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The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:

Everytown for Gun Safety launches $2 million ad campaign

Two political action committees under the Everytown for Gun Safety umbrella announced a $2 million ad campaign on Thursday targeting Latino voters. The new campaign marks the one-year anniversary of the El Paso shooting when 20 people were killed by a shooter. 

The bilingual digital and TV ads will air in 2020 battleground states and media markets like Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Fort Myers and West Palm Beach in Florida, Maricopa County in Arizona and El Paso, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston in Texas. 

The group also rolled out its first digital ad on Thursday. Entitled, "We have not forgotten", is playing statewide in Texas and was a five-figure spend for Everytown. It focuses on the lack of gun control action taken by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump. The English version of the ad can be found here

Alongside its paid media campaign, Everytown released a new poll conducted by Equis Research and Global Strategy Group of registered Latino voters to show how gun control has become a key issue to Latino voters. 

“The one-year milestone of the mass shooting in El Paso is a tragic reminder of the toll gun violence takes on the Latino community," president of Everytown John Feinblatt said in a statement.

He added, “It should come as no surprise that Latino voters are fed up with lawmakers who refuse to take action, and are planning to vote for candidates who will make keeping their families safe from gun violence a top priority.”

The poll shows that 66 percent of Latino voters said they wouldn't support a candidate who doesn't support a background check on all gun sales — that's on par with Latino voters' feelings on racial equality, health care and job creation. And 47 percent of Latino voters said they became more supportive of stronger gun control legislation since the El Paso shooting. 

Other statewide polls have shown President Trump trailing or on par with presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in Florida, Texas and Arizona, and a Pew Research Center survey found that Latino voters could be the largest non-white share of the vote in November. Everytown for Gun Safety endorsed Biden in March. 

Health care groups look to boost Democrats again in 2020

WASHINGTON — A number of doctor and nurses groups are backing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden for president amid the coronavirus pandemic, and as health care becomes a main focus of the presidential campaign, these groups are are making the bet that they can help Biden over the finish line like the issue helped House Democrats in 2018. 

Biden has support from health care groups like the Committee to Protect Medicare (a coalition of over 400 doctors across 40 states), National Nurses United, Be a Hero (the group affiliated with health care activist Ady Barkan) and the American Federation of Teachers which includes has over 112,000 health professionals as members. 

But the groups aren't just offering support, they're also taking their message to the airwaves. 

The Committee to Protect Medicare launched a six-figure ad buy in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona on Wednesday tying Biden’s understanding of loss to the struggle frontline health care professionals are in with coronavirus. Its message mirrors that of the Biden campaign: aside from Biden’s health care plans, his empathy is what should set him apart from President Trump. 

Executive director of Committee to Protect Medicare and Michigan emergency room doctor Dr. Rob Davidson compared Biden’s empathy to a doctor’s bedside manner in the midst of this crisis. 

“There’s a lot of pain and suffering and I think having someone in charge who understands that, someone who has lived it but also can look into someone else’s eyes and sort of walk in their shoes and understand their suffering and pain goes a long way to healing,” Davidson said. 

When Democrats won the House in 2018, 41 percent percent of voters said health care was the most important issue facing the country, according to NBC News’ exit polls. When broken down by party, 75 percent of Democrats said health care was the most important issue. Democrats who flipped seats in the House like Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin and Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger ran on expanding the Affordable Care Act — just like Biden has. 

And outside groups are pushing for Democratic-led health care legislation again this November. 

The American Federation of Teachers launched a $1 million ad campaign in June to push support for the House’s HEROES Act, and National Nurses United and Be a Hero dropped a six-figure digital ad campaign lambasting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for not bringing the HEROES Act to the Senate floor. 

The Senate Republican conference announced their coronavirus relief proposal on Monday — a proposal that National Nurses United and Be a Hero reject. 

In 2010, Democrats lost their House majority after passing the Affordable Care Act. And Republicans have successfully campaigned on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act for nearly a decade — but they’ve yet to pass a new health care bill since regaining control of the White House and having control of both chambers of Congress for the first two years of President Trump's current term. The president hasn’t released a new health care proposal this calendar year, but teased that a proposal would be coming soon. 

