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Democratic 2020 hopefuls to swarm San Francisco, while Biden stays away

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Democratic 2020 hopefuls to swarm San Francisco, while Biden stays away

(Reuters) – Fourteen Democratic presidential hopefuls seeking money and support in California, the most liberal and populous U.S. state, will descend on San Francisco this weekend for a state party convention – with front-runner Joe Biden notably absent.

FILE PHOTO: Twenty four 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are seen in a combination from file photos (L-R top row): U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet and former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel. (L-R middle row): Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, U.S. Representatives Tulsi Gabbard, John Delaney, Eric Swalwell, Tim Ryan, Seth Moulton, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. (L-R bottom row): Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Former Gov. John Hickenlooper, Gov. Jay Inslee, Andrew Yang, Marianne Williamson, Mayor Wayne Messam, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. REUTERS/Files/File Photo

Appearances by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and other candidates highlight California’s growing importance in the Democratic nominating process. Its 500 delegates are up for grabs three months earlier than in prior years, which could set the tone for the rest of the 2020 race.

Biden, a moderate, will instead attend an event in Ohio, avoiding what may become a raucous convention dominated by the party’s progressive wing. Still, some political experts and party members said Biden risks sending the signal that he is taking California for granted.

San Francisco Democratic Party Chairman David Campos, who supports Sanders, called Biden’s plan “a mistake.”

“He has been expecting some sort of coronation,” Campos said. “But there are no coronations in California.”

Biden’s campaign declined to say why the candidate opted not to attend, and California party officials say they do not know either. Biden is scheduled to speak Saturday night at a Columbus, Ohio, dinner held by the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group.

“In the coming weeks, Vice President Biden is looking forward to returning to California to meet with voters, learn firsthand about their concerns, and ultimately, compete strongly in the state,” Biden spokesman Jamal Brown said in an email to Reuters.

Senior Biden campaign aides will attend the San Francisco convention, Brown said.

Biden is one of 24 Democrats seeking the party’s nomination to run against Republican President Donald Trump in 2020. The former vice president under President Barack Obama has led polls nationally and in California since announcing his candidacy in April.

But experts say the field in California remains wide open. Sanders does not have the state locked up despite his progressive bona fides, nor does Harris, who has won statewide elections in California for attorney general and senator. Her Oakland presidential campaign launch drew 20,000 people.

Sanders, Harris and the dozen other candidates attending the convention will speak in brief appearances on Saturday and Sunday to about 5,000 delegates, guests and journalists gathered in San Francisco. Most of the contenders also plan to address a nearby event by the progressive group MoveOn.org.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Representative Adam Schiff and Governor Gavin Newsom also are expected to attend.

CHASING BIDEN

Despite the short speaking slots and the crowd of candidates, attending the convention will be worthwhile for most of the hopefuls, said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. The poll in April showed Biden leading in California with support from 26% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning respondents, followed by Sanders with 18% and Harris with 17%.

“Any candidate right now is chasing Joe Biden,” Malloy said. “And chasing money. And California is the best place to chase the money.”

For Biden, however, the calculation may be different.

Skipping the convention allows him to sidestep potential uncomfortable questions from progressives, said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.

Biden will miss an opportunity to reach out to the party’s left flank but also avoids the risk of saying something that conservatives can use against him later, Sonenshein said.

“It’s a very energetic convention with a lot of people with their own opinions,” Sonenshein said. “What you say to make them happy may come back to haunt you later.”

The move also keeps Biden from appearing to be just one in a crowded field jostling for attention, said political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a retired professor of public policy at the University of Southern California.

Had she been working for Biden, Bebitch Jeffe said, she would have advised him not to attend.

“He doesn’t have to be part of this beauty contest,” she said.

Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; additional reporting by Tim Reid; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and David Gregorio

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U.S. president confirms no withdrawal from security pact: Japan

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s top government spokesman said on Tuesday the United States has confirmed its defense treaty with Japan after a report suggested U.S. President Donald Trump considered withdrawing from the pact.

Bloomberg reported on Monday that Trump has recently spoken privately about withdrawing from the treaty as he is of the view that the pact treated the United States unfairly.

“The thing reported in the media you mentioned does not exist,” Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo.

“We have received confirmation from the U.S. president it is incompatible with the U.S. government policy,” he added.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; editing by Darren Schuettler

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Winning ugly? Media hit Trump style over Iran, but sometimes it works

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Winning ugly? Media hit Trump style over Iran, but sometimes it works

It’s a headline that captures the establishment’s disdain for the president’s unorthodox style of governing.

“Trump’s Erratic Policy Moves Put National Security at Risk, Experts Warn,” says The Washington Post.

Never mind that the first three critics quoted — after a defense from Mike Pence on CNN — were Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.

The other “experts” were two professors who were mildly critical and a lawyer who was supportive of Trump.

But the piece does get at a central question about this president in the wake of the aborted airstrikes against Iran, which he called off with 10 minutes to spare.

Does Trump preside over a messy and sometimes chaotic process? Of course. But sometimes that style gets results.

