The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Republicans see some daylight in midterm polling




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!)

Democrats recently had a double-digit advantage in the generic congressional ballot. That’s gone.

Political analysts have leaned on the generic ballot while forecasting big gains for House Democrats in the midterm elections. Take a look at where it stands now:

This comes as Trump’s approval rating is hovering near its 52-week high. Polling shows voters are confident in the economy and they’re giving the president credit for it, even if the public remains skeptical of the GOP’s tax overhaul.

We ran these numbers by Democratic pollster John Anzalone:

“Dems still have an advantage and it is not uncommon for the generic ballot to bounce around in a cycle … Suburban women are energized, young people are energized, teachers are energized, and we have exciting candidates for the first time in many cycles. I still like our chances to take the House.”

Most analysts are still predicting that Democratic candidates will flip at least 23 seats and win a majority in the House; the party in power usually loses seats in its first midterm election. Democrats have outperformed in special elections, showing they can turn grass-roots energy into hard votes. A raft of GOP retirements will make some House seats more difficult to defend.

Cook Political Report: Republican fortunes improve in some districts but Democrats are still favored to win the House.

Bottom line: the overall trend in the generic ballot surveys bears watching. The shift seems to have, at least for now, sidelined talk about a “blue wave.”

A few results from primaries in Texas, Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky last night:

The Hill: Former Marine pilot Amy McGrath wins Democratic primary, will face Rep. Andy BarrGarland (Andy) Hale BarrElection Countdown: Dems outraise GOP in final stretch | 2018 midterms already most expensive in history | What to watch in second Cruz-O'Rourke debate | Trump raises 0M for reelection | Why Dems fear Avenatti's approach Biden: Trump is 'trashing American values' The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Dem victories in `18 will not calm party turbulence MORE (R) in Kentucky’s only competitive general election.

The Hill: Democrat targeted by party establishment loses Texas primary.

The Hill: Rising progressive star wins Georgia Democratic primary for governor. Stacey Abrams has a chance to be the first black female governor in U.S. history (The Associated Press).




INVESTIGATIONS: The Hill’s Jordan Fabian has the list of attendees for a dramatic briefing on the origins of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians. Republicans hope the meeting will provide insight into the FBI’s use of an informant who met with three of Trump’s campaign advisers.

Invited: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesJuan Williams: Trump, the Great Destroyer The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — Latest on Hurricane Michael | Trump, Kanye West to have lunch at White House | GOP divided over potential 2020 high court vacancy Senate Dem: Trump's 'fake, hyperbolic rantings' an insult to real Medal of Honor recipients MORE (R-Calif.). House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyConservatives fume over format of upcoming Rosenstein interview Rosenstein to appear for House interview next week House GOP sets deposition deadline for Fusion GPS co-founder MORE (R-S.C.). FBI Director Christopher Wray. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats. Edward O'Callaghan, a top Justice Department official.

If there are any leaks out of this meeting, they came from one of these five people.

Not invited: Democrats. White House officials, including chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, who helped broker the meeting. Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinConservatives fume over format of upcoming Rosenstein interview Papadopoulos set to testify before House lawmakers Rod Rosenstein has no conflict MORE, who is overseeing the special counsel investigation.

The Hill: Conservatives leery of FBI deal on informant.

The Washington Post: Who is Stefan Halper, the FBI’s informant?

Fox News: Former Trump adviser Michael Caputo says there might have been a second FBI informant.

The Hill: Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon says Rosenstein could be fired “very shortly.”

Jonathan Turley: FBI informant raises alarms over political surveillance.

More on the investigations front…A business partner of Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen has agreed to cooperate with the government in the case against Cohen (The New York Times)… Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, hit with $10 million bankruptcy judgment, owes back taxes (The Los Angeles Times).



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INTERNATIONAL: North Korea: Will there be a summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12? If Trump has a clear idea about his next steps in pursuit of verifiable North Korean denuclearization, he sounded unsure Tuesday while conferring with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. North Korea’s signals have been mixed.

Trump told reporters that a summit with Kim seems unlikely … or might happen ... or might take place at some future date. President Moon, who has served as a go-between, said he believed the hoped-for June summit can occur.

The Hill: Trump’s plans for a historic meeting with North Korea were thrown into further doubt after the president’s conversations with Moon.

The Hill: A South Korean national security official expresses optimism about a summit: "We believe there is a 99.9 percent chance the North Korea-U.S. summit will be held as scheduled."

CHINA: Trump’s trade strategy with Beijing is described as a muddle by some members of Congress, stakeholders in the U.S agriculture, manufacturing and technology sectors, and by officials in global capitals.

The Hill: GOP lawmakers think Trump is losing the trade war with China amid conflicting reports about negotiations and clear differences of opinions among his top advisers.

