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Why aren't Democrats pushing to combat future foreign election interference?

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: President Donald Trump returns to the White House on April 15, 2019.
President Donald Trump returns to the White House on April 15, 2019.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — For all the debate about whether to pursue impeachment proceedings against President Trump, House Democrats have another remedy at their disposal that’s received far less attention.

That idea? Make a big, explicit legislative push to punish individuals and campaigns trying to take advantage of future foreign interference in U.S. elections.

If a foreign government interfered in a U.S. election, and a particular campaign was eager to receive that help, why not try to pass laws making it harder for that to happen in the future?

Yes, the HR1 bill that House Democrats passed last month calls for a strategy to protect democratic institutions, as well as a commission to study it. But those provisions were buried under the act’s other voting, ethics and campaign-finance measures.

And there’s been little effort to rally around them.

Don’t get us wrong: The impeachment debate is a legitimate one; we’ve covered it here for months.

And sure, the GOP-controlled Senate can stymie any House-passed bill. (Of course, the same is true for impeachment, and the bar is even higher – a two-thirds vote is needed to convict.)

But why aren’t House Democrats trying to call any GOP bluff right now?

If Democrats and Republicans both are concerned about future foreign interference in U.S. elections – and want to prevent it from happening again – why not start there?

The Mueller report made it clear that the United States has 20th century election laws in a 21st century world.

In a world of cyber-threats and misinformation wars, the current laws on the books don’t cut it anymore.

Pelosi: "We don't have to go to articles of impeachment to obtain the facts”

As for the impeachment debate, House Democratic leaders told rank-and-file members on a conference call yesterday that they will pursue aggressive investigations into President Trump – but won’t commit to beginning impeachment proceedings.

Some of the highlights of the call, per NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell, Rebecca Shabad and Frank Thorp:

"We have to save our democracy. This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. It’s about saving our democracy," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, according to a person on the call. “If it is what we need to do to honor our responsibility to the Constitution — if that’s the place the facts take us, that’s the place we have to go."

But Pelosi added that saving the Democracy doesn't necessarily constitute impeachment.

"We don't have to go to articles of impeachment to obtain the facts, the presentation of facts," she said.

Also: Two lawmakers, Reps. Val Demings of Florida and Jared Huffman of California, both spoke up in support of impeachment, according to two sources on the call.

Supreme Court hears the census-citizenship case

The other big story we’re watching today: The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments over the Trump administration adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

NPR: “In multiple lawsuits brought by dozens of states, cities and other groups, three federal judges at U.S. district courts have issued rulings blocking the administration's plans for the question. It asks, ‘Is this person a citizen of the United States?’”

More: “All three judges — in New York, California and Maryland — ruled that [Commerce Secretary Wilbur] Ross' decision to include the question violated procedures for adding new census questions under administrative law. The judges in California and Maryland have also ruled that adding the question is unconstitutional because it hurts the government's ability to carry out the constitutional mandate for a once-a-decade head count of every person living in the U.S.”

2020 Vision: Town hall-palooza

Last night, five Dem presidential hopefuls participated in CNN town halls in New Hampshire. Here’s a brief summary from NBC’s campaign reporters and correspondents:

Amy Klobuchar, per NBC’s Ali Vitali

Defended pursuing a public option for health care rather than Medicare for All, and she dodged whether anything in the Mueller report was impeachable: “I believe I'm the jury here, so I'm not going to predispose things. I'm not going to say whether it is or isn't. But I will say there are very disturbing things that would lead you to believe there's obstruction of justice.”

Elizabeth Warren, per NBC’s Vitali

Argued that the House should begin impeachment proceedings against Trump, said she supports the Green New Deal, and responded to a question about getting “Hillary’d” in 2020: “One might say you persist. Organize. Build a grassroots movement … and that’s how I’m going to be the first women elected president of the United States.”

Bernie Sanders, per NBC’s Shaquille Brewster

Resisted the push for impeachment, saying Congress should continue investigating. And he maintained that felons, including the Boston Marathon bomber, should be allowed to vote while in prison.

Kamala Harris, per NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard

Said that Congress “should take the steps towards impeachment”; announced she’d sign four different executive actions if Congress doesn’t pass gun legislation in the first 100 days of her presidency; and said the Medicare for All bill she co-sponsored would allow for some supplemental private insurance.

Pete Buttigieg, per NBC’s Josh Lederman

Said that Trump “deserves impeachment” but didn’t say whether Congress should pursue it; he disagreed with Sanders that incarcerated felons should be allowed to vote while in prison; and said that while Sanders and President Trump are “stupendously different,” they’ve both tapped into “anti-establishment energy.”

On the campaign trail today

Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Seth Moulton campaign in New Hampshire… Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar hit South Carolina… And Cory Booker stumps in Wisconsin.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: And the number of the day is … five out of six

That’s the number of progressive policy proposals that showed majority support in a March CNBC poll.

The survey measured support for six Democratic-led initiatives. Here’s how they measure up:

  • A federal requirement for paid maternity leave (84 percent support )
  • Increased federal funding for child care (75 percent support)
  • A $15 federal minimum wage (60 percent)
  • Tuition-free college at state and public institutions (57 percent)
  • Single-payer Medicare for All (54 percent).
  • A universal basic income (28 percent)

While some opponents of Democrats have decried measures like tuition-free college and Medicare for All proposals as unrealistic or even socialist, those plans remain notably popular in public polling.

Fewer than a third of respondents said that they strongly opposed any of the five proposals with majority support.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

Herman Cain is out for the Fed (and Stephen Moore is facing a new round of questions, too.)

Jerry Nadler is subpoenaing Don McGahn.

Josh Lederman reports that Pete Buttigieg’s rivals are scrambling to find oppo.

The leader of a militia group that had been “detaining” migrants at the border also allegedly said the group was training to assassinate Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and George Soros.

Other news that’s out there…

TRUMP AGENDA: White House says to ignore that subpoena

A former White House personnel security director has been instructed by the White House to ignore a House subpoena.

The fallout from the Mueller report shows that constraints on the presidency are being redefined in the Trump era, the Washington Post writes.

What about Mike Pence’s tax returns?

The Trump administration has a new program intended to rein in Medicare costs.

2020: Biden’s rollout plans

POLITICO takes a big look at Biden’s rollout plans.

Kamala Harris now says she supports impeaching the president.

Bernie Sanders is running his own race.

Lucy Flores isn’t staying out of the spotlight.

Kamala Harris and Joe Biden might be on a South Carolina collision course.