Morning Report

The Hill's Morning Report - Lawsuits, investigations send Trump on Twitter tirade

Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and happy Monday! 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!)

This is an epic battle for the soul and cooperation of Michael Cohen. And prosecutors have enormous weapons at their disposal.

 - Alan Dershowitz

President Trump is stewing over the lawsuits and investigations encircling his White House and associates, as evidenced by the torrent of tweets that erupted from the president in Florida over the last 48 hours. Here's what's on the president's mind:

An ongoing federal criminal investigation in New York into Michael Cohen, Trump's personal attorney and self-described "fixer." The New York Times reported over the weekend that the White House worries Cohen might become a witness against Trump, provoking an outburst of tweets from the president accusing the media of trying to drive a wedge between him and his longtime aide. Surrogates hit the airwaves to dispute the reporting.

The Hill: Cohen overshadows Mueller probe.

  • Special counsel Robert Mueller's probe...

The special counsel probe, which is running a tab of about $1 million a month, will pass the one-year mark in May. Big questions:

Will the probe continue deep into the midterm election season or beyond?

Will the Justice Department make public Mueller's reports on the investigation, or allow the indictments to speak for themselves?

A spokesperson for the special counsel declined to comment when The Hill asked if the investigative team plans to update the public on the state of the investigation. You can find details on the "confidential report" required of the special counsel here.

The Hill: Five takeaways about the addition of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to the president's personal legal team.

  • Former FBI Director James Comey.

The Wall Street Journal: Justice Department watchdog probes Comey memos over inclusion of classified information.

  • The Democratic National Committee lawsuit against the Trump campaign, Russia and WikiLeaks, accusing them of hacking emails and colluding.

 Republicans are dismissing the lawsuit as a public relations stunt and say they're eager to re-litigate the 2016 election, including why the DNC didn't hand its hacked server over to the FBI. But the lawsuit will play well with the liberal base and Democrats say discovery and depositions could work both ways if the suit proceeds.

"I'm confident we will get a jury trial," DNC Chairman Tom Perez said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

USA Today: The DNC is suing to protect election integrity.

New York Post: Democrats get desperate as Mueller probe stalls.

The Intercept: Democratic lawsuit against WikiLeaks a threat to press freedoms.


NORTH KOREA fallout - Pyongyang says it will suspend its nuclear tests, potentially making a meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un more likely.

Trump is riding high after the announcement, but striking a cautious note:

The Associated Press: Road to North Korea's denuclearization littered with failure.

The Washington Post: White House privately skeptical of North Korea's plans to freeze nuclear testing.

North Korea has not said it will abandon its development of nuclear technology or its weapons stockpiles.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a Trump ally, downplayed the announcement, calling it an "easily reversible decision" on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

"They made no announcement about their medium- or short-range ballistic missiles that threaten hundreds of thousands of Americans in Korea and Japan, just like it threatens our allies there."

The Wall Street Journal: Trump will tell Kim that nukes must be dismantled before sanctions relief.

The Hill: Korean peace talks pose new challenge for Trump.


  • North Korea has suspended military tests and made promises like this before, only to backtrack.
  • The announcement is a short-term victory for Trump, lifting his global credibility. The White House sees evidence of Trump's impact on events (and potentially his negotiating prowess).

Big questions:

  •  Does Pyongyang's announcement make a Trump-Kim meeting more likely?
  •   Is it a head-fake or trap by North Korea to bring Trump to the table?

AP: World watching for signs of North Korea nuke deal at two summits.

Dov Zakheim, the former undersecretary of Defense for President George W. Bush, tells us that most of the Western media are focused too much on the Trump-Kim dynamics. Less is known about the impact that North Korea's regional neighbors, China and South Korea, are having on the process.

"The Chinese are playing at least as big a part in all this as we are and it seems something is going on behind the scenes between the North and South to end this conflict."

The New York Times: National security adviser John Bolton taps veteran Mira Ricardel as his White House deputy.

Meetings with European peers will dominate Trump's calendar this week.

  • Monday: The president welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron today for a three-day state visit including bilateral meetings, a joint press conference, and a formal state dinner.
    • The Associated Press: Macron to push Trump on Iran deal, arguing there's no "plan B."
    • Bloomberg: The leaders of France, UK and Germany coordinate to urge Trump to stick with Iran nuclear deal.
  • Friday: German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits the White House. (No state dinner for her.) Reminder: The U.S. still does not have an ambassador to Germany. Trump's pick, Richard Grenell, was nominated last September but still has not received a confirmation vote from the GOP-controlled Senate.

CABINET OUTLOOK for State, CIA: Tonight, the Senate Foreign Relations panel will vote on whether Mike Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas and current CIA director, should become Trump's second secretary of State. If Pompeo becomes the first such Cabinet pick in decades to lose the committee's backing, his nomination could still move to the Senate floor, where his chances for confirmation are brighter.

The Hill: Pompeo faces pivotal vote.

The Hill: The committee vote will show how far Democrats are willing to go to fight the president on nearly every issue.

Separately, Trump's nominee to become CIA director, Gina Haspel, is in trouble leading up to a May 9 Senate confirmation hearing. Haspel, 61, has never held a political appointment and has never testified publicly before the Senate. A broad array of former Republican and Democratic intelligence officials have given her their support.

