Look back at our archive of previous Meet the Press blog posts.
For the latest posts from the journalists at NBC News and the NBC News Political Unit, click here.
New Warren trade plan calls for labor, environmental standards
In a proposal released Monday — twenty four hours before she takes the stage for the second Democratic debate here — Warren seeks to upend the way American trade deals are negotiated and passed through Congress, establish a set of standards that countries must meet in order to enter into trade agreements with the United States, and keep countries and companies in line with labor and environmental standards.
The Massachusetts senator is the first 2020 candidate to put forth an extensive plan specifically on trade. She’s expected to highlight the policy in Toledo, Ohio Monday evening.
Some top lines include:
- Requiring trade negotiations be public and more closely scrutinized by trade groups labor groups before being approved by Congress
- Codifying a set of standards — including upholding human rights, abiding by core labor rights of the International Labor Organization, and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies — that foreign countries must abide by in order to enter into trade deals with the U.S. Already existing trade deals would also be renegotiated to make sure all countries are in line with these standards.
- Imposing a carbon tax against companies that move production overseas to avoid environmental regulations to “equalize the costs borne by companies playing by the rules”
- Bringing down the cost of prescription drugs by supports efforts to put price controls on pharmaceuticals and reducing exclusivity periods in already-existing trade deals
- Creating a new division under the U.S. Trade Representative to enforce environmental and labor rules
Kamala Harris' 'Medicare-for-All' plan is the latest in evolution on private insurance
WASHINGTON — Kamala Harris has put forward a health-care plan that would move all Americans into a “Medicare for All” system within 10 years — but it would also allow private insurers to offer competing plans, as long as they meet the standards of the government plan.
It's just the latest evolution for Harris on the subject of private insurance. Here's a look at how her positions have advanced:
In January, she said during a CNN town hall that she favored ending private insurance: “Let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on.”
"The idea is that everyone gets access to medical care, and you don't have to go through the process of going through an insurance company, having them give you approval, going through the paperwork, all of the delay that may require," Harris said. "Who of us has not had that situation, where you've got to wait for approval, and the doctor says, well, I don't know if your insurance company is going to cover this? Let's eliminate all of that.
Then, in May, she walked that back in an interview with CNN, saying her statement about eliminating “all of that” referred to bureaucracy, not private insurance.
"I support Medicare for All," she said, "but I really do need to clear up what happened on that stage."
"It was in the context of saying, let's get rid of all the bureaucracy. Let's get all of the waste." Asked whether she was talking about insurance companies, Harris said: "No. That's not what I meant. I know it was interpreted that way. If you watch the tape, I think you'll see that there are obviously many interpretations of what I said. What I meant is, let's get rid of the bureaucracy."
Then, at the June NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo debate, she raised her hand responding to the question about who favored abolishing private health insurance.
Then, she later said she misheard/didn’t understand Lester’s question.
"No," Harris told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" when asked if she'd work to abolish private health insurance in favor of "Medicare for All" if elected president. "The question was, would you give up your private insurance for that option, and I said yes."
Inslee's new energy plan aims puts focus on low-income communities
DETROIT — Washington Governor Jay Inslee will announce the newest policy addition to his climate change agenda Monday, unveiling a “Community Climate Justice” plan to address environmental justice and racism and to highlight how climate change and pollution is disproportionately harming low-income Americans and minorities.
Inslee will formally unveil his plan in Detroit in the 48217 zip-code area, the most polluted neighborhood in the state of Michigan with the Marathon Oil refinery nearby.
His proposal, which is the fifth installment in Inslee’s extensive agenda to combat climate change, puts issues of justice at center.
Inslee proposes to establish the country’s first-ever equity mapping and screening process, which would track environmental injustices and “pollution hotspots” and use the data to determine which communities need more investing and aid.
His plan would also create a Universal Clean Energy Service Fund, based on the model of the existing Universal Service Fund, which expanded telecom services to low income communities, to reduce the cost of energy bills.
Inslee would also turn the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality into the Council on Environmental Justice, a move he says will stress the importance of justice in all climate policy decisions.
“We have had a lot of racial disparity in our criminal justice system and economic system but we also have it in our environmental system,” Inslee told NBC News in a phone interview, “The goal here is to recognize these two things are intertwined, both in cause and in solution.”
Inslee will spend the days before the upcoming debate in Detroit as well as Flint, Michigan to discuss the city’s water crisis. He also says he plans on discussing this specific climate change proposal on the debate stage on July 31, even if it means breaking the rules on speaking time.
“If rules become those who speak louder speak, I’m going to speak," he said. "We can’t allow the world to burn while other candidates are talking about their items. We gotta have this debate.”
Harris proposes her version of 'Medicare for All'
DETROIT — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., put forward a healthcare proposal on Monday ahead of the second Democratic presidential debate that would move every American into a 'Medicare-for-All' system within ten years, while allowing private insurers to offer competing plans, as well as supplemental insurance options — provided that the commercial plans meet the care standards of the government plan.
“This plan will reduce our country’s health care costs and lower Americans’ out-of-pocket costs, all while extending health insurance coverage to every American,” Harris wrote in a Medium post outlining her proposal.
Harris’ plan would provide “all medically necessary services, including emergency room visits, doctor visits, vision, dental, hearing aids, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, and comprehensive reproductive health care services.”
Presently, Americans 65 years older and older are eligible for Medicare. Harris’ plan would immediately enroll newborns and uninsured Americans onto the government-run option while transitioning the rest of the population onto a Medicare plan — one either run by the government or a private insurer — within ten years of the passage of her proposed legislation.
Since launching her presidential bid in January, the Democratic presidential candidate has faced questions about the role that private insurance companies would play in her plan.
Harris’ plan would allow private insurance companies to offer “Medicare plans” that “adhere to strict Medicare requirements on costs and benefits.” It would also allow the companies to sell “supplemental insurance” to cover care, like cosmetic surgery, that her proposed Medicare plans would not cover.
“I think what she’s saying is if the private sector can add value, then power to them,” said Andy Slavitt, who served as acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under the Obama Administration. “She’s leaving room for innovation, but she’s also saying there ought to be a pretty high bar.”
The package of services guaranteed to Americans under Harris’ plan, however, is more expansive than the current offerings under Medicare today.
In a statement sent to reporters by the Harris campaign, former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who worked with Harris’s campaign staff during the formation of the plan, said: “This plan builds on the progress we made in the Affordable Care Act and expands upon its promise of universal coverage through a sensible expansion of the popular Medicare system.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders has long backed a similar Medicare for All proposal, which Harris has co-sponsored in the U.S. Senate, but Harris said her plan would establish a 10-year phase-in period for individuals currently enrolled in other plans, like employer-based care, the exchanges built under the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, to “transition” to the new Medicare plans. Sanders has pressed for a four-year timetable.
The senator, in her written post on Monday, also outlined her proposal for covering the cost of the expanded healthcare coverage. She said would not increase taxes on households that make less than $100,000 a year. Sanders, alternatively, has suggested a “4-percent income-based premium” on families of four making more than $29,000 a year would be included in his legislation.
Harris also proposed a tax on stock trades and called for an end to foreign tax shelters as part of her plan to pay for the proposal.
First Read Sunday: Rick Scott responds to Trump feud with Cummings
WASHINGTON — If It’s Sunday, the tweets are sparking outcry again.
President Trump opened up yet another feud this weekend with a Democratic member of Congress when he attacked House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md.
The president called Cummings' Baltimore-area district "a disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess," and he criticized the Democrat for criticizing Homeland Security’s treatment of migrants on the southern border.
The context for Trump's attacks is key—Cummings’ committee has broad jurisdiction and is investigating a litany of issues including the administration’s handling of the crisis at the southern border and security clearances, as well as questions surrounding Trump’s business interests.
So those investigations might have something to do with Trump's decision to make things personal.
Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott demurred when asked about the president's tone in an appearance on "Meet the Press" Sunday morning, saying, "you can ask him why he did the tweet." But like Trump, Scott trained his fire on Cummings, arguing that the congressman did border patrol agents a disservice by criticizing their conduct.
“I didn't do the tweets, Chuck. I can't talk about why he did what he did. But I'm very disappointed in the people, like Congressman Cummings, who is attacking Border Patrol agents that are trying to do their job, when the Democrats won't give them the resources to do it," he said.
"Congressman Cummings has sat there and attacked our Border Patrol agents, all right? This reminds me of what happened to soldiers coming back from Vietnam,” he said.
For more on the president's feud with Cummings, and for more news and analysis from "Meet the Press," be sure to sign up for the daily First Read newsletter here.
Booker: Biden attacks are 'ridiculous'
CARTER LAKE, Iowa — NBC News correspondent Garrett Haake spoke with Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., about his criticisms of former Vice President Joe Biden and support for Booker in the African American community. Booker said it will be important for the Democratic nominee to have an “authentic connection” with African American voters. Watch:
New Buttigieg plan aims to expand and strengthen unions
DES MOINES, Iowa — Mayor Pete Buttigieg unveiled his latest presidential campaign policy proposal Friday, an economic plan focused on strengthening and expanding unions and workers' rights.
“Our economy is changing, and too many Americans are working full time, some working two or even three jobs, and still finding it impossible to make ends meet,” Buttigieg said.
The plan calls for an expansion of unionization to include gig economy workers, fast food employees, and contract laborers. In addition to cracking down on employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors, in an effort to avoid paying overtime or being held to the standard of civil rights protections required by law.
In addition, Buttigieg hopes to strengthen collective bargaining rights in places where unions already exist. His plan would allow unionized workers from different companies, but in the same line of work, the option to bargain all together. The plan would also give domestic and home health care workers the ability to bargain across employers and expand protections for farm workers.
The 13-page plan hopes to tackle the gender wage gap through greater pay transparency, banning employers from using an employee’s salary history to determine wages, and passing anti-harassment and gender nondiscrimination laws.
Buttigieg’s proposal would give preference in government contract bids to companies that are unionized and offer good pay and benefits to all of their workers.
