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Ahead of Tuesday’s elections, President Biden on Wednesday took a big swing at the 2024 political horizon.
He said former President Trump “abused his power” and encouraged his “extreme MAGA” followers to “subvert the electoral system itself.” In a nighttime address sponsored by the Democratic National Committee near the Capitol, Biden asked midterm voters to “defend democracy now” and reject the approximately 300 candidates who say they support Trump’s “big lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Reprising a theme from his 2020 campaign, Biden said the choice at hand is “a struggle for the very soul of America itself.”
The president and Trump have each made it known through their respective loyalists that they’re quietly preparing election strategies for the presidential contest that officially begins the minute the results of the midterm races are tallied.
Biden, 79, says he intends to seek reelection if his health is good. Trump, 76, has teased for months that he’ll “probably” run again after considering, and getting talked out of, making his candidacy known before the midterms (The Washington Post). The former president hopes victories Tuesday among Republican candidates he endorsed this year will secure his standing as the frontrunner for his party’s nomination.
Biden, who would turn 86 before the end of a second term, has not yet made a final decision on another presidential campaign, his advisers say, but he has indicated publicly and privately that he envisions seeking a second term unless fate intervenes. He boasts that he’s the only Democrat who has beaten Trump, whom he described on Wednesday as a danger to the country (The Washington Post).
Trump is embroiled in multiple civil and criminal investigations and may want to announce his candidacy earlier rather than later to erect a political shield and to try to block other Republicans who have made no secret of their interest in a White House bid.
Biden recently toldCBS’s “60 Minutes” that the timing of a decision and announcement of a reelection bid sets in motion specific requirements, which he is weighing. “Look, if I were to say to you, ‘I’m running again,’ all of a sudden, a whole range of things come into play that I have — requirements I have to change and move and do,” he said.
Some members of his party have been vocal that they want a younger, more popular and more progressive Democratic nominee on the 2024 ticket. Heading into choppier economic waters next year and facing more Republicans in the House and possibly in the Senate, Biden’s openings to enact an agenda and inspire public confidence could sink.
“This is not about me. This is about all of us,” the president said during his Wednesday speech.
Biden recently defended his reelection attributes during an MSNBC interview without stating his intentions. “I have more substantive experience on the issues facing the country, both in foreign policy and domestic policy, than any president ever, just because I’ve been around so long doing this,” he told columnist Jonathan Capehart. “Right now, I feel completely capable of doing the job as well as anyone can do the job. And we’ll see.”
The Hill: Biden goes after Trump “lies” in a democracy speech.
Meanwhile, Trump-endorsed Arizona Senate Republican challenger Blake Masters’s chances of toppling Sen. Mark Kelly (D) got a boost this week when Marc Victor, the Libertarian candidate, dropped out and threw his support behind the GOP nominee, writes The Hill’s Al Weaver. It could be a lifeline for Masters and the Republican Party.
Kelly has been considered the favorite to win reelection since Masters emerged from the early August primary battered and underfunded. However, Masters gained some momentum in recent weeks, according to recent surveys.
“I think it could be a difference maker,” said Daniel Scarpinato, who served as a top aide to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R). “There are a lot of ballots out there, and if the Libertarian pulls a couple percent it can have an impact. We’ve seen that in Arizona in many cycles.”
A new Fox News poll, released Tuesday, puts Kelly ahead of Masters by 2 points, with 47 percent of Arizona registered voters saying they’ll back the Democrat incumbent and 45 percent saying they’ll cast their ballot for the challenger (The Hill).
In neighboring New Mexico, Biden will campaign in Albuquerque today, The Hill’s Alex Gangitano and Brett Samuels report. The president will be in the blue stronghold just days before the midterms, where there’s a tight gubernatorial race between Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) and Republican Mark Ronchetti. Lujan Grisham holds a 3-point lead over Ronchetti, according to a Monday Emerson College-The Hill poll.
Biden’s Western swing includes California but notably not Arizona or Nevada where there are close Senate races that could determine control of the chamber.
NPR: Key GOP groups are more fired up to vote in midterms than Democrats, NPR poll finds
Looking forward to the new Congress, some Republican lawmakers are floating investigations into the Biden administration’s COVID-19 spending and are looking to tighten the purse strings should they take control of key House or Senate health committees. As The Hill’s Nathaniel Weixel writes, Republicans are frustrated with what they see as the administration’s unaccountable coronavirus spending, and are looking to shine a spotlight on where billions of dollars have gone, according to a GOP aide.
