Details of President Donald Trump's handling of calls and meetings with foreign leaders have been front and center in the news cycle, with information coming from both the White House and leaks out of the House impeachment inquiry. Today, the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, said a delay in hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine over the summer was driven partly by a desire to pressure the country into cooperating with a Justice Department investigation into unproven allegations of Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 U.S. election.
Later in the day, Mulvaney denied that his earlier remarks should be construed as a quid pro quo involving Democrats and the 2016 election. He issued a clarifying statement late Thursday afternoon that read, "Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election. The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the (DNC) server. The only reasons we were holding the money was because of concern about lack of support from other nations and concerns over corruption."
Mr. Trump has conceded that he asked the Ukrainian government to investigate "corruption," and he has accused political rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who sat on a Ukrainian gas company's board, of corruption, though there has been no evidence of wrongdoing on either Biden's part.
And while the exact details of Mr. Trump's conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are still unknown, we know that following that phone call, Mr. Trump decided to end the years-long U.S. alliance with Kurdish fighters in Syria and ordered American troops to step aside ahead of an invasion by Turkish forces which has caused bloodshed and chaos in northern Syria in the eight days since the invasion began.
Although voters list pocketbook issues such as healthcare and the economy as their top concerns, will this volatile news cycle raise foreign policy and Mr. Trump's global dealings to the top of their lists?
At a Winning for Women lunch earlier today, Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler — who held onto her Southwest Washington seat in the 2018 midterms — said that so far, she is not yet hearing about these foreign policy issues from voters in her district.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
The day after the fourth Democratic presidential debate, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet slammed what he called the "idiotic" Democratic National Committee rules that kept him out of Tuesday night's contest. "One of my frustrations about watching people on that debate last night is there are some people on that debate stage polling below me right now," Bennet told approximately two dozen voters at an event in New Hampshire.
CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga says Bennet is the first to admit he's not a "barn burner" when it comes to stump speeches. When he met with Barack Obama before launching his presidential bid, Bennet said, the president offered some advice. "One thing he said was, 'Michael this thing is a circus. You've got to learn to perform in the circus.'" Bennet recalled, adding, "And I do think there are better circus performers than I."
But in January 2019, the Colorado senator went viral when he targeted colleague Senator Ted Cruz in a fiery Senate speech centering on the 2013 partial government shutdown. That speech, Bennet told voters, demonstrates his ability to take on the current administration and perform when it matters. "If you watch the speech with Cruz on the floor, I think it will give you a sense of my capabilities to push back on someone who needs to be pushed back on," Bennet said. "Because he's a treasonous mf," he added of President Trump.
Among the 12 Democratic candidates on the debate stage earlier this week, Joe Biden brought in the most cash from top donors in the Palmetto State according to a report by the Post & Courier. The Charleston-based newspaper cites that when tallying totals from voters who have donated at least $200 total over the course of the campaign, Biden raised more than $185,000 from South Carolina during the third fundraising quarter. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell spoke with Biden supporters this week about his continued lead in the "first in the South" primary state. Charleston resident Leah Hassan says Biden is the party's best shot at winning back Republican voters. "In my heart, I want to beat Trump. Bottom line," said Hassan. "I think that Independents, swing voters, Republicans that may be tired of Trump would come to Joe Biden."
Separately, CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin says little more than a week after announcing the support of former Nevada teachers union chief Ruben Murillo, Biden's campaign has released a new list of "Nevada educators" backing the former vice president. Among the nearly three dozen names is former Nevada Congresswoman Shelley Berkley and state Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo. Murillo also introduced Dr. Jill Biden last weekend, as she stumped for the campaign at an educators conference. "Her husband, V.P. Joe Biden, also happens to be running for president," Murillo joked, after ticking off a list of her accomplishments.
During her Rural Meet and Greet in Tipton, Iowa, Thursday, Kamala Harris released her plan to "fight for justice for Rural America." Harris says the plan will combat President Trump's "war on rural America" according to CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry. The plan includes an investment of more than $100 billion to create jobs in rural America and calls for an end to the Trump Trade War.
In a statement released by the campaign Harris said, "Donald Trump lied to rural America to get their votes, but has since turned his back on them." She added, "By creating jobs through real investment, reversing the deeply harmful effects of the trade war and increasing access to critical infrastructure like broadband, I know we can ensure that this generation and ones in the future find a successful life right where they are."
Businesses that create jobs in rural communities would receive a $10,000 tax credit for every full- time job created for up to ten years. The tax credit is capped at $250,000 per year (per business location), however. Harris would also appoint regulators to "crack down on consolidation in the agriculture industry," connect every home to affordable broadband by 2024 and empower farmers and ranchers to be part of the climate fight and solution. Full details of the plan can be found here.
Candidates are seeing a post-debate fundraising bump. According to Amy Klobuchar's campaign, the Minnesota senator raised $1.1 million in donations in the 24 hours after the debate. The surge in contributions lead to the campaign's best day in online fundraising to date, surpassing even her presidential campaign launch in February. Her campaign also said it collected more supporter sign-ups than it has on any other day so far. CBS News Political Unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice notes this comes as Klobuchar is still working to qualify for the November debate. While she reached the 165,000-donor threshold, she still needs to reach the polling threshold. Candidates have until November 13 to qualify.
