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Harris: I would vote in Senate to remove President Trump from office
WASHINGTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said Monday that she would vote to convict President Trump and remove him from office if faced with the choice in the Senate today, arguing that Trump has shown a "consciousness of guilt and attempt to cover up" an attempt to push a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election.
During an interview on MSNBC Harris entertained the hypothetical vote, which would have to follow a majority vote in the House to impeach Trump. The president can be removed from office after a majority vote for impeachment in the House and a two-thirds vote to remove him in the Senate, a situation seen as unlikely considering GOP control of the Senate.
"The main subject of the impeachment, which is the issue of yet again, Donald Trump eliciting help from a foreign government to interfere in our election of our president of the United States. In this case we’ve basically got a confession. We’ve got a display of consciousness of guilt and attempt to cover up," she said.
"You know, I don’t know how much we need but apparently there’s a second whistleblower, so we’re going to get more. But based on everything we know, including an admission by this president, I don’t know that it leads in any other direction except to vote yes, which is what I believe I will do based on everything I know."
Prominent New York Dems face a new crop of young primary challengers for 2020
In 2018, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was celebrating her longshot primary victory over 10-term Democratic congressman Joe Crowley, two other young progressive New York congressional candidates had fallen just short in their challenges against longtime lawmakers.
Both are back in for 2020, but this time they’re not alone.
Galvanized by Ocasio-Cortez’s victory and the Democratic Party’s resurgent left wing, a young, diverse group of candidates has emerged to take on four more of New York City’s most prominent Democrats.
The two returning candidates are Suraj Patel, a 35-year-old former Obama staffer who lost a 2018 challenge to 13-term Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney by under 9,000 votes, and Adam Bunkedekko, a 31-year-old Harvard Business graduate and son of Ugandan refugees, who came within 1,100 votes of unseating six-term incumbent Yvette Clarke in Brooklyn’s 9th District.
They’re joined by new congressional hopefuls who range in age from 25 to their mid-40s, a youth movement that stands in contrast to the four incumbents, whose average age is over 63 years old.
The challengers all support the progressive policies du jour — Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Many also back abolishing ICE and banning assault weapons, policies that are controversial nationwide but crowd-pleasers in the deep-blue city.
And while the current representatives have served a combined 66 terms and were all once members of the State Assembly or the City Council, none of their rivals have held elected office. Most are political newcomers, and several got their start in politics on recent insurgent campaigns that inspired their own runs.
Shaniyat Chowdhury, a 27-year-old bartender and former Marine, is Ocasio-Cortez’s former deputy policy director. Like his old boss, he is trying to unseat the Queens Democratic Party Chair: Rep. Gregory Meeks, who replaced Crowley last year.
But he faces a steeper challenge than Ocasio-Cortez, who harnessed the shifting demographics of her rapidly-diversifying district to put Crowley, who first won the 14th district when it was 58 percent white in 1998, on the defensive. Meeks’ district is solidly-middle-class, majority black and has seen far less population turnover than the 14th over the past decade.
Mel Gagarin, a 37-year-old member of the Democratic Socialists of America challenging Rep. Grace Meng, worked as an organizer on Tiffany Cabán’s DSA-backed campaign for Queens District Attorney.
Jonathan Herzog, a 2015 Harvard graduate, previously served as Andrew Yang’s Iowa campaign coordinator before mounting his challenge to Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler. Also challenging Nadler is 25-year-old cryptocurrency analyst Amanda Frankel.
Yet another challenger to Nadler has the backing of more traditional political benefactors. Lindsey Boylan, 35, is a former official in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. She raised a respectable $250,000 to start her campaign, including donations from former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey and former CIA director George Tenet (both work at the same firm as Boylan’s husband). But it’s unclear if Boylan, whose campaign began because of what she called Nadler’s failure to pursue President Trump’s impeachment more aggressively , can maintain momentum as the House launches a full-throated impeachment inquiry.
Only one challenger so far is supported by Justice Democrats, the political action committee that helped power Ocasio-Cortez to victory: Jamaal Bowman, a middle school principal running against Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel.
Like Joe Crowley, Engel is white, and like Crowley’s district, the 16th District is majority-minority (31 percent black and 25 percent Hispanic). But Bowman, who is black, cannot count on the same demographic shifts as Ocasio-Cortez. Engel’s district has been majority-minority for the 30 years he has represented it, and Engel has dispatched previous primary challengers with ease.
For her part, Ocasio-Cortez has not made endorsements in her neighbors’ fights. But her 2018 victory remains a guiding light for New York’s newest insurgents.
Of course, it also serves as a warning light for the remaining incumbents. Unlike Crowley, they won’t be caught off guard this time.
Trump remains underwater in Virginia, Northam’s approval jumps up
WASHINGTON — Just 37 percent of registered voters in Virginia approve of President Donald Trump’s job performance, while a majority — 51 percent — now give Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam a thumbs-up in the state, according to a new public poll conducted by the Wason Center at Christopher Newport University.
The turnaround for Northam is statistically significant: Six months ago, after facing allegations that he appeared in a racist photo during his days in medical school, Northam’s job rating sank to 40 percent in the same poll, with 49 percent of state voter disapproving of his job.
After initially saying that he was in the photo and apologizing, Northam later denied being either man in the picture. He did, however, admit he wore shoe polish on his face during a Michael Jackson impersonation at a 1984 dance competition.
Now the poll shows that 51 percent approve of Northam’s job, while 37 percent disapprove.
With Virginia holding important state legislative elections in November, the Wason Center survey also finds grim numbers for President Trump and the Republican Party in the state.
In addition to Trump’s job-approval rating at just 37 percent in the state, Democrats hold a 13-point lead on the generic ballot, with 49 percent of likely voters saying that they’ll vote for a Democrat in November’s elections, while 36 percent will vote for Republicans.
The poll was conducted Sept. 4-30 of 726 registered voters (which has a margin of error of plus-minus 4.1 percentage points) and 566 likely voters (plus-minus 4.6 percentage points).
Trump campaign spends more than $500,000 on anti-Biden, anti-impeachment ads
WASHINGTON — President Trump's re-election campaign has spent more than a half-million dollars over the last eight days on three ads that repeat unproven allegations of impropriety by former Vice President Joe Biden with Ukraine and attack Democrats for trying to impeach him.
The ads are part of a previously announced digital and cable buy from the campaign that it says will total $8 million across both platforms.
The campaign has spent the most money so far ($348,000, according to media-tracking firm Advertising Analytics) on a spot that frames the impeachment inquiry and special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation as part of an effort to nullify Trump's 2016 victory.
"They couldn't defeat him, so now the swamp is trying to take him out. First, the Mueller investigation. Now, Ukraine. Politics at its worst," a narrator says as images of Mueller and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., are displayed on the screen.
"It isn't pretty, the swamp hates him. But Mr. Nice Guy won't cut it. It takes a tough guy to change Washington — it takes Donald Trump."
Team Trump has also spent almost $174,000 so far on another spot focused primarily on his unproven accusations against Biden, arguing that Democrats are treating the two situations with a double standard
"They lost the election, now they want to steal this one. Don't let them," the ad says.
A third spot that emphasizes similar themes started airing on Sunday as well. So far, the campaign has spent about $14,000 to air that ad.
The attacks primarily accuse Biden of pressuring a Ukranian prosecutor to resign and connecting that act to an investigation by that prosecutor into a company that Biden's son, Hunter, worked for.
But the decision to push out the prosecutor was supported at the time by the international community.
The majority of the spending has gone toward airing ads on national television. But the anti-Biden ads have also been running as part of more targeted buys in states that hold early nominating contests in the Democratic presidential primary like Nevada, Iowa and South Carolina.
Eight presidential candidates stump at SEIU summit
LOS ANGELES — Eight Democratic presidential hopefuls arrived in Los Angeles this weekend to seek the support of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) at their 2019 presidential forum.
In attendance: Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., former HUD Sec. Julian Castro, ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
The candidates faced a wide variety of questions about migrant detention centers, police reform and climate change. While the topics strayed from labor-specific issues, in the eyes of the SEIU, these are questions central to the labor movement.
“We see all these fights is inextricably linked,” said Mary Kay Henry, international president of the SEIU. “All of these things that impact our lives, we want to hear from the next presidential candidate what they're going to do.”
While all candidates spoke at length about labor issues and their personal connections to unions, some of the biggest responses they got from SEIU members came from their answers on immigration, ending mass incarceration, and health care.
Warren received a minute-long standing ovation during her answer about shutting down for-profit detention facilities along the border, with SEIU members clapping their hands and chanting “yes we can.”
Booker fired up members in his closing remarks about ending mass incarceration and expunging non-violent drug offense records. Biden choked up on stage when recounting the story of his son Beau Biden’s cancer diagnosis and pledged to “protect your right to health care as it were my own family.”
While addressing union members, candidates were also exposed to an active and diverse voter base.
“SEIU represents over 2 million members in all walks of life, and all races, creed, nationalities, orientation, and we can all feel inclusive here,” said Maureen Casey, chapter president of the Hershey Medical Center SEIU in Pennsylvania. “And so we want to know that the President or whoever we support as the union or in our personal views aligns with our principles of being all inclusive for all of all of America.”
SEIU members said they were generally impressed with the candidates but were hesitant to single out a particular candidate.
“I think we really got a chance to see which candidates listen and how they tend to listen,” said Packy Moran, who works as a lecturer at the University of Iowa. “I think that all eight candidates did well to understand that there's a huge intersectionality between everything that goes on in their campaign and the union, and what we're trying to do in terms of organizing workers and organizing everyone to have more say in their quality of life.”
Others thought it was too early to pick a candidate and appreciated the chance to hear from a larger field.
“I think it's too early to say,” said Leonardo Diaz, an Uber and Lyft driver who is working to form a union for gig-economy workers. “Because, you know, we’re just listening to them what they saying because everybody — they can promise a lot of things, but we have to see, or sometimes we have to read more about their backgrounds what they did before.”
While candidates are waiting to see who the SEIU will endorse, the organization doesn't feel its on a deadline.
“I don't know when,” Henry said when asked about when endorsements would come out. “The trigger is local unions, engaging their members through surveys, polls, text messaging, phone banks, meetings, and then listening to our members who, frankly, are kind of all over the map on who they like or what they think.”
But SEIU was impressed with the amount of candidates who came to this forum. Henry suggested that the Democratic field for this cycle has been more pro-union, saying that “they've been way more willing to call out corporations, which is very different than our past experience.”
“They used to do it more in the backchannel,” Henry said. “They would do it politely. Now, they're sort of standing with workers. And I would say that's a big shift.”
ICYMI: Stories that got lost in the shuffle
WASHINGTON – With the news cycle jammed amid each drip of the House's impeachment inquiry into President Trump, here are a few of the week's other political stories that got a little lost in the shuffle:
While the unemployment rate fell to a new low of 3.5 percent, economists had predicted the September job numbers to add 145,000 new jobs. The report showed a gain of 136,000 jobs. The new data was released after a turbulent week on Wall Street with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing over a thousand points.
The Supreme Court will hear a case challenging a Louisiana law that requires abortion clinic doctors to have hospital admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. Women's groups say the law would leave just one doctor able to perform abortions in the state. This is the first major abortion case the Court will hear since Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the bench.
NBC News was given an exclusive look inside camps thought to be detaining a million Muslim Uighers in China. While it's impossible to know if the conditions of the camp were improved or changed for NBC News' visit, the U.S. government and human rights organizations believe about 10 percent of the Uighur population in Xinjiang is locked up.
According to the South Korea military, North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Wednesday. Japan responded saying the missile landed inside of Japan's economic exclusive zone which, if true, would be the closest a North Korean missile got to Japan since November 2017. U.S. and North Korean officials plan to meet within the next week to resume nuclear talks.
Biden bashes Trump as 'most corrupt president we've had'
LOS ANGELES — Joe Biden Friday gave his most forceful response yet to President Donald Trump's repeated attacks and claims that the former vice president and his son, Hunter Biden, should be investigated for unproven charges of corruption.
