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National Govt & Politics

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he'll tell U.S. President Donald Trump that the U.K.'s state-funded health service will be off the table in any future trade negotiations, and that the U.S. will have to open its markets to British goods if it wants to make a deal. Johnson said he would draw his red lines for the protectionist president when the two leaders meet this week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Johnson arrived at the global gathering on Monday with a balancing act to do. He's trying to persuade European Union leaders to strike an elusive divorce deal with Britain, while also laying the groundwork for a post-Brexit trade agreement with the United States — seen by the government as one of the main prizes of Brexit. The Conservative prime minister is keen to forge a strong relationship with the Republican president, who has called the British leader 'a really good man.' But Johnson told reporters flying with him to New York that he would tell Trump 'that when we do a free trade deal, we must take sure that the (National Health Service) is not on the table, that we do not in any way prejudice or jeopardize our standards on animal welfare and food hygiene in the course of that deal, and that we open up American markets.' Opponents of Brexit fear the NHS — an overstretched but much-loved institution founded in 1948 to provide free health care to all Britons — will be opened up to private U.S. firms as part of trade negotiations. They also have suggested Britain may have to accept chlorine-washed chicken, a U.S. poultry industry practice that is banned in the European Union. Johnson is likely to be dogged by Britain's divisive — and stalled — departure from the EU throughout his three-day trip to the U.N.'s annual gathering of world leaders. More than three years after Britain voted to leave the EU, the departure date has been postponed twice, and the U.K. Parliament has repeatedly rejected the only divorce deal offered. The country is facing a chaotic exit on Oct. 31 unless Johnson's government can, against the odds, secure a new agreement — or arrange another delay, something Johnson vows he will not do. The British leader is seeking to persuade a skeptical European Union to give Britain a new divorce deal before the U.K. is due to leave the bloc on Oct. 31. He is scheduled to hold talks at the U.N. with EU leaders, including European Council President Donald Tusk, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. Johnson said he didn't think there would be a 'New York breakthrough,' but he was encouraged by the progress talks had made since he took office less than two months ago. He replaced Theresa May, who resigned in failure after her EU withdrawal agreement was rejected three times by Parliament. 'If you think about when I first became prime minister, everybody was saying there's absolutely no chance whatever of changing the existing agreement,' he said. 'And I think nobody's saying that (now).' 'I think a large number of the important partners really do want a deal,' he said. But many leaders of the 28-nation bloc mistrust Johnson, a brash Brexit champion who played a big role in persuading British voters in 2016 to opt to leave the EU. And they say Britain has not come up with workable ways to maintain an open border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland — the key sticking point in the dispute. An open border underpins both the local economy and the peace process that ended years of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. The U.K. says the border can be kept free of customs posts and other obstacles through a mix of as-yet unproven technology and an all-Ireland zone for animals and agricultural products. 'What we are working for is a solution that enables the U.K. and the EU to respect the principles of the (EU) single market ... to allow an open border in Northern Ireland; to respect the achievements of the Northern Irish peace process; but also to allow the whole of the U.K. to come out of the EU,' Johnson said. 'And there is a way to do that. I think colleagues around the table in Brussels can see how we might do that. All it will take is a political will to get there.' Johnson is also facing claims that during his tenure as mayor of London between 2008 and 2016, he gave public money and places on overseas U.K. trade trips to a close friend running a startup business. He refused to comment to reporters when asked repeatedly about the allegations, first reported in the Sunday Times newspaper. The British government is also bracing for a Supreme Court ruling on whether Johnson broke the law when he suspended Parliament for five weeks ahead of the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline. Johnson says the suspension was a routine measure to prepare for a new session of Parliament. Opponents claim he acted illegally to stop lawmakers from interfering with his plan to leave the EU, with or without a Brexit deal. The 11 justices say they will rule early this week. A ruling that the suspension was illegal would be a huge blow to Johnson's authority and could see lawmakers recalled to Parliament immediately. ___ Follow AP's full coverage of Brexit and British politics at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit
  • Britain has concluded that Iran was responsible for attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sunday. He said the U.K. would consider taking part in a U.S.-led military effort to bolster the Gulf kingdom's defenses, while Iran's president announced plans for a rival Iranian-led security coalition. The U.K. Conservative prime minister also said the he would work with allies to 'de-escalate' Middle East tensions that have soared since the Sept. 14 attack on the world's largest oil processor and an oil field. Britain had previously held back from attributing blame for the drone and missile attack. Saudi Arabia and the United States say Iran was responsible, something Tehran denies. Johnson told reporters flying with him late Sunday to New York for the U.N. General Assembly that now 'the U.K. is attributing responsibility with a very high degree of probability to Iran' for the attack by drones and cruise missiles. 'We will be working with our American friends and our European friends to construct a response that tries to de-escalate tensions in the Gulf region,' Johnson said. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi later criticized Johnson's comments and said Britain should stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia amid its war in Yemen, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported. Shortly before leaving for the U.N. meetings Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that his country will invite 'all littoral states of the Persian Gulf' to join an Iranian-led coalition 'to guarantee the region's security.' His remarks were broadcast on state television. Rouhani said the plan — details of which he will present at the United Nations — is not limited to 'security' but also encompasses economic cooperation and an initiative for 'long-term' peace. Iran's president had already called on Western powers Sunday to leave the security of the Persian Gulf to regional nations led by Tehran. Johnson said he would meet Rouhani at this week's high-level U.N. gathering. Johnson is also due to hold talks with U.S. President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. He said he wanted Britain to be 'a bridge between our European friends and the Americans when it comes to the crisis in the Gulf.' The U.S. and Europe have diverged sharply on how to deal with Iran. European nations, including Britain, still adhere to an international deal designed to limit Iran's nuclear ambitions, but Trump has pulled the U.S. out of the agreement. Johnson stressed the need for a diplomatic response to the Gulf tensions, but said Britain would consider any request for military help. The Trump administration announced Friday that it would send additional U.S. troops and missile defense equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as part of a 'defensive' deployment. Officials said the number of troops was likely to be in the hundreds. 'We will be following that very closely,' Johnson said. 'And clearly if we are asked, either by the Saudis or by the Americans, to have a role, then we will consider in what way we could be useful. We will consider in what way we could be useful, if asked, depending on what the exact plan is.' A U.K. official told The Associated Press that a claim of responsibility for the attacks by Iran-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen was 'implausible.' He said remnants of Iran-made cruise missiles were found at the attack site, and 'the sophistication points very, very firmly to Iranian involvement.' He spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence findings. The official did not say whether Britain believed the attack was launched from Iranian soil. Iran denies responsibility and has warned any retaliatory attack targeting it will result in an 'all-out war.' On Monday, Rouhani said the U.S. was exaggerating the scale of damage wrought by the attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil company and using it as an excuse to send more troops and equipment to the kingdom. 'It is clear that they would like to completely take hold of eastern Saudi Arabia's oil,' he said. Rouhani also referred to a new round of U.S. sanctions on Iran's central bank and other financial bodies as a 'repeat cassette tape.' Many of the sanctions had applied before Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers promised to lift them, in exchange for curbing the country's atomic program. 'This means the U.S. is completely desperate,' he said, suggesting the U.S. had little leverage left over Iran. Meanwhile Monday, Iran's government spokesman Ali Rabiei said legal proceedings against a British-flagged oil tanker held by Tehran since July have concluded, though he doesn't know when the vessel will leave. However, the Stena Impero has not turned on its satellite-tracking beacon in 58 days nor has there been any sign that it has left its position off the Iranian coast near the port city of Bandar Abbas. Stena Bulk, the ship's Swedish owners, also has not said anything about the ship's departure. Iran's Revolutionary Guard seized the Stena Impero in July after authorities in Gibraltar seized an Iranian crude oil tanker. That ship has since left Gibraltar, leading to hopes the Stena Impero would be released. ___ Associated Press writers Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.
