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Official Washington came no closer on Monday than it has in the past to tackling America’s epidemic of mass shootings as the death toll following weekend violence in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, rose to 31.
President TrumpDonald John TrumpFormer White Supremacist calls on Trump to stop using fear to motivate people Walmart employee urges workers to strike until the company’s stores stop selling guns Biden: Violent video games ‘not healthy’ but aren’t ‘in and of itself why we have this carnage’ MORE, who will travel to the Lone Star State on Wednesday, used a 10-minute address to try to steer the narrative after a weekend of carnage and national grief. He championed more mental health treatment and warned against the spread of “racist hate” on social media and the dangers of violence on the internet. He advocated capital punishment for mass shooters, condemned white supremacy and argued that guns are not the problem.
“Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger — not the gun,” the president said while reading carefully from prepared remarks with Vice President Pence by his side.
The New York Times: Trump stops short on major gun control.
The Hill: Trump: “We must condemn white supremacy.”
House Democrats promised hearings about mass shootings beginning next week and pledged to return to Washington this month if the Senate opted to vote on House-passed legislation that aims to tighten gun background checks. There was no sign that the GOP-led Senate plans to work again before September.
The Hill: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill’s Morning Report – Trump, Democrats at odds over shootings’ causes, cures McConnell taps GOP senators to mull bipartisan legislation after shootings Is Pelosi’s semantic nod an unimpeachable defense? MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerPelosi says House recess could be cut short if Senate passes background checks bill Warren says gun control depends on Democratic control of Senate, urges people to donate Schumer to Trump: Demand McConnell hold vote on background check bill MORE (D-N.Y.) assailed Trump in a joint statement as “a prisoner to the gun lobby and the NRA.”
Politico: Republicans hide behind Trump in gun debate.
As he did last year, the president called on Congress to produce bipartisan legislation to deal with mass shootings. But his rhetoric was vague and inconsistent between his morning tweets and his televised, prepared speech.
Trump repeated his endorsement for so-called “red flag” laws that would make it possible to confiscate firearms from people suspected of being mentally ill. Trump said laws should be changed to allow for the involuntary confinement of individuals deemed at risk of committing violence.
Two lawmakers, Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill’s Morning Report – Trump, Democrats at odds over shootings’ causes, cures Social media bots pose threat ahead of 2020 Senators ask for committee vote on ‘red flag’ bills after shootings MORE (R-Fla.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThe Hill’s Morning Report – Trump, Democrats at odds over shootings’ causes, cures Social media bots pose threat ahead of 2020 Senators ask for committee vote on ‘red flag’ bills after shootings MORE (D-Calif.), called on Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamButtigieg releases B plan to address mass shooting ‘national security crisis’ The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump, Democrats at odds over shootings’ causes, cures Senators ask for committee vote on ‘red flag’ bills after shootings MORE (R-S.C.) to give their separately crafted “red flag” bills consideration in committee after months of inaction (The Hill).
Graham told reporters he and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) support a measure to create a grant program to help states adopt their own “red flag” laws to permit intervention in cases of “imminent threat” of violence (The Hill).
Beyond Washington, the candidates competing to win the Democratic presidential primary kept their focus on Trump, describing him to voters as part of the problem behind hate- and grievance-filled politics, not part of a national solution.
The New York Times: One man could decide Washington’s response to gun violence: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOcasio-Cortez calls out McConnell for photo of young men groping a cutout of her Gun control groups hold vigil outside NRA headquarters Buttigieg releases B plan to address mass shooting ‘national security crisis’ MORE (R-Ky.).
The Hill: Democrats blast Trump’s response to the shootings.
Democratic presidential contenders Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanToni Morrison dies at 88 The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump, Democrats at odds over shootings’ causes, cures Dayton mayor jabs Trump over Toledo gaffe MORE of Ohio and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas strongly condemned Republican inaction while appearing in their states on Monday (The New York Times).
Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden: Violent video games ‘not healthy’ but aren’t ‘in and of itself why we have this carnage’ Town halls are not the answer, DNC must sanction an official climate debate Gravel endorses Bernie Sanders after suspending campaign MORE issued a statement following Trump’s speech, saying, “We won’t truly speak with one voice against hatred until your voice is no longer in the White House.” He went further on Monday night, saying that he would push for a federal buyback program and reauthorization of the assault weapons ban, which Biden helped pass in 1994 (The Washington Post).
Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerPanel: What happened to Cory Booker? Sanders, Warren gain on Biden in New Hampshire Democrats lash out at New York Times over early Trump ‘unity’ headline MORE (D-N.J.) plans to deliver remarks about gun violence and the rise of white nationalism on Wednesday at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., the site of a 2015 mass shooting.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) distanced the gun lobby from violence in El Paso and Dayton and welcomed Trump’s mental health approach to the weekend shootings. But the NRA’s power is being tested. In 2019, it is a weakened advocacy group with leadership in turmoil (The Hill).
Even with private sector pushback against websites that encourage violence, blocking the dark ideologies on the internet is a huge problem. A San Francisco-based Web company, Cloudflare, announced it stopped providing services to 8chan, a website notorious for hosting lawless message boards where manifestos have appeared before mass shootings took place (The Washington Post).
But as Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince predicted over the weekend, a competing web security service offered to help 8chan stay afloat, raising questions about whether eradicating the free-for-all website that hosts a radical, malevolent fringe is possible (The Hill).
Perspectives & Analysis:
Niall Stanage: Democrats don’t buy Trump’s condemnation of white supremacy.
Former President Obama: “Until all of us stand up and insist on holding public officials accountable for changing our gun laws, these tragedies will keep happening.”
Helaine Olen: Trump’s speech was like a hostage video.
Michael Gerson: Promoting love and unity goes against Trump’s political brand.
Elaina Plott and Peter Nicholas: Trump has a habit of contradicting himself after a tragedy.
David Leonhardt: Conservatism has a violence problem. “The numbers don’t lie.”
Robert J. Spitzer: There’s no Second Amendment right to large-capacity magazines. But conservative judges may block common-sense measures for a long time to come.
The National Rifle Association: “The NRA welcomes the president’s call to address the root causes of the horrific acts of violence that have occurred in our country.”
LEADING THE DAY
ADMINISTRATION & INTERNATIONAL: The U.S. Treasury Department formally labeled China a currency manipulator on Monday, only hours after the president accused the country of unfairly devaluing its currency and escalating tensions between the two largest economies amid a trade war.
Earlier Monday, China lowered the value of the yuan, weakening its currency to an 11-year low. The move gives its exporters a price advantage in world markets and eases some of the damage from continued U.S. tariffs on Chinese products. Beijing also announced that China would stop buying agricultural products from the United States, rejecting a key negotiating point the Trump administration pressed for more than a year in negotiations over tariffs.
The Treasury Department’s decision, largely symbolic because of the U.S. punishments now stacking up against China, came three months after the United States declined to impose sanctions on China for devaluing its currency.
“Secretary Mnuchin, under the auspices of President Trump, has today determined that China is a Currency Manipulator,” the department said in a statement. “As a result of this determination, Secretary Mnuchin will engage with the International Monetary Fund to eliminate the unfair competitive advantage created by China’s latest actions.”
The latest move by the administration follows Trump’s threat to impose a new round of tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese goods by Sept. 1. That would be on top of $250 billion in Chinese goods to which Trump already applied tariffs, which prompted China to slap tariffs on U.S. goods. The president argues that China pays, not U.S. consumers, despite ample evidence and admissions from Trump administration officials that U.S. manufacturers, farmers and consumers are hit with higher costs (The Associated Press).
Trump’s move last week to impose a new round of tariffs rattled the stock market on Monday. The S&P 500 fell by 3 percent, marking the biggest one-day percentage decline since Dec. 4 (Reuters).
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: Trade war becomes currency war.
> Putin prepares: Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinThe Hill’s Morning Report – Trump, Democrats at odds over shootings’ causes, cures Putin calls for talks after Trump pulls out of nuclear arms agreement The Democrats’ impeachment conundrum MORE said Monday that the Russians will begin developing new intermediate-range missiles if the U.S. starts to do so after allowing a key arms control agreement lapse (The Hill).
Putin’s remarks came after the U.S. formally exited the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia on Friday. The U.S. said that Moscow was violating the treaty, having already deployed one banned type of missile. The Kremlin denied the allegation.
