What to Know in Washington: Trump, Biden Preview 2020 Showdown

Iowa will get a preview of a potential 2020 showdown today when both Donald Trump and Joe Biden descend on the key swing state, already being blanketed by Democratic presidential candidates.

Trump will visit the Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy project in Council Bluffs to celebrate a promise he delivered on ethanol.

Biden will be playing catch-up.

The former vice president has been scarce in Iowa since he began his campaign in April while his competitors have been fanning out across the Hawkeye State, which holds the nation’s first nomination contest. Over the weekend, 19 of the the party’s presidential hopefuls were in Iowa while Biden was at the high school graduation of one of his granddaughters.

More than a month into his candidacy, Biden still leads all Democratic contenders by a healthy margin in both national and state-level polling, though in Iowa other contenders are beginning to close the gap. Biden led the Des Moines Register’s Iowa poll, released on Saturday, with the support of 24% of likely caucus participants. He was followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) with 16%; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) won 15% and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg got 14%. No other candidate drew support in the double digits.

Biden also leads Trump in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups in many competitive states. The president has taken notice, targeting Biden in his tweets far more often than any other potential rival.

The president will be accompanied on his tour of the ethanol facility by Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) who defeated an incumbent Republican in the district that includes Council Bluffs in the 2018 midterm election as part of a Democratic wave that gave the party control of the House. She plans to thank the president for disaster aid for farmers recovering from flooding in March as well as for finalizing the year-round E15 policy — a promise he made to Iowans last October, according to her office. Previously, sales of E15 gasoline had been barred from June 1 to September 15 in areas where smog is a problem. Iowa is the largest U.S. producer of both corn and ethanol. Read more from Jennifer Epstein and Mario Parker.

More Politics & Elections News

  • Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is increasingly embracing her record as a California prosecutor, seeking to reboot her campaign by portraying herself as a gritty brawler who is uniquely qualified to take on Trump in 2020. Until Saturday, Harris made little effort to emphasize her 13-year career as a top law enforcement official, which has faced criticism from progressives and could imperil her support among black voters. Now she is highlighting her work as San Francisco’s district attorney and California’s attorney general to make her stand out among the two dozen Democratic candidates seeking to unseat a president under a legal cloud. Read more from Sahil Kapur.
  • Senators including a quartet of Democratic presidential candidates are calling out McDonald’s over its handling of sexual harassment. In a letter being sent today to CEO Steve Easterbrook, a group of eight senators led by Democrat Tammy Duckworth Illinois, the home state of McDonald’s, decry “unsafe and intolerable” conditions and “unacceptable” behavior in the chain’s restaurants. The group includes Sens. Sanders, Warren, Harris and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). Read more from Josh Eidelson.

Happening on the Hill

House, Senate Funding Talks: The House tomorrow is on track to begin consideration of its first minibus spending bill (H.R. 2740), which covers Labor-HHS-Education along with Defense, State and Foreign Operations, and Energy and Water spending. The Legislative Branch spending bill, originally included in a five-bill package, was removed over disputes about a potential raise for lawmakers.

The House Rules Committee met yesterday to set the terms for floor debate of the measure and narrow down the list of amendments that will head to the floor. The Labor-HHS and State-Foreign Ops amendments were set. Lawmakers will consider the rest of amendments today. Votes on the package begin late tomorrow, and a vote on the final bill will likely go into next week.

Meanwhile, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will meet today with Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to discuss two options for appropriators, Shelby said. Lawmakers can strike a deal on budget caps under the Budget Control Act or the Senate can deem top-line spending numbers so appropriators can start working on their fiscal 2020 spending bills — after the House has already released all of theirs.

BGOV reporters Jack Fitzpatrick and Nancy Ognanovich break down the budget debate state of play on this episode of BGOV’s podcast “Suspending the Rules.”

Listen and subscribe to Suspending the Rules from your mobile device: Via Apple Podcasts | Via Overcast | Via Stitcher | Via Spotify

Money for Wall, Detainee Beds on GOP Wish List: The House Appropriations Committee plans to mark up the Homeland Security spending bill today. House Republicans, tilting at majority Democrats, are planning to lay down markers for Trump’s wall and more capacity to detain migrants as immigration battles emerge. The Republican proposals, certain to encounter Democrats’ opposition, will underscore stakes in a funding fight that could lead to a repeat of last year’s 35-day partial government shutdown. Read more from Michaela Ross.

