What to Know in Washington: Trump to Meet World Leaders in NYC

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The U.S.-Iran showdown moves to Manhattan this week as about 200 world leaders and thousands of diplomats converge on New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly.

President Donald Trump will speak from the U.N. podium tomorrow morning — and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani could be front and center for his speech. Iran’s delegation has second-row seats in the auditorium, although Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif could choose to avoid the assembly hall or walk out just before Trump begins.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be looking to promote the U.K. as a great place to invest in a post-Brexit world, once he sorts out how the divorce from the European Union will unfold. Ireland’s prime minister arrives with his nation potentially facing the most collateral damage from a messy Brexit, and he doesn’t want to see EU leaders capitulate under pressure to the U.K.

Like at every General Assembly, much of the real news will emerge on the fringes of official events as diplomats take advantage of the critical mass of leaders to hold around-the-clock meetings, attend cocktail parties and shop. David Wainer breaks down what’s on tap for this week.

Trump speaks with as Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Ohio on Sunday ahead of the U.N. General Assembly in New York starting Monday.

Photographer: Dustin Franz/Bloomberg
Trump speaks with as Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Ohio on Sunday ahead of the U.N. General Assembly in New York starting Monday.

Trump to Skip Climate Summit: Trump said his absence from a U.N. climate summit isn’t intended as a snub and pointed out that he’s being briefed on catastrophic flooding in the Houston area. “It’s not a snub at all. I’m very busy, I’m going on the flights today,” Trump said yesterday as he departed the White House for events in Texas and Ohio ahead of the General Assembly. “The floods are very important to me, and uh, climate change — everything is very important.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he believes the U.S. can still pull its weight on climate change, even though Trump is skipping the summit today and has worked to roll back restrictions on everything from vehicle to power plant emissions. Read more from David Wainer.

Graham Meets Erdogan in Bid to Mend Strained Alliance: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s closest Congressional allies, met Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an effort to mend an alliance most recently strained by Ankara’s purchase of a Russian missile defense system. “We’re trying to get them back in the F-35 program,” Graham said in New York yesterday. The U.S. has locked Turkey out of a program for advanced F-35 fighter jets to punish it for buying Russian S-400 missiles that Washington says could compromise intelligence gathered by American aircraft. Read more from Selcan Hacaoglu.

Johnson Takes Bid for Brexit Deal to New York: Boris Johnson will start a week of intense diplomacy today, as he tries to push for a Brexit deal on the sidelines of the General Assembly. The British prime minister will hold meetings this week with all the key players — Germany’s Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and European Council President Donald Tusk. He will try to persuade them to renegotiate the divorce deal they agreed to with his predecessor, Theresa May, that was rejected three times by Parliament. Read more from Robert Hutton.

Trump to Meet Ukraine’s Leader Amid Probe

One heavily-watched U.N. meeting will be Trump’s sit down on Wednesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Interest in those talks stems from a whistleblower complaint filed by a U.S. intelligence official after Trump and Zelensky spoke by phone earlier this year. On the call, Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Trump appeared to acknowledge yesterday that he had discussed Biden in a July 25 phone call with Zelensky that is the subject of a congressional investigation.

Trump, speaking to reporters near Houston, also said he’d consider releasing a partial transcript of the call, though he added he didn’t like the idea because U.S. presidents and foreign counterparts should be free to have candid confidential conversations. “I’m going to talk about it,” the president said, referring to calls by Democrats to publish the transcript. “But you have to be a little bit shy about doing that. People don’t like that and I don’t like the concept of it.”

Earlier in the day, Trump said the conversation he had with Zelenskiy “was largely congratulatory” but also about “all of the corruption taking place.”

“It was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Trump told reporters. Read more from Josh Wingrove and Jennifer Jacobs.

Pelosi’s Warning: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) signaled her readiness to take stronger action against Trump over the call. “If the administration persists in blocking this whistle-blower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the President, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation,” Pelosi said yesterday in a letter to colleagues.