  • Much of Haspel's service record is classified, including her involvement in harsh interrogation of Muslim terror suspects after 9/11, and CIA destruction of interrogation videotapes.
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has announced his opposition. With the narrow Senate GOP majority, to win confirmation Haspel would need to find some Democratic votes, which are not yet in evidence.
  • Might senators' unease put pressure on Trump to withdraw his nominee to avoid what could be a bruising defeat?
  • Much of Haspel's service record is classified, including her involvement in harsh interrogation of Muslim terror suspects after 9/11, and CIA destruction of interrogation videotapes. New: Former military officials write in opposition to Haspel.

NBC News: Democrats are publicly outspoken in opposition; Republicans' concerns are privately shared.

Fox News Op-Ed: Why Haspel deserves confirmation by the Senate, by Douglas MacKinnon, former White House and Defense official.


➔  Supreme Court weighs Trump's travel ban. Justices on Wednesday will close out their oral arguments for the term, focusing on the constitutionality of the Trump administration's third attempt to block nationals from six majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. A ruling is expected by the end of June.

The Hill: Court-watchers wait to see whether justices focus on the statutory or constitutional arguments.

Reuters: The travel ban case tests the limits of presidential power.

The Washington Post: Supreme Court to weigh "the president" vs. "this president."

The Wall Street Journal: Rod Rosenstein, deputy DOJ, argues a case before the Supreme Court today.

Campaigns roundup:  Conservative author Brad Thor announced over Twitter this weekend that he will challenge Trump for the 2020 GOP presidential nomination. Thor has almost no chance here and it is highly unlikely at this point that anyone but Trump will be the Republican nominee. But it's an interesting example of what to expect from the Never Trump right as the midterm elections approach.

Joe Scarborough: It's becoming clear Trump won't run in 2020. (The Washington Post)

CNN: Why a primary challenge to Trump is likely to fail.

Speaking of potential 2020 challengers to Trump...

Reuters: Mitt Romney fails to secure Utah GOP nomination for Senate but is still the favorite to win June primary.

The Hill: Romney declines to endorse Trump for 2020, says his support must be earned.

Meanwhile, we'll let this quote from Republican strategist Alex Castellanos about the GOP's midterm election prospects and the power of the economy to help the party stand by itself.

"Money won't buy Republicans out of the wave that's coming."

The Hill (op-ed): Midterm elections will be a nationwide referendum on Trump.

Republicans face another test in Tuesday's special election to replace former Rep. Trent Franks (R) in Arizona's 8th district between Republican Debbie Lesko and Democrat Hiral Tipirneni. The district is deep red, so another must-win for Republicans. There have only been two major polls - one showing Lesko up by 10 and the other showing Tipirneni with a 1 point lead.

Arizona Republic: Everything you need to know about Arizona's Tuesday election.

The Hill: GOP Senate primary in Indiana turns ugly.

The Hill: House Republicans prepare to battle for leadership slots.

And just a Monday note about the politics of billionaires and climate change... Michael Bloomberg used Earth Day to announce he'll write a $4.5 million check on behalf of the United States through his charity to pull its weight behind the international Paris agreement.


It's time for President Trump to recognize the Armenian genocide, by Andy Surabian, former special assistant to the president, commentary in the Washington Examiner.

When the Twitter mob came for me, by Kevin Williamson, writing in The Wall Street Journal.


Senate convenes at 3 p.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of Stuart Kyle Duncan to be a United States circuit judge for the 5th Circuit.

House returns to work tomorrow.

President Trump will meet with Vice President Pence over lunch. The president and first lady Melania Trump welcome French President Emmanuel Macron and Brigitte Macron to the White House, and together plant a tree on the South Lawn. In the evening the couples dine at Mount Vernon in Virginia. Before returning from Mount Vernon, they'll view George Washington's tomb.

The vice president lunches with Trump, then heads this afternoon to NASA headquarters to swear in Jim Bridenstine as the new administrator. Pence will speak through a live hookup with three NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station, then meet with senior NASA officials. (The space station crew members are Scott Tingle, Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold.)


> President Macron's diplomacy with U.S. takes root, one sapling at a time (Reuters staff)

> Dan Scavino, the man behind Trump's tweets, by Robert Draper (The New York Times Magazine)

> A voyage along Trump's wall: how life and a landscape would be changed along the border, by Nick Paumgarten (The New Yorker)

> ZTE Corp., one of China's largest tech firms, says it seeks a solution to a week-old U.S. tech ban (Associated Press)

> Political sway of Koch-backed groups on display and rattling Democrats (Koch networks' letter to lawmakers today urges action this year on Dreamers. Network also lobbying for criminal justice reform) (Associated Press)


Don't miss this pix taken by photographer Paul Morse during former first lady Barbara Bush's Saturday funeral in Houston. As political images go, this one has a whole lot going on...

And finally ... depending on your experiences with Ikea's teensy hex wrenches and assembly instructions, this Science magazine news is either a wondrous breakthrough, or an alarm about the rise of machines ... Watch a short video in which two brainy and dexterous humans barely beat two robotic arms while assembling an Ikea chair in roughly 20 minutes.