‘Couple’ Fights Loom for Defense Measure: House Armed Services Committee members are in for partisan bickering over nuclear weapons and Guantanamo Bay in the defense authorization bill later this week, Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said. Smith’s committee is set for a marathon debate of a $733 billion defense authorization bill tomorrow and it will also weigh an amendment authorizing a new military space service after a deal was struck between House Democrats and Republicans. Read more from Travis J. Tritten.

Cummings Plans Contempt Votes for Barr, Ross: House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said his committee will vote tomorrow over authorizing both criminal and civil contempt citations against Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who Cummings said had “refused” to meet with him to “resolve this impasse.” Cummings said yesterday in a statement that Ross and Barr “are refusing to comply with duly authorized subpoenas from Congress,” Laura Curtis reports.

House Tech Antitrust Probe: A congressional panel conducting a broad antitrust investigation into the nation’s biggest technology companies is starting with scrutiny over how companies like Google and Facebook have devastated the news industry. The first hearing this afternoon of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, led by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), is set to explore the market power online platforms have over the news publishers, including their role in digital advertising, data collection and privacy. Cicilline has said he wants to assess whether current antitrust laws are adequate to address any anti-competitive harm caused by the tech industry. Read more from Naomi Nix.

  • Meanwhile, Warren called for the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division to recuse himself from working on any investigations of Google or Apple because of his past lobbying for both companies. Warren wrote to Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, who oversees the antitrust division, in a letter dated today that his past work advocating on behalf of the tech giants would create the appearance of a conflict of interest as the agency oversees antitrust scrutiny of both companies. Read more from Naomi Nix and David McLaughlin.

Senate GOP Joins Rebuke of Saudi Sales: At least four Senate Republicans will join Democrats on 22 resolutions to disapprove the Trump administration’s sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, a move that might tie up the chamber for days and put Trump’s closest allies at odds with parts of his foreign policy. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he now has enough votes to oppose Trump’s decision to move ahead with $8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries despite congressional objections.

Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) will cosponsor 22 resolutions to disapprove of the arms sales, which the administration expedited using a national emergency declaration in May. Lee joins Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.). The resolutions will need 51 votes to be discharged from the Foreign Relations Committee, where they were referred after Menendez introduced them last week. Daniel Flatley has more.

Probes of the President

Trump Says He’s No Nixon: Trump, facing calls for impeachment from some Democrats, sought yesterday to draw contrast between himself and President Richard Nixon, who resigned in 1974 before Congress could remove him from office. “He left,” he told reporters at the White House yesterday. “I don’t leave. Big difference.” The remarks came the same day John Dean, the former White House counsel for Nixon, testified at the House Judiciary Committee and drew comparisons between Trump and his former boss, Margaret Talev reports.

Trump Urges Against House Access to Documents: Trump’s personal lawyers told a U.S. appeals court that it must reverse a judge’s ruling allowing the House Oversight and Reform Committee to subpoena some financial documents from his accounting firm because the lawmakers lack a legitimate legislative purpose to see them.

Trump’s lawyers made the argument in a filing yesterday as they try to overturn the May 20 federal court ruling that gave the Democratic-led panel access to the president’s personal and business records going back to 2011. The panel issued a subpoena for the records to Trump’s longtime accountant, Mazars USA. Read more from Andrew Harris.

Strengthening Law Used in Mueller Probe: A bipartisan group of senators is trying to put more teeth into a law that became a staple of the special counsel investigation’s prosecutions. Sen. Grassley introduced a bill to hand the Justice Department more authority to probe and punish lobbying and public-relations firms representing foreign governments and political parties without disclosing their activities.

The measure seeks to add provisions to the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a rarely enforced 1938 law that requires agents of foreign clients to file detailed reports with the Justice Department on their efforts to influence U.S. policy or public opinion on their behalf. Several key figures in Mueller’s investigation of possible collusion between Russia and the campaign of Trump were found to have violated FARA. Read more from Bill Allison.

