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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Democrats take aim at Trump over Hong Kong

Fears of military crackdown in Hong Kong

Democratic presidential candidates have in recent days called on China to respect Hong Kong's autonomy in contrast to President Trump, who on Tuesday called the situation "tough" and said, he hopes "it works out for everyone, including China." In a tweet on trade talks on Wednesday, however, the president said China should "work humanely" with Hong Kong.

CBS News Political Unit Associate Producer Ellee Watson says the candidates have expressed support for Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters amidst reports that China is sending military vehicles to the border to monitor the demonstrations that have grown since they started in June.

In Iowa, Julián Castro told reporters on Tuesday the U.S. "needs to be marshaling as much support as we can with our allies to pressure China to respect individual freedom and expression and the arrangement that it has had with Hong Kong."

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at the Iowa State Fair said Hong Kong "needs a strong voice from the U.S. calling for restraint on the part of authorities and speaking to the aspirations to the people in Hong Kong seeking freedom."

Ahead of the second Democratic debates in July, the Council on Foreign Relations asked the candidates how the situation in Hong Kong should affect broader U.S. policy toward China. The answers all include the need to defend human rights and work with allies to do so, which aligns with what voters want to hear, according to a survey released by the progressive Center for American Progress in July.

The protests come amid a trade dispute between China and the United States that have resulted in tariffs on both countries.

Mr. Trump also connected Hong Kong and the China trade negotiations in another tweet on Wednesday. The tweet focused on jobs and claimed that the U.S. "is winning against China, although Hong Kong is not helping."

The president's comments do not align with the approach his State Department is taking.

A spokesperson told CBS News the U.S. is deeply concerned by reports of Chinese paramilitary movement on the Hong Kong border and is urging Beijing to adhere to its commitment to allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy.

FROM THE CANDIDATES

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS

A federal "Domestic Terrorism Prevention Order" similar to a state "red flag" law is among one of the proposals Harris announced on Wednesday. The California senator released a new plan to counter violent white supremacy and domestic terrorism just over a week after authorities say a gunman in El Paso killed 22 people while targeting the Texas border city's Hispanic community. 

CBS News Campaign Reporter Stephanie Ramirez says Harris' plan calls for a federal "red flag" law, for the use of executive action as a way to make online gun sellers conduct background checks and for Congress to add the study of domestic terrorism to the National Counterterrorism Center's mission. Harris wants to allocate $2 billion over 10 years for the Department of Homeland Security to focus on domestic terrorism. 

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN

Warren asked the Federal Trade Commission's inspector general to open an investigation into the commission for allegedly misleading victims of the Equifax breach about how much compensation they'd get.

"Unfortunately, it appears as though the agency itself may have misled the American public about the terms of the Equifax settlement and their ability to obtain the full reimbursement to which they are entitled," Warren wrote in a letter to the acting inspector general Andrew Katsaros on Tuesday.

CBS News Campaign Reporter Zak Hudak says in mid-July, an FTC-Equifax settlement said victims could opt for "alternative reimbursement compensation of up to" $125. But by the end of the month, the FTC was urging victims to pick 10 years of free credit monitoring instead of the money as compensation because so many claims were filed that victims would get "nowhere near the $125." Warren wrote to Katsaros, "I ask that you conduct an investigation into the terms of and FTC's public description of the settlement with Equifax." 

STATELY COVERAGE

UP NORTH

CBS News Campaign Reporter Nicole Sganga notes that Mr. Trump will travel to New Hampshire on Thursday for his first 2020 campaign stop in the state. The president lost New Hampshire in 2016 by fewer than 3,000 votes, or 0.4% of votes cast. The GOP hopes to flip the state next year, deploying its first field operation to the Granite State – including a New Hampshire data director and communications staff. 

Even as popular Republican Gov. Chris Sununu won reelection in last year's midterms, the state's legislature flipped blue, with Democrats overtaking both the House and Senate. Making matters worse for the GOP, the New Hampshire Democratic Party boasted $676,000 cash on hand during the second fundraising quarter of the year — more than 11 times that of their New Hampshire Republican Party counterparts. 

According to a University of New Hampshire poll released Tuesday, 42% of New Hampshire residents approve of Mr. Trump's performance as president, while 53% disapprove. That net approval rating remains virtually unchanged since the midterm elections. Andy Smith, the director of the UNH survey center, said winning the state would depend largely on turning out base voters rather than the relatively small pool of moderates who could swing either way. 

