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News on Thursday that Michael BloombergMichael Rubens BloombergWarren welcomes Bloomberg into race by sharing her ‘calculator for billionaires’ Sanders camp on Bloomberg: ‘More billionaires’ not ‘the change America needs’ David Axelrod: Bloomberg entry ‘not exactly a vote of confidence’ in Biden MORE, the former New York City mayor and billionaire, is actively preparing a White House run as a Democrat without officially plunging into the candidate pool momentarily complicated an increasingly unpredictable presidential race.
Bloomberg, 77, has for months signaled both his interest in trying to defeat President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden Trump’s 2016 team sounds alarm as Democrats make gains Whistleblower lawyer sends cease and desist to White House over Trump’s attacks MORE and his willingness to holster his ambitions on the sidelines as long as former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden Whistleblower lawyer sends cease and desist to White House over Trump’s attacks GOP senator wants to know whistleblower identity if there’s an impeachment trial MORE appeared to be the frontrunner and most viable opponent who could knock Trump out of the Oval Office.
Bloomberg’s decision, first reported by The New York Times, to send aides to Alabama to gather signatures and to meet a deadline today for candidates to formally enter the race was both a trial balloon and a signal of his nervousness that Biden appears weakened and the rest of the field may not be up to the task of successfully battling Trump.
Howard Wolfson, a former New York City deputy mayor and Bloomberg adviser, tweeted that the former three-term mayor views the president as an “unprecedented threat to our nation” and has grown uneasy about the current trajectory of the Democratic primary. But a path for Bloomberg to become the nominee and then the president as a late-entry billionaire in a Democratic field hostile to big money, big business and capitalists from Manhattan appears unlikely one year from Election Day.
In March, Bloomberg published a column explaining why he would not be a presidential candidate. “It’s essential that we nominate a Democrat who will be in the strongest position to defeat Donald Trump and bring our country back together,” he wrote. “We cannot allow the primary process to drag the party to an extreme that would diminish our chances in the general election and translate into `Four More Years.’”.
Flashback to August: Corey Lewindowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, said Bloomberg was the “only one” who could threaten the president’s reelection because of his wealth, experience in business and as a job creator, name identification and his image as a Washington outsider (New York Post).
At the same time that Bloomberg is touting his political contributions to causes with a decided urban-liberal tilt, Trump campaign officials and advisers warn that the Republican Party’s weaker showing in suburban districts spells trouble for the GOP next year. Whether the fall-off in support on Tuesday for Republican candidates (and examples of intensely mobilized Democratic voters) is tied directly to Trump is an open question. But it was clear before Tuesday that the president worked to nationalize the off-year contests to make his case for what at the moment would be five more years of his presidency (The Hill).
The Washington Post’s Dan Balz writes that among Republicans looking beyond the president’s reelection campaign, “the deterioration of support in the suburbs should be cause for major alarm.”
> Former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsFormer AG Sessions enters Alabama Senate race Campaign ad casts Sessions as a ‘traitor’ ahead of expected Senate run Doug Jones on potential challenge from Sessions: Alabama GOP primary will be ‘really divisive’ MORE is officially running for an Alabama Senate seat he vacated in 2017 when he backed Trump and joined his Cabinet. Sessions, who wore out his welcome with the president when he recused himself from the Russia probe, announced his bid Thursday night on his campaign website: “We have major party candidates for President campaigning on socialism, confiscating firearms, and closing down churches they disagree with. I’ve battled these forces my entire life, and I’m not about to surrender now. Let’s go!” (The Hill). Sessions’ former GOP colleagues in the Senate are lukewarm to his primary bid, warning him that Trump’s wrath poses a significant and distracting hurdle (The Washington Post).
