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Swarm of Ds aims to sting Biden in first debates

Former Vice President Joe Biden at his campaign

Former Vice President Joe Biden at his campaign rally on June 12 in Clinton, Iowa. Photo Credit: AP/Charlie Neibergall

Gang tackles

Aside from Donald Trump, Joe Biden is expected to be the top target as the Democrats hold their first 2020 presidential debates on Wednesday and Thursday night in Miami. There are 19 other candidates who'd like knock the former vice president off his front-runner perch.

That may not be easy. A new Politico/Morning Consult poll shows Biden holding steady at 38%, popping back up after a string of controversies that looked like they could knock him down. The most recent — Biden's unapologetic nostalgia about being able to work with segregationist senators in the name of civility — hasn't hurt him significantly, even among black voters, Politico reported.

“Every time there’s been what would be considered a bad week for Biden — or the issue that’s going to kill him — it hasn’t happened,” John Anzalone, Biden’s chief pollster, told the website. “What the press thinks is a big deal or a death knell just isn’t to voters.”

If Biden feels the need to defend himself, he'll have to wait until the second night to do it on the stage. He is not among the 10 candidates in Wednesday's group. 

In her preview of "5 things to watch for in the Democratic debates," Newsday's Emily Ngo takes note of experts' predictions that the contenders are practicing one-liners that will resonate on social media and earn replays on cable TV news. The lower-polling, lesser-known candidates must seize the opportunity to stand out.

A one-on-one contest to pick out from the scrum will be between the top two progressives in the field, Elizabeth Warren vs. Bernie Sanders. But it won't be head to head — Warren is appearing on the first night; Sanders on the second. 

The debates will air live from 9 to 11 p.m. on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo. It will also stream on NBC News’ digital platforms.

How Joe hit the jackpot

Biden likes to point out that he was often the poorest member of the U.S. Senate and has referred to himself as "Middle Class Joe." But The Washington Post reports that since leaving the vice presidency in 2017, he has made millions, largely from book deals and speaking fees that can reach $200,000.

His sponsors provided VIP hotel suites, town cars and professional drivers, chartered flights and travel expense reimbursements that for some appearances reached at least $10,000 per event, the Post reported. Speech contracts call on him to be served a favorite Italian meal: angel hair pomodoro, a caprese salad, topped off with raspberry sorbet with biscotti.

New frontiers in chaos

John Sanders, the acting head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, resigned Tuesday amid an uproar over the discovery of migrant children being held in horrible conditions at one of the agency's Texas facilities.

Sanders' departure deepened the sense of crisis and added to the rapid turnover inside the agencies responsible for enforcing Trump's hard-line immigration priorities, The Associated Press reported.

Trump said he is “very concerned” about conditions at the border but claimed without evidence that things are “much better than they were under President Obama, by far” and in “much better shape than it ever was.” Immigration activists said that's not true.

Trump is threatening to veto a bill Democrats are moving through the House to provide $4.5 billion in emergency funding but tighten requirements for the care of unaccompanied refugee children. White House officials complained the House package lacked money for beds ICE needs to detain more migrants.

Janison: Works in no progress

There's a lot that Trump said he'd fix but hasn't, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

Farm income hasn't rebounded from a fall in 2015 and 2016. The replacement for NAFTA remains in limbo while Trump's team tries to sell it in Congress. Any palpable change in potential nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran under Trump is difficult to detect.

Despite Trump's promises of a comeback for coal, the cost of solar and wind power is falling, putting further pressure on coal miners and their employers. The industry's decline continues. In dozens of ways, for better or worse, the status quo and big trends are proving remarkably durable.

A date with Mueller

Faced with subpoenas, special counsel Robert Mueller has agreed to testify before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees on July 17.

The panels’ chairmen, Reps. Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff, said Mueller will appear in an open session.

In a joint statement, the congressmen said Mueller had agreed to testify in open session.

Democrats have been wanting to hear from Mueller personally regarding his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by Trump.

Trump sounded unusually unhinged when the called in to Fox Business and ranted early Wednesday.

Now speaking for the Trumps

Stephanie Grisham, who has served as first lady Melania Trump's spokeswoman, will replace Sarah Sanders as White House press secretary and communications director. She will also keep her duties with the first lady for the time being.

Sanders hasn't held a White House press briefing for 3½ months, and it was unclear whether Grisham might bring them back.

No exit

If the U.S. ends up in a war with Iran, does Trump have a plan to end it?

“You’re not going to need an exit strategy. I don't do exit strategies," Trump told reporters at the White House.

Trump also said his message to Tehran following the recent exchange of hostile words between the U.S. and Iran — including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani saying the White House is suffering from a "mental disability" — was that he wants to negotiate.

But he warned that an attack on "anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force" and "in some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration."

Lashing out 

Sean Lawler, the Trump administration official in charge of diplomatic protocol, plans to resign amid a possible State Department inspector general’s probe into accusations of intimidating staff and carrying a horsewhip in the office, Bloomberg News reported.

Lawler had been expected to go on the president's trip later this week to the G-20 meetings in Japan.

Lawler has worked for the government for almost three decades, according to his State Department biography. Trump didn't like him and repeatedly asked why he still worked at the White House, the report said.

What else is happening:

  • Anti-Trump backlash escalated in Queens where left-wing candidate Tiffany Caban, backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, declared victory in the district attorney primary.
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, who served as an Air Force prosecutor before entering politics, was asked about writer E. Jean Carroll's rape allegation against Trump. "He's denied it and that's all I needed to hear," Graham responded.
  • Chris Christie said he's voting for Trump in 2020. But don't expect his comments at the Aspen Ideas Festival to show up in a re-election ad. Christie said Trump has a bad temperament and sense of entitlement and has surrounded himself with "awful people," The Atlantic reported. He also said a couple of the sexual assault allegations against Trump may be credible.
  • Trump is souring on acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney but is unlikely to make any move soon to replace him, Politico reports.
  • A federal judge in Washington cleared the way for Democrats in Congress to continue their lawsuit alleging that Trump's private business interests violate the anti-corruption "emoluments" provision of the Constitution, The Washington Post reported.
  • Almost a third of U.S. voters say they’d have some hesitancy about supporting a gay, lesbian or bisexual candidate for president, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Pete Buttigieg, who is gay, is making a serious run for the Democratic nomination.
  • A Chilean billionaire who rented a Washington house to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump has won favorable decisions from the administration for his family business' efforts to develop a copper mine near a pristine wilderness in Minnesota, The New York Times reported.

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