President Donald Trump has a nose for weakness. And Joe Biden’s softest spot is his near-mystical reverence for family.
Nothing is likely to cause Biden more pain, to test his cool and to force him into an error more than an attack on his kin. The former vice president can barely get through a sentence without a poignant reference to his late parents, his second wife, Jill, his children or his grandchildren. In a life scarred by tragedy, he has already buried two of his kids and a first wife. Grief over the death of his eldest son, Beau, from brain cancer nixed a run for president in 2016.
So Trump has plunged his 2020 election dagger into Biden’s second son, targeting Hunter Biden with unsubstantiated allegations about his business dealings in Ukraine and China. Going after family is one of his preferred tricks: In the 2016 presidential race, Trump mocked the Bush dynasty, knowing it would unhinge its scion Jeb. He upset Ted Cruz by insulting his wife, and raised Bill Clinton’s affairs while debating Hillary Clinton (though eliciting only a slow blink).
Yet, with little sense of irony, Trump resents attacks on his own clan (and has shown flagrant disregard for potential conflicts of interest in his own sons’ business ventures. As is often the case with leaders with an authoritarian streak, his kids — kept close in the White House and in Trump’s businesses — are the only ones who can offer the loyalty he craves.
Trump signaled to then-special counsel Robert Mueller that probing his family accounts would cross a red line. But there are no such lines when the President himself perceives an enemy.
‘We grandmothers … are going to stand next to you’
“We grandmothers, we older people, are going to stand next to you, lock arms and try to create a future for you that is livable.” That’s Jane Fonda talking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about being taken into police custody during a climate protest in Washington last week.
Confused by Brexit?
Confused by Brexit? The UK’s House of Commons Library released this flowchart to map out all the potential outcomes. See if that helps.
Postcard from Kiev
About 20,000 people marched in a nationalist rally in Kiev, with many calling on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky not to move forward on a peace deal with Russia-backed separatists in the country’s east.
“The protesters marched in groups. We saw regular soldiers, veterans and nationalist groups. Some had their faces covered and wore all black. Most striking was the diversity of ages — we saw teenagers right up to pensioners,” writes CNN’s Sebastian Shukla to Meanwhile from Kiev.
“Flares were lit and chants such as ‘Death to the enemy’ and ‘Glory to Ukraine’ were shouted by the entire contingent. Protesters marched down to Maidan Square and the Presidential Administration, where they covered the building in stickers saying ‘No to capitulation’ — a clear reference to Zelensky’s recent move to form a peace deal in the east.”
‘A strategic calamity’
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the rare step of openly breaking with Trump over a key policy issue. “I am gravely concerned by recent events in Syria and by our nation’s apparent response thus far,” the Kentucky Republican said. “I look forward to discussing what the United States can do to avoid a strategic calamity with my Senate colleagues and with senior administration officials.”
Syria, in brief
Kurds in northern Syria are gambling with their autonomy by turning to Russia and the Syrian government for protection after Trump withdrew US troops. Now the White House is trying to cover its blushes after the President’s strategy was panned as a foreign policy disaster at home and abroad. Here’s the latest, in brief:
- The Syrian Kurdish governing coalition said it would sign a “memorandum of understanding” with Moscow, in an attempt to “prevent the Turkish attack.”
- Syrian President Bashar Assad’s army entered several cities in the area, according to state media — part of a deal with the Kurds to enforce the border with Turkey.
- Turkey accused the Kurds of deliberately releasing ISIS prisoners. Trump soon echoed that claim — but a senior US official told CNN that’s just not true.
- Trump announced new sanctions on Turkey over an incursion for which he cleared the way last week, warning that its “action is precipitating a humanitarian crisis and setting conditions for possible war crimes.”
- Vice President Mike Pence said he would travel to Turkey to push for a ceasefire between groups in the area.
- In a press briefing about US sanctions on Turkey, Vice President Mike Pence told reporters that Trump had spoken to both Kurdish General Mazloum Kobani Abdi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and CNN got a look at his notes in the process.
The CNN/New York Times presidential debate tonight in Ohio will be the most pivotal moment yet in the Democratic race. The clash among 12 candidates will highlight growing vulnerabilities among front-runners and offer outsiders one of a dwindling number of chances to break through. Here’s what each major candidate must do:
Joe Biden must make sure his debate is not overshadowed by Trump’s unsubstantiated claims about his son’s financial dealings. He has fiercely rebutted any suggestion of impropriety, and his Democratic rivals have defended him so far. But they may not be above wondering why Hunter Biden risked conflicts of interest by doing business abroad while his father was vice president.
Bernie Sanders is desperate for a strong showing after a heart attack raised questions about his age and health. The 78-year-old senator from Vermont was already in danger of losing the battle for the party’s progressive left. He can’t afford to slip.
Elizabeth Warren has overtaken Sanders and is now considered a co-front-runner with Biden. That means she’s got a target on her back. The liberal senator from Massachusetts bills herself as the candidate with a plan for anything, but expect her rivals to attack her glaringly unspecific position on a top issue: health care.
Pete Buttigieg’s quietly impressive campaign and bumper fundraising could set him up for a possible late surge into the first contest in Iowa. But he must disprove impressions that — as the 37-year-old mayor of a small Indiana city — he lacks the experience to be president.
Kamala Harris needs something to happen. Soon. A campaign that started with great promise has sputtered, partly due to the California senator’s shaky grasp of her own policies. Time is running out for a leap into the top tier.
Everyone else — including Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former Obama administration Cabinet Secretary Julián Castro and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas — simply must give voters a reason to care. Some of them are already in danger of falling short of the stricter criteria for the next debate, in November.
Today’s number: 12
Tonight’s debate will see 12 candidates squeeze onto the stage, making it the biggest single-night showdown in the history of the presidential primaries.
Thanks for reading. Today, South African former President Jacob Zuma faces corruption charges in court; North and South Korea play each other in Pyongyang for a World Cup qualifier; and new air pollution measures come into effect in Delhi.
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