More political news: A third of progressives in the freshman class in Congress have formed leadership PACs, often funded by corporations, trade associations and labor unions. This trend is not universally hailed (The Hill). … South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegPoll: Biden support hits record low of 26 percent Sanders campaign names Hispanic activist Iowa co-chair Human Rights Campaign head pushes back against idea that Buttigieg’s sexuality is a barrier among black voters MORE may be wowing progressive voters nationally as he competes for the White House, according to polls, but in his home state, only 61 percent of Hoosiers have heard of him, according to preliminary results of the Old National Bank/Ball State University 2019 Hoosier Survey, to be released in its entirety on Nov. 12. … Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardPoll: Biden support hits record low of 26 percent Panel: Tulsi ends Joy Behar live on the View Yang seeks donations for 2020 rival Marianne Williamson: ‘She has much more to say’ MORE (D-Hawaii) will be on the Democratic presidential debate stage on Nov. 20 in Atlanta, among the 10 candidates who have qualified, and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharPoll: Biden support hits record low of 26 percent Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect military families from deportation Gabbard, Klobuchar qualify for Democratic debates MORE (D-Minn.) has qualified to debate in mid-December, making it six presidential hopefuls so far who will head to Los Angeles for the event (The Hill).
Insightful read with Capitol Hill intrigue: Politico Magazine’s Tim Alberta describes how one House Republican publicly turned against Trump and found himself under siege and on the outs. “What Republicans feel privately and what they say publicly has been a defining theme of the Trump era. Whether any of those lawmakers suddenly find the courage to defy him on a legacy-shaping vote will go a long way toward shaping history’s view of Donald Trump’s presidency, his impeachment, and his stewardship of the Republican Party,” Alberta writes.
LEADING THE DAY
IMPEACHMENT WATCH: House investigators released the transcript of their interview with George Kent, deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, who reportedly told lawmakers that Trump’s anti-corruption campaign in Ukraine was corrupt.
Kent, who is slated to be one of the first three witnesses to take part in a public hearing next week, voiced concerns about Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiTrump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden Mulvaney subpoenaed by House Democrats in impeachment inquiry Top diplomat says Giuliani’s ‘campaign of lies’ took down veteran ambassador MORE, the president’s personal lawyer, and his contacts with Ukraine as early as March of this year, leading a supervisor to warn him to lay low.
According to the transcript, Kent told lawmakers that Giuliani engaged in a “campaign of lies” in order to oust Marie Yovanovitch, formerly the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, having cozied up to corrupt foreign officials and disreputable media figures to smear her (The Hill).
He also said that Trump wanted Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to invoke the Bidens, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump hits ‘political hacks in New York’ after settling Trump Foundation lawsuit Overnight Health Care: Juul to stop selling mint flavor | Senate fight derails bipartisan drug pricing bills | Second federal judge strikes down Trump ‘conscience’ rule for health care providers Stone associate denies being ‘backchannel’ to WikiLeaks MORE and investigations in order for the U.S. to hand over military aid, noting that he heard this through Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union (The Associated Press).
“Potus wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to the microphone and say investigations, Biden and Clinton,” Kent testified. “Basically there needed to be three words in the message, and that was the shorthand.”
Kent’s interview transcript was the latest to be revealed after investigators released them for other top diplomats who were interviewed behind closed doors.
➔ Read the Kent transcript HERE.
House impeachment investigators issued a subpoena Thursday night for acting White House Chief of Staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyMulvaney subpoenaed by House Democrats in impeachment inquiry Democrats set stage for Watergate-style TV hearings White House doubles down on ‘no quid pro quo’ MORE to testify at 9 a.m. today. Mulvaney previously indicated his opposition to the inquiry and is unlikely to heed the subpoena (The Hill).
The Hill: Trump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden.
The Hill: State Department to provide legal aid to employees testifying in impeachment inquiry.
The New York Times: Impeachment inquiry tests ties between Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrWashington Post hits back at Trump’s ‘repugnant’ tweet Trump pushes back on report that he wanted Barr to clear him on Ukraine in news conference: ‘Totally untrue’ The Hill’s Morning Report – Dems poised to air alleged Trump abuses on TV MORE and Trump.
Elsewhere, John BoltonJohn BoltonOvernight Defense: Pentagon says Syrian oil revenue going to Kurdish forces | GOP chair accuses Dems of using Space Force as leverage in wall fight | Dems drop plans to seek Bolton testimony Democrats drop efforts to secure Bolton testimony in impeachment inquiry Top Pence aide set to testify in impeachment probe MORE, Trump’s former national security adviser, has shown a willingness to testify in the House impeachment inquiry over the administration’s pressure campaign against Ukraine if he is cleared to do so by a federal judge (The Washington Post).
