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The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Tensions mount for House Republicans

 

 

 

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!)

 

***Turn on the television … “Fox & Friends” is airing portions of its pre-taped interview with President TrumpDonald TrumpClinton, Bush, Obama reflect on peaceful transition of power on Biden's Inauguration Day Arizona Republican's brothers say he is 'at least partially to blame' for Capitol violence Biden reverses Trump's freeze on .4 billion in funds MORE throughout the morning… early highlights...Trump backs new NFL rule on national anthem … says if you don’t stand for the anthem “maybe you shouldn’t be in the country” … the president said he’s keeping tabs on the House immigration drama and will only sign a bill that funds a wall and is strong on border security … calls former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyJuan Williams: The real 'Deep State' is pro-Trump Comey: Biden should consider pardoning Trump Comey: 'Greatest punishment' for Trump after Capitol riot is to 'move past' his presidency MORE a “rotten apple” … check back for updates … ***

House Republicans are rudderless.

Tensions between GOP leadership, moderates seeking reelection in swing districts and the conservative wing of the party are boiling over. Every day it seems one faction comes up with a new way to undercut, punish or generally make life miserable for the others.

The drama is driven by Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBiden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Inauguration Day Revising the pardon power — let the Speaker and Congress have voices MORE’s (R-Wis.) announcement that he will retire. Some Republicans tell The Hill’s Scott Wong that they believe Ryan would like to leave early but that he’s trapped because his chosen successor, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyBiden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear Congressional leaders present Biden, Harris with flags flown during inauguration Biden urges Americans to join together in appeal for unity MORE (R-Calif.), does not have enough support to take over as Speaker now.

It’s created a very messy situation for Ryan, McCarthy and the entire GOP conference, who are seeking to bridge divisions within a raucous conference with a lame-duck leader and dozens of lawmakers worried about the midterm elections.”

The acrimony has already sidelined the GOP’s farm bill, a priority for Ryan. It’s now playing out in the discharge petition, wherein centrist Republicans are trying to force Ryan to hold a vote on immigration. To try to come to an agreement, the GOP conference will meet June 7 for two hours to wrestle with immigration.

The Hill: Republicans fear retribution for joining immigration revolt.

The Hill: GOP centrists threaten to use conservatives’ weapon against them.

House moderates are only a few signatures short of theoretically being able to force the immigration vote, but some who are on the fence are fearful that leadership will punish them if they join the effort.

In fact, Rep. Austin ScottJames (Austin) Austin ScottCongress eyes 1-week stopgap, longer session to reach deal Alabama Republican becomes third House member to test positive for COVID-19 this week Thompson named top Republican on Agriculture MORE (R-Ga.) stood up at the conference meeting on Tuesday and called on his colleagues who signed the discharge petition to be disciplined.

Those are not the signs of a healthy conference.

The drama has otherwise overshadowed a productive week for House Republicans, in which they passed three wish-list items for conservatives — rolling back bank regulations, prison reform and “right to try” legislation.

Ryan’s busy day … 8 a.m. address to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast … 8:30 a.m. enrolls “right to try” measure, Veterans Affairs reform and financial reform bills … 9:30 a.m. floor speech on the National Defense Authorization Act.


LEADING THE DAY

INVESTIGATIONS: The Hill’s Jordan Fabian and Katie Bo Williams report: The White House is planning a separate meeting for bipartisan House and Senate leaders to receive classified information related to the Russia investigation, bowing to pressure over a decision to exclude Democrats from a highly anticipated Thursday briefing.

Today’s meeting attendees: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesGOP operative installed as NSA top lawyer placed on administrative leave: reports Pelosi raises alarm after Trump loyalist installed as top NSA lawyer NSA places former GOP political operative in top lawyer position after Pentagon chief's reported order MORE (R-Calif.), House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyTrey GowdyThe Hunter Biden problem won't go away Sunday shows preview: Joe Biden wins the 2020 election Sunday shows preview: Election integrity dominates as Nov. 3 nears MORE (R-S.C.), FBI Director Christopher Wray, White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, and Edward O'Callaghan, a top Justice Department official.

The White House said the bipartisan group, known as the “Gang of Eight,” will be briefed some time after the Memorial Day recess.

The briefing is about the origins of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign and the FBI informant who had contact with several members of the campaign. The president has dubbed the controversy “Spygate.” Law enforcement is furious that their source has been outed and say the use of an informant was standard procedure for a counterintelligence investigation.

Democrats originally were excluded but the White House adjusted after Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer becomes new Senate majority leader US Chamber of Commerce to Biden, Congress: Business community 'ready to help' Why pretend senators can 'do impartial justice'? MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP operative installed as NSA top lawyer placed on administrative leave: reports Budowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Biden taps career civil servants to acting posts at State, USAID, UN MORE (D-Calif.) wrote a letter to the DOJ asking that the full “gang” be included.