  • Faced with growing tumult at home and abroad, President Donald Trump heads into his three-day visit to the United Nations this week hoping to lean on strained alliances while fending off questions about whether he sought foreign help to damage a political rival. Trump's latest U.N. trip comes after nearly three years of an 'America First' foreign policy that has unsettled allies and shredded multinational pacts. A centerpiece of this year's U.N. schedule will be a Monday session on climate change that is not on Trump's schedule — although his press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, told 'Fox & Friends' Monday that she 'wouldn't be surprised if he popped in and stopped by.' Trump will address a meeting about the persecution of religious minorities, particularly Christians, an issue that resonates with Trump's evangelical supporters. The Republican president arrived in New York on Sunday against a backdrop of swirling international tensions, including questions about his relationship with Ukraine, the uncertain future of Brexit, the U.S. trade war with China, stalled nuclear negotiations with North Korea and a weakening global economy. The most immediate challenge may be Iran. Trump will try to convince skeptical global capitals to help build a coalition to confront Tehran after the United States blamed it for last week's strike at an oil field in Saudi Arabia. 'Well, I always like a coalition,' Trump said Friday, before going on to complain that under the old Iran nuclear deal, 'everyone else is making money and we're not.' Trump's fulfillment of a campaign promise to exit the Iran nuclear deal has had wide ripple effects, leading Tehran to bolster its nuclear capabilities and dismaying European capitals who worked to establish the original agreement. French President Emmanuel Macron, in particular, has been trying to lead Trump back to a deal and has suggested that the U.S. president meet with Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the U.N. meetings. Trump said Sunday that while 'nothing is ever off the table completely' he had no intention of meeting with Rouhani. Tensions between Washington and Tehran spiked after a Saudi Arabia oil field was partially destroyed in an attack that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed on Iran and deemed 'an act of war.' Now Trump will try to enlist wary world leaders in a collective effort to contain Iran. 'He needs to win over traditional allies to do what traditional allies do, to band together against common threats,' said Jon Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 'The attacks last weekend in Saudi Arabia are precisely the kind of thing that the U.N. was intended to address, to create rules for international behavior and opportunities for collective action.' Ukraine also looms large on Trump's schedule. Even one week ago, a one-on-one meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy would have been seen largely as an afterthought. But Trump's meeting on Wednesday with Zelenskiy will come just days after revelations that the president urged his Ukrainian counterpart in a July phone call to investigate the activities of the son of former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump said he was concerned about corruption; Democrats frame his actions as an effort to pressure Zelenskiy to dig up damaging material on a potential 2020 rival. That pressure is the subject of a whistleblower's complaint that the administration has refused to turn over to members of Congress, setting up a showdown with Democrats. Trump is defending himself against the intelligence official's complaint, asserting that it comes from a 'partisan whistleblower,' though the president also said he doesn't know the whistleblower's identity. He insisted Sunday his conversation with Zelenskiy was 'absolutely perfect.' But Democrats believe it shows that Trump is emboldened to seek foreign help for his reelection effort. There are plenty of other concerns in the mix during Trump's U.N. visit, including the U.S. trade war with China. But China's Xi Jinping isn't expected to attend, nor are several other prominent world leaders, including Russia's Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Among the nations whose leaders Trump plans to meet in New York: Iraq, Poland, Egypt, Pakistan, South Korea and Japan. He will also meet with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, clinging to power after failed attempts to steer his nation out of the European Union. Trump's annual address to the General Assembly is scheduled for Tuesday. Two years ago, he used the moment to deride North Korea's Kim Jong Un as 'Little Rocket Man' and threaten to destroy North Korea. A year ago, he drew laughter when he used his speech to recite his administration's accomplishments. His theme this year, according to aides, will be to reassert America's determination to uphold its sovereignty and independence, especially on issues of national security. But others may push a different path. 'There's an attempt to push back against the unilateralism, against the isolationism, against the populism that has affected not only the United States but other countries as well,' said Jeffrey Feltman of the Brookings Institution. 'I don't know how effective this will be, but it's an example of how some of our traditional allies are organizing themselves in response to the feeling that the United States, the U.K., that other sort of major engines in the U.N. system no longer are pressing the accelerator.' ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire
  • As President Donald Trump visits the United Nations building in New York this week, he won't be focused only on the global challenges facing the world body — he's still reliving the real estate deal there that got away. More than a decade later, Trump vividly recalls the overtures he made to rebuild the 39-story tower in the early 2000s and posits that he could have done a better job with the $2.3 billion project, which took about three years longer than anticipated and came in more than $400 million over budget. In the leadup to this week's U.N. General Assembly meetings, the president reminisced with reporters on Air Force One this past week about his efforts to win the project. 'I offered to rebuild it at a tiny fraction of what they were going to build it for,' he said. In 2005, then-developer Trump went before a U.S. Senate committee to complain that the U.N. was bungling the project. 'They don't know what they want, they don't know what they have, they don't know what they're doing,' Trump said. He appealed to the panel to let him manage the project. He would even waive his fee, he said. In the end, he didn't get the project, but his words were music to senators concerned about costs. 'When can you start?' said one appreciative lawmaker, Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., who went on to serve as the state's governor for two terms. Trump is scheduled to speak to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. He was asked if he'll think back to his real estate days when he returns to the U.N. compound. It sounded like he certainly would. 'I was a very good real estate developer,' he reminisced. He added that he had correctly predicted 'It will end up being much more' than expected. 'They didn't even know what New York steam was versus a boiler,' he said of the developers. 'They knew nothing.' Trump said an ambassador, he believed from Sweden, contacted him to ask how he could have built Trump World Tower, right across the street from the U.N. compound, for far less than what was envisioned for the smaller U.N. headquarters. 'I said, 'Because I know how the game is played,'' Trump recalled. Trump said he could have completed the project for about $500 million. He would have used marble instead of terrazzo, which is much more expensive, he recalled. The U.N. compound was largely built between 1949 and 1952. Over time, it no longer conformed to safety and fire codes, or to security needs. The U.S. provided about $488 million to help pay for the renovations, according to a 2015 Government Accountability Office report. Trump clearly got a kick out of rehashing the episode. It gave him one more chance to relive his developer days. 'It would have been a great job,' he declared.