At the same time, lawmakers such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who is in line to lead the Senate Health Committee, could use oversight hearings to try to question Anthony Fauci, who will retire in December as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Paul, who has frequently sparred with Fauci, could grill current and former officials about the U.S. pandemic response and origins of the original coronavirus that emerged in China.
Emails sent to the Jan. 6 House Select Committee by former Trump aide John Eastman reveal the former president’s lawyers viewed Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as the “only chance” to stop the 2020 election certification.
First reported by Politico, eight emails contain correspondence among Trump’s lawyers. After Eastman originally sought to withhold them from the committee, a judge ordered them to be turned over to the House panel, describing the emails as evidence of likely crimes.
“We want to frame things so that Thomas could be the one to issue some sort of stay or other circuit justice opinion saying Georgia is in legitimate doubt,” Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro wrote in a December 2020 email exchange.
▪ The Hill Trump files lawsuit against NY AG to halt review of personal trust.
▪ The Hill: Former Trump aide Kash Patel set to testify in Mar-a-Lago docs probe.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has told U.S. Chamber of Commerce board members and state leaders that the organization must undertake a complete leadership change, Axios reported, in part in reaction to Democratic candidate endorsements made by the Chamber in 2020. He wants president and CEO Suzanne Clark replaced if the GOP wins a House majority and he rises to Speaker.
“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce team serves a vital role in the daily defense of American business,” Mark Ordan, chairman of the Chamber’s board of directors, told Axios. “We serve our members, not a political party. Staying true to that mission requires a smart, savvy, vigorous leader like our CEO Suzanne Clark… She has our complete support.”
▪ Politico: A handful of states are headed to one-party rule — and its drama.
▪ The Hill: The push to increase security for members of Congress is intensifying after Paul Pelosi, the husband of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was brutally attacked at the couple’s San Francisco home.
▪ ProPublica: Fortune 500 companies have given millions to election deniers since Jan. 6, 2021.
▪ Bloomberg News: Out-of-state money is flooding midterm races — and drowning out local issues.
▪ The New York Times: Lawyers who advanced Trump’s election challenges return for midterms.
LEADING THE DAY
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised its benchmark interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point for a total hike this year to a span of 3.75 percent to 4 percent, part of a continued aggressive effort to tame inflation. “We have a long way to go,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said (The Hill).
The question among banks, investors and analysts going into Wednesday’s statement from the central bank was not how much the Fed would raise rates at its November meeting, but how soon it might pivot away from its steep rate hikes heading into 2023. Powell, taking a hawkish stance, said inflation has not eased as much as the Fed had anticipated, in part because U.S. consumer demand is buoyed by Americans’ savings, low unemployment and continued economic growth. He emphasized that the Fed will stay the course until it is certain it has accomplished its inflation-slaying assignment.
“There is no sense that inflation is coming down,” Powell told reporters, repeating the Fed’s inflation goal of 2 percent. “We’re exactly where we were a year ago.”
Prices rose 6.2 percent over the past 12 months, according to the personal consumption expenditures price index, the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge. The Fed is facing growing pressure from some policymakers, especially Democratic lawmakers, to slow its rate hike campaign amid growing signs of a looming recession.
Powell conceded that averting a recession is “harder” the longer demand-fueled inflation persists amid escalating interest rates. Asked if the path to avoid economic contraction had narrowed, Powell answered “yes.”
Navigating to a soft landing in 2023 is now seen by many economists as a longshot. An economy in recession, which brings with it rising unemployment, poses new questions for the Biden White House, a new Congress next year and the political climate ahead of the 2024 presidential election. Rising rates have already battered the housing sector, which Powell acknowledged.
“The inflation picture has become more and more challenging during the course of the year,” the chairman said.
▪ The Hill: Five key takeaways from the Federal Reserve’s rate hikes.
▪ The Hill: The Fed’s latest rate hike will push up mortgage rates.
▪ CNBC: Mortgage demand falls.
▪ Politico: Voters remain gloomy despite recent economic gains: poll.
▪ The New York Times: U.S. housing affordability comes into focus. Wages cannot keep up with the spike in housing prices.
New Twitter boss Elon Musk plans to cut 3,700 jobs at the company, equal to half of its workforce at the social media company. He is expected to inform staff members on Friday. The layoffs come amid a bid to drive down costs following his $44 billion acquisition. Musk, who became owner and CEO of Twitter last week, ousted top executives and indicated users will be charged for the site’s verification feature (Bloomberg News).
