lives are on the line,” Harris said in a statement. “These young people are just as American as I am, and they deserve a president who will fight for them from day one.”
Harris’ proposal would also go beyond DACA and create a deferred action program for the parents of citizens or green-card holders and other law-abiding immigrants with "strong ties to their communities." The program will be administered on a case-by-case basis but military service, time spent as a resident of the U.S. and whether the individual has family members who benefit from deferred action will be considered.
Bullock web ad highlights reason for his late entry into the presidential race
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock Wednesday released a new digital ad highlighting his decision to not enter the race until after passing legislation to re-authorize Medicaid expansion in the state, a move that will likely help cost him a spot on the first debate stage in just two weeks.
Bullock has struggled to meet the criteria set by the Democratic National Committee to qualify for the debate, having entered the race just one month ago, on May 14, due to Montana’s legislative session.
“You won’t see Governor Steve Bullock at the first debate, and I’m the reason why,” says Montana resident Madison Johnson in the web ad, which campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen said will be targeted at Iowa voters online.
In the ad, Johnson says Bullock’s signature on legislation that re-authorized Medicaid expansion in the state “saved her healthcare.” Bullock signed the legislation on May 9.
In an interview last week, Bullock told NBC News, “If I had to decide between campaigning for 100,000 donors or getting 100,000 people healthcare, that’s the easiest decision I’ve ever had to make.”
“I’m sorry Steve got started too late to make the first debate, but I’m asking for your help to get him on the stage this fall,” Johnson says in the ad.
The May 14 entry left him with less than a month to qualify for this month’s debate, which is hosted by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.
According to rules established by the DNC, candidates can qualify either by finishing with at least 1 percent in three sanctioned polls by different organizations or by the same organization of different geographic areas. They can also qualify through a secondary avenue requiring 65,000 unique donors, but a candidates’ polling average is more important since it serves as a tiebreaker and Bullock has struggled in that area during his campaign's first month. The second debate will follow the same requirements as the first.
Democratic presidential candidates to join striking workers in early nominating states
California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, former Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg will join striking fast-food workers this week as they seek to support efforts to organize labor and raise the minimum wage to $15.
The three will join events organized by Fight for $15 and a Union, the group started by striking fast-food workers in 2012.
Harris will join striking workers in Las Vegas, while O’Rourke and Buttigieg head to Charleston, South Carolina. Both states hold early presidential nominating contests and their campaigns were eager to note their support.
"I have fought with organized labor throughout my career and I'm proud to stand in solidarity with the working women and men fighting for the wages and benefits they deserve here in Nevada,” Harris said in a statement to NBC News.
Buttigieg spokesperson Chris Meagher pointed to a campaign video the candidate made endorsing the movement, as well as the fact the campaign is paying its interns $15 per hour.
And the O’Rourke campaign said the candidate is "proud to stand with South Carolina's workers" and that "we need to confront that inequality today by ensuring that every workplace is free of sexual harassment and violence and that every worker can earn enough to support themselves and their families."
The trio is not the first group of Democratic presidential candidates to hit the picket lines with striking workers — New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, and Sen. Bernie Sanders have all done so in recent weeks. And New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker called into a strike line.
Virtually all of the Democratic presidential candidates support a minimum wage hike to $15. But Service Employees International Union International President Mary Kay Henry told NBC that no one candidate has separated themselves from the pack on labor issues in her view because most haven't fleshed out specific plans on how they'll support workers' rights.
Terrence Wise, a fast-food worker and organizer from Kansas City, Mo., said that the effort was an important chance for workers to keep the pressure up on politicians to stay committed to their issues.
“I’ve worked two, three jobs, and I’ve been homeless while I’ve had a job. It doesn’t make sense to live like that in the richest nation on Earth,” he said.
“I don’t think elected leaders on either side of the aisle are there yet, but we have to help them get there.”
Gillibrand campaign says it hit 65,000 donors after heavy Facebook push
WASHINGTON — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's, D-N.Y., campaign said Monday that it hit the 65,000 unique donor threshold to help her shore up her spot on this months' debate stage, a mark the campaign reached after spending heavily on Facebook ads this past week.
Gillibrand's campaign spent more than $200,000 on Facebook ads between June 2 and June 8, according to the platform's "Ad Library."
Many of those ads were explicit appeals asking donors to help her hit the threshold set to qualify for the Democratic National Committee's first round of debates, which will be hosted by NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo on June 26 and June 27.
Her campaign announced Monday that it hit the unique donor threshold in an email to supporters.
Debate participants can also qualify by averaging 1 percent in three sanctioned polls. But by hitting both thresholds, candidates can shore up their positioning in case more than 20 candidates qualify, because the party has said it will prioritize candidates who hit both thresholds.
In the last seven days, Gillibrand's campaign spent almost twice as much on Facebook advertising as Sen. Cory Boooker, D-N.J., whose campaign spent about $119,000 as the next largest advertiser.
Still,, Gillibrand's total was less than half that of President Trump's campaign, which spent more than $500,000 between its official campaign organization and its joint fundraising committee with the Republican National Committee.
Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign spent $110,000 over the same period, followed by Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders' campaign, which spent $102,000.
New Hampshire takes center stage for candidates this week
MANCHESTER, N.H. — After a weekend of 2020 presidential politics dominated by candidate visits to Iowa, it's New Hampshire's turn to get the attention this week.
Seven Democratic contenders will make their way to the Granite State, kicking off with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., visiting Monday. On Tuesday, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, will be in the state, followed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday, entrepreneur Andrew Yang on Thursday and Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Friday.
These candidates will make their pitches to New Hampshire voters at events like political forums, house parties, meet-and-greets and fundraisers (there will even be a celebrity appearance from actress Connie Britton as she joins Gillibrand for a fundraiser for young Democrats).
During the Politics & Eggs breakfast Monday morning at Saint Anselm’s Institute of Politics in Manchester, Klobuchar spoke at length about her ideas for the future and specifically how she planned to pay for them — including her plans related to infrastructure, broadband, education, pharmaceutical prices, healthcare and climate.
She also had criticism for President Trump on policy and for his rhetoric and demeanor. She also took five audience questions on tariffs, social security, climate, mental health, and tax reform.
At a Town Hall with Energysource employees in Manchester, Moulton spoke about his service in Iraq and how it applies directly to the kind of leadership called for as Commander in Chief. He took questions from attendees on subjects ranging from trade to how he tries to stand out in crowded Democratic field and Russia’s influence in American politics.
All of the candidates visiting this week except Warren and Klobuchar were at 1% or below in the most recent New Hampshire poll, which was taken over a month ago.
Democratic National Committee launches college fellowship program to train organizers for 2020
WASHINGTON —The Democratic National Committee is launching the first round of its "Organizing Corps," a multi-million dollar program it says will ultimately train 1,000 college juniors as organizers for the party's eventual nominee in key swing states.
There are 300 students in the first group across Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—all states Democrats lost in 2016 where they say they can win in 2020. After a week-long training session in Atlanta, which starts Monday, the students will embed with their respective state parties for another seven weeks.
The DNC's plan is to train 1,000 student organizers before the party chooses its presidential nominee, growing the crop of potential young talent within the party for the eventual nominee to call upon when staffing up.
"It could be a while until we know who the nominee is. Trying to ramp up from a staff of X to often 50X is often very difficult," DNC Chairman Tom Perez told NBC News.
"Having a universe of 1,000 people ready to go — that is lightning in a bottle."
More than three-quarters of the first wave of students are students of color, a reality that reflects the dual charge facing Democrats as they look to recover from an upset in 2016, when Census data shows black and Hispanic voting rates fell from 2012.
That cycle, Perez admitted, Democrats "weren't building those authentic relationships with voters."
Rachel Haltom-Irwin, Organizing Corps' executive director, highlighted that diversity, arguing that it will help organizers be more effective, especially since most of them either go to school or live in the states in which they're working.
Perez argued that the party's success in Wisconsin in 2018, flipping the governor's mansion and holding Sen. Tammy Baldwin's seat, was a function of an emphasis on learning the lessons from 2016 and focusing more on homegrown organizing that reflected communities better.
The fight for minority voters is hardly taking place in a vacuum — President Trump's allies have pointed to low minority unemployment rates and the White House's role in the criminal justice reform bill that passed last year as proof points of their ability to connect with black voters.
Brad Parscale, Trump's campaign manager, recently told RealClearPolitics that their own data show educating black voters on the White House's support for the recent, bipartisan criminal justice reform law significantly increased their support for Trump during 1,200 recent door-knocks.
Perez panned team Trump's attempts to woo minority voters, accusing the "far right" of using a "classic voter suppression tactic" when promoting the push to have minorities "#WalkAway" from the Democratic Party.
"They will try to obfuscate, they will try to peddle fake news," Perez said of Republicans.
"We want to make sure they hear directly from us who is fighting for them, who has their back, and who has the knife in their back."
2020 hopefuls juggle their day jobs with their White House hopes
More than a million people are expected to line the streets of Manhattan on Sunday for the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, but the mayor of New York City won’t be there.
Bill de Blasio, the city’s mayor and a 2020 presidential hopeful, is skipping the famous New York City event to campaign in Iowa.
The mayor’s decision to miss the parade in favor of the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame dinner hasn’t gone over well with some of his hometown critics, but he defended his decision during a weekly public radio interview with Brian Lehrer on WNYC.
“Every presidential candidate is going to be amongst the Democrats and it was important to be there. But my respect, my commitment to the Puerto Rican community is very, very well known in the community and it will continue deeply,” he said on the program. “When you're running for President of the United States, this is always a challenge to try and balance the schedules.”
The rigorous demands of a presidential campaign can be hard to juggle with a day job. Sixteen of the current Democratic hopefuls hold public office, and several have been forced to miss campaign events to attend to their elected positions.
In May, Sen. Kamala Harris nixed a trip to Iowa because of expected votes on a disaster funding bill that included relief for her home state of California. In January, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand rescheduled her campaign’s first news conference to accommodate a vote on Russian sanctions.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has said his commitments at the governor’s mansion will likely keep him from qualifying for the first Democratic presidential debate. Bullock chose not to enter 2020 race until the close of his state’s legislature in mid-May, leaving little time to meet the qualifications necessary to earn a spot on the debate stage.
“I’ve been penalized for making sure people have health care, for making sure that even in a rural Republican state that we can get good things done,” Bullock said in an interview with NBC News on Thursday.
“If I had to decide between campaigning for 100,000 donors or getting 100,000 people health care, that’s the easiest decision I’ve ever had to make.”
Vaughn Hillyard contributed reporting.
Bullock says he's being 'penalized' out of debate for doing his job
WASHINGTON — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Thursday that he should be allowed to participate in the first Democratic presidential debate later this month despite the possibility he won’t qualify for the event.
Bullock did not enter the race until the close of his state’s legislature in mid-May. He repeatedly argued throughout the winter and early spring that he needed to focus on shepherding through the Republican legislature’s reauthorization of Medicaid expansion in the state.
But the May 14 entry left him with less than a month to qualify for this month’s debate, which is hosted by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo. And a methodological clarification communicated to the media by the Democratic National Committee Thursday made it clear he’s on the outside looking in ahead of Wednesday's deadline.
“I’ve been penalized for making sure people have healthcare, for making sure that even in a rural Republican state that we can get good things done,” Bullock said in an interview with NBC News.
“If I had to decide between campaigning for 100,000 donors or getting 100,000 people healthcare, that’s the easiest decision I’ve ever had to make.”
According to rules established by the DNC, candidates can qualify either by finishing with at least 1 percent in three sanctioned polls by different organizations or by the same organization of different geographic areas.
They can also qualify through a secondary avenue requiring 65,000 unique donors, but a candidates’ polling average is more important since it serves as a tiebreaker.
But Bullock has struggled in the polls during his campaign's first month.
His campaign had hoped a poll from the Washington Post and ABC News, in which he registered 1 percent, would count because the news outlets are on the DNC's list of approved polling outfits.
But the poll asked an open-ended question about preference for the Democratic presidential nomination, which solicited responses including politicians like President Trump and former first lady Michelle Obama.
The DNC clarified to reporters Thursday that the Washington Post/ABC poll would not count toward qualifying for the debate, and DNC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson told NBC News that the DNC “notified the Bullock team in March” of that decision.
Without that poll, Bullock has until Wednesday to hit 1 percent in one more poll and qualify. But even then, he wouldn’t be a lock because the party is capping the number of candidates at 20, and prioritizing the final spots based on polling average.
Bullock argued that the decision to limit debate participants shouldn't be made so far out from when voting begins.
When asked by NBC News if he will stay in the race if he is not given a spot on the debate stage, Bullock responded, “Absolutely.”
John James announces bid to take on Gary Peters in Michigan Senate race
Republicans got the Senate recruit they wanted for Michigan in 2020.
Republican John James, an African-American Army veteran and businessman, is officially in the race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Gary Peters.
He was a newcomer last cycle when he ran a stronger-than-expected race against Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, losing 46 percent to 52 percent. Republicans haven’t won a Senate seat in Michigan since 1994.
James said in his announcement: “I think that we are heading in the wrong direction as a country and I do not see the energetic, experienced and passionate leadership representing Michigan willing or able to unite our state toward a better and brighter future. I believe I can help lead Michigan toward a brighter, better future, and that’s why I am running for US Senate.”