  • In 2014, then-Vice President Joe Biden was at the forefront of American diplomatic efforts to support Ukraine's fragile democratic government as it sought to fend off Russian aggression and root out corruption. So it raised eyebrows when Biden's son Hunter was hired by a Ukrainian gas company. The Obama White House said at the time that there was no conflict because the younger Biden was a private citizen. And there's been no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden. Yet the matter is back in the spotlight following revelations that President Donald Trump prodded Ukraine's president to help him investigate any corruption related to Joe Biden, now one of the top Democrats seeking to defeat Trump in 2020. Trump's private lawyer Rudy Giuliani has also publicly urged Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens. Hunter Biden was named a paid board member of Burisma Holdings in April 2014. The company's founder was a political ally of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's Russia-friendly president, who was driven out in February 2014 by mass protests. Yanukovych's ouster prompted the Obama administration to move quickly to deepen ties with Ukraine's new government. Joe Biden played a leading role, traveling to Ukraine and speaking frequently with its new Western-friendly president. The younger Biden's business role raised concerns among anticorruption advocates that Burisma was seeking to gain influence with the Obama administration. At the time, the company ran a natural gas extraction operation in Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia after Yanukovych was pushed from power. Hunter Biden has denied using his influence with his father to aid Burisma. He remained on the board through early 2019, often appearing at energy-related conferences abroad representing Burisma's interests. On Saturday, the former vice president said he never speaks to his son about his overseas business dealings. The matter, however, has continued to be questioned by Trump and his allies. They've pointed in particular to Biden's move in March 2016 to pressure the Ukrainian government to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who had previously led an investigation into Burisma's owner. Biden's was representing the official position of the U.S. government, a position that was also supported by other Western governments and many in Ukraine, who accused Shokin of being soft on corruption. Corruption has continued to fester in Ukraine. In May, the country's new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, came into office with no political experience but with bold promises to put an end to the corrupt practices. Around this time, Giuliani began reaching out to Zelenskiy and his aides to press for a government investigation into Burisma and Hunter Biden's role with the company. In a Fox News interview on May 19, Trump claimed the former Ukrainian prosecutor 'was after' Joe Biden's son and that was why the former vice president demanded he be fired. There is no evidence of this. Ukraine's current prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, was quoted by Bloomberg News in May as saying he had no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden or his son. Bloomberg also reported that the investigation into Burisma was dormant at the time Biden pressed for Shokhin's ouster.