The Trump administration joined a Texas lawsuit in June to permanently overturn the ACA, and has faced criticism for the move saying it would strip away health care from people in the midst of a pandemic. 

“We're getting rid of it because we're going to replace it with something much better,” Trump said in response to that criticism during an interview on Fox News Sunday. 

And while Trump is defending his handling of the coronavirus and his lawsuit efforts, health care will be front and center in November. 

According to a June Pew Research Center survey, 58 percent of adults said the coronavirus outbreak is a big issue facing the country and 57 percent said the affordability of health care was a big problem. And prior to the coronavirus pandemic, a January Gallup poll found that health care was ranked as the most important issue for adults

When asked what he’d say to voters who may be concerned about a larger government presence in health care — a common point in Republican health care advertising — Davidson said voters should remember that Biden’s plan isn’t the same as socialized medicine. 

“They have been certainly influenced by an ad campaign from the insurance industry and drug companies that want to keep the status quo as long as they can, because they are the ones who profit off this and patients are the ones who suffer,” Davidson said. 

He added, “The plans that Biden’s talking about, and even Medicare for All isn’t [socialized medicine], it’s publicly funded but privately delivered and I think that little mantra probably should be something that messaging should be focused around.” 

Biden campaign launches first TV ads in Ohio

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign is expanding its paid media effort into Ohio with a message focused on his new economic agenda, a sign of the campaign’s increasingly bullish view of the battleground map and a shot at President Donald Trump on the issue he's counted on to keep him in the White House. 

Until Thursday, the Democratic nominee’s campaign has focused most of its advertising on six states Trump carried in 2016 — Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Earlier this week, it added battleground Nevada to a new $14.5 million in ad spending across those battleground states. 

And now the Biden campaign is adding a new, seven-figure campaign focused exclusively on the Buckeye State. Airing in the Toledo and Youngstown markets through the Democratic National Convention next month, Biden's new advertisement actually spotlights his hometown of Scranton.

Meanwhile, recent TV and radio ad spending figures from the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics show Trump's campaign drastically ramping down its spending in Michigan, a state key to Trump's victory in 2016. 

“Scranton is a long way from Wall Street. You won’t find skyscrapers or big-city bankers. Just hard-working people that make this country work. That’s where Joe Biden’s story starts,” the ad begins.

“Donald Trump? He ran for president for himself and for his friends on Wall Street.”

The ad then promotes Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan, unveiled over the course of this month, to help “the backbone of this nation: working families.” 

The Trump campaign has spent $3.5 million on the air in Ohio since April 1, the only other major spending there in that period in a state the president won by 8 points in 2016. 

The Lincoln Project, a super PAC opposing Trump, has spent $376,000, while the pro-Trump American First Policies has spent $175,000. 

As part of President Obama's ticket in both 2008 and 2012, Biden spent more time in Ohio than almost any other state — especially in the kind of blue-collar communities where his campaign is targeting his new economic message.

Ohio put President Obama over the top for his 2012 reelection, but swung dramatically toward Trump in his surprise 2016 victory. The state could again be decisive in 2020 — if Biden only carried the states that 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and added Pennsylvania, the only battleground state in which he’s campaigned in since April, Ohio’s 18 electoral votes would put him right at 270 — the magic number to claim the White House.

On top of the Ohio ad, Biden's campaign is also promoting his "Build Back Better" plan in another new ad airing in the other seven battlegrounds, featuring his remarks as he kicked off the economic push at a metalworks plant near Scranton earlier this month. 

—Ben Kamisar contributed

Lincoln Project hits Sen. Susan Collins as Trump 'stooge' as part of new $4 million ad buy

WASHINGTON — The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump super PAC founded by disaffected Republican strategists and known for its viral ads, is out with a new TV spot targeting Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins, who is up for re-election in November.

“Great, independent leaders rise from Maine’s hard soil. Always have and always will,” the ad begins over images of the state's past political leaders. 

The narrator then pivots to criticizing Collins, labelling her a “Trump stooge.”