The Cook Political Report rates this seat as “Likely D” for now, but notes that the race could get competitive. And Republicans hope that a strong statewide run by James could help get the president’s 2020 campaign over the finish line again in the swing state
O'Rourke, Buttigieg to meet with Stacey Abrams
WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidates Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg will both meet privately with former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams this week, three people with knowledge of the meetings tell NBC News.
The meetings will happen on the sidelines of the Democratic National Committee's African American Leadership Summit in Atlanta.
O'Rourke’s meeting is in addition to a town hall he's doing Wednesday night co-hosted by the independent voting reform group Abrams founded, the New Georgia Project Action Fund. The former Texas congressman has just released a comprehensive voting rights reform plan.
Buttigieg has made expanding his so-far-limited appeal to black voters his top priority for the last several weeks. The South Bend, Ind. mayor hired several African Americans for top campaign roles and has backed creating a commission to study the right way to do reparations.
Buttigieg and O'Rourke will both speak Thursday at the DNC event, along with Joe Biden and Cory Booker.
The meetings come after Abrams' unsuccessful for governor last year in Georgia put a spotlight on concerns about voter suppression, particularly as it relates to black voters. She has not ruled out a bid for president herself in 2020 after that campaign raised her national profile within the party.
CNN earlier reported Abrams' meetings with the Democrats.
Biden draws harsh criticism on support for Hyde Amendment
WASHINGTON — Pro-abortion rights groups and fellow Democratic candidates have been quick to respond to NBC News reporting that former Vice President Joe Biden continues to support the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion services with limited exceptions.
"There’s no political or ideological excuse for Joe Biden’s support for the Hyde Amendment, which translates into discrimination against poor women and women of color plain and simple," Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement released Wednesday.
EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock said in a separate statement that Biden's stance is "unacceptable" and noted that "Democrats made repealing the Hyde Amendment part of our 2016 platform."
Planned Parenthood Action Fund Executive Director Kelley Robinson argued in her statement that "to support the Hyde Amendment is to block people — particularly women of color and women with low incomes — from accessing safe, legal abortion."
All three groups have a prominent voice within the Democratic party, making their criticism of Biden notable.
Democratic candidates are also racing to highlight their own support for the Hyde Amendment's repeal.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told reporters in a gaggle in Indiana that she will "lead the fight" to overturn the amendment. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker told NBC News that "things like the Hyde Amendment are attacks on women." And more than a half-dozen candidates tweeted about repealing the amendment.
Outside of Biden, no other Democratic presidential candidate in the race has said they support keeping the law and several have made repealing Hyde a centerpiece of their abortion-rights policies.
Sens. Warren, Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. as well as Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Mass. and Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., have co-sponsored legislation to do just that.
The decades-old Hyde Amendment only allows federal funds to be spent on abortion services in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman.
Along with confirming Biden's support of the Hyde Amendment, Biden press secretary Jamal Brown told NBC News that the former Vice President has a lengthy record of defending a abortion rights and "firmly believes that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and should not be overturned." Brown added that Biden “has fought vigorously to protect a woman's right to choose and against measures criminalizing abortion" throughout his long political career.
Booker unveils housing affordability plan
WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker Wednesday unveiled an affordable housing plan that would provide a refundable tax credit to those whose rents run more than 30 percent of their income.
Booker's campaign says his housing plan would help 57 million people, many of those whose rent costs more than half of their income.
“Making sure all Americans have the right to good housing is very personal to me. I’m determined to tear down the barriers that stand in the way of every American being able to do for their families what my parents did for mine," Booker said in a statement.
Booker would pay for his plan by repealing the latest estate tax cuts and putting those rates back to 2009 levels, which taxed income over $3.5 million per year at a 45 percent rate. Currently, the tax applies to any income over $5.3 million per year which is taxed at a 40 percent rate.
Booker's core plan is to help people pay their rents, but combined with his baby bonds would help make housing more accessible.
Booker says his baby bonds plan, which would give every child born in the United States $1,000 at birth and an amount up to $2,000 based on family income on every birthday until 18, would create a a fund that could be used for a down payment for a first-time home buyer.
Booker often invokes his family's trials with buying a home when he was a child on the campaign trail. He said that his family was discriminated against and had difficulty buying a home when they tried to move to a middle class New Jersey neighborhood.
Booker would also strengthen rules that make it harder to discriminate against those previously incarcerated and push for the passage of the Equality Act to outline discrimination against people based on gender and sexual orientation. He would also create a $40 billion housing fund to refurbish and build low-income housing, provide right to counsel for those facing eviction and invest in affordable housing in rural areas and Indian County.
O'Rourke unveils voting rights reforms aiming for 35 million new voters by 2024
CONCORD, N.H. — Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke aims to once again smash turnout records — not in his own campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination — but by the 2024 election, according to a new voting rights plan proposed Wednesday.
O’Rourke’s voting rights and democracy reform plan, laid out in a campaign memo, reflects a number of the same priorities as the House-passed HR1 package passed earlier this year, and is designed to increase ballot access, turnout, and accountability from elected officials.
To increase participation in elections, O’Rourke calls for nationwide reforms, including automatic and same-day voter registration, expanding early voting to two weeks and making Election Day a national holiday.
O’Rourke has made increasing voter turnout central to both his political identity and campaign strategy — discussing the issue regularly on the stump in both his Texas senate race, and in the presidential contest. His campaign estimates his plan could lead to 50 million new registered voters nationwide, and 35 million additional votes cast in the 2024 election.
Some planks of the O’Rourke plan would require massive voter mobilization in their own right. He calls for a constitutional amendment establishing term limits for federal offices: 12 years in the house and senate, and 18 years for Supreme Court justices.
O’Rourke’s plan would also focus on expelling big money from elections. It calls for banning all PAC contributions to campaigns, and providing a federal match for individual donations up to $500, and making such gifts tax deductible.
Warren unveils $2 trillion 'green manufacturing' plan
DETROIT, Mich. — Senator Elizabeth Warren unveiled the first of several plans that fall under the umbrella of “economic patriotism” — policies aimed at creating and promoting jobs, workers, and industries — proposing a whopping $2 trillion investment over ten years in green manufacturing, research, and trade.
That investment will result in more than one million new jobs over the same time period, Warren says, a claim bolstered by an independent analysis from Moody’s.
Her latest policy push comes ahead of two stops in Michigan Tuesday where Warren hopes to showcase her commitment to a Green New Deal while also making an economic argument in the nation’s industrial heartland.
Warren’s green manufacturing plan has three main pillars:
- Green Apollo Program: $400 billion in funding over ten years for clean energy research and development. Within this program, Warren would create a National Institute of Clean Energy, modeled after the National Institutes of Health. To ensure the wealth is spread around the country, Warren says money would be sent to land grand universities, to rural areas, and “areas that have seen the worst job losses in recent years.”
- Green Marshall Plan: This would create a new federal office “dedicated to selling America-made clean, renewable, and emission-free energy technology abroad” and include a $100 billion commitment to helping countries purchase and use that tech. Warren also advocates for the U.S. to end all support for international oil and gas projects through the Ex-Im Bank, as well as leverage American power in the World Bank to diverting investments from fossil fuel projects to clean energy projects.
- Green Industrial Mobilization: A $1.5 trillion federal commitment over 10 years to buy U.S.-made clean, renewable, emission-free products both for export, and use at the federal, state, and local levels. Why $1.5 trillion? Warren points out that at least that much is projected in spending on defense procurement over the next 10 years. “We should spend at least that much on purchasing American-made clean energy technology,” she writes.
Warren's plan also includes a labor standards/unionizing component as it relates to all manufactured products in the U.S. and all companies that receive federal contracts:
- all employees earn at least $15/hour;
- employees are guaranteed at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave;
- fair scheduling practices;
- and collective bargaining rights for all employees.
Warren plans to pay for the plan with her previously released Real Corporate Profits Tax, as well as eliminating subsidies to oil and gas companies, and closing corporate tax loopholes.
Biden calls for clean energy 'revolution' in new climate plan
BERLIN, N.H. — Former Vice President Joe Biden Tuesday is calling for a “revolution” in clean energy in the United States, rolling out his plan Tuesday to combat climate change, get the country to net-zero emissions by 2050 and making a link between the environment, the economy and social justice.
The plan, which references what it calls the “crucial framework” of the Green New Deal, is Biden's most comprehensive policy proposal yet — and a push-back of sorts on reports last month that his campaign was searching for a “middle ground” climate plan.
The plan centers around a $1.7 trillion dollar federal investment in clean energy, paid for by rolling back the Trump tax cuts (a popular piggy bank for Democratic proposals) in the hopes of leveraging a total of $5 billion dollars in public and private investment — the same total target as fellow presidential contender Beto O’Rourke’s plan, which was introduced in April.
Biden says his administration would use a mix of executive actions and legislation to address the climate crisis. On day one, the Biden administration would require “aggressive” methane pollution limits on oil and gas production, make changes to the federal procurement system to move towards clean energy and zero-emissions vehicles, and set new efficiency standards across the economy.
Among the legislative goals of the Biden plan is to set a net-zero emissions goal of 2050, with an unspecified enforcement mechanism put in place by the end of a first term. The plan also calls for $400 billion in research spending to address issues like improving the efficiency of air travel and carbon sequestration as well as to determine the best role for nuclear power in a clean energy economy.
The Biden plan also links infrastructure spending with addressing climate change. It calls for the deployment of 500,000 additional public charging stations for electric vehicles, building new, less-sprawling, efficient urban housing and storm-and-disaster resistant roads and bridges.
A long-time proponent, and daily rider, of Amtrak, the Biden plan also calls for significant investments in making the U.S. rail system the best in the world.
Biden’s climate plan also calls for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris climate accords, and pledges that as a candidate he will take no money from oil, gas or coal corporations or executives, aligning him with much of the rest of the Democratic field.
Dick Gephardt turns the tables on Buttigieg in 'Hardball' town hall
FRESNO, Calif. — Sixteen years after a baby-faced Pete Buttigieg confronted a Democratic presidential contender on the national stage, the tables were turned on him on Monday with a surprise question from former Rep. Dick Gephardt at an MSNBC town hall.
Buttigieg was in college during the 2004 presidential campaign when he took Gephardt, who was seeking the Democratic nomination that year, to task for being the only candidate not to attend a youth-focused Rock the Vote forum. That televised event almost two decades ago was also hosted by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who questioned Buttigieg on Monday.
“Do you think young people’s votes matter in the campaign,” Buttigieg pointedly asked Gephardt in archival footage from 2004 that was played at the town hall on Monday.
Gephardt pushed back at the time, saying he indeed cared very much about the youth vote but that he had a prior commitment in the all-important state of Iowa that conflicted with the Rock the Vote forum.
His advice to young Buttigieg? “Get involved in public life. Give back to your country. Don’t just take from it.”
Gephardt did not win the nomination or go on to become president. But on Monday, he got the chance to flip the script, appearing remotely by video at Buttigieg’s "Hardball" town hall.
“I get asked all the time by people all over the country, ‘What about the future of our democracy of America? My answer is very simple: I’ve always been optimistic about America because the people are good and they’re good citizens,’” Gephardt said to Buttigieg. “You’re out there meeting thousands of them. Am I still right?”
Not missing a beat, Buttigieg responded, “Uh, yea!”
“People just want to know that they’re going to be ok. But people can have good and bad things called out from within us. We’re all capable of good and bad things. Just ask somebody you love,” Buttigieg said.”
But, he added, people and communities become worse when they don’t feel safe, an observation that appeared aimed at the current Oval Office inhabitant.
“People have been made less secure,” the South Bend, Indiana, mayor said. “And it makes it possible for a cynical leader to draw out the worst of us.”
CORRECTION (June 4, 2019, 7:50 a.m. ET): A previous version of this post misstated the amount of time that has passed between Buttigieg's questioning of Gephardt and now. It is 16 years, not 18 years.
Delaney: 'I don't think we should have a donor standard' for presidential debates
WASHINGTON — Former Maryland Democratic Rep. John Delaney on Monday criticized the Democratic Party's decision to include a donor threshold as a metric to qualify for the presidential debates, arguing it leaves voters shut out of the process.
Delaney, who has lagged far behind his rivals in individual fundraising, told MSNBC's "MTP Daily" that while he supports the party's decision to institute a polling threshold, he's against a donor threshold.
"I don't think we should have a donor standard, I absolutely don't think the Democratic Party should be about money. Fifty percent of the American people cant afford basic necessities, I'm running for those people," he said.
Democratic presidential candidates have two ways to get into the first two debates (hosted by NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo in June, and CNN in July): hit one percent in three qualifying polls or raise money from 65,000 unique donors (as well as 200 unique donors across 20 states).
The Democratic National Committee recently announced it would raise those qualifications for its next debate in September. Then, donors will have to meet both criteria — donations from at least 130,000 individual donors (including 400 in 20 states) and hit 2 percent in four qualifying polls.
Delaney has hit the polling threshold for the first two debates, but while his fundraising numbers are not public, his campaign has not announced (like others have) that he's hit that 65,000 donor threshold. He's largely self-funded his campaign.
