What to Know in Washington: Trump Courts 2020 Black Vote

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Donald Trump has alienated large swathes of minority communities during his presidency, but he thinks he has an argument to win some of them over in the 2020 election: the economy.

Trump plans to announce the formation of a new group — “Black Voices for Trump” — today in Atlanta to recruit and engage African-American voters after launching a Hispanic outreach campaign earlier this year. Both efforts will rely heavily on the president’s economic record — primarily the decline in unemployment among minorities during his tenure.

But it’s not clear whether job gains will be enough to overcome damage from his own divisive rhetoric on race, such as saying there were “very fine people” on both sides of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that erupted in violence and left one person dead, and recently calling himself the victim of a “lynching” in the House impeachment inquiry.

Republicans have long trailed Democrats among minority groups, but Trump has taken that disparity to new levels. A September poll by the Associated Press and NORC at the University of Chicago showed that 92% of African Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of race relations.

The survey results reflect multiple controversies that left critics accusing him of enabling a resurgence of white supremacists and nationalists.

The new push with minorities comes as Trump tries to face down the House impeachment inquiry, which has delivered a series of damaging blows to his popularity and crushed the prospect of pushing any major new initiatives through Congress before the election.

But for Trump, it’s less about winning than narrowing his wide margin of loss among black and Hispanic voters, who accounted for 21% of the electorate in 2016. He would also benefit by simply quelling enthusiasm in those groups to get to the polls and vote for Democrats. Read more from Mario Parker and Josh Wingrove.

The Young Black Leadership Summit 2019 event in the White House on Oct. 4. - Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg
Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg
The Young Black Leadership Summit 2019 event in the White House on Oct. 4.

Mulvaney Subpoenaed in Impeachment Inquiry

Trump’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has been subpoenaed to appear for a deposition this morning, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry, Billy House reports. Mulvaney, who earlier had been invited without subpoena to speak today to the committees leading the inquiry, had not been expected to show up, said other officials. All the officials were granted anonymity to discuss the matter.

Mulvaney is seen as a central figure in the investigation. He acknowledged in an Oct. 17 press conference that Trump and the White House blocked nearly $400 million in security assistance for Ukraine.

In early October, the Intelligence, Oversight and Reform and Foreign Affairs committees had issued a subpoena to Mulvaney for documents as part of their impeachment inquiry, but officials on those panels say it has been ignored.

Trump Wanted Ukraine to Tie Biden, Clinton and Probe: The message from the White House was clear: Ukraine’s new president needed to announce his country would investigate a company tied to Joe Biden’s son and an unsubstantiated theory about Ukraine-supported interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“Investigations, Biden and Clinton” was the three-word shorthand being pushed from President Donald Trump through channels onto Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, testified a senior State Department official, George Kent, to House impeachment committees last month. Trump “wanted nothing less than President Zelenskiy to go to the microphone and say investigations, Biden and Clinton,” Kent testified he was told, according to a transcript of his testimony released yesterday. Read more from Billy House.

Coming Up in Congress

Trump Pick Nardini Confirmed: William Nardini was easily confirmed for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit yesterday, inching the court closer to a majority of judges appointed by Republican presidents. It would “flip” if senators confirm White House lawyer Steven Menashi, whose controversial nomination is scheduled for the first of two possible votes on Tuesday. Read more from Madison Alder.

Democrats Design Plans to Tax Rich: Moderate Democrats in Congress are crafting viable alternatives to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) wealth tax, amid increasing concerns that her soak-the-rich strategy won’t pass even if the party captures both chambers of Congress in 2020. With growing confidence that they could win the White House and Senate in 2020 and maintain their House majority, Democrats are devising ideas that could raise trillions of dollars from the wealthy without the technical and constitutional challenges of Warren’s wealth tax, which Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), her rival on the party’s left flank, has also embraced. Read more from Laura Davison.

CRs Could Hike Weapons Costs: Another stopgap budget measure from Congress this month would threaten a raft of defense programs including the F-15EX fighter jet, Ford-class aircraft carriers, and Trump’s brand new Space Force, according to the Pentagon and military services. The Air Force had asked to buy eight of the Boeing F-15EX jets for $1.1 billion but that pricing could increase if a purchase is delayed by a continuing resolution over six months, the service said. The Navy says it risks missing a payment on two new carriers and shouldering potentially higher total purchase costs. Read more from Travis J. Tritten.