  • Democrats on Sunday denounced President Donald Trump, the Justice Department, and the acting Director of National Intelligence, accusing the Trump Administration of violating federal law by withholding information from a whistleblower inside the U.S. Intelligence Community, as the top Democrat in Congress said this could dramatically escalate the standoff over various investigations of the President. 'If the Administration persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the President, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation,' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to fellow Democrats on Sunday. Her letter came as critics of the President said Mr. Trump had used a phone call with the new leader of Ukraine to urge him to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, who did work for a Ukrainian gas company. 'We must be sure that the President and his Administration are always conducting our national security and foreign policy in the best interest of the American people, not the President’s personal or political interest,' Speaker Pelosi added. Democrats said the Justice Department and the Acting Director of National Intelligence - who took over in that position just last month when two other top officials were pushed out - were violating federal law by withholding the whistleblower information, evidently about President Trump and Ukraine. By referring to a 'new stage of investigation' involving the President in her letter to fellow Democrats, Speaker Pelosi immediately raised questions about whether she might change her mind on the idea of impeachment proceedings. 'Republicans, it's time to stop making excuses for Trump,' said Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY). 'Enough is enough.' 'No one is above the law, not even President Trump,' said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO). 'The DNI needs to refer this complaint to Congress immediately.' 'Trump wants to bury a whistleblower complaint that the Inspector General has deemed urgent,' said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN). 'It’s the law,' said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL). 'It’s. The. Law.' tweeted Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). At issue is what's known as the 'Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act,' which says if an internal complaint is judged to be urgent by the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community - then it is sent to the Congressional intelligence committees. The Inspector General has ruled exactly that - but the Trump Administration refuses to turn over the information. The law does include a provision that if the Director of National Intelligence refuses to give Congress the material, the whistleblower could do it on his or her own. On Sunday, President Trump told reporters his conversation with the President of Ukraine had been a 'beautiful' one, and did not involve any wrongdoing on his part. 'Well, this whistleblower - or whoever it was - because it sounds like it’s not a whistleblower,' the President told reporters.  'You can’t have that happen to a President of the United States,' he said.
  • Leading congressional Democrats and some of the party's presidential contenders gathered Sunday for the funeral of Emily Clyburn, wife of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina and prolific fundraiser in support of helping students attend the alma mater they shared. 'We all loved her so much,' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during the three-hour funeral service in West Columbia. 'She was not only a gentle lady. She was a strategic thinker.' Pelosi and Georgia Congressman John Lewis were among about a dozen House members who attended services at Brookland Baptist Church for Emily Clyburn, who died last week at age 80 after a decades-long battle with diabetes. Two Democratic presidential contenders, Sens. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, also were present Sunday. Former Vice President Joe Biden planned to attend another service Monday in Charleston, and Pelosi said other members of Congress also would be on hand. Married for nearly six decades, the Clyburns met as students at South Carolina State University. Rep. Clyburn has often told the story of how he met his future wife in jail after they were both arrested while protesting against segregation at an Orangeburg drug store counter, a tale recounted Sunday by Emily Clyburn's college roommate. Hungry, the congressman has said Emily Clyburn walked up to him with a hamburger. As he reached for it, she tore it, keeping half for herself. 'I tell everybody she got me for half a hamburger,' Jim Clyburn said. They married just over a year later. Emily Clyburn, a native of Moncks Corner, was known affectionately to many as 'Ms. Emily.' She went on to become a public school librarian in Columbia and Charleston before spending nearly 30 years as a medical librarian at the Charleston Naval Base and Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia. Through the years, the couple raised millions of dollars for the endowment and need-based scholarships at their alma mater, from which Emily Clyburn received an honorary doctorate in 2010. A pedestrian bridge in Orangeburg linking S.C. State to student housing over a five-lane road bears her name. 'Ms. Emily will never be duplicated,' Columbia City Councilman Sam Davis said. 'But she will be a model for humanitarians to come.' Rep. Clyburn, 79, has often remarked on his wife's steady influence on his political decision-making through the years, including the notion he once entertained of leaving Congress after Republicans took back the U.S. House following the 2010 elections due to a frustration at failing to get things accomplished. Emily Clyburn talked him out of it — in part by joking she didn't need him around the house all the time playing golf, but also telling him he had way too much left to accomplish. 'As always, she was right,' Clyburn said in 2015. One by one, friends and colleagues offered their support to the Clyburn family, with many calling on Rep. Clyburn to turn to his faith in his time of loss. 'We pray for Congressman Clyburn,' said Rosalyn Glenn, a financial planner and former Democratic nominee for state treasurer, during an opening prayer. 'Just like you gave her to him then, because you knew what he needed then, we're going to thank you that you give him what he needs now.' One of the final speakers, the couple's eldest daughter, said her mother pushed all three of their girls to succeed, something she said she would take with her for the rest of her life. 'My mother, the most selfless person I have ever met, laid the foundation for me to be likewise,' said Mignon Clyburn, a former FCC commissioner. 'She always put us first. ... I'm going to apologize to her today, because I never thanked her enough.' ___ Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP
  • While many Democrats are focused on winning back several Rust Belt states that backed President Donald Trump in 2016, a progressive group plans to spend $50 million to make sure the party doesn't overlook opportunities in the Sun Belt. The group, Way to Win, will focus much of their effort on helping Democrats in states including Georgia, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Virginia and North Carolina, where the party hopes to make inroads with people of color, women and young people. The group's leaders will outline their plans at a donor retreat in Arizona on Monday. An advance copy of their blueprint provided to The Associated Press details an effort focused less on top-level races than building infrastructure that could help up and down the ballot — and for years to come. 'It's preparing to win not just in 2020, but to build power in the long term,' said Tory Gavito, who is president and co-founder of Way to Win, which was founded after President Donald Trump's 2016 win. Their task will be difficult to achieve. Democrats haven't carried some of these states at the presidential level in decades and have had only limited success in statewide races. In some places, the party's organization is suffering from years of neglect as Republicans have solidified their grip on power. But Way to Win says Trump's unconventional re-election strategy, which is focused on driving turnout among those who support him but don't often vote, adds a degree of unpredictability that means Democrats can't take any state for granted. 'It's a threat,' Gavito said. '2020 is a race to drive up the most new voters possible. Our job is driving forward the new electorate in the South and Southwest.' Florida offers a cautionary tale, group leaders say. The state is a perennial battleground, but Republicans have consistently held power in recent years. Gavito says that's because national Democrats have historically rolled in, spent big on TV advertising during marquee races, but left behind an infrastructure that atrophies in the off-years. 'They have millions of young people and people of color sitting on the sidelines because it's an every four-to-two-year proposition,' she said. 'That' not community building; that doesn't create your base for the long-term.' The group presents itself as a progressive alternative to established Democratic organizations and is largely funded by a network of women, including Susan Pritzker, a member of a prominent Democratic family who have long supported Democratic causes and derive their fortune from Hyatt Hotels. Way to Win operates a PAC that donates directly to candidates, but most of their work is done through two nonprofit groups that do not have to disclose their donors. During the 2018 midterms Way to Win spent $22 million and partnered with existing organizations in its targeted states. The belief, they say, is that local organizations know their communities best and can help target people who have been overlooked. For years, Democrats have talked up the opportunity presented by population shifts in Southern states, though success has often been elusive. A once-in-decade redistricting that will follow the 2020 census offers a chance to make inroads, so long as Democrats are able to gain more power in legislatures, which are typically control the redrawing of congressional districts. The three Rust Belt states at the center of the presidential campaign are 76% white, according to U.S. Census data. Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas have a higher share of minorities than those Midwestern states. Faster growing, they've attracted younger, and more educated, people from other parts of the country and enjoy booming economies, while the Rust Belt states are managing aging populations and declining industrial towns. That offers an opportunity. 'Supporting grassroots organizations that are there all the time and focusing giving on states that in the past have been ignored is important,' said Margery Loeb, a Texas philanthropist who is a donor.
  • A fire truck, a marching band and hundreds of supporters ushered Joe Biden into this weekend's Iowa Steak Fry, a show of force intended to solidify the former vice president's front-runner status. His closest rival, Elizabeth Warren, slipped in with little fanfare, delivered her speech and hit a brief selfie line before departing the show. Their approaches to the steak fry were as divergent as their views on the role of government. But Warren and Biden increasingly face the same challenge: the pressure of being on top. They're entering a critical phase of the Iowa campaign in a close race for first place. For Warren, it's a sign that the investments she's made in staff and personal interactions with voters have paid off. But it also means she'll increasingly be the subject of attacks from her rivals who want to blunt her rise. For Biden, months of attacks have done little to erode his standing among Democrats. But Warren's strength underscores his weaknesses among progressive voters, ensuring he won't be able to coast to success in Iowa or any of the other early voting states. There's plenty of precedent for candidates doing well in Iowa the summer before the caucuses only to fade when voting nears. With the caucuses just over four months away, more than a dozen other candidates are increasingly desperate to do whatever they can to overtake Biden and Warren. The dynamics suggest a volatile period ahead as Democrats begin to more seriously grapple with who they want to take on President Donald Trump next fall. 