What to Know in Washington: Trump Paints Biden as Socialist Pawn

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For one night on the South Lawn of the White House, President Donald Trump painted a vision of the campaign he wished he were waging — where the pandemic was an afterthought, his first term was an unqualified success and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden was little more than a “Trojan horse for socialism.”

“Joe Biden is not the savior of America’s soul. He is the destroyer of America’s jobs, and if given the chance, he will be the destroyer of America’s greatness,” Trump said last night in attempting to define his opponent, a former two-term vice president with a history of moderate stances who is viewed more favorably by voters than Trump himself.

But the pivotal question for the president, in desperate need of reversing his fortunes before Election Day — was whether this uncharacteristically low-energy address, strewn with misstatements and exaggerations about Biden’s record and his own, would be enough to change minds.

Despite delivering the second-longest presidential acceptance speech, at 71 minutes, Trump largely sidestepped the chief concern for many Americans — how he planned to finish the fight against a deadly virus that has left more than 180,000 Americans dead. He promised a vaccine before the end of the year — “maybe even sooner!” Trump said — a boast none of the medical professionals around him is prepared to guarantee.

The televised images of the gathering reinforced Trump’s wishful words about putting the virus behind him. Trump spoke to about 1,500 supporters seated nearly shoulder-to-shoulder outside the White House, almost none wearing masks, on the fourth and final night of the Republican National Convention.

The president appeared eager to make his acceptance speech and the rest of the campaign a referendum on Biden, who leads in national and in key swing state polls. Few political professionals inside the Republican Party or out see this race as anything other than a referendum on one man, Trump.

That’s usually the case in a presidential re-election bid, but it’s all the more so for Trump because of how he sharply polarizes the electorate, between Republicans who adore him and Democrats who plainly can’t stand him.

Still, Trump sought to shift the focus, mentioning Biden by name 41 times — compared to zero mentions of Trump by name in Biden’s speech one week earlier. Trump seemed far more passionate on the attack than he did reading a laundry list of first-term accomplishments or detailing his goals for another four years.

The heart of his speech echoed and amplified a thread running through all four days of the Republican convention — that Biden was a puppet of leftist activists, and that his presidency would sweep racial unrest into White rural and suburban communities. Read more from Justin Sink.

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Trump is displayed on a screen while speaking on the South Lawn.

Trump Misrepresents Biden’s Positions, Economic Facts: Trump’s speech accepting the Republican nomination for a second term misrepresented the positions of Biden and cherry-picked data on the coronavirus and jobs. He also minimized the still-raging pandemic and suggested the U.S. was far better off both in terms of public health and the economy. Gregory Korte provides a fact check of Trump’s speech.

  • Also yesterday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) rebuked Democrats’ agenda. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Republican Senate is a firewall against Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s (D-Calif.) agenda. Party-switching Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) said the Democratic Party is controlled by radicals. Read a recap of the final night of the RNC from Bloomberg News.
  • Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) tweeted during the speech he would introduce legislation to ban campaign events and political party conventions from being held at the White House again, a move that has been heavily criticized as a potential violation of the Hatch Act. Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, tweeted it “may be the most visible misuse of official position for private gain in America’s history.” Read more.
  • China said Trump was putting his and the Republican Party’s needs over those of the U.S., after the president said that under him, America would take its business out of China. “I believe this is their act which tries to put their self-interests and the interests of their parties above the interests of the United States,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a briefing in Beijing today. “Such political manipulation is unfeasible.” Read more from Bloomberg News.

What to Watch Today

White House: Trump is scheduled to receive a briefing on Hurricane Laura, which weakened to a tropical storm yesterday. Last night while accepting the Republican presidential nomination, Trump said, “While the hurricane was fierce, one of the strongest to make landfall in 150 years, the casualties and deaths were far less than thought possible only 24 hours ago.”

Trump is also slated to deliver remarks in Manchester, N.H.

Congress: The House meets for a pro forma session at 9 a.m. The Senate meets for a pro forma session at 2 p.m.

Veterans’ Affairs: The House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity holds a hearing titled “Coordinating Transition Resources.”

Election Security: The House Homeland Security Committee holds a hearing on election oversight, which is to include testimony from, among others, the president of the American Postal Workers Union.

Battle Over Voting by Mail: Voting safely in November during the coronavirus pandemic is the focus of a House hearing today that’s likely to highlight partisan differences over voting by mail. The House Administration Committee hearing, convened by Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), is intended to help make sure votes are safely cast and counted despite what a Democratic committee aide said was Republican attempts to spread misinformation.

  • Lofgren is a primary author of Democratic-backed legislation to provide $3.6 billion in grants for state and local election officials to help pay for the costs of voting during the pandemic. Lofgren believes “the need of state and local election officials has not diminished,” and most of the $400 million in grants that were previously approved has been spent by states to administer their primary elections. The additional money is included in a pandemic relief bill (H.R. 6800) passed by the House in May.
  • The measure hasn’t been taken up in the Senate and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), the House Administration Committee’s top Republican, has proposed his own bill (H.R. 7905), which would provide an additional $400 million in grant funding and call for money to be used primarily to aid in-person voting in November.

Protests: Thousands are expected to gather in Washington D.C. today to commemorate the 1963 civil rights March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Marchers are expected to call for racial justice in the midst of continued unrest across the U.S. after police shootings of Black citizens.

More on Politics & Protests

Protesters Clash With Trump’s RNC Audience in D.C.: Protesters confronted those leaving the White House after Trump’s Republican National Convention speech, with chaotic scenes on the streets of the nation’s capital. In one such incident, they surrounded Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and his wife, some chanting the name of Breonna Taylor, who was killed in a no-knock raid in Paul’s home state of Kentucky. As police tried to clear a path, a demonstrator was seen shoving one of the officers guarding Paul, who then stumbled back into the senator. Read more from Derek Wallbank.

States Send Guard Troops; More Cities on Lockdown: Arizona, Alabama and Michigan are sending National Guard troops to Kenosha, Wisconsin and may be ready to assist local officials as early as today, said Major General Paul Knapp, who commands the Wisconsin National Guard. The troops will be under the command of Knapp and Gov. Tony Evers (D), who at a briefing yesterday said he declined an earlier offer by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to send Homeland Security to the state, where police shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, earlier this week and sparked protests.

St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Raleigh were among cities that imposed curfews. The protests also spilled over into professional sports — the NHL postponed two days of playoff games yesterday, the Associated Press reported. Read more from Bloomberg News.

Trump, DeJoy Ordered to Hand In Postal Records: Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy were ordered by a federal judge to rapidly start handing over evidence sought by 14 states suing over recent changes to the U.S. Postal Service that they fear will undermine mail-in voting. U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian said at a hearing in Washington state that the administration needed to quickly offer “some assurance to the American public that the Postal Service is up to the challenge of delivering ballots to the voters.”

The ruling is an early setback for the Trump administration, which is facing three multistate lawsuits over “transformational” changes implemented by DeJoy over the past few months, just as Trump began falsely asserting that mail voting will lead to a massive fraud. The administration had argued the states’ demands for evidence were burdensome and overly broad. Read more from Erik Larson.

Biden Says He Will Travel to Key States: Biden said yesterday that he plans to campaign in person in the final two months before Election Day, after months staying close to his Delaware home out of concerns about Covid-19. Biden said he plans to begin traveling to critical election states like Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Arizona after Labor Day, Sep. 7. He will “get out safely without jeopardizing people’s health,” he told donors during a virtual fundraiser. Read more from Jennifer Epstein.

New Study Suggests Polls Are Missing Shy Trump Voters: A new online study finds that Republicans and independents are twice as likely as Democrats to say they would not give their true opinion in a telephone poll question about their preference for president in the 2020 election. That raises the possibility that polls understate support for Trump.

Some 11.7% of Republicans and 10.5% independents said they would not give their true opinion, vs. 5.4% of Democrats, according to the study by CloudResearch, a N.Y.-based company that conducts online market research and data collection for clients. Among the reasons they gave was that “it’s dangerous to express an opinion outside of the current liberal viewpoint,” according to co-CEO Leib Litman. Read more from Peter Coy.

Houston Rockets Court Set for Voting: The clerk’s office in Harris County, Texas, and the Houston Rockets said yesterday that the Toyota Center home to the National Basketball Association team will be a voting site for the Nov. 3 election in anticipation of record voter turnout and in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Read more from Paul Stinson and Alex Ebert.

The Coronavirus Pandemic

Democrats Condemn Testing Guideline Change: Ninety-one Democrats in the House, led by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Sylvia Garcia (Texas), Deb Haaland (N.M.), Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), and Betty McCollum (Minn.), sent a letter to CDC Director Robert Redfield “condemning, urging the immediate halt of, and demanding an explanation for” recent changes to Covid-19 testing guidelines that suggest not all those exposed need to be tested. “It is difficult to comprehend how this updated guidance will work to provide any public health benefits to our country,” they wrote. Read the letter here.

Virus Paid Leave Has Limits, DOL Says: Workers are ineligible for virus-related paid family leave and jobless relief if they decide to educate their children from home if the school gives them the choice of either online or in-person learning, the Labor Department said. The department clarified this issue yesterday in two guidance documents that applied the newly enacted federal paid leave benefits and expanded unemployment insurance programs to three common scenarios facing working parents across the U.S. as schools open in the coming days. Ben Penn has more.

Capital One Cuts Card Limits Amid U.S. Impasse on Jobless Aid: Capital One is cutting borrowing limits on credit cards, reining in its exposure as the U.S. reduces support for millions of unemployed Americans. Some customers have complained in recent days their limits have been slashed by a third to two-thirds, eroding their ability to borrow in an emergency during the pandemic. The drop in federal jobless benefits and the impasse in Washington raises the risk for banks that some cardholders won’t be able to make ends meet through the pandemic, maxing out credit limits as they spiral into bankruptcy. Read more from Jenny Surane.