“If Russia obtains reliable information that the United States has finished developing these systems and started to produce them, Russia will have no option other than to engage in a full-scale effort to develop similar missiles,” Putin said in a statement.
The U.S. has already said that it plans to test weapons that were previously banned by the 1987 treaty between the two nations. The INF Treaty banned the production and deployment of land-based missiles with a range between 310 and 3,400 miles, hampering the ability of either country to launch a short-notice nuclear strike (Reuters).
The Associated Press: North Korea fires more weapons, denounces U.S. military drills.
> Venezuela: The Trump administration announced late Monday that will expand its sanctions against Venezuela and impose a full economic embargo, a significant escalation of pressure against the President Nicolás Maduro’s regime and countries including Russia and China that continue to support him.
The embargo freezes assets of the Venezuelan government and prohibits transactions with it, unless exempted specifically. Exemptions include official business of the federal government and transactions related to humanitarian aid (CNN).
The embargo goes much further than the previous round of sanctions imposed against the country, including against state-run oil company PDVSA, the country’s financial sector, and dozens of Venezuelan officials (Reuters).
The Associated Press: Taliban say differences resolved on U.S. troop withdrawal.
The Associated Press: U.K. joins U.S. Strait of Hormuz mission; Iran slams sanctions.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: After decades in which Texas was assumed to be a bastion for Republicans and conservatives, the state faces major demographic and cultural changes that are encouraging Democrats to plant their flag there this cycle.
As Reid Wilson writes, Texas Republicans could encounter a perfect storm of issues this cycle including mounting tensions about racially motivated rhetoric, a polarizing president and GOP infighting, all of which have rocked Texas’s political leadership. And the state may soon face a tipping point brought on by shifting coalitions of voters who want change in Austin and Washington.
The political changes are evident, highlighted by the shrinking of losing margins in recent years by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOcasio-Cortez calls out McConnell for photo of young men groping a cutout of her Trump: ‘We are watching Google very closely’ GOP super PAC drops new TV ad in contested NC House race MORE in 2016 and O’Rourke in 2018, but structural changes have become the real driving force behind Texas’s blue hue that’s becoming more ever-present, headlined by the retirements of four GOP congressmen ahead of the 2020 elections.
While the state has attracted millions of jobs under three consecutive GOP governors, many of the state’s newcomers are from California, leading to the shift in political attitudes. One percent of the state of California, one of the most liberal states in the country, has moved to Texas. Four of the 10 American counties that have added the most new residents since 2010 are in Texas; four of the 10 counties adding residents at the fastest pace are there, too.
Along with the newcomers, it’s suburban women — the same group who helped hand Democrats control of Congress — who are key to Democratic hopes of capitalizing on political tumult in Texas.
“White suburban women are temporarily part of the Democratic coalition in Texas, but I wouldn’t think of them as firm long-term members,” said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University. “Those women are responding to Trump, but also to these mass shootings.”
“It’s not a purple state, but it’s trending the other way right now. Democrats still have to win something for it to be considered a purple state,” added Corbin Casteel, an Austin-based GOP strategist.
NBC News: House Republicans face reckoning as retirement fever spreads.
Politico: Democrats become the Hannibal Lector party.
Matt Flegenheimer, The New York Times: How Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioDe Blasio defends decision to appear on Fox’s Hannity: We shouldn’t stereotype ‘millions of Americans who are watching’ Democrats lash out at New York Times over early Trump ‘unity’ headline The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump, Democrats at odds over shootings’ causes, cures MORE went from progressive hope to punching bag.
Politico: DNC rules could expand, not shrink, future debate stage.
> Bots in 2020: Experts are warning that the spreading of disinformation by bots on social media is continuing to sow discord with the American electorate and making its impact felt ahead of the 2020 elections.
The issue is back in the spotlight after two recent hashtags gained attention on Twitter: #MoscowMitch, targeting McConnell for blocking votes on election security bills, and #KamalaHarrisDestroyed, which pushed the narrative that Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSanders, Warren gain on Biden in New Hampshire Democrats pick Warren as winner of Detroit debates: poll The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump, Democrats at odds over shootings’ causes, cures MORE (D-Calif.) had a subpar performance in last week’s Democratic presidential debate (The Hill).
The hashtags revived a debate over how prevalent bots actually are, with questions surrounding whether the hashtags were largely the product of bots or regular social media users.
