Relief Package Negotiators at Impasse as Meadows Says Time is Running Out

Posted on 08/06/2020 8:16 AM

Biden blasts Trump's trade policy, chides on far less than targeted China imports


In Today’s Updates


Market Focus:
* Jobless claims fell to 1.186 million last week, versus 1.423 million expected
* U.S. trade deficit fell 7.5% in June
* Drop in ag exports outpaces import decline, sets new record monthly trade deficit
* Fed’s Clarida expects economy to fully recover from pandemic by end of 2021
* Chicago Fed's Evans: U.S. economy faces much steeper climb sans Congress aid

* Bank of England holds interest rates at 0.1%, offers mixed outlook
* Forecasters increase predictions and say 10 more hurricanes are set
* Goldman Sachs: investors underestimating chance of Covid-19 vaccine in 2020
* U.S. airline fuel consumption crept up slightly in June


Policy Focus:
* Big hurdles linger in reaching next aid package... 'Trillions of dollars apart'
* Trump administration offers big changes, but Dems want a lot more
* Lawmakers want USDA to aid sheep, lamb producers
* Peterson to USDA: Use unspent CFP funds to boost payouts to cattle producers
* Sens. Grassley, Ernst seeking SRE info from DOE
* Lighthizer comments on USMCA implementation, China, other trade issues
* Biden: Trump’s trade policy failing badly, notes sales to China way behind target
* Pompeo urges Americans not to use technology products owned by China
* U.S. has become dependent on China for vital pharmaceutical supplies

Update on re-opening America... and around the world:
* Chicago officials to begin school year with online-only classes

Coronavirus update:
* CVS says test delays abating
* Fauci to Reuters: Regulators promise politics will not guide vaccine timing
* Goldman Sachs Group Inc. warns successful coronavirus vaccine could upend markets
* British government says it won’t be using 50 million face masks it bought earlier
* Facebook removes post by Donald Trump’s re-election campaign


Politics & Elections:
* Biden holding virtual roundtable on rural issues today with Sen. Stabenow
* Biden will accept the Democratic nomination virtually from his home in Delaware
* Biden in tense exchange with CBS reporter over cognitive decline test
* Trump leads Biden by three points in Iowa; Ernst leads Greenfield by three points
* Trump praises Marshall for Kansas Senate primary victory
* Trump ties w/Clinton for most federal judges thru Aug. 1 of a president's fourth year

Other Items of Note:
* RMS clears insurance companies to extend premium payment deadlines by 60 days
* Lebanon declares two-week state of emergency after an explosion in Beirut




Equities today: Global stock markets were mixed and the U.S. stock indexes are pointed toward higher openings after a much better than expected weekly jobless claims number which came in lower at 1.186 million, versus a pre-report expectation of 1.423 million.


     U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow rose 373.05 points, 1.39%, at 27,201.52. The Nasdaq gained 57.23 points, 0.52%, at 10,998.40. The S&P 500 added 21.26 points, 0.64%, at 3,327.77.


On tap today:


     • USDA Weekly Export Sales, at 8:30 ET. (See China section below for details from report.)
     • U.S. jobless claims, due at 8:30 a.m. ET, are expected to register at 1.423 million in the week ended Aug. 1, down slightly from 1.434 million a week earlier.
     • Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan speaks about the economy at 10 a.m., and governor Lael Brainard speaks about instant payments at 12 p.m. ET.
     • Japan household spending data for June are due at 7:30 p.m.


Jobless claims fell to 1.186 million last week. Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell to 1.19 million last week, the Labor Department reported this morning. The decline follows two weeks of increases in mid-July as states imposed new shutdowns. There are 31.3 million U.S. workers receiving jobless aid payments.

     WJC latest

U.S. trade deficit fell 7.5% in June. The Commerce Department on Wednesday reported that the U.S. trade deficit fell 7.5% from $54.8 billion in May to $50.7 billion in June. Economists had expected the index to fall more, to $50.1 billion. Exports rose 9.4% from $144.7 billion in May to $158.3 billion in June. Imports grew 4.7% from $199.5 billion in May to $208.9 billion in June.


