What to Know in Washington: Trump Stumps Ahead of Election Day

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Two states are set to elect governors today—and both races are competitive.

President Donald Trump won in Kentucky by 30 percentage points in 2016, yet in an opinion survey released last month, incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin was tied with Democratic challenger state Attorney General Andy Beshear.

As BGOV reports, the race has been so nasty that Bevin wasn’t even willing to let Beshear say in a debate that he was promising “leadership and vision.” The governor snapped back: “You have none of the above.”

Trump held a campaign rally in Lexington last night and encouraged his supporters in Kentucky to vote to re-elect Bevin, declaring it would send a message to congressional Democrats conducting an impeachment inquiry, Justin Sink reports.

“Matt’s running against these people and we have to send them a sign,” Trump said. “We are sending a signal by doing that to the rest of the country, to the rest of the world, that the Republican Party, you know what we stand for, what you see what is happening with the Democrats — they have gone crazy. They are not getting anything done.”

He linked Beshear to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who is running the impeachment inquiry, and the “radical left,” saying “that is who they want to win.”

“If they lose they’re going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. You can’t let that happen to me,” Trump told his rally audience.

Trump will continue a campaign swing through the South this week, rallying on behalf of the Republican challenging Louisiana’s Democratic governor tomorrow and attending a fundraiser in Atlanta on Friday. Sports Illustrated reported that Trump is expected to attend a football game between the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday.

Bevin speaks during a rally with Trump in Lexington on Monday - Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg
Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg
Bevin speaks during a rally with Trump in Lexington on Monday.

Also at the polls today:

  • In Mississippi, Trump expressed irritation with the fight for the governor’s seat. “I can’t believe this is a competitive race. It’s like embarrassing,” Trump said as he introduced Republican candidate Tate Reeves at a previous rally in Tupelo. Reeves is running against the state’s Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat.
  • In Virginia, abortion-rights groups have spent more than $3 million on a handful of races, making the state an early testing ground for how the issue will affect statehouses around the country. Whichever party is more successful in today’s elections, where the entire state legislature is up for election, will get to play a key role in reshaping the state’s abortion laws. The debate flared earlier this year with a legislative proposal to ease Virginia’s restrictions on the procedure. Read more from Alex Ruoff.
  • In Washington state, Amazon has donated $1.5 million to try to fill a board in its home town with friendly faces. That’s an unusual amount of spending in a Seattle council race, and “unprecedented for Amazon,” according to University of Washington professor Margaret O’Mara, who’s researching the nexus of the high-tech industry and American politics.
  • In California, Uber has a stake in elections in its home town. San Francisco voters will decide whether to impose a special rideshare tax to raise money for transit service and transportation improvement projects.
  • In Arizona, voters in Tucson, which is about 60 miles from Mexico, are making a decision about becoming a “sanctuary city” that restricts interactions between local police and federal immigration enforcement

More Elections & Politics

Buttigieg Embraces Top-Tier Status: Exuding a new confidence as a top-tier candidate, Pete Buttigieg is seizing on Joe Biden’s stumbles in Iowa and deepening questions about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) electability to pitch himself as the alternative to both — and the candidate best positioned to lead the Democrats against Trump. Buttigieg, who has firmly established himself as a serious contender to win the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3, pitched himself to voters on a four-day swing through the state as a young moderate with the policy positions and background that could help Democrats recapture the industrial Midwest.

Although Biden still leads most national polls, recent Iowa surveys show the race has tightened to almost a four-way tie among him, Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Buttigieg. The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has emerged from the back of the field to competing with politicians who have decades more experience on the national stage. Read more from Tyler Pager.

Biden Leads in Two Nevada Polls: Joe Biden leads in two new surveys of likely Nevada caucus goers even as he’s fallen behind in surveys of Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire. The former vice president had the support of 29% of likely caucus goers in a poll conducted for the Nevada Independent, a news nonprofit, by Mellman Group, a Democratic polling firm. Sanders and Warren are tied for second place at 19%. In a second Nevada poll by Emerson College, Biden was at 30%, Warren was at 22% and Sanders was at 19%. Read more from Jennifer Epstein.

