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The Hill's Morning Report: Mueller probe hits one-year mark

 

 

 

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


Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation into Russia’s election interference and “related matters” has hit the one-year mark.

Chances of Trump tweeting about the probe today are high, especially considering that a joint press conference planned this afternoon disappeared from his overnight schedule.

The New York Times has a look back at the early days of the investigation and can report that the probe is aptly named “Crossfire Hurricane.”

Mueller’s team has been tight-lipped but this much is certain: The Russians interfered in the 2016 election with the aim of sowing social unrest among Americans and to boost President TrumpDonald John TrumpCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Five takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation MORE’s outsider campaign. That is the determination of the intelligence community. On Wednesday, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed the finding.

    “We see no reason to dispute the conclusions.” — Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrDems can use subpoena power to reclaim the mantle of populism Collusion judgment looms for key Senate panel The National Trails System is celebrating 50 years today — but what about the next 50 years? MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Whether Trump campaign officials participated in a criminal conspiracy on that front is still being investigated. One year in, there is no public evidence or official conclusion.

***BREAKING over the last 24 hours*** Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani tells multiple news outlets that Mueller’s team told Trump’s attorneys they will follow Justice Department guidance and will not indict the president (CNN) ...The Senate Judiciary Committee released transcripts of its interview with Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpElection Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue Election Countdown: Florida Senate fight resumes after hurricane | Cruz softens ObamaCare attacks | GOP worries Trump will lose suburban women | Latest Senate polls | Rep. Dave Brat gets Trump's 'total endorsement' | Dem candidates raise record B Eric Trump: Trump Org has 'zero investments' in Russia or Saudi Arabia MORE, offering the most thorough account yet of his 2016 meeting with the Russian lawyer at Trump Tower who offered dirt on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublicans bail on Coffman to invest in Miami seat Katy Perry praises Taylor Swift for diving into politics Election Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue MORE (The Hill)… Missing files motivated leak by a law enforcement official of Michael Cohen’s financial records (The New Yorker)

*** MORE *** Democrats claim to have evidence that the Kremlin funneled money to boost Trump through the National Rifle Association (Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSen. Walter Huddleston was a reminder that immigration used to be a bipartisan issue GOP plays hardball in race to confirm Trump's court picks Feinstein would 'absolutely' reopen Kavanaugh investigation if Dems win Senate MORE [D-Calif.]) … Mueller has subpoenaed the social media expert for longtime Trump adviser Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneMueller assembles team of cooperators in Russian probe Mueller's team asking Manafort about Roger Stone: report Collusion judgment looms for key Senate panel MORE (Bloomberg) … Indicted Russian company says Mueller is refusing to hand over evidence (Reuters) … Partisan divisions over Russia probe deepen (The Hill) … Jonathan Turley: What the Trump Tower transcripts tell us.

What’s next

  • Expect Trump’s allies and attorneys to be out in force today marking the anniversary by demanding an end to the investigation. Giuliani: If Mueller subpoenas us, we’ll challenge it.

  • An interview between Mueller and Trump would likely be a final investigatory step. Giuliani says negotiations are in a holding pattern. There is a deep deficit of trust between Mueller’s team and Trump’s attorneys, who assert the special counsel wants to try to trick the president into lying.

 

 

LEADING THE DAY

INVESTIGATIONS: A rundown of the Mueller probe as we enter year two…

Individuals who have been charged

The sidebar investigations

The collateral damage

Players to watch

CONGRESS: Lawmakers with politics in mind often chafe at moving in lockstep during an election year, and Wednesday was a good example on a number of fronts.

Immigration: The Hill – Hours after House GOP leaders privately warned rank-and-file lawmakers not to attempt to force immigration votes on the House floor, two more Republican lawmakers signed up to do just that Wednesday. Momentum is building for a rebellion and the split is a crisis for Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMeghan McCain calls Russian attacks against her father the 'highest compliment' to her family Atheist group argues in court for prayer rights on House floor Small-dollar donations explode in the Trump era MORE’s (R-Wis.) team. Lawmakers huddle over discharge petition (The Hill)...