     Monthly trade

Drop in ag exports outpaces import decline and sets new record monthly trade deficit. U.S. agricultural exports in June fell to $9.96 billion, the smallest since May 2016 and down nearly 4% from May, while imports eased to $11.09 billion, down 2.5% from May, setting a new monthly record trade deficit of $1.13 billion. This marked the second month in a row for a new record trade gap for the sector that has historically recorded trade surpluses on a monthly and annual basis. June was the fourth month in a row with a trade deficit and marked the fifth out of the last six months that has happened. The results brought cumulative ag exports for fiscal year (FY) 2020 to $102.22 billion against imports of $100.49 billion for a trade surplus of just $1.734 billion. In order to meet USDA’s FY 2020 ag export forecast of $136.5 billion, exports would now have to be average $11.43 billion over July-September. To meet the ag import forecast of $130.2 billion, imports would have to average $9.9 billion over July-September. Both forecasts will be adjusted in USDA’s update due August 26, with the export outlook likely to be trimmed and the import forecast expanded, setting the stage for an annual trade deficit for agriculture, something that has not happened based on data going back to the mid-1970s.


Fed’s Clarida expects economy to fully recover from pandemic by end of 2021. In an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box Wednesday, Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Richard Clarida said he expects to see an economic rebound in the third quarter of 2020 and for the economy to recover to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021. Clarida said, “The economy took a huge hit in the spring. My own personal forecast is that we’ll see a rebound in economic activity in the third-quarter data. The course of the economy is going to depend on the course of the virus, and it’s a complex picture.” He added, “It will take some time I believe before we get back to the level of activity we were at in February before the pandemic hit. My baseline view is that we could get back to the level of activity perhaps towards the end of 2021. There are a lot of moving parts with the virus and the global outlook.”


Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said the U.S. economy would face a much steeper climb should Congress fail to at least partially extend more generous unemployment benefits and take broader fiscal policy action. “Trouble is brewing with the expiration of these relief policies,” Mr. Evans told reporters. “If we go very long without somehow addressing the reduction and evaporation of that support, I think it’s going to show up in lower aggregate demand. And that would be very costly for the economy.”


    Personal income


Bank of England held interest rates at 0.1%, and offered a mixed outlook for Britain’s economy. U.K. banks hold enough capital to keep on lending and absorb the losses that are likely to arise due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bank of England said today, after keeping its key interest rate at just 0.1%. The BOE also maintained its huge bond-buying program, which stands at £745B (after a £100B expansion in June), and said it does not expect the U.K. economy to exceed its pre-coronavirus levels until the end of 2021 (the previous forecast detailed the second half of 2021). The central bank said it now expects the U.K. economy to shrink by 9.5% in 2020, from an initial forecast of a 14% drop. However, the BoE said it would take longer for the U.K. economy to recover its precrisis size than the BOE had initially predicted, warning it may now be the end of 2021 rather than the second half of next year. The Bank’s 15% surge in 2021, predicted in May, was revised down to a 9% rise.


Market perspectives:


     • Forecasters have increased their predictions and say 10 more hurricanes are set to follow Hurricanes Hanna and Isaias. The team at Colorado State University predicts that there will be 24 named storms throughout the year, including nine that have already formed. The forecast also predicts five of the hurricanes will reach Category 3, 4 or 5. “The team predicts that 2020 hurricane activity will be about 190% of the average season,” according to the new forecast. “By comparison, 2019’s hurricane activity was about 120% of the average season."


     • Iron ore futures continue to rally on strengthening demand from China.


     • U.S. lumber futures are also soaring.


     • Goldman Sachs says investors are underestimating the chance of a Covid-19 vaccine in 2020, an event that could push the S&P 500 11% higher.


     • Crude oil prices again moved little in Asian action, with U.S. crude down three cents at $42.16 per barrel and Brent crude up six cents at $45.23 per barrel. As the U.S. trading start nears, U.S. crude has expanded losses to trade under $42 per barrel while Brent crude has shifted between small losses and gains to trade around $45.15 per barrel.


     • U.S. demand for gasoline and refined products remains below 5-year range.

     • U.S. airline fuel consumption crept up slightly in June, though it is still hovering at the record-low level it reached in April. U.S. airlines consumed 558 million gallons of fuel in June, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 23% more than they did the prior month. However, consumption is still a far cry from what it was in June 2019: U.S. airlines consumed 1.6 billion gallons that month, or more than three times what they used in June 2020.


     • Shares of U.S. airlines are on the rise in premarket trade as bipartisan support builds for an additional $25 billion in aid to one of the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus. "We don't want to lose our airlines. If they're looking at that, whether they’re Republican or Democrat, I'd be certainly in favor. We can't lose our transportation system," President Trump said at a White House press briefing. Congress set aside $25 billion for U.S. carriers in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March on the condition that they wouldn't cut jobs through Sept. 30. The new proposal would extend those protections through the end of March 2021.




Big hurdles linger in reaching next aid package. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said a plan would be hard to reach without "agreement on the major issues" after meeting leading Democrats yesterday. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that President Donald Trump was prepared to use executive authority to extend some measures such as supplemental unemployment insurance.


     Meadows warned time is running short, saying he had become “extremely doubtful that we’ll be able to make a deal if it goes well beyond Friday.” Meadows continued, “I think at this point we’re either going to get serious about negotiating and get an agreement in principle. We’ve been spending so much time together that if you’re not making progress, there’s no sense to continue.”


     President Trump said in an interview with Fox News’ Fox & Friends that Democrats are seeking a “bailout” for blue states after “years of mismanagement.” Trump on Wednesday threatened to take executive action to extend an eviction moratorium, suspend collection of the payroll tax and boost unemployment benefits unless a coronavirus relief deal can be reached quickly. But reports note it is unclear how far Trump could actually go on his own, and some allies have described the threat of executive action as a way to gain leverage over Democrats in the talks.


     Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, "Republicans proposed a tax break for three-martini lunches but no food assistance for hungry kids."


     'Trillions of dollars apart.' The White House and Democrats have not agreed to any "top-line numbers," according to Meadows, and remain "trillions of dollars apart" on Covid-19 stimulus negotiations.


     The Trump administration has offered $400 per week in enhanced federal unemployment benefits through Dec. 14 (up from $200), but Democrats aren't backing down from $600 per week. Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also put $200 billion in state and local aid on the table, but that is far less than the $1 trillion Democrats are seeking. Republicans say they are prepared to walk away and rely on executive actions by President Trump if an agreement isn't within reach by the end of the week.


Bipartisan group of House Ag members want USDA to aid sheep, lamb producers. House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), ranking member Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and 19 other panel members urged USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to aid U.S. lamb and sheep producers impacted by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and the apparent closure of the nation’s second-largest processor representing an estimated 20% of the nation’s processing capacity. “We ask that you use all available authorities and funding at your discretion, including as provided under the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter (CCC) Act as well as the work of the Marketing and Regulatory Programs and Rural Development mission areas, to help these farmers and ranchers find alternate processing and marketing options immediately,” the lawmakers wrote. Link to letter.


     “The loss of processing capacity has only magnified the struggles and challenges facing lamb and sheep producers across the U.S.,” said Peterson. “We hope that Secretary Perdue will move quickly to address this pressing need and aid these producers in identifying and establishing more alternative processing options for U.S. lamb producers in both the short and long terms.”


     Conaway comments. “The closure of the second largest lamb and sheep processing facility in the country will have a ripple effect felt throughout the entire market. As America’s farmers and ranchers continue to feel the strain caused by Covid-19, it’s critical that we provide support to help them through this difficult period,” said Conaway.


     The Mountain States Rosen (MSR) lamb plant in Greeley announced its closure last month. The Mountain States cooperative of 145 members in 15 states including Colorado filed for bankruptcy in June. "My customers are asking where are they going to go," Jeff Hasbrouck, a cooperative member whose feedlot would see 150,000 to 175,000 lambs per year, told the Greeley Tribune. "Everyone is in a panic mode. Our options are not good. Those guys have no idea where to harvest at the moment. Everyone is trying to figure out what to do." Before filing for bankruptcy, Mountain States handled 8,000 head of lamb each week, at least 350,000 heads per year and had capacity for up to 800,000 lambs annually, giving it an estimated one-fifth of the total U.S. lamb market.


     JBS USA, whose Greeley beef processing plant is adjacent to the Mountain States facility, bought the building and certain assets to expand its local beef operations. With Mountain States no longer running, stakeholders said it will open the way for imported lamb to take charge in the U.S. market. JBS is the largest importer of Australian lamb in the U.S., and Australia and New Zealand are responsible for 65-80% of lamb in the United States. The pandemic also played a part in adding to Mountain States Rosen's financial struggles due to a purchase of a New York state operation in 2008, which was shut down by coronavirus.


     Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and several other senators argued against the sale in a letter to U.S. Justice Department Antitrust Division Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim. Barrasso said he, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and 10 additional senators and representatives asked Delrahim to immediately open an investigation into the acquisition. He said MSR is a cooperative owned by 145-plus American families. “We understand (the current buyer) is not the first potential buyer to express interest in the MSR facility. However, it appears after submitting a winning bid during bankruptcy proceedings, JBS is preparing to completely shut down all lamb processing at the site,” Barrasso’s letter reads. The lawmakers urged Delrahim to immediately open an investigation and demand JBS cease any irreversible actions which might harm the ability of sheep ranchers to get their animals to market.


