While President Trump faces bruising poll numbers amid the coronavirus pandemic and financial crisis, his family business continues making money off his reelection bid, report CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga and political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. On March 31 and April 1, Trump Victory – a joint fundraising committee between the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee – made a series of 43 separate payments to Trump Hotel Collection totaling more than $380,000 according to the joint fundraising committee’s latest quarterly filing with the Federal Election Commission. The records describe the payments as “facility rentals” and range from more than $2,600 to $10,000 each. The same filing reveals another payment of more than $19,000 to the Trump Hotel Collection at the beginning of March, bringing the total spent by the committee at Trump properties to more than $400,000 in the second quarter of the year. According to Trump Victory, the 43 payments made over those two dates were for events that had “already happened.” According to a source familiar with the arrangement, the payments needed to be broken up because Mar-a-Lago’s credit card machine caps at $10,000.
The Republicans’ joint spending at Trump properties has become routine for both the GOP and Trump campaign. Records show since the start of 2019 through the first quarter of 2020, the committee spent more than $1.3 million at Trump properties. Some of the biggest payments over the past two years include a $75,000 payment to Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey in the third quarter of last year and a $126,090 payment to the Trump Hotel Collection in the first quarter of 2020. In 2019, nine payments totaling more than $105,000 also went to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC between April and June. An RNC official stated factors such as security, prices and convenience are all part of the committee’s decision-making process.
Apart from its joint fundraising committee, the Trump campaign committee has also been making payments to Trump properties since the president began his first presidential bid in 2015. Over the past two years, the Trump campaign has spent about $940,000 at Trump businesses. One of its larger payments is a recurring monthly payment of $37,541 to Trump Tower for rent of campaign facilities. The campaign has also made several payments amounting to more than $86,000 to the Trump Corporation for “legal & IT consulting.” The Trump campaign declined to comment on the rental fees.
FEC filings from the 2016 campaign show the Trump presidential committee alone paid Trump businesses more than $12.2 million over two years and at least another $1.4 million in 2017 and 2018. In 2016, the biggest share of the $12 million paid to the Trump Organization was for air travel. The New York Times noted that Mr. Trump paid his company $8.7 million to reimburse it for his air travel on his own plane. Now, he travels on Air Force One, and there is always an official White House visit paired with any campaign events. While it does not raise the same legal questions, Mr. Trump’s businesses have also been getting a boost from the Republican National Committee amid re-election efforts. Since the beginning of 2019, the RNC has spent at least $911,000 at Trump hotels federal filings show. One of its largest payments was for $491,702 at Trump National Doral Miami near the beginning of the year.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
From the medical response to the economic response, Joe Biden was in Delaware on Tuesday and lashed into President Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. “He’s quit on you and he’s quit on this country,” Biden said. For his part, Biden is focusing on increasing funding to the caregiving community in his latest proposal to revive the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. In the third arm of his “Build Back Better” jobs plan that was released on Tuesday, Biden focuses on childcare and eldercare, calling it a “21st century caregiving” model. Through this investment in quality, affordable care, Biden promises 3 million new jobs to aid those Americans out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic or who are underemployed. “This is about easing the squeeze of working families,” Biden said while laying out the plan in remarks in Delaware on Tuesday. “I know it’s hard to think of future when you’re just trying to get through the crisis at hand.” Biden says he will allocate $450 billion to give more seniors the choice to receive care at home or “in supportive community situations.” Specifically, the former vice president wants to target the 800,000-person Medicare waitlist for home and community care by increasing Medicaid funding to states. For low-income and middle class families, Biden wants to offer a tax credit of $8,000 to help pay for child care. Other ways to assist with this universal childcare goal is capping childcare costs at 7% for low-income families, the price deemed by Health and Human Services Department when childcare begins to be unaffordable. In other Biden news, his campaign upped their TV ad buy with $15 million this week in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The topic of the new ads revolve around COVID-19 response and includes a Spanish language ad on the economy. But one voter Biden does not have to court is conservative columnist and Trump critic George Will who said during an Aspen Institute conversation that he already plans to vote for Biden in November.