“We got to get something straight. All this talk from the president about corruption comes from the most corrupt president we've had in modern history, he's the definition of corruption,” Biden told reporters in his first press availability in the nearly two weeks since the the Ukraine controversy erupted.
"He has corrupted the agencies of government," Biden continued, adding that Trump's efforts are "all about making sure that he in fact allowed somebody else to pick his opponent for him. That's what this is about. And I am not going to stand for it."
“He’s indicted himself by his own statements.”
Biden's tone was sharper than usual, stressing his words and pointing his fingers to accentuate the points he was making against a president he said he fears will only grow more erratic as the impeachment inquiry accelerates.
“I'm worried that he gets so unhinged, under the year left to go in this administration, he does something really, really, really stupid in terms of our international interest. I don't mean about our election, he's basically acknowledged he's tried to get people to interfere in our election.”
The Biden campaign released a new ad Saturday attacking President Trump's comments as part of a $6 million broadcast and digital ad buy in the four early primary states: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
Biden again insisted that he and his son did not have conflicts of interest when he oversaw U.S.-Ukrainian relations as vice president while Hunter advised a Ukrainian energy company.
Pressed to acknowledge questions about the appearance of his son't work, a defensive Biden said there was “no indication of any conflict of interest, in Ukraine or anywhere else, period.” He also stood by his statement that he had never discussed business with his son after being asked about a picture that showed him golfing with Hunter and a Ukrainian businessman.
“Let's focus on the problem. Focus on this man, what he's doing, that no president has ever done. No President.”
Asked if he would vote to impeach the president if he were still serving in the Senate, Biden responded, "I am not going to speculate what I would do in the Senate."
New Hampshire voters scrutinize health care plans in 2020 candidates
MANCHESTER, N.H. — As Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., fights to maintain an edge over former Vice President Joe Biden in New Hampshire, the progressive senator is also struggling to differentiate herself from the ideologically similar Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., — especially when it comes to health care, a top issue for first-in-the-nation voters.
It's one of the biggest differences between the Democratic presidential candidates, and while Biden is advocating to continue to build on the Affordable Care Act, Warren has embraced rival Sanders’ Medicare for All plan.
But for Granite Staters who have grown accustomed to Warren having a plan for everything, her lack of a distinctive health care proposal could be a make-or-break for who they decided to support.
“I'm a co-sponsor on a plan that's out there, and I'm with Bernie on Medicare For All,” Warren told reporters in Keene, N.H. on Sept. 25. “We need to make sure that everybody is covered at the lowest possible cost, and draining money out for health insurance companies to make a lot of profits by saying no, and bankrupting families over their healthcare bills is just not working for America.”
For some New Hampshire voters, her stance isn’t good enough.
“I think she has to be more clear,” said Warren supporter Susan Jones of Pelham, N.H., saying that the neighboring senator needs to explain how she intends to pay for her version of Medicare for All.
“She always says she’s going to come out with a plan and you never hear one,” Jones told NBC News. “(Sanders) says he’s going to raise taxes and I don’t mind that because ... if you have to raise it a little, raise it somewhat, it’s still going to cover the cost of what you pay for your insurance.”
Sanders, who often touts having written "the damn bill,” for Medicare for All, doesn’t shy away from telling voters that they would be taxed more in order to implement the coverage.
“I don’t want to lie to you,” Sanders said in Manchester, N.H. on Sept. 30, at a Medicare for All small business town meeting. On the trail, he often points to the universal coverage that countries like Canada provide for its citizens, with medication a fraction of the cost compared to in the United States.
In the latest Monmouth University poll of registered New Hampshire Democrats and unaffiliated voters, a majority (56 percent) would like to have a health care public option in addition to private insurance, 23 percent want to replace private insurance with a single public plan like Medicare for All, 10 percent would like to see any reforms limited to better regulation of costs, and 8 percent prefer no changes to the current system.
Among voters who want a single-payer plan, 40 percent back Warren, 24 percent back Sanders, 17 percent back Biden and 2 percent back South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, D-Ind. Among those who prefer a public option, 27 percent back Biden, 25 percent back Warren, 14 percent back Buttigieg and 7 percent back Sanders.
New Hampshire has the second oldest median age in the country, and the 226,804 senior citizens in the state account for 17 percent of the population. Health care is a particularly critical issue for this voting bloc, which is expected to double by 2040.
Kathleen Chertok from Keene, N.H. says she will likely support Warren in the primary and that she would “probably” want Medicare for All to be implemented — but she is also skeptical of its practicality to happen in this political moment.
“I think a lot of candidates have very strong ideas, they don’t always happen immediately,” she said. “So if we didn’t get right there, that would be okay. I worked in health care for a long time, I'm very disillusioned about our health care system and think we need a big change. It's a right for everybody and shouldn't be based on jobs.”
Some Granite Staters, like undecided voter Corrine Dodge, are open to ideas.
“I am looking for someone who will give us comprehensive health care,” said Dodge, who is deciding between Warren, Sanders and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-HI. “Right now I’m looking at Medicare for All. I know somewhere in between there can be compromise, but we need to do something different.”
Other voters are giving their support to candidates citing health care as an argument for electability.
“When I was looking at candidates this was one thing that put me behind Buttigieg,” Monica Swenson, of Bow, N.H., told NBC News. She said her decision to support Buttigieg was because of his support for Medicare for all who want it. “Everyone has a right to medical insurance. I think Bernie and Warren will scare too many people with Medicare for All. I feel giving a choice opens it up to all voters and we can keep working toward equity.”
This week, the Buttigieg campaign announced a six-figure digital ad buy in New Hampshire highlighting his support for "Medicare for All Who Want It." That argument could have sway in a state where 57 percent of residents get private insurance through their employers.
Doreen Ramos, from Keene, N.H., owns an elder care company and currently suffers from kidney disease. She told NBC News that health care was one of her top issues, and that while she’d love to eventually see a program like Medicare for All implemented across the country, she recognizes that getting that to happen right now is unrealistic. She is an undecided Democratic voter but is leaning towards supporting Biden for president.
“In this country have to figure out a long term care,” she said. “I think Medicaid for All, single-payer system is the way to go, but at some point the country should get there.”
Trump campaign targets Biden in key early states
WASHINGTON — As the impeachment inquiry intensifies, President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is taking to the airwaves in the early voting states to slam former Vice President Joe Biden on Ukraine.
Starting this weekend, the campaign will dedicate more than $1 million of an already-existing $8 million ad buy toward anti-Biden spots in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina’s local markets.
The 30-second commercial, titled "Biden Corruption," starts with an ominous voice over: “Joe Biden promised Ukraine $1 billion if they fired the prosecutor investigating his son’s company.” It does not mention, however, that the prosecutor in question was widely denounced for not investigating corruption more intensely.
The ad also accuses Democrats of wanting to “steal” the 2020 election after losing last cycle. It has already aired nationally on cable, though CNN is refusing to air it. In a statement, CNN said the ad "makes assertions that have been proven demonstrably false by various news outlets, including CNN."
But Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh insists that “voters should know about the self-dealing, influence-peddling Bidens as the campaign season progresses.”
The Biden campaign, for its part, announced a $6 million ad buy on Thursday, partially to counter the Trump team’s on-air assault.
After recently announcing a whopping $125 million haul — combined with the Republican National Committee — in the third quarter, the president’s campaign is flush with cash for this kind of spending.
Notably, Trump’s re-election team released three impeachment-related ads in less than a week. The other two, entitled “Coup” and “Changing Things,” accuse the Democrats of wanting to “take the president out” for purely political reasons.
Sanders campaign says candidate is 'looking forward to the October debate' after hospitalization
LAS VEGAS — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., remains in a Las Vegas hospital recovering from heart surgery, but is expected to be discharged "before the end of the weekend" and attend the October debate according to his wife, Jane.
"Bernie is up and about. Yesterday, he spent much of the day talking with staff about policies, cracking jokes with the nurses and doctors, and speaking with his family on the phone. His doctors are pleased with his progress, and there has been no need for any additional procedures," Jane Sanders said in a statement released by the campaign Thursday.
"We expect Bernie will be discharged and on a plane back to Burlington before the end of the weekend. He'll take a few days to rest, but he's ready to get back out there and is looking forward to the October debate.”
The Vermont senator fell ill Tuesday night after a fundraiser in Las Vegas, complaining about chest discomfort. Doctors ultimately inserted two stents after finding a blocked artery.
The recent statement from Jane Sanders amounted to the first major update from the Sanders campaign since it initially announced the surgery.
As Sanders recovers, his campaign pulled a recently announced $1.3 million television ad buy in Iowa in what the campaign called a "postponement." Just a day earlier, Sanders announced he raised more than $25 million in the third fundraising quarter, a massive haul larger than any quarterly haul by a Democratic presidential campaign so far.
Meanwhile, campaign surrogates will be holding events in New Hampshire and South Carolina after the Senator had to miss an appearance at a Las Vegas gun safety forum co-hosted by MSNBC.
Sanders' health has put a spotlight on the advanced age of the leading Democratic candidates. All three of the top polling candidates — Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — are at least 70 years old. Sanders is 78 years old, while Biden is 76 and Warren is 70.
President Trump is 73 years old.
Dr. Daniel Munoz, the director of the cardiac intensive care unit at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who was not involved in Sanders' care, told NBC News that the procedure is not unusual and that while each case is different, people generally "take it easy for about a week before returning to a full schedule."
The next Democratic debate is on Oct. 15 in Ohio.
Immigration, health care dominating Kentucky gov airwaves
WASHINGTON — One month before Kentucky's gubernatorial election, the ad wars are cutting along familiar lines — with Republicans spending heavily on immigration and Democrats focusing on health care.
Almost half of the $748,000 spent on television ads in the race over the last seven days has been on immigration. Republicans, including Gov. Matt Bevin's campaign and other outside groups, have spent the vast majority of that ($272,000) on ads that accuse Democratic Attorney Gen. Andy Beshear of supporting sanctuary cities, evoking images of notorious gang MS-13 and linking illegal immigration to the opioid crisis.
Beshear's campaign is also up with one immigration ad, which aims to push back at those attacks and emphasize his endorsement from the state's Fraternal Order of the Police.
Meanwhile, much of the Beshear campaign's primary messaging is around health care, a strategy evocative of the one that helped Democrats flip a bevy of purple House seats in 2018 (but notably fall short in a Lexington-area district).
And Bevin's campaign has spent about $95,000 on a spot highlighting Bevin's opposition to abortion rights.
Taken in total, that means that 86 percent of all ad spending in the race focuses primarily on these two issues, more proof that both sides are doubling down on the messaging that's been central to their parties in recent elections.
Biden to Trump: 'I'm not going anywhere'
RENO, Nev. — Former Vice President Joe Biden delivered his most forceful remarks to date scorning President Donald Trump for putting his own re-election interests over national security and stressing that the president’s attempt to intimidate him will not make him back down as a candidate for the presidency.
“Let me make something clear to Trump and his hatchet men and the special interests funding his attacks against me: I’m not going anywhere. You’re not going to destroy me. And you’re not going to destroy my family. I don’t care how much money you spend or how dirty the attacks get,” Biden said passionately to an applauding crowd made up of roughly 600 people inside the student center at Truckee Meadows Community College.
Biden went after Trump for putting national security at risk to “pursue a personal political vendetta” against a potential Democratic opponent. He called it “Exhibit A” in the lists of abuses of power.
He also challenged Trump, who he called “unhinged,” in his attempts to try and pick his Democratic opponent in a campaign shaped “on his terms.”
“I will put the integrity of my whole career in public service to this nation up against his long record of lying and cheating and stealing any day of the week,” Biden said. The line received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Biden remarks came after President Donald Trump continued to promote false claims about the former vice president’s record in the Ukraine and the role his son Hunter Biden played while advising a Ukrainian energy company in the same time period.