> Reuters: To try to fend off a discharge petition to move immigration changes to the floor, Ryan is telling his conference that he’s working on a piece of immigration legislation with the president. He has offered no details.

> The Hill: Trump used harsh language Wednesday to describe MS-13 gang members in the U.S. illegally. During a White House roundtable focused on his opposition to “sanctuary cities,” the president said, “These aren’t people. These are animals.”

Net neutrality: The Hill — The Senate on Wednesday voted to reinstate the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) net neutrality rules, passing a bill that has little chance of advancing in the House, but offers supporters of the pre-Trump rules a small victory. It also lends Democrats a political rallying point about “open, fair” internet access for use in the midterm elections.

Spending: The Washington Post – Republican lawmakers are pushing back against Trump’s request for Congress to cut $15 billion from programs including children’s health insurance and Ebola disaster relief, saying the vote could make them vulnerable to Democratic attacks in this year’s midterm campaign.

Infrastructure: The Hill – The president’s legislative framework for a sweeping infrastructure investment proposal appears to be on ice. Despite bipartisan support for the idea of restoring U.S. roads, bridges and broadband, the endeavor faded this year among lawmakers caught up with other legislative matters.

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IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

INTERNATIONAL:  North Korea: The HillTrump acknowledged Wednesday his planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might not take place after Pyongyang threatened to scrap the historic meeting. Despite those threats, Trump said he would insist North Korea surrender its nuclear weapons while still keeping the door open to talks.

 

 

TRADE: The Hill – Trump administration officials plan today to meet with Chinese officials in Washington to continue negotiations about trade. In a written statement, the White House said the meetings today and Friday at the Treasury Department are aimed at “rebalancing” the U.S.-China economic relationship.

> Bloomberg reported a subplot Wednesday: China critic and White House adviser Peter Navarro was to be sidelined during the talks because of recent “unprofessional” behavior. The White House later indicated Navarro would be part of the U.S. team.

> Axios added details with a report citing five sources saying Navarro blew up and cursed at Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Mnuchin to attend anti-terror meeting in Saudi Arabia | Treasury releases guidance on 'opportunity zone' program | Maxine Waters gets company in new GOP line of attack Mnuchin to attend anti-terror meeting in Saudi Arabia following Khashoggi disappearance Treasury releases guidance on 'opportunity zone' program created by Trump tax law MORE earlier this month during trade talks in Beijing.

> Bloomberg: Trump tries to defend his sudden and controversial support for China’s ZTE, a phone-making company, saying trade talks with China are just beginning.

> Reuters: Japan, seeking exemption from U.S. tariffs, now contemplating World Trade Organization retaliation.

 

 

NAFTA: The Hill — Trade experts and lawmakers say a new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) deal, negotiated for months among the U.S., Canada and Mexico, is within reach.

>The Wall Street Journal: Ryan had set this Thursday as an informal deadline to get a deal through Congress this year. The deadline is a soft one, but each day after that date makes U.S. ratification of an accord more difficult.

Middle East – The Hill —The Treasury Department applied a series of new sanctions aimed at Hezbollah.

>Reuters: Oil prices hit their highest level since November 2014 today, with Brent crude creeping closer to $80 per barrel as supplies tighten and U.S. tensions with Iran simmer.

>Opinion from former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.): For Israel, today is one of real miracles. (The Hill)

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The president spent two hours visiting first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump seizes on immigrant 'caravan' for midterms | WHCA criticizes Trump for praising lawmaker who assaulted reporter | Trump takes harder line on Saudis CNN's Acosta sends private message to former Melania Trump aide: 'F--- you' Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns MORE at the hospital on Wednesday. It was the third consecutive day Trump made the trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to visit his wife, who is recovering from treatment for an unspecified kidney ailment.

The Hill: The president acknowledged for the first time on Wednesday that he paid his personal attorney more than $100,000 to reimburse him for a hush-money payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who says she had an affair with the president. The admission came in a financial disclosure released by the Office of Government Ethics (OGE).