“Let’s make sure that in this coming era, the tide continues to rise — and truly lifts all boats,” Buttigieg said.
The plan also calls for a $15 minimum wage and ensuring paid sick leave and family leave for all Americans, which much of the democratic field supports. The campaign said Buttigieg would implement these policies through both administrative action and legislation.
The mayor will unveil the policy at a town hall in Ankeny, Iowa later today.
Castro releases first plan for indigenous communities
DES MOINES, Iowa — Ahead of a visit to the Meskwaki Settlement in Tama, Iowa Friday, former HUD Sec. Julián Castro released his “People First Indigenous Communities Policy,” the first comprehensive plan among 2020 Democratic candidates specifically focusing on the relationship between tribal nations and the federal government.
This plan intersects with his established positions on housing grants, veteran homelessness, healthcare, investment in education, and his plan for a 21st Century Marshall Plan.
“We cannot erase the history of how our nation has treated Indigenous peoples,” Castro said in a tweet Thursday, “But we can respect their sovereignty, honor our treaty commitments & make progress to ensure that all native communities thrive.”
Castro seeks to strengthen tribal sovereignty by establishing a White House Council on Indigenous Community Affairs to ensure representation in Washington D.C. The plan also will protect Native Americans’ equal access to all forms of voting and will combat efforts to “disenfranchise" those communities.
Castro’s plan prioritizes the “crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women” and human trafficking of native women by creating a task force of tribal leaders, public health officials and law enforcement. According to Dept. of Justice data, some reservations’ murder rates of Native American women are ten times higher than the national average. The plan also proposes to end tribal veteran homelessness by 2025 and to invest an additional $2.5billion over ten years to fund the various Native American housing block grant programs.
It also calls for the end of leasing of federal lands for fossil fuel exploration and extraction in order to protect sacred tribal lands, in addition to supporting the STOP Act, to prosecute the illegal export of tribal cultural heritage and organize the return of these items from foreign countries.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s newly released “Moonshot” climate change plan includes a short section on indigenous communities, promising to direct federal agencies to seek and obtain approval from tribal governments before traversing or disrupting tribal lands.
Tom Steyer: I’ll declare a national emergency to tackle climate change
WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, the newest entry into the 2020 contest, released an environmental plan on Thursday that includes a promise to declare a “national emergency” over climate change immediately upon taking office.
“We’ve got to stop talking about this, we have to turn the page to action and we should do it Day One by calling it a state of emergency,” Steyer told NBC News in an interview.
“That’s where we are. That’s where the people of America have got to go together.”
He is the first candidate to follow President Trump’s own invocation of emergency powers to finance a border wall with a direct pledge to take similar steps to confront climate change.
According to Steyer, he would “give Congress 100 days to pass a Green New Deal” before using executive authority impose new energy efficiency standards on and redirect federal funding to climate projects.
Steyer’s broader proposal sets a goal of net-zero emissions associated with climate change by 2045.
Planks of the plan include a $2 trillion investment in clean energy infrastructure, hiring 1 million workers into a new civil service program dedicated to combating climate change, and tripling funding for scientific research.
It also includes a $50 billion fund to help transition workers tied to the fossil fuel industry to new jobs, which Steyer said would be distributed in consultation with affected communities. “We want to make sure we explicitly take those workers’ interests into account,” he said.
A leading Democratic donor, Steyer has invested millions in climate activism over the years through groups like NextGen America, which he founded.
Booker and Biden lower the temperature of spat at National Urban League
INDIANAPOLIS — Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., kept recent tensions between them low at the National Urban League conference, with both candidates stressing to the audience their individual commitments to the black community instead of attacking each other’s records on civil rights.
Still, Booker, who was the first candidate to criticize Biden’s criminal justice plan earlier this week, suggested throughout his remarks that the African American should base their support for a candidate on their career long commitment to civil rights and their chances to beat President Donald Trump.
“It is easy to call Donald Trump a racist now — you get no great badge of courage for that. The question is what were you doing to address structural inequality and institutional racism throughout your life?” he said.
Booker then added it was “a problem” that when people ask about electability “they’re not asking about the African-American voters who make up the most reliable constituency of the Democratic Party.”
The New Jersey senator never uttered Biden’s name during his speech Thursday, but his comments came after Booker questioned whether Biden is the appropriate leader for the black community because he was the “architect of mass incarceration” for passing the 1994 crime bill. Biden responded to that attack yesterday stating simply that “Cory knows better.”
Following Booker’s electability remark, Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager and communications director for Biden’s campaign, tweeted that the campaign “couldn’t agree more” with his point. She then pointed to the almost 40 percentage point difference between Booker and Biden in a new CBS poll where 44 percent of African Americans said they would vote for Biden over 4 percent who support Booker.
Biden avoided even making suggestions about his opponents position on the issue while speaking at the conference, but he did stress that he would do everything possible to win over African American voters saying, “I promise I’ll work hard for your support. And if I get elected, I’m with you.”
Many of Biden's opponents have lodged complaints against Biden's assumption that he will easily win the African American community.
Biden leads Dem primary field in South Carolina by 27 points
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden has a wide lead in Monmouth University's new South Carolina Democratic primary poll, with just two other candidates registering double-digit support.
Biden's 39 percent puts him in a league of his own, while his next closest competitors are stuck in a logjam far behind him.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has support from 12 percent of the likely primary voters, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at 10 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., at 9 percent.
South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is at 5 percent in the poll, followed by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and billionaire Tom Steyer, who both sit at 2 percent.
The rest of the field hit 1 percent or lower.
Biden continues to draw his support from black voters, which typically make up a majority of the South Carolina primary electorate. More than half (51 percent) of black voters say Biden is their first choice.
Monmouth is one of the pollsters that the Democratic National Committee is using to decide who makes its debate stage in September. But the poll had little effect on the field, outside putting Steyer closer to qualifying for the debate.
Candidates have to hit both a 130,000 unique donor threshold as well as finish with 2 percent or above in four qualifying polls. Six candidates both have hit the poll threshold and say they've hit that unique donor threshold. With this poll, Steyer has hit the 2 percent mark in two polls.
Gillibrand unveils 'moonshot' plan to combat climate change
CHICAGO — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., unveiled a $10 trillion comprehensive climate change plan Thursday, that she says will "save our planet."
“We must aggressively combat climate change not because it is easy, but because it is hard," Gillibrand said evoking the words of former President John F. Kennedy in a statement announcing her climate "moonshot."
"Our race for a green economy will be a measure of our excellence, innovation, and entrepreneurialism as a nation, and I know we’re up for the challenge,” she continued.
Her six point plan includes many elements of the Green New Deal, a resolution outlined by freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, now embraced by much of the 2020 Democratic primary field.
The six points, each containing specific goals, initiatives and commitments are:
- Get to net-zero carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and phase out fossil fuels.
- Put a price on carbon and hold polluters accountable.
- Build a green jobs economy.
- Prioritize rural advancement, frontline communities, and marginalized voices.
- Lead a 21st-century clean energy international “space race.”
- Protect clean air, clean water, and public lands.
Climate change has been a top issue area for the Democratic party base, reflected by the priority several of the candidates have placed on detailing large-scale plans to combat the issue.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is making climate change the central issue of his candidacy, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke's first policy proposal was a $5 trillion climate plan and former Vice President Joe Biden's plan, announced in early June, totaled $1.7 trillion.
In a nod to workers potentially displaced by a shift to a green energy economy, Gillibrand promises to "establish a 'green jobs recovery fund' to help affected communities build new opportunities."
Her plan includes a commitment to "ensure wage and benefit replacements are guaranteed for displaced workers, and make it easier for workers who are near the end of their career to find paths to retirement."
The Gillibrand campaign says her proposals would be partially funded by a combination of a climate mitigation excise tax, carbon tax and ending fossil fuel subsidies.
Democrats don’t see momentum for impeachment right now
WASHINGTON — Robert Mueller’s testimony is unlikely to reverse House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reluctance to launch immediate impeachment proceedings against President Trump, instead lending momentum towards calls for more congressional investigations, Democratic lawmakers and top aides told NBC News.
“He was clear about the things that counted, that he did not exonerate the president, that there were multiple instances of obstruction of justice” Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Penn., told NBC News. "We absolutely have to” call in more witnesses, she said.
“I think it’s a very important first day,” Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Penn, said. “Some people are saying this is the last day. This is the beginning.”
Senior Democratic Intelligence Committee officials who briefed reporters after their hearing said Mueller’s articulation of national security risks that can come from foreign contacts, among other issues, "raises a lot more questions” to pursue.
In a press conference after the hearings, Pelosi was asked by NBC News whether her views had changed on impeachment. "My position has always been whatever decision we made in that regard would have to be done with our strongest possible hand, and we still have some outstanding matters in the courts," she said. "It's about the Congress, the Constitution, and the courts. And we are fighting the president in the courts."
Pelosi told Democrats in a closed-door meeting Wednesday evening that the president has engaged in wrongdoing.
Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., said that Pelosi told members that they can come out for impeachment if that’s what they thought was right based on the testimony. “She was more clear today about” telling members to support impeachment if they want than she has been in the last, Demings said.
Still, Democrats close to the speaker cautioned that the proceedings are unlikely to change her go-slow approach.
Robert Raben, an assistant attorney general under Bill Clinton who is close to Pelosi’s office and has been advising House and Senate Judiciary members, said “if someone was hoping that this would be the surge toward a tipping point, that wasn’t the case.”
“The ground did not shift (on impeachment),” Raben told NBC. “Pelosi’s strategy of investigate, legislate and litigate will remain intact,” he said.
Three Democratic aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said the hearings won't cause Pelosi to reverse course.
“The question is how many (Democratic) members come out for it and what’s the threshold that makes it uncomfortable and unsustainable for her” to resist impeachment. Prior to the hearings, there were 88 Democrats who’ve publicly called for an impeachment inquiry.
“If we get into triple digits and 45-50% it might be harder for her” to resist, the aide said.
