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

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

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFeinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 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 ManafortHouse Democrat 'fixed' Trump's infographic about Mueller's investigation Michael Caputo eyes congressional bid Roger Stone considers suing to discover if he was spied on by FBI 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 RyanAmash storm hits Capitol Hill Debate with Donald Trump? Just say no Ex-Trump adviser says GOP needs a better health-care message for 2020 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 MesserK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Yoder, Messer land on K Street House GOP to force members to give up leadership positions if running for higher office 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 DonnellyK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Obama honors 'American statesman' Richard Lugar Former GOP senator Richard Lugar dies at 87 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 PaulRand Paul splits with Amash on Trump impeachment The Go-Go's rock the stage at annual 'We Write the Songs' DC concert GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending 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 PruittOn The Money: New financial disclosures provide glimpse of Trump's wealth | Walmart, Macy's say tariffs will mean price hikes | Consumer agency says Education Department blocking student loan oversight Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog finds Pruitt spent 4K on 'excessive' travel | Agency defends Pruitt expenses | Lawmakers push EPA to recover money | Inslee proposes spending T for green jobs Lawmakers take EPA head to task for refusing to demand Pruitt repay travel expenses 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 ErnstCongress, White House near deal on spending, debt limit Trump mulling visit to ethanol refinery later this month: report Bullock: Running for Senate 'never really got me excited' MORE (R-Iowa) and departs the agency May 11 (The Hill).

Democratic Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy Duckworth25 new sexual harassment claims filed against McDonald's Duckworth tweets photo of female senators showing up first for committee quorum: 'Women getting it done!' Overnight Energy: States fight Trump rollback of Obama lightbulb rules | Greens seek hearing over proposed rule on energy efficiency tests | Top Dem asks GAO to investigate climate threat 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 MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Democrats seize on IRS memo in Trump tax battle No agreement on budget caps in sight ahead of Memorial Day recess 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 RosensteinJake Tapper fact-checks poster Trump admin created describing Mueller investigation Jeffrey Rosen officially sworn in as deputy attorney general Democrats talk subpoena for Mueller 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 PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Threat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Trump denies 'tantrum' in meeting with Pelosi: 'It is all such a lie!' MORE and Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Pelosi faces tipping point on Trump impeachment Trump urges Dem leaders to pass new NAFTA before infrastructure deal 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.