Five important stories the impeachment news has overshadowed

Image: Migrants who crossed illegally into El Paso, Texas, U.S., to turn th
Migrants who crossed illegally into El Paso, Texas, turn themselves in to ask for asylum on July 31, 2019. \ Copyright Jose Luis Gonzalez Reuters file
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann with NBC News Politics
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First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.


WASHINGTON — For nearly two weeks now, the Trump-Ukraine-impeachment story has sucked up all the political oxygen in Washington — and deservedly so.

But it's also overshadowed news that would ordinarily get a lot more attention, and that could end up playing a role in next year's election.

Here are five of those stories just in the last 24 hours:

  • New manufacturing data showed that "U.S. factory activity contracted for a second consecutive month," representing "growing evidence of a global manufacturing slowdown," the Wall Street Journal writes.
  • Speaking in Wisconsin yesterday, Trump Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the small dairy farmer might not be able to survive in today's economy: "In America, the big get bigger and the small go out," he said, per the AP. "I don't think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability."
  • North Korea fired a ballistic missile from the sea — ahead of resumed nuclear talks with the United States.
  • New York Times reporters Michael Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis detail that President Trump had talked to advisers about fortifying the U.S.-Mexico border with snakes, alligators and spikes. And he had even suggested that soldiers could shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down.
  • And the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee announced they raised a combined $125 million in the third fundraising quarter, a staggering figure compared with the money that Democrats are raising (especially at the party level).

The divide within Trump's administration

Speaking of that New York Times story on Trump's border ideas — combined with Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan airing his frustrations to the Washington Post — we're seeing a drip-drip of negative stories from inside his government that Trump should fear.

Remember, whistleblowers can be contagious.

And it sets up a divide inside the government — between those using their offices to benefit Trump (see Mike Pompeo and Bill Barr), and those who are speaking out, either publicly, to the press or to an inspector general.

Oh, and speaking of an inspector general, this story has piqued our interest…

The State Department's Office of Inspector General has reached out to a group of congressional committees with what they describe as an "urgent request" to brief committee staff about documents related to the State Department and Ukraine, multiple congressional sources tell NBC's Frank Thorp.

Tweet of the day

Joe Biden, Hunter Biden and their 2013 trip to China

And be sure to read the piece by NBC's Josh Lederman on when Joe and Hunter Biden went to China.

"In 2013, I was one of four reporters who traveled aboard Air Force Two with Biden and his son to China, a visit that was sandwiched between stops in Japan and South Korea."

"What wasn't known then was that as he accompanied his father to China, Hunter Biden was forming a Chinese private equity fund that associates said at the time was planning to raise big money, including from China. Hunter Biden has acknowledged meeting with Jonathan Li, a Chinese banker and his partner in the fund during the trip, although his spokesman says it was a social visit."

More: "Seeking to expand his corruption accusations beyond Ukraine, Trump has accused Hunter Biden of using his trip on Air Force Two to procure $1.5 billion from China for his fund, calling it 'a horrible thing.' Despite Trump's accusations, there have been no allegations of corruption or impropriety on the part of the former vice president."

"Hunter Biden's spokesman, George Mesires, told NBC News that Hunter Biden wasn't initially an 'owner' of the company and has never gotten paid for serving on the board. He said Hunter Biden didn't acquire an equity interest in the fund until 2017, after his father had left office."

2020 Vision: Sizing up the third-quarter money race

So far, four Democratic presidential campaigns have released their fundraising totals for the third fundraising quarter.Here are the numbers (compared with their fundraising in the second quarter):

  • Sanders: $25.3 million (up from $18 million in the 2ndQ)
  • Buttigieg: $19.1 million (down from $24.9 million)
  • Harris: $11.6 million (down from $11.8 million)
  • Booker: $6.0 million (up from $4.5 million)

On the campaign trail today

Ten candidates participate in the March for Our Lives/Gabby Giffords/MSNBC town hall in Las Vegas beginning at 1:00 pm ET. The speaking order - Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Beto O'Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Andrew Yang and Kamala Harris… Tom Steyer remains in Iowa… And Tulsi Gabbard is in New Hampshire.

Dispatches from NBC's embeds

Tom Steyer has focused his presidential run mainly on impeachment and climate change, but while discussing climate change with Iowa voters, he ran into a topic he wasn't familiar with, per NBC's Maura Barrett reports.

Barrett's dispatch: "The standout was a question asking for Steyer's thoughts 'on the ethanol situation,' referencing the waivers that are 'turning it all upside down and the different ethanol plants that are closing now — 'Steyer interrupted him to ask 'What are the oil waivers? I'm not familiar. What exactly does that refer to?'"

More: "From your Iowa embed, where the ethanol waivers are a huge issue (and across the Midwest as refineries are closing), this was surprising. Nearly every candidate I've covered has addressed the waivers and has the understanding that the waivers are another speed bump for farmers looking for places to sell their crops, especially with the trade war, and following the excessive bad weather this season."


Data Download: The number of the day is … 36 points

36 points.

That's the advantage Joe Biden has with Democratic African American voters in South Carolina, according to a new Winthrop University poll. Biden has the support of 46 percent of black voters in the state, while the next best performing candidate, Elizabeth Warren, has 10 percent.

While the support from black Democrats makes Biden the overall frontrunner in the state by double digits, Warren is the leader among white Democrats.

Here's the breakdown:

Among all Democratic registered voters

  • Biden 37%
  • Warren 17%
  • Sanders 8%
  • Harris 7%
  • Buttigieg 4%
  • Booker 3%
  • No one else gets more than 2%

Among African American Democratic voters

  • Biden 46%
  • Harris 10%
  • Warren 9%
  • Sanders 8%
  • Booker 4%
  • Buttigieg 0%

Among white Democratic registered voters

  • Warren 29%
  • Biden 22%
  • Buttigieg 10%
  • Sanders 7%
  • Harris 5%

The Lid: This could be the end…

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we checked in on the Democratic fundraising race (and all those creepy fundraising emails that candidates send at the end of the quarter.)

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn't miss

The Washington Post writes that key federal agencies increasingly feel pressure to pursue his personal and political goals.

The 2020 NBC campaign embeds gave us a look inside the candidates' stump speeches.


Amy Klobuchar is making her first TV ad buy in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Meanwhile… Boris Johnson is taking another huge Brexit gamble.

Trump Agenda: Putting America second?

Jonathan Allen writes that Trump could face a big problem if he's accused of putting America second.

More than 50 female ambassadors are calling on the Trump administration to protect foreign service officers in the wake of Marie Yovanovitch's ouster.

Yes, the Senate must act on impeachment. But Mitch McConnell is indicating that he wants it to be brief.


Former Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker is set to be deposed in the House's impeachment inquiry on Thursday.

Giuliani wants to scrutinize Joe Biden's connections to Ukraine — but what about his own?

2020: That big Trump, RNC haul

Don't sleep on that huge Trump/RNC fundraising haul.

Joe Biden is out with a gun plan that would reinstate the assault weapons ban and establish a voluntary buyback program.

Republicans are changing their convention rules to ensure there are no dissenting speeches.


Elizabeth Warren seems to be gaining some traction with black voters. (Though that Winthrop poll of South Carolina tells a different story.)

Pete Sessions is eyeing a comeback — in a different district. (But the Texas Tribune reports that the response from political insiders in the state hasn't exactly been enthusiastic.)

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