Pelosi didn’t mention impeachment, although a key House lawmaker — Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) — suggested Trump’s actions “may very well have crossed the Rubicon” warranting further action. Read more from Hailey Waller.

Political Preview: The Ukrainian intrigue has echoes of 2016, with Trump accused of courting foreign help to discredit his rivals with real or perceived scandals. Then, it was Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails and the Trump campaign’s attempts to solicit Russia’s help in leaking them — which became the focus of a two-year investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Read more from Gregory Korte, Tyler Pager and Josh Wingrove.

Elections, Politics & Probes

AOC Says Failure to Impeach is a Scandal: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said Democrats were being weak on Trump. “At this point, the bigger national scandal isn’t the president’s lawbreaking behavior – it is the Democratic Party’s refusal to impeach him for it,” she tweeted on Saturday night. “It is one thing for a sitting president to break the law. It’s another to let him,” she said in a series of postings. “The integrity of our democracy isn’t threatened when a president breaks the law. It‘s threatened when we do nothing about it. The GOP’s silence & refusal to act shouldn’t be a surprise. Ours is.”

Calls for a stronger Democratic response are coming not just from the freshman congresswoman from New York and her allies, but much of the Democratic presidential field. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) pressed Congress to “step up” and begin impeachment proceedings against Trump while campaigning in the state. Read more from Karen Leigh.

Warren Overtakes Biden in Iowa: Warren took the lead in Iowa in a new poll released Saturday, barely dislodging Biden from the No. 1 spot and putting the two of them in a statistical tie in a key state on the road to the nomination. Warren has the support of 22% of likely participants in the Iowa caucuses, up 7 percentage points from June. Biden was second with 20%, down slightly from June. Though the result is in the poll’s 4 percentage point margin of error, it’s the first time Warren has led Biden in the Iowa Poll series. Read more from Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou.

Sanders Begins Iowa Tour: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is working to convince working-class voters who were drawn to Donald Trump in 2016 that they will find a lot to like with his own brand of economic populism. Sanders plans to take this strategy for a trial run on Monday with a “Bernie Beats Trump Tour” of four Iowa counties that went for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and to Trump in 2016. The goal is to prove that he is the candidate best able to woo back working-class voters in Rust-Belt states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, longtime Democratic strongholds that were captured by Trump and that are key to winning the presidency. Read more from Emma Kinery.

Warren, Sanders Add Trips to UAW Pickets: Biden and Warren joined striking United Auto Workers members on a picket line yesterday as they compete for the support of a critical voting bloc in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Read more from Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou and Tyler Pager.

Booker to End Bid Without Cash: Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) fundraising isn’t keeping pace with what’s required and the New Jersey lawmaker will quit the Democratic presidential race unless he collects $1.7 million in the next 10 days, the campaign said. “If we cannot raise the $1.7 million to scale up our operation, we don’t believe we are going to be in position to compete for the nomination,” Addisu Demissie, Booker’s manager, said Saturday in a call with reporters. Read more from Laura Litvan.

Kennedy Takes on Markey: Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) formally announced a challenge to Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in next year’s Democratic primary, setting up a blockbuster battle between an heir to an American political dynasty and an incumbent now in his fifth decade in Congress. At a Saturday news conference at the East Boston Social Center, Kennedy said he wants to remove significant barriers to success for people, adding “I’m running for the U.S. Senate to tear that down, to fight back with everything we’ve got.” He also reflected on his family, which arrived in America as struggling immigrants from Ireland and went on to produce a president, three U.S. senators and members of Congress. Read more from Laura Litvan.

Collins Charged With Insider Trading Appeals Decision: A House Republican charged with insider trading is appealing a judge’s decision that he can’t review materials he says would show investigators violated a constitutional provision limiting official inquiries into legislative matters. Christopher Collins (R-N.Y.), was charged last year with trading with non-public information about Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotechnology firm. He was arrested in August 2018 along with his son, Cameron Collins, and Stephen Zarsky, father of Cameron’s fiancee. All have pleaded not guilty. Bob Van Voris has more.