OGE acting Director David Apol said the payment “should have been reported” as a liability last year but that it’s unclear whether the omission was “knowing and willful.”

Cabinet watch

Perpetually embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA puts science ‘transparency’ rule on back burner Tucker Carlson says he 'can't really' dine out anymore because people keep yelling at him Overnight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports MORE faced a grilling from senators on Wednesday. The session was crashed by protesters holding “fire him” signs.

Pruitt has been defiant but acknowledged that he has made some mistakes (The Hill).

            “There have been decisions over the last 16 months or so that, as I look back on those decisions, I would not make the same decisions again.”

Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to send Gina Haspel's nomination to the floor. She could become the first-ever woman to lead the CIA as soon as this week (The Hill).

STATES:

Michigan

Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the conservative group backed by billionaire businessmen Charles and David Koch, is playing the Michigan Democratic gubernatorial primary. AFP is pumping $270,000 into digital ads and mailers attacking Gretchen Whitmer (YouTube). The Democratic primary is on Aug. 7 and Whitmer is locked in tight race against Shri Thanedar.

The Detroit Free Press: Michigan State U. to pay $500 million in settlements to Dr. Larry Nassar’s victims.

West Virginia

The Hill: Trump is planning several trips to West Virginia and intends to make Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinFive takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Blankenship endorses ex-W.Va. GOP Senate rival, calls him 'lying' drug lobbyist Conservatives bankrolled and dominated Kavanaugh confirmation media campaign MORE (D) a top target this cycle. Trump carried West Virginia by 42 points in 2016. Manchin is among the most vulnerable Democrats seeking reelection.

California

The Hill: California’s jungle primary system is causing havoc in the governor's race. Democratic front-runner Gavin Newsom would love to face Republican businessman John Cox in the general election, rather than former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa or state Treasurer John Chiang.

Robert G. Boatright: Could too many candidates be a problem for Democrats?

The Associated Press: Liberal victories in primaries cheer some Democrats, worry others.

OPINION

It Sure Looks Like John Bolton Is Trying to Sabotage the North Korea Talks, by Joshua Keating, Slate. https://slate.me/2GoKB5G

I Helped Start the Gaza Protests. I Don’t Regret it. “Our voices needed to be heard, and they have been,” by Ahmed Abu Artema, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/2wEKZgP

WHERE AND WHEN

The House convenes at 10 a.m.

The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. A Senate Appropriations subcommittee will question FCC Chairman Ajit Pai this morning, less than a day after the Senate rejected net neutrality changes Pai championed.

The president has lunch with Secretary of Defense James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: US, South Korea cancel another military exercise | Dozen sailors injured in chopper crash on aircraft carrier | Navy vet charged with sending toxic letters US, South Korea cancel another military exercise Top US Afghan commander drew his sidearm during this week's attack: report MORE. Trump holds several bilateral meetings with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

ELSEWHERE

> Facebook’s Zuckerberg to appear before European Parliament about data privacy policies, by Ali Breland, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2IlQLcx

> Boston Dynamics will soon sell its terrifying robot dogs. What could go wrong?, by Nestor Ramos, The Boston Globe. https://bit.ly/2GnRN1O

> Research links physicians prescribing opioids with their receipt of meals and payments from drug manufacturers: Amidst national efforts to curb the overprescribing of opioids, our findings suggest that manufacturers should consider a voluntary decrease or complete cessation of marketing to physicians. Federal and state governments should also consider legal limits on the number and amount of payments.” Journal of the American Medical Association research letter, May 14. https://bit.ly/2L3GG1o

THE CLOSER

And finally … Unstuck it! Kudos to a community that joined forces in a hurry in Wentzville, Mo., Wednesday to rescue a 1,300-pound pregnant cow mired overnight in a mud pit up to its shoulders. On live television, local fire department personnel and a good Samaritan with a backhoe needed just 80 minutes in a suburb of St. Louis to dislodge the shaken cow, which immediately headed off to graze on some grass. The owner’s relieved reaction? “Thank you, thank you, thank you. And I’ll be bringing pies by.”