WASHINGTON — Maybe the biggest takeaway from the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll – which shows Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren topping the 2020 Dem race — is how there are two different Democratic primary contests taking place right now.
There’s the primary between candidates and Dem voters who want big, bold change.
And there’s the primary between those who simply want to defeat Trump.
Fifty-four percent of Democratic primary voters say they prefer a nominee who proposes larger-scale policies that might cost more and be harder to pass — but could still result in major change.
Among these voters, Warren leads the pack (at 29 percent), and she’s followed by Bernie Sanders (18 percent), Biden (16 percent) and Kamala Harris (14 percent).
By contrast, 41 percent of Dem primary voters say they want a nominee who pushes for smaller-scale policies that cost less and might be easier to pass — but that bring less change.
And among these voters, Biden holds a substantial lead (at 35 percent), followed by Harris (14 percent, Warren (8 percent), Pete Buttigieg (8 percent) and Sanders (7 percent).
Similarly, Democratic primary voters are divided on what’s more important to them — a candidate who comes closest to their views on issues, or one who has the best chance to defeat President Donald Trump.
Fifty-one percent say issues are more important, and those voters break for Biden (18 percent), Warren (18 percent), Sanders (17 percent) and Harris (11 percent).
That’s compared with 45 percent who believe defeating Trump is more important, and they break Biden (at 34 percent), Warren (21 percent), Harris (16 percent), Buttigieg (8 percent) and Sanders (6 percent).
Bottom line: The big-change Democratic voters outnumber the small-change ones. But you can see a situation how Warren and Sanders could split the former group, and how Biden might lap the field with the latter.
That’s Biden’s path to victory, even in Iowa — if his candidacy holds up.
The four candidate tiers in our NBC/WSJ poll
As for the overall horserace in our poll, you can divide it into four categories.
The Top 5: Biden (26 percent), Warren (19 percent), Harris (13 percent), Sanders (13 percent) and Buttigieg (7 percent).
The 2 Percenters (the threshold to make the September debates): Andrew Yang (2 percent), Beto O’Rourke (2 percent).
The 1 Percenters: Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, Cory Booker, Jay Inslee, Marianne Williamson, John Delaney, John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet.
The less-than-1-percenters: Everyone else.
The good news for Booker, Klobuchar, Castro and even O’Rourke is that they get Democratic voters in our poll to say want to learn more about these candidates.
But that bad news for those in the 1 percent and below is that it looks like this field is going to winnow fast.
And it’s not like these candidates have NOT had moments and exposure…
Trump loses and declares victory anyway (again)
Much like he did with the government shutdown and the 2018 midterm results, President Trump lost his citizenship/census battle — but declared victory anyway.
“President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he is backing off his effort to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census and is instead issuing an executive order directing departments and agencies to better share data related to the number of citizens and noncitizens in the country,” per NBC News.
By the way, using existing databases is what the U.S. Census Bureau said Trump could have done without putting the citizenship question on the census, as NPR’s Domenico Montanaro notes.
The question we have: Who convinced Trump this was a dead end?
Tweet of the day
2020 Vision: Candidates of the corn
On Sunday, 12 Democratic presidential candidates will speak at Progress Iowa’s Corn Feed event in Cedar Rapids, per NBC’s Maura Barrett and Priscilla Thompson. (An Iowa summer wouldn’t be complete without presidential candidates and corn, right?)
The 12: Michael Bennet, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Seth Moulton, Tim Ryan and Marianne Williamson.
During the cattle call, candidates will be given ten-minutes on stage to address the crowd; the time-limit will be strictly enforced.
On the campaign trail today
Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke are all in New Hampshire… Kirsten Gillibrand continues her “Broken Promises Tour,” making three stops in Michigan… Cory Booker, in Boston, holds a press conference on preventing gun violence… And John Hickenlooper stumps in Iowa.
Dispatches from NBC’s embeds
Four candidates spoke at the League of United Latin American Citizens presidential forum in Milwaukee yesterday, and NBC’s Gary Grumbach and Micki Fahner have the highlights:
Julián Castro: [On his immigration plan] “One of the things that distinguishes what I put forward versus some of the critics, I’m actually talking about solving this challenge. I said we need to do a 21st century Marshall plan for Central America to partner with those countries so people can find safety and opportunity at home instead of having to come to the United States and that’s a long-term way to solve this challenge.”
Elizabeth Warren: Some of the loudest applause for Elizabeth Warren came when a question about the US Women’s National Soccer Team was posed. “When women produce then by golly women ought to be paid for it. Come on,” Warren said.
Question to Bernie Sanders: “You’ve called it ageism in the Democratic Party, some of the younger candidates asked you to pass the torch how do you view this generational change in the Democratic Party?”