2020 roundup: Delaney locks horns with Ocasio-Cortez
WASHINGTON — Struggling at the polls, former Maryland Democratic Rep. John Delaney is sparring with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., over comments he made at this weekend's California Democratic Party Convention.
It all started when Delaney criticized the idea of Medicare for All as "not good policy nor it is good politics," a comment that sparked heavy boos from the largely progressive group of convention-goers. After a clip of Delaney being booed started gaining steam on social media, Ocasio-Cortez piled on by tweeting at him to "sashay away" from the presidential race altogether.
Delaney''s campaign responded by accusing the congresswoman of helping Republicans with the attack and calling for "less political grandstanding and more truth-telling form the Bernie wing of the party."
Trying to use the well-known progressive Democrat as a foil makes sense for Delaney, who has not eclipsed 1 percent in any of the polls being used to qualify for the Democratic primary debate. He's sought to frame his candidacy as a pragmatic alternative to some of the other options.
That's not all from the 2020 beat—read more from the campaign trail below.
- Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan came out in support of beginning impeachment proceedings against President Trump this weekend — first during a campaign swing through Iowa and later during a CNN town hall on Sunday. "I do believe we need to move forward with the impeachment process," he said at the town hall. "I don't want to. I know what this is going to do to the country. I take no joy in this at all. But I have a duty and a responsibility and that duty and responsibility has led me to think that we have to do this."
- Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro released a new plan to address "over-aggressive policing." The plan calls for policies including requiring deescalation over deadly force, utilizing technology like body cameras, increasing training for police officers, ending stop-and-frisk, creating a database for to track police officers who have been punished for misconduct, and working to improve police-community relations.
- New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand criticized Fox News' coverage of the abortion debate while appearing on the network's town hall last night. Read more from Politico's Elena Schneider on that town hall.
Ernst gets a Democratic challenger
WASHINGTON — Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, has a Democratic challenger in her 2020 re-election bid — Theresa Greenfield, a real estate executive from Windsor Heights, a suburb of Des Moines in Polk County.
In a video announcing her candidacy Monday, Greenfield sought to remind voters of Ernst's 2014 campaign pledge to take her farm experience of castrating pigs to Washington's big-spending ways. Wearing a flannel shirt and a vest, Greenfield asserts that Ernst "didn't castrate anyone" during her first term in office.
Democrats are looking to put Ernst's seat in play in the hopes of flipping enough seats in 2020 to take control of the Senate and have been boosted by a strong showing in the state's congressional races in 2018 — Democratic candidates defeated two GOP incumbents and came surprisingly close to ousting the final Republican incumbent, Rep. Steve King.
But Republicans still won the governor's race in 2018. And the February Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll found Ernst with a 57 percent favorable rating.
Greenfield's bid comes after former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and current Congresswoman Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, turned down the chance to take on Ernst.
This isn't Greenfield's first campaign — she ran in the 2018 Democratic primary for the state's 3rd Congressional District, which Axne ultimately won.
Ahead of the Democratic primary, it was revealed that Greenfield's campaign manager had falsified signatures to qualify Greenfield for the ballot. In a surprise move, the campaigns of her Democratic competitors tried to help Greenfield collect the necessary signatures needed to qualify for the ballot in those final days. The effort fell short and Greenfield did not make it onto the ballot, ending her candidacy.
J.D. Scholten, who lost to Steve King in 2018, told NBC News Monday morning he has not ruled out a bid for Senate or House.
Left-leaning group launches ad attacking McConnell on health care
WASHINGTON — A new television ad in Kentucky is targeting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, arguing that the Republican leader should be defeated next November because of his opposition to ObamaCare.
Ditch Mitch, an outside group that's working to defeat McConnell in 2020, will launch the new ad as part of a five-figure television buy in Lexington and Louisville starting Monday, as well as part of a digital buy running statewide.
The spot, produced by prominent Democratic ad-man Mark Putnam, includes a man and a younger woman introducing audio of McConnell criticizing ObamaCare.
"I think the sooner we can get rid of ObamaCare, the better," McConnell says in the ad, before the man replies, "The sooner we can get rid of Mitch McConnell, the better. Help us ditch Mitch."
In a statement announcing the ad, Ditch Mitch Executive Director Ryan Aquilina disclosed that the group had raised $1 million this cycle and pointed to polling from End Citizens United that found McConnell with a 39 percent favorable rating in Kentucky.
"If Mitch McConnell had his way, half a million Kentuckians would lose their healthcare, and 1.8 million Kentuckians with preexisting conditions could again be denied coverage," Aquilina said.
"This is just the first in a series of ads we have planned, and we’re using Mitch’s own words to spotlight his disturbing record of trying to take away Kentucky families’ healthcare."
Democrats made messaging on health care the crux of their strategy during the 2018 midterm elections. But while Democrats were able to flip a net of 40 seats last cycle, one of their misses came in Kentucky's 6th Congressional District, where Democrat Amy McGrath fell short against GOP Rep. Andy Barr.
McGrath is considering running for Senate against McConnell.
McConnell and his allies have bucked attacks on health care, arguing that he's the backstop to prevent liberal policies on the issue that they believe would make the problem worse from going into effect.
During an interview last month on Fox News, McConnell chided Democrats over ObamaCare, questioning why they were "not even satisfied with the principle accomplishment, they said, of the Obama years." And he's been critical of proposals for single-payer health care that are gaining steam on the left, particularly among the presidential field.
"We’re really happy to have that argument, that debate with the American people in 2020. I can’t wait to engage on the 'Medicare for None' proposal," he said.
UPDATE: Kevin Golden, McConnell's campaign manager, blasted the ad in a statement to NBC News, arguing that it wouldn't be effective with Kentucky voters.
"I know this group isn’t from Kentucky but it wouldn’t kill them to familiarize themselves with the politics of the state. You have to assume this ad is a hilariously transparent attempt for consultants to raise money from coastal liberals because it sure as heck isn’t going to earn a single vote in Kentucky," he said.
O'Rourke: I am 'not disappointed' after slide at the polls
WASHINGTON — Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke said Sunday that he's not "disappointed' with his presidential campaign after a recent slide at the polls.
After reaching the double-digits in some polls around his presidential launch, O'Rourke hasn't eclipsed 5 percent in a national poll in a month, according to RealClearPolitics.
But during his Sunday interview on "Meet the Press," O'Rourke cautioned that the Democratic presidential nomination is a marathon, not a sprint, and that he's focused on running his campaign and winning traction with voters.
"I'm not disappointed. I mean, I knew this was going to be tough. This is perhaps one of the hardest things that, that one can do, but there are so many extraordinary people," he said.
"These volunteers who are showing up knocking on doors, making phone calls for us. The folks that I meet in town hall meetings all over this country who meet this moment with the urgency that it demands whether it is gun violence, whether it is making sure that women's reproductive rights are protected, or guaranteeing that we confront the greatest challenge we have ever faced in climate and make the generations that follow us proud because we freed ourselves on our dependence on fossil fuels, embrace renewable energy and led not just this country but the world to ensure that we don't warm this planet another two degrees."
"These are the important conversations that we're going to have and we won't be able to accomplish this in just one media cycle or in a couple of months."
Watch the full interview with O'Rourke below.
Trump announces campaign kickoff rally
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump formally announced Friday the worst kept secret in D.C.: his decision to seek a second term in 2020. The president tweeted his plans to officially kick off his re-elect campaign with a mega-rally in Orlando, Florida on June 18. He will be joined by First Lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence.
Trump is the only incumbent to ever file re-election paperwork on the day he was inaugurated, mere hours after the fact. Since then, the president has repeatedly discussed running again, and even confirmed Pence would be his running mate last fall.
The launch rally comes exactly four years and two days after then-candidate Trump famously descended the golden escalator at Trump Tower to announce his presidential bid. Trump relishes his role as campaigner-in-chief and, in many ways, never really left campaign mode once he entered the White House.
He’s headlined nearly 60 rallies since February 2017 and has already taken repeated aim at his possible Democratic opponents, consistently previewing next year's election. “From now, until November 3rd, 2020, we are going to keep on working, we are going to keep on fighting and we are going to keep on winning,” Trump said at his most recent signature campaign rally in Montoursville, Pennsylvania. “That's what we're doing."
Marianne Williamson preaches hope and love at Manhattan dance party
NEW YORK — Presidential hopefuls typically spend the early days of a campaign meeting voters and making speeches in early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire. But Democratic candidate Marianne Williamson took a different tack this week, addressing a glitter-covered crowd at a Manhattan dance party — a nontraditional campaign event for a nontraditional candidate.
The author and activist, who is barely registering in national polls, insists that despite having never held public office, she’s a serious candidate worthy of national consideration.
“I think that it’s so important not to lock out of politics people who do come from other parts of the culture,” Williamson told NBC News. “There’s a lot of seriousness and a lot of deep-thinking and a lot of creative energy and imagination going on in other corners of society — more so than within traditional politics, and that’s why I’m running.”
Williamson’s remarks closed an event hosted by Daybreaker, a brand known for wellness-focused morning dance parties that combine workouts, live music, and motivational speakers. After dancing to bongo drums and a DJ, attendees sat down on the Sony Hall dance floor to hear Williamson speak about the need for people to take power back in politics.
“We see a lot of people who are very smart, who have a lot of good ideas. And they have a lot of strategy. You know what their problem is? They don't know how to dance,” she said to applause.
As the disco ball spun overhead, Williamson spoke about standing up to corporate and political greed, echoing themes from her January campaign announcement. She also dug into her spiritual roots, urging the Daybreaker crowd to get involved and invested in politics.
“We have to rise up like other generations have risen up before us, and show the universe and every molecule around us that the force of love is greater than the force of fear,” she said.
The candidate’s conviction and charisma won over 31-year-old Rachel Ofer, a Daybreaker attendee who had never heard of Williamson before the event, but now says she may vote for the candidate. “The way she carries herself, the way she speaks. It’s just super inspiring,” Ofer said.
Daybreaker Co-Founder Eli Clark-Davis guessed that a substantial part of Wednesday’s Daybreaker crowd was there for the dance party, and not necessarily the candidate, but he’s hoping others running seek out atypical campaign stops, like Wednesday morning’s party.
“What better way to hear people than after you danced your face off,” Clark-Davis said. “You’re fully open and present to what they’re saying.”
Beto O’Rourke staffs up, plans major Iowa organizing push
AUSTIN, Texas — With his poll numbers nationally stalled, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke is doubling down on Iowa, the state where his campaign infrastructure is strongest and where his hyper-retail campaign style may provide the best chance for an early-nominating state victory in 2020.
The O’Rourke campaign announced Friday morning that it now employs 44 staff in Iowa — more than any other state, with 37 dedicated to organizing. That would put O’Rourke’s operation in Iowa among the largest in the Democratic field. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign employs more than fifty, and Senator Cory Booker’s campaign employs nearly fifty, according to an aide. Senator Kamala Harris’ campaign employs more than a dozen.
This weekend, staff will lead a “weekend of action” canvassing across the state, with the hope of jump-starting enthusiasm in the Hawkeye state and locking in early support.
The Real Clear Politics average of Iowa polls shows O’Rourke in 6th place in Iowa currently, with 5.3 percent support.
O’Rourke, who often brags about campaigning in all 254 counties in Texas, is well on his way to hitting Iowa’s 99. The campaign says he’s appeared in 36 Iowa counties since launching his campaign there in mid-March, and has held more events there than any other candidate.
O’Rourke was last in Iowa last Monday, for a CNN town hall at Drake University in Des Moines. He will return next week to open an office in Linn County — the campaign’s first field office, and second physical office in the state, and for other events.
Rep. Katie Porter sees 'turning point' on impeachment
TUSTIN, Calif. — Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., appeared to be moving closer toward supporting opening impeachment proceedings of President Donald Trump, saying at a town hall meeting Thursday that there has been “a real turning point” in the past week.
Porter, a freshman lawmaker, pointed to special counsel Robert Mueller’s public statement on Wednesday coupled with the Trump administration’s decision to defy congressional subpoenas as issues that have caused her to be “very concerned.” Her comments came in response to a question from a constituent at the event, held at the Tustin Public Library here.
Porter had up until now said that impeachment is not a priority for her or her constituents. She represents a traditionally Republican district and is the first Democrat to win election to Congress since the district was created in 1953.
Porter said on MSNBC’s “MTP Daily” moments before her town hall that she is not yet ready to make her decision on impeachment, but added she is having constant conversations with fellow members of Congress to get it “right.”
“I haven’t made a public decision yet,” Porter said, indicating that her decision could be announced soon.
Porter told voters here that while she did not run for office to impeach the president and never mentioned it on the campaign trail, “I will not shirk my duties if the time comes.”
She also offered a note of caution, however, saying that Democrats have to be careful not to "provoke a crisis," adding that the president likes to create crisis.
So far, 50 lawmakers have now come out in support of at least launching an impeachment inquiry. If members in swing districts like Porter begin to joins them, it will be more difficult for Democratic leadership to resist.
During the town hall, Porter pulled questions written on note cards out of a metal spinner through out the 45 minute event and answered questions on a variety of issues ranging from reverse mortgages to homelessness to the minimum wage, in addition to her comments on impeachment.
