Biden Shifts From Ukraine to Health Care: Campaign Update

(Bloomberg) — After a weekend spent responding to largely discredited allegations of impropriety from President Donald Trump, Joe Biden’s campaign is attempting to shift the conversation back to health care this week.

On Monday, the campaign said it would spend the week focusing on Biden’s plan for expanding Obamacare while assailing Trump’s “vicious efforts” to dismantle it.

The shift comes after reports this weekend that Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden and his son Hunter.

Polls show that most Americans are uncomfortable with eliminating private insurance, as proposed by two of Biden’s chief rivals, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and the Biden campaign is eager to highlight those differences. The focus on health care will mostly be through digital efforts, as the former vice president will spend most of the week fundraising and has no scheduled events around the theme this week.

“We cannot let any scandal, tweet, or desperate attempt to stay in power from this president distract us from the reality of a second-term of Donald Trump’s presidency: a president focused on demolishing our health care system and forcing tens of millions of Americans to pay the price,” Biden said in a statement.

Group Says Trump May Have Broken Election Law (5:43 p.m.)

President Donald Trump might have violated election law when he urged his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Joe Biden, according to complaints filed by a campaign finance watchdog group.

Common Cause said that Trump, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and other political operatives solicited foreign nationals for campaign help when they asked Ukrainian authorities to reopen an investigation into largely discredited allegations against the Democratic front-runner and his son Hunter Biden.

Federal law prohibits foreign citizens from contributing money or other things of value to campaigns. It also bars candidates and their representatives from asking foreigners for such assistance.

Even if Trump did not offer a quid pro quo to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the form of U.S., merely asking for the inquiry to be reopened could violate federal law, the group said.

Common Cause filed its complaints with U.S. the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission. In addition to Trump and Giuliani, the complaints name Victoria Toensing, who was once considered for Trump’s legal team, and GOP donors Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman as participants in the effort to persuade Ukraine to aid Trump by investigating the Bidens. — Bill Allison

Sanders Would Push Saudi Arabia-Iran Talks (4:32 p.m.)

Bernie Sanders said he could ease Middle East tensions by having the two regional powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran, meet at the negotiating table — and if they don’t, Saudi Arabia would lose U.S. support.

“What President Bernie Sanders would do is bring Saudi Arabia, bring Iran around the table and say, ‘You know what? We’re not going to spend trillions of dollars sorting out your laundry. Get it together. Stop your damn wars, alright?’” Sanders said to a crowd of about 200 at a town hall at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

“I think in many ways we need to rethink our relationship with countries in the Middle East,” he added. “I think we have got to end the U.S. approach which supports Saudi Arabia and just attacks verbally or otherwise Iran.”

The Democratic presidential candidate has long advocated ending interventionist U.S. foreign policy and voted against the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The U.S. said Friday it would send a “moderate” number of troops to the Middle East and contribute missile defense capabilities to the Saudis in response to last weekend’s attack on oil facilities. American officials blame Iran for the attack that knocked out half the production of oil from a key Saudi field. — Emma Kinery

Higher Bar Set for Democrats’ Fifth Debate (3:44 p.m.)

The Democratic National Committee on Monday announced the higher criteria to qualify for the fifth candidate debate in November.

To make the cut, candidates must show they’ve received donations from at least 165,000 unique contributors, up from 130,000 for the October debates. These must include at least 600 donors per state in at least 20 states.

And they must meet one of two polling thresholds: either 3% or more in any four national or single-state polls or at least 5% in two polls from the first four primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada. In the September and October debates, candidates needed to have 2% support in four approved polls.

Although the new thresholds are only slightly higher, they are likely to lead to a winnowing of the field. As of now, only seven candidates — Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Yang — poll above 3% on average nationally, according to Real Clear Politics. In the most recent Iowa poll, only five candidates polled above 5%. The DNC has not announced a date or a site for the forum. — Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou

Weld Says Trump Ukraine Call Is ‘Treason’ (9:36 a.m.)

Donald Trump’s 2020 Republican challengers said the president’s July 25 call with his Ukrainian counterpart is the latest evidence that he should not be in the office — with one rival suggesting it was tantamount to “treason.”

Allegations that Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during the call to investigate Democratic front-runner Joe Biden amount to “treason, pure and simple,” former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, who is seeking to mount a primary challenge to Trump, told MSNBC.

Former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh, another Republican who is running against Trump for the party nod, said the president should be impeached over the conduct.

Weld, Walsh and former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford — a third Republican who has announced his intent to challenge Trump — gave a group interview to MSNBC on Monday and urged the national party to permit state contests for voters to choose the party’s 2020 candidate, even as Arizona, Kansas, Nevada South Carolina and Alaska have already canceled their GOP primaries. — Kasia Klimasinska

Booker Says Thousands Answered Fundraising Plea (8:02 a.m.)

Cory Booker is touting the best two fundraising days of his campaign after announcing he’d quit the Democratic presidential race unless he collects $1.7 million by Oct 1.

“Ten thousand people have responded,” the New Jersey senator told MSNBC on Monday. “If people want me in this race go to CoryBooker.com.”

On Saturday, Booker’s campaign manager told reporters that unless they were able to raise the $1.7 million within 10 days, they may be unable to compete for the nomination.

Booker, the former Newark, New Jersey, mayor raised $12.3 million by June 30 and had $5.3 million cash on hand. But he lags behind the fundraising of other leading candidates, including Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke. — Caitlin Webber

COMING UP

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

–With assistance from Caitlin Webber, Kasia Klimasinska, Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou, Emma Kinery and Bill Allison.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tyler Pager in Philadelphia at tpager1@bloomberg.net

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

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