The Hill: A bipartisan group of agitated senators demanded clarification about ZTE’s status, turning to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinCongress raises pressure on Saudi Arabia On The Money: Trump to seek new round of tax cuts after midterms | Mnuchin meets with Saudi crown prince | Trump threatens to cut foreign aid over caravan Trump admin to make Iran oil waivers harder to get MORE, who has represented Trump’s policies during two rounds of talks with Chinese officials.

The Hill: The Senate Banking Committee overwhelmingly approved an amendment that would prevent Trump from easing U.S. sanctions on Chinese telecom giant ZTE.

Reuters: In a letter to Trump, House lawmakers urged the president not to lift penalties imposed on ZTE.

Venezuela: The Hill — In retaliation for a financial blockade levied this week by the Trump administration on Venezuela’s corrupt government, President Nicolás Maduro expelled a top U.S. diplomat.

Afghanistan: Lt. Gen. Scott Miller has been chosen as the next commander of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. Miller will be the ninth U.S. general appointed during 17 years of U.S. military action in Afghanistan. (The Wall Street Journal)

CONGRESS: Immigration, a farm bill, House leadership tussles, and senators’ August recess are among the many question marks in the Capitol this week, but on other legislative priorities, Republican lawmakers say they are making strides.

House Immigration: The Hill — Republicans and Democrats trying to force contentious immigration votes are facing a make-or-break moment this week. Proponents need more signatures to sidestep the GOP leadership to take an immigration vote to the floor.

House Leadership: The Hill — House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanElection Countdown: Takeaways from heated Florida governor's debate | DNC chief pushes back on 'blue wave' talk | Manchin faces progressive backlash | Trump heads to Houston rally | Obama in Las Vegas | Signs of huge midterm turnout Will the Federal Reserve make a mistake by shifting to inflation? Sanders: Democrats ‘absolutely’ have chance to win back rural America  MORE (R-Wis.) is once again urging his conference to remain unified following last week’s farm bill flop, an embarrassment intertwined with immigration disagreements.

The Hill: Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyGOP lawmaker proposes legislative maneuver to fund Trump's border wall Maxine Waters gets company in new GOP line of attack The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — GOP faces ‘green wave’ in final stretch to the midterms MORE (R-Calif.) continue to dismiss reports of coup-plotting.

Roll Call: Ryan’s leadership era has relied on closed rules and limited debate (rather than the regular order he rhetorically champions).

Senate Recess: The Hill — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellElection Countdown: Takeaways from heated Florida governor's debate | DNC chief pushes back on 'blue wave' talk | Manchin faces progressive backlash | Trump heads to Houston rally | Obama in Las Vegas | Signs of huge midterm turnout Sanders: Democrats ‘absolutely’ have chance to win back rural America  Trump privately ready to blame Ryan and McConnell if Republicans lose midterms: report MORE (R-Ky.) tells colleagues he might scale back the Senate’s customary August break to get more done.

Spoiler alert: McConnell has experience navigating stay-in-Washington-and-work pressures. Added benefit for the GOP: vulnerable incumbent Democrats will have less time to be on the campaign trail this summer.

House Infrastructure: The Hill — For nearly a year and a half, Republicans have pledged to tackle legislation to rehabilitate America’s crumbling infrastructure. A House committee chairman says a bill might emerge “this summer.”

House AUMF: The Hill — Another evergreen debate going on for decades involves the president’s authorization to use military force. A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is pushing to get a vote on the floor this week for a new authorization. It’s a politically fraught endeavor in any election year.

House Banking: The Hill — With clear momentum, the House Tuesday approved a bipartisan measure to overhaul the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law enacted after the financial crisis a decade ago. It’s an achievement for Trump and the GOP, after pledges in 2016 to ease restrictions on the financial industry. The bill now heads to the president.

House Prison Reform: The Hill — The House overwhelmingly approved prison reform legislation backed by the White House but criticized by some Democrats and advocacy groups as devoid of needed criminal justice and sentencing changes. The measure has an uncertain path in the Senate.

House Right to Try Rx: The Hill — The House approved “right to try” legislation intended to sidestep the Food and Drug Administration in order to give seriously ill patients access to experimental medications. Next stop: Trump’s desk.

Senate & Foreign Acquisitions: The Hill — The Banking Committee approved a bill to give a little-known agency expanded powers to probe foreign acquisitions of American businesses that could pose threats to national security. Senators voted unanimously to bolster the authority of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., part of the Treasury Department.

Senate & Courts: McClatchy — California Democrats Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinPoll: Feinstein holds 18-point lead over challenger Durbin to Trump: ‘We’re the mob? Give me a break’ Sen. Walter Huddleston was a reminder that immigration used to be a bipartisan issue MORE and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris presses young people to vote early in Iowa trip We need economic progress for more Americans Booker bill would create federally funded savings account for every child MORE are working with the Trump administration and colleagues to vet “mainstream” candidates to try to fill vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (a frequent target of the president’s wrath).

