The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump makes history with foreign policy decisions




Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and happy Monday! Hope everyone had a nice Mother’s Day. This daily email, a successor to The Hill’s Tipsheet, is reported by Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger to get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. (CLICK HERE to subscribe!)

The U.S. will cut the ribbon on its embassy in Jerusalem today, the latest in a string of international gambles that will ultimately define President TrumpDonald John TrumpWSJ: Trump ignored advice to confront Putin over indictments Trump hotel charging Sean Spicer ,000 as book party venue Bernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin MORE’s legacy.

It’s been a high-wire act for the president on the global stage over the past few weeks:

These moves share a common thread: They deliver on versions of Trump’s campaign promises, especially his vow to be unconventional. And they play into Trump’s boasts that only he has the negotiating prowess and the appetite for unpredictability that could unlock decades-old problems.

The president views everything through the lens of winners and losers. So a big and unanswered question is whether these actions lead to foreign policy victories for the U.S. and allies.

  • Israel is on high alert over expected protests and has bolstered its forces along the Gaza border and the West Bank, according to The Associated Press.

  • The withdrawal from the Iran deal has roiled the globe, sparking an eleventh-hour diplomatic push from Iranian officials and isolating the U.S. from strategic foreign allies, such as Germany.

  • Kim’s release of three U.S. prisoners is easily the high point for the Trump administration so far, but no one will be ready to claim the finish line is within view until North Korea makes tangible moves to disarm.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHillicon Valley: Trump's Russia moves demoralize his team | Congress drops effort to block ZTE deal | Rosenstein warns of foreign influence threat | AT&T's latest 5G plans Dem lawmaker calls on Pompeo to keep export restrictions on 3D gun-printing software Questions mount over Trump-Putin discussions MORE seemed to sum up Trump’s entire foreign policy Sunday when asked about progress with North Korea. He told Fox News that he wanted to quote the president. “We’ll see,” he told Chris Wallace.

Robert Gates, the former Pentagon chief to two presidents, echoed that idea on Sunday while talking about conditions in the Korean Peninsula. “We’ll see,” he told CBS’s  “Face the Nation.”




CONGRESS:  Farm bill:  (The Hill) — House Republican leaders are scrambling to lock down votes for a GOP farm bill this week, with members still divided over the measure’s sugar subsidy program and work requirements for food stamps.

Net neutrality: (The Hill) — Democrats are trying to make intensely popular net neutrality regulations on broadband companies a campaign issue this year, in part by pushing Senate legislation that would preserve the Obama-era rules they view as more open and fair.

 >The Verge: Reddit, Pornhub, Tumblr and other companies are supporting net neutrality congressional action using a publicity campaign.

Prison reform:  (The Hill) — Administration-backed prison reforms face major obstacles in the Senate.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanInterior fast tracks study of drilling's Arctic impact: report Dems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia National Dems make play in Ohio special election MORE: (The Hill) – House Speaker Ryan (R-Wis.) embraced Trump as an “asset” for GOP candidates during this year’s midterm contests, arguing base supporters in key states are not focused on the president’s alleged treatment of adult-film actress Stormy Daniels or the year-old investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

>(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) — Ryan reflected on his final months in Congress and his career during the weekend’s GOP convention in Milwaukee.

CAMPAIGNS: We are less than six months out from the November midterm elections and there is fierce debate over what the outcome will be.

The president’s approval rating is sitting near its high point for the past 12 months — although it is still low for this point in a first-term presidency.

And the GOP avoided disaster by rejecting candidate Don Blankenship in the West Virginia Senate primary.

Poll: Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPollster: Kavanaugh will get Dem votes Overnight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions MORE (D-W.Va.) trails in reelection bid to state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R).

Are Republicans cutting into perceived Democratic advantages in the cycle, and could the economy save their Senate majority?

The Hill: Democrats worry Trump will win over the economy.

The Hill: Pence touts job opportunities to college graduates.

Most analysts believe the tailwinds will be great enough to deliver Democrats at least the 23 seats they need to win a majority in the House, but the map is so heavily stacked in the GOP’s favor in the Senate that it’s possible Republicans could pick up seats in the upper chamber.

Jared Whitley: Sorry, there will be no “blue wave.”

Ed Kilgore: The blue wave is not receding.

Douglas Schoen: Dems must beware impeaching Trump if blue wave prevails.

