The Hill's Morning Report – Sponsored by JobsOhio – Trump's tax return bombshell

The Hill's Morning Report – Sponsored by JobsOhio – Trump's tax return bombshell

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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths as of this morning: 204,758.   

U.S. cases of COVID-19 infection now exceed 7 million. Worldwide, confirmed cases of the coronavirus exceed 33 million.

Forty-eight hours before President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump’s reported 0 income tax payments Ocasio-Cortez: Trump contributed less in taxes ‘than waitresses and undocumented immigrants’ Third judge orders Postal Service to halt delivery cuts MORE faces former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump’s reported 0 income tax payments Biden campaign sells ‘I paid more income taxes than Trump’ stickers Trump, Biden have one debate goal: Don’t lose MORE in the first of their three scheduled debates and barely a day after triumphantly nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, the president on Sunday dismissed detailed reporting by The New York Times that he paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and another $750 during his first year as president by leveraging large losses against his earnings.  

Trump, who is engaged in a lengthy audit battle with the IRS and court challenges to block disclosure of his financial records, paid zero federal income taxes in 10 of the 15 preceding years, according to the Times, which plans to publish additional articles drawn from Trump’s tax records. Without citing sources, the newspaper said it obtained Trump’s tax information spanning more than two decades, with the exception of the president’s personal tax filings for 2018 and 2019. 

The Times reported that “records show that [Trump] depends more and more on making money from businesses that put him in potential and often direct conflict of interest with his job as president.”  

Trump called details that he paid the IRS just hundreds of dollars “fake news.” When asked what he owed and paid in taxes, the president said “a lot,” telling reporters that in the future “it will all be revealed. It will all come out.” The president complained that “the IRS does not treat me well. They treat me very, very badly.” He also reprised a version of vows he has made for years. “I am going to release many things, and people are going to be very shocked,” he said.  

Trump sought the presidency by describing himself as a savvy billionaire who would bring business acumen to governing. He has long fought to keep his personal financial records out of view while telling Americans he would release his tax returns in the future. He boasted while campaigning in 2015 and 2016 that during his years in real estate, he sought to reduce his federal and state tax liabilities to the extent possible under law. 

“That makes me smart,” Trump said four years ago during a debate with Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonAppeals court pauses 6-day extension for counting Wisconsin absentee ballots Trump, Pentagon collide over anti-diversity training push Sunday Shows: Trump’s court pick dominates MORE when she criticized him for paying no federal taxes while refusing to release his financial records, as is customary for presidential aspirants (CNBC).

The New York Times: 18 takeaways from a trove of Trump federal tax records.

The New York Times: Charting an empire: A timeline of Trump’s finances. 

The New York Times Sept. 11: Trump’s representatives accused a judge of “stacking the deck” against him in a ruling that allowed the Manhattan district attorney to obtain eight years of the president’s tax returns and other financial records as part of an ongoing investigation. Court rulings in July determined that the president’s financial records would not be made public before Election Day. The Supreme Court in a landmark case ruled that Trump had no absolute right as president to block release of his records but could raise new objections, which he did. And the court ruled separately that Congress could not see the Trump records for the time being (The New York Times).

The Associated Press: Trump’s tax revelation could tarnish an image that fueled his rise. 

The Associated Press: 5 takeaways from The New York Times report on Trump’s tax returns.

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LEADING THE DAY

SUPREME COURT CONFIRMATION: As the week begins, official Washington is preparing for a bitter clash over a Supreme Court vacancy that will color election outcomes this fall and fortify a conservative judiciary for decades to come. 

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s choice to join the Supreme Court, is on a fast track for what lawmakers in both parties expect to be a narrow confirmation before Nov. 3. Senate Republicans and the White House have written a breakneck confirmation script to push Barrett onto the high court by late October, while Senate Democrats concede they have little sway other than to define the stakes as they see them for reproductive rights and the future of the 10-year-old Affordable Care Act.   

The Hill: GOP senators are confident Trump’s pick will be confirmed by November. 