At a press conference Wednesday alongside the Norwegian president, Trump refused to respond to a reporter’s question asking what specifically he asked the Ukrainian president to investigate about the Biden’s. Avoiding the repeated question, Trump simply said “Biden and his son are stone-cold crooked” without providing factual evidence.
Biden began his speech by ticking through instances where Trump “corrupted and weaponized key agencies of government” as laid out by House investigating committees and the whistleblower’s complaint, someone who he called “courageous” for exposing the president’s “scheme.”
For the first time since reports of the whistleblower complaint broke, Biden explained his own record while doing business in Ukraine in an effort to clear the narrative hurled against him and Hunter by Trump and his allies that he called for the ousting of a prosecutor who had investigated the company Hunter was advising.
Biden said his role was to “root out corruption in Ukraine” alongside democratic organizations like the European Union and the International Monetary Fund and backed by the U.S. government.
“This was a fully transparent policy carried out in front of the whole world and fully embraced by the international community of democracies,” he said. “We weren’t pressing Ukraine to get rid of a tough prosecutor, we were pressing them to replace a weak prosecutor who wouldn’t do his job.”
Biden blamed Trump for trying to distract the election from the issues, telling the crowd that every “crazed” tweet he wastes time on issues that Biden, as president, would prioritize from climate change to healthcare reform.
He told the crowd, who was clearly feeding off his energy, that he would refuse to fall victim to Trump’s “lies, smears, distortions and name calling” to instead focus on representing the people and put their interests the White House.
“I’m not going to let him get away with this. I’m not backing down.”
Booker rolls out child poverty plan
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is out with a new plan specifically targeting child poverty as part of his presidential bid.
Citing a new study by Columbia University’s Center on Poverty & Social Policy, Booker's campaign says his plan could lift 7.3 million children out of poverty.
“When it comes to child poverty, we cannot be silent,” said Booker in the release. “In the richest country in the world, we have a moral responsibility to look after each other and make sure that every child living in America has the opportunity to grow and thrive.”
“We all benefit when everyone has a stake in our economy. Building on the same American spirit that gave us Social Security, Medicare, nutrition assistance, and so much more, we must come together to ensure that every child has a fair shot to participate in and benefit from our collective promise.”
Booker’s proposal builds on his existing labor, housing and Baby Bond plans, as well as his proposed Senate legislation like the Rise Credit to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit.
The new plan aims to meet basic needs, make work a pathway out of poverty, and knock down barriers to access by:
- Expanding the Child Tax Credit to create a $250-300 “child allowance” for families with kids
- Increasing the maximum SNAP benefit (food stamps) by 30 percent, rescinding Trump administration food stamp work requirements and expanding access to summer meals and free and reduced school lunches
- Increase funding for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a federal program that gives grants for families in need.
- Creating a national transitional jobs program with government-subsidized wages geared toward people living in poverty
- Passing the Child Care for Working Families Act to increase federal investment in high quality, affordable childcare
- Eliminating immigration status eligibility requirements for all safety net programs, including health coverage, and rescinding the Trump administration’s “public charge rule” that targets immigrants for deportation if they use such programs
The release notes there has not been a presidential debate question on child poverty since 1999, and criticizes that “issues of child poverty have been almost entirely absent from the campaign trail, despite the moral and economic imperative to act.”
In Booker’s home of Newark, NJ, 39 percent of children lived in households below the poverty line, according to a 2017 report.
Trump campaign spends more than $2 million on Facebook after Dems begin impeachment push
President Trump’s reelection campaign has launched a massive counteroffensive online in the wake of the House’s impeachment inquiry, spending more than $2.3 million dollars on Facebook ads last week.
“They are trying to stop ME because I am fighting for YOU,” reads one ad designed to reach voters in states across the country. “President Trump wakes up every day and battles the Fake News Media and a Radical Democrat Party. He does this because he loves the American people!” reads another.
The Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising operation between the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, has spent $1.2 million on Facebook between September 24 and September 30 to run ads on Trump's Facebook page, according to data publicly available via Facebook's ad library report.
The committee has also spent $820,000 to run ads through Vice President Mike Pence's page - his ads are focused largely on driving people to Trump rallies, while Trump's ad focuses on peddling an image of a President under attack and driving donations. Trump’s campaign has spent another $356,000 over the past week.
A large number of the Facebook ads currently running on Trump's page include a recently released video that aims to tie Vice President Biden to the Ukraine scandal and accuses the Democrats of trying to “steal” the 2020 elections.
Since May 2018, the Trump reelection campaign has spent nearly $20 million on the platform, Facebook data shows. And the reelection effort is raking in cash — the campaign and the RNC announced Tuesday it raised $125 over the last three months.
Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, said in a statement that the campaign is spending $8 million on an advertising buy to run that video on both cable and digital channels. It’s unclear, however, how much the campaign is planning to spend through each medium.
Also on Tuesday, the RNC placed almost $2.1 million in broadcast advertising time in a handful of markets, many home to vulnerable Democratic House members, according to data from media-tracking firm Advertising Analytics.
By comparison, in the same time span, former Vice President Joe Biden has spent $111,000 on the platform. In many of those ads, Biden’s campaign is using Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to drive potential Biden supporters to sign a "Stand with Joe" petition, asking users to share their contact info”
Klobuchar makes first TV ad buy in Iowa, New Hampshire
LAS VEGAS — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is getting on the airwaves in all-important Iowa and New Hampshire.
The campaign will spend six figures on its first TV ad buy of the Democratic primary, according to a campaign official. The thirty-second spot, shared first with NBC News, highlights Klobuchar's bipartisan, moderate pitch to voters.
"If you feel stuck in the middle of the extremes in our politics and you are tired of the noise and the nonsense, you’ve got a home with me," she says in the ad.
The ad closes with the Minnesota Senator on the Democratic debate stage, stating: "I don’t want to be the president for half of America. I want to be the president for all of America."
Klobuchar's move to get on TV comes as other campaigns are beginning to put their campaign war chests into advertising as well.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., announced his first paid TV ad Monday — a more than $1 million buy in the Hawkeye State. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren's, D-Mass., campaign recently announced in a memo that it would begin an ad-buying blitz across the early voting states for TV and digital, to the tune of eight-figures.
Trump, RNC combine for $125 million raised in third quarter
WASHINGTON – In a massive show of fundraising force, President Donald Trump’s re-election team announced Tuesday it had raised a record $125 million in the third quarter of 2019.
This giant haul, amassed between the president’s 2020 operation and the Republican National Committee, comes as the combined GOP effort is amassing an overwhelming war chest while Trump's possible Democratic rivals are still spending their way through a primary.
The Trump campaign reported having $156 million cash on hand, with a monstrous $308 million raised this year alone — approaching the $333 million the Trump team raised during the entire 2016 cycle.
A major contributing factor to the strong fundraising is the current impeachment inquiry stemming from the president’s conversations with the leader of Ukraine, according to RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.
“We are investing millions on the airwaves and on the ground to hold House Democrats accountable, highlight their obstruction, and take back the House and re-elect President Trump in 2020,” McDaniel said in a statement to NBC News.
The campaign quickly capitalized on the announcement of the congressional investigation last week. Within 24 hours of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s press conference announcing the impeachment inquiry, the Trump team said it raised $5 million.
By the end of the week, Trump’s son Eric was boasting the campaign had attracted 50,000 new donors as well. During that time, the president himself headlined fundraisers in New York City that brought in $8 million.
That, combined with a giant two-day swing in California the week before, meant the campaign alone raised nearly $30 million in the last two weeks of the quarter.
“President Trump has built a juggernaut of a campaign, raising record amounts of money at a record pace,” campaign manager Brad Parscale said, delighting in the “absolutely huge” figures.
Unlike other presidents in recent history, Trump virtually never stopped running even after his 2016 victory. He is the only president in modern history to file paperwork for another term on the day of his inauguration.
The campaign and RNC did not provide a detailed breakdown of the numbers. More information about the fundraising effort, including how much the Trump-aligned committees spent last quarter, will be available by Oct. 15, the deadline for committees to file third-quarter fundraising reports.
More than 50 former female ambassadors call on administration to protect Yovanovitch
WASHINGTON — More than 50 former female U.S. ambassadors are calling on President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a letter to protect foreign service officers from political retaliation in the wake of the ousting of the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.
The signatories of the letter are members of an organization of current and former ambassadors, Women Ambassadors Serving America. They point specifically to Trump’s comments about Yovanovitch to Ukrainian President Zelenskiy during a July 25 phone call, saying they “demean and threaten” the former ambassador and “raise serious concerns.”
“This appears to be a threat of retaliation for political reasons, which is both shocking and inappropriate,” they write. “For U.S. diplomacy to be an effective instrument of statecraft, it is vital that the non-partisan, non-political work of the dedicated public servants of the U.S. Department of State be respected and honored — just as we honor the contributions of U.S. military service members and other government colleagues.”
Among those who signed the letter are former U.N. ambassador Samantha Power and Dana Shell Smith, former U.S. ambassador to Qatar.
Only one current U.S. ambassador signed the letter: Catherine Ebert-Gray, a career foreign service officers who serves as the U.S. envoy to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Her signature comes with a notable caveat; She adds that “The views expressed are my own and not necessarily those of the U.S. government. Signing a public letter critical of the Trump administration could put current ambassadors at professional risk, which likely explains why Ebert-Gray is the only one to sign the letter.
Yovanovitch, a career diplomat who was named ambassador to Ukraine at the end of President Barack Obama’s second term, was abruptly recalled by Trump in May, ahead of when her term in Kiev was scheduled to end.
In Trump’s July 25 call, according to a memo about the call released by the White House, Trump called Yovanovitch “the woman” and “bad news.”
In the letter, the former ambassadors say Yovanovitch is a “highly respected” senior diplomat who may have been “singled out for retribution for partisan, political reasons.” They say allowing partisanship to enter diplomacy risks undercutting “U.S. diplomatic efforts and the safety of U.S. personnel worldwide.”
House Democrats have demanded that Yovanovitch and other U.S. officials named in the whistleblower complaint appear Thursday for a joint deposition with the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees.
But Pompeo released a letter publicly on Tuesday to House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel pushing back, calling it an attempt to “intimidate" and "bully" them and saying he would “use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead.”
Late Tuesday, two congressional committee aides told NBC News that Yovanovitch will indeed sit for a joint deposition – but not until Oct. 11. The aides said that delayed appearance comes with the agreement of both the committees and counsel.
S.C. poll: Biden leads, retains huge advantage with black voters
A new poll of Democratic voters in South Carolina shows that Joe Biden remains the frontrunner in the early primary state. And the former vice president retains a major advantage with African American Democrats, although Elizabeth Warren bests him among white Democrats.
The poll, conducted by Winthrop University, shows Biden leading with 37 percent support overall, followed by Warren at 17 percent. Bernie Sanders receives 8 percent support, while 7 percent of Democrats back Kamala Harris. Pete Buttigieg and Cory Booker receive 4 and 3 percent, respectively. No other candidate gets more than 2 percent among all voters.
Among African American voters, it’s 46 percent for Biden, 10 percent for Harris, 9 percent for Warren, 8 percent for Sanders, and 4 percent for Booker. Buttigieg, who has struggled for traction with nonwhite Democratic voters, received zero percent support among African American voters.
Among white Democrats, it’s 29 percent for Warren, 22 percent for Biden, and 10 percent for Buttigieg.
The poll is on the list of qualifying surveys for candidates hoping to meet the DNC’s requirements to participate in November’s Democratic debate. Booker’s 3 percent support in the Winthrop poll puts him just one qualifying poll away from making the stage. The deadline for qualifying will be seven days before the date of the November debate.
The poll was conducted September 21-30, 2019. The margin of error among 463 Democratic registered voters is +/- 4.6 percent.
Sanders to go up on air with first buy of $1.3 million
LOS ANGELES — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is already putting some of the money raised during his $25 million third-quarter to use, with the campaign Tuesday afternoon announcing its first paid TV advertisement of the 2020 cycle.