“Collins isn’t an independent. She’s a fraud,” the one-minute spot continues. “Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump control her voice. She makes excuses for corruption, for criminality, for cruelty, all while pretending she’s worried.”

“Susan Collins doesn’t work for Maine, she works for them. And Maine deserves a leader, not a Trump stooge,” the ad concludes. 

The Lincoln Project’s latest spot is part of a broader $4 million buy focused on Maine, Alaska, and Montana with the Alaska and Montana ads backing Democratic challengers to the states’ GOP incumbent senators. It’s the group’s largest buy to date according to communications director Keith Edwards, with at least $1 million dedicated to each of the three states.

The ads will air on both broadcast and cable television in their respective states for seven to 10 days, the super PAC confirmed to NBC News. 

In a statement announcing the Collins spot, the Lincoln Project said that, "Defeating Trump means defeating his network of enablers as well. Come November 3rd, it’s time for Senator Collins to go." 

The ad comes just one day after the Collins' re-election campaign released its own one-minute spot, "Character," in which the Maine senator defends herself against the "outrageous attacks on [her] integrity."

GOP primary ads use Romney as cudgel

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney isn't running for president. He's not even up for re-election this cycle.

But the Utah senator is still showing up on the airwaves as campaigns try to use him as a wedge in the Republican Party.

The only Republican senator to vote for an impeachment article in President Trump's Senate trial earlier this year, and one of the few Republican senators who has consistently criticized Trump's conduct or his administration, Romney is certainly no stranger to intra-party criticism (the Club for Growth bought some ad time in Utah to hammer him for his impeachment vote). 

But Romney is being evoked in contentious primary races in which he's playing no part, and even a Missouri state senate primary down the ballot. 

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks on Capitol Hill on July 27, 2020.Susan Walsh / AP

One good example is in Tennessee's GOP Senate primary, which is pitting former Ambassador Bill Hagerty against Dr. Manny Sethi (among other candidates). The battle between the two men has grown contentious in recent weeks, with both sides lobbing brutal charges that the other one isn't conservative enough for Tennessee. 

But a group supporting Sethi tries to make that point by depicting Hagerty shape-shifting out of Romney, as part of an ad that frames Hagerty's original sin as associating with the Republican Party's 2012 nominee. 

A similar dynamic is playing out in the GOP primary for Florida's 19th Congressional District, and even in some state legislative primaries across the country too.  

And it seems likely Democrats are trying to seize on the divide in the party over Romney, too — about a month after the Club for Growth evoked Romney’s image to attack Roger Marshall, the mysterious group (with ties to Democrats) meddling in Kansas’ GOP Senate race started attacking Marshall for having backed a “Mitt Romney-like candidate” for president (John Kasich, for those of you scoring at home).

As campaigns use these loyalty tests to ask primary voters to repudiate their party’s 2012 nominee to support their new standard-bearer, it’s yet another reminder of how the GOP has been fashioned in the image of President Trump.

Giffords PAC launches anti-Gardner ad amid new, $7.5 million push toward November

WASHINGTON — Former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' political action committee, Giffords PAC, is launching a $1.25 million ad campaign against Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., portraying him as a politician bucking the interests of Coloradans in order to stand by President Trump.

The spot is the opening salvo of the at least $7.5 million Giffords PAC and its affiliated non-profit is budgeting for the general election, NBC has learned, aimed at backing its candidates up and down the ballot, hitting President Trump on guns (the group has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden) and messaging on gun safety. 

"Instead of protecting our families from gun violence, Cory Gardner would rather protect Donald Trump," the narrator says in the new Colorado ad. 

The ad will run starting Tuesday through the end of August on broadcast and cable in the state. 

Giffords PAC, Brady PAC and Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund have all endorsed Gardners opponent, former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. 

Those groups have applauded Hickenlooper for state laws enacted during his tenure on issues like background checks and limiting magazine capacity and they've hit Gardner for not supporting similar measures in the Senate.

Gardner told an audience in Aspen that he didn't "support gun control" last year and has pointed to "focusing on mental health services and stopping dangerous individuals from obtaining firearms" as a way to prevent future mass shootings.

He voted in favor of a 2016 Republican-led measure that would have delayed those on a terror watch list from buying a gun for three days while law enforcement looked into the situation. Democrats panned that delay as too weak, and Gardner voted against a more expanded bill offered by Democrats. 

Giffords PAC has backed a lengthy list of candidates in serious federal races this cycle, including: Biden; incumbent Democratic lawmakers like Iowa's Abby Finkenauer, New Jersey's Andy Kim, and Virginia's Abigail Spanberger; Democratic House challengers like Illinois' Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, Washington's Carolyn Long and Virginia's Cameron Webb; and Democratic Senate challengers North Carolina's Cal Cunningham and Kentucky's Amy McGrath. 

It is also backing two Republican congressmen — Pennsylvania's Brian Fitzpatrick and New Jersey's Chris Smith. 

"NRA lobbyists and gun lobby leaders still enjoy too many open doors in Washington. Their influence has prevented us from being able to protect the safety of kids and communities with safer gun laws like universal background checks," Peter Ambler, Giffords' executive director.

"Voters have the choice and the chance this year to elect leaders who will listen to experts, ignore special interests, and pass stronger gun laws.” 

Jason Phelps, a Giffords PAC spokesperson, told NBC News that while the group is focused on federal and local races across the country, its "top focus" is on races for Congress and the White House to win the ability to pass legislation expanding background checks. Phelps added that "the most emphasis" will be on Colorado, Texas, Minnesota, Iowa and North Carolina. 

A new committee wants to help Biden fulfill pledge to have Muslim American voices in his administration

Former Vice President Joe Biden committed last week to having Muslim American voices in his administration should he win the White House in November. Now, a new committee is working toward screening candidates to fill those slots.

Emgage PAC announced Tuesday it is coordinating the "Muslim American Executive Selection Committee," which it said will help to "identify, evaluate and endorse highly qualified Muslim American candidates for a potential Biden administration."

Speaking last week before Emgage's advocacy group, Emgage Action, Biden said he would be a president who "recognizes and honors" contributions of Muslim Americans in U.S. society.

"I'll be a president seeks out listens to  corporate the ideas and concerns of Muslim Americans on everyday issues that matter most to our communities," he said. "That will include having Muslim American voices as part of my administration."

Biden also pledged to remove President Donald Trump's travel ban, which involves several majority-Muslim nations, on "day one" as president.

In announcing the screening committee, Wa'el Alzayat, CEO of Emgage PAC, told NBC News he is confident there will be "much better" Muslim American representation in a potential Biden administration than under Trump.

"And we expect" Biden to make that so, Alzayat said. "And we will hold him to it."

Alzayat, who worked in the State Department for a decade, entering under President George W. Bush and leaving during the Obama administration, said that although there was not a "huge" number of Muslims working in presidential administrations during his time serving, there was a "noticeable increase year after year," something he said came to a halt after Trump took office.

The screening effort will include both the opportunity for perspective candidates to pass along their credentials as well as a recruiting effort by the committee to target talent.

Alzayat said this upcoming election presents a unique backdrop for Muslim Americans and Muslim American voters, a constituency that could be the deciding factor in lifting a candidate to victory in a closely-fought swing state like Michigan, should the race again come down to the wire. 

Meanwhile, the election comes "at a time of unprecedented islamophobia and attacks against that community," he said.

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.

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., waits to speak to workers at a nationwide Strike for Black Lives in Boston on July 20, 2020.Brian Snyder / Reuters

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.

Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., speaks to workers at a nationwide Strike for Black Lives in Boston on July 20, 2020.Brian Snyder / Reuters

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. 

Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference to discuss an upcoming House vote regarding statues on Capitol Hill on July 22, 2020.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

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. 

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk during a college basketball game between Georgetown Hoyas and the Duke Blue Devils at the Verizon Center in Washington on Jan. 30, 2010.Mitchell Layton / Getty Images file

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.

Joe Biden speaks about modernizing infrastructure and his plans for tackling climate change during a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware on July 14, 2020.Leah Millis / Reuters

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."