The Hill: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi preparing for House to decide presidency if neither Trump or Biden win electoral college: report Trump seeks boost from seniors with 0 drug discount coupons GOP senators confident Trump pick to be confirmed by November MORE (D-Calif.) slams Republicans for trying to “undo” the Affordable Care Act through Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

The New York Times: ObamaCare returns as a galvanizing issue following the death of Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader Ginsburg leaves us with belief in the ideal of ‘We the People’ Trump, Biden in virtual tie among North Carolina and Georgia voters: poll GOP senators confident Trump pick to be confirmed by November MORE and the nomination of Barrett.  

The Hill: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP senators confident Trump pick to be confirmed by November Trump’s Teflon problem: Nothing sticks, including the ‘wins’ Senate Republican says lawmakers can’t ‘boil down’ what a Court nominee would do in one case like Roe v. Wade MORE (R-Ky.) will meet with Barrett this week. Some Senate Democrats are boycotting courtesy meetings with Trump’s nominee, including Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats blast Trump after report reveals he avoided income taxes for 10 years: ‘Disgusting’ Biden refuses to say whether he would support expanding Supreme Court Schumer says Trump tweet shows court pick meant to kill off ObamaCare MORE (D-N.Y.), although Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGOP senators confident Trump pick to be confirmed by November Sunday Shows: Trump’s court pick dominates Durbin: Democrats can ‘slow’ Supreme Court confirmation ‘perhaps a matter of hours, maybe days at most’ MORE (D-Ill.) said on Sunday he plans to speak with Barrett, perhaps by phone. … Durbin, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Senate Democrats will be unable to “stop the outcome” (ABC News).

The Associated Press: On guns, abortion, high court could become more conservative. 

Reuters: Democrats want Barrett to recuse herself in any election-related cases because Trump has stated he expects the Supreme Court to potentially decide challenges filed in court. Barrett would have final say on whether she has a conflict of interest or bias. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin confirmation hearings on Oct. 12 for Barrett, 48, a judge with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Indiana. Questioning by members of the panel led by Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham neck and neck with challenger in South Carolina Senate race: poll Harris slams Trump’s Supreme Court pick as an attempt to ‘destroy the Affordable Care Act’ Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election MORE (R-S.C.) would likely take place on Oct. 13 and 14. A vote to send Barrett’s nomination to the floor could take place as early as Oct. 22 under committee rules (The Washington Post).

The Associated Press: Barrett’s ascent: From law professor to high court in four years.

More on Barrett, the high court and the upcoming debate: 

SCOTUSblog: Profile of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

South Bend Tribune: Statements and rulings by Barrett. 

NPR: Who is Barrett? 

The Associated Press: If Barrett is confirmed, there would be six Catholics on the Supreme Court.

In 2017, Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinHawley warns Schumer to steer clear of Catholic-based criticisms of Barrett Senate GOP set to vote on Trump’s Supreme Court pick before election Trump taps Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court, setting up confirmation sprint MORE (D-Calif.) criticized Barrett for her conservative Catholic faith. “The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s a concern,” the senator commented, putting fellow Democrats on the defensive for what some on the right said was evidence of progressives’ religious bigotry (The Washington Post).   

Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsCoons: ‘Defies comprehension’ why Trump continues push to ‘strip away’ protections for pre-existing conditions Two Judiciary Democrats say they will not meet with Trump’s Supreme Court pick Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election MORE (D-Del.) commented during a Sunday interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” that religion should not be an issue in considering Barrett’s nomination. “There isn’t a religious test for service in the government whether it’s in the Senate or the Supreme Court,” he said.

The Hill: Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSunday Shows: Trump’s court pick dominates Manchin opposes adding justices to the court Trump taps Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court, setting up confirmation sprint MORE (W.Va.), the only Senate Democrat who voted with the majority in 2018 to confirm Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughManchin opposes adding justices to the court Trump suggests Supreme Court nominee would tip panel against Roe v. Wade Senate GOP set to vote on Trump’s Supreme Court pick before election MORE, said he opposes proposals to add justices to the Supreme Court should Democrats control the Senate next year and if the court’s ideological makeup is 6-3. 

The Hill: Former Vice President Joe Biden dodges a question about whether he would support “court packing” if Democrats hold the White House and control the Senate next year.

The Hill: Biden says voters should get to choose who nominates a Supreme Court justice.

Public opinion divided: The Hill and The New York Times: A majority of voters say they want the winner of the presidential election to choose the next Supreme Court justice, according to a new poll. … A Morning Consult/Politico “flash poll” conducted on Saturday found that 40 percent of those questioned believe the Senate should vote on Barrett as the nominee only if Trump wins in November, while 39 percent say the Senate should act on the nomination as soon as possible, regardless of the possible election results.  

The Hill’s wrap on Sunday talk shows: Trump’s court pick dominates.

****

2020 CAMPAIGNS, DEBATES: The general election is set to take a new twist on Tuesday night as Trump and Biden take part in their first debate faceoff, which could turn out to be the most consequential moment of the 2020 campaign as Americans cast votes with 36 days until Election Day. The president has campaign events scheduled in five states this week.

Tuesday night’s highly anticipated affair is expected to be the most=watched event of the 2020 campaign, as more than 84 million watched the first debate in 2016, and this one could set the course for the final five weeks of the campaign. 

As The Hill’s Reid Wilson writes in a look ahead to debate night, Tuesday will be a chance for Trump and Biden to make their cases to the voters and frame their arguments to appeal to their respective bases and the small sliver of undecided voters who could play a crucial role in battleground states. However, the debate will also give them a chance to commit gaffes that could live on in the minds of voters, giving the campaigns one chief goal on debate eve: Don’t mess up. 

“A debate does not change a lot of minds. Most people come to the debate when we get to this point in a long campaign and they’re committed. They’re viewing the debate for reinforcement and motivation,” said Mitchell McKinney, director of the Political Communication Institute at the University of Missouri.

For months, the president and his team have gone out of their way to lower expectations for Biden heading into Tuesday night, calling into question the former vice president’s mental acuity and arguing that he is a physically and cognitively diminished 77-year-old. 

Trump, 74, continued the line of attack on Sunday evening, describing what he views as Biden’s “horrible performances” during the Democratic primaries before he said the former vice president raised his game against Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump’s reported 0 income tax payments Trump, Biden have one debate goal: Don’t lose The role (un)happiness plays in how people vote MORE (I-Vt.).

Trump has not debated an opponent since 2016. First-term presidents have routinely struggled in their initial general election debates, with former President Obama’s performance in Denver versus then-GOP nominee Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTrump, Biden have one debate goal: Don’t lose Trump-Biden debate: High risk vs. low expectations Crenshaw looms large as Democrats look to flip Texas House seat MORE serving as a prime example in 2012. According to Axios, Trump has been taking part in debate prep in recent weeks, with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) playing Biden during sessions. On Sunday, the president introduced Christie and former New York Mayor Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiTrump says Christie, Giuliani assisting debate prep The Hill’s Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting CIA found Putin ‘probably directing’ campaign against Biden: report MORE, a personal attorney, to reporters as advisers following a debate prep session.

The New York Times: By lowering the debate bar for Biden, has Trump set a trap for himself?

The Washington Post: With five weeks left, Trump plays defense in states he won in 2016. 

Biden’s debate preparation is aided by Ronald Klain, an attorney, a former chief of staff and problem solver for presidents and vice presidents, and a longtime Democratic adviser for high-profile debates. Although he doesn’t have a formal role in the campaign, Klain, who served as Biden’s chief of staff in the vice president’s office, knows the former VP better than anyone, as The Hill’s Amie Parnes details

“He knows Biden’s strengths and weaknesses to the letter,” said one longtime Biden aide. “No one can help Biden prepare for this moment better than Ron.

Having Klain on his team and leading debate prep comes at a key time for Biden as the debate is expected to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and the Supreme Court extensively. Klain served as the Obama administration’s Ebola czar, leading its response to the epidemic in late 2014 and early 2015, and is a former Supreme Court law clerk who served as the chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, having helped lead the team that won Ginsburg’s confirmation in 1993 in an overwhelming 96-3 vote.

The New York Times: How Joe Biden is preparing for the biggest debate of his life.

The Associated Press: Biden: Vacancy about health law, not court expansion. 

The Washington Post editorial board’s 2020 endorsement: Joe Biden for president. 

Debate details: Fox News Sunday” host Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceTrump, Biden have one debate goal: Don’t lose Trump says Christie, Giuliani assisting debate prep Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 MORE will reprise his role as debate moderator, having served in the same role for the final presidential debate of 2016. Wallace is known as a tough and hard-nosed inquisitor who is always armed with facts, as he has shown during his interviews with Trump in recent years. As Wallace notes often (as does Trump), Biden has not sat for an interview with the Fox News host during the campaign. 

Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland will play host. The debate starts at 9 p.m. and will run for 90 minutes without commercial breaks. 

Washington Post opinion, Philippe Reines: I played Trump in Clinton’s debate prep. Here’s what Biden can expect. 

Niall Stanage: The Memo: Trump furor stokes fears of unrest.

The Hill: Poll shows Biden with 10-point lead over Trump. 

David Plouffe: Why the first Biden-Trump debate may be the most important one.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

MORE 2020 POLITICS: Senators in both parties are bracing for what they predict could be a post-election environment mired in chaos and anticipate the Supreme Court could deliver key rulings to determine the outcome, heightening the stakes and the partisan tension of next month’s Senate Supreme Court battle. 

As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes, polls showing a close race against Biden in several battleground states have lawmakers predicting that results won’t be known immediately after Election Day, particularly with millions expected to vote via mail-in ballots given the coronavirus pandemic. 

Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsDemocrats call for declassifying election threats after briefing by Trump officials The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by Facebook – GOP closes ranks to fill SCOTUS vacancy by November Senate GOP sees early Supreme Court vote as political booster shot MORE (R-S.D.) told The Hill that he expects “chaos in some of the states that have extended [the deadline for counting ballots] beyond the normal day of the election.” 

“I suspect we’ll have three, four days before the vote tallies will be close enough to make a determination,” Rounds said. 

> Being prepared: Pelosi has begun mobilizing Democrats for the possibility that neither Biden nor Trump will win an outright Electoral College victory in November, a once-in-a-century phenomenon that would send the fate of the presidency to the House of Representatives to decide, Politico reports. Under that scenario, every state’s delegation gets a single vote. Right now, Republicans control 26 delegations to Democrats’ 22, with Pennsylvania tied and Michigan a 7-6 plurality for Democrats, with a 14th seat held by independent Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashRon Paul hospitalized in Texas Internal Democratic poll shows tight race in contest to replace Amash Centrist Democrats ‘strongly considering’ discharge petition on GOP PPP bill MORE

In a Sunday letter to House Democrats, the Speaker urged them to consider whether the House might be pulled into deciding who is president when determining where to focus resources on winning seats in November, Politico reports. The focus on Electoral College unknowns could lead to more concerted efforts by Democrats to win in states such as Montana and Alaska — typically Republican turf but where Democrats have been competitive statewide. In these states, Democratic victories could flip an entire delegation with a single upset House victory.

> Battleground watch: Pennsylvania is shaping up to be an epicenter for election disputes in 2020, with both parties waging aggressive legal and political fights in the final stretch before Election Day.  

As The Hill’s Max Greenwood reports, the tumultuous fight over voting rules and procedures in the Keystone State threatens to upend the presidential election in a state Trump carried in 2016 by only 44,000 votes and that could decide the election. 

The disputes have so far centered on the rules for casting mail ballots. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court handed Democrats a win last week when it extended the deadline for voters to return mail ballots and expanded the use of ballot drop boxes, something the Trump campaign has sought to severely curtail. But Republicans notched a win of their own after the state Supreme Court ruled that so-called naked ballots — mail ballots cast without being sealed inside an inner secrecy envelope — must be invalidated, a decision that has stoked concerned among Democrats and voting rights advocates that tens of thousands of ballots could be tossed out based on a technicality.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Former Trump campaign manager Brad ParscaleBradley (Brad) James ParscaleMORE was hospitalized after his wife reported to authorities that he was armed and threatening to harm himself, Fort Lauderdale police say.  

The Hill: Trump seeks boost from seniors with $200 drug discount coupons.

The Hill: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson backs Biden in first public presidential endorsement.

****

CONGRESS: The burgeoning fight to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court seat has tossed gasoline onto relations in the Senate, which was already dealing with simmering tensions that could lead to a reshaping the upper chamber for good as an institution.  

As The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle readily acknowledge the increasing level of dysfunction as the Senate spends the vast majority of its time on nominations rather than passing legislation to deal with major national issues. Negotiations on a coronavirus package and police reform serve as prime examples.  

“I’m praying to God that the better angels start flying with my colleagues. That’s all I can tell you. As Abraham Lincoln said, we all have better angels. I’m looking for them right now,” said Manchin, one of the dwindling number of centrist senators in the chamber.

> COVID-19 relief: Two months have passed since Congress and the White House allowed central safety net and emergency economic provisions — headlined by the enhanced unemployment benefits — from March’s CARES Act to expire, hobbling the economic recovery.  

According to Niv Elis’s latest, families are struggling to get by without supplemental unemployment funding, and many small businesses are reaching the end of the financial lifelines. The lapse of emergency rescue measures are expected to create lasting damage to the economy, making it harder to return to pre-pandemic levels of growth and unemployment. 

Reuters: Pelosi expresses hope that a deal can be reached with White House on COVID-19 relief.

The Hill: Centrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote.

OPINION

Is Amy Coney Barrett joining a Supreme Court built for the wealthy? by Kim Phillips-Fein, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3425otz

This is a powerful moment for athletes creating change through sports, by Billie Jean King, opinion contributor, The Washington Post (published Friday afternoon). https://wapo.st/337E5yT

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE! 

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WHERE AND WHEN

The House will meet at noon on Tuesday. 

The Senate convenes at 2:45 p.m. for a pro forma session. 

The president offers an update at 2 p.m. about the administration’s COVID-19 testing strategy.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS says it will leave Baghdad embassy if Iraq doesn’t rein in attacks: report Watchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump Trump’s push for win with Sudan amps up pressure on Congress  MORE is traveling in Greece and will visit the Holy See and Croatia later this week. This morning he met with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in Thessaloniki and held an energy sector business roundtable. At midday, he signed a U.S.-Greece agreement about science and technology. This afternoon, the secretary attends a Yom Kippur event in Thessaloniki.

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.

ELSEWHERE

STATE WATCH: Drinking water near Houston, Texas, contains a brain-eating amoeba that killed a 6-year-old boy early this month. Officials warned residents of the city of Lake Jackson over the weekend not to drink or use the tap water. The city, which asked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) for emergency assistance, is the site of the local water authority’s water treatment plant. The water source is the Brazos River (CBS News). 

CORONAVIRUS: At least four Midwestern states are experiencing a sharp rise in COVID-19 outbreaks: Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Last week, those states plus Oregon, Utah and Wyoming reported record one-day increases in new infections. The United States is reporting nearly 46,000 new infections on average each day, compared with 40,000 a week ago and 35,000 two weeks ago (Reuters). … The Washington Post editorial board opines that Europe is facing its second COVID-19 wave and that countries must act together to contain it.

➔ INTERNATIONAL: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said on Monday that German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited him during his 32-day long stay at a hospital in Berlin while he was being treated after being poisoned in Russia. Navalny confirmed the news after reports surfaced that Merkel appeared at Berlin’s Charite hospital before he was discharged last week. “There was a meeting, but one shouldn’t call it secret,” Navalny tweeted. “Rather, (it was) a private visit and a conversation with the family. I’m very grateful to chancellor Merkel for visiting me in the hospital” (The Associated Press). 

THE CLOSER

And finally … The NBA Finals are set, and the league’s two most historic teams will not meet again this year for the title. The Miami Heat closed out the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday night, 125-113, setting up a clash with the Los Angeles Lakers in Orlando, Fla. 

Game 1 is set Wednesday night at 9 p.m., as the Lakers look for the franchise’s record-tying 17th championship title. The matchup also features LeBron James facing off against his old team. He played for Miami for four seasons (and won two titles of his own) before returning to Cleveland in 2014. 

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