Will Congress Act on Covid Soon? ‘I’m Not Optimistic’

The debate continues over the coronavirus stimulus, and Joe Arpaio, 88, comes back on the scene (yes, really). It’s Monday, and this is your politics tip sheet.

  • The Senate is gone, but not forgotten. The chamber has adjourned for its August recess, but after the coronavirus unemployment extension ran out over the weekend, many Americans are still watching to see when Congress might come together and pass its next round of virus relief.

  • The talks continue, even with senators — including Mitch McConnell, the majority leader — back in their home states. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, hosted the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, for a closed-door meeting at her Capitol Hill office on Saturday.

  • In interviews with reporters on Sunday morning, both sides said there was a long way to go before a deal. “I’m not optimistic that there will be a solution in the very near term,” Meadows said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” He repeated the administration’s previous demand that Democrats agree to pass an unemployment extension independent of the larger bill.

  • But Democrats say that’s unacceptable. They are demanding a far larger bill that would include a national health strategy to fight the virus’s spread, as well as specific provisions like hazard pay for people making up to $200,000 and support for state and local governments.

  • Both sides support extending an aid program for small businesses, sending stimulus checks to Americans and renewing a moratorium on evictions — although they don’t yet agree on all of the terms.

  • Democrats also want the bill to include money to shore up election infrastructure and the Postal Service. The mail has taken on a political tint on the eve of a general election that’s expected to involve more mail-in voting than any in the country’s history. Republicans have signaled that they would be open to sending some money the Postal Service’s way, but they are firmly against funding a new national mail-in balloting system, as Democrats have proposed, Politico reports.

  • The abrupt retirement of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman officially took effect on Saturday, and he wasted no time in making use of his newfound civilian status to strike back at the president who forced him out. That morning, The Washington Post published an op-ed article Vindman had written in which he condemned the president for his “campaign of bullying, intimidation and retaliation.”

  • “The circumstances of my departure might have been more public, yet they are little different from those of dozens of other lifelong public servants who have left this administration with their integrity intact but their careers irreparably harmed,” he wrote.

  • Vindman became a target of President Trump’s after he agreed last year to aid the prosecution as a key witness in the House’s impeachment trial against the president. In the article, he pledged to stay involved in politics — presumably as the November election draws nearer.

  • “I will advocate for policies and strategies that will keep our nation safe and strong against internal and external threats,” Vindman wrote. “I will promote public service and exalt the contribution that service brings to all areas of society.”

  • The Department of Homeland Security official who circulated intelligence dossiers on activists and journalists covering the racial justice protest movement has been reassigned. The official, Brian Murphy, the acting under secretary for intelligence and analysis, had his office create “open-source intelligence reports” on reporters and protesters, and sent them around to other law enforcement officials.

  • Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, ordered a halt to the program on Friday, and he asked the agency’s inspector general to investigate it.

  • The Washington Post first reported last week on the existence of the files, which include a dossier on the Times reporter Mike Baker. The Department of Homeland Security has dispatched agents to a number of American cities, including Portland, Ore., where they have clashed nightly with protesters.

  • For Murphy, who has been moved to a different position within the agency, this issue might not yet be put to rest: Representative Adam Schiff, who leads the House Intelligence Committee, said his office had been investigating Murphy’s actions before he was reassigned. And Schiff suggested that Murphy might have impeded the investigation.

  • “In light of recent public reports, we are concerned that Murphy may have provided incomplete and potentially misleading information to Committee staff during our recent oversight engagement,” Schiff said in a statement on Saturday. The committee will “be expanding our oversight even further in the coming days,” he added.

Credit…Erin Scott for The New York Times

A protester held a sign referring to coronavirus deaths in the United States as President Trump’s motorcade entered the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., yesterday.

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Updated 2020-08-03T12:53:31.852Z

For most politicians, suffering a crushing electoral defeat in your mid-80s might spell the end of your public career. But maybe not for Joe Arpaio.

The punitive former sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, Arpaio was defeated for re-election in 2016. The next year, he was convicted of criminal contempt of court for his actions as sheriff, when he defied an order intended to prevent his office from violating the rights of Latinos.

But the man who describes himself as “America’s toughest sheriff” quickly received the first pardon of Trump’s presidency, in a move that was widely condemned by criminal justice advocates. And tomorrow, he will be a candidate in the Republican primary for his old position.

Turns out, he’s even got a shot at winning. The reporter Hank Stephenson sent in a dispatch from Phoenix analyzing the dynamics of this race, and what an Arpaio victory might mean for the greater Republican Party.

Hank agreed to answer a few extra questions about the sheriff for us.

Hi, Hank. So catch us up. What has led the 88-year-old Joe Arpaio to run for sheriff again? I guess he hasn’t taken very well to retirement?

I think Arpaio isn’t ready to let go of his identity as “sheriff.” It’s partly that he has something to prove: He genuinely feels his policies and actions were the right course and as long as Trump has a shot at winning, he does too. And it’s partly that retirement just isn’t his style: He wants to spend his golden years being the tough-guy sheriff from Arizona who made it to the national stage. Otherwise, his only hobbies are the autobiography he’s typing on his electric typewriter and an upcoming streaming documentary.

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The primary election is tomorrow. How much of a shot does Arpaio realistically have of winning? And if he captures the Republican nomination, might he lose the general election in November?

It’s a three-way race between candidates that can be described as Arpaio, Arpaio-lite and not Arpaio. So it’s a complicated equation, and Arpaio probably has about a 50-50 shot. Even his onetime supporters worry he may not be the best candidate for November, and many of them are backing Jerry Sheridan, Arpaio’s former right-hand man during the heyday of his reign as sheriff. Sheridan is basically Arpaio with less baggage, though he was held in civil contempt of court for his role in continuing the office’s unlawful immigration raids. (Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court, though the president pardoned him.) It’s also worth noting that Arpaio ran for Senate in 2018, and garnered less than 19 percent of the vote in the G.O.P. primary. But he has 100 percent name recognition, a lot of money and some very dedicated supporters. Still, jaws would hit the floor here if Arpaio won in November.

The year Arpaio lost his job, Donald Trump — arguably his closest ally on the national stage — was elected president. But the political tides have not exactly been blowing in favor of Trump’s brand recently. Polls suggest the president could become the first Republican presidential candidate in over two decades to lose Arizona in the general election. Is there a sense among political experts that Arpaio’s era has come and gone?

Yes. But while Arpaio’s era and Trump’s era may look similar, they are not the same. Arizona got to know Arpaio over 24 years, and for a while, he had broad appeal. His approval really started slipping in 2012, when he defeated the current sheriff, Paul Penzone, by less than his usual margin of victory. That may be the situation Trump is in now, at least in Arizona.

For many people who aren’t conservative Republicans, Arpaio has come to be seen as a kind of anti-immigrant villain figure. For Democrats trying to flip Arizona blue, has his re-entry into the political scene been treated as a potential public-relations boon?

Democrats are thrilled, and even Republicans are worried about the impact Arpaio could have on the team in November. He’s one of the most polarizing political figures of modern times, and he’s driving around in a motor home plastered with pictures of him and the president on it.

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