The $1.3 million ad buy, titled “Fights for us,” will begin hitting the airwaves in Iowa on Thursday and run for two weeks.
The ad focuses on Sanders being what the narrator calls a “fighter” for the working class, and features video from his campaign announcement in February, as well as various campaign stops at Fight for $15 marches and "Medicare for All" rallies.
The campaign says this ad was produced entirely in-house. NBC News confirmed last week that the campaign filmed another, yet to be released, spot during a recent town hall in Des Moines.
The image of Sanders as a lifelong advocate for workers rights and the rights of the middle class has been a key messaging point for the campaign. And the push has picked up in recent weeks as Sanders tries to distinguish himself from Sen. Warren, who is rising in the polls with similar messaging.
The campaign made the decision to begin skipping some of the recent all-candidate “cattle-call” events to instead attend events that include standing on union picket lines and supporting workers.
Until now, Sanders hadn't hit the airwaves in any state. So far, billionaire Tom Steyer has been the largest spender in Iowa on television and radio with $5 million. South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg has spent $900,000 so far on ads in the state, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden's $688,000 and $562,000 from California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris' campaign, according to spending data from Advertising Analytics.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., spent $924,000 on television ads in Iowa this cycle. But she dropped out of the race over the summer.
Claudia Tenney joins group of former GOP lawmakers running for revenge in 2020
Former GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney announced a comeback bid Tuesday, an attempt to win back the New York congressional seat she held before losing in 2018.
Tenney announced her bid Tuesday morning in a video, shared on social media, that centers on the idea of resilience, sharing the story of her trying to raise her child as a single mother. The video doesn't explicitly mention her past bid or President Trump, who loomed large over her 2018 loss. Trump won the district by 15 points in 2016.
If she makes it through the GOP primary, she'll run against Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi, the former state assemblyman who narrowly defeated her in 2018.
Tenney is far from the only former Republican lawmaker looking to win a federal office in 2020. Here's a look at some of her former colleagues who are trying to do the same thing.
Karen Handel, R-Ga.
Handel is no stranger to a tough race — she won the pivotal Georgia 2017 special House election that took center-stage as the first major referendum on the Trump administration.
But while she vanquished Democrat Jon Ossoff (who is now running for Senate) in that race, she lost her seat slightly more than a year later when Democrat Lucy McBath beat her in the 2018 midterms.
Handel quickly launched her campaign to win back her old seat earlier this year, and has been trying to paint McBath as too liberal for the purple district.
David Valadao, R-Calif.
Valadao jumped back into the fray this past summer with a quest to win back the seat he lost last cycle to Democrat TJ Cox.
Cox has been one of the top freshman targets for Republicans this cycle who have hammered him for his business record.
Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
Issa is unique in that he didn't lose in 2018 like his other colleagues on this list—he decided to retire instead of running again in a difficult race. Democrats ultimately flipped his seat in the 49th Congressional District, but Issa is seeking a new home: the 50th Congressional District, currently represented by indicted GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter.
Hunter's fate is uncertain, as he faces charges that he misused his campaign cash, and GOP leaders stripped him of his committee assignments in response to those charges. But Hunter barely beat Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar last November.
Scott Taylor, R-Va.
Taylor's southeastern Virginia seat didn't initially seem like a top candidate to flip in 2018, but when the dust settled, the Republican congressman found himself out of a job, defeated by Democrat Eliane Luria.
Now out of office, he's set to run against Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner in a state that's been drifting toward Democrats in recent years.
Jason Lewis, R-Minn.
Lewis is the other member of the class of vanquished Republican congressmen of 2018 seeking to win a new gig in the Senate. After beating Democrat Angie Craig in 2016, Lewis couldn't fend her off again last November.
He announced his Senate bid this summer against Minnesota Democratic Sen. Tina Smith.
Sanders releases income inequality tax proposal
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., unveiled an income inequality tax plan Monday, proposing to raise taxes on companies “with exorbitant pay gaps between their executives and workers.”
This tax comes a week after Sanders released a wealth tax that would tax net worth above $32 million on an increasing scale.
Sanders’ campaign says this income inequality tax plan will raise an estimated $150 billion over the next decade, and the revenue generated will be used to pay for his plan to eliminate medical debt.
Sanders’ proposal would impose tax rate increases on companies with CEO-to-median-worker ratios above 50-to-1, meaning if the CEO is being paid 50 times more than the median worker is being paid, taxes would go up. The tax proposal would apply to all private and publicly held corporations with annual revenue of more than $100 million. According to the plan, if the CEO did not receive the largest paycheck in the firm, the ratio will be based on the highest-paid employee.
In the plan, the campaign calls out American companies by name, including Home Depot, American Airlines and McDonalds, among others. The campaign says if Sanders’ plan had been in effect last year, McDonald’s would have paid up to $110.9 million more in taxes, Walmart would have paid up to $793.8 million more in taxes, JP MorganChase would have paid up to $991.6 million more in taxes, Home Depot would have paid up to $538.2 million more in taxes, and American Airlines would have paid up to $18.8 million more in taxes.
The campaign says that if companies increased annual median worker pay to just $60,000 and reduced their CEO compensation to $3 million they would not owe any additional taxes under this new tax plan.
Tom Steyer's ad spending approaches $20 million
WASHINGTON — Democrat Tom Steyer has now spent nearly $20 million over the TV and radio airwaves — substantially more than any other Democrat running in the 2020 presidential contest, according to ad-spending data from Advertising Analytics.
In total, Steyer has dropped $16.8 million in TV and radio ads, with most of it targeted to the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
And the spending appears to be helping him — at least when it comes to qualifying for the upcoming debates: CNN polls of Nevada and South Carolina released over the weekend showed Steyer reaching or surpassing the 3 percent needed to qualify for November’s Democratic debate.
To participate in November’s debate, candidates must reach at least 3 percent support in four qualifying polls or 5 percent in two early-state polls.
Total TV/radio spending as of Sept. 30
Steyer: $16.8 million
Gillibrand: $1.7 million (has ended campaign)
Gabbard: $1.0 million
Iowa TV/radio spending as of Sept. 30
Steyer: $5.0 million
New Hampshire TV/radio spending as of Sept. 30
Steyer: $3.8 million
Nevada TV/radio spending as of Sept. 30
Steyer: $3.0 million
South Carolina TV/radio spending as of Sept. 30
Steyer: $3.8 million
SOURCE: Advertising Analytics
Sixth Texas House Republican announces retirement
WASHINGTON — A sixth Republican House member from the state of Texas won’t run for re-election in 2020.
Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee and a member of the state’s delegation since 1994, made the announcement in a statement Monday.
“We are reminded, however, that 'for everything there is a season,' and I believe that the time has come for a change,” he said. “Therefore, this is my last term in the U.S. House of Representatives.”
Thornberry joins five other Texas GOP colleagues in announcing his retirement. Reps. Pete Olson, Mike Conaway, Will Hurd, Kenny Marchant and Bill Flores have also said they’re calling it quits.
But unlike some of his fellow retirees, Thornberry represents a district that’s very unlikely to be competitive in the next election.
His Panhandle-area district is heavily conservative, voting for both Donald Trump and Mitt Romney with 80 percent of the vote. Thornberry won his last reelection by a similar margin.
ICYMI: Political stories of the week that didn't include the "I" word
WASHINGTON – The last week in Washington has been filled with information dumps on President Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the whistleblower report and House Democrats launching an impeachment inquiry. With all of that in mind, here are some stories you may have missed that don't include the word "impeachment".
A federal judge blocked new Trump administration regulations that would have allowed for migrant children to be held indefinitely. The judge ruled that the rule would violate the 1997 Flores agreement sets standards for how and where migrant children are held.
Three years after Congress created a federal control board to oversee Puerto Rico's finances, the board filed a plan that would decrease the U.S. territory's debt by 60 percent. If the plan is approved, it would reduce Puerto Rico's annual debt service to under 9 percent – it is currently almost 30 percent.
Religious-based adoption agencies that contract with the state of Michigan won't have to place children in LGBTQ homes based on a preliminary injunction from a federal judge. The Attorney General of Michigan, Dana Nessel, who argued agencies couldn't discriminate against LGBTQ homes, is the first openly-gay statewide officeholder.
The Arkansas state government decided to relinquish partial control of the city's schools to be run by a locally-elected school board. The plan was never made available for public comment. Those concerned with the plan say that the part of the schools that will be run by an elected board are the better-performing, majority white areas of the city, while the lesser-performing, majority black and latino parts of the school system will be run by the state or a third party. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) rejected the notion that this would lead to a resegregation of schools.
Twelve candidates will share the stage at next Democratic debate
WASHINGTON — The October Democratic primary debate will feature all 12 qualifying candidates on one night.
The debate will be held on Oct. 15 in Westerville, Ohio, and hosted by CNN and The New York Times. The three prior Democratic debates have all limited the size of the stage to 10 candidates. The first two debates were held on two separate nights to accommodate all 20 candidates who qualified for those while the September debate only had 10 candidates who qualified.
The 12 candidates who have already qualified for the October debate are: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, D-Ind., former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-HI, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Andrew Yang.
Steyer and Gabbard are the only additions to the debate stage. Gabbard appeared at the first two debates but failed to qualify for the third, and this will be Steyer's first time qualifying for the debate.
All other candidates have until Oct. 1 to qualify for the debate, but it's unlikely any will do so.
Elizabeth Warren releases plan to combat lobbyists
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has a new plan to tackle corruption — this time focusing on empowering Congress by funding agencies that would lessen reliance on lobbyist knowledge.
Warren claims that Congress has defunded or underfunded many of the services that lawmakers would ordinarily turn to in order to understand complex legislative topics, resulting in lawmakers turning to lobbyists.
“Members of Congress should have the resources they need to make decisions without relying on corporate lobbyists,” Warren wrote. “My anti-corruption plan reinstates and modernizes the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), strengthens congressional support agencies and transitions congressional staffers to competitive salaries so that Congress can act based on the best expertise and information available.“
The Office of Technology Assessment is an office that used to publish reports to help Congress understand complex science and tech topics. The office was dismantled in 1995 by a Republican congressional majority. Warren says the office should be led by a single director and should also expand on what kind of topics the office can write about, “such as preparing for hearings, writing regulatory letters, and weighing in on agency rulemaking.”
In addition, Warren calls for increased funding for other Congressional support agencies like the Congressional Research Service, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Government Accountability Office. Warren says these funding increases will be paid for by “a tax on excessive lobbying.” Warren also calls for increased salaries for congressional staffers in order to better retain staff.
This is yet another piece in Warren’s overall campaign against what she calls corruption in Washington. “These reforms are vital parts of my plan to free our government from the grip of lobbyists — and restore the public’s trust in its government in the process,” Warren wrote.
Warren has also called for the elimination of “lobbying as we know it” and “shutting down the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street.”
Booker: Withholding Ukraine aid for political gain would be 'treasonous'
WASHINGTON — Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., called accusations that President Trump withheld aid to Ukraine for political purposes "treasonous," hours after a new report quoted Trump attacking the whistleblower who raised concerns about the president's conversations with the Ukrainian president.
Speaking from New Hampshire during an appearance on MSNBC, Booker responded to Thursday's testimony from Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire as well as a new report in the New York Times that Trump called the whistleblower "close to a spy" and added: "You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right?"
"It's not surprising that Donald Trump doesn't know the difference between patriotism and treason. If there are any treasonous actions here, it is coming from the White House," he said, before pointing to the allegation that Trump may have linked American aid to Ukraine to the country investigating former Vice President Joe Biden.
"We as Congress, in a bipartisan fashion, approved that aid. And now we are realizing that this president was withholding that aid, not for national security purposes, in fact, violating national security interests, to pursue his own personal benefit. That's outrageous, and in my opinion, that is treasonous," Booker added.