The Hill: Democrats drop efforts to secure Bolton testimony in impeachment inquiry.
NPR: Jennifer Williams, an aide from Vice President Pence’s office, testified on Thursday in the impeachment probe.
CNN: A lawyer representing the whistleblower who initiated a formal complaint about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine admonished the president in a letter to “cease and desist” attacks on his client, who he says faces risks of physical harm.
> How many impeachment indictments?: House Democrats are considering drafting up to three articles of impeachment against Trump, according to reporting by ABC News.
Given that the impeachment inquiry will move ahead with public hearings next week, no decisions have been made, according to the report. However, they are considering an obstruction of justice charge due to the president’s efforts to end former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerGowdy: I ‘100 percent’ still believe public congressional hearings are ‘a circus’ Comey: Mueller ‘didn’t succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency’ Fox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be ‘more serious’ than what Mueller ‘dragged up’ MORE’s investigation.
They are also weighing an obstruction of Congress charge based on the subpoenas the White House and administration have ignored.
Politico: National Security Council official who attended key Ukraine meetings to leave post.
Jonathan Allen: On Trump impeachment, Democrats try to keep it simple.
The Hill: The Washington Post hits back at Trump’s “repugnant” tweet.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
OTHER INVESTIGATIONS: Prosecutors revealed an extensive paper trail in an attempt to cast doubt on testimony by Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneStone associate denies being ‘backchannel’ to WikiLeaks Prosecutors reveal extensive record of Stone’s communications The Hill’s Morning Report – Dems poised to air alleged Trump abuses on TV MORE to Congress, during which he claimed there are no records of communications regarding WikiLeaks or Julian AssangeJulian Paul AssangeStone associate denies being ‘backchannel’ to WikiLeaks Prosecutors reveal extensive record of Stone’s communications Prosecutor says Stone lied to Congress to protect Trump as trial opens MORE, the group’s head (The Hill).
The push by prosecutors came on the third day of his trial as the Department of Justice argued their case against the longtime Trump confidant. Jonathan Kravis, an attorney with the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office, laid out an extensive timeline of Stone’s communications with Trump campaign officials and his own associates.
Stone had told lawmakers that his main connection to WikiLeaks was Randy Credico, a longtime radio host and political activist, which prosecutors argue was a lie he told to protect the conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi.
However, Credico denied on Thursday that he served as a go-between for Stone and WikiLeaks, telling jurors that while he interviewed Assange on his radio show in August 2016, he did not ask him about any unreleased documents (The Hill).
“I never asked him about what he was going to deliver, and I never asked him about his business,” said Credico, who detailed a bizarre relationship between him and the longtime political hatchetman. “Julian Assange is not going to tell me about future releases.”
> Trump Foundation: The president was ordered by the New York Supreme Court to pay $2 million in damages to nonprofit groups as part of a settlement in a lawsuit alleging he used his charity’s funds for personal and political means.
The damages are part of a settlement stemming from a June 2018 civil lawsuit filed by the state attorney general’s office against him, his three eldest children and the Trump Foundation, which alleged that he violated campaign finance law. The dispute centered on $2.8 million raised by the since-shuttered foundation at an Iowa fundraiser for military veterans during the 2016 campaign (The Hill).
Trump reacted to the order on Thursday evening in a statement on Twitter. He argued that New York Attorney General Letitia James is “deliberately mischaracterizing this settlement for political purposes.”
“I am the only person I know, perhaps the only person in history, who can give major money to charity ($19M), charge no expense, and be attacked by political hacks in New York State. No wonder why we are all leaving!” Trump wrote.
The New York Times: Trump is fighting so many legal battles, it’s hard to keep track.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: [email protected] and [email protected]. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
The U.S.-China trade war is cooling off. But the tech war is heating up, by David Ignatius, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2pQMK7R
Warren drills down — to Democrats’ chagrin and Trump’s delight, by Albert Hunt, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/32rX2IE
WHERE AND WHEN
The House returns to work on Tuesday.