Alex Moe contributed
Booker and Biden spar over criminal justice
WASHINGTON — Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and former Vice President Joe Biden took aim at each other's records on criminal justice in what could be a preview of next week's presidential debate stage.
Booker has spent the past few days criticizing Biden's support for the 1994 crime bill decried by many progressive criminal justice reform activists for being too harsh on issues like mandatory sentencing.
Biden pushed back Wednesday, pointing to a federal investigation into the Newark Police Department that found that officers "engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional stops, searches, arrests, use of excessive force and theft."
The discussion heated up on Tuesday after Biden released his new criminal justice plan, which includes policies like pushing states to eliminate mandatory minimums for non-violent crimes and reducing criminal penalties for drug crimes.
In response, Booker called Biden the "proud architect of a failed system."
Booker expanded on that criticism on Wednesday during a Detroit NAACP forum that included 10 presidential candidates, including Biden. There, he argued that "we've seen devastating impact of legislation" like the crime bill" to "destroy communities, that has turned and put mass incarceration on steroids," Booker said.
During his remarks Wednesday, Biden defended his involvement with the 1994 crime bill, arguing it was "overwhelmingly supported" in his community. But he said there should be a shift from "incarceration to rehabilitation" to address the "systemic problem of too many African Americans in jail."
Pressed on Booker's claim, Biden pointed to the Justice Department investigation into the Newark Police Department which found a "pattern or practice of constitutional violations," as well as "policing that results in disproportionate stops and arrests of Newark’s black residents." Booker was the mayor of Newark for a portion of that time.
"If he wants to go back and talk about records, I am happy to do that. But I'd rather talk about the future," Biden added.
Booker addressed that investigation Sunday on CNN.
"Most folks who know New Jersey know I inherited a police department that had decades of challenges with accountability, challenges along racial lines," he said.
"And we actually stepped up to deal with the problem, not only working with the DOJ, but working with the ACLU to put forward what was a national standard-setting level of accountability.
Michigan GOP Rep. says he won't run again in 2020
WASHINGTON — A Republican member of Congress from Michigan says he won’t run for re-election, lamenting that “rhetoric overwhelms policy, and politics consumes much of the oxygen in this city.”
Rep. Paul Mitchell, who was first elected to Michigan’s 10th district in the Detroit exurbs in 2016, said he’ll retire at the end of his term, also in part to spend more time with a young son with special needs.
Mitchell’s district is heavily conservative, but it’s experienced a significant swing in the past decade. Trump won it by 32 percentage points in 2016, and Mitchell won by more than 25 points in both his congressional elections.
That’s a significant shift from 2008, when Barack Obama kept John McCain’s margin of victory there to just two points.
Poll: Majority of Republicans now say they're confident that Mueller probe was fair
WASHINGTON — When former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before Congress on Wednesday, he’ll have a unique distinction that most lawmakers in Congress can only stand back and envy: Both Republicans and Democrats are pretty confident in his work.
New data from the Pew Research Center finds that — for the first time — a majority of Republicans say they’re confident that Mueller’s investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election was fair.
Six-in-ten Republicans express that confidence, with 71 percent of Democrats saying the same thing.
Overall, 65 percent of Americans adults say they have faith in the fairness of Mueller’s probe, with 36 percent saying they’re “very” confident.
Republicans’ enthusiasm for Mueller is up sharply since January, when only 39 percent expressed confidence in Mueller’s work.
Since the publication of his findings this spring, President Donald Trump has pointed to the report as vindication to his claims of “no collusion,” even as he continues to ding Mueller as personally “conflicted.”
Mueller’s report said that while it did not find evidence the Trump campaign “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” it did conclude “the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”
And while Mueller did not find that Trump committed obstruction of justice, he wrote that “if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”
Dem group Priorities USA launches round of weekly, six-figure digital buys
WASHINGTON — Priorities USA, a top Democratic super PAC aimed at defeating President Trump in 2020, is launching a new round of digital ads aimed chipping away at Trump's economic message.
The ads, which started this week, sound a similar message: "Let's be honest: Trump's economy isn't working for us."
Guy Cecil, the group's chairman, told reporters Tuesday that they will ramp up spending in the next few weeks and will ultimately be spending $350,000 to $400,000 per week on the ads in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. He added the campaign will last for the "foreseeable future" with "no end date."
The focus on the economy, Cecil said, is for a variety of reasons. First, he said the news of the day (think: impeachment, the Mueller report, and more recently, Trump's attacks on the four minority freshmen Democratic members) continues to dominate in the headlines at the expense of economic issues that voters say matter to them.
And he argued that while some broad metrics, like the stock market and the unemployment rate may be favorable for Trump at the macro-level, that there's ample room for Democrats to make a more personal argument.
"Americans are experiencing Donald Trump's economy in a way that is fundamentally different from most of the headlines," he said.
"Most Americans describe the economy as being good, but most Americans also describe their personal economic situation as being incredibly tenuous."
Along with the roll-out of the new ads, Cecil also shared a glimpse of the super PAC's internal projections for 2020.
Priorities USA believes that if the election were held today, a Democrat would defeat Trump with 278 electoral votes to Trump's 260. But Cecil cautioned that the lead is not a projection for what the map will look like by next November, only the map as it stands now.
And he described the Democratic lead as slim — if turnout by voters of color drops 2 percentage points or Democratic support from the white working class drops 1 percentage point from Priorities' projections, Democrats would lose, their analysis shows.
"The reality is that we are dealing with an incredibly close election and it requires Democrats, it requires progressives, it requires us to be focused on both things," Cecil said of the argument over whether Democrats should target the white working class or minority voters.
"Choosing one or the other is choosing to lose."
Biden releases criminal justice reform plan
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden has unveiled a criminal justice plan that aims to curb the high rate of incarceration after critics have targeted his past support for legislation they say led to high levels of unjust incarcerations.
Biden’s Plan for Strengthening America’s Commitment to Justice calls for eliminating mandatory minimum for non-violent crimes, a federal provision passed under the 1994 Crime Bill passed while Biden served as Senate Judiciary Chairman.
It redirects incarcerated drug users to drug courts and ends the disparity between crack and powder cocaine in an effort to lessen the number of incarcerated people. It would decriminalize cannabis and automatically expunge prior convictions for those jailed for using marijuana. Biden would not federally decriminalize marijuana, saying that is a decision for states.
Biden’s plan also lays out numerous ways to prevent those with a higher risk of facing jail in their lifetime by investing and improving foster care, education and literacy, and it explains how his administration would invest $1billion towards juvenile justice reform.
“He believes in opportunity. He believes in fairness. He believes that folks that who have served their time should be able to reintegrate into society and and participate fully, as citizens,” a senior Biden campaign official said.
His proposal comes at a time when his criminal justice and civil rights record is questioned by opponents and critics for lacking understanding of the issues. Biden has defended his decades long records on the issues, saying that he entered and remained in politics to defend civil rights.
He recently admitted that though his record on the 1994 crime bill has been “grossly misrepresented,” he acknowledged that it was far from perfect.
“It worked, it worked in some areas. But it failed in others. Like every major change, you go back and you make it better,” he said at an in Sumter, S.C. earlier this month.
A campaign official stressed that the timing of the release was not a result of Biden debating the two African Americans candidates in the race, Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., at next week’s debate and said he’s prepared to face criticism of his record.
Kamala Harris teams up with Jerry Nadler on marijuana bill
WASHINGTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. is sponsoring new legislation with Congressman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. to decriminalize marijuana, tax its production, and use the funds to aid neighborhoods and individuals especially impacted by prior enforcement of drug laws.
“Times have changed — marijuana should not be a crime,” Harris said in a statement. “We need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives.”
The bill, known as the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, will likely have more opportunity to advance through the Democratic-majority House, where Nadler chairs the Judiciary Committee.
The bill would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and impose a 5 percent excise tax, which would go to a series of programs to help “communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs” benefit from the new industry, according to Harris. They would include a grant program to help local governments work with residents with marijuana-related convictions to help them with job training, legal aid, and substance abuse treatment. Another program would assist prospective new marijuana entrepreneurs from “socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.”
Justin Strekal, political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the costs of the excise tax to business owners would be dwarfed by the benefits of being able to do business in the open. Companies involved in cannabis currently face significant tax and banking barriers in states that have legalized marijuana thanks to the federal prohibition.
“It’s going to be a much lower tax burden on the industry,” Strekal said.
The issue has become a rallying point for Democrats in recent years. The entire Democratic field supports ending the federal prohibition on marijuana and Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., has made his own legalization bill a central part of his campaign.
Tom Steyer led presidential pack in Facebook spending last week
WASHINGTON — Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer is already dropping big dollars on his presidential bid, a reflection of how the new candidate's deep pockets are having an impact on the race.
Steyer has already booked well more than $1 million in television advertising time, and his spots are already up on the air in early primary states.
And new Facebook data shows that Steyer spent more on Facebook ads than any other presidential candidate over the past week, $284,960 from July 14 through July 20.
The Democrat's ads hit a variety of notes — some flaunt his work starting the "Need to Impeach" grassroots group aimed at pushing Congress to impeach President Trump; some argue "we need an outsider to fix our broken politics;" others argue that Steyer will put climate change "front and center;" and others argue that Steyer is the best candidate to buck the power that big corporations have in politics.
New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand spent $195,772 during that time period with ads including some that criticize Trump's "contempt for women and anyone who threatens this president's fragile ego." She also ran ads promoting her record on abortion and calling on supporters to help her reach the September Democratic debate's 130,000 unique donor threshold.
President Trump's "Make America Great Again Committee" spent $160,581 last week, making it the third-highest spending campaign of the week. Trump's messages included accusations that conservatives are being censored on social media and in the news, a direction to take the campaign's "Official Corrupt Media Censorship Survey," and various messages from the "Women for Trump" team about how the president's economic and border security plans will help women.
Democrat Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker were the only other presidential hopefuls who spent at least $100,000 on Facebook last week.