Pete Buttigieg’s latest television ad takes aim at Medicare For All
DES MOINES, IA — South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is out with his latest TV ad for his presidential campaign Wednesday, which takes aim at some of his opponents’ support of “Medicare for All.”
Throughout the 30-second spot titled, “Your Choice,” Buttigieg explains how his “Medicare for All Who Want It,” plan would work. Graphics on-screen help the viewer follow along, pointing out how his plan will, “go about it in a very different way than [his] competitors.”
He ends the video looking directly into the camera, delivering this definitive line, “Now, others say it’s 'Medicare for All,' or nothing. I approve this message to say, the choice should be yours.”
The spot is the candidate's third television ad to go up in Iowa, and the campaign says it will air statewide across broadcast, cable and digital platforms.
Buttigieg used similar language during the September debate when the conversation turned to Medicare for All. “I trust the American people to make the right choice for them. Why don't you?,” Buttigieg said on stage, directing his comments at Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who wrote the primary 'Medicare for All' bill.
This sentiment is echoed by Buttigieg on the campaign trail, who repeatedly touted his health care plan during his recent four-day bus tour through Iowa.
Buttigieg officially debuted his plan last week, which he says would allow millions of Americans to opt into a public insurance plan. That competition, he argues, would force private insurers to compete, driving costs down or create an organic shift of Americans toward the new public option. Buttigieg's campaign estimates the plan would cost $1.5 trillion over the next decade.
This might be the first time he's making this argument on television, but Buttigieg's Facebook ads have been more direct in calling out Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., by name for their support for 'Medicare for All.'
“Medicare for All Who Want It will create a public alternative, but unlike the Sanders-Warren vision it doesn’t dictate it to the American people and risk further polarizing them," one ad reads.
Trump campaign launches rapid reaction to impeachment push
WASHINGTON — Within hours of the news that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was formally launching an impeachment inquiry Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s campaign countered with a multifaceted rapid response strategy.
Some of it was as simple as blasting fundraising emails, referencing the new “Official Impeachment Defense Task Force.” Other tactics included a slickly-produced video of Democrats defending their “sole focus” of “fighting Trump” that was long in the making.
“We’ve had that ready for weeks in case the Democrats were that dumb. And they were,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told NBC News.
About thirty minutes after Pelosi made her announcement, the campaign sent a text from the president that read: “Nancy just called for Impeachment. WITCH HUNT! I need you on my Impeachment Defense Team ALL GIFTS 2X-MATCHED for 1 HOUR. Donate NOW.”
Apart from that, the re-elect effort released multiple reaction statements, fired off dozens of coordinated tweets from senior aides’ accounts and retweeted top surrogates, all decrying the move by House Democrats.
The campaign is used to this type of give and take. Some of its best fundraising periods were direct responses to the release of the redacted Mueller report and corresponding testimony on Capitol Hill
Officials said this kind of messaging will sharpen in the coming months and these counterpunches are simply a preview of the Trump campaign approach as 2020 gets into full swing.
13 House Democrats in Trump districts support some action on Trump impeachment
WASHINGTON — Of the 31 Democratic members who hold seats won by Trump in 2016, we now know that 13 are calling for some movement on impeachment, bringing NBC’s count to nearly 180 House Democrats who favor some action regarding impeachment as of 4:30 p.m. ET.
Chris Pappas (NH-1): Trump won district by 2 percent.
Lauren Underwood (IL-14): Trump won district by 4 percent.
Angie Craig (MN-2): Trump won district by 1 percent.
Elaine Luria (VA-2): Trump won district by 3 percent.
Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11): Trump won district by 1 percent.
Elissa Slotkin (MI-8): Trump won district by 6 percent.
Abigail Spanberger (VA-7): Trump won district by 6 percent.
Haley Stevens (MI-11): Trump won district by 4 percent.
Antonio Delgado (NY-19): Trump won district by 6 percent.
Susie Lee (NV-3): Trump won district by 1 percent.
Andy Kim (NJ-3): Trump won district by 6 percent.
Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18): Trump won district by 2 percent.
Cheri Bustos (IL-17): Trump won district by 1 percent.
N.H. poll: Warren holds slim lead, Gabbard qualifies for October Democratic debate
WASHINGTON — A new poll out Tuesday shows Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., with a narrow lead in the New Hampshire primary and also appears to have booked Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, a spot in October's Democratic presidential debate.
Gabbard hit two percent support in the new Monmouth University poll of New Hampshire, giving her four qualifying polls of at least 2 percent. That same poll also found Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren narrowly ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden, 27 percent to 25 percent. Warren's lead is within the poll's 4.9 percent margin of error.
Democratic candidates need to hit at least 2 percent in four qualifying polls and raise money from 130,000 unique donors in order to qualify for the October event. So while the Democratic National Committee won't certify the official slate of candidates until next week, an NBC News analysis shows Gabbard is poised to join the stage.
The debate will be on Oct. 15 in Westerville, Ohio. It’s possible that the DNC will divide the field and hold a second debate the following day, but the party doesn’t comment until it has officially certified the participants.
Those who also appear to have qualified are: Former Vice President Joe Biden; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren; Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders; California Sen. Kamala Harris; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana; New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar; former Housing Secretary Julián Castro; former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke; entrepreneur Andrew Yang; and billionaire Tom Steyer.
Both Steyer and Gabbard were not on September's debate stage, but have since qualified.
The DNC announced Wednesday it was raising the bar for its November debate, a move that could cull the debate stage once again.
'Sometimes I am misread': On bus tour, Buttigieg looks to pull back the curtain
ELKADER, Iowa — Forty-one hours into his first bus tour through Northeastern Iowa, Pete Buttigieg had done very little complaining.
After five town halls and another nine or so hours of questioning by the press, the South Bend mayor seemed more composed than when he’d started. But when a reporter asked whether voters view him as emotionally distant, it hit a nerve.
“Sometimes I am misread as being bloodless,”Buttigieg said, sitting back in an armchair as his bus rolled toward Elkader, Iowa, population 1,273.
He said it was irritating that the media acts as if his early work as a consultant defined his personality — “or like that I have a technocratic soul,” Buttigieg said. “I do not have a technocratic soul.”
Then he laid out his theory of leadership in terms that were, well, technical.
“If there’s a way to deal with a problem that can make everybody better off while making nobody worse off, then by definition it should be done, and it doesn’t really take a lot of courage or judgment,” Buttigieg said. “That’s the part of a politician’s job that should be automated.”
“I think you earn your paycheck in politics dealing with moral issues, not technical issues,” he added. “What do you do when there’s winners or losers? What do you do when one of our values collides with another? That’s why we have human beings.”
If Buttigieg senses a disconnect in how he’s publicly perceived, it may explain why he decided to rent a luxury bus, load it full of about a dozen reporters, liquor and candy, and drive around Iowa for four days — all on the record.
Despite massive fundraising and crowds that regularly dwarf those of his rivals, Buttigieg is struggling to break into the top tier in the Democratic race, a triumvirate comprising Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, with Buttigieg a distant fourth in most polls. The most recent survey in Iowa saw his support drop five points, to just 9 percent.
More than four months still separate the candidates from the first contest, the Iowa caucuses. But ultimately, if Buttigieg cannot convert the clear enthusiasm from rally-goers and donors into hard support from voters, it becomes the existential dilemma of his campaign.
So Buttigieg is returning to some of the guerrilla-style campaign tactics that transformed him from the unknown mayor of a midsize Indiana town into a household name, a fundraising phenomenon and a history-maker in the form of America’s first major openly gay presidential candidate.
It’s “radical transparency,” as Buttigieg’s media adviser Lis Smith calls it: a four-day rolling press conference, harkening back to the late Sen. John McCain’s “Straight Talk Express.”
Buttigieg’s advisers argue that by putting himself at the mercy of endless inquisition, he proves not only agility but also the authenticity of someone who speaks their mind so faithfully that they can’t be pushed off-message.
“Something absurd could happen in the next 90 seconds and you could ask me about it, and you’ll see how I think in real time,” Buttigieg said during a particularly long stretch on the bus.
In reality, it’s also a way to use the novelty of seeing a politician in unusual circumstances to generate massive amounts of media attention. The strategy is not unlike how Buttigieg propelled himself into the political conversation earlier this year by saying yes to just about every interview request — not just cable news and magazine profiles but also less obvious, potentially riskier choices like late-night talk shows, niche websites and TMZ.
“Just out of curiosity, who’s responsible for this?” Buttigieg said with a playful grin as he boarded the bus picked up a near-empty bottle of Bulleit bourbon that had been full when the bus pulled in to Waterloo the night before.
Yet if the hope was that the cozy intimacy of a bus would lead to deeper conversations and more intimate insights into the candidate, it seemed tempered by the candidate’s tendency to operate at the same measured tempo regardless of the venue.
As the bus ambled through Newton the evening Buttigieg’s tour started, there was all the polite awkwardness of a first date. Reporters lobbed policy questions they already knew the answers to, groping for more lighthearted topics like how many of his signature white shirts he’d brought on the trip (four, plus a single pair of jeans) and what Buttigieg would be doing if not for politics (“happily be living as a literary critic at a university”).
By day two, the obvious topics had been covered and the conversation descended into the more mundane: Buttigieg’s favorite road trip snacks, exercise regimen on the road, least favorite part about the campaign trail (“You miss home”). By the third day, Smith, his communications guru, seemed agitated.
“Can I just say something, guys? We’re all here on the bus. Ask whatever you want. Like, this works both ways,” Smith said. “If you guys keep asking the same questions over and over again, you’re going to get boring answers.”
As the blue-and-gold-wrapped bus rolled out of Waterloo on Monday, Buttigieg seemed to settle into a looser, more edifying style of reflection about himself and the state of the race. He weighed in on why Warren is gaining traction — “because she’s really good” — and sharpened his argument against Biden, without mentioning him by name.
“The part about the electability debate that I'm really trying to turn on its head is the idea that you need the most stable, familiar face to be elected,” Buttigieg said. “I don’t think we’d be here if people liked what they were getting out to the establishment, which means that sending in the establishment is a terrible way to try to win the election.”
Buttigieg has often cited former Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod’s theory that holds that voters tend to seek the opposite of their current president — the “remedy,” not the “replica.”
As he fielded question after question on Iowa’s highways, the unanswerable one seemed to be whether that “opposites” theory still holds true in the era of President Trump: Do voters want a steady, “safe choice” as a counterweight to today’s chaos, or did Trump’s election prove Americans eager for a disruptor who will channel their frustrations?
“We’re so used to candidates that appeal to emotional stuff. He gave a more thoughtful presentation today,” said Jim Klosterboer, a 70-year-old from McGregor, after seeing Buttigieg speak for the first time in nearby Elkader. “I think it’s slow building because the emotional stuff isn’t there.”
“The charisma-type stuff,” chimed in his friend, Jay Moser, a retired pharmacist.
Klosterboer’s wife, Laurie, 67, disagreed.
“Well, he’s got charisma, personality,” the retired teacher said. “And in the White House, you want thoughtful intelligence, experience.”
NBC News' Charlie Gile contributed.
Booker campaign raises more than $500,000 since Saturday as it seeks to stay afloat in Dem primary
WASHINGTON — New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker's Democratic presidential campaign has raised more than a half-million dollars since its Saturday morning plea for donors to help the campaign hit its fundraising goal by the end of the month or drop out.
The Booker campaign told supporters, staff and reporters on Saturday that it needed to raise $1.7 million more by the end of the month, the third fundraising quarter of 2019, in order to stay afloat.
Booker addressed that ultimatum on Monday's "Morning Joe," revealing that Saturday and Sunday have been "the two best fundraising days of our campaign so far."
"We got in this race not for an exercise in ego or a vanity project, but we got in to win," he said.
"We have built a campaign to win but we want to be very honest with people — the fourth quarter is where you grow, and if we don't have the money to grow, we are not going to be able to stay competitive."
— Vaughn Hillyard contributed.