"I think we're at a point where the parties are so polar opposite of one another. It's the Yankees and the Red Sox," he said. "What happens in baseball is when you're team is not doing well? They tend not to show up at games." 

Republicans point to the state's booming economy as a cause for optimism. New Hampshire is currently home to the nation's fourth lowest rate of unemployment, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. 

In a joint statement, 22 Democratic presidential campaign state directors working on this year's New Hampshire primary condemned the president's upcoming visit: "Donald Trump's presidency has been defined by broken promises, hateful rhetoric, and choosing to side with lobbyists and the top 1% at the expense of everyone else. This week, when he comes to New Hampshire we expect more of the same."

DOWN SOUTH

Ahead of flurry of weekend visits to the Palmetto State by 2020 hopefuls, a recent Post and Courier Change Research poll shows former Vice President Joe Biden maintains a significant lead amongst the Democratic presidential contenders. CBS News Campaign Reporter LaCrai Mitchell notes that the poll surveyed 521 likely Democratic primary voters in the state and with 36%, Biden holds a 19-point advantage over Warren, who came in second with 17%. 

With planned visits at the end of the month by both Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, Biden's South Carolina team maintains that the poll results may speak to his appreciation for the state and that they're not taking anything or anyone for granted. 

"We are a scrappy team that is going to fight for every last vote and we think South Carolina voters can see that," said South Carolina communications director Paige Hill. "From what we've heard on the ground it means that voters know Joe Biden, they know his character and his values [and] he has a long history with South Carolina that includes not just campaigning but decades-long relationships ... Whether we are in the lead or not, our team is not taking anything or anyone for granted." 

While Biden and Warren continued to hold the No. 1 and 2 spots — as they did in the last Post and Courier poll in June — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders jumped to 3rd place (from 5th) with 16%. Sanders' South Carolina communications director Michael Wukela says the senator's bump is demonstrative of the work their team is putting in on the ground with tours across the Low country, phone banking, and canvassing. 

"There's a difference between saying you're going to spend a whole lot of money on advertising versus going out and talking to voters where they are," said Wukela. "We're meeting voters where they are and talking about the issues that really matter to them [and] that's really working." 

The poll also highlighted that Sanders was the second choice amongst voters ages 18 to 34. Tyler Radenbaugh is a 20-year old student at Florida Atlantic University and a committed Sanders supporter. He's registered to vote in South Carolina and he says that young people and voters in general are looking for the candidate that speaks to their needs. 

"Bernie has been fighting for policies that help average people his entire life and there is no one with a better record of challenging power and standing with working people than him," said Radenbaugh. "South Carolina voters are starting to take notice of his legacy." 

IN THE MIDDLE

Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King is facing criticism from Democrats and fellow Republicans over comments he made while defending his belief that there should be no abortion exemptions for rape and incest. 

"What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled out anyone who was a product of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?" King said in Urbandale, Iowa on Wednesday, according to the Des Moines Register. "Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that happened throughout all these different nations, I know that I can't say that I was not a part of a product of that." 

CBS News Campaign Reporter Adam Brewster says 2020 presidential candidates quickly denounced King's comments, including Buttigieg, who is campaigning in southeast Iowa. 

"You would think it would be pretty easy to come out against rape and incest. Then again you would think it'd be pretty easy to come out against white nationalism," Buttigieg said. He went on to say that he believes the Democrat running in the state's 4th Congressional District, J.D. Scholten, would be "an excellent public servant." 

Other 2020 candidates including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called on King to resign. Booker, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney posted on Twitter to encourage supporters to donate to Scholten. 

"Yet again, Steve King puts his selfish, hateful ideology above the needs of the people of Iowa's 4th district. Excusing violence — in any way — is entirely unacceptable," Scholten said in a statement responding to King. "His comments are disrespectful to survivors and don't reflect Iowan values. We stand for bringing all people together and fighting for the positive change that we desperately need here in Iowa." 

Republican State Sen. Randy Feenstra, who is challenging King in the primary, posted on Twitter: "I am 100% pro-life but Steve King's bizarre comments and behavior diminish our message & damage our cause. Trump needs defenders in Congress, not distractions. I will ensure we win this seat & I'll be an effective conservative leader in Congress." 

