The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Massachusetts Senate Democratic primary heats up one month out
WASHINGTON — With just over a month remaining before the Massachusetts Senate primary on Sept. 1, incumbent Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy III are locked in a tight race with no clear frontrunner.
Kennedy and Markey — both progressives — have few major policy disagreements. But Kennedy, the 39-year old grandson of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, is framing himself as a youthful, energetic alternative to his 74-year old rival. Markey and his backers tout the senator’s long record of advocacy, paint Kennedy as “a progressive in name only,” and accuse the Kennedy campaign of wasting resources on a safely blue seat as Democrats attempt to capture a Senate majority this fall.
Markey, who served in the House for more than 35 years before being elected to the Senate in 2013, appears to have the edge in the endorsement game so far. The incumbent has support from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He has also won the backing of fellow Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (with whom Markey co-sponsored the Green New Deal legislation) and major environmental groups.
But Markey’s congressional support is far from unanimous. Kennedy has been endorsed by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and several other well-known Democrats, including the late Rep. John Lewis. He’s also backed by several key labor unions. First elected to the House in 2012, Kennedy’s influence in the chamber has captured plenty of attention from Democratic leaders; in 2018, the party tapped him to deliver the Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address.
Several Massachusetts statewide polls this spring showed Kennedy with a narrow but persistent lead over Markey, although no statewide public polls have been released since. However, second quarter fundraising numbers showed the two campaigns in a virtual fundraising tie. After each campaign raised about $1.9 million in the quarter, Markey’s campaign reported a total of $4.8 million in its account, while Kennedy’s campaign said it had about $4.7 million.
Kennedy vastly outspent Markey on advertising from April through June — $1.8 million versus just $52,000. The challenger has also blitzed Massachusetts airwaves, spending about $2.8 million on ads to date compared to less than $700,000 spent by Markey’s campaign and a super PAC backing him.
The online campaign has intensified in recent days. Incensed by Kennedy’s primary challenge against an environmentalist incumbent, a number of the senator’s Twitter supporters successfully pressured several Broadway stars to back out of a Kennedy fundraiser they were originally scheduled to headline. The event has been indefinitely postponed by the Kennedy campaign.
The two candidates, who last debated in early June, will debate a few more times before the primary election. NBC’s Boston affiliate hosted the first of the three matchups Sunday evening.
An early August veep pick would put VP front-and-center before the convention
WASHINGTON — Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s self-declared timeline for announcing his V.P. pick is inching closer. But if Biden sticks to the first week of August, he’ll be making his selection public about two weeks before the Democratic convention — that’s earlier than most recent nominees.
Both former President Obama and President Trump announced Biden and Vice President Pence as their running mates just three days before the 2008 Democratic convention and 2016 Republican convention respectively.
2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney made the decision a bit earlier: he named then-Rep. Paul Ryan on Aug. 10 and the convention began Aug. 27.
The woman Biden chooses will make her address to the Democratic convention sometime between Aug. 17 and Aug. 20. The less time there is between the pick going public and that speech could mean less time for opposition research to drop, but also less time for party enthusiasm to build.
Here’s what some contenders have been up to this week:
Sen. Kamala Harris: After Biden said on MSNBC that four Black women are on his shortlist (his campaign later clarified that that was not exhaustive), Harris also took to the airwaves. Asked if she’s one of those Black women, she deflected, saying, “I’m honored to be in the conversation.”
“I am not going to speak for the vice president,” she said Tuesday. “I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure Joe Biden is elected the next president of the United States.”
While Harris has been quieter than others in promoting herself for the job, she made clear Tuesday that she intends to be a strong part of the get-out-the-vote effort.
“It concerns me when we see the polling and people get a little happy and at least a little comfortable with it,” she said. “We first have to win, and that’s going to be about encouraging people to vote, registering people to vote, fighting against those states that are suppressing voters’ ability to get to the polls.”
Rep. Karen Bass: While the California congresswoman doesn’t have the same name recognition as others on the short list, there’s been murmurings that she could be an alternative to Harris.
On Friday, Bass weighed in on that idea and made it clear she wanted no part of it:
“Senator Kamala Harris has spent her entire life fighting for the people. I would never want to be labeled the ‘anti-Kamala Harris.’ We’re fortunate to have had her as Attorney General and now as Senator. She would be an excellent VP and the same goes for anyone else on the list,” Bass tweeted.
Asked about her own experience with the veep vetting process on MSNBC Tuesday, Bass kept her V.P. ambitions to herself, but said she’d like to see a woman of color on the ticket.
“Of course I would love to see him appoint a woman of color as his running mate, but like he said, he is going to make sure that his administration on every level looks like America, and I think that that is absolutely important and sufficient at this time,” she said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: The Massachusetts senator has had an undeniable impact on Biden’s policy plans since he became the presumptive nominee, most recently working with the Biden camp to formulate one of the pillars of his “Build Back Better” economic plan.
And on Tuesday, Warren highlighted Biden’s ability to lead the country’s economic recovery through the coronavirus pandemic.
“His plan is both economically sound and meets people where they are at a human level. It's Joe Biden at his best, in my view,” she said.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth: Duckworth, a woman of color, went on offense against President Trump’s handling of race issues during an Everytown for Gun Safety forum this week and her willingness to do so could prove beneficial as a running mate.
“He is using racist rhetoric against Asian Americans to distract the American people from his utter failure to deal with this pandemic from the very beginning,” Duckworth said. “Don't fall for it, don't fall for his racist rhetoric and don't let people fall for it because he is trying to distract all of us.”
On Tuesday during an interview on MSNBC, Duckworth also reaffirmed her commitment to help Biden in any way.
“If he said, ‘Tammy, go sweep floors in a V.A. hospital’, I would go do that because we have that many crises in front of us we have to address.”
Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.
Biden, Obama discuss race relations, coronavirus, ACA in sit-down conversation
WASHINGTON — In their first known in-person side-by-side appearance together since Joe Biden became the presumptive Democratic nominee, former President Obama and his vice president discussed the challenges the U.S. is facing in a video released Thursday.
In a 15-minute “socially distant conversation” held in Obama’s Washington D.C. office earlier this month, the two discussed the coronavirus pandemic, the Affordable Care Act and race relations. This release was the full version of the conversation the Biden campaign teased on Wednesday.
Obama largely devoted his comments to validating Biden’s leadership and ability to tackle issues he’s faced criticism for, particularly whether he can help uplift the Black community.
“The key right now, and this is why I have so much confidence in your administration, wanting to be a partner in harnessing that energy and bringing about concrete reforms, concrete steps, not just in the criminal justice system, not just with respect to policing, but with respect to investment, jobs, business development, is going to send a signal of decency," Obama said.
Biden expressed his disbelief in President Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and told his former boss that the biggest challenge will be creating jobs in the wake of the pandemic — Obama had begun the conversation by addressing how the duo handled the 2008 economic crisis and asked Biden how he is thinking of the economy now.
Biden said there are three pieces to economic recovery: Keep people from "going under forever", make sure businesses can keep people on payroll and cover overheard and then building the economy "back better" – plugging his "Build Back Better" plan.
"We have to change the way in which we deal with allowing people an opportunity to make a living. That includes childcare, that includes turning, making significant investments in infrastructure so people can make, not just a living wage but a union wage, making sure we have a build up an entire new public health system, and making sure everybody has health care," Biden said.
During the his primary campaign, Biden consistently stressed his relationship with Obama and how he planned to build on the Affordable Care Act rather than create a Medicare for All or single-payer system. Obama endorsed that plan during the sit-down conversation.
"I always used to say, the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare. It's like a starter house. It's the first house you get. And it, it's not the end of the process. It's the beginning of the process," Obama said.
The two likened it to Social Security, with Biden saying that when the program was first passed it was narrow but "you kept building it out".
Driving home his endorsement of Biden, Obama ended the conversation praising Biden's empathy and reiterated his confidence in his former vice president.
"You are going to be able to reassemble the kind of government that cares about people and brings people together," Obama said.
Biden campaign goes on offensive against Sen. Ron Johnson’s Burisma probe
Joe Biden’s presidential campaign on Tuesday launched a highly personal broadside at Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, for pushing forward a committee inquiry into the presumptive Democratic nominee's past dealings with Ukraine while he was vice president.
Among other things, the Biden campaign is accusing Johnson of being opaque about whether he is, in effect, “party to a foreign influence operation against the United States” by receiving materials from pro-Russian foreigners as part of the committee’s probe.
The memo, signed by Deputy Campaign Manager Kate Bedingfield and shared with NBC News, accuses Johnson of “diverting” his committee’s resources away from oversight of the worsening coronavirus pandemic to promote “a long debunked, hardcore rightwing conspiracy theory” about Biden in an attempt to assist President Trump’s re-election campaign.
At issue is Biden's attempt as vice president to sideline Viktor Shokin, the Russia-aligned former Ukrainian prosecutor general. Shokin at one point conducted an investigation into Burisma, an energy company in Ukraine where Biden’s son served on the board. Trump and other Republicans maintain, without evidence, that Biden pressed for Shokin’s dismissal to protect Hunter Biden’s lucrative position on the company’s board.
But Shokin’s ouster was the official policy of the U.S. government at the time, and numerous fact checks have shown that Shokin’s investigation of Burisma was dormant by the time Biden sought his ouster.
Trump's attempts to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine while pressing it to investigate Biden led Trump to become the third president to be impeached by the House of Representatives.
The Republican-controlled Senate acquitted Trump of the charges, and allies including Johnson have vowed to press forward with investigations into the Bidens’ connections to Ukraine. Johnson has asked several former State Department officials to testify and could issue subpoenas as soon as this week if they refuse to voluntarily appear.
In recent media reports, pro-Russian Ukrainians said they’ve passed materials to the committee.
A committee staffer told NBC News it is “false” the committee has received any “oppo,” or opposition research, without responding directly to whether that covers any materials from foreign sources.
The committee staffer said that the claims from both the Democrats and Ukrainians are “false, and the Democrats know this.”
Johnson, the Trump campaign, the White House, and the State Department “have all declined to comment on whether that is true — meaning that each are refusing to tell the American people whether they are party to a foreign influence operation against the United States,” the Biden campaign memo asserts.
“Senator Johnson should be working overtime to save American lives and jobs — but instead, he’s wasting taxpayer dollars on a blatantly dishonest attempt to help Donald Trump get reelected."
The memo also takes aim at comments Johnson has made downplaying the severity of the coronavirus pandemic. In March, Johnson said “getting coronavirus is not a death sentence except for maybe no more than 3.4 percent of our population,” which would total over 11 million people. This led to a rebuke from Dr. Anthony Fauci.
That month, Johnson also wrote in USA Today, “Every premature death is a tragedy, but death is an unavoidable part of life.”
The memo coincides with a letter Democratic leaders sent on Tuesday to FBI Director Christopher Wray that included a classified attachment, according to Politico, citing the investigation led by Johnson as an example of how foreign disinformation campaigns are targeting Congress. They are calling for an urgent briefing before Congress breaks for the month of August.
"It does a disservice to our election security efforts when Democrats use the threat of Russian disinformation as a weapon to cast doubt on investigations they don’t like but are silent when recently declassified intelligence revealed that Democrat-funded opposition research on the Trump campaign contained actual Russian disinformation,” the committee staffer said.
Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said Wednesday that Johnson is "not only diverting" the committee from oversight, "not only engaged in total hypocrisy by virtue of his years-long support for the anti-corruption victory Vice President Biden delivered in Ukraine, and not only advancing the interests of Russia in a manner that is openly distressing to his Republican colleagues — but he has also revealed his complicity in a foreign attack on the very sovereignty of our elections."
In economic speech, Biden blasts Trump's handling of the pandemic
WILMINGTON, DEL. — In remarks just outside his hometown Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden attacked President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and accused the president of not caring about the American people.
“For all his bluster about his expertise on the economy he is unable to explain how he'll actually help working families hit the hardest. You know, he's quit on you, and he's quit on this country,” Biden said.
And Biden reiterated his belief that the election in November will be about uniting Americans, not about himself.
“It's about you. It's about what we'll do, what a president is supposed to do. A president’s supposed to care, to lead, to take responsibility, to never give up,” he said.
Biden’s remarks came after he unveiled the third pillar of his “Build Back Better” economic agenda. This proposal, which is estimated to cost $775 billion, is devoted to training the next generation of educators and caregivers, and giving families and caregiving workers a better opportunity to make ends meet. The two other planks in his economic agenda cost $2.7 trillion.
In an effort to relate to Americans facing financial and familial instability in the wake of the pandemic, Biden recalled becoming a single father to his sons after his wife and infant daughter died in a car crash at the beginning of his Senate career. He described feeling hopelessness, but promised Americans experiencing that now that it will be okay.
“There's just that feeling, that sense, when you just don't know if everything’s going to turn out okay. And I'm here to tell you that it can be, and it will be,” he concluded.
The Biden campaign also kicked off a $15 million ad buy on Tuesday and released three new ads. Two of the ads focus on the coronavirus pandemic — one explaining why it's important to wear a mask, and the other touting Biden's experience handling the Recovery Act and the ebola crisis as proof he can also handle the pandemic. The third ad, which runs in Spanish, will be broadcast in Arizona and Florida and focuses on Biden's track record with immigrant families.
Trump campaign focuses cable TV buys on Fox News, while Biden makes a wider play
WASHINGTON — Since April 8 — the day Joe Biden became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee — President Donald Trump's re-election campaign has spent 52 percent of its cable TV ad spending on ads airing on Fox News, according to data from Advertising Analytics.
That differs from the Biden campaign's cable TV buys, which have directed nearly 22 percent for ads airing on Fox News, 23 percent on CNN and 10 percent on MSNBC.
Trump has spent just 9 percent of his cable TV buys on CNN, and 6 percent on MSNBC.
And the two candidates are spending drastically different amounts on cable TV — Trump has spent about $15 million, while Biden has spent about $2.5 million.
Cable TV buys don't show the full picture of either campaign's TV investments — both have spent millions of dollars on traditional network TV ads, and the president has far outspent Biden at most advertising turns ($71 million overall since April 8 compared to $19.3 million for Biden).
But the glimpse at how the candidates are approaching cable TV buys is one of many examples of Trump playing to his base — while Fox News enjoys strong ratings across the board, polling also shows Fox News viewers are far more likely to support the president.
As much of the president's strategy zeroes in on maximizing enthusiasm and ginning up turnout among those who may already support him, recent polling has shown an increasingly difficult landscape for his reelection. The latest NBC News/WSJ poll showed that 50 percent of registered voters said there is "no chance" they will vote for Trump. And 52 percent of registered voters said they were "very uncomfortable" with his candidacy.
Of course, that doesn't mean voters feel assured that Biden will win. While Biden carried support from a majority of registered voters in Pennsylvania in a recent Monmouth University poll, 57 percent of Pennsylvania voters said there is a "secret" group of voters who will support Trump but not tell anyone.
Trump won Pennsylvania by fewer than 70,000 votes in 2016.
Many of the president's ads have focused on painting Biden as a socialist, and accusing Biden of wanting to defund and abolish police. But recent polling has Biden leading even on issues that Trump sees as a strength.
In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, 50 percent of adults said the trusted Biden more than Trump when it comes to crime and safety, and 58 percent of adults said they trust Biden more on race relations.
Voting access groups push for election funding in a new pandemic relief bill
WASHINGTON — As the Senate prepares to take up the next coronavirus relief bill, two voting access groups are launching a $500,000 digital ad campaign urging lawmakers to provide funding for expanded voting, including mail-in voting, in November.
The three digital ads urge voters to call their senators to pressure them to include money for elections in the next relief bill, saying that amidst a pandemic people shouldn’t have to choose between their health and voting.
The ad campaign, launched by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee and Let America Vote, is focusing on 13 states, including those with Republican incumbents are at risk of losing their re-election races, including Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Carolina and Texas.
The House passed $3.6 billion in election funding for states in the Heroes Act that is expected to be used to implement mail-in voting in November. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to unveil the Senate’s Coronavirus relief bill early this week. It is unclear if he will include election funding and if so, how much.
President Donald Trump continues to sows distrust in mail-on voting, saying on Fox News Sunday that “it is going to rig the election.”
While a majority of people would prefer to vote in person, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, Republican voters are much more likely to say that fraud is possible in mail-in voting with 73 percent of Republicans saying fraud is possible while 66 percent of Democrats deem it safe.
Small matters get attention as Biden gets closer to choosing a running mate
WASHINGTON — Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is getting closer to making his vice presidential pick, and this week said that background checks on the contenders are “coming to a conclusion within the next week to 10 days.”
The Biden team has said they’ll go public with their choice around the first week of August, but until then, here are some of the tea leaves from this week for those on Biden's short list:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: The Massachusetts senator and Biden haven’t always been “simpatico.” The two have disagreed over bankruptcy laws, and during a primary debate argued over who deserved credit for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But Warren had one message for voters this week who were on the fence about Biden: vote for him anyway.
“Vote like your life depends on it. Why? ‘Cause it does. Pick any issue you care about. I guarantee it is on the line in this election and Joe Biden has a vision for how to make change,” Warren said during a virtual campaign event.
Warren, who’s considered the most progressive politician on the veep shortlist, could help Biden’s enthusiasm problem with more liberal voters. In the latest NBC News/WSJ poll, just 14 percent of voters said they were “enthusiastic” about Biden — but 80 percent of Democrats said they had a high interest in the election. And those voters could be warmed by a Warren pick.
Susan Rice: The former U.N. Ambassador and National Security Adviser continued to underline her qualifications for the job this week, pointing to her experience at the highest echelons of the federal government.
“I know how to make things work and how to get stuff done,” Rice said in a radio interview Friday, echoing a talking point often used by many veepstakes contenders.
But unlike other possible running mate choices, Rice wasn’t shy about expressing her desire to take on the man whose job she hopes to have — a quality the Biden camp could find useful on the trail.
When the prospect of debating her potential rival, Vice President Mike Pence, came up, Rice simply replied, “Bring that one on, that's all I'll say.”
Sen. Kamala Harris: Harris, who has spent less time in the federal government than others on Biden's shortlist, unveiled two new proposals this week. The California senator proposed a housing plan that would ban evictions and foreclosures for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and she announced a new initiative focused on anti-bias and anti-racism training in health departments and for health care professionals.
Harris’ focus on policy this week could be an attempt to beef up her policy chops ahead of Biden picking a running mate. Biden has made it clear that his first priority with a veep is picking someone who could be president on day one — and Biden came to the job in 2008 with decades of Senate experience.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: The Atlanta mayor’s name recognition has soared as her fight with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp goes to the courts. This week, Kemp signed an order forbidding municipal officials from declaring mask-wearing orders — and sued Lance Bottoms for her executive order that required facial coverings in public.
Lance Bottoms recently tested positive for coronavirus, and said during an interview on “Today,” “The governor has simply overstepped his bounds and his authority, and we'll see him in court.”
The mayor also reaffirmed that she would serve as vice president if asked.
“I am a leader with proven leadership,” Lance Bottoms said earlier this week. “That being said, this decision will be left up to Vice President Biden and I trust that he will make the decision that is best for our country as a whole.”
Rep. Val Demings: Like Lance Bottoms, Demings’ public profile has risen amid the coronavirus crisis and the persisting calls for racial justice reform.
The Florida congresswoman has been outspoken about her ambitions to serve on the ticket with Biden and continues to promote her resume, personal life experiences, and ability to meet the moment in media appearances.
Demings has also been brazen in criticizing President Trump and his coronavirus response as her home state of Florida quickly becomes the pandemic’s new epicenter.
“In the absence of leadership, bad things happen and good things don’t happen enough,” she said on “The Tonight Show” this week.
Considering Biden’s need to get the Democratic base enthusiastic about his candidacy, choosing a Black female running mate who’s unafraid to be tough on Trump could do just the trick.
Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.
Biden releases five-step 'roadmap' to safely reopen schools
WASHINGTON — In response to the Trump administration’s push to fully reopen schools across the country as coronavirus cases continue to climb, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has released a five-step “roadmap” to safely guarantee children can go back to school in the fall, arguing that the administration has not provided adequate guidelines.
The five page plan released Friday stresses the former vice president’s message to safely reopen the economy, pointing out that the first step to give Americans confidence to sending their kids back to school is getting the virus under control by ramping up testing and protective protection equipment.
Biden also says that as president, he would empower local decision-making while still setting clear national safety guidelines for them to follow given that the “Trump administration’s chaotic and politicized response has left school districts to improvise a thousand hard decisions on their own.”
“Everyone wants our schools to reopen. The question is how to make it safe, how to make it stick. Forcing education students back into a classroom and areas where the infection rate is going up or remaining very high is just plain dangerous,” Biden said standing alongside his wife Dr. Jill Biden in a new video.
Dr. Jill Biden, a longtime educator, stressed other parts of her husband’s plan like pumping funding into broadband and other resources to ensure students can access remote learning online. Biden said that if he were president today, he would have already sent a bill to Congress asking for emergency public schools funding, estimating roughly $30 billion for safe supplies and $4 billion for upgrading technologies.
Biden initially laid out a plan to revitalize the economy last month that included steps on how best to reopen schools and child care programs safely. But the latest roadmap specifically addressing school reopening comes after the president threatened to cut federal funding for schools that do not reopen, leaving many educators scrambling to figure out the best ways to reopen safely.
“President Trump doesn’t have the authority to cut the funding,” Biden said during a virtual fundraiser earlier this week. “We should send him back to school for a while so he learns about the constitution and he learns about the power he does and doesn’t have.”
The plan also comes one day after White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters during a press briefing that “science should not stand in the way of [schools reopening]” when asked what the president would tell parents who are considering taking their kids out of school due to the coronavirus spread to instead learn online.
“And I was just in the Oval talking to him about that," she said. "When he says open, he means open in full, kids being able to attend each and every day in their school. The science should not stand in the way of this,” she said.
In response, Biden stressed that while the president has “waved the white flag and given up” on finding the safest solutions to reopen the economy and schools, he plans on addressing the educational disparities that have been brought to light amid the pandemic.
“Every single student should be able to access high quality distance learning,” he said. “We can’t allow the pandemic to further exacerbate the educational disparities that already exist in this country. We need a White House that’s laser focused on closing those gaps.”
Flashback: LBJ's advice to Humphrey for running mate included a surprising name
At 10:41 in the morning on Aug. 29, the day that Vice President Hubert Humphrey chose his running mate for the 1968 presidential race, outgoing President Lyndon Johnson offered some advice about the decision on a call, including this: consider Daniel Inouye.
Johnson felt the first term senator from Hawaii, whose name was not on the four-person short list in that day’s New York Times, had two key attributes: combat wounds and brown skin.
Listen to the call here, with Johnson discussing Inouye at the 09:25 mark:
“He answers Vietnam with that empty sleeve,” Johnson said. “He answers your problems with Nixon with that empty sleeve. He has that brown face. He answers everything in civil rights, and he draws a contrast without ever opening his mouth."
Inouye got his “empty sleeve” as a second lieutenant during World War II, when a German grenade took his right arm in Italy. Shot and severely wounded, Inouye continued to lead his segregated platoon of fellow Japanese Americans — some of whom came from internment camps — “until enemy resistance was broken,” according to his belated Medal of Honor citation.
Johnson spoke of that courage, Inouye’s ability to stay on message (“He’s as loyal as a dog”) and the historic nature of the choice: “He ought to appeal to the world. It would be fresh and different. He’s young and new.”
As for putting the first racial minority on a national ticket after the civil rights battles of the 1960s, Johnson only saw advantages.
“The Southern boys,” Johnson said. “They all love Inouye. I don’t know why … I think one thing is that they just look at him and see that he — they can’t fuss at him and say, ‘He doesn’t love peace.’ God knows, he wants peace more than anybody, and it’s quite a contrast with Agnew … In other words, the South can’t get mad at him because he’s colored, and he would appeal to every other minority because he is one."
After Humphrey asked Johnson about other candidates, the president asked, “Inouye doesn’t appeal to you?”
“Well, I just don’t believe so,” Humphrey replied. “I guess maybe it just takes me a little too far, too fast. ‘Old conservative Humphrey,’” he joked.
The tape recording of Johnson and Humphrey’s conversation remained sealed until 2008. At the time, a spokeswoman for Inouye said he was aware he had been under consideration, but was “content” as a senator, the job he held until his death in 2012.
However, Inouye did take part in at least one presidential announcement during those years: introducing Joe Biden in Wilmington, Delaware as he kicked off his first presidential campaign in 1987.
“The fact of the matter is,” Biden said with Inouye and his empty sleeve behind him, “the man of courage on this stage today is you.”
Elizabeth Warren requests investigation into relief funds
WASHINGTON – Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is asking the newly confirmed head of Coronavirus relief oversight to investigate millions of dollars of relief funds that went to companies who employed lobbyists with close ties to the Trump administration.
Warren, who has been publicly skeptical about the Trump administration's oversight efforts, made her request in a letter to Brian Miller, President Donald Trump’s former White House counsel who was appointed to oversee more than $2 trillion of already-allocated federal funding for pandemic relief.
In her letter, Warren cites a report by the public interest organization Public Citizen that found clients of more than 40 lobbyists with ties to the president have received more than $10 billion of relief grants, loans and bonds from the federal government, according to government lobbying disclosure records and other information.
NBC News reported in April that firms with ties to the president received at least $100 million in small business loans under the Paycheck Protection Program.
The Public Citizen report mentions business entities highlighted in the NBC reporting, including Ashford Inc., an asset management company in the hospitality industry and Ashford Hospitality Trust, Inc., a real estate investment trust company it advises.
According to the report, lobbyists with Miller Strategies, LLC, a firm founded and run by Jeff Miller , a Trump campaign fundraiser, “have combined to lobby, or registered to lobby,” for the Ashford Hospitality Trust Inc. and at least 11 other clients. As the report notes, Miller was the vice chairman of President Trump’s inaugural committee and has raised “millions of dollars” for the Trump campaign and the GOP.
The report cites lobbying records showing that another lobbyist for Ashford Inc. is Roy Bailey, also a top Trump campaign fundraiser. Bailey was a national co-chair of Trump Victory Committee has lobbied Congress on COVID-19 economic relief legislation, according to the Public Citizen report.
“This special interest lobbying by former Trump administration and campaign insiders presents serious concerns about real and perceived conflicts of interest and merits important oversight by your office,” Warren writes in the letter.
In Miller’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, he said in response to a question by Warren that he would investigate companies that received funds by lobbying Congress or the White House.
The Public Citizen report includes other examples of former Trump Administration and Trump campaign officials lobbying on coronavirus relief funding issues.
The report notes that, Jason Miller, Trump’s former communications director, registered to lobby for a consulting company in April on the Paycheck Protection Program, on behalf of a client, Fountainhead Commercial Capital, a lender participating in the program. And, the report points out that Jared Sawyer, a former deputy assistant secretary in theTreasury Department, lobbied for financial industry clients including OnDeck Capital, Inc., another lender in the PPP program.
Comcast, the parent company of NBCUniversal, is one of 27 companies listed in the report as having received “Federal COVID Money Flowing to Clients of Trump Connected Lobbyists” — in Comcast’s case, in the form of purchases of its corporate bonds on what’s called the “secondary market.” Comcast says that they did not receive any direct money from the government and says the report is ‘misleading.’”
The author of the Public Citizen report says they stand by their report.
Warren, who's rumored to be on presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden's vice presidential shortlist, made anti-corruption legislation a key point in her 2020 presidential run. Prior to ending her presidential bid, Warren said she would create a task force in the Department of Justice to investigate corruption by government officials in the Trump administration.