Morning Report — GOP debaters clash but bypass Trump
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Five Republican presidential candidates who shared a debate stage in Miami Wednesday clashed with one another but did little to challenge former President Trump, the frontrunner who skipped the Miami event to hold a rally just 15 minutes away.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) and Vivek Ramaswamy offered little evidence that their exchanges on issues from China and Israel to abortion and Social Security shook up the GOP primary, which Trump has dominated for months.
Candidates tried to pitch themselves as alternatives to Trump at the outset of the night. The former president, said Haley, who served as ambassador to the United Nations during Trump’s administration, “was the right president at the right time. I don’t think he is the right president now.”
The two-hour event hosted by NBC News dissected disagreements over aid to Ukraine, banning TikTok and how to approach abortion less than 24 hours after Republicans suffered their latest electoral setbacks driven by the overturning of Roe v. Wade (The New York Times).
The Wall Street Journal: On the debate stage and campaign trail, Republicans still don’t know how to talk about abortion.
Haley politely raised a pen to moderators when she sought to challenge swipes by rivals who want to slow her modest inroads in recent primary polls. She sparred over energy policy with DeSantis, and, in some of the night’s most memorable moments, clashed in personal terms with Ramaswamy (The Hill).
When the 38-year-old businessman took aim at her daughter’s social media habits, Haley shot back, calling him “scum” for dragging her family into the debate. Ramaswamy himself spent most of the night rallying against everyone from the media to the GOP, which he called “a party of losers.” But he did little to outline serious policy proposals, making his presence on Wednesday disruptive more than substantive.
On the question of war in the Middle East, the five candidates offered staunch support to Israel, calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to destroy Hamas with full force following its attacks on Israel and hostage-taking. No mention was made of an estimated 10,000 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza.
DeSantis urged Israel to “finish the job once and for all with these butchers, Hamas,” and denounced critics of Israel’s invasion, saying he was “sick of hearing other people blame Israel for defending itself” (The New York Times).
Candidates varied over continued U.S. aid to Ukraine, an issue that divides the GOP in Congress. Even Haley, who has expressed support for aid to Ukraine and hostility toward Russia and President Vladimir Putin, said she didn’t think the United States “should give them cash. I think we should give them the equipment, the ammunition, to win” (The Washington Post and The Hill).
Trump’s campaign event in nearby Hialeah, Fla., and an interview today with Univision, underscore the former president’s focus on the general election ahead. A fourth Republican debate has been scheduled for Dec. 6 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., with higher qualification thresholds. Further debates are expected before early nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire next year; Trump has called for their cancellation.
▪ The Washington Post: Trump went after mail-in ballots Wednesday, a topic fellow Republicans wish he’d drop. “Any time you have mail-in ballots, you have corrupt elections,” he said without evidence. “Anybody that wants it, they’re corrupt. And that includes Republicans, by the way.”
3 THINGS TO KNOW TODAY:
▪ Iran-backed Houthi rebels shot down a U.S. surveillance Reaper drone off the coast of Yemen, the Pentagon said Wednesday. Was it armed? Officials would not say. At least 40 separate drone and rocket attacks have been launched at U.S. forces over the past three weeks.
▪ Actors represented by SAG-AFTRA and Hollywood studios and streamers ended a historic strike with a tentative agreement on Wednesday.
▪ Amazon will offer lower-cost primary care called One Medical to Prime members for $99 per year, the company announced.
Editor’s note: Tuesday’s newsletter should have said Democrat Rep. Rashida Tlaib represents Michigan.
LEADING THE DAY
© The Associated Press / Yuki Iwamura | Ivanka Trump, daughter of the former president, at the New York Supreme Court on Wednesday during a civil fraud trial.
On Wednesday, Ivanka Trump was compelled by a court to testify in a New York civil fraud case involving her family’s business, and Hunter Biden, along with President Biden’s brother, was subpoenaed by a Republican-led House investigative panel whose members claim the president illegally traded his government influence years ago to help his son in business.
