The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by FICO — Republicans relieved as Blankenship loses

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


Republicans avoided a disaster in West Virginia on Tuesday night.

Former coal CEO Don Blankenship, who spent a year in prison for his role in a 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners in West Virginia, will not be the Republican candidate for Senate in the fall.

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) triumphed over Blankenship and Rep. Evan JenkinsEvan Hollin JenkinsWest Virginia New Members 2019 Republican Carol Miller holds off Democrat in West Virginia House race Trump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report MORE (R). Morrisey will be a formidable challenger to Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general GOP wants to pit Ocasio-Cortez against Democrats in the Senate Senate poised to confirm Trump’s attorney general pick MORE (D) in a state President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery MORE carried by 42 points in 2016.

Polls in the final weeks of the race showed Blankenship closing fast. He ran a nasty anti-establishment campaign in which he referred to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGreen New Deal Resolution invites big picture governing ‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault MORE’s (R-Ky.) family as “China people” and bizarrely accused “Cocaine Mitch” of profiting off the drug trade.

 

Republicans worried they were about to nominate another candidate in the vein of former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreRepublican state official faces pushback for comments on Sinema's attire Hillicon Valley: Dem blasts groups behind Senate campaign disinformation effort | FCC chief declines to give briefing on location-data sales | Ocasio-Cortez tops lawmakers on social media | Trump officials to ease drone rules Domestic influence campaigns borrow from Russia’s playbook MORE, who lost a special election for Senate after decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls surfaced in the final weeks of the campaign. Trump stood by Moore, who ended up losing to Democrat Doug Jones in a race Republicans should have won.

This time, Trump urged voters to back anyone other than Blankenship. It panned out and the president will get some credit for helping to rid the party of a problem candidate.

The president also backed a winner in Ohio, where Rep. Jim RenacciJames (Jim) B. RenacciGOP rep: If Mueller had found collusion, ‘investigation would have wrapped up very quickly’ House Ethics Committee extends probe into Renacci Sherrod Brown says he has 'no real timetable' for deciding on 2020 presidential run MORE (R) advanced to face Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownPollster says current 2020 surveys like picking best picture Oscar before movies come out Shep Smith: Signing funding bill is a 'loss' for Trump no matter how it's packaged Exclusive: Biden almost certain to enter 2020 race MORE (D) in the general election.

Other than Renacci, it was a tough primary night for current and former lawmakers.

Jenkins lost in West Virginia. Pastor Mark Harris (R) ousted Rep. Robert PittengerRobert Miller PittengerFight over North Carolina race set to drag on for months NC GOP calls on board to certify House race unless it can prove fraud changed results North Carolina on cusp of House race reset MORE (R) in North Carolina. Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) lost a bid to be the Democratic candidate for governor in Ohio.

And businessman Mike Braun (R) knocked off two sitting lawmakers, defeating Reps. Todd RokitaTheodore (Todd) Edward RokitaHouse passes year-end tax package Indiana New Members 2019 Braun knocks off Donnelly in Indiana MORE (R) and 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 (R) in the GOP Senate primary in Indiana. Braun will face off against 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 (D), another top GOP target, in November.

One other lawmaker survived a tough primary — Rep. Walter JonesWalter Beaman JonesHouse pays tribute to Walter Jones GOP leader presses Trump to agree to border deal House passes resolution honoring Walter Jones MORE (R-N.C.) will see another Election Day. From The Hill’s Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack:

 

 

It was also good day to be the brother of Vice President Pence. Greg Pence (R) won the primary for the House seat now held by Messer in Indiana. Trump and Pence head to South Bend on Thursday for a campaign rally.

 

 

Quick hits: DeWine, Cordray in November showdown for Ohio governor...Democratic leaders turn to 2006 playbook for midterm elections...invisible primary for 2020 Dems is underway...Rep. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockGOP lawmaker introduces bill to stop revolving door Ex-lawmakers face new scrutiny over lobbying Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign MORE (R-Va.) defiant as tough reelection battle looms.



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LEADING THE DAY

INTERNATIONAL: Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran sparked a mountain of questions about what comes next, the what-ifs for all parties, and vigorous debate about the president’s belief that a tough posture with Iran bolsters his upcoming denuclearization talks with North Korea.

Trump’s move has Washington policymakers in upheaval, but it wasn’t a surprise — the president has been promising for three years to pull the U.S. out of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran. The president is now on a mission to disarm the world’s nuclear hotspots. In his mind, North Korea and Iran are linked and only he has the negotiating prowess to bring their governments to heel. History will decide whether Trump’s gambles pay off, but in the interim, the president continues to shock by doing exactly what he said he’d do.

The Associated Press: Trump pulled in two directions on Iran, North Korea

On Tuesday, the unknowns (and competing predictions) outnumbered the answers.

Pew Research: Public is skeptical of Iran deal - and Trump’s handling of it. And as with everything these days, there are partisan differences.

The Hill: Five takeaways by Niall Stanage drawn from Trump’s announcement.

Reuters: Diplomatic and Iran experts predict Iran will not soon return to the negotiating table as Trump hopes.

BBC News: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran is on standby to resume uranium enrichment, but will “wait to see how others react.”

The Washington Post: Iran to negotiate with Europeans, China, Russia about remaining in nuclear deal.

Reuters: European officials scramble to salvage Iran deal.

BBC News: What happens now to the nuclear agreement?

Bipartisan Policy Center National Security Director Blaise Misztal: The president did not say how the U.S. now plans to reckon with “Iran’s wide range of regionally destabilizing activities.”

(Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight Overnight Defense: Trump to sign funding deal, declare national emergency | Shanahan says allies will be consulted on Afghanistan | Dem demands Khashoggi documents Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general MORE issued a statement as he flew to North Korea on Tuesday suggesting the first order of business would be discussing that question with European and other allies. His arrival Wednesday sparked reports and expectations that he may return to the U.S. with three captured Americans, per The Washington Post.)

BBC News: UK, France, Germany remain committed to the 2015 agreement.

Vox: Trump believes his Iran decision strengthens his posture with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, but Kim may decide the U.S. can’t be trusted.

         The president tweeted Tuesday that with North Korea “relationships and trust are building.”

CNN: Kim visited President Xi Jinping in China for the second time in two months ahead of a planned Trump-Kim summit. On Tuesday, Trump and Xi spoke by phone about trade, North Korea and Xi’s talks with Kim, but it was unclear what the two leaders discussed regarding the Iran agreement that China backed in 2015.

The Washington Post: Re-imposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran will affect business contracts, including Boeing’s.

Five Americans continue to be held in Iran. Their fate retreats further from public view, says Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who spent 18 months imprisoned in Iran. His wife, Yeganeh Salehi, tweeted her concerns for the missing Americans following Trump’s announcement.

 

 

INVESTIGATIONS: One year ago today, Trump fired then-FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyMcCabe's 25th Amendment comments 'taken out of context,' spokeswoman says Ex-federal prosecutor: I would have 'owned' wearing a wire to record Trump Ex-federal prosecutor: 'Thank God' Whitaker is gone, Barr will bring 'integrity' back to DOJ MORE, setting off the chain of events that led to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s probe and an epic clash between the executive branch and the nation’s premier law enforcement agencies.

 

 

Gallup: Trump approval rating best in a year.

But 12 months in, lots of attention on this CNN: Mueller’s team questioned a Russian oligarch about payments his company's U.S. affiliate made to Trump attorney Michael Cohen following the election.

Financial records reviewed by The New York Times show Cohen used the shell company, Essential Consultants LLC, to pay "hush money" to Stormy Daniels, and to receive funds from the U.S. affiliate tied to the Russian billionaire. Transactions adding up to at least $4.4 million flowed through the shell company starting shortly before Trump was elected and continuing to this January, according to the Times.

Poll: Majority of Americans say special counsel investigation is motivated by politics.

The Hill: Senate Intelligence Committee to wrap up Russia probe in August.

The Hill: Russia waged “unprecedented” cyber campaign on U.S. voting systems, Senate report finds.

In a wide-ranging interview with NBC News reporter Kristen Welker, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said they want to make a decision about an interview with Mueller by May 17 – the one-year mark for the special counsel.

Politico: Mueller turns down possibility of written questions.            

The Hill: Comey says Trump should be wary of Mueller interview because he “lies a lot.”

“If they can demonstrate they have an open mind, and they would stop all of these prosecutorial acts and misconduct… we would be much more comfortable that we can get a fair shake here.” - Giuliani to NBC News.

Jonathan Turley: Clinton defense lawyer a strong addition to Trump’s legal team.

The Washington Post: What is Giuliani up to?

National Review: Mueller’s tough week in court.

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IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

 ADMINISTRATION: CIA -- The Hill: The Senate Intelligence Committee today will convene a much-watched confirmation hearing for CIA director nominee Gina Haspel. The president, referring to the career spy’s experience with harsh interrogation of terror suspects, tweeted Tuesday that Haspel “is being praised for the fact that she has been and always will be TOUGH ON TERROR!”

The Wall Street Journal: Haspel to tell senators CIA won’t restart old interrogation techniques.

The New York Times: A man imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay accused of masterminding the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, seeks to give U.S. senators on the Intelligence panel six paragraphs of information related to Haspel. The CIA tortured Mohammed using waterboarding and other harsh techniques following his capture in 2003.

EPA -- It’s possible Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA to make formal decision on regulating drinking water contaminant | Utility to close coal plant despite Trump plea | Greens say climate is high on 2020 voters’ minds EPA to announce PFAS chemical regulation plans by end of year Court tosses challenge to EPA's exclusion of certain scientists from advisory boards MORE is losing the patience of the most important man in Washington who has backed him in his job for months.

CNN: "The ground has absolutely shifted," a source close to the White House told the cable network. Trump is warming to the argument from some advisers that his Environmental Protection Agency head is doing more harm than good in his much-investigated position.

The New York Times: Two officials suggest the recent confirmation of an EPA deputy administrator could give Trump the needed leeway to jettison the embattled Pruitt in coming weeks while leaving the agency with a top manager.