Joel Kotkin: As go the suburbs, so goes the nation?

Looking ahead to some key primary battles… State Sen. Leah Vukmir (R) wins Wisconsin Republican Party endorsement over businessman Kevin Nicholson (R).

Politico: Trump records robocall for Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaElection Countdown: Latest on the 2018 Senate money race | Red-state Dems feeling the heat over Kavanaugh | Dem doubts about Warren | Ocasio-Cortez to visit Capitol Hill | Why Puerto Ricans in Florida could swing Senate race Midterm turnout surges for both parties Poll: Incumbent Dem leads Pennsylvania Senate race by 15 MORE (R-Pa.) ahead of primary.

The New York Times: Democrats embrace moderates in House bids, vexing liberals.



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 CABINET & WHITE HOUSE: Divisions inside the administration: (The Hill) — Political fractures and bitter battles among those supposedly on the same team have been a hallmark of the Trump White House and reach into the rest of the administration — and to K Street as well.

CIA/Gina Haspel nomination(The Hill) — Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyPolling analyst: Same Dems who voted for Gorsuch will vote for Kavanaugh Pollster: Kavanaugh will get Dem votes Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions MORE (D-Ind.), announced his support for Trump’s nominee to lead the spy agency, moving her closer to Senate confirmation. Donnelly became the second Democrat to back the career CIA officer, joining West Virginia’s Manchin. Both men are seeking reelection this year in states Trump won by wide margins in 2016.

>The Hill: Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersBernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin Bernie Sanders tells Kansas crowd: This 'sure doesn’t look' like a GOP state The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia MORE (I-Vt.) says his opposition to Haspel’s nomination is not solely based on his objections to her use of torture for interrogation.

> The Hill: Former Secretary of Defense Gates says he doesn't believe Haspel's ties to an enhanced interrogation program disqualifies her from serving as CIA director.

State/Pompeo: (The Hill) — Secretary of State Pompeo joked Sunday on Fox News that after two weeks in his new Cabinet post, he hopes he hasn’t peaked. As it is, lawmakers from both parties and international policy specialists are giving the former CIA director high marks for reinvigorating U.S. diplomacy early in his tenure.

Pentagon/Justice/John Doe: (The Hill) — The Trump administration is weighing how to proceed with a U.S. citizen held as an enemy combatant since September in a unusual case that could threaten the legal underpinnings of the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

WHITE HOUSE: The president’s top communicators in the West Wing continued to refuse to publicly apologize about a barbed remark last week by a White House aide during a meeting among colleagues. The West Wing’s no-apology posture propelled negative headlines into a second week, involving White House aide Kelly Sadler, who on Thursday mocked “dying” Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainObama, Bush veterans dismiss Trump-Putin interpreter subpoena Controversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws Trump vows to hold second meeting with Putin MORE (R-Ariz.) at a staff meeting. McCain is opposed to Haspel’s CIA nomination.

The exchange was first reported by The Hill and confirmed by multiple news organizations. Some senior officials confirmed the remarks, while others attempted to create a smidgen of ambiguity. Handling of the fallout compounded criticisms of a self-injurious West Wing team.

Axios: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders expresses her anger to staff about leaks more than regrets about Sadler’s original remarks.

The Hill: White House tried to dodge Sadler’s McCain comments on Sunday.

The Hill: Budget Director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyOn The Money: Trump rips Fed over rate hikes | Dems fume as consumer agency pick refuses to discuss border policy | Senate panel clears Trump IRS nominee Trump pick to head watchdog agency is who consumers need Dems fume as Trump's consumer bureau pick refuses to discuss role in border policy MORE corroborated Sadler’s remarks, while defending the comments as a “joke.”

The Hill: Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamQuestions mount over Trump-Putin discussions The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia Overnight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria MORE (R-S.C.) said the White House owes everyone an apology. The senator, who is close to McCain, added, “If it was a joke, it was a terrible joke. I just wish somebody from the White House would tell the country that was inappropriate, that's not who we are in the Trump administration.”

The Hill: Sen. Sanders said, “it is beyond my comprehension” that the White House would not apologize.

The Hill: Utah Senate candidate and former GOP presidential nominee Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Romney: Trump's remarks at Putin summit 'disgraceful and detrimental to democratic principles' Utah's largest paper compares child separation to war crimes in scathing editorial MORE weighed in, arguing that those who mock the Arizona senator humiliate themselves.