Trump Campaign Eyes Black Voters: Trump’s campaign said yesterday that it’s creating a new coalition to try to bolster his support among African-Americans. The group, named “Black Voices for Trump,” aims to recruit and engage African-American voters. Vice President Mike Pence will address the group at an event on Friday in Atlanta, according to a senior campaign official. The official said the campaign is rolling out the coalition in Atlanta because Trump enjoys relatively strong support among black voters in the city. Trump won about 8% of the black vote in 2016. Read more from Mario Parker.

Public to Get Glimpse at Trump’s Ukraine Effort

House Democrats will release closed-door testimony from two central players in Trump’s back-channel effort to influence the Ukrainian government, a key initial step as the impeachment inquiry shifts to a new, public phase.

The release today will offer the American public a closer look at what Kurt Volker and Gordon Sondland said behind closed doors to House impeachment committees last month and could help clarify their own roles and what their efforts on Trump’s behalf were intended to achieve.

They and Energy Secretary Rick Perry were the “three amigos” deputized by the White House to help Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani lead back-channel administration overtures to Ukraine.

In what is known about their previous testimony — including their prepared opening remarks — both men distanced themselves from Giuliani’s shadow effort to get Ukraine to investigate Democrat Joe Biden and his son, as well as the White House decision to withhold foreign aid that Congress had designated for Ukraine.

The transcripts will be the second set released by the Democratic-led committees conducting the inquiry, which is set to move on to public hearings as soon as next week. On Monday, transcripts from former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and Michael McKinley, a former senior adviser to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, were made public. Read more from Steven T. Dennis and Billy House.

Trump’s View of Ukraine Prosecutor Contradicts Record: The impeachment inquiry centers on Trump’s contention that there was something untoward about Biden’s diplomatic efforts in Ukraine at the time his son Hunter was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. But Biden wasn’t alone in wanting prosecutor Viktor Shokin out of office. A look at the record shows Democrats and Republicans alike were concerned about his ability to fight corruption.

Ethics experts say President Barack Obama could have chosen a better point person than Biden to lead the effort to remove Shokin — given Hunter’s work with Burisma Holdings — but no politician of either party objected publicly to the effort. Ryan Teague Beckwith takes a look at what was said and by whom.

Also Coming Up in Congress

FERC Nominee Questioned: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing today on the nomination of James P. Danly to be a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said yesterday he is concerned about “inconsistent and inaccurate ethics advice” given by FERC’s Office of General Counsel under Danly, Stephen Cunningham reports. Schumer said in a letter to the Energy Department’s inspector general and Office of Government Ethics that deficiencies occurred in the office while under Danly’s management.

Boeing CEO Testimony Slammed: Boeing’s chief executive officer didn’t offer complete testimony last week on the 737 Max, and congressional investigators are continuing their probe of the troubled jet maker, two House leaders said in a letter to other lawmakers yesterday. Boeing’s Dennis Muilenburg, who endured hours of grilling by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week, left “a lot of unanswered questions, and our investigation has a long way to go to get the answers everyone deserves,” Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), chairman of its aviation sub-panel, said. Read more from Alan Levin.

McNerney’s A.I. Agenda—BGOV Podcast: Artificial intelligence, digital privacy, and other tech policy debates are all issues Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) plans to address as a leader of the Congressional A.I. Caucus and member of a House committee with jurisdiction over technology. On this episode of “Suspending the Rules” from BGOV, technology policy reporter Rebecca Kern sits down with McNerney to discuss A.I., privacy legislation, the “Section 230” liability shield for tech companies, and Twitter’s decision not to allow political ads on its platform. Tune in: Apple Podcasts | Overcast | Stitcher | Spotify

