The Hill's Morning Report — Trump, Putin meet under cloud of Mueller’s Russia indictments

 

 

 

Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and happy Monday! Our daily email gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch, co-created by Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger. (CLICK HERE to subscribe!)

Live tonight from Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. … Major League Baseball’s All Star week continues with the 2018 Home Run Derby … Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is among the field of eight sluggers … The Morning Report’s Jonathan Easley, a lifelong fan of the World Champion Houston Astros, will be rooting for 24-year-old third baseman and first-time All Star Alex Bregman to take home the trophy.

***

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand urges opposition to Kavanaugh: Fight for abortion rights 'is now or never' Trump claims tariffs on foreign nations will rescue US steel industry: report Bannon announces pro-Trump movie, operation team ahead of midterms: report MORE is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki at the moment. Trump’s comment to reporters early this morning: “We’ll do just fine.”

The president over the weekend sought to downplay the importance of today’s meeting, predicting it would be short and loose. But special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE raised the stakes on Friday when he dropped detailed and specific indictments on 12 Russian intelligence officers for a litany of election-related crimes, including the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

The Wall Street Journal: Trump faces renewed pressure to confront Putin after Russian agents’ indictments.

The Associated Press: Trump reaches for big moment with Putin.

Trump and Putin conclude their get-together (including an initial session without aides present) with a joint press conference at 9:50 a.m. ET, where reporters will try to press the Russian president on his involvement with election interference in the United States and other nations.

“Putin is essentially an unindicted co-conspirator. And not just any co-conspirator, he’s the ringmaster of this conspiracy and he’s going to be sitting down at the table with Donald Trump. And Trump is basically saying that indictment is just a witch hunt. And that’s … a great gift for Vladimir Putin.” — House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffInternet security leader: Hackers are 'trying to undermine very process of democracy' Republicans and Democrats alike face troubling signals from voters Schiff blasts GOP for Russia probe conduct: 'That's how you obstruct an investigation, not how you conduct one' MORE (D-Calif.) on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

U.S. lawmakers have been frustrated by what they view as a president who is more concerned with defending his 2016 election victory than punishing Russia for government-ordered and sanctioned interference.

 

 

 

 

Following Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinHillicon Valley: FBI fires Strzok after anti-Trump tweets | Trump signs defense bill with cyber war policy | Google under scrutiny over location data | Sinclair's troubles may just be beginning | Tech to ease health data access | Netflix CFO to step down US judge rejects Russian company’s bid to dismiss Mueller charges Falwell Jr.: Sessions and Rosenstein ‘deceived’ Trump into appointing them and should ‘rot’ in jail MORE’s press conference announcing the indictments, the White House issued a statement highlighting Rosenstein’s remarks that no Americans had been charged in the conspiracy and that there was no evidence that vote totals had been compromised.

“I'll be asking about it. But again, this was during the Obama administration. They were doing whatever it was during the Obama administration.” — Trump on Saturday in an interview with CBS News.

The 2018 midterm elections are just over 100 days away. The Mueller indictments have renewed fears that Russians will once again be looking to sow discord in the process.

"We have an election coming up in November and if there is meddling in the election this November like we saw in 2016, we’re not going to have much of a relationship left.” — U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman on "Fox News Sunday.”

Trump insists that he will confront Putin about the election interference, but he has also indicated that there is little he can do about it now and that he hopes he and Putin can have a friendly working relationship. There is no confidence among Republicans or Democrats on Capitol Hill that the president will be as forceful as he needs to be with Putin on the issue.

“I think it's an embarrassment that this White House has not made election security a top priority and has not put the kind of attention and focus on it that we need. The truth is, I'm not sure we're fully prepared.” — Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump draws bipartisan fire over Brennan Hillicon Valley: Trump revokes Brennan's security clearance | Twitter cracks down on InfoWars | AT&T hit with crypto lawsuit | DHS hosts election security exercise Overnight Defense: Trump revokes Brennan's security clearance | Brennan fires back: 'I will not relent' | Defense firms bullish on 'Space Force' | Treasury targets Chinese, Russian firms for helping North Korea MORE (D-Va.) on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The two leaders also plan to discuss a host of sticky international issues, from Russia’s annexation of Crimea and a potential new arms reduction treaty to NATO and Putin’s support for Syrian leader Bashar Assad, who has gassed his own people and is waging civil war to stay in power.

The Hill: Five things to watch from Trump-Putin summit.