The Senate is in a pro forma session today at 8 a.m. and returns to work on Tuesday.
The president heads to Marietta, Ga., this morning, where he will lead a roundtable discussion with political supporters in Atlanta at 12:45 p.m. and speak to attendees at a political fundraising committee event at 1:25 p.m. On Saturday, Trump will watch some college football in Tuscaloosa between the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University at Bryant-Denny Stadium (Sports Illustrated).
Vice President Pence will travel to Atlanta to deliver remarks at 6:30 p.m. during the launch of the Black Voices Coalition, described by the Trump campaign as “a national effort to mobilize and empower Black Americans who support President Trump to help get the message of ‘Promises Made, Promises Kept’ into communities across America” (Black Enterprise).
Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden GOP senators press State Department for Hunter Biden, Burisma records State Dept. to provide legal aid to employees testifying in impeachment inquiry MORE is in Berlin and met this morning with German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. The secretary gave a speech about “The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future” this morning and later visited the Neue Synagogue in Berlin and the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial. Pompeo will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at 3 p.m., and will meet with Vice Chancellor and Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz. The secretary will speak at the unveiling of a statue of former President Reagan at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. In the evening, Pompeo is scheduled to attend a working dinner hosted by Mathias Dopfner, the CEO of Axel Springer in Berlin.
The University of Michigan‘s preliminary consumer sentiment figures for November will be released at 10 a.m. Because consumers are responsible for the bulk of U.S. economic growth, analysts are closely watching whether consumers are feeling more cautious about spending at the end of 2019.
➔ Trade: Did they or didn’t they? White House trade adviser Peter Navarro denies the United States and China agreed that if they reach a “phase one” trade deal, it would roll back a portion of the tariffs placed on each other’s products (The Hill). Chinese officials maintained on Thursday that negotiators from Beijing and Washington made that mutual commitment (The New York Times).
➔ Guns: The Trump administration is moving closer to easing gun exports with a rule change (Reuters).
➔ Horse racing: Animal welfare advocates and a bipartisan group of lawmakers have joined forces behind legislation aimed at establishing a national standard for medication used on racehorses and a new committee, managed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, to enforce it. The Breeders’ Cup, The Jockey Club and The Stronach Group back the bill through the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity. But Churchill Downs, which hosts the Kentucky Derby, is not in the coalition. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFormer AG Sessions enters Alabama Senate race Kentucky sports radio host Matt Jones, potential McConnell challenger, taken off air following GOP complaint Trump has officially appointed one in four circuit court judges MORE (R-Ky.), key to getting any such legislation through the Senate, has not taken a position, reports The Hill’s Alex Gangitano.
➔ Car seats: Italy now requires parents of young children to equip car seats, seggiolini auto per bambini, with alarm devices so babies and toddlers aren’t forgotten by absent-minded adults. The decree went into effect on Thursday in an effort to prevent deaths. The car seat devices, required for children younger than 4, must emit audio and visual signals that can be perceived both inside and outside vehicles if a child is left behind by a driver. Penalties for violations include fines and driver’s license points (The Associated Press).
And finally … It’s Friday, which means it’s time to give shoutouts to those who aced this week’s Morning Report Quiz!
Here’s who knew their whistleblower history, or at least did some topnotch Google-ing: Patrick Kavanagh, Tim Aiken, William Chittam, Candi Cee, John Donato, Margaret Gainer, Phil Kirstein and Ki Harvey.
They knew that FBI agent Mark Felt revealed himself to be Deep Throat in 2005.
Before handing the “Pentagon Papers” over to The New York Times and other news outlets, Daniel Ellsberg gave the documents to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but was spurned.
Harry Markopolos, a former securities industry executive, tipped off the Securities and Exchange Commission on three occasions (2000, 2001 and 2005) prior to Bernie Madoff’s arrest in 2008.
And lastly, Edward Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Russia before being granted asylum after he leaked National Security Agency documents to The Guardian.
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