Sanders: “I think we need a lot of change in this country to tell you the truth. But when you look at a candidate, age is a factor, experience as a factor in the candidates, record as a factor and most importantly what that candidate stands for is a factor.”
Beto O’Rourke: The former Texas Representative was asked about the deportations and ICE Raids allegedly planned for later this weekend, saying that they make us a “less safe” country. “When immigrant communities fear local law enforcement, fear federal law enforcement, they are less likely to report crimes, to testify in trials, to serve as witnesses, they’re no longer participating in the civic life of our communities and we are less safe as a result,” he said.
Data Download: The number of the day is … 35 percent
That’s Joe Biden’s share of the vote in a new Fox News poll of South Carolina.
Biden holds a big lead over the field, more support than the next four candidates sitting behind him combined (Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker).
The Palmetto State is an important state for the former vice president, one where he’s cultivated strong relationships over the years. Biden is acutely aware of that reality—last week, he chose the state as the backdrop for his apology for his comments about working with segregationist senators.
And so far, it doesn’t look like the flap over those comments (or the attacks on his opposition to federally-mandated busing) has hurt his standing with black voters there. The Fox poll shows Biden pulling in 41 percent of the black vote in South Carolina.
The Lid: Numbers, numbers, numbers
Don’t miss yesterday’s pod, where we ran down the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll for all you auditory learners.
ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss
NBC’s Monica Alba and Ben Collins have an inside look at the White House social media summit, which included appearances by some conspiracy theorists and controversial social media figures.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she’s done talking about the rift with progressive freshmen Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Does Bernie Sanders need to adjust his strategy as he slips in the polls?
Trump rips Paul Ryan as ‘lame duck failure’ with ‘poor leadership.’
Trump agenda: Census retreat
President Trump dropped his effort to add a citizenship question to the Census.
The House Judiciary Committee approved subpoenas for a handful of Trump officials.
House Democrats want a briefing on Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta’s role in securing a plea deal for Jeffrey Epstein in 2007.
The Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services are passing the buck over the government’s treatment of migrant children
2020: Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!
Julián Castro, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke all spoke about Hispanic issues in Milwaukee Thursday.
The records Joe Biden donated to the University of Delaware won’t be unsealed until after he leaves public life.
The Federal Election Commission will allow a security company to provide campaigns with anti-phishing services amid the worries about election interference.
Politico sits down for a one-on-one with Seth Moulton.
Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby says President Trump is opposed to Jeff Sessions running for Senate again.
Nadler says Mueller should ignore DOJ ‘cover-up’ efforts on testimony
House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said on Tuesday that former special counsel Robert Mueller should ignore Justice Department attempts to stifle his highly anticipated congressional testimony, referring to their efforts as “part of a cover-up.”
On Monday, Associate Deputy Attorney General Bradley Weinscheimer wrote a letter instructing Mueller not to provide any testimony regarding the redacted portions of his report. Mueller had already said he would not go beyond the content contained within his more than 440-page report during his public testimony.
The letter also stated that “any testimony must remain within the boundaries of your public report because matters within the scope of your investigation were covered by executive privilege.”
Nadler told CNN Tuesday that he didn’t believe that letter was an impediment to Mueller’s testimony, adding that the instruction to do so is “a part of the cover-up of the administration to keep information away from the American people.”
“But I think it’s not going to have a real impact,” he said.
Asked if Mueller must comply with the letter, Nadler said the former special counsel does not.
“He doesn’t work for them,” Nadler said. “And that letter asks things that are beyond the power of the agency to ask even if he still worked there.”
Mueller will testify Wednesday in separate sessions before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. In May, Mueller said if he were to testify before Congress that “testimony from this office would not go beyond our report.”
“We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself,” he added. “The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”
A spokesman for Mueller, Jim Popkin, told NBC News on Monday that the former special counsel will give a brief opening statement before offering the entire report as his full statement for the record.
A Democratic House Intelligence Committee aide told NBC News last week that Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., does not “subscribe” to the belief that Mueller is required to “stay within the four corners” of the report.
But a Democratic House Judiciary aide also told NBC News last week that even if Mueller doesn’t go beyond the report, “we think that limitation … can be worked through because there really is such strong language throughout the report even if they didn’t bring it all together in a way that connects it all, to the to the ultimate conclusion.”
Jeremy Corbyn says Boris Johnson ‘hasn’t won support of our country’ and demands election
Doctors find differences in brains of U.S. diplomats who alleged mystery attacks in Cuba
WASHINGTON — A group of U.S. government workers potentially exposed to unexplained phenomena in Cuba have less white matter in their brains and less connectivity in the areas that control vision and hearing than similar healthy people, doctors have found.
The findings from University of Pennsylvania researchers are the most specific to date about the neurological condition of the U.S. diplomats, spies and their families who reported strange sounds and sensations while serving in Havana between 2016 and 2018.