Democrats spend big on Facebook to get on the debate stage
WASHINGTON —As Democrats jockey for the final spots on the debate stage, their campaigns are spending big to help them meet the unique-donor threshold that could help cement their slot.
Between April 27 and May 18, Democrats spent about $710,000 on ads that reference the upcoming debate hosted by NBC News/MSNBC and Telemundo on June 26 and June 27th.
That's according to a new aggregation tool from Bully Pulpit Interactive, a communications firm has worked with many of the top Democratic groups, which tracks presidential campaign Facebook spending.
These Facebook ads are important ways for candidates to not just pad their campaign account, but to also ensure they qualify for the debate stage too.
The DNC's qualifications for the first two debate allow candidates to make the stage either by polling at 1 percent in three qualifying polls or receive donations from 65,000 unique donors. But with the number of candidates capped at 20, the DNC will likely have to use tiebreakers that first prioritize candidates who've hit both thresholds.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee spent the most in the window, with $179,000. His campaign just announced last week that he hit the unique donor threshold, with puts him on strong footing to make the debate despite middling poll numbers.
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, who got a late start by jumping into the race earlier this month, spent the second-most at $121,000.
Author Marianne Williamson is in third place for debate-related Facebook spending over that time period with $86,000, followed by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's $81,000 and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro's $52,000.
Williamson and Castro say they've reached the 65,000 threshold, while Gillibrand and Bennet have not said they've hit the mark.
Six other candidates spent at least $10,000 on Facebook since April 27 on debate-related ads.
And don't expect this push to go away anytime soon, as the Democratic Party announced that qualifying for the third debate in September will require hitting 2 percent in four major polls and donations from 130,000 individual donors, including 400 across 20 states.
2020 roundup: Moulton shares post-traumatic stress treatment as he unveils mental health proposal
WASHINGTON — Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., launched his presidential campaign's veteran mental health care proposal by sharing his own struggle with post-traumatic stress.
Moulton told his story to Politico, revealing that he sought treatment for post-traumatic stress after he returned from active duty in Iraq and still sees a therapist each month. It's that experience, the Marine veteran said, that's encouraged him to release a comprehensive plan to help veterans with their own mental health, and that he hopes will encourage others to seek help.
His plan includes: requiring active duty military and veterans to have annual physicals as well as an initial counseling session upon returning from overseas; allocating funding for mental health screenings for high schoolers; and creating a national mental health crisis hotline.
Read more headlines from the 2020 trail below:
- Former Maryland Democratic Rep. John Delaney is out with a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that would create seven new infrastructure funds while adding money to the Highway Trust Fund. Read more about the plan here.
- Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee is backing Illinois Democrat Marie Newman, who is running to unseat one of the few anti-abortion rights Democrats in the House, Rep. Dan Lipinski. he's the second 2020 Democrat to back Newman—New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand endorsed Newman earlier this year.
- The Democratic National Committee announced the thresholds for its third debate in September, setting a far higher bar for that contest than for the earlier rounds of debates. Read NBC's Alex Seitz-Wald with more on the bar candidates will have to meet.
Beto O'Rourke proposes massive overhaul of U.S. immigration system
HOUSTON, Texas — Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke on Wednesday unveiled what his campaign dubs the “most sweeping rewrite of U.S. immigration law in a generation,” vowing to halt wall construction, create a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and end what the campaign calls “cruel” Trump administration border policies.
The plan, O’Rourke’s second major policy roll-out as a presidential candidate, rests on three pillars: executive actions aimed largely at undoing Trump administration polices including family separation and the so-called Muslim ban; a broad domestic legislative package O’Rourke vows to pass in his fist one hundred days; and a foreign-policy approach to stabilizing Central American countries.
"Coming from a city of immigrants, I've seen the incredible contributions of immigrants to our communities and local economies, and have been able to experience what happens when we allow everyone to contribute to their full potential,” the El Pasoan said in a statement.
O’Rourke’s executive actions would begin on day one of his presidency. His plan calls for immediately ending the Trump administration's controversial family separation and remain-in-Mexico policies, as well as rescinding the travel ban. It would also “remove the fear of deportation” for Dreamers, their parents, and immigrants on temporary protected status.
In place of a surge of military personnel to the border, the O'Rourke plan calls for a surge in up to 2,000 lawyers to help with asylum cases.
Wading into the arena of immigration legislation, O’Rourke promises quick action on several fronts, including a push for citizenship for an estimated 11 million Dreamers, and making the citizenship process simpler for immigrants already eligible.
One of the more novel approaches in the O’Rourke plan would be the creation of a “community-based” visa category that would allow communities and congregations to sponsor visas.
On the campaign trail, O’Rourke often discusses increasing aid to Central American nations as a way to stop the refugee crisis at the southern border before it happens. His immigration plan would include a $5 billion dollar investment, primarily through non-governmental organizations, in the Northern Triangle of Central America. Those dollars would be spent on violence prevention, improving infrastructure and job training, among other needs.
The O’Rourke plan is also notable for what it does not contain: additional funding for wall construction. O’Rourke says he will immediately stop all ongoing wall construction, and says any and all budgets he submits to congress will contain zero dollars for future wall building.
Funding for border security will focus on hiring CBP officers, and improving ports of entry.
DNC to raise qualifying threshold for third presidential debate
WASHINGTON — Candidates in the massive 2020 Democratic presidential field will face a steeper hurdle to participate in the party's third debate in September, the Democratic National Committee announced Wednesday.
Most candidates say they have now qualified to participate in the first and second debates, which will take place in June and July, but some in the party are eyeing the September event as a key winnowing moment for the two-dozen candidate field.
For the third debate, the DNC is essentially doubling the polling and fundraising thresholds set for the first two debates — and requiring candidates to meet both standards, instead of just one or the other.
Candidates will need to register at least 2 percent in four major polls conducted this summer and receive donations from at least 130,000 individual donors, including at least 400 in 20 states.
“Candidates who will be prepared to take on Trump in the general should already be working to build programs that can bring in 130,000 donors by the second round of debates," said Erin Hill, the executive director of ActBlue, Democrats' central clearinghouse for online donations.
There will still be a maximum of 20 spots on sage for candidates — 10 each over two nights — but some slots may go unfilled if candidates fail to meet the higher bar.
The September debate will air on ABC News, Univision, and Hulu Live on September 12 and 13.
The first debate, sponsored by NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo, will take place in Miami on June 26 and 27. CNN will host the second debate in Detroit on July 30 and 31.
Alabama's Roy Moore previews a potential 2020 comeback
WASHINGTON — Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore Tuesday previewed potential plans to run again for the U.S. Senate seat that he lost in upset fashion to Democrat Doug Jones in the state’s 2017 special election after multiple women accused him of past sexual misconduct.
“He knows that if I run I will beat Doug Jones,” Moore tweeted after Republican Congressman Bradley Byrnes, who entered the Alabama Senate race this spring, warned voters against picking the controversial former judge as the party’s nominee again.
Donald Trump Jr., whose father appeared at a rally on behalf of Moore days before that 2017 election, tweeted his own response to Moore, blasting the former judge for considering another bid after losing to Jones by 21,000 votes. "You’re literally the only candidate who could lose a GOP seat in pro-Trump, pro-USA ALABAMA," he wrote, adding, "If you actually care about #MAGA more than your own ego, it's time to ride off into the sunset, Judge."
Meanwhile, a prominent figure in Alabama Republican politics, Perry Hooper Jr., a GOP fundraiser and former state representative, told NBC News that President Trump appeared have interest in backing another GOP candidate — Tommy Tuberville, the former head coach of the Auburn University football team, who declared his candidacy this April.
“That’s the plan,” Hooper said about an endorsement of Tuberville by Trump. "I think he's open to an endorsement in the primary."
Hooper told NBC News that President Trump asked him about the field of Republican candidates during a meeting at the White House in mid-May.
“He specifically asked me about Tommy [Tuberville], and he knew that Bradley [Byrne] had asked the president to step aside during the Billy Bush thing,” Hooper said on Tuesday. “He asked me about Coach Tub, and he asked if he was with me in 2016, and I told him he was.”
In 2016, Byrne called on then-candidate Trump to step aside as the Republican nominee after the release of the Access Hollywood tape (Byrne did eventually support Trump in the 2016 general election).
Alabama State Rep. Arnold Mooney also declared his candidacy in early May, along with former television evangelist Stanley Adair.
The GOP primary is slated for March 3, 2020.
Joe Biden calls for tripling federal education funding for needy districts, raising teacher salaries in education plan
WASHINGTON — In his first policy rollout as a 2020 presidential hopeful, former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday will propose tripling a federal education funding for needy school districts with an eye toward raising teacher salaries and making new school construction a priority component of his infrastructure plan.
Biden’s education agenda also includes a plan to double the number of psychologists, counselors, social workers and other health professionals in schools while guaranteeing universal pre-K for three- and four-year-olds.
Releasing the education blueprint marks a turn toward specifics for Biden after more than a month in which he focused on laying out the rationale for his candidacy: Framing it as a battle for the soul of the nation.
He plans to discuss his education plan in Houston alongside his wife, Jill, a community college professor, at a town hall-style event hosted by the American Federation of Teachers on Tuesday afternoon. Biden will be the sixth Democratic hopeful to participate in an AFT town hall as the influential union weighs a potential endorsement.
In addition to a three-fold increase in funding for Title I schools — those serving a certain percentage of students below the poverty level — and an emphasis bricks-and-mortar infrastructure, the Biden campaign is including gun safety proposals under the education umbrella.
His campaign says he’ll call for again banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Those policies were part of the 1994 crime bill he authored and which has been a target for both his Democratic rivals and more recently President Trump.
Biden is also proposing grants to help school districts diversify their student bodies – noteworthy given his vocal advocacy in his early Senate tenure against busing to desegregate public schools. He also will seek to allow Pell grants to be used for so-called dual enrollment programs to allow high school students to earn credits at community colleges.
What the plan does not include is how Biden would fund these initiatives. Since announcing his candidacy, Biden has called for undoing tax cuts championed by the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress, and closing capital gains loopholes that could fund free community college.
Biden to outline public education plan Tuesday
Former Vice President Joe Biden will sketch out his plan for reforming public education during a Tuesday event with teachers in Houston.
Biden will lay out his priorities on public education during an American Federation of Teachers town hall, a campaign official told NBC News.
The plan includes ensuring that teachers are paid adequately, government is investing adequate resources into schools, leveling the playing field for all children no matter their background or where they're from, and ensuring that all students can find a successful career path.
Biden will speak in more details about the plan Tuesday afternoon.
Harris proposes legislation to prevent states from side-stepping Roe
GREENVILLE, S.C. — Kamala Harris on Tuesday proposed federal legislation that would require state and local governments with a history of having violated abortion rights under Roe v. Wade to receive Department of Justice approval for changes to future abortion laws.
Harris will formally roll out this policy proposal – entitled the Reproductive Rights Act, and modeled after the 1965 Voting Rights Act – at Tuesday night’s MSNBC town hall.
The proposed legislation would implement federal government pre-clearance requirements on state and local governments that courts have found to have violated Roe v. Wade protections in the last 25 years.
Several Democratic presidential candidates, including Harris, have proposed codifying the right to access an abortion through the passage of the Women's Health Protection Act.
But a senior Harris campaign official said the California senator's new proposal would go further, shifting the burden onto states to prove that their new law would not violate a woman's right under the Women's Health Protection Act or Roe v. Wade before its implementation.
The U.S. Supreme Court ended preclearance requirements under the Voting Rights Act in a 2013 decision, Shelby County v. Holder, that forced state and local entities to receive Justice Department approval for alterations to laws and voting policies.
But the court's move did not outright ban the implementation of federal laws establishing preclearance requirements – instead, it maintained that the states required to submit to the DOJ for approval reflect current conditions.
Ben & Jerry's spent $83,000 on criminal justice reform ads on Facebook last week
WASHINGTON — Ben & Jerry's may be best known as an ice cream company, but its approach to politics is anything but half baked.
The progressive ice cream company spent about $83,000 over the past seven days (from May 20 through May 26) on a slew of ads calling for criminal justice reform. That's more over that time period than all but five presidential candidates, including Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Cory Booker, D-N.J. and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Each of the ads feature cartoon drawings, some coupled with facts looking at the rate that people of color are incarcerated. The ads all link to a petition supporting a partnership between the progressive Color for Change and Ben & Jerry's pushing for criminal justice reform.
Over the past three months, the ice cream company has spent more than $320,000 on political-issue advertising on Facebook.
Ben & Jerry's is no stranger to political advocacy — its website has a list of political "issues we care about" that includes criminal justice reform, racial justice, climate change, LGBT issues, and refugee issues.
Its co-founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, have been active in politics as well. The two have no official role within the company anymore after they sold it to Unilever.
Cohen is an ardent supporter of Bernie Sanders and serves as one of the national co-chairs for his presidential campaign.
Tlaib: Impeachment debate shouldn't be about 2020 election
WASHINGTON — Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., one of the most outspoken proponents of impeaching President Trump, argued Sunday that the impeachment debate shouldn't hinge on electoral implications because it's about holding Trump accountable.
During an interview on "Meet the Press," Tlaib argued that congressional oversight of Trump "isn't working" because the White House has been stonewalling congressional probes.
"This is not about the 2020 election, it’s about doing what's right now for our country," she said.
"For me, to fight back against Big Pharma, for many of my colleagues that came there to pass really important reforms that are needed, we can't do it when the president of the United States continues to lie to the American people, continues to not follow through on subpoenas and give us the information that we need."
Also appearing on "Meet the Press," Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., a member of Democratic leadership, downplayed the internal party debate over impeachment.
He said Sunday that Democrats are in "fact-gathering mode" and that the party "can sing and dance at the same time, just like Beyoncé."
"The only way to proceed is to make sure that politics don't dictate a decision to impeach or politics don't dictate a decision not to impeach," Jeffries said.
“We need to follow the facts, we need to apply the law."
Why Democratic presidential candidates love the Republican tax bill
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The 2017 Republican rewrite of the nation’s tax laws has found an unlikely constituency who just can’t stop talking about it: The 2020 Democratic candidates for president.
While tax plan itself cut hasn’t proven to be broadly popular with most Americans, it is among Democratic contenders. The $1.5 trillion dollar cost of the cuts represents an amount that, if the cuts were rolled back, could pay for plenty.
Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., offered a new public education plan that he suggested would be funded by rolling back the “Trump tax cut” that he criticizes at nearly every event.
“We say to the top one percent, and large profitable corporations, that under a Sanders administration, you no longer are going to get huge tax breaks,” Sanders said during a campaign swing last week. “In fact you’re going to start paying your fair share of taxes.”
Sanders and his campaign have used similar language in explaining their funding ideas for student debt forgiveness, a federal jobs guarantee and his plan to “rebuild rural America.”
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has proposed funding two of her key policy proposals by repealing the tax law. The first initiative would inject $315 billion in federal funding into increasing in teacher pay over the next ten years, specifically by making alterations to the estate tax, the exemption for which was doubled in the 2017 rewrite.
Harris has also often touted her intent to sign legislation as president that would provide families making less than $100,000 a year a tax credit of up to $500 a month.
"When people ask me, 'How are you going to pay for it?' I tell you: I’m going to repeal that Trump trillion-dollar tax cut that benefited the top one percent and the biggest corporations in our country," Harris said in Detroit in early May.
Sen. Cory Booker’s, D-N.J., campaign likewise says he would repeal the changes in the estate tax to fund his “baby bonds” plan to give children seed savings accounts at birth – an effort to mitigate the wealth gap.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke also regularly refer to repealing portions of the tax cuts as a way to pay for different priorities.
“Let's roll back the worst of those Trump tax cuts,” O’Rourke told a Des Moines audience earlier this month. “The corporate rate just went from 35 down to 21. Even if we took it only up to 25 or 26%, we would generate hundreds of billions of dollars over the next 10 years that we can invest in people and communities.”
Warren campaign releases record of her legal work
WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren's campaign Wednesday night released a summary of the cases she worked on during her tenure as a Harvard University professor to the public on Wednesday night.
Most of the cases were bankruptcy-related, with Warren serving as either a counsel, a consultant, an expert witness, a mediator or an author of an amicus brief to a court deciding on the case.
During Warren's 2012 Senate race, Republican Scott Brown used some of these cases to paint her as a friend of the conglomerates and corporations she now rails against. Her campaign at the time released a partial accounting of her legal work.
In this latest, fuller release of her legal work, Warren’s campaign describes these as examples of Warren trying to help the little guy, even in instances where she took the part of larger companies. Most of these are bankruptcy-related.
Read the release from Warren's campaign here for the summaries. Here are a few of the most interesting cases in the list.
- LTV Steel v. Shalala (1995): Warren helped write a petition in this case, advocating on behalf of the conglomerate as it fought against a Congressional requirement forcing it to pay millions into a fund for retired miners’ healthcare. Brown criticized Warren for her involvement in this case during the campaign. The Boston Globe reported that, at the time, Warren's camp argued she worked on the case because it had significant implications for future employees to receive compensation from companies that went bankrupt.
- Travelers v. Bailey (2009): Warren worked for Travelers Insurance, which was ordered to pay out a $500 million settlement for future and current asbestos poisoning victims. The result, according to a Boston Globe report from the time, was the preservation of a piece of bankruptcy law that gave victims of corporate malfeasance a better chance of getting compensated, even if the company responsible went bankrupt. But after Warren left the case, future litigation freed Travelers of having to pay that $500 million settlement and gave it immunity in future suits.
- Dow Corning Corp (1995): In another case litigated during the Brown race, Warren consulted for Dow Chemical, the parent company of a subsidiary that was sued for making faulty breast implants. Brown attacked her for taking the side of big business. A Globe story from 2012 said that Warren "suggested during a press conference that she had advised the company in setting up a trust" and framed her as being brought on board ultimately to work through that process."
Hoyer says White House stonewalling makes House Democrats 'more inclined' to support impeachment
WASHINGTON — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., on Wednesday said that President Trump's repeated refusals to cooperate with congressional investigations makes Democratic House members "more inclined" to support impeachment.
During an interview on MSNBC's "MTP Daily," Hoyer said there's still support within the House Democratic caucus for the leadership's more cautious path that prioritizes investigations over declaring official impeachment proceedings. But he acknowledged the growing pressure within his caucus amid the clash between House Democrats and the White House.
"Let me tell you what is not a bluff: We're going to continue to do our duty. We are going to continue to have oversight hearings, we are going to continue to ask for documentation and the testimony of witnesses we believe are relevant," Hoyer said.
"Every time the president refuses to cooperate, contrary, in my view, to the Constitution of the United States, the members become more frustrated and more inclined" to support impeachment, he added.
Watch the full interview below.
GOP special election win brings new congressman to town
WASHINGTON — Republican Fred Keller cruised to victory in Tuesday's special election for Pennsylvania's Twelfth Congressional district, crowning him the newest member of the 116th Congress.
Keller had been heavily favored in the deep-red seat vacated by former GOP Rep. Tom Marino's sudden resignation this past January. Keller defeated Democrat Marc Friedenberg by a margin of 68 percent to 32 percent.
Here's a bit of background about the newest congressman:
- Keller is a state representative who has served since his election in 2010.
- Before he joined the legislature, he worked as the plant operations manager at a Conestoga Wood Specialties plant.
- Keller will become one of two members of Congress who did not attend college.
- Keller was endorsed by President Trump, the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the House Freedom Caucus' PAC after party officials nominated him for the seat.
Booker is latest to call for repeal of Hyde Amendment
WASHINGTON — Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is unveiling his plans to protect and expand reproductive rights on Wednesday, making him the latest Democratic presidential candidate vowing to protect abortion access as conservatives in states across the country are working to roll it back.
Booker said he would back federal legislation to codify Roe v. Wade, create a White House Office of Reproductive Freedom, appoint judges who support abortion access and repeal the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits government health care funding for abortions. He’d also implement executive actions on “day one” ensure reproductive choice.
Like most of the Democratic field, Booker has been focusing on the abortion debate on the campaign trail in recent days since Alabama voter to outlaw all abortion in the state and other states passing other stringent restrictions.
“A coordinated attack requires a coordinated response. That’s why on day one of my presidency, I will immediately and decisively take executive action to respond to these relentless efforts to erode Americans’ rights to control their own bodies,” Booker said in a statement unveiling the plan.
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have also released reproductive rights plans. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke has as well, which he outlined during a CNN town hall Tuesday night. Along with Booker, Gillibrand and O’Rourke would also get rid of the Hyde Amendment, push legislation to protect abortion rights and use the executive office to undo abortion and contraception access restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump.
Gillibrand releases 'Family Bill of Rights' plan
WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., released a comprehensive “Family Bill of Rights” plan Wednesday that includes a package of proposals focused on easing the financial and medical barriers to parenthood.
The plan — a mix of existing legislative proposals and less-detailed declarations — contains well-established Democratic priorities like federal support for universal Pre-K programs, national paid family leave and an increase in child care tax credits. However, it goes further by targeting maternal and infant mortality in rural areas, requiring insurance companies to cover the costs of fertility treatments and offering refundable tax credits for adoptions.
"My new proposal, the Family Bill of Rights, will make all families stronger — regardless of who you are or what your zip code is — with a fundamental set of rights that levels the playing field starting at birth,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “I believe it will transform American families and their ability to achieve the American Dream."
Gillibrand has made family and women’s issues a core element of her campaign, telling CNN she intends to be “the candidate of the women’s vote." Last week, she traveled to Georgia to highlight her opposition to restrictive abortion laws sweeping the country. One of the proposals she touts the most on the trail is her national paid family leave bill, introduced in February.
The “Family Bill of Rights” includes five “fundamental rights ensured to all of America’s children and parents” that she commits to enacting within her first 100 days if elected president:
- Right to a safe and healthy pregnancy.
- Right to give birth or adopt a child, regardless of income, sexual orientation, religion or gender identity.
- Right to a safe and affordable nursery.
- Right to personally care for your loved ones with paid leave, including care for your child in its infancy.
- Right to affordable child care and universal pre-K, to ensure early education is available before kindergarten
Each principle proposes a policy solution ranging from a new program to refundable tax credits.
Her campaign says the entire plan “can be paid for with her financial transaction tax, which would raise over $777 billion in the next decade.”
Bill de Blasio's 2020 campaign makes initial hires
WASHINGTON -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is fleshing out the 2020 presidential campaign he launched last week with an initial group of advisers and staff shared with NBC News.
Jon Paul Lupo, who has held senior posts in de Blasio’s City Hall, will serve as Senior Adviser and run day-to-day operations.
Steve Jarding, a longtime Harvard Kennedy School lecturer and Democratic communications adviser who has worked overseas, will also hold the title Senior Adviser.
As will Jim Crounse, a Democratic direct mail consultant and de Blasio friend who has worked for Barack Obama among others.
New York Democratic fundraiser Mike Giaccio, who previously worked for New York gubernatorial candidates, will serve as Director of Finance.
And Olivia Lapeyrolerie, who worked as a spokesperson in the de Blasio administration, will serve as traveling press secretary. The firm Freedomland Media will head up video production.
Trump echoes familiar language in endorsing Pennsylvania House candidate
WASHINGTON—President Trump called on voters to turn out for Pennsylvania Republican Fred Keller in Tuesday's special election, calling the candidate “strong on Crime, Second Amendment, Military, Vets, and Healthcare.”
Keller is running to replace former Rep. Tom Marino, who resigned suddenly just weeks into the 2019 term, and is expected to carry the heavily-Republican district.
If the language of Trump's endorsement sounds familiar, it’s because the President has used some form of that construction – strong on crime, second amendment, military, vets and healthcare – 64 times, going back to October 2017 to endorse over 40 candidates. This applies to a variety of candidates – from Congressional to gubernatorial.
He’s used the phrase “total endorsement” 26 times, “complete endorsement” 6 times and “strong endorsement” 3 times.
It’s notable that the President has not changed the issues or personalized the tweets for different candidates – only a few, like Ted Cruz who got an added “Beto is a Flake!”, had a unique spin in their endorsement tweet.
Some examples of Republican candidates who received a nod with that similar "Strong on Crime, Second Amendment, Military, Vets, and Healthcare" rhetoric include—North Carolina's Dan Bishop, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, Pennsylvania's John Chrin, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Nevada's Danny Tarkanian, then-Arizona Rep. Martha McSally, Ohio's Troy Balderson, now-Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and dozens more.
—Ben Kamisar contributed
Kentucky Democrats head to vote in contentious gubernatorial primary
WASHINGTON — Kentucky Democrats are heading to the polls Tuesday to crown a victor in a hard-fought gubernatorial primary with serious implications for November.
Public polling pegs Attorney General Andy Beshear the frontrunner over state Auditor Adam Edelen and state Rep. Rocky Adkins for the nomination. But Edelen and his allies have spent furiously in the hopes of defeating Beshear, the son of the state's last Democratic governor.
Edelen's campaign has spent $2.1 million during the primary, dwarfing Beshear's $1.3 million and Adkins' $900,000, spending data from Advertising Analytics shows. And the pro-Edelen Kentuckians for a Better Future has dropped another $1 million into the race.
The ad wars have gotten chippy, with Beshear and Edelen at the center of the fight.
The pro-Edelen Kentuckians for a Better Future has spent more than a half-million dollars on an ad attacking Beshear for donors that supported his attorney general bid, attempting to link him to the opioid epidemic through those donations, and needling Beshear over a former aide's conviction for bribery.
The group also aired a spot that highlighted Beshear's work defending the Boy Scouts from abuse claims, but that was pulled off the air after just two days after Edelen's spokesman told the Lexington Herald-Leader it should be taken down.
Edelen has amplified some of those attacks in one of his closing argument spots, and focused its resources on a spot where the candidate introduces viewers to his folksy farmer father to contrast his family with Beshear's famous father.
Beshear's ads have partly tried to look past the primary with attacks on Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's record on health care. But he's taken to the airwaves to push back against the attacks, calling them "shameful and false" and criticizing the negative campaigning.
Atkins has largely stayed out of the brawl, particularly on the airwaves, and has leaned on his legislative experience.