NBC/WSJ poll: Voters divided over environmental, energy proposals
As world leaders gather in New York City for a special United Nations summit on climate change, American voters are divided over key proposals for energy and environmental policy, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows.
The poll, released over the weekend, found that about half of voters — 52 percent — back a proposal to shift the United States to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, including stopping the use of coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power.
And 45 percent want to ban hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking.
Those two proposals, which are among those being backed by environmental activists, have majority support among Democrats. About eight-in-ten Democratic primary voters — 81 percent — back a total move to renewable energy, while 58 percent support a fracking ban.
But both proposals also face strong opposition from Republicans. Three-quarters of Republicans say they oppose a shift away from conventional energy sources, with 58 percent saying they strongly oppose the move.
Opposition to a fracking ban is slightly more muted for GOP voters, although a majority — 55 percent — oppose it. Thirty-five percent of Republicans say they strongly oppose such a ban.
Republicans are far more enthusiastic about drilling for oil off the coast of the United States. That garners the support of 81 percent of GOP voters and about half — 51 percent — of voters overall. Just 24 percent of Democratic primary voters, however, agree.
The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted Sept. 13-16. The margin of error for all adults is +/- 3.27 percentage points.
Democratic candidates stump at the Iowa Steak Fry – Part 2
DES MOINES, IA – Seventeen Democratic presidential candidates took the stage at the Iowa Steak Fry on Saturday to address the crowd of potential caucus-goers. Here are some highlights from the second half of those candidates:
Michael Bennet: Bennet played up his moderate side during his time at the steak fry podium when he reminded the crowd that “We won the House back in 2018 with Democrats running on a public option not Medicare for All,” and in 2020, “We need to nominate somebody who has run tough races as I have in Colorado who says the same thing in the primary as they say in the general election.”
Julián Castro: Paging House Democrats, Castro opened his stump speech with a simple call, “It is time for you to do your job and impeach Donald Trump. How many crimes does this president have to commit before Congress will act and impeach him?”
Tulsi Gabbard: Gabbard addressed President Trump's decision to deploy troops to Saudi Arabia and said that she is running for president to end these “regime change wars.” She called the reality of never-ending wars “insanity.”
Tom Steyer: Tom Steyer spearheaded his presidential campaign with his organization "Need to Impeach", and he continued that message in Iowa: "You're never gonna see someone from this stage conspire with the president of Ukraine to use American tax dollars for his political purposes - I can promise you that. That's why I started Need To Impeach two years ago - cause I knew he was a criminal."
Joe Sestak: Sestak introduced himself to the crowd in Iowa and called out President Trump for dodging the draft during the Vietnam War, while touting his own Navy service.
Marianne Williamson: By the time Williamson took the microphone, the crowd had thinned at the steak fry but she stuck to her normal campaign speech about only being able to change the "era of political theatre" by creating a new phenomenon.
Steve Bullock: Steve Bullock stuck to his campaign stump focusing on this next election being the "most important" in "our lifetimes" and that Democrats need to pick up seats in some areas that they lost "along the way." Of course, that did not lead to a Senate candidacy announcement.
Tim Ryan: When Tim Ryan grabbed the microphone, the crowd had thinned as it started to pour. But Ryan told the remaining crowd that, "we don't stop playing football" when it rains, so he wouldn't stop politicking either. Ryan told the remaining crowd that he understands rural America and he will "rebuild" small towns.
Democratic candidates stump at the Iowa Steak Fry – Part 1
DES MOINES, IA – Seventeen Democratic presidential candidates took the stage at the Iowa Steak Fry on Saturday to address the crowd of potential caucus-goers. Here are some highlights from the first half of those candidates:
Beto O’Rourke: O’Rourke capitalized on his “hell yes” comments regarding mandatory buybacks for certain assault weapons: “People will ask us, they'll say, 'Hey Beto, aren't you afraid that you've gone too far, that you really pissed off the NRA this time?', I'm not afraid of that. No, I'm not afraid of that. I would be afraid if I were a school teacher in a kindergarten classroom and those kids for whom I'd already sacrificed so much were up against a gunman with an AR-15 because we didn't have the courage to stop him while we still had time.”
Kamala Harris: Harris gave an abbreviated version of her stump speech, plugging the joke that she’s going to move to Iowa. She focused on her message of “prosecuting the case of four more years with Donald Trump.” The crowd briefly echoed her, chanting “Dude’s gotta go.”
Cory Booker: Booker did not mention his fundraising needs while at the microphone, and rather stuck to talking about bringing people together: “We will win this election not by dividing democrats but have people who unite us and bring us together.”
Elizabeth Warren: Warren, who was one of the first presidential candidates to call for the impeachment of President Trump began her stump speech with seconding that call: “He has solicited another foreign government to attack our election system, it is time for us to call out this illegal behavior and start impeachment proceedings right now.”
Bernie Sanders: Sanders stuck to his stump speech at the steak fry and discussed combatting white nationalism “in all of its ugly faults.” Per the NBC team, Sanders’ voice seemed to be fading and he has 12 events this week.
Andrew Yang: While Yang waited until about halfway through his speech to discuss his freedom dividend plan, Yang called on Iowans to “solve the biggest problem of all time” – Donald Trump. While the crowd seemed a bit unfamiliar with Yang, the Yang campaign told NBC he will be making more frequent trips to Iowa.
Joe Biden: Biden dug in on a line he made at the last Democratic debate that he’s “with Barack” when it comes to health care. During his time at the microphone Biden said, “I'm opposed to anybody who wants to take down Obamacare,” and, “we have to finish the job and we can do it because the American public now understands what they had and were given by Obamacare as Trump tries to take it away.”
Pete Buttigieg: Buttigieg had a hearty reaction from the crowd with continued cheers throughout his speech, and he took a pretty direct aim at former Vice President Joe Biden’s line that President Trump could be an “aberration.” Buttigieg said, “We are not going to be able to replace this president if we think he's just a blip. Just an aberration. It's going to take more than that. We want to win and deserve to win we can't water down our values.”
Amy Klobuchar: The Iowa Steak Fry comes at the end of Klobuchar’s “Blue Wall Tour” and she hit on the need to win back blue wall states during her stump: “I went to Wisconsin, I met with our farmers and then I went to Iowa and all that way from Pennsylvania to Iowa in 2020, my friends, we are going build a blue wall and we are going to make – we are going to make Donald Trump pay for it.”
2020 Democrats make big entrances at the Iowa Steak Fry
WASHINGTON – Before the Democratic presidential candidates take the stage at the Iowa Steak Fry and speak with potential caucus-goers, they need to make an entrance.
The NBC team in Des Moines watched as the candidates marched into the steak fry with waves of supporters, a mariachi band and a drum line. Here's a look at how some of the candidates made their appearance:
Bernie Sanders releases new plan to eliminate medical debt
DES MOINES, IA – Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Saturday released his plan to eliminate $81 billion in past-due medical debt and remove and exclude future medical debt from credit reports.
Under the Sanders plan a public credit registry would be created to replace for-profit credit reporting agencies like Equifax and TransUnion.
The campaign first previewed the plan on Aug. 30 at a town hall in South Carolina when he was asked about what plan he would offer to people dealing with medical debt. At the time Sanders said he was looking at legislation to offer that would eliminate such debt.
Sanders is holding a medical debt and health care bankruptcy town hall tomorrow in Iowa where he's expected to talk about the new plan.
Some specifics of the plan are:
- Eliminate $81 billion in past-due medical debt. Under this plan, the campaign says the federal government will negotiate and pay off past-due medical bills in collections that have been reported to credit agencies.
- End what the campaign calls “abusive and harassing” debt collection practices, by:
- Prohibiting the collection of debt beyond statute of limitations
- Limiting the number of times collectors can attempt to get in contact with individuals regardless of number or about of past-due bills
- Limit what can be seized/garnished in collection, to ensure Americans do not lose homes, jobs or primary vehicles during this process.
- Under a Sanders campaign, the IRS would be asked to review “billing and collection practices” of non-profit hospitals to ensure they are following charitable care standards to align with their non-profit tax status
- Sen. Bernie Sanders also wants to create “public credit registry.” The campaign says this will “end racial biases in credit scores,” and ensure that those with medical debt are not penalized for getting sick
- This would allow Americans to receive credit score for free.
- This would also end the use of credit checks for rental housing, employment and insurance.
- All medical debt would be removed and excluded from existing and future credit reports
DNC offers conditional approval for Iowa’s plan to satellite caucus
DES MOINES, Iowa — The Democratic National Convention Rules and Bylaws Committee announced Friday that it has granted conditional approval for the Iowa Democratic Party’s plan to host a satellite caucus in 2020.
This comes exactly two weeks after, the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee struck down the state Democratic Party's proposal to host a “virtual caucus,” due to security concerns.
While presenting the new plan on a conference call, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price acknowledged that setback, but focused on the future.
“I know these last few weeks have been filled with some uncertainty over our process,” he said. “With your approval, we will put an end to that, and allow for all of us, the IDP, the campaigns, and most importantly our voters to get back to the task at hand.”
A satellite caucus, which was was first offered in 2016, allows people to caucus in other locations beyond designated precincts. For example, workers on the third shift at a factory or seniors at a nursing home could gather in those locations to caucus. In addition, Iowa caucus-goers living outside the state will have the option to satellite caucus.
Much like in a traditional precinct caucus, each satellite location will have a trained captain who’s charged with overseeing the room, managing volunteers and reporting the results.
Each satellite site will be considered its own precinct and all the satellite “precincts” within a given congressional district will be counted at one county. Congressional districts will receive an additional percentage of delegates based on the number of people who “satellite” caucus.
According to the plan, Democrats in Iowa would have less than two months to apply to satellite caucus by the Nov. 18 deadline. Price promises a “robust education effort” in October to inform voters of this option, which includes hiring additional staff to focus on outreach and accessibility.
Concerns have been raised around legal protections for workers looking to satellite caucus while at work, but Price said an accessibility organizer will work with people in that situation to determine how best to proceed.
While these plans were born out of a new DNC requirement aimed at making caucusing easier following the 2016 Democratic primary, it remains to be seen how many people will actually take advantage of this option. According to the Des Moines Register, in 2016 only four sites participated in the satellite caucus, a disparaging number considering the state has more than 1,600 traditional precincts.
Nonetheless, Price says that he’s confident this plan will increase participation, “I am confident that our 2020 caucuses will be the most successful in our state’s history.”
Black progressives condemn 'racist' attacks on Working Family Party leaders after Warren endorsement
More than 100 black progressive leaders penned a letter Thursday condemning "hateful, violent and racist threats" levied by self-described supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders at the minority leadership of the Working Families Party, a campaign of harassment that began after the party endorsed his progressive rival, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, for the Democratic presidential nomination earlier this week.
"These incredible leaders who led an organization to take a risk by lifting up the leadership of Black, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander and white communities in coalescing around a candidate with enough time to engage their communities deeply ahead of the 2020 election, are being threatened on a daily basis, by self-identified Sanders supporters, with hateful, violent and racist threats," said the letter, which was obtained by NBC News.
"'Uncle Tom.' 'Slave.' 'C***.' These kinds of threats have no place in our movements, and are reminiscent of the threats Black people would receive when daring to vote even though the white supremacists would try and discourage Black people from doing so," the letter continued.
Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, one of the letter’s signatories, also penned a Medium blog post condemning the attacks, saying, "It's agonizing, it’s painful, it's demoralizing.”
Splinter first reported the story.
Earlier this week, the Working Families Party, a minor political party, endorsed Warren over Sanders after a three-month endorsement process in which Warren snagged 61 percent of the vote to Sanders’s 36 percent. The party previously endorsed Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary.
The party’s national director, Maurice Mitchell, the first black man to hold the post, said in a statement announcing the endorsement that Warren “offers hope to millions of working people.”
The leaders who wrote the letter said Mitchell and Nelini Stamp, also a black Working Families Party leader, have received a deluge of threats since then. The Working Families Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mitchell told The Hill on Friday that the threats he, Stamp and others received were “some of the most violent, disgusting, racist and sexist attacks.”