Peterson to USDA: Use unspent CFP funds to boost payouts to cattle producers shorted by current formula. The House Ag Chairman made the suggestion during an online debate Wednesday with candidates for the 7th and 8th congressional districts in Minnesota. The event took place at Minnesota Farmfest near Redwood Falls. USDA as of Aug. 3 has paid out just over $6.8 billion of the $16 billion authorized for CFAP.


Sens. Grassley, Ernst seeking SRE info from DOE. The issue of small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) continues in focus for Iowa Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst. The pair were the lone Republicans voting this week against the confirmation of Mark Menezes to be deputy secretary at the Department of Energy (DOE).


     In an August 4 letter to Menezes (link), the pair expressed their continued concern about SREs and retroactive requests that have been received and reviewed by DOE. Some of the requests were ones that DOE had previously reviewed, Menezes acknowledged in an earlier letter to Grassley and Ernst. “We are concerned DOE wasted valuable time and resources to score these petitions again,” the lawmakers said. “We now understand that all petitions have been sent back to EPA and that this was a demand from oil-state senators for your nomination to be considered. We have concerns this process is not transparent and does not promote accountability in government. Given the remaining questions about how and why these petitions were scored, we could not support your nomination when it came before the Senate.”


     As for the SREs, the lawmakers said granting the petitions “would increase the pain facing the biofuels industry and the rural communities that biofuels support. These petitions threaten to undercut the RFS and fail to meet the standard set by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision on the use of SREs.”


     DOE and EPA have cited Confidential Business Information (CBI) as a reason they will not publicly disclose decisions made by the agencies on SREs. “However, this rationale cannot be used to shield Congress from conducting oversight responsibilities and we ask for a more transparent and collaborative process going forward,” the lawmakers said. “While you state that specific company names, number of petitions, and the year of the petition are considered CBI, we would ask that you provide a legal opinion on how providing such basic information could cause damage outweighing the public’s right to know about decisions its government is making. Regardless, we ask that you work to provide a confidential setting for our staff to review past year petition analysis along with current year analysis to allow us to conduct our congressional oversight duties.”


     The pair also called on Menezes to “provide the public with information on DOE's score of each petition and when the score recommendation was transmitted back to EPA.”


     With Ernst involved in a tight re-election battle for her Senate seat, she is expected to keep pressing the issue on U.S. biofuels policy in the weeks ahead.


Lighthizer tells lawmakers U.S. will take action under USMCA if needed on several products; cautions China Phase 1 purchase commitments are annual. Written responses that U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer provided to the Senate Finance (link) and House Ways and Means Committees from his June 17 appearances have been released and contain some common themes.


     When it comes to dairy with Canada and labor or biotech issues with Mexico, Lighthizer repeatedly assured that his office will pursue action under U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) provisions “if necessary.”


     Regarding the Phase 1 agreement with China, Lighthizer also stated several times that “China’s commitments to purchase U.S. food and agricultural products are annual commitments for calendar years 2020 and 2021, so we will not be able to assess definitively whether China has fulfilled these commitments for 2020 until the end of this year. At the same time, we have been following China’s progress in purchasing U.S. food and agricultural products very closely and have been discussing our concerns with our Chinese counterparts as they arise. We have made it clear that China needs to find a way to satisfy all of its purchases commitments under the Phase 1 Agreement.”


     The second phase of trade talks with Japan have been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, but Lighthizer said he expects those negotiations to start within the next few months.


     The U.S. is also engaged in trade negotiations with Kenya and the U.K., but he refused to offer any timeline on when those negotiations would conclude, observing that “negotiating comprehensive free trade agreements is a complex and time consuming process.”


     As for other countries, Lighthizer pointed out they have been “engaging regularly with large economies like Brazil and India on specific issues that affect U.S. businesses to find solutions that will increase U.S. exports of goods and services and help to rebalance the U.S. trade deficit.”


     Asked if there has been a change in views on Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Lighthizer explained the reasoning for the tariffs and simply stated, “I am not aware that present circumstances have changed this determination.”