Both Beshear and Edelen received big endorsements in the race's final days — the former from the pro-abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America and the latter from The Courier-Journal, one of the state's premiere papers.
The general election will be one of the most interesting of the 2019 cycle.
Despite the Republican lean in the state (President Trump won by almost 30 percentage points in 2016), two of the last four governors were Democrats who were reelected to serve a second term.
Even though he's outperformed polls before, polling shows Bevin is one of the more unpopular governors in America.
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.
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.
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.
'Do-over' House race in North Carolina settles on nominees
WASHINGTON — Republican state Rep. Dan Bishop cruised to victory in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District special primary, setting up a clash that will finally decide the last House race of the 2018 cycle.
While the GOP thought it won the seat on Election Day of 2018, allegations of absentee ballot fraud by a consultant working for then Republican nominee Mark Harris prompted state election officials to toss out the results and order a new election.
That new primary was on Tuesday, and Bishop dominated the field with almost 48 percent of the vote in a 10-person field.
Bishop easily cleared the state's 30-percent threshold to win the race outright (if he fell short, the race could have gone to a runoff). Now he'll face off against Democrat Dan McCready, the party's 2018 nominee who ran unopposed in the special primary.
The election will likely be the closest special House election of the 2019 calendar. Bishop is best known for championing the controversial "bathroom bill" in the state legislature, which barred transgender people from using a bathroom other than the one for the gender listed on their birth certificate. The bill has since been partially repealed, so it's unclear how much of a centerpiece the issue will be in the conservative-leaning district.
The two candidates will face off on Sept. 10.
Buttigieg shuts down 2017 PAC
WASHINGTON — Pete Buttigieg is shutting down the Political Action Committee that he started in 2017 to help fellow Democratic candidates.
The Hitting Home PAC filed a termination report Tuesday with the FEC. Buttigieg had started the PAC shorty after his unsuccessful run for DNC chair in 2017 as a vehicle to support other Democrats as he weighed his own next political moves.
“We've been winding down the PAC for awhile and as of today we filed the termination papers,” Buttigieg press secretary Chris Meagher told NBC News.
As a presidential candidate, Buttigieg has pledged not to take money from registered lobbyists, corporate PACs or the fossil fuel industry.
2020 roundup: Biden hits Giuliani for 'personal attack' about his son and Ukraine
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden Tuesday criticized Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's lawyer, for his recent comments raising questions about work Biden's son did in Ukraine during his father's term.
"It is a personal attack. I expect that from Rudy Giuliani and the president," Biden told reporters during a campaign stop in New Hampshire.
"There has not been one scintilla of evidence that my son ever interfered, that I ever asked me anything, that I ever got involved in anything other than doing the job I was supposed to do, or that he ever contacted anybody in the American government."
Last week, the New York Times reported that Giuliani planned to travel to Ukraine to convince the country to probe potential impropriety surrounding the former vice president's push for a crack down on corruption, including the removal of a Ukranian prosecutor.
Bloomberg News reported that while that prosecutor had previously investigated a company that Biden's son Hunter worked for, the vice president made the call a year after the prosecutor moved on from the investigation. Hunter Biden denied to the Times having any contact with his father about the issue, as well.
Ultimately, Giuliani decided not to make the trip.
Read more about the issue here, and read on for more from the 2020 beat.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., dismissed the prospect of joining Fox News for a town hall, blasting the network as a "hate-for-profit racket" in a Twitter thread Tuesday. She went on to fundraise off the decision in an email to supporters.
- Former Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke admitted that his pre-announcement interview with Vanity Fair, where he said he was "born to be in it" when referring to politics, reinforced a "perception of privilege" surrounding his campaign. And he responded to past criticism of his comments about his wife raising their kids while he was out on the trail by saying: "I have a lot to learn, and I'm learning from the best."
- As NBC's Alex Seitz-Wald reported earlier Tuesday, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock became the latest Democrat to throw his hat into the presidential ring. Read more about Bullock's theory of the case here, and watch Vaughn Hillyard's piece on Bullock from earlier this year below.
Scandal-marred North Carolina House district holds special House primaries Tuesday
WASHINGTON — Months after allegations of absentee ballot fraud prompted election officials to throw out the 2018 election in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District, voters head to the polls once again Tuesday for a redo.
The Democratic primary is locked up for Democrat Dan McCready, the veteran and small business owner who was the party's nominee in 2018. McCready is running unopposed after falling 905 votes short of Republican Mark Harris last November, before the election results were tossed out.
So the real action is on the Republican side, where the shadow of last November looms large.
Harris initially looked like the winner last Election Day, but the state election board refused to certify the victory because of allegations that absentee ballots were mishandled by a political operative working for the Harris campaign, as well as the operatives associates.
Ultimately, the board called for a new election. And Harris announced he wouldn't run again, citing health concerns.
Now, there are 10 Republicans angling for the nomination in the district. If one candidate wins at least 30 percent of the vote Tuesday, then they'll win the primary outright and go on to face McCready on Sept. 10. If everyone falls short, the top two GOP candidates will move onto a runoff on Sept. 10, kicking the general election to Nov. 5.
The favorite in the race appears to be state Sen. Dan Bishop, who has been in the state legislature since 2015. Bishop is best known for being the author of the controversial "bathroom bill." The bill, which has since been amended, restricts people from using a public bathroom for a gender other than the one listed on their birth certificate. That policy drew criticism from LGBT activists and prompted travel boycotts in the state.
Bishop's has been the most active candidate on the airwaves, spending more than $180,000 on this TV ad, which puts McCready alongside Democrats like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, California Rep. Maxine Waters, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. He's also backed by the Club for Growth.
Harris' choice for the nomination is Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing. Rushing has tried to deflect from the link between the absentee fraud allegations and the GOP by accusing McCready and Democrats of fraud instead, portraying himself as an anti-establishment ally of President Trump.
Realtor Leigh Brown has been the beneficiary of more than $435,000 in television ads from the National Association of Realtors.
Seven other Republicans are running as well.
Anti-abortion legislative pushes are in sync with Trump's efforts
The president has taken a series of recent steps aimed at turning abortion into a rallying cry for conservatives — from painting abortion-rights bills in New York and Virginia as extreme; to expanding the Mexico City Policy (an existing rule banning U.S. aid to any health organization in another country that provides or makes referrals for abortions); to screening the anti-abortion film "Gosnell" at the White House.
The White House Office of Public Liaison organized the controversial screening in April after months of extensive planning and outreach to anti-abortion groups, a White House official tells NBC News.
Anti-abortion groups are also encouraged by Trump’s appointments of lower-court conservative judges as challenges to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision are poised to make it to federal courts.
One such nominee — Wendy Vitter, the wife of former Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is expected to get a vote on her nomination to be a district judge this week. Trump nominated Vitter last year, but she never received a full Senate vote. Democrats criticized Vitter for her record of anti-abortion advocacy.
These pushes could be partly animated by the record number of women elected to Congress in the 2018 midterm elections, says Kelly Baden — director of Reproductive Rights at the State Innovation Exchange, an advocacy group that works to enact legislation in blue states to protect abortion rights and codify Roe.
“So many state anti-abortion politicians were so threatened by the 2018 women’s wave election that they are highly motivated to go even further,” Baden said.
Meanwhile, some Democratic-leaning states and pro-abortion rights groups are already planning for a future in which Roe is essentially gutted in some areas.
For example, Massachusetts and New York are moving to create what lawmakers there call “safe havens to get legal abortion care.”
Massachusetts lawmakers have introduced legislation called the ROE Act, which would allow abortions after 24 weeks in cases of fatal fetal issues and would no longer require minors to obtain permission from a parent or judge in order to have the procedure.
And, in Vermont, the state legislature passed Proposal 5 to amend the state constitution to protect personal reproductive liberty and guarantee the right to an abortion.
2020 roundup: Warren promises to pick former public school teacher for Education secretary
WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren is pledging to pick a former public school teacher to lead the Department of Education if elected president.
Warren made the pledge in an email to supporters, hours before she's set to attend a town hall with the American Federation of Teachers in Philadelphia.
"Let’s get a person with real teaching experience. A person who understands how low pay, tattered textbooks, and crumbling classrooms hurt students and educators. A person who understands the crushing burden of student debt on students and young professionals and who is committed to actually doing something about it," Warren wrote.
Here are some other headlines from the 2020 campaign trail that you might have missed.
- Former Housing and Urban Development Sec. Julián Castro is out with a new education plan that includes a variety of policy proposals—universal pre-K, raising Pell grants, nixing public college tuition, raising teacher pay, and a program aimed at easing the burden of student loans. NBC's Suzanne Gamboa has more here.
- Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton threw cold water on Warren's plan to break up big tech companies like Facebook, warning that "if we just break up Facebook into 100 different pieces, then you know who will take over? It's Chinese companies."
- Former Vice President Joe Biden defended himself from criticism he's not progressive enough on climate change, arguing he's been "in this area long before most anybody else was, and I have a record," and highlighting his time in the Obama White House.
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters Monday that he'll announce his decision on whether or not to run for president this week
Trump to rally in Pennsylvania ahead of House special election
WASHINGTON — President Trump will head to northern Pennsylvania for a campaign rally next week as he looks to shore up his support in a key battleground state for his reelection bid, as well as give a boost to the GOP's chances in a House special election.
Trump will hold the rally at an airport hanger in Montoursville, the campaign announced on Monday, his seventh rally in northeast Pennsylvania, according to the campaign's count.
The event comes just one day before the special election in the state's 12th Congressional District.
Republican Fred Keller, whom Trump endorsed a few weeks ago, is expected to win the seat vacated by former GOP Rep. Tom Marino. Marino resigned just two weeks into his new term this past January.
The district is heavily Republican — a New York Times analysis of the newly-redistricted district estimates that Trump won it by 36 percentage points in 2016.
Democrat Marc Friedenberg, a Penn State professor, is running against Keller.
Biden continues to dominate with Facebook spending
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden dwarfed his Democratic presidential primary rivals in Facebook spending last week, spending almost as much as the next three candidates combined.
Biden's campaign spent $238,600 on Facebook between May 5 and May 11, his third week in a row spending more money on the platform than any other presidential candidate.
Much of that messaging played up Biden's contrast with President Trump, warning about the president's massive war chest.
The next-closest candidates were Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Michael Bennet, D-Colo, and Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
Warren's $88,000 in Facebook spending focused primarily on her grassroots fundraising operation, a fight with Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz over the Consumer Financial Protection Agency and her student load debt plan.
Bennet, who is just ramping up the campaign he announced earlier this month, is calling on supporters to help him hit the 65,000 unique donor threshold to help him qualify for the debate. The Coloradan spent $79,000 last week on Facebook ads.
Harris finished close behind in the spending rankings, dropping about $78,000 on Facebook ads. Those ads included appeals aimed at the anti-abortion rights laws being passed in states like Georgia and Alabama, as well as her call for Attorney General William Barr to resign.
For comparison, the joint fundraising committee between the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee spent $64,000 on Facebook ads, while his campaign alone spent $44,000 on Facebook last week.
Stacey Abrams says she's still considering a presidential bid
WASHINGTON — Former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams said Thursday that she is still considering a presidential bid, weeks after she ruled out a Senate bid in her home state.
Abrams made the comment during an appearance on an upcoming episode of Pod Save America, which is coming out Thursday afternoon.
Despite her narrow loss in the 2018 gubernatorial race, Abrams' bid cemented her status as a rising star among Democrats and had supporters pulling for her to either run for president or the Senate.
Late last month, she ruled out a Senate bid, arguing that it was not "the best role for me in this battle for our nation's future."
Listen to the brief excerpt from Abrams' interview below.
Biden with big lead in New Hampshire poll
WASHINGTON—Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a significant lead over Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, a new Monmouth poll released Thursday finds.
Biden has support from 36 percent of registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters deemed likely to vote in the 2020 primary. Sanders is in second with 18 percent, followed by South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg's 9 percent, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's 8 percent, and 6 percent for Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
Warren is the top second choice out of those polled, with 15 percent to Harris' 9 percent.
Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., are the only candidates of which at least two-thirds of the electorate has an opinion. All of those candidates have strong favorable ratings, with Warren's 24 percent unfavorable rating the highest of the group.
Buttigieg, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, and Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., are known by at least half of the eelctorate.
Out of all of the candidates who are familiar to at least half of the electorate, Biden has the highest net-favorable rating (+65 percentage points) by far, followed by Sanders (54), Harris (50), Buttigieg (47), Booker (42) and Warren (39).
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and entrepreneur Andrew Yang are the only two politicians tested whose favorable rating is underwater.
Monmouth polled 376 New Hampshire voters likely to vote in the Democratic primary from May 2 and May 7. The polls's margin of error is 5.1 percentage points.
Former CIA officer Valerie Plame running for House in New Mexico
WASHINGTON — Former CIA officer Valerie Plame, whose undercover status was leaked during the early years of former President George W. Bush's administration, is running for Congress in New Mexico.
Plame announced her bid for the seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Luján's Senate bid, arguing that her run is part of extending her service that was "cut short by partisan politics" when her cover was blown in 2003.
"My career in the CIA was cut short by partisan politics, but I’m not done serving our country. We need more people in Congress with the courage to stand up for what’s right," she said in a statement.