What these events on the same day shared was obvious: presidential offspring who benefited from involvement in their influential parents’ orbit have become fair game in politics. The former president and Biden also have in common their protective allegiance to their adult children and evident anger that their families are ensnared in legal and legislative proceedings over alleged wrongdoing.
THE FACTS, HOWEVER, DIFFER. The House Oversight Committee, which issued subpoenas to Hunter Biden and his uncle, James Biden, have for months been unable to produce evidence to support alleged impeachable offenses by the president, despite Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-La.) recent assertion to Fox News on Oct. 26 that he and some of his colleagues “believe” the Bidens’ behavior “looks and smells a lot like … bribery.”
The committee is also seeking transcribed interviews with James Biden’s wife, Sarah Biden, as well as Hunter Biden’s wife, Melissa Cohen. The panel also asked to interview Hallie Biden, the widow of the president’s late son Beau Biden, and her sister Elizabeth Secundy. The president for months has declared his own honesty and tried to dodge questions about his son.
Ivanka Trump, 42, has worked as a key executive in both the Trump family business and as a White House adviser, along with husband Jared Kushner, during her father’s term. She is not a defendant in the civil case in which a New York judge affirmed Attorney General Letitia James’s (D) allegations of fraud. The judge is conducting a trial to determine punishment.
The former president’s daughter helped set up some of the company’s relationships with financial institutions, although she said she has done no work for the Trump Organization since 2017. Prosecutors allege that valuations and even square footage tied to Trump-owned properties were falsely presented to gain favorable terms from lenders and insurance companies.
IVANKA TRUMP TESTIFIED about the loan terms she received, which were backed by her father’s wealth. She appeared in court as a former employee, not as a top executive of the Trump Organization. The former president’s daughter played a key role in establishing some of the company’s relationships with lenders — particularly Deutsche Bank — and answered questions about the loan terms while asserting that her focus had not been on annual financial statements (The New York Times).
Following Ivanka Trump’s five hours of soft spoken, polite testimony, the attorney general’s team rested its case.
Hunter Biden, 53, in October became the first child of a sitting president to appear in federal court to fight criminal charges. He pleaded not guilty in Delaware to three firearms charges brought by a Justice Department special counsel. He awaits trial next year.
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 9 a.m.
The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of Mónica Almadani to be a U.S. District Court judge for the Central District of California.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will travel to Chicago this morning to speak at 12:45 CST in Belvidere, Ill., in support of the United Auto Workers, which secured new contracts with Detroit’s Big Three automakers. He will headline a campaign reception in Chicago in the evening and return to the White House at 9:25 p.m.
Vice President Harris will fly to Boston to deliver remarks at 12:10 p.m. at an event focused on job apprenticeships at Pipefitters Local 537. Harris will headline a campaign reception in Boston at 1:25 p.m. and return to Washington.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Seoul where he conferes with Korean National Security Adviser Cho Tae-yong, then President Yoon Suk Yeol. Blinken in the afternoon will meet with Foreign Minister Park Jin, then join him for a press conference.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is in San Francisco for continued discussions with Chinese Premier He Lifeng ahead of the annual Asia Pacific Economic forum.
© The Associated Press / Jay Paul | Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) in Richmond on Wednesday.
The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected an attempt to block Trump from the state’s GOP primary ballot next year based on the 14th Amendment’s “insurrection clause,” but left open the possibility for the groups to try and block the former president from the general election ballot if he wins the Republican nomination (CNN).
In a statement, the Trump campaign said the “decision in Minnesota, like New Hampshire before it, is further validation of the Trump Campaign’s consistent argument that the 14th Amendment ballot challenges are nothing more than strategic, un-Constitutional attempts to interfere with the election by desperate Democrats who see the writing on the wall.”
