What to Know in Washington: Trump’s Convention Stokes Biden Fear

President Donald Trump’s convention opened with a dark portrait of fear in America painted largely for the benefit of his base—mixing appeals to Black and Latino voters with warnings of “mobs” bent on destroying the status quo.

Yesterday’s Republican convention programming offered few appeals for independent voters disenchanted by Trump. Instead, it stitched together a series of tributes to Trump himself, leaned heavily on accusations that Democrats would damage the very fabric of American society and offered a revisionist vision of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which now threatens his re-election chances.

Promises that the convention would present an optimistic vision of the next four years quickly gave way to dire warnings of a Joe Biden-led America, branding the Democratic nominee both as a radical and a failure, despite a 40-plus-year record in the U.S. Senate and the vice president’s office as a moderate Democrat.

Speakers warned of rioters besieging the nation—referring in part to protests for racial justice after several high-profile killings of Black people—and of higher taxes and socialist upheavals if Trump loses.

“They want to destroy this country and everything we hold dear,” Kimberly Guilfoyle, a Trump campaign aide and girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., said, at times raising her voice to a shout. “They want to steal your liberty, your freedom. They want to control what you see and think and believe, so they can control how you live! They want to enslave you to the weak, dependent, liberal victim ideology, to the point that you will not recognize this country or yourself.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said Biden would forever change American culture.

”Our side is working on policy—while Joe Biden’s radical Democrats are trying to permanently transform what it means to be an American. Make no mistake: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want a cultural revolution, a fundamentally different America,” Scott said of the Democratic ticket.

Trump is looking to the convention to spark a rebound in support and close the gap with Biden, who is leading nationally and in swing states that will decide the presidency. The Democratic convention last week aimed squarely at Trump, wooing support from progressives and Republicans alike with the singular goal of ousting him. Read more from Josh Wingrove.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Trump Jr. (right) watches girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle as she pre-records her address.

Trump Is Stamping His Imprint on GOP: Trump’s re-nominating convention this week is united around his vision for the party, but a loss in November will expose deep rifts in the GOP, forcing a battle over whether his brand of divisive, populist politics will last.

Win or lose, few in Republican politics think the party can ever return to the roots Ronald Reagan planted 40 years ago that embraced small government and an interventionist foreign policy.

That’s because Trump managed to harness a Republican base that isn’t likely to fundamentally change even if he loses. It is older, predominantly White and more rural—the same voters who gave rise to the populist Tea Party movement a decade ago—and few Republicans think they’ll automatically embrace a more moderate vision of the party or a more moderate brand of Republican candidate.

For that reason, the traditionalists face an uphill climb. Trump’s allies see the president as a Reagan-like figure who has re-made the Republican Party in a way that will last for a generation, said Andy Surabian, a former Trump White House aide who is now a Republican strategist.

“2024 is going to end up being a contest of people trying to prove that they have the ability to carry on the Trump torch, moving forward,” Surabian said. “The path for the party is pretty set.” Jordan Fabian and Gregory Korte have more.

What to Watch Today

GOP Convention, Day 2: The second day of the Republican National Convention will feature First Lady Melania Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as well as several speakers on the country’s cultural divide. Trump will also speak.

Today’s theme is “Land of Opportunity.” Emma Kinery previews the evening’s main events, starting at 8:30 p.m. Washington time, and where to see them. Read more.

Congress: The House holds a pro forma session at 10:00 a.m., and the Senate holds a pro forma session at 2:30 p.m.

White House: The President is scheduled to attend the First Lady’s remarks for the Republican National Convention at 10:30 p.m.

Elections: GOP voters in the Oklahoma City region will pick a nominee today in one of the most Republican-leaning House districts held by a Democrat. Greg Giroux previews today’s runoff.

The Coronavirus Pandemic

FDA’s Hahn Corrects Plasma Statement: The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration walked back his claim that an experimental therapy had provided a dramatic benefit to Covid-19 patients, a rare reversal for an agency that has prided itself on rock-solid science and public trust.