Federal Workers Say Mask-Wearing Erratic: Federal workers trickling back to offices across the country are finding a lack of consistent mandates on crucial coronavirus protections, such as mask-wearing and social distancing.

Few federal workers are back in the office yet, and agency protocols could get tougher if leaders start to move away from telework as the default option. But for now, employees at several agencies—such as the EPA and State Department—report a mixed bag of safety guidelines and enforcement, with some agencies applying more stringent rules than others. Read more from Stephen Lee, Louis LaBrecque, and Shira Stein.

Covid-Hit U.S. Dairy Industry Urges USMCA Trade Gains: Bipartisan lawmakers in Congress, with the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement just recently taking effect, are pressuring the Trump administration to make sure America’s dairy producers are treated fairly. The U.S. dairy industry scored key wins under the USMCA, but lawmakers and dairy trade groups say Canada isn’t properly implementing the deal’s market access requirements, and they’re pressing U.S. officials to ensure the countries meet their other dairy promises.. Read more from Megan U. Boyanton.

What Else to Know

Google Monopoly Case Could Hit SCOTUS AmEx Hurdle: As the Justice Department prepares to file a landmark antitrust lawsuit against Google, a 2018 Supreme Court decision in favor of American Express could complicate matters. Attorney General William Barr is expected as soon as September to sue the search and online advertising giant, alleging it engages in anticompetitive conduct, according to people familiar with the matter.

Numerous states, which are also investigating Google, could join the lawsuit or file their own later, two of the people said, asking not to be named discussing a confidential matter. Read more from Ben Brody.

DHSNomination: Trump, in a statement from the White House, announced his intent to nominate Chad Wolf to be secretary of the Homeland Security Department, a move unveiled earlier in the week. Wolf is currently serving as acting secretary.

  • House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and House Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), sent a letter to DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari asking the office to investigate the recent Government Accountability Office findings referred to it that determined the appointments of Wolf and DHS No. 2 official Ken Cuccinelli weren’t legal.

Facebook Allows Ad Targeting in China: Facebook has been letting advertisers target users in mainland China, despite a ban on the company’s social networks there that prohibits citizens from accessing the apps. Facebook has long said it works with Chinese advertisers to reach users only outside the country, but not inside. But the company’s advertising system tells a different story. Read more from Sarah Frier.

Russian Actions in Syria Incident Were ‘Unacceptable’: The U.S. says Russian forces breached a de-confliction arrangement in Syria and injured U.S. service members with “deliberately provocative and aggressive behavior.”

“We have advised the Russians that their behavior was dangerous and unacceptable. We expect a return to routine and professional de-confliction in Syria and reserve the right to defend our forces vigorously whenever their safety is put at risk,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in statement, Megan Howard reports.

Teva Leans on Total Denial on Price Fixing Charge: Total denial may be Teva Pharmaceutical’s strongest play as the generic drugmaker fights off allegations by the Justice Department that it conspired to fix prices and divvy up the drug market, lawyers predict. “Even if there were exchanges of information, whether those actually rise to the level of an agreement to set prices, or an agreement to follow one another’s price increases, is the question,” one antitrust expert said. Read more from Valerie Bauman and Victoria Graham.

NASA Sees Cost Rising 30% on Boeing Rocket for Moon: Boeing’s Space Launch System, the largest rocket in NASA’s history, will carry a price tag of at least $9.1 billion — or 30% more than the previous estimate for a key element in the agency’s plan to return to the moon, and the new ground infrastructure at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center to support the deep-space exploration program has jumped to $2.4 billion, a NASA official said in a blog post. Read more from Justin Bachman.

California Aims to Slash Vessel, Engine Pollution: California’s air regulators approved two major rules yesterday that would dramatically reduce emissions from heavy-duty truck engines and tanker and car carrier ships docked in ports. Read more from Emily C. Dooley.

Laura Fades to Depression With Wreckage Trail: Hurricane Laura, one of the most powerful storms ever to hit Louisiana, left a path of chemical fires, wrecked buildings, flooded roads and what could be more than $15 billion in insured losses, with reports of at least six people dead.

Still, the storm mostly spared the region’s oil refineries and other energy infrastructure, muting its impact on global markets. Laura weakened to a tropical depression about 10 p.m. local time yesterday, less than 24 hours after coming ashore near Cameron, La., with record-tying maximum winds of 150 miles per hour. Read more from Bloomberg News.

  • As Hurricane Laura slammed the U.S. Gulf Coast with nearly 150 mile-per-hour winds, wildfires in California were still raging across more than a million acres, the result ofa heatwave that spikedas high as 130 degrees Fahrenheit — possibly the hottest temperature ever sustained on Earth. Read more from David R Baker, Eric Roston and Brian Eckhouse.
  • More than 890,000 homes and businesses were without power as of last night following Laura’s landfall, according to utility websites. Most were in Louisiana, and the outages have now spread north with about 54,000 in Arkansas.

To contact the reporters on this story: Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com; Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at kdoyle@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bgov.com

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