Movers and Shakeups

Bipartisan Pick Rossie Alston Confirmed: Rossie Alston Jr. was easily confirmed last night as the newest judge on the federal district court known for its quick handling of cases. The Senate cleared the Virginia Court of Appeals jurist 75 to 20 to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, nicknamed the “Rocket Docket.” The court often prosecutes high profile national security cases. Alston had the backing of Virginia’s Democratic senators and sailed through Judiciary Committee vetting, Patrick L. Gregory reports.

Project to Help Democratic President Pick Judges: Progressives are working on potential nominees for judicial vacancies if a Democrat wins the presidency in 2020. Alliance for Justice’s Building the Bench project is “designed to get a leg up on the process, so that we’re ready with names” for senators and the incoming president by the time he or she would take office, AFJ President Nan Aron said.

The project aims to counter Trump’s agenda of reshaping the federal judiciary. He’s appointed over 100 judges to lifetime positions, including two Supreme Court justices and dozens of district and circuit court appointments. Aron said she expects a number of judges eligible for senior status to either do that and step away from a full schedule or retire in 2021, adding to any vacancies. Read more from Patrick L. Gregory.

What Else to Know Today

Trump Makes China Tariff Threat: Trump threatened to raise tariffs on China again if President Xi Jinping doesn’t meet with him at the upcoming Group of 20 summit in Japan. Trump told reporters at the White House yesterday that he could impose tariffs of 25%, or “much higher than 25%” on $300 billion in Chinese goods. “We’ve never gotten 10 cents from China and now we’re getting a lot of money from China,” the president said.

Trump was asked in an interview with CNBC earlier in the day whether the additional tariffs would be enacted immediately if there’s no meeting at the summit later this month. “Yes, it would,” he answered. “I think he will go and I think we’re scheduled to have a meeting. I think he’ll go, and I have a great relationship with him. He’s actually an incredible guy, he’s a great man. He’s very strong, very smart, but he’s for China and I’m for the United States.” Read more from Margaret Talev and Kathleen Hunter.

Pompeo Cites Agreements With Mexico, Without Details: Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said that the U.S. and Mexico have made “a number of commitments” outside a trade and migration deal announced last week, but declined to elaborate on what Trump said were agreements not mentioned in the pact, including one on agricultural sales.

“As for other agreements, there were a number of commitments made,” he said yesterday. “I can’t go into them in detail here, but each side was committed to a set of outcomes.” Pompeo’s comments only deepened the mystery surrounding the extent of the deal, which was reached June 7 after days of negotiations and led Trump to back down from his threat to impose tariffs unless Mexico slowed illegal migration into the U.S. Read more from Nick Wadhams.

Pentagon Has Limited Power on Raytheon Deal: Raytheon’s planned merger with United Technologies is under Pentagon review, even though military leaders won’t get to make the call on approving one of the largest-ever defense industry deals. “Under Secretary Ellen Lord is engaging with industry leadership to understand the implications and governance as a result of this acquisition,” Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews, a department spokesman, said, referring to the Pentagon’s acquisition chief in a statement. Read more from Tony Capaccio.

U.S. Travel Data Hacked: A cyberattack has exposed photographs of travelers and images of license plates, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said. A subcontractor transferred copies of images collected by CBP to its own company network “in violation of CBP policies and without CBP’s authorization or knowledge,” an agency representative said in an emailed statement. The agency said it learned of the data breach May 31.

House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) announced his intention to hold hearings next month on the Department of Homeland Security’s use of bio-metric information. “Unfortunately, this is the second major privacy breach at DHS this year. We must ensure we are not expanding the use of bio-metrics at the expense of the privacy of the American public,” Thompson said. Read more from Sara Merken.

U.S. Concerned With Hong Kong Law Proposals: The U.S. is concerned that a series of proposed amendments to extradition law “could damage Hong Kong’s business environment” and subject people to China’s capricious judicial system, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters. Hong Kong is bracing for a potentially historic showdown over the extradition legislation that could for the first time subject residents to face justice in China’s courts, further eroding the city’s autonomy. The extradition bill has been criticized by We stern governments as a threat to the “one country, two systems” framework credited with maintaining Hong Kong’s status as a global financial hub, Laura Curtis and Nick Wadhams report.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com

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