Trump Call Could Be 2020 Echo of Clinton Emails: Campaign Update

(Bloomberg) — Kirsten Gillibrand’s presidential campaign may be over, but she still wants to advocate for women.

Her campaign said she would relaunch her Off the Sidelines PAC, which she founded eight years ago to help elect women at all levels of government. During her run for president the PAC became mostly dormant, but now she is committed to raising at least $1 million for female candidates.

“Setting that example is a responsibility I take seriously,” Gillibrand said in a statement, referring to setting an example for young girls interested in politics, “so while my presidential campaign may have ended, I’ve never felt more clarity of purpose.”

Trump Call Could Be 2020 Echo of Clinton Emails (3:15 p.m.)

Has Donald Trump found the 2020 equivalent of Hillary Clinton’s emails?

The details of a whistle-blower complaint from the intelligence community about the White House remain murky, but some of the details may suggest a reprise of the scandal over Clinton’s improper use of a private email server during the 2016 election. Trump repeatedly suggested she had deleted a huge trove of emails to cover up wrongdoing. This time, the target could be Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden via the dealings of his son, Hunter, in Ukraine.

According to reports in the New York Times and the Washington Post, the whistle-blower complaint partly involves a phone call in which Trump made some kind of commitment to a foreign leader that involves Ukraine. In tweets, Trump maintained that the call was a “perfectly fine and respectful conversation” and referred to “’highly partisan’ whistle-blowers.”

And speaking at the White House on Friday, Trump said “it doesn’t matter” if he asked Ukraine to look into Biden and argued it should be done regardless. “Someone ought to look into Joe Biden,” he said.

To add to the intrigue, Trump lawyer and confidant Rudy Giuliani told CNN on Thursday that he had asked the Ukrainian government to open an investigation into Hunter Biden’s business dealings in that country. “Of course I did,” he said Thursday.

For months, Trump has argued that Biden improperly pressured Ukraine’s top prosecutor to drop an investigation into a company that Hunter Biden was involved in. There’s no evidence to back up that assertion, and the current prosecutor has said that he does not “see any wrongdoing” by either Biden.

In tweets, Trump maintained that the call was a “perfectly fine and respectful conversation” and referred to “’highly partisan’ whistle-blowers.” And anyway, Giuliani argued in a tweet, there would be nothing wrong with telling Ukraine’s president “he better investigate corruption that affects US.” — Ryan Teague Beckwith

Bernie Sanders Going All-Out to Win Iowa Caucus (1:46 p.m.)

Bernie Sanders is going all out in Iowa in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sanders lost the state to Hillary Clinton by the slimmest of margins in 2016 — 49.6% to 49.9%. This time, he says his campaign has so far made 1 million contacts with Democratic voters in Iowa.

His campaign says it is using an army of 25,000 organizers and volunteers who have phoned and texted voters, or knocked on their doors. In addition, the campaign said it held more than 1,300 organizing events with Iowa supporters. In the next five days, Sanders’ backers are hosting more than 165 parties, where volunteers will train with campaign field staff in preparation for the Feb. 3 caucuses.

On Saturday, Sanders will begin a four-day swing across the state dubbed the “Bernie Beats Trump tour.” It will take him to four counties that went for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, then flipped to Trump in 2016. Sanders aims to show that he can bring voters who have turned on the Democrats back into the fold.

Recent Iowa polls have shown frontrunner Joe Biden with a double-digit lead over his closest rivals, Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who are trading off for second place depending on the poll. An average of recent polls by Real Clear Politics had Biden with 28.5% support in the state, while Warren had 18% and Sanders had 17.5%. — Laura Litvan

U.S. Ready to Repel Cyberattacks in 2020 (5:00 a.m.)

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the American military is preparing to repel foreign governments’ attempts to interfere with the 2020 elections.

“Our adversaries will continue to target our democratic processes,” he said at a conference hosted by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency on Thursday. “We must remain adaptable and continue to advance our capabilities. This is already happening in preparation for the 2020 elections.”

Esper did not specify which countries might be involved in the cyberattacks, but then-Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned early this year that adversaries view 2020 as an “opportunity to advance their interests” and may seek to hack election systems. And a Trump administration official said in June that Russia, China, and Iran are already trying to manipulate U.S. public opinion before 2020.

“Influence operations against the American public are now possible at a scope and scale never before imagined,” Esper said. “The Department of Defense has an important role in defending the American people from this misinformation, particularly as it pertains to preserving the integrity of our democratic elections.”

Kevin McAleenan, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting director, warned that the threat has intensified since the last presidential election. He said at the conference that “2018 was maybe a playoff game, 2020 is the Super Bowl with election security.” — Alyza Sebenius

COMING UP

MSNBC will host a climate change forum for a second day Friday featuring Cory Booker, Steve Bullock, Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer and Republican primary challenger Bill Weld. Michael Bennet, Julian Castro, John Delaney, Tim Ryan, Bernie Sanders, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang spoke Thursday.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union will host forums in Iowa and Michigan with Democratic presidential candidates on Sept. 29 and Oct. 13. Bennet, Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have confirmed that they will attend.

–With assistance from Alyza Sebenius, Laura Litvan and Ryan Teague Beckwith.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emma Kinery in Washington at ekinery@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, Max Berley

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