The Hill's Morning Report: Giuliani floods the media zone for Trump

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to visit White House on Monday Transportation Dept requests formal audit of Boeing 737 Max certification MORE is besieged by controversy in Washington but will return to his comfort zone in front of a crowd of supporters in Dallas today for a speech to the National Rifle Association (NRA). 

In normal times, it would be a risky move to address guns rights activists when there are widespread gun control protests following prominent and tragic mass shootings.

But these are not normal times. Washington is captivated by Trump’s attorney, former New York City Mayor
Rudolph “Rudy” Giuliani, and his wall-to-wall efforts to push the president’s perspectives in the news media.

Giuliani is flooding the zone with new information, explanations, attacks and non sequiturs that have scrambled the political and legal landscape for the president and the White House, as well as those investigating and suing the administration.

The strategy — which Giuliani says has been sanctioned by the president — is for Trump’s once-passive legal team to strike a more aggressive posture. Is it working? We don’t know. But here’s a roundup from Giuliani’s media carpet-bombing over the past 36 hours:

But Giuliani’s gabbing could also get him and the White House in trouble.

The Associated Press: Sanders faces new credibility questions. 

THE BOTTOM LINE: Nothing Giuliani says will stop the freight train of investigations at the special counsel or the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York, where Cohen appears to be in extreme legal jeopardy. And the former prosecutor’s efforts may have hurt his client, judging from reports this morning:

The New York Times: On attack for Trump, Giuliani may aggravate legal and political peril.

The Washington Post: Giuliani story of payoff may fuel prosecutors’ case.

Meanwhile, Mueller asked a Virginia court for 70 blank subpoenas on Thursday for the prosecution of Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortHill-HarrisX poll: 76 percent oppose Trump pardoning former campaign aides New York prosecutors throw out Constitution to charge Manafort Another prosecutor leaves Mueller investigation in latest sign probe may be winding down MORE and a final interview with Trump is still being negotiated.

Also, NBC News reported the feds used a log system to monitor phone calls from Cohen’s phone before raiding his office and personal residence. One of the calls was with the White House. (NBC corrected an initial report that the government “wiretapped” the president’s personal attorney.)

The Hill’s Niall Stanage interviewed Giuliani, who says he wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “step in” on the Cohen investigation.

Reuters interviewed Giuliani, too, and he described some conditions he and the president want to set for a potential Mueller interview.

The Hill: White House struggles with fallout over $130,000 payment.

Jonathan Turley: Giuliani sets off a firestorm.

 

LEADING THE DAY

Congress: Lawmakers return to Washington next week, revisiting well-worn paths and searching for new strategies.

In the House, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan joins board of Fox Corporation Bottom Line Paul Ryan says Trump will win reelection because of 'record of accomplishment' MORE has backed away from his controversial decision last week to fire the Rev. Patrick Conroy, the House chaplain. On Thursday, Conroy rescinded his forced resignation in a letter to the Speaker, and Ryan acquiesced (The Hill).

Takeaway: The priest outmaneuvered the Speaker. 

House Republicans and the White House, continuing to express regrets about the impact of the omnibus spending bill signed by Trump in March, say they’ll link arms in an effort to cut $11 billion out of the $1.3 trillion already enacted. The White House, concerned that fiscal conservatives will bemoan the GOP’s deficit spending, could send the request to Capitol Hill as early as Monday (The Hill).

If Democrats win House control next year, their tools extend beyond impeachment considerations to combat Trump and GOP lawmakers. Here are five ways Democrats could inflict pain on the president and his party if they hold the reins in 2019 (The Hill).

The Washington Post: House Democrat identifies himself in suit alleging child sexual abuse, denies allegations.

Campaigns: The president returns to the campaign trail next week. Trump will hold a rally on Thursday in South Bend, Ind., two days after the state’s pivotal primary.

Republican Reps. Luke MesserAllen (Luke) Lucas MesserYoder, Messer land on K Street House GOP to force members to give up leadership positions if running for higher office Indiana New Members 2019 MORE and Todd RokitaTheodore (Todd) Edward RokitaFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations House passes year-end tax package Indiana New Members 2019 MORE and businessman Mike Braun are battling it out for the right to take on incumbent Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE, who is among the most vulnerable Democrats seeking reelection this cycle.

The Hill: Mueller emerges as villain in GOP campaigns.

Monmouth University: Democrats hold 8-point lead in House generic ballot.

McClatchy: "Cocaine Mitch" and Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrio of NFL players intern on Capitol Hill as part of league program Trump keeps tight grip on GOP GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers MORE (R-Ky.) are players in nasty West Virginia GOP Senate primary.

Buzzfeed: RNC member says the national party is changing the rules to make it more difficult to launch a primary challenge against Trump.

***NEW: The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group that spent millions to back Trump’s selection of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, is launching a $1 million television and digital ad campaign targeting Senate Democrats for blocking the president’s judicial nominees. Look for the ads over the next two weeks on CNN, Fox News Channel and at airports across the country.***

 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

Administration: To bolster this week’s Senate confirmation hearing for Gina Haspel to lead the CIA, the White House drafted a 27-page memo with five broad points that supporters are urged to repeat in defending the veteran spy during challenging questioning expected on May 9 (The Hill).