Yet while doctors found “significant differences” in their brains compared to a control group, they couldn’t say whether they were caused by whatever may have happened in Cuba, nor whether those differences account for the Americans’ symptoms.
Watch Josh Lederman on Andrea Mitchell Reports today for more
The medical findings, revealed Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, come as U.S. national security officials tell NBC News that more than two years into the mystery, the government still has not determined who or what is responsible for what transpired in Havana.
The FBI, enlisted in 2017 to investigate what the U.S. has called “targeted attacks,” paid multiple trips to Havana but has exhausted its leads in the case, individuals briefed on the investigation say. While the investigation hasn’t been formally closed, no external energy source in Cuba has yet been identified that could have caused the injuries, they said. The FBI declined to comment.
Although the Trump administration has not retreated from its assertions that its workers in Cuba were attacked, officials at the FBI, the CIA and the State Department are also examining the possibility that mass psychogenic illness, or psychosomatic symptoms that spread through a community, may be to blame in at least some of the cases, officials said.
The Cuban Embassy in Washington didn’t respond to a request for comment. But Dr. Mitchell Joseph Valdés-Sosa, the Cuban Neuroscience Center chief who has been investigating the U.S. claims, said there were major “causes for concern” in the study’s methodology, including the makeup of the control group and assertions about brain changes that he said could have resulted from “many factors, including psychological states.”
“The most worrisome aspect is the attempt to link these findings with an unspecified ‘directional phenomenon,'” Valdés-Sosa said. “The research in this area has been cloaked in secrecy, and driven by cold war paranoia.”
Twenty-six Americans who served in Cuba were “medically confirmed” by the State Department to have been affected. The Penn study included most of those workers, their relatives who lived with them and other U.S. workers referred to Penn for potential exposure, bringing the total to 40.
Using a battery of advanced MRIs, researchers created a detailed map of their brains, including the pathways and connections that let parts of the brain communicate with one another. It takes a computer more than 24 hours to process the data and create the maps, officials tell NBC News. The results from all individuals in the Cuba group were combined, then custom software was used to compare those results to a map made from MRIs of 48 individuals of similar age and ethnicity.
Doctors found that in measuring white matter — nerve fibers that form the brain’s communications network — the Cuba patients had a mean volume that was 27 cubic centimeters smaller than the control patients. Overall, they had similar volumes of grey matter — rich with brain cells that process information — but in some regions of the brain, the Cuba patients had more grey matter.
Advanced neuroimaging that tracks how water molecules travel through the brain found decreased connectivity in the networks related to seeing and hearing, which tracks with many of the symptoms reported, but not in the networks that handle higher-level thinking processes. Still, doctors were unable to draw a clear connection between the findings and the patients’ symptoms, which also included problems with balance, sleep and memory.
NBC News Medical Correspondent Dr. John Torres said the small sample size and high sensitivity of the brain scans could have produced results that appear unusual but aren’t clinically significant.
“Even though, as a group, these government personnel have changes to parts of their brains seen on MRI images, those changes cannot be tied directly to what they report happened in Cuba,” Dr. Torres said.
Starting in late 2016, U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers in Cuba started reporting strange incidents that the Penn study describes as “potential exposure to uncharacterized directional phenomena” of unknown origins, “manifesting as pressure, vibration or sound.” Some reported ear-piercing sounds in their homes at night that would suddenly disappear when they moved just a few feet away.
The mysterious noises initially led investigators to suspect a sonic weapon, but investigators ruled out the possibility sound waves could have caused the damage. Officials have explored other possibilities such as a microwave or other electromagnetic energy source, as well as potential environmental causes and psychosomatic illness.
Because of how much is still unknown about the brain’s inner workings, it’s difficult to say whether any of those theories could neatly explain the specific changes to brain matter volume and connectivity identified by the MRI study, medical experts said.
The bizarre saga has inflicted significant damage on a U.S.-Cuba relationship that was only beginning to warm in recent years following half a century of enmity.
After declaring that its diplomats had been attacked, the United States pulled most of its workers out of Cuba and warned all Americans not to travel there. Those ties have been further weakened by the Trump administration’s crackdown on Cuba and re-imposition of sanctions and travel restrictions that had been eased during the Obama administration.
In addition to Penn’s study, the National Institutes of Health is conducting its own “brain injury research study” involving the Cuba patients with help from Energy Department supercomputers and national laboratories capable of processing massive amounts of neurological data. The Defense Department has also been engaged to look into technologies that could have been used to harm the Americans, NBC News has reported.
The State Department said it was aware of the new study from Penn doctors and “welcomes the medical community’s discussion on this incredibly complex issue.”
“The department’s top priority remains the safety, security and well-being of its staff,” the State Department said in a statement.
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