➔  WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The Trump administration announced new restrictions on Tuesday that would ban health clinics that refer patients for abortions or that share work space with abortion providers from receiving federal money.

The announcement from the Health and Human Services Department came hours before Trump received the Pro-life Distinguished Leader Award from the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List), an anti-abortion rights group.

“Today we have kept another promise,” Trump said to cheers and a standing ovation.

The president urged the anti-abortion activists to turn out for Republicans in November, calling out Democratic Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma —Senate debates highlight fight over pre-existing conditions | Support grows for Utah Medicaid expansion measure | Arkansas health official defends work requirements 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 (N.D.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Overnight Energy: Outdoor retailer Patagonia makes first Senate endorsements | EPA withdraws Obama uranium milling rule | NASA chief sees 'no reason' to dismiss UN climate report Trump on 'I love you' from rally crowd: 'I finally heard it from a woman' MORE (Mont.) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma —Senate debates highlight fight over pre-existing conditions | Support grows for Utah Medicaid expansion measure | Arkansas health official defends work requirements McCaskill campaign says ‘intern’ who filmed campaign had access to voter data MORE (Mo.) for voting against a 20-week abortion ban. All three are up for reelection in states Trump carried in 2016. The SBA List is working to mobilize voters in those red states and five others where Senate Democrats are considered vulnerable.

    “With President Trump leading the charge and the pro-life grass roots energized by his agenda, we are closer than ever to ending the injustice of abortion.” - SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser.

Elsewhere in the administration…The Environmental Protection Agency barred some reporters from attending a summit on water pollution (and reversed course after the flap) (The Associated Press) … Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosMelania Trump to host screening of 'Wonder' for National Bullying Prevention Month O'Rourke targets Cruz with several attack ads a day after debate Charter schools’ ‘Uberization’ of teaching profession hurts kids too MORE grilled by lawmakers about civil rights for students (The Hill) … The Government Accountability Office approved the Trump administration’s move to freeze the vast majority of funds in its proposed $15 billion clawback (The Hill) … Why Trump’s ambassador to Panama quit (The New Yorker)… Robert Wilkie, Trump’s pick to lead Veterans Affairs, likely to get a June hearing in Senate (The Hill).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley jeasley@thehill.com & Alexis Simendinger asimendinger@thehill.com. Suggestions? Tips? We want to hear from you! Share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


The DOJ shouldn’t be in charge of immigration courts, by Sara Ramey, opinion contributor with The Hill. https://bit.ly/2x3IeG5

The mess Rod Rosenstein made, by Steven G. Calabresi, opinion contributor with The Hill. https://bit.ly/2ICVabc


The House meets for legislative business at 10 a.m. to consider the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoWarren wants probe into whether former U.S. soldiers worked as assassins for UAE Slain Saudi columnist upends 'Davos in the Desert' Koreas, UN Command pulling weapons, guard posts inside DMZ MORE will testify at 9 a.m. before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Senate meets at 11:00 a.m. and considers the nomination of Brian Montgomery to be an assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

President Trump will fly to Bethpage, N.Y., to participate in a roundtable about immigration at Morrelly Homeland Security Center. In the evening, the president will headline a political roundtable event and a dinner with political supporters at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel in Manhattan, after which he will return to Washington.

Vice President Pence heads to New London, Conn., to deliver the commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Pentagon insists Mattis, Trump 'completely aligned' on leaving arms treaty | Trump 'not satisfied' with Saudi explanation on Khashoggi | Kushner says US still 'fact-finding' A solid budget requires tradeoffs Pentagon: Trump, Mattis 'completely aligned' on Russia arms treaty withdrawal MORE delivers the commencement address today at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.


> Google Plus is home to pro-terror accounts. Dozens of pages across Google’s social media platform communicate ISIS propaganda, according to an examination by Ali Breland of The Hill.

> What happened in steel cities following Trump’s tariff plans for aluminum and steel? Slower job growth, by Sharon Nunn and Sarah Chaney, The Wall Street Journal.


And finally … two men who served Democratic and Republican presidents, respectively, and applied the power of ideas and inspiring rhetoric to events that changed the nation, died this week.

Richard Goodwin, 86 … White House aide to President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson, served as a singularly prolific policy adviser and speechwriter to two very different presidents, and “was credited with coining the term `the Great Society’ to describe Johnson’s ambitious domestic agenda of the 1960s before parting ways with the president over the Vietnam War.” The Washington Post obituary.




Richard Pipes, 94 …  Soviet expert and adviser to then-CIA director George H.W. Bush, a national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, and by 2007 the recipient of the National Humanities Medal awarded by President George W. Bush, Pipes “helped write one of Reagan’s most memorable speeches, delivered before the British parliament in 1982, when the president foretold a `march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history.’” The Washington Post obituary.