Bloomberg: Republican Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOn The Money: Trump to sign border deal, declare emergency to build wall | Senate passes funding bill, House to follow | Dems promise challenge to emergency declaration Trump to sign border deal, declare national emergency Foreign Affairs chairman: US military intervention in Venezuela 'not an option' MORE, a Pruitt ally from their home state of Oklahoma, was quoted opening an exit door for the administrator, saying Pruitt “might get to the point where he doesn’t want to endure anymore,” and “could find something else to do that would be a lot less combative.”

Politico: Pruitt opted to add a polluted California area to his list of expedited Superfund sites targeted for cleanup after an influential conservative radio host brokered a meeting between the administrator and lawyers for the water district seeking the help.

The Hill: EPA’s decision to dramatically scale back a pesticide fine on a California company raised eyebrows, highlighting ethical challenges dogging an administration stocked with former lobbyists and business executives with ties to regulated industries.

➔  CONGRESS: Under the Capitol dome on Tuesday...

Veterans Affairs: The Hill -- Lawmakers advanced a VA health care overhaul, including medical marijuana research for veterans.

USDA/farm bill: The Hill – A GOP-led effort to overhaul the federal food stamps program has sparked an intraparty fight among Republicans on Capitol Hill, imperiling the farm bill.

CFPB/auto lending: The Hill The House voted to repeal controversial auto-lending guidance created by the once-independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The measure cleared the Senate last month, and Trump will sign it, marking the first time Congress has used its powers under the Congressional Review Act to repeal an informal federal policy.

Dodd-Frank law/rollback: The Hill -- Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said that both chambers agreed to take action on the Senate’s bipartisan bill that would roll back certain restrictions on financial institutions enacted following the financial meltdown of 2007-2008.

2020 census: The HillThe chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee threatened to issue a subpoena to a Justice Department official who was a no-show to explain a controversial citizenship question to be included on the next nationwide questionnaire.

DOJ documents & FBI: The Hill The Speaker backed the House Intelligence Committee’s requests for certain Justice Department documents but stopped short of echoing Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears ‘Fox & Friends’ host asks if McCabe opening FBI probe into Trump was attempt to ‘overthrow government’ Nunes says GOP lawmakers looking through Russia transcripts, will make DOJ referrals MORE’s (R-Calif.) threat to subpoena Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight The Memo: Trump and McCabe go to war McCabe book: Sessions once said FBI was better off when it 'only hired Irishmen' MORE to produce the information.

House perk shrinkage: The HillSpeaker Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiConstitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration Why don't we build a wall with Canada? MORE (D-Calif.) agreed to downsize from five years to one year an institutional perk of an office and staff for former Speakers, paid for by the taxpayers. Ryan plans to become a former Speaker in January, and Pelosi previously held the gavel.

Quick hits from a packed day: Senate Republicans warm to Trump’s rescissions package...Lawmakers have feisty exchange on House floor amid chaplain vote...Dems grill Trump’s Homeland Security chief...Conservatives and White House pressure McConnell to work longer hours.

OPINION

Stormy Daniels is crowding out Democrats’ 2018 message, by Matthew Yglesias, Vox. https://bit.ly/2FVjYVB

Former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman gets what he deserves, by Josh Greenman, New York Post. https://nydn.us/2K0OMXw

WHERE AND WHEN

The House convenes at noon for legislative business. Democrats will unveil new gun control legislation.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. to consider six of Trump’s judicial nominees. Haspel appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee at 9:30 a.m.

The president hosts a Cabinet meeting. This afternoon, Trump participates in a Celebration of Military Mothers and Spouses. He will host a dinner with members of Congress in the Blue Room.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the Producer Price Index for April at 8:30 a.m.

ELSEWHERE

> Russian hackers online posed as Islamic State terrorists to threaten some U.S. military wives with death (The Associated Press)

> Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosStudents call on DeVos to offer free tampons, pads in schools to address 'period poverty' DeVos recovering from broken pelvis, hip socket after bicycle accident Student veterans deserve better than the DeVos agenda MORE visited a conservative Catholic university in Florida last weekend, spotlighting a higher education debate in a sharply divided political era (The Atlantic)

THE CLOSER

Around town: CNN’s Christiane Amanpour will replace Charlie RoseCharles Peete RoseSusan Zirinsky to replace David Rhodes as first female head of CBS News Judge rules Harvey Weinstein sexual assault case can move forward CBS reaches settlement with three Charlie Rose sexual harassment accusers MORE as anchor for PBS News’s late-night politics show, which will be called “Amanpour & Company” beginning in July (The Hollywood Reporter).

Former Obama and Justice Department spokesman Kevin Lewis will join the strategic communications group Blue Engine Message & Media in Washington, D.C.

And finally… take heart, ye city dwellers: urban environments are “powerhouses of evolution,” full of subspecies and rapid mutations. Examples: blackbirds that let vehicle tires crack their nutshells; mosquitoes that adapt life cycles for underground spaces such as subways; and survivor seeds that gained bigger propellers to land on tiny city dirt patches (National Geographic).