"It’s why I couldn’t be prouder than to have the chance to represent my friends and neighbors of Northern New Mexico. I will work as hard defending my fellow New Mexicans in Washington as I did defending our country from nuclear threats.”
A handful of other Democrats have discussed running in a district that leans heavily in favor of the Democrats—2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won the district by 15 points in 2016.
Plame was a covert CIA officer who worked on counter-proliferation issues as the Bush administration was looking into whether Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was working toward developing nuclear weapons.
Shortly after Plame's husband, diplomat Joe Wilson, wrote a New York Times column where he argued the "intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat," Plame's identity was outed in a Washington Post story.
A former State Department official eventually admitted to leaking her name to the media, and Scooter Libby, then-Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, was convicted for lying to investigators.
President Trump pardoned Libby last year.
Hickenlooper: My life experience separates me from Bennet
WASHINGTON—John Hickenlooper, the former Democratic governor of Colorado, argued Wednesday that his life experience differentiates himself from the other Colorado Democrat in the presidential race, Sen. Michael Bennet.
During Wednesday's interview on "MTP Daily," Hickenlooper praised Bennet as one "of my favorite people, one of my oldest friends." But he argued that voters who are used to casting their ballots for both men should look to their resumes to help separate the two presidential hopefuls.
"We've had very different lives. His experience is: He's a lawyer, super smart, super talented, super committed. But he's been mostly in Washington, he spent a few years working in private equity," Hickenlooper said.
"I was a scientist, and i worked professionally as a geologist. I was out of work a few years, that's relevant, then I opened a brewpub long before people knew what they were."
"I transformed a community by getting everyone to get to work together, was a top-5 big city mayor in America and then one of the top governors in America."
The two Coloradans have a long history—Bennet served as Hickenlooper's chief of staff while the latter was the mayor of Denver.
Watch the video below to hear more from HIckenlooper.
O'Rourke talks gun laws in the wake of recent school shootings
WASHINGTON — Beto O'Rourke decried the recent school shootings as a "human-caused problem with a human solution" on Wednesday, one day after a shooting at a STEM education school killed one person and injured eight.
During a town hall in Mason City, Iowa, O'Rourke evoked a conversation he had with a student this week in Iowa who teared up while telling the former Texas Democratic congressman she was afraid that she would get killed in school.
He went on to argue that universal background checks would "save lives" and that politicians should buck political pressure to pass stricter gun control regulations.
"There are more than 30,000 gun deaths in this country every single year, and no other country on the face of the planet even comes close. So there's something either inherently evil or violent about our fellow Americans, or this is a human-caused problem with a human solution," O'Rourke said.
Watch a clip of O'Rourke's comments below.
2020 roundup: Democratic candidates releasing a flurry of policy proposals
WASHINGTON — Democrats jockeying for their party's presidential nomination released a series of policy proposals on Wednesday meant to put more meat behind their candidacies.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is proposing a $100 billion plan (authored with Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings) to combat the opioid epidemic. The legislation calls for training, additional research and greater access for drugs that treat overdoses.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has a plan to expand funding and training for public defenders, as well as adding to the student loan repayment program.
And New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Harris are all co-sponsors of reintroduced legislation aimed at slashing maternal mortality rates, particularly among the minority mothers who suffer from the highest rates.
The semi-regular policy rollouts are important ways for the candidates to stand out among the crowded field, and the measures today cut across a variety of important primary constituencies.
Click on the links above to learn more about each proposal, and read on for more from the 2020 trail.
- NBC's Jonathan Allen, Lauren Egan and Jeremia Kimelman are out with new analysis that shows that Harris raised more in itemized donations (of $200 or more) from majority-minority ZIP codes.
- NBC's Alex Seitz-Wald examines the implications of Democratic voters caring more and more about climate change.
- The New York Times obtained a snapshot of President Trump's taxes from 1985-1994, which shows he lost more than $1 billion, a report that Trump is blasting as a "hit job."
Kamala Harris rolls out bill to boost public defenders
WASHINGTON — California senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris is known as an effective prosecutor. Now she’s unveiling legislation to help public defenders in an attempt to counter criticism she’s received as being overly aggressive in her previous job.
The legislation would aim to incentivize public defenders, who are usually paid less, are less resourced and overworked, compared to prosecutors.
“As a career prosecutor, I know that when public defenders lack sufficient resources, they are unable to provide an adequate defense and the system doesn’t work,” Harris said in a statement. “Our Constitution gives every defendant the right to an attorney, but it’s not enough just to have a lawyer. Defendants in criminal cases need lawyers who have enough time, money, and resources to challenge the prosecution and provide a strong defense.”
Jon Rapping, the founder of The Gideon’s Project, an organization that provides training and resources for public defenders, calls the proposed bill “a good start.”
“I am encouraged,” Rapping said. “I think it is a recognition that public defenders must be part of the conversation” of criminal justice reform.
Harris, who worked as a district attorney in San Francisco and then as California’s attorney general before being elected to the Senate in 2017, and has highlighted her experience as a prosecutor and used it to her advantage. Her background has been beneficial especially when grilling Trump administration officials, including Attorney General William Barr, testifying before the Senate.
She has also come under fire from some progressives and public defenders in California for some of her policies and practices as a prosecutor.
Lara Bazelon, the former director of the Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent in Los Angeles, wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times saying that she’s not a progressive prosecutor.
“Time after time, when progressives urged her to embrace criminal justice reforms,” Bazelon wrote, “Ms. Harris opposed them or stayed silent.”
Bazelon pointed to her support of punishing parents of overly truant students, withholding evidence that could have unravelled convictions, supported the death penalty and opposed a bill that would mandate her office investigate shootings by police officers.
The legislation would create a $250 million grant program to fund public defense, including ensuring pay parity between public defenders and prosecutors and implementing work load limits. It would expand the student loan repayment program to $75 million from $25 million. It would also provide money to train public defenders and require data about the use of public defenders and if those who need the service are receiving it.
Inslee: Doctors can't help us 'if we don't solve climate change'
WASHINGTON—Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee argued Tuesday that climate change is an all-encompassing issue that should resonate with even those who see health care as a more pressing concern.
When asked on Tuesday's broadcast of "MTP Daily" on MSNBC what he thinks about polls showing that voters see health care as a more important issue to them than climate change, Inslee connected the two issues.
"There are not enough doctors and nurses on the planet Earth to protect our health if we don’t solve climate change. This is a health care issue first and foremost," he said.
“The thing about climate change is it's not a single issue, it is all the issues."
Watch the full interview below.
Trump campaign blasts 'dishonest fundraising groups' after report about top ally
WASHINGTON — President Trump's campaign issued a blistering statement Tuesday condemning "alleged scam groups" that profit off his name days after a new report called into question an outside group run by one of the president's former top campaign hands.
The unsigned statement from the Trump campaign admonished "any organization that deceptively uses the President’s name, likeness, trademarks, or branding and confuses voters."
"There is no excuse for any group, including ones run by people who claim to be part of our ‘coalition,’ to suggest they directly support President Trump’s re-election or any other candidates, when in fact their actions show they are interested in filling their own pockets with money from innocent Americans’ paychecks, and sadly, retirements," the statement said.
While the campaign did not mention any group by name, the comment came days after Axios and the Campaign Legal Center published a report about the Presidential Coalition, a group run by former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie.
The analysis found that the Presidential Coalition raised $18.5 million in 2017 and 2018 promoting the group as a stalwart ally of Trump. Just three percent of its spending went to direct political activities, while the lion's share of its spending went toward raising more money, while two organizations linked to Bossie received almost $660,000 from the group.
The Presidential Coalition is far from the first group to have such an unusual spending breakdown. But groups like these have long faced criticism over the years with critics accusing them of being primarily set up to funnel money to preferred vendors and to staff salaries instead of toward the direct political activity that donors may expect their money to fund.
The group denied any allegations of impropriety in a statement to Axios, arguing that the Campaign Legal Center was biased against it because of its work to tighten campaign finance laws and that its spending is necessary to support the group's mission.
"This is fake news brought to you by a collaboration of the biased liberal media and unabashed left-wing activists," the Coalition said in the statement to Axios.
The hurdles ahead for felony voting rights legislation
WASHINGTON — In November of 2018, Floridians passed Amendment 4 – giving 1.4 million people with past felony convictions the right to vote. Last week, the state’s lawmakers passed legislation to require they pay various fines and fees before having those rights restored, a move that has been criticized as a “poll tax” by critics of the legislation. The bill now heads to the governor who has signalled his support but has not yet signed it.
Now, as similar policy debates occur across the country in state houses, Congress, and on the 2020 campaign trail, voting rights advocates face an uncertain future.
Supporters of felony re-enfranchisement legislation continue to stress the significant restrictions that long-term criminal justice and voting rights laws have had particularly on African Americans.
According to the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy organization, 1 in 13 African American adults are disenfranchised for a past felony charge, compared to 1 in every 56 non-black adults.
Christopher Uggen, a criminologist and professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota reaffirms this. “The disproportionate impact on communities of color helps make it an urgent civil rights movement today.”
If the bill passed in Florida is implemented, the ACLU says that about 40 percent of enfranchised ex-felons in Florida would no longer be eligible to register due to the costs.
Also, according to Julie Ebenstein, the Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, Florida does not have a “centralized system that tracks people post-sentence.”
“That could really have a chilling effect,” Ebenstein added.
Felony disenfranchisement laws change from state to state and often governor to governor.
Today, only Iowa and Kentucky have lifetime disenfranchisement laws in place. Iowa recently tried to change their law — with the support of Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds — but the proposal failed to advance out of the state Senate.
And the 2020 Democratic candidates are also starting to take public stances on the issue.
For example, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., has introduced The Next Step Act, a criminal justice bill that would allow people who were incarcerated to vote in federal elections.
And Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT., has also said he supports giving both current and formerly incarcerated felons the right to vote — a policy legal only in Vermont and Maine.
But Uggen said he expects candidates to pay more attention to the issue, especially since 82 percent of Democrats support it. “The question is how far they will go,” he said.
Progressive group launches ads hitting Michael Bennet on judicial nominations
WASHINGTON — Demand Justice, a progressive group fighting President Donald Trump's judicial nominations, is elevating its battle with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., over the issue with a new spate of advertisements targeting Bennet's presidential bid.
The group has been a regular critic of Bennet's, giving him an 'F' grade on its scorecard ranking lawmakers' "willingness to fight Trump’s judges." And now it's launching television and digital ads in the early-primary state of New Hampshire that accuse Bennet of "helping" Trump confirm judges.
"Bennet’s backed many of Trump’s extreme judges. He votes for them almost 70 percent of the time. Bennet even praised Neil Gorsuch when Trump picked him for the Supreme Court seat stolen from President Obama," the ad's narrator says.
"Now that Democrats are proposing ways to fix the court, Bennet is standing in the way of that, too. Hey, Michael Bennet — what gives? Helping Trump is not a good look."
Demand Justice told NBC News that it's spending $10,000 on the digital ads and then "five figures" to air the ad on WMUR in Manchester, N.H.
The spot is meant to put pressure on Bennet, who announced his presidential bid last week, and amounts to one of the first Democrat-on-Democrat fights of the presidential cycle.
The Coloradan pushed back on Demand Justice's criticism during an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, arguing that Democrats' "non-strategic" opposition to Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch prompted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to change Senate rules to lower the threshold for advancing Supreme Court nominations, which put Democrats in an even worse spot.
"The people behind that Super PAC that are attacking me for an 'F,' they deserve an 'F,' because they helped conceive that strategy," Bennet said.
Bennet didn't join the Democratic filibuster of Gorsuch at the time, which put up a procedural hurdle to the nomination, but the senator ultimately voted against Gorsuch's confirmation.
UPDATE: This post was updated to include spending details on the ad buy.
Jill Biden addresses husband's apology to Anita Hill
WASHINGTON — Jill Biden said Tuesday that her husband, former Vice President Joe Biden, was "grateful" that Anita Hill recently took his phone call amid her frustration with his handling of her decades-old accusations of sexual harassment against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
The former vice president called Hill last month, shortly before announcing his presidential bid, but Hill told the New York Times she was not satisfied with his message.
Pressed on that exchange on NBC's "Today," Jill Biden argued that the experience gave her husband perspective he used to promote women's issues in the Senate.
"They had the phone call. He was really grateful that she took his call. He apologized to her, and the one good thing that has come out of this is that he made sure that there were now women senators one that committee. He has written the Violence Against Women Act, so you have to look at the good that came out of that," she said.
Jill Biden spoke to "Today" as part of a media swing to promote her new book. She also addressed the Hill hearings in an interview with NPR, where she said that "he apologized for the way the hearings were run, and now it's kind of, it's time to move on."
Watch the full "Today" interview with Jill Biden below.
Kamala Harris: Electability debate 'leaves people out'
WASHINGTON—Kamala Harris argued Sunday that the debate in the Democratic Party over which presidential candidate is most electable in the crucial Midwestern swing states is talking past minority voters across those states.
Speaking at a dinner for the Detroit branch of the NAACP, Harris argued the electability debate is sometimes too ‘simplistic.'”