President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday seeking to prevent undocumented immigrants from being counted in the 2020 census for the purpose of apportionment, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. The population numbers in the census dictate how many seats in the U.S. House of Representatives a state has. Mr. Trump in a statement said, “My administration will not support giving congressional representation to aliens who enter or remain in the country unlawfully.” The American Civil Liberties Union has called the order unconstitutional. The Trump campaign is hosting its first nationwide virtual fundraiser with President Trump Tuesday night. Mr. Trump has not been a presence on the Trump Campaign’s virtual events since they started up in March until this past weekend when he hosted four tele-rallies focusing on Wisconsin, Arizona, Michigan, and North Carolina. The event Tuesday is hosted by Trump Victory Finance Committee National Chair Kimberly Guilfoyle, according to a press release. The virtual fundraiser follows Monday’s fundraiser at The Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC that raised $5 million for Trump Victory, according to an RNC spokesperson.
In a New York Times op-ed published Tuesday, Senator Elizabeth Warren argued for a four-pronged approach to COVID-19 recovery for the country. “It is not possible to fix the economy without first containing the virus,” she wrote. “We need a bold, ambitious legislative response that does four things: brings the virus under control; gets our schools, child care centers, businesses, and state and local governments the resources they need; addresses the burdens on communities of color; and supports struggling families who don’t know when the next paycheck will come.” CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak says the op-ed came ahead stimulus negotiations that were planned for later in the day. Warren’s plan consists largely of proposals she’s already made, such as a $50 billion childcare bailout and a set of guaranteed rights for essential workers during the pandemic. She also wrote that the next pandemic relief package should give states at least $500 billion in aid, allocate at least $175 billion to help public schools reopen safely and invest $350 billion into communities of color hit particularly hard by the pandemic.
CBS NEWS COVID CHRONICLES
CBS News is chronicling what has changed for the lives of Americans in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster spoke to Joyce Peoples, a middle school English language arts teacher in Milwaukee, who said she thought that she might spend a few weeks away from the classroom when Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers shut down schools in mid-March as COVID-19 started spreading across the country. “We were thinking, OK, we’ll be closed for [a few] weeks and then spring break and then just going to wait for things to calm down,” Peoples said. Her students — and 75,000 others in Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) — did not return to the classroom. When it was clear students wouldn’t be returning any time soon, challenges arose, including reaching students’ families, communicating plans for the road ahead and making sure students had devices and internet access for virtual learning. Peoples said remote online learning in the spring provided a “mixed bag” of results for her students. “There’s no way that I was able to teach as naturally, the flow of a classroom on a computer,” Peoples said. “So there were things lost, but I also think that there were things that were gained. And I think what was gained was that children learned to adapt.” Online learning will continue in Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) in the fall. The district faces major challenges in ensuring virtual learning is accessible to its whole student body, primarily low-income and students of color. MPS has continued providing meals to tens of thousands of students who get free breakfast and lunch at school.
School districts in Wisconsin have the final say over their plans and some are considering full in-person learning or a hybrid solution, said Jennifer Kammerud of the Department of Public Instruction. A survey released by MPS last week showed that more than three quarters of parents and students think it’s possible to return to school with a virtual option. The staff prefers a plan with two days in-person and the rest of the week virtual. Forty-six percent of parents, 31% of staff and 26% of students said they aren’t comfortable returning to buildings this fall. Several parents spoke out against the virtual plan during last week’s board meeting. “What about the parents that have to work for a living? Do we matter?” a parent asked. Others fear students will fall behind and blasted the district for problems with virtual learning in the spring, which one parent described as “an abject and embarrassing failure.” Some parents applauded the district for taking steps to ensure the safety of students and families, but many expressed concerns about how to ensure a quality education for the most vulnerable students. Milwaukee has had more than 12,000 COVID-19 cases and about 250 deaths. Black and Latino residents make up about 58% of the population, according to U.S. Census estimates, but account for about 70% of COVID-19 cases in Milwaukee. MPS comprises nearly 90% students of color. MPS hopes to bring students back in some capacity later in the fall. Teachers during the school board meeting and in interviews with CBS News said they prefer to be in the classroom once it’s safe, but said they want to see a drop and downward trend in cases, along with plenty of protective equipment and sanitizing supplies. “I don’t want to have to attend any virtual funerals,” Nicolo Onorato, a high school special education teacher, told CBS News. “I don’t want to have to see any of my students or colleagues lose their lives.”
CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry told reporters on Tuesday that he agrees with Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams’ assessment that the city is not prepared to host the Republican national convention, which is just 34 days away. CBS News reported Tuesday that Williams said he has “significant concerns with the viability of the event.” However, during Tuesday’s press conference, Curry added that Williams has communicated he plans to continue working with convention planners to secure resources that will allow his team to plan a safe event. According to the mayor’s team, they have requested up to $35 million from the Department of Justice through a securities grant and are expecting notification of an awarded budget in the coming days. As previously reported by CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson, the Jacksonville Host Committee for the Republican National Convention has stated that convention admission would be limited to regular delegates for the first three days. In a memo obtained by CBS News political correspondent Ed O’Keefe, the RNC said there would be an area outside of the convention venue, designated as the “Festival Venue Area,” that will be accessible to all delegates, alternates, and guests Monday through Thursday of the convention. The committee also announced health measures for the convention, which will include on-site temperature checks, available PPE, sanitizing protocols, and available COVID-19 testing. According to the memo, every potential convention participant attending in Charlotte or Jacksonville will be sent an in-home COVID-19 test paid for by the RNC. Only participants who test negative will be allowed to attend the convention activities.
Following reports that the Democratic National Committee had approached former Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican, to speak at their convention next month, DNC member Brianna Westbrook, an Arizona Democratic Party vice chair and former top Bernie Sanders surrogate, pledged Monday to “aggressively push back and organize against” the move. More than 100 delegates have already co-signed Westbrook’s letter to the party’s leadership that welcomes Kasich’s support for Democrats but cites a number of issues — from curbing public sector unions to signing abortion restrictions — where the Republican feuded with Democrats in Ohio. “It started in Arizona, and then started doing outreach to other state delegations, just starting with Bernie supporters and then the outreach started to the Biden delegation. And that’s really when we started to realize: ‘oh, this isn’t just a progressive issue. It’s not just the Bernie delegates who are upset about this,'” Jade Duran, a Sanders delegate from Arizona, told CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. A convention spokesperson declined to confirm whether Kasich would be speaking at the event, saying “programming details are still being finalized.” Duran added, “It was really surprising to me that he would be invited to speak when he’s basically gone against everything that our party stands for and everything that we’re fighting for.”
Blaming the “heavy-handed approach” of Nevada Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak, former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt announced Monday that his Annual Basque Fry and the upcoming CPAC West planned in Northern Nevada has been canceled amid the coronavirus outbreak. Laxalt said “more than 2,000” had bought tickets for the event next month which had been slated to feature a number of conservatives, including Trump campaign advisor Mercedes Schlapp and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. Despite concerns following news of a CPAC attendee testing positive for coronavirus in March following their gathering in Washington, organizers had initially sounded confident of the event’s prospects. CPAC West attendees were also asked to agree to a “waiver of liability” for potential COVID-19 exposure. “We’re going to be there come rain, come shine, come whatever they’re going to throw at us,” Matt Schlapp, president of the American Conservative Union, had vowed in June.