Warren warns of coming economic crisis — and how to avert it
WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren is sounding the alarm with her latest plan, cautioning Monday — as she did before the 2008 crash — of new “warning signs” in the U.S. economy.
"Warning lights are flashing,” she writes in a Medium post. “Whether it’s this year or next year, the odds of another economic downturn are high — and growing. Congress and regulators should act immediately to tamp down these threats before it’s too late."
In the years before the 2008 crash, Warren saw red flags in subprime lending, rising household debt, and rising foreclosure rates/mortgage-backed securities. Today, it’s in a recession in the manufacturing sector, plus rising household and corporate debt and an uncertain economic backdrop.
And Warren writes that she has a plan to stop it. Here are some highlights:
- Reduce household debt by raising wages ($15 min wage) and bring down household costs. Those cost reductions include several already-released Warren plans, like her student loan debt cancellation plan, universal childcare/pre-k, free college tuition, and housing (lowering the cost of rent).
- Increase oversight over corporate lending, specifically through the already-existing Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) better addressing risks of leveraged lending and enforcing current leverage guidance. Trump’s FSOC, Warren writes, “is falling down on the job.”
- Reverse manufacturing job losses through Warren’s previously released Green Manufacturing Plan, which puts $2 trillion towards green research, manufacturing, and exporting, creating an estimated 1 million-plus new jobs while also addressing climate change.
- Limit potential shocks to the economy — like planning for what will happen in the case of a no-deal Brexit, finding an ally-driven approach to dealing with China’s trade tactics (not “trade-war-by-tweet”), and eliminating the debt ceiling or automatically raising it to accommodate spending decisions approved by Congress.
Top Democrat on tax committee faces left-wing primary challenge
WASHINGTON — Alex Morse, the mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, announced Monday that he will mount a primary challenge against Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee who has been criticized by progressives for not pushing harder for the release of President Donald Trump's tax returns.
Neal is a relatively low-profile moderate who has for three decades represented a district that encompasses most of Western Massachusetts, a rural but deeply Democratic area.
Morse, whose parents grew up in public housing, became his hometown's youngest mayor ever and its first openly gay one when he was elected at 22 years old in 2011, just six months after graduating from Brown University.
In a statement announcing his candidacy, Morse said Neal has not been aggressive enough in using his seat to push progressive ideas.
“There's an urgency to this moment in Massachusetts’ First District and our country, and that urgency is not matched by our current representative in Congress,” Morse said in a video announcing his candidacy. "We need new leadership that understands that we can no longer settle for small, incremental, and compromising progress. We need to be on offense. We need to be fighting for something, not just against."
In addition to Trump's tax returns, The incumbent has also been dinged by progressives for opposing impeachment proceedings against the president, expressing skepticism about Medicare for All, and accepting campaign contributions from corporate PACs.
Since Massachusetts is run almost entirely by Democrats, it has a history of ousting longtime incumbent Democrats who face high-profile challengers, such as Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., who is now running for president after wining a primary in 2014, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., a member of the so-called "squad," who was elected last year after a blockbuster primary in Boston.
Trump team will monitor Mueller hearing but no plans to counter — yet
WASHINGTON — The White House and President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign plan to tune in Wednesday to watch former special counsel Robert Mueller's congressional testimony without a coordinated plan to counter the appearance ahead of time, according to multiple officials involved in those discussions.
The president himself is expected to monitor the hearings from the White House as Mueller answers questions about the Russia investigation, according to campaign aides, much like he has done with similar events in the past. His schedule for that day only includes a routine lunch with the vice president, and aides point to his morning “executive time” as a natural window for Trump to take in snippets of the coverage.
But when asked directly by reporters last week if he intended to tune in, the president claimed he “won’t be watching.”
Then, speaking to reporters on Monday, the president said, "I'm not going to be watching. Probably. Maybe I'll see a little bit of it. I'm not going to be watching Mueller because you can't take all those bites out of the apple. We had no collusion. No obstruction. We had no nothing."
Later Wednesday, Trump is expected to travel to Wheeling, West Virginia for a big-dollar fundraiser behind closed doors, a rescheduled event from earlier in the summer — offering a possible opportunity for him to respond to the man he once called “honorable” and now disparages regularly.
When the Mueller hearing was originally announced for July 17, the Trump re-election team decided to hold a signature “Make America Great Again” rally in Greenville, North Carolina for that night. But just days before the long-awaited testimony, lawmakers delayed the timing one week, in exchange for more questioning time. The rally, as well-documented, went on.
Now, Mueller is expected to appear before the Judiciary Committee for three hours, followed by two hours before the House Intelligence Committee.
White House officials, and Trump himself, expect Mueller to largely echo the contents of his 448-page report, which many Democrats say contain multiple instances of criminal obstruction even though he was not ultimately charged.
In a rare press availability in May, Mueller previewed what he might say if called to testify before Congress. "The report is my testimony," he said, "I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”
So far, Trump’s legal team is waiting to see what happens on Wednesday before drafting any formal statements, according to attorney Jay Sekulow, who said they would “respond as appropriate.”
As usual, the president’s first response to Mueller’s testimony may come in the form of tweets. Campaign officials indicated Trump’s rapid response teams would also be monitoring the hearing, ready to pounce on anything that will continue to reinforce their claims that the president he been “totally and completely exonerated.”
The president’s next rally is set for August 1 in Cincinnati, Ohio and campaign officials confirmed to NBC News there are no major events scheduled prior to that event.
Carol E. Lee contributed to this report.
Moulton wins endorsement from former general McChrystal
WASHINGTON — Retired General Stanley McChrystal, who helmed the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, is endorsing Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton's presidential bid.
McChrystal praised Moulton on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" Thursday, pointing to the need for a leader with "character" and "competence."
"I think he'd be the best president for our nation, from where we are now and where I think we need to go," he said.
Moulton did not make the second round of Democratic debates, falling short of the polling and unique-donor thresholds. The congressman downplayed that reality on Thursday, arguing: "I don't think the summer debates are going to decide the election."
House GOP campaign chairman: There's 'no place' in party for 'send her back' chants at Trump rally
WASHINGTON ¬– Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, condemned the “send her back” chants by rallygoers at President Trump’s North Carolina rally Wednesday night aimed at Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.
“There’s no place for that kind of talk,” Emmer told reporters at The Christian Science Monitor breakfast Thursday morning.
The chants by Trump supporters were evocative of Trump's tweet from earlier this week, where he said the minority congresswoman could "go back" to their home countries. House Democrats voted to condemn those comments as racist.
Emmer defended Trump amid the firestorm over his comments, arguing that “There’s not a racist bone in the president’s body. What he was trying to say, he said wrong," he added.
During the wide-ranging conversation in Washington D.C., Emmer went on to say that he doesn’t believe that there will be a major uproar in the 2020 election about race.
Some Republicans have voiced criticism of the NRCC's messaging, particularly in how it describes Democratic members of Congress. The NRCC has taken a new hardline approach to its communications strategy under Emmer’s leadership, which has included posting images of Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., in clown makeup and sending blast messages to reporters calling Democratic members “deranged”.
Emmer responded to questions about the NRCC messaging by saying it’s the organization’s job to get Republicans elected, which is different than an individual’s conduct.
“What we’re trying to do with the NRCC, our job, that’s an organization by the way, that’s not a member. That’s an organization whose job is to define who they are to make it clear to the American public this is who we have in the office,” Emmer said.
A focal point the public can expect from the NRCC in 2020 will be “socialism” in the Democratic Party and the so-called “squad” of more progressive Democratic congresswomen, who Trump attacked on Twitter earlier this week and has sought to elevate as a foil on the left.
“If you want to call them ‘the squad,’ you should call them the leadership squad, since they are the speaker in fact, and the rest of their conference you can call the new red army of socialists,” Emmer said.
When asked if there is a specific policy agenda Emmer would like to see Republican candidates run on, he told NBC News he would defer to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
“We do have a whole list of things that we can put out when it comes to health care,” Emmer said. “I have to defer to our leader, Kevin McCarthy. That’s his job to develop that with Liz Cheney and then give us the details that they want us to use.”
Warren targets Wall Street in new economic plan
SIOUX CITY, IA — Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren is focusing her sights on Wall Street and private equity firms, an area of the economy that has long been one of her targets for regulation
Warren released a series of new proposals as part of her "economic patriotism" plan on Thursday in a Medium post, targeting private equity firms, calling for new banking regulations, expanding banking at the post office and pushing new regulations on corporations.
Private equity firms took a fair share of criticism from Warren—she decried the practice of buying companies to slash jobs and turn profits as "legalized looting." Her solution is to support legislation that would make it harder for private equity firms to destroy companies after purchasing them.
“These changes would shrink the sector and push the remaining private equity firms to make investments that help companies rather than stripping them down for parts,” her campaign wrote.
“Firms that make bad investments would be held accountable instead of walking away from the wreckage with millions in fees and payouts.”
Warren will be hosting several events in Sioux City on Thursday and Friday, where she'll almost certainly address her policy proposals.
Take a look at some of the other top-lines of her plan below:
- Reintroduce Glass-Steagall (a bank regulation law passed during the Great Depression and ultimately repealed in 1999) and introduce new banking regulations to discourage speculative investing
- Expand low-cost postal banking through USPS and speed up money transfers through the federal reserve
- Pass bill that requires corporations to focus on long-term financial interests of stakeholders and workers rather than short term financial gain
Trump heads to MAGA rally with a focus on the 'squad'
GREENVILLE, N.C. — President Trump is expected to continue his attacks on the “squad” of Democratic House members at his campaign rally here tonight, according to two senior campaign officials, a preview of a 2020 strategy that is, so far, resonating with his base.
Supporters outside the Williams Arena here said they did not find the president’s attacks on four congresswomen of color to be “racist,” and said they hope Trump continues this approach as an effective tool heading into next year’s election.
The campaign would not preview exactly of what the president will say tonight and he is known to improvise, but they say they have advised Trump to spend considerable time on the “squad” and continue to paint them as the face of today’s Democratic Party. The president hinted as much in a tweet earlier today when he said he would be talking about “people who love, and hate, our Country (mostly love)!”