Senate Drug Bills Stuck: Two bipartisan pairs of lawmakers tried to get the Senate to pass their drug-pricing bills yesterday only to see them held up over demands they be wrapped into wider-ranging legislation. Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sought to get their bill that would restrict drugmakers from gaming the patent process passed in the Senate by unanimous consent, where the chamber can pass legislation if no one objects. At the same time, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) tried to do the same with their measure to require drugmakers to disclose the cost of their products in certain advertisements.

Objections were raised privately over both bills but talks continue over getting both and possible other drug-pricing measures passed next week, according to senators and aides. “There’s a feeling that maybe there’s an opportunity here to do a broader approach and another bill with it and that folks want to take advantage of that opportunity,” Blumenthal said. Read more from Alex Ruoff.

Domestic Violence Bill Negotiations Fall Apart: Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) threw cold water on the possibility of the Senate passing bipartisan legislation to update the Violence Against Women Act, saying months-long negotiations “came to a screeching halt” this week. Senate Democrats will push for a House-passed version of the bill, which lacks support from most Republicans due to new provisions restricting the sale and ownership of firearms, Ernst said. She said on the Senate floor yesterday she plans to introduce her own proposal, Emily Wilkins reports.

Also Happening on the Hill

DeVos Refuses Democrats’ Call to Testify: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos yesterday declined a demand from House Democrats to testify on student loan forgiveness, a move likely setting up a congressional subpoena to compel her to appear. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, has made repeated requests for DeVos to testify about the Education Department’s inaction on debt relief applications—known as borrower defense claims—filed by former students of the shuttered for-profit Corinthian Colleges chain. According to an Education and Labor aide, Scott is considering his options, including issuing a subpoena. Read more from Andrew Kreighbaum.

Preventing School Shootings: The Secret Service could provide more training that schools are demanding to help prevent mass attacks under bipartisan, bicameral legislation, U.S. Secret Service acting Director James Murray said at a press conference yesterday. Murray unveiled the federal government’s most comprehensive report yet analyzing school violence, Michaela Ross reports. It showed that 89% of attackers displayed concerning or prohibited behavior that should’ve been met with an immediate response from school or local officials, but less than half of cases were countered with such a response, like calling the police or expulsion. The bill from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), which would dedicate funding for the agency’s efforts with schools, has yet to receive a hearing.

Temporary Protected Status: Concerns about the political liability of a mass deportation during the 2020 election cycle appears to have driven Trump administration officials to try to expedite the ending of temporary protected status for nearly 400,000 individuals, according to an investigation by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democrats released yesterday, Michaela Ross reports.

The State Department in 2017 recommended ending protections in 18 months for individuals from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti who had been in the US for years due to natural disaster or unrest in their countries, the report said. This was despite concerns from top diplomats that such a move would lead to more irregular migration and increased MS-13 gang recruitment. Last week the administration extended TPS protections until 2021.

Sharing Info on Counterfeits: Congress should act to allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection to share additional information with trademark owners, common carriers, and e-commerce platforms on counterfeit goods, a Senate Finance Committee staff report said. Greater information sharing by Customs with the private sector would help identify counterfeiters’ products and shipping practices, resulting in better intellectual property protection, according to the report released yesterday. Read more from Rossella Brevetti.

More Elections & Politics

Biden Tries to Win Back Catholic Voters: Joe Biden took the stage at a Catholic college in Dubuque, Iowa, and spoke of faith and hope and the soul of America — themes that borrow from his religious upbringing that he’s betting will pry a key constituency away from Trump. Catholic voters could be a deciding factor in whether Democrats win the White House in 2020. And Biden, a 76-year-old Catholic educated by nuns in Scranton, Pa., is making an overt attempt to win them back. Read more from Gregory Korte.

Bloomberg Considers Run: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is once again considering a run for president in 2020, with an adviser saying he is concerned that the current crop of Democratic contenders will not be able to defeat Trump. Bloomberg, 77, had considered a run earlier this year but chose not to run and instead support Democrats in regaining control in Washington. Now he is open once again to running against Trump himself. Bloomberg is the majority owner of Bloomberg Government’s parent company. Read more from Craig Gordon.