The Wall Street Journal: Musk’s proposed Twitter changes revive debate on how to quash spam.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a balancing act after his comeback in this week’s election, where his Likud Party saw strong wins and is set to form what looks like one of the most right-wing coalition governments in the country’s history.
The longest-serving Israeli prime minister, Netanyahu declared in his recent autobiography that his time on the opposition benches in the Knesset after an election loss in 2021 was just a “hiatus.” The victory of his bloc of right-wing, far-right and religious parties seeks to end a political period in Israel that has seen five general elections held in under four years (Reuters and The Times of Israel).
Netanyahu still faces trials in three corruption cases, one of which is still calling witnesses from a list of more than 300 people. To stop the corruption trials, Netanyahu is likely to rely on the support of far-right politicians, whom he may elevate to key government posts. One of the possible right-wing partners is Jewish supremacist Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is expected to be a senior minister.
Ben-Gvir was convicted in 2007 of supporting a terror organization and inciting racism; he said he wants to be the minister of internal security, which would place him in charge of the Israeli police and policies surrounding holy sites in Jerusalem, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
U.S. officials on Wednesday told Axios that the Biden administration is unlikely to work with Ben-Gvir, a stance that would mark an unprecedented development that would likely have negative consequences for the U.S.-Israel relationship. No official decision has been made yet.
▪ CNN: A far-right surge is set to put Netanyahu back in power. Who are his extremist allies?
▪ Vox: Netanyahu and the far right have triumphed. Here’s what it means for Israel.
▪ The Times of Israel: What happens next: Netanyahu expected to be tasked with forming a government next week.
In Ukraine Wednesday night, Russian shelling cut the power to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the south, forcing the plant’s team of technicians to again rely on diesel generators to power critical cooling functions, increasing risks of catastrophe (The New York Times).
Russia on Wednesday announced it was rejoining the agreement that guarantees safe passage for ships carrying vital grain exports from Ukraine. The move may help ease concerns about global food supplies that arose when Moscow suspended its participation in the pact last week.
The agreement with the United Nations and Turkey, struck in July, allowed for the safe passage of grain exports from war-torn Ukrainian ports to world markets (The Wall Street Journal).
Meanwhile, after weeks of hinting at possible nuclear actions, the Kremlin on Wednesday reaffirmed its longstanding nuclear policies — a possible sign that Moscow is trying to cool the escalatory rhetoric it employed throughout October (NBC News).
“Russia is strictly and consistently guided by the tenet that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” according to the statement on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.
The New York Times: The untold story of “Russiagate” and the road to war in Ukraine.
Newly declassified U.S. intelligence accuses North Korea of covertly shipping a “significant number” of artillery shells to Russia to support the invasion of Ukraine. North Korea is trying to disguise the shipments by making it appear as if they are being sent to countries in the Middle East or North Africa, the intelligence says (CNN).
“In September, the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] publicly denied that it intended to provide ammunition to Russia,” John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, told CNN. “However, our information indicates that the DPRK is covertly supplying Russia’s war in Ukraine with a significant number of artillery shells, while obfuscating the real destination of the arms shipments by trying to make it appear as though they are being sent to countries in the Middle East or North Africa.”
Reuters: North Korea intercontinental ballistic missile may have failed in flight, officials say; allies extend major drills. Each North Korean weapons test inches Pyongyang’s scientists closer to their ultimate goal of a fully functional nuclear arsenal capable of targeting every city on the U.S. mainland.
The State Department on Wednesday released a statement condemning the launch, saying it is “a clear violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions and demonstrates the threat the DPRK’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs pose to its neighbors, the region, international peace and security, and the global non-proliferation regime.”
■ “Elites are making choices that are not good news,” by Thomas Edsall, columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3WqhmaI
■ Why conservatives can’t stop acquiring media companies, by A.J. Bauer, guest essayist, Politico. https://politi.co/3U1ffbE
■ As the world nears its tipping point, what can we expect at COP27? by Deborah Brosnan, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3h7WSTS
WHERE AND WHEN
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The House meets at noon for a pro forma session. Members are scheduled to return to the Capitol on Nov. 14.
The Senate convenes at 10:30 a.m. for a pro forma session. Senators make their way back to Washington on Nov. 14.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9 a.m. Biden will fly to Albuquerque, N.M., to deliver a speech about student loan debt relief at 1:45 p.m. MT. Biden will lead a rally at 3:30 p.m. MT for the Democratic Party. The president will fly from New Mexico to San Diego, Calif., to stump for Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) at a rally at MiraCosta College at 6:30 p.m. PT. Biden will remain in California overnight.