At the embattled Environmental Protection Agency, Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election EPA pushes forward plan to increase ethanol mix in gasoline Trump: The solitary executive MORE, involved in at least 11 different investigations, remains in the headlines with the third in a series of exits among his top political aides. Liz Bowman, his communications assistant, resigned to become communications director for Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstSenate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court GOP senators introduce bill to rein in president's emergency powers On The Money: Wells Fargo chief gets grilling | GOP, Pence discuss plan to defeat Dem emergency resolution | House chair sees '50-50' chance of passing Dem budget | Trump faces pressure over Boeing MORE (R-Iowa) and departs the agency May 11 (The Hill).

Democratic Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOvernight Defense: Pentagon details 8 billion budget request | Officials defend boost for war fund | Armed Services chair aims to 'kill' Trump plan for low-yield nuke Why block citizenship to immigrants who defend America? GOP senator says she was raped by superior officer while serving in military MORE (Ill.) this week joined a chorus within her party seeking Pruitt’s resignation “immediately.”

International: North KoreaVice President Pence is delaying a planned May 30-31 trip to Brazil ahead of a possible Trump summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the vice president’s staff announced. The dates and location of a Trump-Kim summit have not been set (The Hill).    

North Korea: White House press secretary Sanders said Thursday she could not confirm reports that three Americans held in North Korea would be released, after a pair of Trump's personal lawyers declared earlier in the day that the hostages would soon be freed (Politico). Takeaway: The Giuliani news overshadowed the possible release of these Americans, which would otherwise be an enormous news story.

The New York Times: Trump orders Pentagon to consider reducing troops in South Korea. 

China: The United States issued a formal warning to China after personnel at the Chinese military base in Djibouti used lasers to interfere with U.S. military aircraft. The U.S. is confident the Chinese are behind the “very serious incidents,” which have increased in the past few weeks, a Pentagon spokeswoman says (The Hill).

China: A U.S. trade delegation led by Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Trump issues first veto, warning of 'reckless' resolution | US hits Russia with new sanctions | Dems renew push for contractor back pay | Lawmakers seek probe into undocumented workers at Trump businesses Deripaska sues Trump admin over Russia sanctions US announces new Russia sanctions with Canada, EU MORE has begun a second day of scheduled talks with Chinese officials, seeking to reduce the trade gap between the world’s two largest economies. Trump on Thursday praised President Xi Jinping (Reuters).

Iran: An agreement signed with Iran by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Germany and the European Union to halt its pursuit of a nuclear weapon will not be revised or reopened, Iran’s foreign minister said. Trump faces a May 12 deadline to decide whether to withdraw from the pact (Reuters). 

State News: Missouri’s lawmakers on Thursday called an historic special session later in May to discuss “disciplinary actions,” possibly impeachment, against Gov. Eric Greitens (R), following allegations of sexual misconduct and misuse of charity resources for his political campaign (The Kansas City Star).

Texas officials chose not to act on evidence from Houston waterways of contamination by dioxin and PCBs — “hotspots” turned up in research conducted from 2001-2011 (The Associated Press).  

Oklahoma’s Senate passed a measure to allow adults to carry firearms without a license (Tulsa World).

Maryland’s seafood industry lost 40 percent of its seasonal workforce after failing to gain enough federal visas for experienced employees largely drawn from Mexico. The shortfall occurred after the Trump administration’s switch to a visa lottery. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) requested the federal government “take immediate action” to raise the visa cap in a recent letter to the secretaries of Homeland Security and Labor (The Baltimore Sun).

Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano erupted and 1,500 homes are under evacuation orders as molten lava chews through forest land and oozes through paved roads (The Associated Press).

 

OPINION

To fix or nix? Trump’s dilemma on the Iran deal, by Karl Vick, TIME. https://ti.me/2Kwoc9H

Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump steps up attacks on McCain Rosenstein still working at DOJ despite plans to leave in mid-March Graham says he'll probe Rosenstein's 25th Amendment remarks MORE is not above the law, by Mark Penn, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2wdnM4U



WHERE AND WHEN

Congress returns to Washington on May 7.

President Trump flies to Dallas to speak at midday to the National Rifle Association Leadership Forum.

Vice President Pence also is slated to speak at the NRA Leadership Forum, where 80,000 people are expected to attend through the weekend.

Jobs data for April will be released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 a.m.

ELSEWHERE

> How the presidency became impossible, by John Dickerson, The Atlantic https://theatln.tc/2HWGwI4

> The Democrats’ God gap: Race trumps religion, by David French, National Review https://bit.ly/2HMKvWP

> Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiHistory teaches that Nancy Pelosi is right about impeachment The politics and practicalities of impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms MORE and Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHillicon Valley: Social media faces scrutiny after New Zealand attacks | YouTube removed 'tens of thousands' of shooting videos | DHS chief warns of state-backed cyber threats | House Dems plan April vote on net neutrality House to take up gender pay gap, Violence Against Women Act House Dems plan April vote on net neutrality bill MORE: How their past rivalry (and fundraising) helped shape the future of leadership races, by R Street Institute senior fellow Marian Currinder, editor LegBranch.com blog  https://bit.ly/2HOIfSU 

> Lawmakers sleeping in Capitol Hill offices cry poverty, by Marisa Schultz, New York Post https://nyp.st/2rl3yk3

 

THE CLOSER

Don’t miss the “very, very odd” case of owl polygamy, an ornithological first, observed up close in Reno, Nev. One male horned owl, two females, a blended family and lots of adorable family portraits (National Geographic).

And finally ... a salute to the Morning Report quiz winner, who was the first to correctly respond that Barbra Streisand cloned her dog. Mary Vita P. Treano emailed us with the correct answer on Thursday, proving that The Hill’s readers are savvy news consumers, from puppies to presidents.