     Regarding the European Union (EU) farm-to-fork effort, Lighthizer clearly has concerns that track those of U.S. lawmakers — that it could limit the ability of farmers to use technology. “USTR shares your concerns that the EU’s hazard-based pesticide policy could harm not only U.S. producers, but also could keep safe, modern, innovative tools and technologies from farmers worldwide. As we continue engaging with the EU, we are seeking to address a wide array of non-tariff and SPS barriers, including EU pesticide policy,” Lighthizer said.


Update on China:

  • China’s purchases of U.S. ag goods for week ended July 30. China’s purchases of U.S. ag products the week ended July 30 shifted more toward 2020-21. For the next marketing year, China purchased 1.937 million tonnes of corn, 75,600 tonnes of sorghum, 474,000 tonnes of soybeans, and 46,856 running bales of U.S. cotton. For the 2019-20 marketing year, China’s net purchases were 85,000 tonnes of wheat, 107,130 tonnes of sorghum, 58,704 tonnes of soybeans, and 615 running bales of U.S. cotton. For U.S. meat for delivery in 2020, China bought 665 tonnes of beef and 5,631 tonnes of pork, with no purchases as of yet for delivery in 2021.

    USDA via its daily sales announcement reported sales of 126,000 tonnes of soybeans to China for 2020-21.

  • Biden says Trump’s trade policy is failing badly, notes sales to China way behind target. Saying President Donald Trump “hasn’t even managed to secure half of China’s purchase commitments” under the Phase 1 agreement, the Democratic presidential candidate said, “This is only the latest setback for a deal that has failed to deliver for the American people literally every step of the way.” Biden told the NABJ-NAHJ joint virtual convention on Wednesday.

    Trump is “going after China the wrong way” in a go-it-alone trade war that has damaged U.S. agriculture and manufacturing, said Biden, in an interview to be aired today with the online convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

    Asked if he would keep the U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports, Biden replied, “No. Hey, look, who said Trump’s idea is a good one?” Biden added: “Manufacturing has gone in recession. Agriculture lost billions of dollars that taxpayers had to pay... We’re going after China in the wrong way.” China would reform its trade policies if there were a broad international coalition calling for it to follow world trade rules, he said. “That’s when China’s behavior is going to change,” he said. “And what we have done is we have disarmed ourselves. … We poked our finger in the eye of all of our allies out there.”

    Biden noted the role of U.S. allies in his China strategy. “We have disarmed ourselves. We make up 25% of the world economy, but we poked our fingers in the eye of all of our allies out there. The way China will respond is when we gather the rest of the world,” Biden said.

    China purchases

  • U.S./China Phase 1 tracker: China’s purchases of U.S. goods. Link.
  • Secretary of State Pompeo has urged Americans not to use technology products owned by China, including Alibaba, Huawei, Tencent and Baidu. Pompeo detailed a new five-pronged "Clean Network" effort aimed at curbing potential national security risks, expanding the "5G Clean Path" program. The U.S. wants to see "untrusted Chinese apps" removed from Apple's and Google's app stores, called for companies to limit availability of their apps on phones made by Huawei and urged firms to halt using Chinese cloud providers for storing sensitive data. It signals an escalation of the Trump administrations efforts to limit the spread of Chinese technology after declaring a potential ban on TikTok earlier this week. Tencent and Alibaba Group, which both hit record highs in July, are up 48% and 24% for the year, respectively. At the close of Hong Kong trading today, Tencent’s market capitalization was $687 billion and Alibaba’s was $712 billion, in the neighborhood of Facebook Inc.’s $710 billion as of Wednesday’s close in New York.
  • The U.S. has become dependent on China for vital pharmaceutical supplies. Acetaminophen, antibiotics and high blood pressure treatments are among a slew of pharmaceutical ingredients made predominantly by China. Pandemic-related disruptions and high demand have expanded concerns about the supply of medicines, the Wall Street Journal reports (link).

    Pharm China

Update on reopening America... and around the world:

  • Chicago officials said that they would begin the school year with online-only classes, amid rising cases of coronavirus in the city, narrowing the number of top districts still considering in-person classes.

Coronavirus update:

  • Summary: Source: Johns Hopkins University as of 6:30 a.m. ET.

    — 18,830,344: Confirmed cases world-wide, and 584,556 deaths
    — 52,810: New U.S. cases recorded yesterday
    — 4,823,892: Total confirmed cases in the U.S.
    — 1,388: Deaths in the U.S. recorded yesterday
    — 158,256: Total U.S. deaths
    — 58,920,975: Tests conducted in the U.S.