The president enjoys having a clear foil for his rallies and tonight's event and enemy and this is just the latest example of that. Special counsel Robert Mueller was originally scheduled to testify before two House committees today but that appearance was postponed until next week. Now, there's a new message for him to deliver, one that he is promoting ahead of the event:
Granite State voters are taking their time before picking a candidate
MANCHESTER, N.H. — A new CNN/UNH poll of likely New Hampshire voters has former Vice President Joe Biden leading with 24 percent, Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., on his heels with 19 percent each, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 10 percent, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., at 9 percent and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke each at two percent. The DNC qualifying poll is our first snapshot of where candidates stand in the first-in-the-nation primary state since April.
But while no other candidate passed one percent support, only 16 percent of voters say they are “definitely” decided six months out from voting day, leaving 84 percent of Granite State voters up for grabs, a number reflective of what voters in the state have been telling NBC News.
Since the first Democratic candidate primary debates, 12 candidates have campaigned in N.H. The majority of voters NBC News has spoken with at campaign events share a common sentiment — it is still early.
Candidates attract dozens, and in some cases, hundreds of potential voters to come out in person. But the most common attendees at these events are still considering multiple candidates.
"Still shopping,” said Peterborough locals Jamie Harrison and Kathy George while waiting in line to see Warren on July 8.
Traci Joy, from Nashua, saw Warren and Cory Booker in the same week. Joy liked their messages, but says she also really likes newcomer Buttigieg and Sanders, one of her favorites since 2015.
Similarly, at Buttigieg’s town hall in Dover, curious locals came to hear from the South Bend mayor, but are still open-minded. Kathleen Dinan, an elderly woman, is considering Buttigieg, Harris, Warren and Booker but “the important thing is we nominate someone who can beat Trump.”
Millennial mother of two Jenn Macdonald was a “big Berner” last election cycle, but is intrigued by Tulsi Gabbard and Harris this time around.
“I’m really looking at more so what they’re standing for and less about who they are at this point because there are so many out there now that it’s really about who’s going to do the whole big picture for us,” she said.
As voters accustomed to the state’s first-in-the-nation role, residents here tend to be kinds of voters that want to see and meet a candidate in person multiple times in their backyards before pledging their utmost exclusive support.
For the 18 candidates who aren’t topping the latest poll, it’s evidence that the electorate here remains highly engaged — and largely undecided on who they like the most.
Sanders celebrity buzz muted in crowded field
WASHINGTON — In 2016, Vampire Weekend opened for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Des Moines; director Spike Lee told South Carolina Democrats to “do the right thing,” by supporting the Vermont senator’s presidential bid; comedian George Lopez told Latino voters he was “Feeling the Bern.”
Four years later, Sanders is seeing his support shrink in a crowded field for the Democratic presidential nomination.
And his celebrity appeal is less pronounced as well, though there have been a few exceptions. Tony! Toni! Tone! opened a California rally in San Francisco during his campaign rollout tour. Actor Danny Glover is still a surrogate and has become somewhat of a regular on the campaign trail, especially at events in the South. In Pasadena, actor Danny DeVito surprised supporters at a rally, briefly speaking on stage to express his appreciation for the senator.
Sanders also got somewhat of an endorsement Tuesday from New York rapper Cardi B, and campaign officials say the two sides have regular conversations about a potential appearance on the trail.
However, the regular sightings of bold-faced names, and rallies drawing thousands at a time have so far been muted during this campaign run. Sanders' team says what has been seen already is not reflective of what is planned for the senator, which includes possible music festival appearances. "There's still a cultural hallmark on this campaign for sure," one official told NBC News.
Spike Lee cut videos for Sanders and spoke at a 20-thousand plus rally in the Bronx, NY, in 2016 but has been publicly silent about the current race. His daughter, Satchel Lee introduced Sen. Kamala Harris at a Brooklyn fundraiser earlier this month.
Comedian Sarah Silverman, who initially supported Sanders in 2016, donated to South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg according to FEC filings. Silverman still talks favorably of the senator but also shows an affinity for many of the other candidates, tweeting “Love Cory Love Bernie love Elizabeth love Beto — great options and I’m rooting for all!”
The New York indie rock band Vampire Weekend, on tour with a new album, performed a full set at a Sanders Iowa event in 2016. This march, the band's singer Ezra Koenig told The Times of London that his band may be up for another political swing for Sanders. "If we can help out, sure." And then added: "but it's hard to be as excited as I was in 2016."
And there's Rosario Dawson, the actress who stumped for Sanders on a cold New York night in 2016 and described him as someone “I’ve adored and loved for so long.” Dawson is now the the girlfriend of one of Sanders' challengers for the Democratic nomination, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.
Gary Grumbach contributed to this report.
The Cardi B and Bernie Sanders relationship, explained
WASHINGTON—With rapper Cardi B. tweeting praise for Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders Tuesday morning, it's worth taking a look back at their history.
While many of Cardi B’s most popular songs are about her newfound excessive wealth since making it big as a rapper, (see: “Bodak Yellow”) there’s a long relationship here, albeit only publicly on social media at this point, between the democratic socialist and the 26-year-old rapper.
Cardi B has been vocal about her political views online for years, consistently very supportive of the Vermont senator. In a now-deleted (and not safe for work) video posted on Instagram in the summer of 2016, Cardi B told her supporters to "Vote for Daddy Bernie."
And she's shown interest in politics before—talking with GQ last year about her interest in and appreciation for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Sanders regularly evokes FDR an influence for democratic socialism).
Here's an excerpt from that interview:
"…First of all," continues Cardi B, "he helped us get over the Depression, all while he was in a wheelchair. Like, this man was suffering from polio at the time of his presidency, and yet all he was worried about was trying to make America great—make America great again for real. He's the real 'Make America Great Again,' because if it wasn't for him, old people wouldn't even get Social Security."
Sen. Bernie Sanders responded to her comments on social security in this GQ article by saying Cardi B is right.
Cardi B voiced her support for Sen. Bernie Sanders again in April of 2019, but stopped short of a full endorsement during a red carpet interview with Variety:
VARIETY: Who are you supporting in 2020?
CARDI B: Um, I don’t know. I’ma always go with Bernie.
VARIETY: Yeah? Why?
CARDI B: Because there’s the thing, right, Bernie don't say things to be cool. Like, there's pictures of him being an activist from a very, very, very long time. As a matter of fact I was watching the news and I saw like this guy named Tim Ryan. And his, his speech was very convincing to me. He really wants to give the United States free health care. So that’s a big plus. We need health care. So. I don’t know. We’ll see.
A deeper dive into the second quarter fundraising numbers
WASHINGTON — Monday's second-quarter fundraising filings shed some important light on the financial health of the Democratic presidential field.
The top-lines are clear: South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former President Joe Biden, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and California Sen. Kamala Harris have separated themselves from the pack as far as fundraising.
But there are tons of important nuggets in the trove of information turned over by the campaigns Monday night.
Here are two next-level data-points worth noting from the reports.
Different candidates have different theories of how to win the Democratic nomination. And many of them are at different points in their presidential bid. So there's no one-size-fits-all approach to staffing.
All of the top-fundraising candidates have more than 100 salaried staff-members, but their staff totals reflect different strategies.
Warren's group of 304 salaried staff members is the largest operation in the field. That big investment in staffing is especially important for Warren because she's made the decision to skip the big-dollar fundraising circuit.
Sanders' organization is close behind, with 282 staff members, while Biden has about 194 salaried staff.
Buttigieg, the second-quarter fundraising leader, is relying on a leaner staff of about 137 salaried positions (his campaign, like many others also relies on staff being paid as consultants too).
All of those candidates have the deep pockets right now to support such large staffs, while candidates at the bottom of the polls only have a few dozen staff members.
But the one big outlier is New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker—he has slightly more salaried staff (176) than Buttigieg despite raising one-fifth of the money that Buttigieg raised. Booker is making a similar bet as Warren, one that relies on a big staff. But the question is, can he sustain it?
Campaigns in the red
One way to think about a presidential campaign is to treat it like a unique business. Instead of maximizing profits, it has to maximize votes. And while there may be reasons to spend a business into the red, it's usually not a good sign to do it.
Along with Booker, John Delaney, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang all spent more than they brought in last quarter.
Many of those candidates were cutting big checks in the hopes of qualifying for the first round of Democratic debates (which they all did). But burning through cash like this is a risky strategy, with a slimmer margin of error.
Biden on Trump: 'I won't get down in the dirt with him'
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday he'd have no problem taking on President Trump on the debate stage, arguing that his experience on the world stage has prepared him to stand up to adversaries.
During an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Biden defended his performance at last month's Democratic debates, where California Sen. Kamala Harris forcefully attacked his record on opposing federally-mandated busing to promote integration. And he said that despite that exchange, he'd be ready to take on Trump if they debated in the general election.
"I realize that some have concluded because I didn't respond very tough back to her that, how can I take on Trump? I have never had any trouble taking on anyone from Trump to Putin to Xi Jinping or anyone else," he said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Chinese president.
"I would say come on Donald, come on, man. How many push-ups do you want to do here, pal? I mean, jokingly. Come on, run with me man."
"I won't get down in the dirt with him," he added.