DEMOCRATS FACE CONFLICTING MESSAGES ahead of next year’s presidential race, as recent polls prompt worries about Biden’s reelection bid — and his party notches key election wins across the country. For some, the Democratic wins are a reason not to pay too much attention to polls one year out from Election Day 2024. But others worry Biden’s job disapproval numbers are a more ominous sign for the party heading into the presidential election, despite Tuesday’s victories in Kentucky, Virginia and Ohio (The Hill).
The Biden campaign noted that past presidents have recovered from low points in public opinion.
But The New York Times and Siena College poll said Biden is struggling among supporters he once counted on, including Black voters (The Hill). There hasn’t been a Democratic presidential candidate who won less than 80 percent of the Black vote since the Civil Rights Era, according to the New York Times. Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, an organization dedicated to mobilizing Black voters, told The Hill that Biden’s struggles with Black voters shouldn’t be a surprise.
“People are definitely frustrated by the lack of information that they’re getting,” Shropshire said. “Black voters in particular are trying to inform themselves. The challenge is, they’re looking for it in an environment that is just filled with dissident misinformation.”
CAN THE GOP COURSE-CORRECT? That’s a big question facing Senate Republicans battling to win back the majority, who see Democratic wins on Tuesday as a warning and a wake-up call ahead of next year’s election. And in Congress, The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports, Senate GOP leaders say any spending standoff with the House that forces a government shutdown would be detrimental to the GOP.
The Associated Press: Democrats see abortion wins as a springboard for 2024 as the GOP struggles to find a winning message.
Also struggling after Tuesday is Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), who faces questions about the viability of his political brand after a disappointing election in his home state. The Hill’s Julia Manchester reports that Youngkin threw himself on the line for down-ballot Virginia Republicans ahead of Tuesday in an effort to achieve a GOP trifecta in the state’s government. The party’s election losses in the commonwealth could be a major stain on the record of someone considered a potential future White House contender. Implementing a 15-week ban on abortion with limits was a major priority for the governor going into 2024, but with Democrats at the helm of both legislative bodies, that initiative can be considered dead on arrival.
Youngkin told reporters in Richmond on Wednesday that the narrow divide in each chamber, settled by ultra-competitive races, underscored Virginia’s history of alternating between Democratic and Republican control.
“I’m a little disappointed, to be clear,” he said. “I think the No. 1 lesson is that Virginia is really purple, and that going into these elections, we knew that they were going to be tough.”
▪ Competing for the Latino vote, Trump will be interviewed by Univision from Mar-a-Lago, airing tonight, while Biden’s campaign will air two ads in Spanish on Tubi during Trump’s interview, aimed especially at South Florida markets with an eye on Venezuelan Americans.
▪ Some downbeat polls for Biden handed some ammunition to third-party and independent candidates running for the White House in 2024.
▪ Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s attempt to avoid prison heads to an appeals court today. He was found guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress after he defied a subpoena from the Jan. 6 House select committee.
▪ Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) was the clear star of Tuesday night. His expected 5-point win in a deep-red state could be just the start of his rising national profile.
MIDDLE EAST & INTERNATIONAL
The United States and Israel are not on the same page about the future in Gaza.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday spoke of “sustained peace,” in essence a two-state solution in the Middle East, and said the U.S. aspires to see Gaza unified with the West Bank and under the control of Palestinians. That vision collided with Netanyahu’s talk of long-term Israel control over the territory when the war ends (The New York Times).
“These must include the Palestinian people’s voices and aspirations at the center of post-crisis governance in Gaza,” Blinken said. “It must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.”
The United States has warned Israel against occupying Gaza, as it once did, but has acknowledged that Israeli forces are likely to remain even after the war ends.
In the meantime, the U.S. is being drawn into fighting and Israel’s defense in southern Syria. Israeli and U.S. forces carried out separate airstrikes targeting Iranian-backed groups in Syria within hours of each other on Wednesday, killing a total of 12 fighters, according to reports (The Times of Israel).