The Associated Press: What Trump and Putin hope to achieve.                                            

"I go in with low expectations. I'm not going with high expectations … I think it's a good thing to meet. I do believe in meetings. ... Nothing bad is going to come out of it, and maybe some good will come out." — Trump to CBS News.

 

 

David Ignatius: Putin must wonder what else America knows about Russia.

Jonathan Turley: Ignore the spin, still no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.

Fred Kaplan: Rosenstein’s indictments can’t be brushed aside.

Matthew Walther: Trump-Russia fever dreams reach parody status.

Mark Galeotti: The danger of a deal with Putin.

LEADING THE DAY

INTERNATIONAL: Trump’s big meeting in Finland is not the only global news we’re watching… (The Washington Post offers a smart analysis today of the president’s international travels and techniques, a year and a half into his term.)

U.K. and Europe: The president left chaos in his wake last week (The Hill) … What if the United States committed 4 percent of Gross Domestic Product to defense as a member of NATO, as Trump suggested while in Brussels? It would mean another $181 billion spent on defense in 2018 (The Hill) … Trump tweets today that he left NATO “strong and rich,” with a successful gathering (Reuters).

> British Prime Minister Theresa May told the BBC that Trump offered her advice not to negotiate with the European Union (EU) on Brexit, but instead to sue the EU — advice she opted not to heed.

> Trump described the EU as a “foe” during a Saturday interview with the CBS Evening News. That comment sparked a retort from European Council President Donald Tusk, who refuted the president’s comment via Twitter.

 

 

> Meanwhile in England, the deadly Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok was found in a small bottle in the home of a British woman, Dawn Sturgess, who died July 8 after becoming ill June 30. Her partner, also exposed to the poison, remains in critical condition (ABC News) … Sturgess’s 19-year-old son asked Trump to raise the circumstances of his mother’s death with Putin today (The Guardian).

North Korea: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoKavanaugh has 'productive' meeting with key swing votes 17 times Brennan has torched Trump Diplomats who have kids with special needs say Pompeo is ignoring their pleas: report MORE says U.S. officials expect today to return to talks with Pyongyang about the return of U.S. military service members’ remains in that country, and other issues.

 

 

Iran: The fate of American captives held in Iran remains uncertain, The New York Times magazine reports. In addition to former FBI agent and private investigator Robert Levinson, who worked for the CIA and has been missing in Iran since 2007, Iran is known to be holding Baquer Namazi, 81, a former UNICEF diplomat; his son Siamak Namazi, 46, a business consultant; Karan Vafadari, 56, an art dealer; Morad Tahbaz, 62, an environmental activist; and Xiyue Wang, 37, a Princeton University graduate student (The New York Times).

Africa: Former President Obama travels from Kenya to South Africa today. In Kenya, he speaks at the inauguration of the Sauti Kuu Foundation center for sports and vocational training for young people. In South Africa, where he’ll be traveling through July 19, Obama will meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa and deliver the 16th Nelson Mandela Foundation annual lecture in Johannesburg on July 17.

***

SUPREME COURT: Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowTrump draws bipartisan fire over Brennan The farm bill gives Congress a chance to act on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act Michigan county investigating ballot shortage in election MORE (D-Mich.) announced her opposition to Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court on Friday. Trump narrowly (10,704 votes) captured Michigan in 2016, while Obama won the state twice.

Senate Democratic leaders are trying to corral their conference in an attempt to block Kavanaugh’s chances of getting 51 votes, a long shot considering the intense political pressure trained on 10 Senate Democratic incumbents running in states Trump won in 2016. (Wisconsin Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinTrump touts GOP election wins: ‘We have the team we want’ The Hill's Morning Report — GOP seeks to hold Trump’s gains in Midwest states Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries MORE last week announced her intention to vote against Kavanaugh in a state the president won by 22,748 votes.)

Stabenow, who opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination in 2006 to become an appeals court judge, and Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersThe farm bill gives Congress a chance to act on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act Bipartisanship alive and well, protecting critical infrastructure The Hill's Morning Report — Trump, Putin meet under cloud of Mueller’s Russia indictments MORE on Friday announced their misgivings about the nominee’s potential impact on the court (The Detroit News).

“Based on the large number of cases and opinions written throughout Judge Kavanaugh’s career, it is clear that he has chosen to side with the wealthiest special interests over the majority of Americans time after time.” – Stabenow

Before those objections last week, CNN offered its Senate whip tally.