“There has been a conversation by the pundits about electability and ‘who can speak to the Midwest? But when they say that, they usually put the Midwest in a simplistic box and a narrow narrative. And too often their definition of the Midwest leaves people out,” she said.
“It leaves out people in this room who helped build cities like Detroit. It leaves out working women who are on their feet all day--many of them working without equal pay. And the conversation too often suggests certain voters will only vote for certain candidates regardless of whether their ideas will lift up all our families.”
Watch the full report below.
O'Rourke joins the calls for President Trump's impeachment
WASHINGTON — Beto O'Rourke told the Dallas Morning News Sunday that he believes House Democrats should "move forward with impeachment" of President Trump.
The former Texas Democratic congressman and current presidential candidate had previously refrained from advocating for the idea of impeachment, arguing the decision should be left to the House in which he once served (as a congressman, O'Rourke voted against impeaching the president in a 2017 House vote).
But in the interview published Sunday, O'Rourke argued in favor of impeachment as a way to hold Trump accountable.
"We're finally learning the truth about this president. And yes, there has to be consequences. Yes, there has to be accountability.Yes, I think there's enough evidence now for the House of Representatives to move forward with impeachment,” he said.
“This is our country, and this is the one chance that we get to ensure that it remains a democracy and that no man, regardless of his position, is above the law.”
The question of impeachment has divided Democrats in Congress, on the trail and at home.
Former Housing and Urban Development Sec. Julián Castro as well as Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have all called for Trump's impeachment outright.
Some, like South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., have argued that Trump has committed offenses worthy of impeachment but are stopping short of a direct call for impeachment. Others have balked at the idea, arguing that it would be best for Democrats to defeat Trump at the ballot box.
New data from the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found Americans divided on the prospect of impeachment even as a majority said Trump was not honest and truthful related to the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election.
Biden tops presidential Facebook spending for second week in a row
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden spent more than $315,000 on Facebook ads last week, making him the highest political spender on the platform for the second consecutive week.
Biden's presidential campaign has spent about $732,000 on Facebook ads since he jumped into the race less than two weeks ago, data from Facebook's Ad Library shows.
That's almost as much as some Democratic politicians have spent during their much-longer presidential bids so far, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., ($781,200), Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., (785,100) and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., ($817,800).
Since his campaign is still in its infancy, most of Biden's ads have been fundraising or list-building appeals that focused on his announcement, a video ad citing former President Obama's praise of Biden, and warnings about President Trump's fundraising advantage over the Democratic field.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., narrowly trails Biden on this week's list of top Facebook spenders with $296,600 spent last week. Many of her ads highlighted her call for Attorney General William Barr to resign, while others included a video fundraising appeal from Harris.
President Trump's campaign spent the third most of presidential candidates last week with $120,300, followed by Warren's $97,700 and Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee's $57,600.
Bernie Sanders introduces 'rebuild rural America' proposals
OSAGE, Iowa — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., unveiled a broad package of proposals on Sunday aimed at aiding rural communities, including the breaking up of major agriculture corporations and the transitioning of the U.S. commodity industry toward a system in which the government sets commodity production and pricing based on demand, much like Canada’s dairy industry, to guarantee farmers’ “cost of production and family living expenses.”
“This growing monopolization of agriculture is unfair to food producers. It is unfair to consumers. It is unfair to the environment,” the Democratic presidential candidate said from behind a podium at the Mitchell County fairgrounds, looking out onto about 100 Iowans seated in chairs or the set of risers under the pavilion. “Together, we are going to change that system.”
The Vermont senator’s package of proposals, which he touted as a "radical policy change," signals the Democratic presidential candidate’s quest to win over the largely agricultural-focused voters who heavily favored President Trump’s candidacy in 2016.
The series of proposals lays out an aggressive effort to break up large agriculture corporations through “Roosevelt-style trust-busting laws.” Sanders proposed placing a moratorium on future mergers between large agribusinesses.
In perhaps his most significant proposal, Sanders laid out his desire to transition the U.S. commodity industry toward supply management programs in which the federal government would work with farmers to determine the amount of product needed from an operation to meet the demands of the marketplace while guaranteeing a price for the product that would ensure those farmers earn a “living wage.”
On trade, Sanders provided few details about his vision. He did not lay out his thoughts on President Trump’s continued use of tariffs, with is plan saying he plans to “develop fair trade partnerships that do not drive down the prices paid to food producers and that, instead, protect farmers here and abroad.”
His plan also proposes: Aiding beginning farmers with investments in land acquisition and equipment, reforming agricultural subsidies to move more financial support away from larger farming operations, opening up money resources for farmers to transition to more sustainable farming practices, ensuring a farmer has the right to repair his or her own machinery, reforming patent laws to “protect farmers from predatory patent lawsuits from companies like Monsanto” over seed patents and the strengthening of regulations on organic products.
Bennet to liberal critics of his judicial votes: 'They deserve an 'F''
WASHINGTON — Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Sunday pushed back at progressives questioning his handling of judicial votes during the Trump administration, blasting those critics for lacking "discipline."
The debate boils down (in part) to Bennet's decision not to join the Democratic filibuster of Justice Neil Gorsuch, a failed attempt to block the nominee from receiving a confirmation vote.
While a critical mass of Democrats kept Gorsuch short of the 60-vote threshold that was needed at the time to advance his nomination, the stalemate in the Senate prompted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to evoke the "nuclear option" and remove that 60-vote threshold.
Progressives, including the "Demand Justice" group that's trying to rally liberal opposition to Trump's judicial picks, have blasted Bennet for not joining the filibuster, painting him as acquiescing to Trump's nominees. Demand Justice's annual scorecard grades Bennet an 'F' on his "willingness to fight Trump's judges."
But the Colorado Democrat took issue with that grade during a Sunday interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."
He argued that progressives erred by goading McConnell into scrapping the nuclear option over Gorsuch, who was nominated to replace the conservative-leaning Justice Antonin Scalia after his death.
Instead, he argued, Democrats should have waited to elevate the fight until the retirement of former Justice Anthony Kennedy, when the ideological balance of the court was at stake.
"Unlike Mitch McConnell, we didn't have the discipline to play it strategically. We were non-strategic and as a result, when Kavanaugh got there, Democrats could do nothing except pretend to our base that we were fighting," Bennet said.
"Those who conceived of this strategy continue to advocate it and continue to attack other Democrats who disagree with them. I think they deserve an 'F.'"
Watch the full interview with Bennet below.
How a rural Texas county illustrate's Beto's go-anywhere strategy
GUTHRIE, Texas — At town hall events across the country, Beto O’Rourke regularly highlights his experience in King County, Texas — a community with just over 200 registered voters; fewer people than often attend his presidential campaign events.
Earlier this month, the former Texas congressman joked to a crowd in Storm Lake, Iowa that the county 90 miles east of Lubbock is so red you can see it glowing from space, but during his 2018 senate bid, he went there anyway. Those people, he says, deserved to be heard.
"We’re just hard working people that believe in working hard, putting in a day’s work, getting our paychecks, take care of our families, and our beliefs, and raising our kids,” explained Jessie Hatfield, a cowboy on the 6666 cattle ranch, the major private employer in the county.
O’Rourke's December 2017 visit to Guthrie, the seat of King County may have helped him improve upon Hillary Clinton’s performance here. She got five votes in 2016. O’Rourke got six in 2018.
"You just gotta actually come here and talk to us,” explained Ashley Branch, chair of the King County Democrats, and one of those six voters. "And not just us but other little communities. Our closest grocery story is 90 miles so there’s a lot of other little communities around us who are willing to listen if you’ll listen to us."
O’Rourke has modeled much of his presidential campaign on the same “go-everywhere” strategy: visiting all 10 counties in New Hampshire on his first trip to the state, launching his campaign in far-flung Keokuk, Iowa, and holding a town hall in tiny Denmark, South Carolina.
But while such visits to low-density areas might make for good anecdotal fodder, many political analysts see trips like these as a waste of a campaign’s most valuable resource: a candidate’s time.
“It tells you that in terms of cost benefit analysis it’s a waste of time,” said Seth McKee, a southern politics professor at Texas Tech University. "It doesn't pick him up any votes. But he's making the overture, which is a lot more than can be said for most modern campaign strategies for the major parties.”
Inslee lays out '100 percent' clean energy plan
LOS ANGELES — Democratic presidential candidate Jay Inslee proposed a clean energy plan on Friday to move the United States toward an eventual 100% clean energy standard for electricity generation, new vehicles and buildings “no later than 2045.”
“We’re laying out a plan that is, both, necessary, according to the science, and productive, according to the economics,” Inslee told NBC News ahead of his formal announcement at a Los Angeles bus depot featuring new electric buses and charging stations.
The Washington governor said his plan, and history in public office, separates him from the other 20 Democratic candidates in the presidential field. “This is a vision I’ve had for 15 years now," he said, "so the candidates putting out plans are about 12 years behind. I welcome them to join me on this. I think it’s a good thing that they’re following me on this. But we need to realize there’s a different level of commitment and success.”
Inslee’s “100% Clean Energy for America Plan” outlines a set of benchmarks to be achieved through a mix of presidential executive actions and legislation through Congress. The Washington governor’s proposal calls for utilities to turn exclusively to clean, renewable and zero-emission energy for electricity by 2035.
The governor’s plan would seek to end of coal-fired power plant operations by 2030 while vowing to ensure transitions for those employed in the industry into other “good-paying jobs.”
The comprehensive plan would also require zero emissions for new passenger vehicles, medium-duty trucks and busses, as well as implement a national “zero-carbon building standard” to cancel out carbon pollution from new commercial and residential buildings by 2030.
The Washington governor signed a similar state-level bill into law in April, a move that would require utility companies in the state to no longer use coal power by 2025 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
Inslee announced his presidential bid two months ago and has almost exclusively focused his time on the campaign trail to touring and highlighting the work of renewable energy industries as well as holding meetings with climate and Democratic activists. His team has called it a “climate-focused campaign.”
Pete Buttigieg met with Hillary Clinton this week
WASHINGTON — South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg met with 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton this week in New York, sources confirm to NBC News.
A Buttigieg spokesman says the meeting took place Monday while Buttigieg was in New York for lunch with Al Sharpton and taping of The Daily Show. A Clinton aide also confirmed that they met, though neither side had an official statement about the meeting.
It's unclear what was discussed during the Monday meeting.
But earlier this year, Buttigieg upset some Clinton loyalists when he told The Washington Post in an January interview that President Trump defeated Clinton because "at least he didn’t go around saying that America was already great, like Hillary did.”
Longtime Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill called that criticism "indefensible" a few months later on Twitter, arguing that Clinton "ran on a belief in this country & the most progressive platform in modern political history."
Buttigieg responded to the back-and-forth by telling the South Bend CBS affiliate that he has "enormous respect for Sec. Clinton" and that she was "ill-served by a strategy and a media environment which made things much more about the individuals, much more about all the problems with Donald Trump and less about the concerns of voters."
Democratic candidates call on Attorney General Barr to resign
WASHINGTON — A handful of Democratic presidential candidates are calling for Attorney General William Barr's resignation after his testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday.
Barr had already been the target of criticism from Democrats, who accused him of mischaracterizing special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian election interference and possible obstruction of justice by the White House.
But the frustration with Barr simmered over between Tuesday night and Wednesday, after reports surfaced that Mueller had sent a letter to Barr raising concerns that Barr's initial characterization of Mueller's report caused confusion.
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro tweeted on Tuesday night that Barr "willfully misled the American people to cover up attempted crimes by Donald Trump. He should resign his position or face an impeachment inquiry immediately."
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted Wednesday morning, as Barr was testifying, that Barr is a "disgrace" who is "not a credible head of law enforcement" who "should resign."
Both California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, members of the Judiciary Committee, tweeted after the hearing calling for Barr's resignation. Harris called Barr's testimony "unacceptable" while Booker said that Barr's answers made it clear "that he lied to us and mishandled the Mueller report."
And New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted her call for Barr's resignation by arguing that "we can't trust him to tell the truth, and these embarrassing displays of propaganda have to stop."
UPDATE: This post was updated to include Gillibrand's tweet.
New Trump campaign video takes aim at Obama on Russian interference
WASHINGTON — The Trump campaign released a new video Wednesday arguing that former President Barack Obama “dropped the ball” on Russian interference ahead of the 2016 election. The two-minute web ad features lawmakers like Rep. Adam Schiff saying the administration “should have done a lot more” and “needed to call out Russia earlier,” all set to dramatic movie-trailer style music.
The video also includes Obama explaining how he told Russian President Vladimir Putin to “cut it out” on the sidelines of a global summit in China, with text following that says “’cut it out’ doesn’t cut it.” The campaign would not say how the ad will be disseminated, only that it is digital-only at the moment.
The ad was released as Attorney General William Barr testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee about his handling of the Mueller report, which found that the Russian government interfered in 2016 in “sweeping and systematic fashion.”
But it’s worth nothing that candidate Trump and his team were also made aware that Russians were trying to meddle back in August of 2016 and in October of that same year when the Obama administration announced Russia and Wikileaks’ had attempted to influence the election.
The new Trump campaign promo ends with Obama’s words defending his position on foreign interference, just weeks before leaving office: “I think we handled it the way it should have been handled.”