Breaking down the 2020 2nd quarter numbers
WASHINGTON — Yesterday was the official second quarter filing deadline for 2020 candidates and with all the reports in, here's a look at where the candidates stand on the most important fundraising metrics:
Total contributions (includes only donations from individuals — not from the candidates themselves or transfers from other accounts):
- Pete Buttigieg: $24.9 million (was $7.1 million last quarter)
- Joe Biden: $22 million
- Elizabeth Warren: $19.1 million (was $6 million)
- Bernie Sanders: $18 million (was $18.2 million)
- Kamala Harris: $11.8 million (was $12 million)
- Cory Booker: $4.5 million (was $5 million)
- Amy Klobuchar: $3.9 million (was $5 million)
- Beto O’Rourke: $3.6 million (was $9.4 million)
- Jay Inslee: $3.0 million (was $2.3 million)
- Andrew Yang: $2.8 million (was $1.8 million)
- Julián Castro: $2.8 million (was $1.1 million)
- Michael Bennet: $2.8 million
- Kirsten Gillibrand: $2.3 million (was $3 million)
- Steve Bullock: $2.0 million
- Tulsi Gabbard: $1.6 million (was $2 million)
- Marianne Williamson: $1.5 million (was $1.5 million)
- John Hickenlooper: $1.1 million (was $2 million)
- Bill de Blasio: $1.1 million
- Tim Ryan: $865,000
- John Delaney: $284,000 (doesn’t include $7.75 million transfer)
Cash on hand:
- Sanders: $27.3 million
- Buttigieg: $22.7 million
- Warren: $19.8 million
- Harris: $13.3 million
- Biden: $10.9 million
- Gillibrand: $8.2 million
- Klobuchar: $6.7 million
- O’Rourke: $5.2 million
Burn rate (total spent divided by total receipts):
- Gillibrand: 184 percent
- O’Rourke: 146 percent
- Hickenlooper: 143 percent
- Gabbard: 122 percent
- Booker: 117 percent
- Inslee: 107 percent
- Klobuchar: 107 percent
- Harris: 64 percent
- Warren: 55 percent
- Sanders: 55 percent
- Biden: 51 percent
Chinese diplomat deletes tweet about black Americans
WASHINGTON — A senior Chinese diplomat has deleted a tweet that was widely condemned as racist and asserted that white residents of Washington refuse to live in black communities.
The comments from Lijan Zhao, the deputy chief of mission for the China’s embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, came as he sought to defend Beijing after 22 countries issued a joint statement criticizing China for the mass detention of Muslims in Xinjiang Province. The deputy chief of mission is typically the second-ranking diplomat in an embassy.
“If you're in Washington, D.C., you know the white never go to the SW area, because it's an area for the black & Latin,” Zhao wrote on Twitter. “There's a saying ‘black in & white out’, which means that as long as a black family enters, white people will quit, & price of the apartment will fall sharply.”
The tweet triggered outrage on social media, including from former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who served as President Obama’s national security adviser and called Zhao a “racist disgrace” and “shockingly ignorant. She urged China’s ambassador in the U.S., Cui Tiankai, to “do the right thing and send him home.”
Zhao, who lived previously in Washington, later clarified that he was referring to the Southeast quadrant of the U.S. capital, not the Southwest quadrant, and tweeted a link to a news article detailing racial segregation in Washington. After tweeting back to Rice that she was “such a disgrace, too,” Zhao eventually deleted his initial tweet.
Asked for its response to Zhao’s comments about black Washingtonians, the White House declined to comment. The State Department also had no specific comment about Zhao’s tweet.
The controversy over Zhao’s tweet came as Trump himself was facing a barrage of criticism over his attacks on Twitter and elsewhere against four Democratic congresswomen of color whom he says “hate our country” and “can leave.”
The Trump administration’s silence on Zhao’s tweets also stands in contrast to the president’s outspoken attacks on British diplomat Kim Darroch, who resigned last week after leaked diplomatic cables showed he’d described Trump and his administration as “clumsy and inept.” Trump publicly took issue with Darroch’s private comments, calling him a “pompous fool” and declaring that the White House would no longer engage with him.
The White House has also frequently called out what it deemed to be problematic comments by foreign diplomats in the past, such as those from Iranian envoys.
So far, the congressional committees that oversee U.S. foreign policy have not called out the comments publicly. But the office of Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he had raised the issue with the Chinese Embassy in Washington.
The embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether Zhao remains in his post or has been disciplined.
Abigail Williams contributed to this report.
Harris announces plan to combat prescription drug costs
DAVENPORT, Iowa — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., announced a new plan Tuesday to put “people over profit,” pledging to take on pharmaceutical companies and sky-rocketing drug prices through fines and potential executive action.
Harris previewed the plan at a town hall in Somersworth, New Hampshire on Sunday, telling voters there that “the pharmaceutical companies have been jacking up prices hand over fist, year after year."
"Their business model, it seems, is purely about profit and not about public health,” she said.
Harris’ plan would allow the federal government to establish a “fair price” for what pharmaceutical companies can charge for prescription drugs, which will be based on the average price of comparable drugs from countries like the UK, France, Australia and Japan. If companies sell drugs above the set fair price, their profits from selling the at the higher cost will be taxed at a rate of 100% and that money will go back to consumers through a mail-in rebate.
She also lays out possible executive action steps if Congress doesn’t act within 100 days, including plans to investigate pharmaceutical companies that have overpriced drugs, allow a direct importation of lower-cost drugs from foreign countries and make investigating pharmaceutical companies a priority at her Department of Justice. For the worst offenders of high-priced drugs, Harris proposes to “license a company’s patent to lower the cost” through “march-in” rights under existing law.
On average, Americans spend $1,208 on drugs every year, according to data from the OECD.
Harris, who is in Davenport, Iowa today, is expected to talk more on her plan at the AARP Forum this afternoon.
O'Rourke's fundraising sputters in second quarter
MANNING, IOWA— Beto O’Rourke’s fundraising machine stalled in the second quarter.
The Texan presidential candidate, who entered the presidential race with great fanfare in March, announcing on Monday night he’d raised just $3.6 million dollars in the race’s last three months, lagging far behind the field’s top tier.
That number is roughly one third of his first quarter fundraising total of $9.4 million; a quarter in which O’Rourke was only a declared candidate for 18 days. In his first 24 hours as a candidate last quarter, O'Rourke raised more than $6 million.
By comparison, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren all raised at least $19 million in the second fundraising quarter, according to their campaigns.
In a memo accompanying the release of the fundraising numbers, O’Rourke’s campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillion urged supporters not to panic.
"When you look at our fundraising in aggregate, we’re in a great position. I won’t sugar coat it: we have work to do, but we have the resources we need to execute our strategy,” O’Malley Dillon wrote.
O’Rourke’s campaign has been rapidly staffing up in the early states, and nationally. The campaign announced 11 new Iowa field offices on Monday and a national finance director and national press secretary started work in El Paso just this month. His campaign spent more than $5.3 million last quarter, more than it brought in in donations.
O’Malley Dillon urged supporters to give to the campaign if they can, to volunteer, and generally to have faith – pointing out that O’Rourke’s fundraising in his senate race in Texas, in which he shattered fundraising records, also started slowly.
The campaign said in its release that the average donation received was just $30, and more than 200,000 people gave – meaning O’Rourke has met the Democratic National Committee's donor qualification for the fall debates.
Bill de Blasio raised $1.1 million after late-entry in second quarter
WASHINGTON — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's presidential campaign raised $1.1 million from the time he entered the 2020 Democratic primary in mid-May to the end of June and hired several new staffers, according to his campaign.
A well-received performance in the first debate helped him raise a significant chunk of that — $630,000 — in the four days following the NBC News-sponsored debate in Miami. De Blasio's campaign says he has about $728,000 cash on hand, meaning he spent only about 30 percent of what he raised.
As one of the last candidates to enter the race, De Blasio had less time to fundraise than other candidates in the second quarter of the year — about 45 days out of the quarter's 91 days — meaning he raised roughly $24,000 per day.
Monday is the deadline for all candidates to submit their fundraising reports to the Federal Election Commission for the second three months of the year.
Meanwhile, his campaign announced several new staffers, in addition those already announced.
Jaclyn Rothenberg will serve as national press secretary while Will Baskin-Gerwitz was named communications advisor. Jess Moore Matthews is the campaign's digital director. The campaign tapped former South Carolina Democratic Party executive director Lachlan McIntosh as its senior adviser in the first-in-the-South primary state, while Lance Jones will serve as state director there and Bre Spaulding as political director. In Iowa, de Blasio hired Cameron Macaw-Hennick to be his field director.
“These hires are a direct result of the fundraising success we’ve had in just a few short weeks, and our growth is a sign of what’s to come moving forward,” said de Blasio senior adviser Jon Paul Lupo. “We’re grateful to every supporter who chipped in because they share Mayor de Blasio’s message of putting working people first and we’re going to continue spreading that message to voters across the country.”
What's in, and out, of Biden's health care plan
DES MOINES, Iowa — Call Vice President Joe Biden’s healthcare plan Affordable Care Act 2.0.
In his new plan released on Monday, Biden proposes adding a “Medicare-like” public option that would serve as an option for consumers to receive health insurance. Americans would also be able to choose their own private insurance and would now only spend a lower income rate to obtain it.
Biden campaign officials say the health care plan serves as a transitional piece of legislation that could pave the path to a Medicare-for-All single payer system in the future.
Here's a quick look at some of what is in — and not in — Biden's plan:
What's in: The individual mandate
President Donald Trump got rid of the individual mandate when he signed the GOP tax bill into law in 2017. Biden would bring back the penalty for not being covered under health insurance under his plan.
Since the individual mandate currently is not federal law, a Biden campaign official said that he would use a combination of executive orders to undo the changes and use his “longstanding history of getting stuff done in Congress to get legislation to build on the Affordable Care Act.”
What's out: Spending rate
Biden’s plan allows for consumers to buy into the individual marketplace and choose their health care provider of choice. In an effort to expand access even on that front, the plan will only allow consumers to spend 8.5 percent of their income on insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, consumers could spend almost 10 percent of their income when paying for insurance.
What's in: Lowering prescription drug pricing
In an effort to lower the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs, Biden’s plan would repeal existing law that currently bans Medicare from negotiating lower prices with drug manufacturers. He would also limit price increases “for all brand, biotech and abusively priced generic drugs” and launch prices for drugs that do not have competition, according to a Biden campaign official.
Consumers would also be able to buy cheaper priced prescription drugs from other countries, which could help mobilize competition. And Biden would terminate their advertising tax break in an effort to also help lower costs.