On Sunday night at a press conference with Trump, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said that blood plasma from Covid-19 survivors given to new patients could save huge numbers of lives. “I have been criticized for remarks I made Sunday night about the benefits of convalescent plasma. The criticism is entirely justified. What I should have said better is that the data show a relative risk reduction not an absolute risk reduction,” Hahn said in a tweet last night. Read more from Drew Armstrong and Michelle Fay Cortez

Lawmakers SeekScience-Based Vaccine Rulemaking Assurances: House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and two subcommittee chairwomen yesterday called on Hahn to make sure that “sound science and the protection of public health alone drive FDA’s COVID-19 vaccine approval process,” according to a statement. Pallone, Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), and Oversight Subcommittee Chairwoman Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) cited mounting “political pressure” being exerted on the FDA by the Trump administration. Read the letter here.

Flu Shot Requirements for Nursing Home Workers Sought: The potentially deadly confluence of a raging Covid-19 pandemic and the upcoming flu season is prompting growing calls for states to mandate influenza vaccinations for all nursing home health-care personnel. The nation’s 15,000-plus nursing homes are already struggling with rising Covid infections due to unchecked community spread. Seasonal influenza, which has symptoms similar to Covid, also poses a deadly threat to older, frail nursing home residents with compromised immune systems. Read more from Tony Pugh.

  • States should provide additional financial help to nursing homes that have been reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said in guidance issued yesterday. State officials should make use of the flexibilities the CMS provided during the crisis to increase Medicaid reimbursements to nursing homes that created isolation wings for Covid-19 patients and paid for additional personal protective equipment, the agency said in an informational bulletin. Read more from Christopher Brown.

NIH to Study Gilead Compound for Covid: The National Institutes of Health is planning to study if a Gilead Sciences compound that some academics claim is similar to remdesivir would be useful against the virus that causes Covid-19, Stat reports. Stat cited an Aug. 20 letter that the NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences sent to researchers at MD Anderson and advocacy group Public Citizen. But Gilead this month said there were several reasons to focus on remdesivir instead of the compound, GS-441524, Jim Silver reports.

Congress Eyed to Solve Remote Work Tax Dilemma: Businesses are pushing lawmakers to streamline income tax requirements so workers and employers don’t risk double taxation or taxation by different states as teleworking persists. Payroll departments are used to handling withholding obligations for multiple states. But once workers fled to homes and other locations, many in different states—and the work-from-home period stretched beyond states’ regulations—daunting questions arose. Read more from Michael Bologna.

More Elections & Politics

New Swing State Georgia Could Decide Control of the Senate: The residents of the once reliably Republican Atlanta suburb of Johns Creek signaled in 2018 that their politics were changing, along with the world beyond their manor homes and undulating country club fairways. In an excruciatingly close gubernatorial race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp, voters in Johns Creek precincts favored Abrams by 51% to 48% (she lost the election).

This came two years after Johns Creek had voted for Trump, and it chose John McCain over Barack Obama by a margin of 2 to 1 in 2012. Now, Trump’s bid to rile up suburban voters with warnings about crime and low-income housing that critics have called racial dog whistles doesn’t seem to be resonating in Johns Creek. Read more from Brett Pulley and Margaret Newkirk.

Ex-RNC Chairman Steele Turns Against Trump: Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, the same day the RNC’s convention got underway yesterday, announced that he is joining Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans seeking to deny Trump a second term. Steele, who spoke at the 2008 and 2012 conventions, made the announcement on MSNBC yesterday, saying that even as a former party chairman he’s “still an American” and can’t support Trump. Read more from Ryan Teague Beckwith.

  • Steele’s announcement comes a day after Biden’s campaign announced that 27 former GOP lawmakers, including former Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and John Warner (R-Va.), had joined Republicans for Biden, a national effort to enlist estranged GOP supporters behind the Democratic nominee.
  • The list of 27 lawmakers joining Republicans for Biden also includes: former Sen. Gordon Humphrey (N.H.), former Reps. Steve Bartlett (Texas), Charlie Dent (Pa.), Bob Inglis (S.C.), Ray LaHood (Ill.), Susan Molinari (N.Y.), Connie Morella (Md.), Peter Smith (Vt.) and Jim Walsh (N.Y.). Read more from Ryan Teague Beckwith.
  • Separately, some former Republican presidential appointees to the Justice Department or senior ethics roles are endorsing Biden, Politico reports, citing officials who served under the Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations. Read more from Politico.