Among Democratic senators representing states that supported Trump’s election is Doug Jones of Alabama. The Supreme Court battle pits Jones against the conservative leanings of his constituents, as the GOP eyes avenues to unseat him in 2020 (The Hill).

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinKavanaugh has 'productive' meeting with key swing votes Election Countdown: GOP worries House majority endangered by top of ticket | Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries | Parties fight for Puerto Rican vote in Florida | GOP lawmakers plan 'Freedom Tour' The Hill's Morning Report — GOP seeks to hold Trump’s gains in Midwest states MORE, up for reelection in November, is among those facing a choice of defying his party or joining Republican colleagues to support Kavanaugh. Frustrated with partisan pressure from Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerElection Countdown: GOP worries House majority endangered by top of ticket | Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries | Parties fight for Puerto Rican vote in Florida | GOP lawmakers plan 'Freedom Tour' Senate Democrats should stop playing politics on Kavanaugh Montana GOP Senate hopeful touts Trump's support in new ad MORE (D), Manchin pushed back last week against the New York liberal (The Hill).

Democratic Party factions are airing the infighting, sparring publicly with one another over tactics to oppose Kavanaugh (The Hill).

Meanwhile, suburban and independent voters say they’re not following the Supreme Court nomination battle in Washington all that closely (The Associated Press).

In advance of Senate confirmation hearings weeks from now, Americans are learning more about the 53-year-old jurist’s background. Kavanaugh has a voluminous paper trail, and Democrats want to thoroughly vet the nominee (The Hill) … The White House is touting his support among his female law clerks … Kavanaugh’s track record as a Harvard professor was explored by The Boston Globe … Issue advocacy groups, such as the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence, are burying senators in research they’re compiling to describe “grave concerns” about Kavanaugh’s potential impact on issues that will come before the Supreme Court. Groups on all sides of the nomination are preparing lists of questions to suggest to members of the Judiciary Committee.

The Wall Street Journal: Kavanaugh’s collegial nature could change tenor of the court.

Poll: Kavanaugh is drawing mixed initial reviews from adults surveyed July 10-11, embarking on the confirmation process with less public support than Neil Gorsuch attracted in 2017, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds (The Huffington Post).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: From the front lines of the struggle between grass-roots liberals and the establishment…

The Los Angeles Times: “California Democratic Party leaders took a step to the left Saturday night, endorsing liberal state lawmaker Kevin de León for Senate in a stinging rebuke of Democratic Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinProgressives fume as Dems meet with Brett Kavanaugh GOP lawmaker calls on FBI to provide more info on former Feinstein staffer It’s possible to protect national security without jeopardizing the economy MORE.”

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), the No.4 Democrat in the House who lost a primary to 28-year-old liberal challenger and self-described democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez earlier this month, can relate.

In an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Crowley reflected on the myriad factors that led to his shocking ouster by a political newcomer.

“I didn’t talk about helping people in my district and reminding people where I stood. Some people may have taken for granted that I’d been around for a while.” — Crowley.

Josh Kraushaar: Party leaders surrendering to the fringe.

One of the issues driving a wedge between Democrats right now is whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should be abolished.

Obama’s former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderSanders to appear next week on Colbert's 'Late Show' GOP lawmaker: Mueller won't stop until he gets a Trump indictment Midterms pose dilemma for Mueller MORE, who is considering running for president, is siding with mainstream Democrats over liberals here.

“You're giving the Republicans a gift by saying we're going to have a debate now about whether ICE should be abolished." – Holder on MSNBC’s “MTP Daily.

Democrats are in complete agreement, however, that the Trump administration must reunite families separated at the border as part of the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy as quickly as possible.

A federal judge has mandated the estimated 2,500 children separated from their parents must be reunited by July 26.

The Hill: Democrats launch pressure campaign over migrant children.

On the Republican side, there are two important races to watch in Congress.

The Hill’s Melanie Zanona and Juliegrace Brufke report that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyInternet security expert: 'I don’t think it’s right to say’ tech giants are politically biased Poll: Republicans favor Scalise for Speaker; Dems favor Pelosi Jim Carrey targets McCarthy, Nunes ahead of midterms MORE (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScalisePoll: Republicans favor Scalise for Speaker; Dems favor Pelosi Trump ally suspends reelection campaign Trump’s endorsements cement power but come with risks MORE (R-La.) are jockeying for the affection of conservatives ahead of a potential race to succeed retiring Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump revokes Brennan's security clearance The Hill's 12:30 Report Poll: Republicans favor Scalise for Speaker; Dems favor Pelosi MORE (R-Wis.).

And The Hill’s Scott Wong has the inside look on the five Republicans who are mulling bids to lead the conservative Republican Study Committee.

From the campaign trail … Josh Hawley was hand-picked by Republicans to take on Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) but it will not be an easy task (The New York Times) … Democrats lead Republicans by 12 million registered voters (The Center for Politics) … Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) focuses on immigration in bid for old job (The Minnesota Star-Tribune) … A half-dozen Democrats prepare to run for president in 2020 (The New York Times) … Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign has already raised $88 million (The New York Times).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley jeasley@thehill.com & Alexis Simendinger asimendinger@thehill.com. Suggestions? Tips? We want to hear from you! Share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!

OPINION

The West is a mess but the real trouble is in Europe, by Conrad Black, The National Post. https://bit.ly/2LkT1hC

 

The Supreme Court’s original sin, by Carl M. Cannon, RealClearPolitics. https://bit.ly/2Llflrw

 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House begins work at noon.

The Senate convenes on Monday at 3 p.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of Scott Stump to be assistant secretary for career, technical, and adult education at the Department of Education.

The president and Melania TrumpMelania TrumpRepublicans become entangled by family feuds over politics Melania Trump's office pushes back on Omarosa claims Omarosa book: Melania uses her fashion choices to ‘punish’ Trump MORE signed a guest book at the presidential palace in Helsinki, Finland, and participated in an official greeting this morning. Trump and Putin meet one-on-one, then continue during an expanded bilateral session with U.S. and Russian officials and a working lunch. The two leaders hold a joint news conference this morning. Trump and the first lady depart Finland by noon local time, and will arrive at the White House by 9 p.m.

Vice President Pence this morning will visit the U.S. Department of Commerce, receive a briefing with Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossOn The Money: Turkey in crisis as lira hits new low | Watchdog calls for Wilbur Ross stock probe | CBO downgrades growth projection for 2018 Watchdog accuses Wilbur Ross of violating conflict of interest laws, calls for probe into finances FCC commissioner: US in 'great shape' in 5G network race with China, other countries MORE and meet with department employees. Afterward, the vice president will deliver remarks.  

Secretary of State Pompeo is in Helsinki with Trump and Putin. The secretary will also meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and with his Finnish counterpart, Foreign Minister Timo Soini, to discuss bilateral and regional issues.

The Atlantic Council, in partnership with the Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity, today plans a timely newsmaker event and press conference about the Kremlin’s interference in elections. Location: Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street N.W., Washington. Schedule: 1:15 p.m. press conference with Sens. Warner and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio’s pro-family, conservative family leave policy promotes stability Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries Establishment-backed Vukmir wins Wisconsin GOP Senate primary MORE (R-Fla.), plus European members of Parliament; 2 p.m., panel discussion with Warner and Rubio.

 

ELSEWHERE

>  Tracing Guccifer 2.0’s many tentacles in the 2016 election, by David E. Sanger, Jim Rutenberg and Eric Lipton (The New York Times).

> Photo essay: Migrant families at the southern border in June 2017, published July 10, by photojournalist Salwan Georges (The Washington Post magazine).

> Emmett Till’s mother sparked a civil rights movement. Sixty-three years after Till’s slaying, the Justice Department, responding to information published in a 2017 book, reopened the murder case (The Washington Post).

THE CLOSER

And finally … Let’s begin this July week with happy discoveries, a few right under our noses...

Found in the Panama wilds: Capuchin monkeys, whose newly uncovered dexterity, tool-using smarts and all-around adorableness stun scientists. They suddenly are the fourth non-human primate known to use tools. Don’t miss the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute video that shows what the cat-sized monkeys accomplish by hoisting heavy rocks (The Washington Post).

Found at the bottom of an oceanside cliff: Angela Hernandez of Portland, Ore. The 23-year-old survived for more than a week after plunging down a rocky embankment in Big Sur, Calif., in her Jeep. She was rescued on Friday after some passersby reported seeing a partially submerged vehicle (The Mercury News).

Found inside a garage in upstate New York: A stolen Robert Motherwell painting valued at $1 million, which went missing 40 years ago and was discovered recently by a man helping his mother clean up her house (The New York Times).