What's in: Undocumented immigrants can buy in
Biden’s plan would also allow undocumented immigrants to buy into the public option, but it would not be subsidized. Considering undocumented immigrants in his health care plan shows just how progressive the Democratic Party has come on the issue in just a decade. The Affordable Care Act, for example, did not allow undocumented immigrants from buying into the system.
Study finds 19 percent of U.S. adult Twitter users follow @realDonaldTrump
WASHINGTON —The president of the United States regularly uses his Twitter feed to single out political foes, amplify existing controversies, and muse on everything from cable news ratings to the performance of professional athletes.
But how many people are actually following along?
A new study from the Pew Research Center finds that only about one in five adult Twitter users in the U.S. follow the president’s personal account— but those who do are far more likely to approve of his job performance than those who don’t.
The analysis finds that about 19 percent of adult Twitter users follow @realDonaldTrump. But of those who follow Trump on the platform, 54 percent approved of the job he’s doing as president as of late 2018. That’s compared with an approval rating of just 24 percent among adult Twitter users who DON’T follow the president.
While Trump is perhaps the most prolific Tweeter among high-profile American politicians, a higher percentage of Twitter users — 26 percent —follow Trump’s predecessor, former president Barack Obama.
But just 14 percent follow one or more of the 20 Democratic presidential candidates who participated in the first set of primary debates last month.
Pew found in an earlier study that Twitter users tend to be younger and more Democratic-leaning than the general public. And, overall, only about 22 percent of Americans use the platform at all.
Biden health care plan would build on Obamacare
DES MOINES, Iowa — Former Vice President Joe Biden unveiled his anticipated health care plan on Monday, framing it as a more achievable way to expand coverage than those proposed by some of his progressive rivals by building on what he has called the “crown jewel” of the Obama administration — the Affordable Care Act.
Americans would have the option of buying into a “Medicare-like” plan or keeping their private insurance under the Biden plan, which would also aim to reverse the Trump administration’s efforts to undercut the law. People living in Republican-led states that failed to expand Medicaid would be given premium free access to Medicaid.
The Biden plan would change provisions in the Affordable Care Act to improve access to health care by eliminating the 400 percent income cap on tax credit eligibility, base tax credits on gold plans rather than silver ones and ensure that those buying insurance in the individual marketplace spend 8.5 percent of their income on insurance, which is down from the previous 9.86 percent cap.
The total cost of the Biden plan is estimated to be $750 billion over the next 10 years, which would mostly be paid for by repealing President Donald Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy and returning the top tax rate to 39.6 percent.
A Biden campaign official added that as president, Biden would use a combination of executive orders to undo the changes the Trump administration has done to weaken existing health care law.
Biden’s plan also calls for the end of the Hyde Amendment, a provision that prevents federal funding for abortions unless a child is conceived through rape or incest or the mother’s health is in jeopardy.
Biden’s health care plan rollout coincides with the increase of critiques he has recently launched against his Democratic opponents who support scraping the Affordable Care Act and transitioning to a primarily government-run system like Medicare-for-All.
“On health care, I admire the rest of the field from Bernie to Elizabeth to Kamala who want Medicare-for-All. But let me tell you, I think one of the most significant things we've done is pass the Affordable Care Act,” Biden told supporters at a house party in Atkinson, NH Saturday.
Biden has repeatedly said since the Democratic debate that he would oppose any Republican or Democrat who wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.
Biden plans to unveil his health care plan publicly at several stops in Iowa this week, starting at the AARP forum on Monday and holding a billed “rural health care event” Tuesday.
Rapinoe: The U.S. women’s soccer team ‘has managed to make people proud again’
WASHINGTON — U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team co-captain Megan Rapinoe said Sunday that the national pride for the team after its recent World Cup championship is giving players like her an opportunity to channel that enthusiasm toward activism.
“The opportunity is in everyone’s exhaustion with the fighting and the negative. Our team has managed to make people proud again, to capture people’s interest, to make them want to do something,” she said during an exclusive interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“People are asking the question: how can we rally around this team? And in that really, (is) what the team stands for, whether it’s equal pay, or racial equality, or LGBTQ rights. I think we’ve just managed to give people hope, and with that, now we need to do the next step.”
Players have pointed to the pay disparity between the national men’s and women’s soccer teams as both a real issue in the sport, considering the women’s team’s historic success, as well as indicative of the larger debate over equal pay in the country. Rapinoe said Sunday that her team’s sponsors could “do a lot more” to help narrow the pay gap that exists in the sport and called on companies to “get comfortable” throwing their “weight” around to promote equal pay.
Rapinoe has also been openly critical of President Trump and has said she would not visit the White House as a World Cup champion.
When asked Sunday what she would say to fans who support Trump and want the team to join the president at the White House in a show of unity, Rapinoe said she would try to “share our message” with those fans.
“Do you believe all people are created equal? Do you believe that equal pay should be mandated? Do you believe that everyone should have health care? Do you believe we should treat everyone with respect? I think those are the basics of what we are talking about.”
“I understand people feel upset or uncomfortable, there are some feelings of disrespect about the anthem protest or things I’ve said in the past. But ultimately, I am here, open and honest. I’ve admitted mistakes, I will continue to do that. I will continue to be vulnerable and be honest and be open and want to have that conversation because I think Trump‘s message excludes people that look like me and are me, of course, but it excludes a lot of people in his base as well. I think he’s trying to divide so he can conquer, not unite so we can all conquer.”
Progress Iowa's Corn Feed preview: #ReadySetCorn
DES MOINES, Iowa — An Iowa summer wouldn’t be complete without presidential candidates and corn in an election year. Progress Iowa’s Corn Feed event in Cedar Rapids this weekend, the fifth annual event hosted by the Democratic issue-based advocacy group, will feature twelve presidential hopefuls.
“We imagine this is one of the bigger events with presidential candidates that’s free and open to the public,” Progress Iowa executive director Matt Sinovic told NBC News, “We want it to be as accessible as possible, and don’t want to price anyone out.”
The lineup: Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former HUD Sec. Julián Castro; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; former Rep. John Delaney; former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Tim Ryan, D-Ohio and author Marianne Williamson.
Candidates will be given ten-minutes on stage to address the crowd. Sinovic calls the event a “good opportunity for grassroots activism” and told NBC News he hopes candidates will emphasize what they each stand for, encourage voters to get involved in issues that they may care about, and inspire attendees to “fight for the things that they believe in.”
The contenders will also have access to more than 1,000 voters who will mingle with candidates among photo booths, corn hole and other carnival games - Gov. Hickenlooper’s booth will reportedly have a giant Jenga game. Live music will supplement the outdoor ambiance as attendees mingle and visit informational booths set-up by community organizations as well as local and national campaigns.
Several campaigns that do not have candidates present to speak, like Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., will have booths on-site that are staffed by organizers.
Tickets are available for any of the seven vendors at the Newbo City Market, where each menu will feature at least one corn item. Sinovic estimates the event will bring in anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 in fundraising for Progress Iowa.
Klobuchar introduces senior care plan
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., unveiled a plan Friday for senior citizens aimed at tackling Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, enhancing health care and retirement security, and reducing prescription drug costs.
She is the first 2020 presidential candidate to roll out a policy specifically targeting the elderly population. This proposal is personal for the Minnesota senator, whose 91-year-old father resides in an assisted living facility for memory care.
"Everywhere I go, I meet seniors who tell me about their struggles to afford everyday costs like prescription drugs or health care," Klobuchar said. "I meet family members who face challenges caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and urgent action is needed to take on these problems. I believe we owe it to our seniors to make sure they have the care and support they need as they get older, and as President I will prioritize tackling Alzheimer’s, strengthening health care and retirement security, and reducing prescription drug costs.”
Key highlights of her campaign’s senior plan include:
- Tackling Alzheimer’s and other chronic conditions by supporting caregivers, strengthening the National Institutes of Health and investing in research for chronic conditions, improving mental health care for seniors, expanding dementia training and implementing a law to help locate missing people with dementia or developmental disabilities.
- Ensuring a secure retirement by protecting social security and making it fair by lifting the payroll cap, expanding retirement savings by creating “Up Accounts” with minimum employer contributions, and defending pensions.
- Improving health care for seniors and lowering prescription drug costs by taking immediate and aggressive action to negotiate better drug prices, allow personal importation from countries like Canada, crack down on “Pay-for-Delay” agreements, expand tele-health and rural health services, and strengthen Medicare and expand its coverage to dental, vision, and hearing.
- Investing in long-term care by working with Congress to create a refundable tax credit to offset long-term care costs, reducing costs of long-term care insurance and increase access, providing financial relief to caregivers through a tax credit of up to $6,000 per year, ensuring paid family leave for all Americans, and supporting a world class long-term care workforce.
- Reducing costs and preventing fraud by fighting elder abuse, helping seniors afford energy costs, and improving seniors’ access to affordable housing, transit, nutrition and workforce opportunities.
In order to pay for the policies outlined in her senior-focused proposal, Klobuchar would “close the trust fund loopholes that allow the wealthy to avoid paying taxes on inherited wealth.”
Her campaign’s plan is modeled after the Saving for the Future Act, which Klobuchar and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced in Congress in April.
Biden warns of international damage if Trump is given a second term
Former Vice President Joe Biden laid out his “forward looking” foreign policy vision to warn Americans about the colossal and irreversible damage that will be done if President Donald Trump is reelected next year.
“If we give Donald Trump four more years, we will have a great deal of difficulty of ever being able to recover America's standing in the world and our capacity to bring nations together, which is desperately needed,” he said.
Biden contrasted his decades-long career in foreign policy to that of the presidents, who he says genuinely does not understand the intricacies of maintaining relationships with allies given his fascination with authoritarian dictators.
“As President of the United States, I would remind the world that we are the United States of America and we do not coddle dictators. United States of America gives hate no safe harbor,” he said at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York Thursday. “There will be no more Charlottesvilles, no more Helsinkis.”