Pompeo Stirs Controversy With Speech From Israel: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to speak to the RNC while on a taxpayer-funded trip abroad is raising new questions about how he has mixed partisan politics with his role as America’s lead diplomat. His remarks praising Trump’s foreign policy is a departure from the behavior of past secretaries who steered clear of nominating conventions for fear of wading too deeply into U.S. politics and legal issues. Read more from Nick Wadhams.

What Else to Know Today

Wisconsin Deploys National Guard Amid Protests: Gov. Tony Evers (D) last night deployed Wisconsin’s National Guard after police shot a Black man in Kenosha on Sunday, trying to quell more violence in a summer of nationwide protests against racial injustice. Jacob Blake, 29, the shooting victim, was hospitalized in serious condition. Blake’s shooting set off another wave of demonstrations, as far away as Portland, Ore., which has had nearly nonstop nights of protests since Floyd’s death, Bloomberg News reports.

  • Meanwhile, federal agencies are bolstering arsenals of tear gas, sponge-tipped bullets and other crowd-control gear after Trump ordered U.S. agents to assume new policing powers in cities to quell protests that he said threatened government monuments, statues and property. The Justice Department, Homeland Security, and other agencies outside of the military have paid private contractors at least $28.6 million for “less lethal” weapons and armor since George Floyd’s death in late May. Charlie McGee has more.

Democrats Want Probe Into DOL’s Oracle Lawyer: Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) called for an investigation into whether Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia retaliated against a top agency attorney for speaking out internally and accusing him of allegedly interfering with a high-profile pay discrimination lawsuit against Oracle. Read more from Paige Smith and Ben Penn.

Iran Pledges to Expand Nuclear Cooperation: Iran vowed to expand its cooperation with International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors weeks after being rebuked by the body for failing to provide access to two sites suspected of hosting past nuclear activity. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said talks with visiting IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi were “very constructive” and the start of a “new era,” state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported. Read more from Arsalan Shahla and Patrick Sykes.

Pompeo’s Visit to Sudan Marks Watershed: Pompeo became the highest-ranking U.S. official in more than a decade to visit Sudan, underlining a dramatic turnaround in relations with the African country that was an international pariah under former dictator Omar al-Bashir. Pompeo arrived today in Sudan, where he’s meeting Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and General Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan, who heads the Sovereign Council, the most powerful constituent of the transitional government that’s supposed to lead Sudan toward elections in 2022. Read more from Mohammed Alamin.

U.S., China Discussed Purchases, Progress: U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators discussed the phase-one trade deal, with the U.S. saying that both sides saw progress and are committed to its success. The two countries talked about what China has done as part of the deal, including ensuring greater protection for intellectual property rights and removing impediments to American companies in financial services and agriculture, the U.S. Trade Representative said in a statement, Bloomberg News reports.

Small Refiners Push Trump on Biofuel: Chief executives representing roughly a dozen refineries called on Trump yesterday to support the sector, as biofuel industry advocates pressure the administration to reject applications seeking retroactive waivers of renewable fuel-blending requirements. “Harming small refineries by denying hardship relief will not help farmers and will not fix the problems” with the Renewable Fuel Standard, as more “meaningful reform is needed,” the executives wrote in the letter. Read more from Jennifer A. Dlouhy.

California on Track to Ban Flavored Tobacco: California could become the largest state to ban flavored tobacco products after the Assembly voted yesterday to end the sale of fruit- and candy-themed vaping liquids, menthol cigarettes, and similar products. Read more from Tiffany Stecker.

Corn Conditions Worsen as Iowa Sees Drought: The corn crop in the Midwest deteriorated the most in 8 years with hot weather adding to woes from drought and the Aug. 10 derecho windstorm that swept through the top-growing state of Iowa. Crop ratings of “good” or “excellent” fell by 5 points to 64%, according to a Department of Agriculture statement yesterday. Crop ratings fell in 16 of the 18 states monitored by the USDA. Read more from Michael Hirtzer, Dominic Carey and Kim Chipman.

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

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