    Link to Covid Case Tracker

    Link to Our World in Data

  • CVS said test delays are abating as the drugstore giant temporarily reduced the amount of new tests it administered while adding additional labs to process backlogged results.
  • Scientists have been assured by regulators that the timeline to approve for a potential coronavirus vaccine will not be influenced by politics, Dr. Anthony Fauci told Reuters in an interview (link), as the development process proceeds at rapid pace ahead of a November presidential election. "We've spoken explicitly about that, because the subject obviously comes up, and the people in charge of the regulatory process assure us that safety and efficacy is going to be the prime consideration," said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Fauci said he was "certain" of what the White House wants to see for vaccine approval but added there has been no pressure to "to do anything different than what we're doing."
  • Goldman Sachs Group Inc. warned that a successful coronavirus vaccine could upend markets, sparking a sell-off in bonds and a rotation out of tech stocks. A vaccine could be approved by the end of November, the analysts wrote, which would mean it could spark disruptive rotations just as investors are digesting the results of the U.S. election.
  • The British government says it won’t be using 50 million face masks it bought during a scramble to secure protective equipment for medics at the height of the coronavirus outbreak because of safety concerns.
  • Facebook removed a post by Donald Trump’s re-election campaign in which the president falsely claimed that children are “almost immune” to Covid-19. Although youngsters’ symptoms tend to be milder, they are still prone to catch the virus. Facebook said the post violated its policy around “harmful Covid misinformation.” Twitter suspended the Trump campaign’s account for a similar reason.


  • Links
    2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map
    The Green Papers

  • Biden holding virtual roundtable on rural issues today with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
  • Biden will accept the Democratic nomination virtually from his home in Delaware, rather than travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for the party’s convention later this month. Both Democrats and Republicans have scaled back their conventions, normally four-day extravaganzas, due to Covid-19. Fundraising reports released by the two campaigns showed that President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee raised a record $165 million in July, $25 million more than the Democrats.
  • Biden in tense exchange with CBS reporter over cognitive decline test. Joe Biden on Wednesday challenged CBS News correspondent Erroll Barnett, who asked if he has taken a test for cognitive decline. Biden said, “No, I haven’t taken a test. Why the hell would I take a test? Come on, man.” Biden compared the question to demanding that Barnett, who is Black, be tested for cocaine before coming to work. Biden asked Barnett, “What do you think? Huh? Are you a junkie?” In response, Barnett pointed to President Trump’s claims about his own cognition and questions about Biden’s mental condition, and Biden said, “Well, if he can’t figure out the difference between an elephant and a lion, I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Did you watch that — look, come on, man. I know you’re trying to goad me, but I mean ... I’m so forward-looking to have an opportunity to sit with the president or stand with the president and the debates.”
  • Trump leads Biden by three points in Iowa; Ernst leads Greenfield by three points. A Monmouth University poll of Iowa voters shows President Trump leading Joe Biden by a margin of 48%-45%. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) also leads challenger Theresa Greenfield (D-Iowa) by a 48%-45% margin. The survey of 401 registered Iowa voters was conducted over July 30-August 3 (+/- 4.9%).
  • Trump praises Marshall for Kansas Senate primary victory. President Trump praised Kansas GOP Senate primary victor Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) for his victory over Kris Kobach (R-Kan.). Trump tweeted, “A great race run by Roger against a very tough and smart opponent. Roger loves Kansas and will represent it incredibly well. He has my Complete and Total Endorsement. Will be a Big Win on November 3rd. This is not the opponent the Democrats wanted!”
  • Trump ties with Clinton for most federal judges through Aug. 1 of a president's fourth year, according to Ballotpedia. President Trump has appointed 202 Article III federal judges through Aug. 1, his fourth year in office. Tied with President Bill Clinton (D), this is the second-most Article III judicial appointments through this point in all presidencies since Jimmy Carter (D). The Senate confirmed 247 of Carter’s appointees at this point in his term. The average number of federal judges appointed by a president through Aug. 1 of their fourth year in office is 188. Trump has appointed two Supreme Court justices, 53 appellate court judges, 145 district court judges, and two U.S. Court of International Trade judges.

    Federal judges



  • USDA's Risk Management Agency is authorizing insurance companies to extend premium payment deadlines by 60 days. Premiums that originally would be due Oct. 1 now aren’t due until Dec. 1.
  • Lebanon has declared a two-week state of emergency after an explosion in Beirut killed at least 135 people and injured around 5,000. The government ordered the house arrest of anyone involved in the storage of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which it said was responsible for the blast. Beirut’s governor estimated that as many as 300,000 people have been left homeless.



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