On Iran, for instance, many liberals liked that he pulled back on bombing over the downing of an unmanned drone, even as they say he extinguished a fire that he had started. (Maureen Dowd: “As shocking as it is to write this sentence, it must be said: Donald Trump did something right.”)

TRUMP SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER DELIVERING ‘HARD-HITTING’ SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAN

In negotiations, the president often makes a dramatic demand or threat, sparking a media and diplomatic furor over whether this time he’s gone too far — then hammers out a compromise and claims victory. It’s the style of a blustery New York real estate developer who’s always one minute from walking away from the table, transferred to the staid, tradition-bound world of Washington.

Over the weekend, Trump called off a wave of ICE arrests that was to begin on Sunday, which he said would begin deportations of “millions” of illegal immigrants. That set off the predictable uproar.

Trump, after a reported call with Nancy Pelosi, said he was delaying the arrests for two weeks to allow time for negotiations with the Democrats. Nobody seems to think a deal can be struck in so short a period, but Trump won points with his base by threatening the mass arrests and again drove the news agenda.

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The Post’s take: “Three policy turnarounds by President Trump this month have underscored his freewheeling governing style, an approach that some experts warn sends mixed messages and puts U.S. national security at risk …

“The results of Trump’s strategy on policy have been mixed at best — and few issues offer as complete a picture of the president’s habitual brinkmanship as his effort to overhaul U.S. trade policy.”

Remember when Trump threatened to close the Mexican border? The Beltway went ballistic. He didn’t.

PELOSI SAYS ‘VIOLATION OF STATUS’ NOT A REASON TO DEPORT ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS

Then he threatened to slap tariffs on all Mexican products, beginning at 5 percent, if the country didn’t crack down on migrants fleeing Central America for the U.S. border. Lo and behold, Trump got a last-minute agreement. It’s hard to judge how concrete these steps are, and The New York Times said most of them had been previously agreed to, but the perception — or perhaps the reality — is that he got Mexico to move.

Trump even used the tough-talk tactics against Canada before finally hammering out a trade deal. Whether the tariffs imposed on China ultimately lead to an agreement is another question.

The point is that while Trump’s approach horrifies the traditionalists, he rarely carries out the well-publicized threats.

I see a link between the zig-zagging negotiating style and the repeated failures of Trump’s vetting operation. Rather than wait for full-fledged inquiries and background checks, the president announces who he wants to nominate — and often has to pull back.

That was painfully on display when acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan had to withdraw over a violent family past that would have made clear he would be impossible to confirm. The same was true when the president had to drop his planned nominees to the Fed, Herman Cain and Steve Moore.

Axios obtained nearly 100 Trump transition vetting documents that clearly show the RNC and others were overwhelmed in trying to check on potential nominees. The documents show that ethical and management questions were raised about Scott Pruitt and Tom Price, who later had to resign their posts at EPA and HHS.

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As president, Trump has far more resources available to vet nominees, yet still rushes to name them before any real investigation.

This president isn’t going to win any awards for a tidy management process. But when it comes to military action and trade talks, he sometimes wins ugly.

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Emergency aid bill challenges Pelosi’s grip on Democrats

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Emergency aid bill challenges Pelosi’s grip on Democrats

A $4.5 million House bill aimed at providing more funding to migrant families detained at the U.S.-Mexico border is posing a challenge to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s grip on her party, as its liberal faction argue that the bill doesn’t go far enough while moderates worry that pushing for perfection will result in inaction at the border.

Calls for more funding at the border come amid reports that children detained entering the U.S. from Mexico are being held under harsh conditions. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Fox News on Monday that the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border is dire. Azar said HHS shelters are at capacity and the budget is not there to increase it unless Congress acts.

Customs and Border Protection Chief Operating Officer John Sanders told The Associated Press that Border Patrol stations are holding 15,000 people – more than three times their maximum capacity.

A $4.5 trillion House bill aimed at alleviating circumstances like these is up for a vote Tuesday, but liberal Democrats are calling for provisions to strengthen protections for migrant children, and challenge the Trump administration’s border policies. Democrats met on Capitol Hill with Pelosi late Monday to try and reach a compromise. The meeting reportedly eased some Democratic complaints.

PELOSI TELLS NEW YORK CROWD ‘VIOLATION OF STATUS’ NOT A REASON TO DEPORT ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS

Asked before the meeting about her concerns that Democrats’ push for perfection might result in inaction at the border, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., called it “a delicate situation.” Afterward, she appeared to have left the door open saying: “My main goal is to keep kids from dying,” before calling the humanitarian bill a “short-term” measure.”

But others weren’t swayed. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said after the meeting: “We cannot continue to throw money at a dysfunctional system. We are not just asking for simple changes to be made into this bill, but to go back to the drawing board and really address this from a humanitarian issue.”

The White House accused lawmakers in a letter earlier Monday of trying to undermine its efforts at the border, arguing that the House package does provide enough money to toughen border security or funds for Trump’s proposed border wall.

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Congress plans to leave Washington in a few days for a weeklong July 4 recess. While lawmakers don’t want to depart without acting on the legislation for fear of being accused of not responding to humanitarian problems at the border, it seems unlikely that Congress would have time to send a House-Senate compromise to Trump by week’s end.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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