In a tweet on Thursday, Sanders condemned the attacks against the Working Families Party leaders.
“This campaign condemns racist bullying and harassment of any kind, in any space. We are building a multiracial movement for justice — that’s how we win the White House.”
Sanders struggled with black voters during the 2016 Democratic primary against Clinton. In 2020, former vice president Joe Biden is leading among African American Democratic primary voters and Warren is doing well with liberal and white Democrats, according to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.
For Democratic presidential field, timing has been almost everything
WASHINGTON — Timing has been almost everything in the 2020 Democratic presidential race — at least when it comes to the candidates who’ve made the debate and those forced to end their candidates.
On Friday morning, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ended his presidential campaign, just four months after he started it on May 16.
And get this: Among the six Democratic presidential candidates who’ve exited the race — de Blasio, Seth Moulton, Eric Swalwell, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee and Kirsten Gillibrand — five announced their bids after February (after Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders were already in the contest).
The one exception is Gillibrand, who announced her exploratory committee (and thus started raising money) on Jan. 15, but ended her candidacy on Aug. 28.
By contrast, eight of the 10 candidates who qualified for September’s debate in Houston announced before March 1, giving them more time to raise money and boost their name identification, given the money and polling requirements to make the debate.
The two Democrats who announced after March 1 but still made September’s debate stage: Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke.
- Tom Steyer (announced July 9)
- Former Rep. Joe Sestak (announced June 23)
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (announced May 16) Exited on Sept. 20
- Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (announced May 14)
- Sen. Michael Bennet (announced May 2)
- Former VP Joe Biden (announced April 25) Made Sept. Debate
- Rep. Seth Moulton (announced April 22) Exited on Aug. 23
- Rep. Eric Swalwell (announced April 8) Exited on July 8
- Rep. Tim Ryan (announced April 4)
- Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke (announced March 14) Made Sept. Debate
- Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (announced March 4) Exited on Aug. 15
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (announced March 1) Exited on Aug. 21
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (announced Feb. 9) Made Sept. Debate
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (announced Feb. 10) Made Sept. Debate
- Marianne Williamson (filed candidacy on Feb. 5)
- Sen. Cory Booker (announced Feb. 1) Made Sept. Debate
- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (formed exploratory committee Jan. 23, announced April 14) Made Sept. Debate
- Sen. Kamala Harris (announced Jan. 21) Made Sept. Debate
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (formed exploratory committee Jan. 23, announced March 17) Exited on Aug. 28
- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (announced Jan. 11)
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (formed exploratory committee Dec. 31, announced Feb. 9) Made Sept. Debate
- Former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julián Castro (formed exploratory committee Dec. 12, announced Jan. 12) Made Sept. Debate
- Andrew Yang (filed candidacy Nov. 6, 2017) Made Sept. Debate
- Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney (announced presidential bid back on July 28, 2017!!!!)
Congress holds first DC statehood hearing in 25 years
WASHINGTON – Lawmakers held the first congressional hearing on DC statehood in 25 years Thursday, as advocates hope to reinvigorate the decades-long push to give the city’s residents full representation in Congress.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s non-voting delegate to Congress, has again led the charge, introducing a new statehood bill in January and amassing a record 220 cosponsors in the House.
If passed, the bill would admit the “State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth” — a territory that would exclude an enclave of monuments and federal buildings. District voters would elect three voting members of Congress, two Senators and one House member, for the first time in U.S. history.
The legislation faces staunch opposition from Republicans, who call it unconstitutional. GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, said at Thursday’s hearing that the move was “not what the Founding Fathers intended.”
And it remains a non-starter in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has derided it as “full bore socialism.”
Still, advocates say the issue is getting more high-profile national attention than ever before, even beyond Thursday’s hearing.
All current 2020 Democratic candidates support the idea of D.C. statehood. And a new national advocacy group, 51for51, has been sending young advocates to early primary states to press presidential hopefuls on the issue. Norton confirmed Thursday that she expects a vote in the House on the statehood issue for the first time since 1993.
Many Democratic backers of the legislation have framed the debate in terms of the disenfranchisement of black voters in a city where about half of residents are African-American.
At the hearing, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez said, “The issue of D.C. statehood is rooted in a different evil in our history, which is the history of slavery.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also framed D.C.’s lack of representation as part of a broader conversation about voting rights and disenfranchisement in the U.S.
Despite the looming stonewall in the Senate, advocates say they’re prepared to fight beyond merely a debate in the lower chamber.
Stasha Rhodes, the campaign manager of 51for51, a national advocacy group, said that the group’s goal will require not only more national awareness but a structural reform of the rule requiring 60 votes to pass most bills through the Senate.
“We want [the bill] to pass the House, but we also want success in the Senate,” Rhodes said. And the only way to get success in the Senate is to circumvent the filibuster and get 51 votes.”
Trio of Senate candidates stare down history as they look to rebound from high-profile House losses
WASHINGTON — In early 2017, still reeling from the election of Donald Trump and facing Republican dominance on Capitol Hill, Democrats across the country turned their lonely eyes to a 30-year-old documentary filmmaker from the Atlanta suburbs named Jon Ossoff.
Ossoff was running for Congress in a special election in a traditionally Republican district, but Democrats were hopeful that a growing suburban backlash against the president could lead to an upset. Ossoff’s candidacy became a liberal cause célèbre, but despite raising a record $31 million, he lost the election by 3 percent.
After passing on another House run in 2018, Ossoff is now aiming higher, challenging incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue in 2020.
Ossoff is the third high-profile House loser from the 2018 cycle to pivot to the Senate. MJ Hegar, whose viral ad highlighting her military service helped her raise $5 million, lost a narrow race to incumbent Rep. John Carter in Texas’s 31st District and is now running against Sen. John Cornyn. And Amy McGrath, a former Marine pilot who also raised millions from a viral ad campaign during her unsuccessful campaign in Kentucky’s 6th District, is now challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
All three — despite their losses — became stars of the midterms by taking once-solid-red districts to nail-biting finishes.
Now they’re looking to use that star power to accomplish something few have done in the past 40 years: parlay a losing House bid into a winning Senate one.
History is not on their side, and the political odds appear to be long, too. All three candidates are running in states Trump won handily in 2016.
But as Dave Wasserman, House Editor for The Cook Political Report and an NBC contributor, notes, “The route to Congress is changing quite rapidly, and voters are looking for nonpoliticians at a higher rate than ever.”
Since 1978, 246 people have won a Senate seat for first time (Dan Coats, Frank Lautenberg, Kent Conrad, and Slade Gorton were all elected as “freshmen” twice during this period). Of those, 111 were already members of the House of Representatives; another 30 were state governors.
According to an NBC News analysis, only nine were able to do what Ossoff, Hegar, and McGrath are attempting. And none have done it as quickly – just one election cycle after a House loss.
Of the nine, John Kerry, D-Mass., Joe Lieberman , then a Democrat from Connecticut, Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., and Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, attained statewide or nationally prominent posts after their initial losses, providing springboards for eventual Senate runs.
Only five people since 1978 have lost a House race and then won a Senate race without holding a statewide elected office or national post in the interim. Three of them, Republicans John East of North Carolina, Mack Mattingly of Georgia and Frank Murkowski of Alaska won their Senate races in the Republican wave year of 1980 after losing House elections in the 60s and 70s.
Peter Fitzgerald, an Illinois State Senator, lost a Republican House primary in 1994, but in 1998 he defeated incumbent Senator Carol Moseley Braun. Fitzgerald served just one term in the US Senate before retiring.
The man who replaced him is the fifth of these cases; also an Illinois state senator at the time. He suffered a bruising House primary defeat in 2000 and returned to the state legislature before a successful U.S. Senate run four years later.
His name was Barack Obama.
It remains to be seen if Ossoff, Hegar, or McGrath can replicate Fitzgerald’s success, let alone Obama’s. All three have nationwide donor lists, broad name recognition, and substantial organization from their previous runs.
But the three Democrats face daunting odds attempting to unseat Republican incumbents in red states, especially during a presidential election year.
The three, Wasserman notes, “are betting big, and it’s too early to say whether 2020 as favorable for Democrats as 2018. They ran in a pretty good year and lost.”
And if they fall short again?
“If you lose two races in two years,” Wasserman says, “it’s a sign you should probably take some time off before reentering the political area.”
Joe Biden picks up three Congressional endorsements
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden picked up three congressional endorsements for his presidential campaign today from Reps. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., and Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. Biden now has 16 endorsements from members of the House of Representatives, which is the same amount as Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
Butterfield and Cleaver's endorsements, both former chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus, come days after the latest NBC News/WSJ poll showed Biden has a 30-point plus lead among African American Democratic primary voters. Biden's polling at 49 percent in that group, while the next highest-polling candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sits at 13 percent. While Biden's been criticized on his civil rights record, Butterfield noted Biden's commitment to civil rights in his endorsement.
"Civil rights brought Joe Biden into the fight, and I know he’ll continue that fight – the fight for equality and the opportunity for economic success. That’s why I proudly endorse Joe Biden for President of the United States," Butterfield said.
Crist served as governor of Florida as a Republican but switched his party registration to Independent before leaving office. He now serves as a Democratic congressman whose district went for President Trump in 2016, but previously supported President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.
All three Congressmen expressed Biden’s experienced leadership in bringing consensus on numerous issues as a reason why they’re endorsing him.
The Biden camp's endorsement release highlighted that these three endorsements followed Rep. Vincente González, D-Texas, flipping his endorsement from former HUD Secretary Julián Castro to Biden after the last Democratic debate.
Harris campaign vows "strong top three" Iowa finish, announces doubling of Iowa staff
WASHINGTON — Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign announced on Thursday a doubling of staff in Iowa and a commitment that the candidate would spend “about half of October” in the state to ensure the California senator finishes in the top-three on caucus night next February.
“We want to make sure that we have a strong top-three finish,” said Juan Rodriguez, Harris’ campaign manager, on a call with reporters on Thursday morning. “I think that will kind of continue to give us a slingshot to go into that early primary state calendar and then make sure that we’re also competitive heading into Super Tuesday.”
A new NBC/WSJ national poll of Democratic voters released this week showed the California senator slumping to fifth place with just 5 percent of voter support —down 8 points from July.
Rodriguez said the campaign will double its number of Iowa organizers to 110, increasing her total staff to 131 in the Hawkeye State, while also opening up 10 additional field offices.
After a noticeably quiet summer on the campaign trail, Harris’ team said the candidate will visit the state every week in October. The California senator focused much of her summer on holding campaign fundraisers, a move her campaign defended on the call.
“I feel really good about what we’ve been able to do in decisions about how we’ve built up this campaign to really kick it into high gear in the fourth quarter,” Rodriguez said.
Lily Adams, Harris’ communications director, noted on the call that success in the Iowa caucus on February 3 is “incredibly important to demonstrating electability and viability going forward.”
“It’s important that we make that commitment,” Adams said. She noted the need for the campaign to “demonstrate to Iowa that we’re going to put in the work.”
She asserted that Harris will visit South Carolina “multiple times” in October as well and that the “emphasis on Iowa” does not mean the campaign is pulling back resources from the other early states.
Adams acknowledged that the campaign expects to see “bouncy polls ahead” but noted that the polling support for candidates in the final months ahead of the caucus has historically fluctuated, pointing to polling figures leading up to the 2004, 2008 and 2016 Democratic caucuses.
“We certainly saw a sugar high after that first debate,” she said, continuing: “I don’t think any of us thought we were going to bounce up and stay there for the rest of our lives.”
When asked by reporters on the call about the candidate’s messaging strategy in the final four months before Iowa, the Harris campaign said the senator will continue to focus her ire on the policies of President Trump and contrast them with policy objectives that are intended to appeal to a broad swath of the electorate.