Foreign Affairs

U.S. Working on Diplomacy After Iran Act: Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the U.S. is “working diligently” toward a diplomatic resolution with Iran after accusing the Islamic republic of attacks on Saudi Arabian oil fields, but that Trump is prepared to take other action if necessary. “Make no mistake about it, if we’re unsuccessful in that and Iran continues to strike out in this way, I am confident that President Trump will make the decisions necessary to achieve our objectives,” Pompeo said on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday, one of multiple TV appearances ahead of the General Assembly.

Top Pentagon officials on Friday said the U.S. will send a “moderate” number of troops to the Middle East and additional missile defense capabilities to Saudi Arabia in response to last weekend’s attack on oil facilities, which disrupted about 5% of global oil production. Read more from Mark Niquette.

Meanwhile, Pelosi on Saturday said the decision is an attempt by the administration to circumvent the will of Congress, which adopted resolutions to block arms sales to the Saudis and U.A.E. and condemn the Saudis for the “continued assault” on men, women and children, Tony Capaccio and Glen Carey report. “These unacceptable actions are cause for alarm,” Pelosi said Saturday in a statement. “Americans are weary of war, and have no interest in entering another Middle East conflict, particularly on behalf of Saudi Arabia.”

Trump and Modi Hand-in-Hand on Border Security: Trump endorsed India’s need for “border security” at a rock concert-like event in Houston with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose government seeks to expand its control of the disputed territory of Kashmir. Sharing a stage in Houston and later walking hand-in-hand around a football stadium, Trump received Modi’s endorsement in front of more than 50,000 Indian Americans — an influential voter base. Modi used yesterday’s event to rally his supporters, show off his closeness with the U.S. preside nt and take aim at India’s rivals, which notably include Pakistan. Read more from Josh Wingrove and Archana Chaudhary.

Modi arrived in the U.S. a day after delivering a $20 billion tax-cut stimulus for companies, which strengthens his pitch to American chief executives about the ease of doing business in India. His government on Friday cut corporate taxes to rival some of the lowest in Asia, helping India compete with the likes of Vietnam and Indonesia to attract investments. Modi met energy company CEOs in Houston and spoke about the benefits of working together. Archana Chaudhary and Vrishti Beniwal have more.

U.S. Signs Asylum Deal With El Salvador: The U.S. could be able to send some asylum seekers at its borders to El Salvador as part of a new cooperation deal signed between the two countries Friday, according to acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, who made remarks to reporters at the signing. The agreement was signed by El Salvadoran Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill and McAleenan at the headquarters of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington. McAleenan said the agreement is a broad cooperation to help El Salva dor develop its own asylum acceptance system, Michaela Ross reports.

Around the Administration

Trump Picks Aide Pottinger as NSC Deputy: Trump’s national security adviser said that Asia expert Matt Pottinger has been named assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser, a key hiring move after John Bolton’s ouster. “Matt’s one of the most impressive, young, foreign policy, national defense national security experts in the government,” National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien told reporters en route to New York last night. “The president has high confidence in him.” Read more from Josh Wingrove.

Banks Wary of CFPB Debt Collection Rule: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau intends for its proposed debt collection rules to apply only to third-party collectors, but banks, credit unions, and payday lenders fear they may be covered by the rule because of the way it is drafted. The CFPB has proposed first-of-their kind rules for the debt collection market using its authority under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. That 1977 law applies only to third-party collection firms, which either contract with a first party creditor or buy the debt and then move to collect it. Read more from Evan Weinberger.

Trump Ordered to Testify in Trial Over 2015 Protest: Trump must sit for a videotaped deposition that can be used in a trial by a group of human rights activists who claim they were roughed up during a protest four years ago by the then-candidate’s guards outside Trump Tower. New York Supreme Court Judge Doris Gonzalez on Friday denied Trump’s request to quash a subpoena to testify. The trial is scheduled for Thursday. “No government official, including the executive, is above the law,” Gonzales said in her decision. “His testimony is indispensable .” Read more from Edvard Pettersson.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@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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