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2020 Election Update: Coal Magnate to Host Trump Fundraiser; Harris’ Bill to Decriminalize Marijuana

Coal Magnate Murray to Host Trump Fundraiser

Coal magnate Robert Murray will host a fundraiser for President Donald Trump Wednesday, even as dozens of disabled miners pressure Congress to restore a higher tax on the fossil fuel that pays for treatment of black lung disease.

Murray, a longtime Trump benefactor and the chief executive of Murray Energy Corp., is hosting the event at the WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, West Virginia. A spokesperson for the company confirmed event details but did not answer questions about who else was attending and the expected cash haul.

The miners from Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia were in Washington Tuesday trying to persuade lawmakers to revive a tax of up to $1.10 per ton of coal that helps pay for medical care of black lung disease, amid a resurgence in the respiratory ailment caused by inhaling coal dust.

Congress last year let that tax rate lapse and revert to 1977 levels of up to 50 cents per ton, after industry leaders argued the expense could further disadvantage coal, which is struggling to compete against low-cost natural gas.

Harris Proposes Bill to Decriminalize Marijuana

Kamala Harris introduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana, expunge convictions and impose a 5% sales tax on the substance to help minority communities enter the cannabis business.

Harris, a 2020 presidential candidate, has frequently expressed support on the campaign trail for legalizing marijuana. Every other top-tier Democratic contender with the exception of former Vice President Joe Biden has said they support legalization. Biden said Tuesday he would support decriminalizing it at the federal level and expunging all past user convictions.

Harris, a California senator, introduced the bill alongside House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York. Two of her presidential rivals, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, also co-sponsored the bill.

“As marijuana becomes legal across the country, we must make sure everyone — especially communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs — has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry,” Harris said in a statement.

The proceeds of the sales tax will be used to provide services to those most affected by the War on Drugs and provide loans to “socially and economically disadvantaged individuals” to start cannabis-related businesses.

Trump Says He’ll Win Minnesota With Omar Attack

President Donald Trump is predicting that his attack on Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar -- now in its second week -- will propel him to become the first Republican to capture her home state since 1972.

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrumpIn 2016 I almost won Minnesota. In 2020, because of America hating anti-Semite Rep. Omar, & the fact that Minnesota is having its best economic year ever, I will win the State! “We are going to be a nightmare to the President,” she say. No, AOC Plus 3 are a Nightmare for America!

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Critics of Omar have said her commentary on the U.S.-Israel relationship sometimes employs anti-Semitic tropes, like referring to campaign money as “the Benjamins,” while critics of Trump say that his call in a recent tweet for the Somali-born Omar to return there echoes historically racist tropes. Trump has sought to tie all Democrats to the progressive views of Omar and three other freshman congresswomen of color -- all of them American-born -- whom he has told to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

Trump lost Minnesota by 1.5 percentage points in 2016, the closest election in the state since former Vice President Walter Mondale, a Minnesota native, narrowly defeated national victor Ronald Reagan in 1984. Trump campaign officials have said they see the state as their best chance of expanding the map the president won in 2016, even though the state’s streak of voting for Democrats is longer than any other.

Warren Introduces Student Loan Relief Plan

Senator Elizabeth Warren has introduced her student loan relief plan as a bill in the Senate, proposing to eliminate up to $50,000 of student loan debt for borrowers making less than $100,000 a year.

The bill fleshes out the details of a plan Warren previously proposed as part of her presidential campaign. Higher-income borrowers would also get some benefit, with those making $100,000 to $250,000 getting one-third of their loans canceled. Warren said 95% of student loan borrowers would get at least some of their loans forgiven.

The bill introduced in the Senate Tuesday does not include a provision to pay for the plan’s estimated $1.25 trillion cost. But Warren has proposed a wealth tax: a 2% tax on the wealth of people worth more than $50 million and 3% of those worth more than $1 billion.

Warren’s bill is unlikely to go anywhere in the Republican-controlled Senate. But a companion bill in the House is sponsored by Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina -- an important ally as Warren looks for African-American support in that early primary state.

Biden’s Crime Plan Emphasizes Rehabilitation

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a criminal justice plan focused on prevention and rehabilitation that stands in stark contrast to the tough-on-crime stances he adopted earlier in his political career.

The Democratic presidential front-runner’s proposal aims to lower the prison population and reduce crime by offering incentives to states to shift priorities from incarceration to prevention through a $20 billion grant program. It also calls for investing $1 billion in juvenile justice reform and expanding federal funding for mental health and substance abuse services and research.

Biden has faced heavy criticism from some of his Democratic rivals for his central role in the creation and passage of legislation, most notably the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which some argue contributed to mass incarceration of minorities. Biden apologized for portions of the measure earlier this year, but the issue has dogged his campaign.

The new policy may be intended to pre-empt further criticism. The rollout comes before Biden’s appearance on Wednesday at the NAACP Convention in Detroit. It also precedes the second Democratic presidential debate next week, when he will be flanked on stage by two Democratic African American candidates, Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, who have clashed with him over his positions on issues related to criminal justice and race.

Biden’s plan seeks to eliminate racial disparities in policing by establishing an independent task force on prosecutorial discretion and empowering the Justice Department to address systemic misconduct in police departments and prosecutors’ offices.

Unlike many of his top opponents, Biden is not calling for the legalization of marijuana, which has become a core part of the progressive agenda. His plan advocates decriminalizing the drug and expunging marijuana convictions. Two liberal priorities that Biden does support are eliminating the death penalty and ending the cash bail system. He also calls for ending the federal government’s use of private prisons.

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—What to expect from the second Democratic debate

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—Elizabeth Warren declares war on private equity ‘vampires’ in 2020 plan

Trump outspent every other political campaign on Facebook. Here’s who those ads targeted

—Sex toys allowed, not massages, in fine print of Trump tax break

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