Vice President Harris will be in New York City to speak at a political event at 5:50 p.m. at Barnard College with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), who is competing to keep her office against GOP challenger Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York. Harris will return to Washington this evening.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Munster, Germany, for a gathering of the Group of Seven’s finance ministers. He will join German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during a U.S.-German Futures Forum for a moderated discussion. The secretary will join foreign ministers for a discussion about Russia’s war with Ukraine (The New York Times). Blinken will attend a reception and working dinner for G7 foreign ministers focused on the Indo-Pacific.
Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report on filings for unemployment benefits in the week ending Oct. 29.
Second gentleman Doug Emhoff will join senior White House officials at 3 p.m. at a White House Rural Economic Impact briefing for community leaders from across the country.
CVS and Walgreens will pay more than $10 billion to settle opioid-crisis lawsuits brought by states, cities and other governments. The drugstore chains said they reached a framework to resolve the collection of lawsuits brought by governments and Native American tribes that blame pharmacies for helping to fuel the nation’s opioid epidemic (The Wall Street Journal). On a call with analysts, CVS CEO Karen Lynch said the settlement is in the “best interests of all parties and helps put a decades-old issue behind us.”
A Florida judge on Wednesday formally sentenced Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz to life in prison without parole for the 2018 campus massacre that killed 14 students and three staff members. Last month the jury made a recommendation to spare the 24-year-old the death penalty (NBC News).
➤ PANDEMIC & HEALTH
Monkeypox continues to represent a global health emergency, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) highest level of alert, the agency’s Emergency Committee said on Tuesday. The WHO’s label is designed to trigger a coordinated international response and could unlock funding to collaborate on sharing vaccines and treatments (Reuters).
Kaiser Health News: When monkeypox reaches rural communities, it collides with strained public health systems.
One in five deaths of U.S. adults aged 20 to 49 is from excessive drinking, a new study shows. The percentage of deaths attributed to alcohol use varied state by state, but nationally it’s a leading cause of preventable death, according to the study, published Tuesday in JAMA Network Open (CNN).
“I’m not surprised at the numbers,” said David Jernigan, a professor of health law, policy and management at Boston University, who was not involved in the study. “This is a conservative estimate.”
▪ The Guardian: You can’t read it too many times: New COVID-19 variants are circulating. Here’s what scientists and experts know about the mutated coronavirus and the effectiveness of current omicron-specific booster shots.
▪ The World Health Organization, in its weekly report through Oct. 30, said confirmed COVID-19 cases dropped 17 percent from the previous week, data that is likely impacted by the dropoff in testing. Weekly deaths decreased by 5 percent globally, as compared to the previous week, with about 9,300 COVID-19 fatalities reported worldwide.
▪ The Washington Post: The D.C. Council voted to delay students’ coronavirus vaccine requirement.
Information about COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot availability can be found at Vaccines.gov.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,071,578. Current U.S. COVID-19 deaths are 2,649 for the week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The CDC shifted its tally of available data from daily to weekly, now reported on Fridays.)
Take Our Morning Report Quiz
And finally … ⏰ It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Alarmed (see what we did there?) about the need to set clocks back on Sunday, even with a reclaimed hour, we’re eager for some smart guesses related to the autumn end of daylight saving time.
Email your responses to email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
Which two states do not observe daylight saving time?
- Florida and Texas
- New Hampshire and Rhode Island
- Arizona and Hawaii
- North Dakota and South Dakota
If you feel sleepy and stick your head in ______ during the day, it can help you get better slumber that night, according to timely research highlighted in a national newspaper this week.
- A hat
- The freezer
- A bouquet of fresh basil
- A hot shower
Which of these options accurately explains why the United States opted to “spring ahead” and “fall back” while resetting clocks twice a year in most states?
- Bygone agricultural rituals
- School bus schedules
- The pharmaceutical industry
- Conservation of fuel needed to produce electricity
Which inventive American in 1784 penned a letter to an editor explaining a startlingly early concept of saving daylight? Here’s part of the missive: “Oblige a man to rise at four in the morning, and it is more than probable he will go willingly to bed at eight in the evening; and, having had eight hours sleep, he will rise more willingly at four in the morning following.”
- George Washington
- Benjamin Franklin
- Thomas Jefferson
- Henry Knox