Bot Sentinel, a free platform designed to track bot activity and untrustworthy accounts on Twitter, listed #KamalaHarrisDestroyed as one of the top 10 hashtags tweeted by bot accounts on the two days after the latest Democratic debate. However, Twitter has pushed back against the idea that the anti-McConnell and anti-Harris hashtags were the result of bots.
A Twitter spokesperson said its “initial investigations have not found evidence of bot activity amplifying either of the cited hashtags.”
“These were driven by organic, authentic conversation,” the spokesperson said.
Elsewhere on the political scene … Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseThe 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal Equifax breach settlement sparks criticism Jeffrey Epstein denied bail MORE (R-Neb.), who has already attracted a primary challenger, announced Monday that he will seek reelection in 2020. Sasse is one of the last remaining “Never Trump” Senate Republicans, although he has tempered his criticism of the president in recent months (Roll Call).
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
The Democrats’ impeachment conundrum, by Albert Hunt, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2YIT3pA
Trump has the right idea on North Korea, but needs to change strategy, by Ken E. Gause, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2M4FAX8
WHERE AND WHEN
Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Arno Michaelis, a former white supremacist who is now an anti-hate activist, to react to the president’s remarks about mass shootings; Steve Yates, CEO of the D.C. International Advisory, to talk about China devaluing its currency; and Michael Brooks, host of “The Michael Brooks Show,” to discuss the international rise of the right. Find Hill.TV programming at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m.
The House and Senate continue to meet in pro forma sessions but are not scheduled to return for votes until Sept. 9.
The president has no public schedule today.
Pence will sit down with Mike Farris, president, CEO and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom to discuss religious freedom, the right to life and free speech at 11:25 a.m. at the Ritz Carlton in Pentagon City, Va. At 2:30 p.m., he’ll participate in the ceremonial swearing-in of the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of El Salvador Ronald Johnson, and will meet with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab at 4:30 p.m.
The National Conference of State Legislatures holds a conference in Nashville, Tenn., through Aug. 8.
➔ Tech: Why does Trump suddenly care who wins the Pentagon’s $10 billion cloud-storage contract? (Nextgov).
➔ News media: Two of the largest U.S. newspaper companies agreed to combine for roughly $1.4 billion, creating the largest U.S. newspaper company with a print circulation of 8.7 million. GateHouse Media, a fast-growing chain backed by an investment firm, is buying USA Today owner Gannett, promising to speed up a digital transformation as readers shift online (The Associated Press).
➔ Puerto Rico: The territory’s Senate filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to block Gov. Pedro PierluisiPedro Rafael PierluisiThe Hill’s Morning Report – Trump, Democrats at odds over shootings’ causes, cures Puerto Rico Senate sues to oust new governor Pedro Pierluisi sworn in as governor of Puerto Rico MORE from continuing as Puerto Rico’s governor. Pierluisi was sworn in Friday after outgoing Gov. Ricardo Rosselló‘s resignation, but never received the Senate’s approval as Rosselló’s successor (The Hill).
➔ Bigger than basketball: Once upon a time, Shelly Pennefather was known as one of the top female collegiate basketball players. A top recruit out of high school, she went on to star at Villanova University and became the school’s all-time leading scorer. Soon after, however, she gave up a life of fame and family to become a cloistered nun with the Poor Clares in Alexandria, Va., becoming Sister Rose Marie in the process. Recently, she celebrated her 25th anniversary and renewed her vows in front of her relatives, who were able to hug her for the first time since she entered the monastery in 1994 (ESPN).
And finally … Recycle this luck! A man in Ashland, Ore., last week almost lost his life savings, which he stored in a shoe box and accidentally tossed away at a reclamation center that does business with a Northern California recycler.
After the distraught man made frantic phone calls, the staff at Recology Humboldt County in Samoa, Calif., recovered the roughly $23,000 he lost by keeping an eye out when sorting through 22 tons of mixed recycling. On Friday morning, the shoe box full of cash was spotted in a load full of paper and was rescued to be reunited with the relieved, grateful owner.
“We were able to recover it for him, so that’s good news,” said Linda Wise, general manager of Recology Humboldt County, who explained the search was like looking for a needle in a haystack (The Mercury News).