The senator, however, scaled back her criticisms of the party’s frontrunner, former Vice President Joe Biden, in the September debate after taking particular aim during the first debate over his past statements on busing and school segregation. Adams said that Harris will “respectfully” draw contrasts in the future with the rest of the field where needed.
“You’ve got to define what you’re for and against vis a vis the other candidates you’re seeing in this race,” Adams said. “And I think she’s going to respectfully do that.”
Buttigieg unveils health plan, calls it 'glide path' to Medicare for All
WASHINGTON — Democrat Pete Buttigieg is unveiling his long-awaited health care plan that aims to move millions of Americans into government-run health care without imposing it on all Americans all at once — a middle ground that Buttigieg hopes will draw a clear contrast with the "Medicare for All" approach.
The South Bend, Ind. mayor and presidential candidate described his plan as a "glide path to Medicare for All" in an interview with NBC News.
While Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., propose eliminating private insurance in one fell swoop, Buttigieg wants the government to introduce a public plan that would be so competitive that Americans will ultimately choose voluntarily to abandon insurance companies.
"Freedom is one of the main themes of this campaign. And I do think commanding Americans to abandon the coverage they've got is inconsistent with our commitment to freedom," Buttigieg said.
He said unlike his rivals' "Medicare for All" proposal, his plan allows for as long a transition period as necessary to get the public option up and running well, a concern highlighted by the disastrous rollout of the HealthCare.Gov online insurance marketplace during the Obama administration.
Buttigieg said leaving the current system intact while any unforeseen kinks in the public option are ironed out would be "far less traumatic" than putting the entire country in government-run health care all at once.
Buttigieg's plan hews closely to the proposal backed by former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic primary's front-runner. But their plans differ over how Americans would get enrolled in the new public plan and what subsidies would be available to help them pay for it.
Under Buttigieg's proposal, Americans would again be effectively required to maintain some type of health insurance, a requirement put in place by President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act but nullified by the Trump administration.
Americans whose incomes are so low that they're eligible for free coverage through Medicaid or the public option would be automatically enrolled, along with those eligible for "an affordable insurance option," although Buttigieg's plan doesn't explicitly define what constitutes affordable. Those Americans could opt out of the public option if they have private insurance, and even those with employer-provided insurance could choose to use the public option instead.
Those who aren't automatically enrolled and lack insurance would later be "retroactively enrolled" in the public plan. Buttigieg said they'd have to pay back premiums for the time they were uninsured if they get sick and need coverage.
But critics have long argued that allowing people to wait until they're sick to get insurance drives up health care costs because there are fewer healthier people — who cost less to insure — to pay into the system.
Buttigieg would also expand subsidies to help pay for premiums — currently limited to people whose incomes are less than four times the federal poverty level. Under his plan, Americans could buy into a "gold-level" public option at a premium capped at 8.5 percent of their income.
"This plan is not moderate by historical standards, but it certainly is moderate compared to Medicare for All," said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which studies health care policy. "It goes well beyond the Affordable Care Act in providing help paying for healthcare to a much larger number of people and taking significant steps to control costs."
As Buttigieg works to break into the top tier in the crowded Democratic race, his critiques of his competitors and their plans have become increasingly sharp and direct in recent weeks. An NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll this week found Buttigieg in fourth place at 7 percent, far behind Biden at 31 percent, Warren at 25 percent and Sanders at 14 percent.
In Facebook ads taking aim at Sanders and Warren over health care, Buttigieg has argued their vision would "dictate" a public option to Americans and "risk further polarizing them."
And although Warren and Sanders cite statistics showing Americans support Medicare for All, Buttigieg says in the NBC News interview that a closer look reveals that what the majority are thinking of when they hear "Medicare for All" is actually closer to his plan, not those of the two senators.
The Buttigieg plan also cracks down on exorbitant costs insurance companies charge for providers who are out-of-network by capping their reimbursement rates at double the rate that Medicare pays. It would also aim to end "surprise bills" that result when patients go to an in-network hospital but are unknowingly treated by an out-of-network provider working there.
—Benjy Sarlin contributed
Pence taps former DHS press aide as new press secretary
WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence has hired Katie Waldman to be his new press secretary, NBC News has learned.
Waldman, who is currently communications director for Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., previously served as the public defender of the Trump administration’s policy of family separations as deputy press secretary at the Department of Homeland Security.
She begins her new position on October 1.
“She’s got extensive experience and she’ll be a great fit in our office,” said Marc Short, Pence's chief of staff. “She’s shown she has the mettle to handle intense environments.”
Waldman, 27, will replace Alyssa Farah who left earlier this month to be a spokeswoman at the Department of Defense.
Waldman is an aggressive and sometimes polarizing communicator but has proven to be a loyal advocate for the Trump administration and its policies.
During her nearly two-year stint at DHS, she was given the agency’s immigration portfolio and empowered to be the lead spokesperson. She consistently defended the administration’s policy of “zero tolerance” that led to the separation of thousands of children from their parents after crossing the southern border.
That experience has proven that she is battle-tested several allies of Waldman told NBC News.
“She impressed a lot of people in the administration with her work in DHS and on the immigration portfolio in the height of media interest,” said a former DHS official who worked closely with her and is not authorized to speak publicly in a new position.
Waldman will be reporting directly to Short. She’ll be the on-the-record spokesperson for the vice president during a critical time as the president and vice president head into an election year.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who hired Waldman as his first press secretary after he won election to the Senate in 2014, said that Waldman is one of the hardest workers he’s ever met.
“She has a very strong personality,” Daines said. “She has incredible work ethic.”
A senior administration official who used to work at DHS with Waldman said that her experience working for the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, two senators and the administration gives her a wide variety of experience.
And, the official added, “she’s pro-Trump and that checks all the boxes.”
Joe Kennedy to announce Massachusetts Senate primary bid against incumbent Ed Markey
WASHINGTON — Rep Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., will announce this weekend that he is launching a bid for the U.S. Senate, setting up a primary challenge to a fellow Democrat, incumbent Sen. Ed Markey, a source familiar with the decision confirms to NBC News.
The source added that Kennedy will announce the bid to supporters during a breakfast at East Boston Social Centers.
The Boston Globe first reported Kennedy's decision.
Kennedy's entry into the race had been long rumored, and the congressman himself previously acknowledged that he was considering a challenge to Markey.
The primary will pit the 38-year-old Kennedy, the fourth-term congressman who's part of one of America's most famous political dynasties, against the 73-year-old Markey, who first joined Congress as a member of the House in 1976.
A recent poll by Suffolk University and the Boston Globe found that Kennedy would lead Markey by more than 8 points in a field of five primary candidates, and by 14 in a head-to-head primary matchup.
But Markey has won endorsements in recent weeks from both Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, two prominent progressives.
Booker releases new labor plan as auto strike continues
MANCHESTER, NH — Presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is out with a new labor plan pegged to the ongoing auto strikes, a proposal that calls for empowering workers to take collective action, restructuring laws to help workers in the gig economy, enacting a slew of worker protections and overhauling America's tax laws.
Citing the ongoing United Automobile Workers strikes, Booker said in a statement that he "learned the power of collective action from my grandfather who was an assembly line worker and UAW union rep in Detroit."
“He showed me how, when workers stick together, injustices can be corrected and real progress can be made," he said.
"That’s something I’ve carried with me my whole life — and today, as I stand with workers who are fighting for fairer wages and better benefits across the country, I’m outlining how my administration will ensure that our economy leaves no one behind.”
His campaign proposal relies heavily on passing existing legislation and argues for his previously announced Rise Credit, which expands on the Earned Income Tax Credit by providing up to $4,000 to working Americans making less than $90,000 a year, including students and family caregivers as workers, and implementing automatic tax filings.
Notably, Booker’s signature Worker Dividend Act, a bill he sponsored in the Senate, would shift the balance of power from shareholders to workers by forcing corporations to share profits from stock buybacks with their employees.
Other highlights from Booker’s proposal include:
- Strengthening collective bargaining and protect workers at the federal, state and local levels through legislation such as the PRO Act (protects rights to organize unions and strikes and bans “right to work” laws), Workplace Democracy Act, and Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act.
- Preventing misclassification among gig economy workers by shoring up regulations about when workers can be classified as independent contractors
- Supporting efforts that allow workers from multiple employers to organize across industries, and also expand workforce training to include local sectoral programs
- Ensuring federal funds and contracts support companies that provide adequate benefits, respect unions and pay at least $15 an hour
- Fighting for a $15 minimum wage and closing the gender pay gap by passing his co-sponsored Raise the Wage Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act
- Prohibiting mandatory arbitration clauses through the Restoring Justice for Workers Act
- Providing guaranteed paid family leave for taking care of relatives by passing the FAMILY Act
- Protecting workers from all types of discrimination and harassment through the pro-LGBT Equality Act, Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and Be HEARD Act
- Investing federal dollars in affordable childcare by building on the Child Care for Working Families Act
- Giving all Americans an opportunity to work by passing his Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act
- Restructuring the American tax code by repealing the 2017 GOP tax bill, raising the rate for long-term capital games, adding an annual long-term investment tax for the wealthiest Americans, implementing a “deferral charge” for shifting investments, and closing loopholes that Booker says advantage the wealthiest households
Booker argues his tax reforms could raise as much as $2 trillion over ten years.
His plan also cites the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and Fairness for Farm Workers Acts and Fair Chance Act to ensure fairness for disadvantaged workers from communities of color and the formerly incarcerated, respectively.
Earlier this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren nabbed the endorsement of the Working Families Party, a labor-focused progressive group that supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016.
ACLU dings Joe Biden in new radio ads
WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union is pressuring Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden to clarify his positions on civil rights with a new ad campaign in the early primary state of South Carolina.
The group is spending what it tells NBC News is "low six-figure" to run the ad on African-American radio stations in Charleston and Columbia. It follows digital ads and mailers the ACLU has already sent to 100,000 South Carolina voters asking, “Where is Joe Biden on civil rights?”
The campaign is a response to the former vice president failing to respond to an ACLU effort asking all the 2020 candidates where they stand on civil liberties.
"Most candidates in the recent debate answered our questions, but Joe Biden did not," the ad's narrator says. "You heard right, Joe Biden passed on a chance to make clear where he stands on voting rights, on criminal justice reform, on police misconduct. We asked how he would address the unnecessary use of force by police.... No response. Voters deserve to know. Does Joe Biden support rights for all?"
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Housing Secretary Julián Castro have also been hit with digital ads from the group for failing to respond, but Biden is a more valuable target given his standing in the polls.
Ronnie Newman, the national political director for the ACLU, said members of his group want "clear, on the record" assurances from every candidate they would use "the full weight" of the presidency to protect civil liberties.
“This push is not about the narrow question of whether presidential candidates have returned the ACLU questionnaire, but instead about the broader, more fundamental question of whether candidates -- including Joe Biden -- will commit to prioritizing civil liberties and civil rights in their campaigns and eventually, in their presidency," Newman said.
The ACLU has traditionally not involved itself much in elections, but has been looking to expand its reach outside the courtroom after receiving a flood of donations in the early days of Donald Trump's presidency and retooling itself for a more polarized world.
South Carolina, which will be the fourth state to vote in next year's primaries, is key to Biden's prospects and its Democratic electorate is expected to be majority-African American.
The Biden campaign pointed NBC News to Jim Felder, a prominent civil rights activist with the NAACP and South Carolina Voter Education Project, who defended the former vice president and questioned why the ACLU was getting involved in a Democratic primary.
"Joe Biden, in my book, is number one on civil rights throughout the years," said Felder, who is supporting Biden. "I don't know of any situation where Joe Biden has been against civil rights."
Felder said he's supported and donated to the ACLU in the past, but that the attack on Biden "just floors me," adding that he had not seen the group be particularly active in South Carolina in recent years. "And why are they getting involved in the presidential race? To jump on candidates like this seems to be a little stretch outside what they typically do," he said.
UPDATED: This post was updated to include a comment from a Biden surrogate.