About 20 minutes away from Mr. Trump's rally, former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke and the Dallas Democrats will be holding a counter "Rally Against Fear." O'Rourke Tweeted Thursday morning, "This president has trafficked in hate and racism. He has tried to make people afraid of our differences. But tonight, Texans are going to come together and we are going to stand up to all of that." During his own 2018 run for U.S. Senate, O'Rourke was able to win five of the Congressional Districts within the Dallas County. Democrats in Texas are hopeful they'll continue to build off their state legislature gains and O'Rourke's effort in 2018 and flip the state blue in 2020.
"Donald Trump would not be doing one of these campaign rallies at this scale in Dallas, in Texas, if he was not scared and he did not know that the biggest battleground in the United States this year is Texas," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said at a press conference outside the American Airlines center reports CBS News Political Unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren's campaign rolled out 24 new endorsements in Iowa on the heels of Tuesday night's debate. Among the biggest names on the list was Sally Pederson, who served as Iowa lieutenant governor from 1999-2007 while Tom Vilsack was governor.
"Elizabeth is the candidate for change," Pederson wrote in an op-ed column for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. "She understands that to rescue our democracy and our economy we must end the corruption that enriches the few while leaving everyone else behind. She's also the candidate for results. Elizabeth has the experience, philosophy, temperament and track record to actually make that change happen."
CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster says Warren also picked up an endorsement today from Iowa State Representative Mary Wolfe, giving Warren seven endorsements from currently elected Iowa state legislators. That's the most of any candidate at this point. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker's campaign also announced 18 new endorsements today from activists around Iowa, including some UAW members and county level activists.
Andrew Yang has received more than 15,000 voter questions ahead of his 10-hour online Q&A schedule for Friday, CBS News Political Unit associate producer Ben Mitchell reports. Yang announced the Q&A during the last Democratic debate on Tuesday night. The event will run from 10 a.m. ET to 8 p.m. ET across various social media platforms, including Twitter's Q&A function, making him the first political candidate to use that product. The Yang campaign also announced Thursday that it had raised $500,000 since Tuesday's debate.
STATE BY STATE
Congressional members from South Carolina joined in the national chorus of leaders who mourned the passing of Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings today. Cummings was the House Oversight and Reform Committee chairman and as reported by "60 Minutes" earlier this year, had served on the committee under four presidents. While his career will be remembered in part for the decades he spent in Maryland politics, Cummings had roots in South Carolina by way of his parents who were sharecroppers in the state.
CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell says Palmetto State congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle saluted Cummings. Former Republican Representative Trey Gowdy, of South Carolina, said in a series of tweets this morning that while they "rarely agreed on political matters," Cummings' legacy benefited everyone regardless of politics.
"Elijah Cummings was one of the most powerful, beautiful & compelling voices in American politics," tweeted Gowdy. "His legacy to me, above all else, was his faith. A faith in God that is being rewarded today with no more fights, no more battles, and no more pain."
President Trump is in Texas on Thursday to make three stops around the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area. He is scheduled to attend two closed events in Forth Worth – a roundtable with supporters and remarks at a fundraiser – then head to the new Louis Vuitton-Rochambeau workshop in Alavarado, Texas before hosting a reelection campaign "Keep America Great" rally at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, reports CBS News Political Unit associate producer Ellee Watson.
The campaign has scheduled pump-up events for the rally over the past few days. On Tuesday, the president's son Donald Trump Jr., campaign senior adviser Kimbery Guilfoyle, and campaign manager Brad Parscale held an event in San Antionio that the campaign called a "preview" of the Dallas rally, and then Parscale gave remarks to a Trump Leadership Initiative training in Dallas on Wednesday. Ahead of the rally, the campaign is hosting what it calls "45 Fest" where a band and food trucks are entertaining the Trump supporters as they line up outside the American Airlines center.
The push comes in a state whose 38 electoral votes are crucial to a general election win. In 2016, President Trump only won the state by nine percentage points, the lowest margin for a Republican nominee since Bob Dole defeated Bill Clinton by just about five percentage points in 1996.
Parscale in San Antonio and Dallas emphasized how ahead their ground game is this cycle compared to 2016, but that hasn't stopped Democrats from eyeing the state as a potential pickup, especially after the party flipped two U.S. House seats, 12 State House seats, and narrowly lost a U.S. Senate race in 2018.
ON THE $$$
Small-dollar online donors are fueling major cash hauls for democratic candidates and causes, says CBS News Political Unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. The fundraising nonprofit ActBlue announced Thursday it raised more than $297 million in the third quarter of 2019, bringing the group's total fundraising to more than $700 million in 2019.
ActBlue said it saw more contributions made in Q3 of this year than any quarter in ActBlue history. Now, the organization claims small-dollar donors are on track to give $1 billion using ActBlue technology in 2019 alone and $3 billion by the end of the 2020 election cycle. According to ActBlue, small-dollar donors made more than 10 million contributions in the third quarter of the year and that 58% of donations were made using a mobile device. It also received donations made by one million new unique donors. The average donation was $28.
Across the aisle, Republicans have also raised massive amounts of cash but have struggled to build an ActBlue equivalent. Earlier this year, Republicans launched WinRed to help them compete online. On October 1, WinRed announced it raised $30 million in the third quarter of 2019 from more than 639,000 donors in all fifty states. The average donation was just over $46. While that number pales in comparison to ActBlue's third quarter, WinRed claims it raised in three months what ActBlue raised in its first 3.5 years.