Foreign Affairs

China Wants Trump Tariff Rollback: China is seeking the roll back of U.S. tariffs on as much as $360 billion of Chinese imports before President Xi Jinping agrees to go to the U.S. to sign a partial trade deal with Trump, according to people familiar with the matter. Negotiators asked the Trump administration to eliminate tariffs on about $110 billion in goods that were imposed in September and lower the 25% tariff rate on about $250 billion that began last year, said some of the people, who asked not be named discussing the private talks. Chinese officials also suggested the U.S. could temporarily waive some tariffs, people familiar with Beijing’s position said. In return, China could remove tariffs on a reciprocal amount of U.S. goods, mostly farm products, one of the people said. Read more.

Kremlin Presses for New U.S.-Russia Nuclear Deal: The Kremlin warned that time is fast running out to negotiate a fresh strategic nuclear weapons deal with the U.S. before the current New START treaty expires. “There is no progress, there are no signals from the Americans about their readiness to start discussions” on replacing or extending the treaty, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters today on a conference call. “If this silence continues, then in fact we’ll enter a period when it won’t be possible to reach agreement” before the treaty expires in February 2021, he said.

Russia has said previously that it’s ready to discuss a five-year extension to the treaty that limits the nuclear arsenals of both countries. U.S. officials have said the agreement may not be worth extending if China isn’t included. Read more from Ilya Arkhipov.

Iran to Restart Fordow Centrifuges: Iran will begin injecting gas into centrifuges at its Fordow research plant from Wednesday as it further scales back its commitment to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to U.S. sanctions. President Hassan Rouhani said the steps would be reversed if European nations ensure Iran can sell its oil and reap the economic benefits promised by the international accord that was meant to prevent the Islamic Republic from developing an atomic bomb. The United Nations nuclear agency will still be allowed to inspect Iran’s activities, Rouhani said, including work at Fordow, which was to stop enriching uranium and be converted for other research under the deal. Read more from Arsalan Shahla.

Around the Administration

Olive Oil Standards of Identity: U.S. olive oil advocates submitted a petition to the Food and Drug Administration to enforce standards of identity to end product mislabeling.

“Buying quality extra virgin olive is hard, but not because there aren’t quality products on supermarket shelves. It’s because there are just no rules to stop bad actors from misrepresenting what they’re selling,” said Adam Englehardt, chairman of the American Olive Oil Producers Association, in a statement. AOOPA and Deoleo, the world’s largest olive oil producer with brands like Bertolli, Carapelli and Carbonell, signed onto the petition, obtained by BGOV.

The National Consumer League found six of 11 national brands misrepresented quality grades to consumers. A separate, four-year audit of the category found half of all products available to consumers today failed to meet international quality standards. The FDA has been working to revitalize standards of identity, which inform consumers of the origin of what they’re eating or drinking. The agency held a public meeting on Sept. 27 to discuss modernizing the standards. Without the standards, olive oil has been marketed as incorrect grades, such as extra virgin.

Green Groups, States, Challenge Lightbulb Rollback: The Trump administration’s move to roll back energy-use requirements for billions of light bulbs is being challenged in court by environmental groups and states such as California and New York. Dual lawsuits filed in federal appeals court in Manhattan seek to block the Energy Department from withdrawing an Obama-era requirement that bulbs commonly used in recessed lighting, track lighting, bathroom vanities and decorative fixtures meet the same energy efficiency standards that phased out the traditional incandescent bulb. Read more from Ari Natter.

Energy Market Manipulation Oversight: The U.S. agency charged with rooting out abuse in energy markets isn’t doing enough to crack down on bad behavior, according to one of its regulators. Rich Glick, the sole Democrat on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, argued yesterday that the agency’s commitment to tackling manipulation “appears to be waning” under Republican Chairman Neil Chatterjee. Glick made the comments in response to a letter by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who in September led a group of lawmakers in questioning the commission’s commitment to tackling market abuse. Read more from Stephen Cunningham.

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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