INTERNATIONAL:  The three Americans freed from captivity in North Korea last week have reunited with their families after being discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday.

Meanwhile, anticipation is building ahead of the Trump-Kim meeting, scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.

  • Pompeo: U.S. is still far from achieving its goals in North Korea.

  • National security adviser John Bolton: Denuclearization is non-negotiable.

  • Sen. Graham: Trump should get Senate approval on any agreement with North Korea.

  • Gates: Trump’s tough talk got North Korea’s attention.

  • Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen: Chance of military conflict increases if talks fail.

 Trump’s decision on Iran is still reverberating around the world.

  • The Hill: Trump roils the globe with Iran nuclear deal withdrawal.

  • Bolton: European nations will see it’s in their interests to follow the U.S. and withdraw.

  • Pompeo: U.S. withdrawal did not spark Iran-Israel tensions.

  • Reuters: Iranian diplomat kicks off tour to save nuclear deal.

  • The New York Times: Iran’s foes see opportunity as deal ends. Others see a risk for war.

Other global hotspots…

The Hill: Questions linger over deadly Niger mission.

Middle East: The Associated Press — Thousands of Gaza residents headed toward the border with Israel today for a showdown as Israel prepared for the inauguration of a new U.S. Embassy in contested Jerusalem. Reuters: Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinians on Monday during Gaza protests.

China and trade: Trump is rethinking trade impacts, saying on Sunday via Twitter he’s working with Chinese President Xi Jinping to ensure telecommunications equipment-maker ZTE can do business with the U.S. again. The Commerce Department banned U.S. companies from doing business with ZTE after determining the company had shipped goods to Iran.

Reuters: In concession, Trump will help China’s ZTE “get back into business.”

Reuters: China says it appreciates U.S. position on ZTE Corp.





 White House statement Sunday:

“The president’s tweet underscores the importance of a free, fair, balanced, and mutually beneficial economic, trade and investment relationship between the United States and China. The administration is in contact with China on this issue, among others in the bilateral relationship. President Trump expects [Commerce] Secretary [Wilbur] Ross to exercise his independent judgment, consistent with applicable laws and regulations, to resolve the regulatory action involving ZTE based on its facts.”

The New York Times: Disarray plagues U.S. companies’ efforts to win tariff exemptions on steel and aluminum from Trump administration


Former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the “Me Too” movement provoke new questions for members of both parties, by former Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelPollster: GOP incumbents will try to de-emphasize Trump in midterms Former top Dem: Midterm message focus should be to 'just win' Former top Dem: Not every candidate should run on impeaching Trump MORE (D-N.Y.), opinion contributor with The Hill.

Is college worth it? At graduation time, this parent wonders, by Gary Varvel, Indianapolis Star.


The House returns to work Tuesday.

The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Michael Y. Scudder to be United States circuit judge for the 7th Circuit.

The president has lunch with Vice President Pence.

The vice president lunches with the president. In the evening, Pence speaks at Israel’s 70th Independence Day celebration at the Mellon Auditorium in Washington, hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to Israel Ron Dermer and his wife Rhoda Dermer.


> When spies hack journalism: Journalism conventions may set U.S. reporters up for spy agencies to manipulate, with an added risk that genuine material may include slick forgeries, by Scott Shane, The New York Times

> Five important rulings to watch at the Supreme Court, by Lydia Wheeler, The Hill

> This is how a newspaper dies, by Jack Shafer, Politico.

> Houston-area woman who supports the president creates book of Trump tweets for those not on Twitter, by NBC DFW (Texas)



Trump as a politician has fueled pop culture and late night comedy for three years, and there were even times when he enjoyed being in on the yucks. ...



... But is it possible audiences have now reached a saturation point?

Jimmy Kimmel told Deadline over the weekend he would dial back the Trump jokes at the Lincoln Center on Tuesday night when he roasts the television industry.

    “I think people have had an ass-full of Donald Trump, and I feel like the upfront is a time to look within and make fun of ourselves.”

And Saturday Night Live’s cold open this weekend featured a sketch in which the players complained about the endless Trump jokes.

This comes as liberals are warning Democratic candidates and the news media against obsessing about Trump.



How long will the moratorium on Trump jokes last? We’re betting until the next episode of “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert...