The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Pfizer — CIA nominee on the hot seat

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The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Pfizer — CIA pick faces grilling | Tells lawmakers she won't bring back waterboarding | Protesters interrupt hearing | North Korea frees three American prisoners | Invisible primary begins for Dems | Republicans relieved after Blankenship loses | Trump threatens to remove networks' press credentials


Gina Haspel: Sooo, how is YOUR morning going?: 

Gina Haspel, a 33-year career veteran of the CIA and President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East MORE's nominee to lead the agency, has spent the morning testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Why it's so newsy: Democrats have been grilling Haspel over the CIA's use of harsh interrogation techniques post-9/11. The hearing was also briefly interrupted by protesters. Live blog of the hearing: http://bit.ly/2HZx6yO

Livestream of the hearing: https://cs.pn/2wsOGWN 




On the CIA's post-9/11 interrogation: "In retrospect, it is clear that CIA was not prepared to conduct a detention and interrogation program ... I will keep CIA focused on our collection and analysis missions that can best leverage the expertise found at the agency." http://bit.ly/2KNYNbz

On why the interrogation tapes were destroyed: "Haspel says in 2005 the decision to destroy tapes of interrogation tactics was made 'alone' by her superior at the time. She was not on the tapes, she says." http://bit.ly/2I1EbPr

On whether Haspel would waterboard a suspect: Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGraham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh St. Lawrence alumni, faculty want honorary degree for Collins revoked 'Suspicious letter' mailed to Maine home of Susan Collins MORE (R-Maine): "If POTUS gave you a direct order to waterboard that suspect, what would you do? Haspel starts off, 'I do not believe POTUS would ask me to do that ...' and the audience literally laughs." http://bit.ly/2rtgS72

On any future 'immoral' orders: Haspel said she would not follow any "immoral" orders. Quote: "I support the higher moral standard that this country has decided to hold itself to. I would never, ever take CIA back to an interrogation program." http://bit.ly/2rw7zlP 

On any past orders: Haspel was asked, " 'Do you believe in hindsight that those techniques were immoral?' As she has done in previous confirmation Q&As, she digs in and won't let up. Haspel still does not answer directly." http://bit.ly/2KOMGLy

She also says: "I don't believe torture works." http://bit.ly/2rwn3ah



Haspel's pre-interview questions: Here's the questionnaire that Gina Haspel filled out as a presidential nominee. http://bit.ly/2rqJTQH

No social media accounts? That sounds nice: "'I don't have any social media accounts,' Gina Haspel says in her opening statement, but other than that she's 'a typical middle-class American.' " http://bit.ly/2rvhg4L

This poker face is pretty good: Protesters have repeatedly interrupted the hearing, For example: One protester chanted, "Bloody Gina! Bloody Gina! Bloody Gina! You are a torturer!" as she was escorted out. Watch: http://bit.ly/2I4A996


It's Wednesday. One year ago today, President Trump fired James ComeyJames Brien ComeyComey donates maximum amount to Democratic challenger in Virginia House race FBI investigated media leak of McCabe comment about Flynn and Trump House Judiciary chairman threatens to subpoena Rosenstein MORE as the FBI director. I'm Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what's coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to cmartel@thehill.com, @CateMartel and on Facebook.




The American prisoners in North Korea have been freed and should be back home in 14 hours:

President Trump announced that North Korea has freed three American prisoners and they are on the way back to the United States with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoIMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East Saudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Overnight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' MORE. Trump said the detainees "seem to be in good health." Trump said he plans to meet Secretary Pompeo and the freed detainees at Andrews Air Force Base when they land at 2 a.m. Context from The New York Times's Choe Sang-Hun: https://nyti.ms/2G1jKMy

At around 9:30 a.m.: The plane carrying Secretary of State Pompeo and the freed American prisoners landed at Yokota base in Japan. http://bit.ly/2I3xRXA

Read the White House's statement on the release: http://bit.ly/2wtks5W

DIPLOMATICALLY, THIS IS A BIG MOMENT: "The release of the three prisoners, all American citizens of Korean descent, was in some ways the most tangible gesture of sincerity shown by North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, to improve relations with the United States after nearly seven decades of mutual antagonism." https://nyti.ms/2G1jKMy

AND ON THE U.S./NORTH KOREA MEETING: Trump tweeted this morning that a date and time has been set for his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Keep in mind: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been visiting Pyongyang, North Korea, to prepare for the meeting. http://bit.ly/2G0btIJ



Hey guys -- we actually won't have an ex-convict as the GOP Senate nominee, so there's that!:

Via The Hill's Ben Kamisar, ex-convict and former coal executive Don Blankenship conceded his controversial Senate bid in West Virginia's GOP primary last night. State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is projected to win. http://bit.ly/2KOcBmK

IF YOU'VE BEEN WONDERING -- WHAT CRIME DID BLANKENSHIP COMMIT?: Don Blankenship served one year in prison for violating safety mine standards. 29 people were killed in an explosion at the mine run by the company he helmed. Full story: https://nyti.ms/2I1o4Br

THIS A.M. -- REACTION FROM TRUMP: President Trump celebrated Republican primary wins last night, arguing Republicans will win the midterms. He tweeted: "The Republican Party had a great night. Tremendous voter energy and excitement, and all candidates are those who have a great chance of winning in November. The Economy is sooo strong, and with Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiElection Countdown: Dems outraise GOP in final stretch | 2018 midterms already most expensive in history | What to watch in second Cruz-O'Rourke debate | Trump raises 0M for reelection | Why Dems fear Avenatti's approach GOP strategist says Trump could want border wall fight to continue to excite base McConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem' MORE wanting to end the big Tax Cuts and Raise Taxes, why wouldn't we win?" http://bit.ly/2K9Clc6

INTERESTING ANALYSIS -- WHAT A TIME TO BE A REPUBLICAN: The Washington Post's James Hohmann on how last night's primary results show how hard it is to be a Republican this year: https://wapo.st/2rvFxHT

MEANWHILE, DEMS ARE WORKING ON A MESSAGE: Via The Hill's Mike Lillis, House Democratic leaders seeking to condense their campaign platform into voter-friendly messaging bites are facing a number of options -- and plenty of competition at the table. The options: http://bit.ly/2I5CtIR

PLUS, DEMS ARE ALREADY SCHEMING FOR 2020: Via The Hill's Amie Parnes, the invisible primary has begun for Democrats plotting a presidential path in 2020. How so: Would-be candidates are hitting the trail, sharpening their positions, seeking the right political "lane" and holding private conversations with donors about their prospects. Is this unusual?: Yes. Invisible primaries don't usually gear up until after the midterms. Which Dems are doing what: http://bit.ly/2rxr0KY

Fun fact:



Fa la la la, First Amendment, la la la laaaaaa: 

This morning, President Trump tweeted criticism about the U.S. media, referring to negative coverage about him as "fake." The scary part: Trump floated taking away press credentials.

He tweeted: "The Fake News is working overtime. Just reported that, despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?" http://bit.ly/2IaWayP

Reaction from The Drudge Report's Matt Drudge: "I fear the future result of Trump's crusade on 'fake news' will be licensing of all reporters. [Dems already floated this in the senate pre-Trump.] The mop up on this issue is going to be excruciating..." http://bit.ly/2rvyr6t


Pour one out for the Iran deal: 

President Trump announced on Tuesday that he will pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal. Via The Hill's Niall Stanage, here are five takeaways from the announcement: http://bit.ly/2KPSVii 

  1. It's a sharp break from Europe
  2. This is another 'America First' moment
  3. A major Obama legacy is undone
  4. Now that Trump has made his move, all eyes are on Iran
  5. Trump pleases Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, again

Context for each: http://bit.ly/2KPSVii

Tidbit: "Minutes after Trump announces he's exiting the deal, Speaker Ryan and other Republicans announce they wanted him to stay in all along." (h/t Politico's Kyle Cheneyhttp://bit.ly/2FZbcpB

LET'S TAKE A STEP BACK: This is a huge week for President Trump's foreign policy: 

May 8: Trump pulled out of the Iran deal.

May 9: Three American prisoners were freed from North Korea.

May 14: The new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem formally opens. Tidbit: Signs have already popped up to guide visitors to its new location. https://cnn.it/2I3uOyC


I'm sure people love getting that Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE call: 

Michael Cohen's client, Swiss drug company Novartis, said today that special counsel Robert Mueller contacted the company about payments made by Cohen in November. The company said it provided the information requested. http://bit.ly/2K3GzBR

BACK STORY: A giant pharmaceutical company was linked to the shell company owned by President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen that was used to pay off adult-film star Stormy Daniels, according to documents released by Daniels's attorney. That includes this Swiss drug company Novartis. Novartis said it hired Cohen in February 2017 as part of a one-year contract for consulting services. The company said it paid Cohen $100,000 per month. It cancelled the contract after the first meeting. http://bit.ly/2FZBmZe



So relatable:

Full Stormy Daniels interview with Penthouse: http://bit.ly/2FZQru3



Congress is in. President Trump and Vice President Pence are both at the White House.

11:30 a.m. EDT: President Trump holds a Cabinet meeting.

Noon: The Senate votes on nominations. The Senate's schedule today: http://bit.ly/2KQnmVg

1:30 p.m. EDT: Vice President Pence hosts the Council of the Americas for a working lunch in the Roosevelt Room.

1:30 p.m. EDT: First votes in the House. The House's schedule today: http://bit.ly/2jYhqPv

4:15 p.m. EDT: Last votes in the House.

7 p.m. EDT: President Trump has dinner with members of Congress.

Just announced -- June 2019: The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees will play in London. https://wapo.st/2I6H4ic 



This morning: Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' Joint Chiefs chairman to meet with Saudi counterpart Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' despite 'Democrat' remark MORE and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Joseph Dunford testify on their 2019 budget. Livestream: https://cs.pn/2rvYkTv

2:30 pm. EDT: Officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs testify on the department's 2019 budget. Livestream: https://cs.pn/2I5Y0kI

3:10 p.m. EDT: President Trump attends a celebration for military mothers and spouses. Livestream: http://bit.ly/2FYndf7

3:30 p.m. EDT: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders gives the daily press briefing. Livestream: http://bit.ly/2wsXRGv



Today is National Moscato Day. It's also National Butterscotch Brownie Day.


No *clap* More *clap* layovers!: 

Via Washingtonian, four new nonstop flights have been added to Washington, D.C.-area airports. New destinations: Edinburgh, Reykjavík, London, and Hong Kong. Details: http://bit.ly/2rwgcO5


And because you read this far, here's a golden retriever showing a puppy how to use the slide: http://bit.ly/2FYxmsd