King's comments also drew criticism from his colleagues on Capitol Hill. "These comments are wrong, and offensive, and underscore why we removed him from his committees," said Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the number two ranking House Republican.

ISSUES THAT MATTER

ABORTION DEBATE

Earlier today, Democratic candidate Kamala Harris weighed in on Twitter concerning reports that South Carolina GOP lawmakers are "fast-tracking" an abortion ban through a state senate subcommittee before the state's General Assembly meets in January. 

"It's outrageous South Carolina Republicans are covertly fast-tracking a dangerous bill to ban abortions before most women even know they're pregnant," said Harris in a tweet. "This is why I'll require states with a history of violating Roe v. Wade to pre-clear any abortion law before it takes effect." 

The hearing, which CBS News Campaign Reporter LaCrai Mitchell says is scheduled to take place before the state senate's Medical Affairs subcommittee on Sept. 10, would feature hours of testimony concerning a measure that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Earlier this year, the South Carolina House passed a heartbeat bill, which bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected except in the cases of certain medical emergencies. 

As previously reported by CBS News, "heartbeat" bans passed in various states are tied up in the hands of courts across the country. According to research compiled by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, there were 4,646 abortions performed in the state in 2018. 

Holly Gatling, the executive director of South Carolina Citizens for Life, says the non-profit is pleased that state senators are holding the scheduled hearings and hopes that the lawmakers will uphold the work of the state House. 

"It's about restoring legal protection to the unborn and expanding protection to the medically vulnerable members of our human family," said Gatling. "We live in a disposable society where they throw everything away…and the weakest members of our society —the unborn and the medically vulnerable — are the most targeted groups." 

On the other side of this fight, Planned Parenthood maintains that states with more abortion restrictions tend to have poorer health outcomes for women and children. Vicki Ringer, the South Carolina public affairs director for Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic, said in a statement that this latest effort by South Carolina politicians is an egregious attempt to ban abortion in the state and that the bill could take away a woman's right to make a medical choice before knowing she has a decision to make. 

"Calling a special session to specifically ban abortion in our state just demonstrates how extreme and out-of-touch the lawmakers pushing this ban are ... never before have politicians in SC called for a committee meeting outside of legislative session just to attack abortion rights," said Ringer. "Abortion is a critical component not only of women's health care but of their ability to lead free and fulfilling lives with dignity and autonomy." 

When asked whether the topic of abortion should continue to be at the forefront of the 2020 presidential campaign, Gatling added that this conversation is the single most important issue in our country today. "Without the right to life there are no other rights."

IN OTHER NEWS

HUNTER'S TRIAL MOVED CLOSER TO CA PRIMARY

California Rep. Duncan Hunter's trial for corruption charges has been moved from Sept. 10 to Jan. 14, 2019, less than two months before California's Super Tuesday primary on March 3. Hunter has already filed with the FEC for reelection in 2020, but five other Republican challengers are lined up, in addition to Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar who lost to Hunter by three points in 2018. The corruption charges stem from Hunter and his wife's spending of $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use, which Hunter was indicted for a couple months before his 2018 election. 

Chairman of San Diego County's Republican Party Tony Krvaric told CBS News Political Unit Broadcast Associate Aaron Navarro it won't endorse anybody until October 14. "It will take a two-thirds vote of committee members to endorse one candidate over another," he said. "We still don't know who all the candidates will be but I believe by then we will."

MISSISSIPPI GUBERNATORIAL UPDATE

Mississippi state Sen. Robert Foster endorsed his former gubernatorial opponent Bill Waller Jr. on Tuesday, less than two weeks away from the GOP gubernatorial runoff. Foster played a significant role in the initial primaries by capturing 17.8% of the vote, enough to keep Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves one point shy of winning the GOP nomination outright. 

Foster and Waller have similar stances on Medicare expansion and a state gas tax, though it is unsure if Waller, a former Mississippi Supreme Court chief justice, has all of Foster's voters behind him. In the two counties Foster won, Reeves had at least a 25-point advantage over Waller and a GOP strategist told Navarro endorsements that aren't from Mr. Trump himself haven't historically had a huge impact. 

"I think it serves a purpose in that it can be an indicator of momentum for Waller, but at the end of day I wouldn't put all my eggs in one basket," the strategist said.

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