'Anything can happen,' said J. Ann Selzer, the longtime director of the Iowa Poll, produced by The Des Moines Register and its partners. Selzer managed a poll released Saturday by The Des Moines Register, CNN and Mediacom, which found Warren running about even with Biden, who led their last poll in June. The survey showed more than 60% of likely Democratic caucusgoers could still change their minds on who to support. A number of lower-tier candidates who've staked their candidacies on Iowa cite that large chunk of undecided voters as evidence they still have a shot, even as their campaigns stall. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who boasts the most Iowa endorsements and a strong campaign team, warned supporters he'd have to raise big money fast or drop out. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has staked her campaign on the idea that her Midwestern roots would endear her to Iowans, but she's stuck in low single digits despite frequent trips to the state. And former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who drew mobs of supporters to small Iowa towns when he launched his bid, is now campaigning beyond the early primary states in search of a win. Some candidates are rethinking their Iowa strategies to better position themselves for a strong caucus showing. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who once seemed like Biden's biggest foe, parted ways with his Iowa political director in recent weeks. California Sen. Kamala Harris seemed mildly chagrined to have to dig out her cold-weather gear as she committed, jokingly, to 'moving to Iowa' in order to resuscitate a campaign stuck squarely in the middle of the pack. Harris has pledged to double her staff in the state and campaign in Iowa every week in October. And South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been investing heavily in his Iowa operation and will, by the end of this month, nearly match Biden in staff numbers and field office openings. Not only did he have more than 1,000 supporters at the event, he invited more than two dozen donors in hopes of demonstrating he can win in a class of rivals with much higher national profiles. Buttigieg advisers met in Des Moines with donors Saturday evening to discuss his recent organizational surge to increase staff to 100 paid workers and 20 offices statewide, putting him on par with Warren. 'You need to be in the hunt. You need to have the resources to compete,' said Buttigieg, who raised a record $25 million in the second quarter and is expected to be competitive in the third quarter, which comes to a close next week. Biden's allies remain adamant that what Democratic primary voters most want is someone who can beat Trump, and that Biden is seen as the safest bet to do so. But some voters say as Biden has faced scrutiny for his past policy positions — and racked up repeated gaffes — that veneer of electability is showing cracks. 'I just wonder if he has what it takes anymore,' said 50-year-old Frank Hansen of Des Moines. 'I think it has to be someone younger and ready to take on the future.' Hansen's wife, Holly, 51, attended this weekend's Steak Fry. Echoing her husband, she said, 'Joe Biden was the person seen as the strongest one. I'm not so sure now.' The couple said they were looking to a newer class of candidates, including Buttigieg, O'Rourke and Warren, who, despite being 70, 'just seems new and fresh,' Holly said. Iowa political history holds warnings for Warren as well, after previous candidates peaked too early and weren't able to sustain their momentum through caucus night. In the late summer of 2003, Howard Dean was the Iowa frontrunner; he eventually fell to John Kerry after being tagged as angry and unprepared for a national race. In the fall of 2007, Hillary Clinton still led in the polls, but eventually faced an upset to then-Sen. Barack Obama after he criticized her as running a too-careful campaign. Indeed, this week Warren's opponents stepped up their attacks against her, with Biden knocking her on raising taxes to pay for a single-payer health care system, while Buttigieg called her 'evasive' about the tax issue. Warren has, however, stayed staunchly on-message, insisting when pressed by reporters this week in Iowa only that 'costs will go down' for the middle class if her health care plan is passed. Her response has been much like the campaign she's run in Iowa — steady and focused, with little fanfare and an eye on the end goal rather than the day-to-day fluctuations in the field. She shrugged off questions about her strength in Iowa on Sunday. 'I don't do polls,' she said as she joined a protest with striking United Auto Workers members. 'We are still months away from the Iowa caucuses and the first primary elections.' ___ Associated Press writer Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this report.
  • America's top diplomat says Central Asian nations should reject Chinese demands to repatriate ethnic minorities to China, where they face repression. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (pahm-PAY'-oh) says Beijing's detention of Uighur (WEE'-gur) Muslims in western China has nothing to do with terrorism, as China claims, but is an attempt 'to erase' minority cultures and religions. He says it's important for all countries 'to resist' China's demands that Uighurs who've fled the campaign in Xinjiang province be sent back to China. Pompeo made the comments in a Sunday meeting with the foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly. China says the detention sites are 'vocational' centers aimed at training and skills development. China has rejected criticism of its policies.