Two U.S. F-15 fighter jets dropped multiple bombs on a weapons storage facility in eastern Syria used by Iranian-backed militias, the Pentagon said Wednesday night, in retaliation for what has been a growing number of attacks on bases housing U.S. troops in the region for the past several weeks.
Hamas leaders now say they launched attacks on Israel Oct. 7 because they believed the Palestinian cause was slipping away and that only violence could revive it (The New York Times).
The Hill: The Red Cross said it is “deeply troubled” that a humanitarian convoy came under fire in Gaza City early this week.
UKRAINE: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg this week made a surprise visit to Ukraine to meet with government leaders to discuss the country’s economic recovery, the Department of Transportation announced. Buttigieg discussed efforts to “return Ukraine to economic self-sufficiency,” including supporting investments in transportation infrastructure that will “return to private sector-led growth,” the department said.
He also announced that Robert Mariner, who has performed engineering work for the U.S. Air Force and Navy, will serve as transportation adviser to Ukraine after previously serving as an adviser to the transportation counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan (The Hill).
Biden will shine a spotlight on his support for organized labor today in Belvidere, Ill., where United Auto Workers (UAW) recently scored a favorable contract agreement with automaker Stellantis. The deal is expected to include the reopening of the plant, which has been closed since February. Before the shutdown, the plant made the Jeep Cherokee and employed 1,350 workers, the company said.
The terms were part of an agreement reached on Oct. 28 that settled the strike, part of the UAW’s “Stand Up” walkouts that hit selected facilities, including in Chicago, of the Detroit Three. The UAW’s 43,000 members at Stellantis still have to vote whether to ratify the deal. Afterward, Biden will head to Chicago for a fundraiser with mega-donors (Chicago Sun-Times).
© The Associated Press / Jose Luis Magana | Giant panda Xiao Qi Ji at the Smithsonian National Zoo on Sept. 28. All three pandas left Washington bound for China on Wednesday.
🐼 Under police escort and accompanied by their longtime keepers, the Smithsonian National Zoo’s three giant pandas left Washington D.C., on Wednesday to board a 19-hour flight to China. China’s breeding and loan agreement with the zoo, which had been extended in the past, required the return of the bears by December.
▪ The Chicago Tribune: Biden, Illinois and Chicago officials launched a one-stop work permit program for legal migrants that begins today.
▪ The government will construct a new FBI national headquarters in Greenbelt, Md., outside Washington, ending years of sparring between Virginia and Maryland over the siting of the multibillion-dollar project.
▪ Government Executive: A coalition of unions led by the National Treasury Employees Union has been paying attention to preparations by Trump allies to try to strip federal workers of civil service protections if the former president returns to the White House. The shorthand describing a Trump executive order no longer in effect is known as “Schedule F.” To head off a replay of those conservative aims, unions want the Office of Personnel Management to swiftly adopt new rules.
© The Associated Press / Dennis Cook | The Bill of Rights on display in 1991.
Take Our Morning Report Quiz
And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by Americans’ obsession with storage, we’re eager for some smart guesses about where the U.S. government stashes its valuables.
Be sure to email your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com — please add “Quiz” to your subject line. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
The United States holds the largest stockpile of gold reserves in the world. About half of the Treasury’s gold is stored where?
New York Federal Reserve basement
Fort Knox, Ky.
Naval Station Great Lakes Underwater Complex, Ill.
Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Colo.
The United States has a reserve supply of petroleum estimated to last about five years, give or take. Where is the oil stored?
Trans-Alaska Pipeline System
Keystone Pipeline System
Texas and Louisiana caverns
Petroleum Storage Tank complex, Okla.
Where does the Pentagon stash Minuteman III nuclear missiles in the U.S.?
All of the above
For such a young nation, the U.S. government and its citizens accumulate a massive amount of valued paper and digital keepsakes. Which of these is primarily in charge of preserving and making accessible America’s treasured federal records and those of its citizens? Bonus point: Name the state in which government storage space is nicknamed the “ice cube.”
Library of Congress
National Security Agency
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