All five of Pennsylvania’s living former governors and more than a dozen former elected officials in the state have teamed up in an effort to educate voters on how to safely cast ballots in November, reports CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak. VoteSafe on Tuesday launched a bipartisan coalition in the state to “raise awareness among Pennsylvania residents so they know what voting options are available to them under the state’s constitution and according to county election laws,” according to a press release. The effort comes after Pennsylvania saw a 17-fold increase in mail-in and absentee voting in its June primary and as Mr. Trump has questioned whether it’s secure. “Mail-In Voting, unless changed by the courts, will lead to the most CORRUPT ELECTION in our Nation’s History,” Mr. Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. The Pennsylvania coalition, however, called mail-in voting “safe and secure” in a press release and said the pandemic has increased the need of Pennsylvanians to know their voting options. “It is highly unlikely that polling locations will operate as usual in November, or that the voting experience will be anything close to normal, given the lingering effects of COVID-19,” former Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Dave Reed, co-chairman of VoteSafe PA, said in a statement. “We need to do all we can to ensure Pennsylvania voters have accessible, secure mail-in ballots and safe, in-person voting sites.
IN THE HOUSE
After a tense exchange at Tuesday’s House GOP Conference, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz called for House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney to step down from her position. First reported by Politico, Gaetz tweeted “Liz Cheney doesn’t view her role as chair of the conference as one of serving the Republican members. She seems to think we’re there to serve her. That’s not leadership.” The disagreements stem from Cheney’s comments criticizing Mr. Trump’s response to the pandemic, as well as her support of Todd McMurtry, who challenged, and lost to Congressman Thomas Massie in a primary. Politico reported that Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs also attacked Cheney of “undermining the GOP’s ability to win back the House.” Biggs’ House office did not respond to CBS News for clarification.
Biggs heads the Freedom Caucus, which Gaetz is a part of, a group that has previously butted heads with those in Republican leadership. Donald Trump Jr. also jumped in, tweeting, “We already have one Mitt Romney, we don’t need another…we also don’t need the endless wars she advocates for.” At a press conference, Cheney said “Donald Trump Jr. is not a member of the House Republican conference” and that she takes her leadership position “very seriously.” I’m honored to serve as the House Republican Conference chair and particularly honored to serve the people in my own way,” she said, calling the disagreements from earlier a “healthy exchange of views.”
POLLING & ADS
Meanwhile, after several weeks of polls released by House Democrats, the Congressional Leadership Fund and National Republican Congressional Committee have been steadily releasing their own internal polls in targeted districts reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. In Iowa’s 3rd, a poll of 400 registered likely voters in the district found that incumbent Democrat Cindy Axne remains virtually tied with former Congressman David Young. A poll in New Mexico’s 2nd district also shows a tie between Congresswoman Xochitl Torres-Small and GOP challenger Yvetter Herrell. Neither poll showed the toplines for how the presidential race would play out in these districts, though Torres-Small holds a seat that Mr. Trump won by 10 points in 2016.
The House GOP-backed Congressional Leadership Fund also released three polls in recent weeks, two in targeted Democrat-held districts and one for an incumbent Republican. In Utah, the poll found Republican Burgess Owens ahead of incumbent Democrat Ben McAdams by 9 points. The poll also found Mr. Trump with a 6 point lead against Biden in this district, which he won by 6.7 points in 2016. In Virginia, the poll showed Democrat incumbent Elaine Luria tied with former Congressman Scott Taylor. Like other vulnerable House Democrats, Luria holds a massive fundraising advantage, with $2.88 million to Taylor’s roughly $311,000. Lastly, a poll in Pennsylvania’s 1st district showed incumbent Republican Brian Fitzpatrick up 15% against Democratic challenger Christina Finello. This is in contrast with two internal Finello campaign polls showing the race tied.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released new ads across Texas on Tuesday morning. Their ads are running in three targeted districts in Houston and Dallas suburbs, Texas’ 10th, Texas’ 22nd and Texas’ 24th. The committee will be airing ads in Hindi and Chinese in Texas’ 22nd district, the first time ever in the Committee’s history. Sri Preston Kulkarni, the Democratic candidate in Texas’ 22nd, is running to become the first person of Hindu faith in Congress. “We need to start reaching out to all communities if we want to build the coalition we need to overcome the hate and divisiveness that pervades our political system. That’s why we’re talking to voters in 21 different languages,” Kulkarni tweeted. The ad itself attacks Nehl’s record as Fort Bend County Sheriff, showing news clips of him downplaying reports of human trafficking in the state and problems of jails under his overview being out of compliance with state law.