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 TrumpProsecutors investigating Trump inaugural fund, pro-Trump super PAC for possible illegal foreign donations: NY Times George Conway: Why take Trump's word over prosecutors' if he 'lies about virtually everything' Federal judge says lawsuit over Trump travel ban waivers will proceed 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 BurrIntel panel expects to refer more cases of suspected lying to Mueller Senate Intel leaders ask judge not to jail former aide amid leak investigation NRCC breach exposes gaps 2 years after Russia hacks 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 TrumpIntel panel expects to refer more cases of suspected lying to Mueller Trump Jr. says his dad is a 're-gifter' Brzezinski apologizes after backlash over homophobic remark about Pompeo 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 ClintonSanders, Warren meet ahead of potential 2020 bids Hillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — New momentum for privacy legislation | YouTube purges spam videos | Apple plans B Austin campus | Iranian hackers targeted Treasury officials | FEC to let lawmakers use campaign funds for cyber Comey’s remarks about Trump dossier are not credible, says former FBI official 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 FeinsteinSenate Dems urge Trump to continue nuclear arms control negotiations after treaty suspension Senate Intel leaders ask judge not to jail former aide amid leak investigation Dems demand Pompeo brief Congress on whether he discussed Assange with Ecuadorian official MORE [D-Calif.]) … Mueller has subpoenaed the social media expert for longtime Trump adviser Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneRoger Stone challenges Dems to produce WikiLeaks evidence Google chief defends company during Capitol Hill grilling Alex Jones heckles Google CEO heading into House hearing 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.




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 RyanThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump says he 'never directed' Cohen to break the law | GOP reels from Trump shutdown threat | Alleged spy Butina pleads guilty to conspiracy charge The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act kneecaps American factory workers The Hill's Morning Report — Where the shutdown fight stands 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.


Sponsored by CVS Health

Learn how our pharmacists are going well beyond providing medicine to helping make it more affordable by using digital tools to identify prescription savings for consumers. Read More



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: House GOP struggles to get votes for B in wall funds | Fallout from Oval Office clash | Dems say shutdown would affect 800K workers | House passes 7 billion farm bill Conservative leader Meadows will not be White House chief of staff Trump signs order aimed at revitalizing economically distressed communities 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 TrumpProsecutors investigating Trump inaugural fund, pro-Trump super PAC for possible illegal foreign donations: NY Times Prosecutors probing Trump inauguration spending: report Melania Trump's favorability plunges in new poll 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 PruittOvernight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Court blocks Atlantic coast pipeline | Kerry calls Trump climate actions 'profoundly dangerous' | EPA asked to investigate Pruitt Fox News hits Watchdog groups call on EPA to probe past interaction with Fox News Trump moves to relax Obama-era water protections 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).



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) ManchinOvernight Defense: Senate bucks Trump with Yemen war vote, resolution calling crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi killing | House briefing on Saudi Arabia fails to move needle | Inhofe casts doubt on Space Force Hillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — New momentum for privacy legislation | YouTube purges spam videos | Apple plans B Austin campus | Iranian hackers targeted Treasury officials | FEC to let lawmakers use campaign funds for cyber Manchin puts hold on FCC nomination over wireless internet fund delay 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.


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.


It Sure Looks Like John Bolton Is Trying to Sabotage the North Korea Talks, by Joshua Keating, Slate.

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.


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: Senate bucks Trump with Yemen war vote, resolution calling crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi killing | House briefing on Saudi Arabia fails to move needle | Inhofe casts doubt on Space Force Trump administration asks Supreme Court to temporarily allow transgender military ban Senate votes to end US support for Saudi war, bucking Trump MORE. Trump holds several bilateral meetings with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.


> Facebook’s Zuckerberg to appear before European Parliament about data privacy policies, by Ali Breland, The Hill.

> Boston Dynamics will soon sell its terrifying robot dogs. What could go wrong?, by Nestor Ramos, The Boston Globe.

> 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.


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.”