Biden offered some specific policy proposals — many about returning to Obama administration priorities like the Iran deal and bringing back daily press briefings at the White House.
He did not address his 2002 vote to authorize military action in Iraq, but promised to end “forever wars” in the Middle East including the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. But his larger message without necessarily cataloging his own resume was to tell Democrats that no other candidate was as prepared as him to act on the world stage more quickly and effectively as him, and that there was only “one opportunity” to reset the U.S. democracy.
Tom Steyer proposes national referendum, term limits on Congress
WASHINGTON — Liberal billionaire and newly declared Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer on Thursday said that as president he would let voters make laws directly through regular national referenda.
It's part of Steyer's new structural reform plan, which also proposes fairly novel ideas like 12-year term limits on members of Congress, a national vote-by-mail system, public campaign financing, giving the Federal Elections Commission more teeth and different composition, and imposing independent redistricting commissions to tackle gerrymandering.
It also includes more standard Democratic fare like overturning the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and the ethics and elections reform package House Democrats put forward this year in their bill dubbed H.R. 1.
A national referendum, where voters can change laws at the ballot box, would tip the U.S. more towards direct democracy and away from the representative government envisioned by the Founders.
That and other of Steyer's ideas would likely face constitutional and legal challenges, let alone political ones in Congress, since the Constitution gives states, not the federal government, most of the power to govern elections.
National referenda would make the U.S. look more like Steyer's California, which has a robust history and culture of citizen-initiated ballot measures. Critics say California ballot measure campaigns are often pushed by wealthy individuals or special interests in the guise of populism, while proponents say they restore power to the people.
In a video touting his new plan, Steyer touts his work in California — and the millions he spent there — to advance ballot measures that led to higher taxes on cigarettes to fund health care, an oil extraction tax, and the closing of "corporate loopholes" in the tax code.
"Here's the difference between me and the other candidates: I don't think we can fix our democracy from the inside," Steyer says in the video. "I trust the people. And as president, I will give you tools we need to fix our democracy."
Elizabeth Warren releases new immigration plan
MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has released a new plan on immigration ahead of her speech at the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) National Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Thursday. Here are some of the key aspects of her plan include:
- Decriminalize immigration and focus enforcement on serious criminal offenses and make it a civil offense.
- Stop cops from serving as immigration enforcement agents.
- Promises to investigate Trump admin for abuses “perpetrated during the Trump era.”
- End detention unless necessary and private detention facilities, expand use of parole.
- Establish independent immigration courts.
- Cancel Trump admin travel ban, raise refugee allowances, strengthen asylum protections.
- Expand legal immigration, ease the naturalization process, reinstate DACA program and provide pathway to citizenship.
- Create an “Office of New Americans” to help immigrants transition and assimilate.
- Commits $1.5B annually for foreign aid to Western hemisphere.
Warren's proposals come amid growing reports of the mistreatment of migrants being detained at the border, congressional investigations into the administration's policies and reports that previously planned ICE deportation raids that were postponed three weeks ago are now scheduled to begin on Sunday. President Donald Trump is also expected to announce plans to use executive action to add a citizenship question to the U.S. census during a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Buttigieg: Citizenship question is racially motivated census manipulation
WASHINGTON — Mayor Pete Buttigieg is accusing President Donald Trump of “racially and politically motivated manipulation of the census” as the president works to add a citizenship question to the census despite being rebuked by the courts.
In an interview with NBC News’ Craig Melvin, Buttigieg predicts that asking about citizenship will lead to under-representation on the 2020 census, making “the whole country worse off.”
“There’s a reason why the courts ruled that this is wrong,” Buttigieg say. “I’ll let other scholars talk about why the president’s actions may be unconstitutional, but it’s very clear that it’s wrong.”
Buttigieg spoke hours before Trump was expected to use an afternoon news conference to announce he’s attempting to add the citizenship question to the census using executive action after the Supreme Court blocked the administration from including the question based on the rationale initially put forward.
Buttigieg’s remarks come as he puts a laser focus on increasing his appeal to African Americans and Hispanics who have been slow to warm to his campaign. His struggles in appealing to a broad cross-section of the Democratic primary electorate have raised growing questions about his continued viability in the primary.
The South Bend mayor also rebuked Trump over his administration’s planned immigration raids across the country, saying they are designed to “strike fear into people at a moment when fear is something we have got way too much of in this country.”
“If rumors start going around about raids — let alone if it starts actually happening — it immediately makes the community less safe, it makes people less likely to participate in the economy, less likely to talk to law enforcement when they need help dealing with something that really is a matter of danger,” Buttigieg said.
As he works to show black voters in particular that he’s the best candidate to improve their lives, Buttigieg earlier Thursday released an 18-page proposal dubbed the “Douglass Plan” that his campaign hopes will stand out as the most comprehensive of any put forward by a 2020 Democratic candidate.
Buttigieg said he’s been working on the plan “for months” as way to better answer black voters’ inquiries on the campaign trail about how he is best positioned to improve their lives.
“But this isn’t just aimed at black voters,” Buttigieg says. “Frankly, there needs to be a conversation with white America, with white audiences about how none of us can or should be willing to live in a system where these kinds of systemic racist dimensions persist.”
Amy McGrath repeatedly changes mind on Kavanaugh question
WASHINGTON — Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath, the party's top candidate in the race to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, changed her tune about whether she would have voted for Justice Brett Kavanaugh twice in a matter of hours — just a day after she launched her candidacy.
In an interview with Louisville's The Courier-Journal, McGrath said that she was "very concerned" about Kavanaugh's "far-right stances" and that she believed Christine Blasey Ford's allegation that he sexually-assaulted her while both were teenagers was "credible."
But she told the paper that "there was nothing in his record that I think would disqualify him in any way" and that "with Judge Kavanaugh, yeah, I probably would have voted for him."
That answer surprised some Democrats following the bitter fight over Kavanaugh's confirmation last year.
Later Wednesday evening, McGrath tweeted that "upon further reflection and further understanding of his record, I would have voted no," adding that "I know I disappointed many today with my initial answer on how I would have voted on Brett Kavanaugh."
The reversal put McGrath closer to how she addressed Kavanaugh's confirmation during her 2018 run for the House. Last July, she posted unconditional criticism on Facebook about the judge and accused him of being "against women's reproductive rights, workers' rights [and] consumer protections."
McGrath made a big splash when she jumped into the race this week against the Republican leader, raising $2.5 million in the first 24 hours of her campaign. But McConnell's team has been aggressive in trying to tar McGrath as too liberal for the state, and has taken particular joy in her reversal on Kavanaugh.
Sanders campaign adds more staffers to New Hampshire operation
MANCHESTER, NH — Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) presidential campaign is expanding its ground operation in New Hampshire with an announcement Thursday of five field office openings and an expanded staff focused on community organizing.
The Sanders campaign will now have 45 staffers working across its Manchester-based headquarters and Greater Nashua field office, with new offices set to open in West Lebanon, Manchester, Dover and Portsmouth.
“We’re taking nothing for granted,” Sanders’ New Hampshire State Director Joe Caiazzo told NBC News. “We’re going to work hard to bring the Senator’s economic populous message across the state to the doors of every voter.”
After carrying the N.H. primary against Hillary Clinton in 2016 with 60.4 percent of the vote, the Sanders campaign recognizes the new challenges of the 2020 race.
“It’s about reigniting our volunteer network and going and expanding our base, too,” Caiazzo said. “I think it’s a completely different race from last time with such a big field. I think many candidates in the race need to show really strong in a number of the early contests, so I think a lot of people are in the same boat.”
The campaign’s increased field presence reflects a strategic emphasis on door-to-door canvassing and phone banks, rather than launching television or radio ads.
“I’d venture to say that our volunteer network is larger than anyone else in the field,” Caiazzo said, adding, “We’re using staff to support the large volunteers to then go out there and talk to voters.”
Biden to lay out foreign policy vision aimed at putting the U.S. 'back at the head of the table'
Joe Biden on Thursday will argue that President Trump’s foreign policy has emboldened authoritarian states while diminishing America’s role leading the free world, and warn that the U.S. Has “one chance to get it right” after he leaves office.
The former vice president will outline the three pillars of his vision for America’s global leadership in what his campaign is billing as a “forward-looking” address, designed to highlight both a policy area Biden has considered one of his strengths and return the focus on the battle with the Republican incumbent.
Biden will vow to convene a summit of democratic states in the first year of his presidency and place a premium on acting in concert with U.S. allies, a senior campaign official said Wednesday in previewing the address. But the official would not say if Biden would address his 2002 vote to authorize the use of force against Iraq, another part of his Senate resume that rivals have seized on.
“There's probably a greater premium than there's ever been on working with allies and partners to deal with the greatest threats to the American people,” the official said. “No one nation acting alone can solve them and there's also no wall tall enough or strong enough to contain them. And yet, the president's 'America First' policy has actually turned into America alone.”
Biden’s three pillars would be to “repair and reinvigorate” America’s own democracy; pursue a global economy for the middle class; and putting the U.S. “back at the head of the table” in mobilizing allies to address global threats, from climate change, nuclear proliferation, cyber warfare to transnational terrorism.
"I think from the vice president's perspective, the world does not govern itself,” the official said. "If the United States is not playing a lead role in setting rules, shaping the norms and the institutions and govern relations in nations, either someone else will do it … or, just as bad, no one does it and then you have chaos."
In South Carolina on Saturday, Biden argued there wasn’t “anyone in this race more prepared to lead the world than me.”
"That sounds like I'm bragging," he continued, "but that's what I truly believe because I've been engaged with it my entire career.”
He acknowledged in that speech voting to “give authority to Bush” in 2002, but said that vote "didn't stop President Obama from within the first month turning me … to handle Iraq once we took office, giving me the responsibility to coordinate all the agencies, to bring home 150,000 combat troops including my son.”
The Biden campaign also previewed his attacks against Trump in a newly released digital video, which paints the president as embracing dictators, threatening war, leaving international agreements, launching trade wars and embarrassing the United States.