August 13, 2019

Billionaire Tom Steyer is the newest member of the overcrowded 2020 Democratic presidential primary field, but he's cruising past candidates with a longer track record in the race to the debate stage. That's good news for him, but it's opened the door for criticism of his campaign strategy and the Democratic National Committee.

The perception is that Steyer's personal wealth has given him a leg up over other candidates who are gasping for air as they try to reach the 130,000 donor and 2 percent polling thresholds to qualify for the third primary debate in September, The Atlantic reports.

Steyer has funneled $7 million into TV commercials since he announced his campaign last month, which is reportedly more than most of the other campaigns have raised overall, and he's already spent $2.5 million on digital ads, a figure greater than any other candidate, including President Trump. A lot of that advertising is on Facebook, which one aide from a rival 2020 campaign equated to a "wealth transfer" between Steyer and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.

Steyer for his part said that his ability to attract donors and support in the polls — he's just one DNC-recognized poll short of fully qualifying for September — isn't about his spending abilities, but his message and vision. "Running grassroots campaigns, at some level, is about running a good campaign, but this is about whether you have something to say that's different, that's true, and that's important," he said.

Not everyone's buying that. "If this is truly about the grassroots, you wouldn't set up a system where you can buy grassroots," one campaign aide told The Atlantic, referring to the rules set in place by the DNC. Read more at The Atlantic. Tim O'Donnell

11:33 p.m.

Not a few people rolled their eyes when Bill Clinton's impeachment nemesis Ken Starr lectured the Senate about the evils of impeachment in President Trump's impeachment trial Monday, but The Late Show turned it into a song. This homage to the 5th Dimension's groovy hit version of the Hair song "The Age of Aquarius" isn't about expanding our minds with peace and understanding, exactly, but as Stephen Colbert and his writers discovered, Kenneth Starr rhymes beautifully with William Barr. Watch below. Peter Weber

10:58 p.m.

President Trump mostly avoided talking about his impeachment during a Tuesday night rally in Wildwood, New Jersey, focusing instead on slamming Democrats and praising the GOP's newest lawmaker.

Speaking to a capacity crowd of 7,000, Trump claimed he has been busy "creating jobs" and "killing terrorists" while "congressional Democrats are obsessed with demented hoaxes, crazy witch hunts and deranged partisan crusades." He commended Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) for leaving the Democratic Party in December, calling him "brave" and "principled" for defying "the left-wing fanatics in his own party."

He also accused Democrats of trying to take away health care and criticized the Green New Deal, a proposal to tackle climate change and guarantee jobs in clean energy industries. The resolution would force Americans to "close your factories, get rid of your cows," he said, incorrectly. "You don't have too many cows in Wildwood, but if you do, they're gone." Catherine Garcia

10:00 p.m.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said the quiet part out loud on Monday when she told reporters she was "really interested" in seeing how Iowa voters react to President Trump's impeachment lawyers attacking former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

"Iowa caucuses are this next Monday evening," Ernst said. "And I'm really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, these Democratic caucusgoers. Will they be supporting Vice President Biden at this point?"

While meeting with Iowa voters on Tuesday, Biden said Ernst "spilled the beans. She just came out and flat said it. You know, the whole impeachment trial for Trump is just a political hit job to try to smear me, because he is scared to death to run against me, and he has good reason to be concerned."

Ernst is up for re-election this year, and with her Biden comments, she has invited "Democratic activists to look at her," Sue Dvorsky, a former chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, told The New York Times. Brian Bruening, chairman of the Clayton County Democrats, said the Trump legal team's arguments had "zero effect on actual caucus voters. I don't know any Joe Biden supporter whose support of Biden has lessened because of any of the impeachment issues." Catherine Garcia

8:45 p.m.

In response to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, Starbucks has closed more than 2,000 stores in China.

The flu-like virus originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and there are more than 4,500 confirmed cases; at least 130 people have died. Starbucks is the world's largest coffee chain, and China is the company's biggest growth market, making up 10 percent of its global revenue, Reuters reports. There are 4,292 Starbucks locations in China, and the stores that are staying open have revised operating hours.

The company does expect this to temporarily affect its finances. Due to its strong quarterly earnings, Starbucks had planned on giving an update on its 2020 financial forecast, but that has been delayed because of the outbreak, Reuters says. Catherine Garcia

7:47 p.m.

On Sunday, the Israeli government will vote on annexing Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and parts of the Jordan Valley.

This could cover up to 30 percent of the West Bank, the area Palestinians want for their own independent state.

Standing alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Trump on Tuesday unveiled his Middle East peace plan, which calls for Israel to control a unified Jerusalem and a new Palestinian state including outer portions of East Jerusalem. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he rejected the "nonsense" proposal and "will not kneel down." Catherine Garcia

6:33 p.m.

During a meeting of Republican senators on Tuesday afternoon, GOP leaders announced that they do not have enough votes to stop witnesses from being called at President Trump's impeachment trial, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not share any numbers, but did acknowledge the votes aren't where he needs them to be, people with knowledge of the meeting said. The senators will vote later this week on whether to allow witnesses in the trial, and a new Quinnipiac poll shows 75 percent of voters want to hear witness testimony.

Trump's lawyers finished their opening arguments on Tuesday, and declared the trial should end "as quickly as possible" without any witnesses. On Sunday, The New York Times reported that in his forthcoming book, former National Security Adviser John Bolton contradicts the defense argument that Trump did not engage in a quid pro quo with Ukraine. The White House blocked Bolton from testifying during the House impeachment inquiry. Catherine Garcia

5:44 p.m.

White House adviser and President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner had some strong words for Palestinians on Tuesday.

Kushner, who played a central role in devising the Trump administration's Middle East peace plan unveiled earlier in the day, said during an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour that the proposal offers Palestinians the best chance for a "better life," suggesting it'd be a mistake for them not to accept the offer. If they don't, he said — while placing much of the blame on Palestinian leadership — they'll "screw up" yet another opportunity like they've always done.

Palestine's President Mahmoud Abbas already said he "categorically rejects" the plan, and protests broke out in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday, so Kushner's harsh comments don't seem like the best bet to defuse tensions at the moment. Still, he went on to defend the plan elsewhere, telling Bloomberg if Palestinians "truly want a state," they should "come to the table."

It's not just Palestinians who were disappointed in the White House's solution, though. Neighboring Jordan wasn't a fan, and several analysts felt it did little to curb Israeli settlement and annexation in the West Bank in the long run. Kushner, though, argued securing a four year freeze on Israeli settlements was the deal's biggest accomplishment. Tim O'Donnell

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