Sessions Jumps Into Alabama Race:Jeff Sessions said he’ll run for the U.S. Senate seat in Alabama that he vacated in 2017 to became Trump’s first attorney general, a return to politics that could be challenging given his tumultuous relationship with the president. Sessions, 72, a former top Republican on the Senate Judiciary and Budget panels, easily held onto his seat for two decades, and his entry shakes up the race to defeat Democratic incumbent Doug Jones. He announced his candidacy last night in a video and statement on his campaign’s website, and said he remains a strong Trump supporter despite “our ups and downs.” Read more from Laura Litvan.

Foreign Affairs

Phase-One China Deal Would Include Tariff Rollback: The U.S. and China have agreed to roll back tariffs on each other’s goods in stages as negotiations continue over resolving the more than yearlong trade war, officials on both sides said. “In the past two weeks, top negotiators had serious, constructive discussions and agreed to remove the additional tariffs in phases as progress is made on the agreement,” China’s Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said yesterday. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow confirmed the advance in negotiations. Read more.

Diplomats Keep Negotiating on Climate: Trump may be withdrawing the U.S. from the international Paris accord to fight global warming, but he’s still sending a delegation to the world’s largest climate change summit next month. The U.S. will dispatch a team to the United Nations’s annual climate change gathering in Madrid that will mirror the delegation at last year’s summit, according to the State Department, signaling that the group will probably consist of career diplomats and lower-ranking officials. The delegation will engage in negotiations to protect U.S. interests and ensure a level playing field for U.S. businesses, the agency said. Read more from Jennifer A. Dlouhy.

Pompeo Urges NATO Allies to Step Up: Standing up to authoritarian regimes like China and Russia and “protecting freedom” is a tough task that needs greater joint effort from North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Speaking in Berlin a day after French President Emmanuel Macron questioned the effectiveness of NATO, Pompeo said today the U.S. demands more from its partners in the alliance “because western, free nations have a responsibility to deter threats to our people, and we’re stronger together.” Read more from Patrick Donahue and Iain Rogers.

What Else to Know

Trump Taps Perry Replacement: Trump has formally chosen the Energy Department’s No. 2 official to replace Secretary Rick Perry. Trump had been saying he planned to elevate Dan Brouillette, a former George W. Bush administration official, to the post. The promotion, which was announced by the White House on Thursday, had been anticipated by many in Washington energy circles. Perry said he plans to leave the agency by Dec. 1. Brouillette will be the acting secretary immediately after Perry departs, but unlike officials serving in an acting capacity at other agencies, the White House has sent his name to the Senate for a confirmation vote. Read more from Ari Natter.

Immigration Filings Deleted: The apparent deletion of nearly a million immigration court records—including applications for deportation relief—by the Department of Justice is drawing scrutiny from the head of the National Association of Immigration Judges. Union President Ashley Tabaddor called the findings “unacceptable” in a statement Tuesday, pointing out such records are used to make policy and Supreme Court decisions. The University of Syracuse, which has tracked immigration court cases for decades, pointed out the missing files last week. The immigration court system has been under immense pressure to clear a backlog of more than million cases amid a surge of migrants this year, Michaela Ross reports.

GM Sells Lordstown Plant to Startup: Lordstown Motors, the electric-truck startup formed specifically to save a shuttered Ohio car factory, has acquired the highly politicized plant from General Motors. The acquisition that the two companies announced yesterday ends an era that began when GM opened the complex in 1966. Its fate was largely sealed when the United Auto Workers union was unable to convince GM to keep it in the fold as part of a new labor contact ratified late last month. GM announced last year that it wouldn’t allocate future product to Lordstown. The decision was an immediate liability for Trump, who a year earlier discouraged rally-goers from selling their homes because of all the jobs he would bring back to the area. Read more from David Welch.

Editor’s Note:Bloomberg Government’s What to Know in Washington will not publish Monday, Nov. 11 in observance of the Veterans Day federal holiday. We will return Tuesday, Nov. 12.

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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