"If they do that [briefing], I think that puts a nix on a Gang of Eight briefing.” - Pelosi last night at a CNN town hall event.

The Associated Press: Trump brands the controversy “Spygate,” believing the nefarious term will resonate with the media and the public.

Elsewhere on the investigations front…White House senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Pardon talk intensifies as Trump approaches final 24 hours in office Trump preparing another 100 pardons, commutations before leaving office: reports MORE met with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE’s investigators for about seven hours in April (CNN)...Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani has reversed course and now says that the president should sit for an interview with Mueller (The Washington Post)… Mueller hopes to deny media attempts to unseal documents in Russia probe (CNN) … Ukrainian officials reportedly paid Trump lawyer Michael Cohen $400,000 to arrange a meeting that took place in 2017 (BBC)…Former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortTrump's pardons harshly criticized by legal experts Presidential pardons need to go Trump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon MORE is seeking to suppress evidence the FBI obtained in a raid of his home (Reuters)… Mueller tells judge he’s ready to move ahead with sentencing of former Trump campaign adviser George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosTrump supporters show up to DC for election protest Trump pardons draw criticism for benefiting political allies Klobuchar: Trump 'trying to burn this country down on his way out' MORE, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI (The Hill).

****

CAMPAIGNS:  We’ve had three Tuesdays of party primaries ahead of the midterm elections and The Hill’s Lisa Hagen has spotted a trend: it’s shaping up to be a big year for Democratic women.

***NEW FROM LAST NIGHT*** Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch, is launching a six-figure ad campaign targeting Republicans and Democrats who voted for the $1.3 trillion spending bill in March…the radio, print, digital and direct mail ads will drop in the lawmaker’s districts as they arrive home for Memorial Day weekend.

These Republicans made the naughty list and will be targeted by the ad campaign: Reps. Hal RogersHarold (Hal) Dallas RogersREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit House Democrats push for resuming aid to Palestinians in spending bill MORE (Ky.), Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James Barletta10 bellwether counties that could signal where the election is headed Bottom Line Ex-GOP congressman to lead group to protect Italian products from tariffs MORE (Pa.), Mike Bishop (Mich.), Mike SimpsonMIchael (Mike) Keith SimpsonDuring a time of uncertainty, Great American Outdoors Act deserves our support Dentists want coronavirus testing kits before reopening MLB, Congress play hardball in fight over minor leagues MORE (Idaho), John CarterJohn Rice CarterREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit GOP's Carter fends off challenge in Texas MORE (Texas), Robert AderholtRobert Brown AderholtREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Congress eyes 1-week stopgap, longer session to reach deal Alabama Republican becomes third House member to test positive for COVID-19 this week MORE (Ala.), Mark AmodeiMark Eugene AmodeiHouse Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit Bipartisan lawmakers call for Postal Service relief Mnuchin details IRS challenges with cash-only marijuana businesses MORE (Nev.), Jeff FortenberryJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FortenberryMcMorris Rodgers floats vacating Speaker's chair over Democrat's in-person vote after COVID diagnosis Jane Goodall joins lawmakers in calling for rethinking conservation and national interests OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten key air pollution standards | Despite risks to polar bears, Trump pushes ahead with oil exploration in Arctic | Biden to champion climate action in 2021 MORE (Neb.), Tom RooneyThomas (Tom) Joseph RooneyHouse Dem calls on lawmakers to 'insulate' election process following Mueller report Hill-HarrisX poll: 76 percent oppose Trump pardoning former campaign aides Dems fear Trump is looking at presidential pardons MORE (Fla.), and Ken CalvertKenneth (Ken) Stanton CalvertMORE (Calif.).

The Hill: Democrats are looking for ways to chip away at Trump’s argument that keeping Republicans in power is good for the economy.

Election integrity update…

Twitter has unveiled a new security feature ahead of the midterm elections.

In this Wednesday interview on NPR’s “1A,” former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperThe biggest example of media malfeasance in 2020 is... Meet Biden's pick to lead the US intelligence community The new marshmallow media in the Biden era MORE, who has feuded bitterly with Trump, says he now believes Russian interference in the 2016 election “had a profound impact and probably turned the election.” Clapper also endorsed the idea of federal regulation of social media outlets, which companies like Twitter would like to avoid.

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IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

INTERNATIONAL: China & Congress: Lawmakers in both chambers and in both parties continue to express misgivings about the Trump administration’s trade posture toward China and Chinese telecom giant ZTE.

The Hill: Trump and Congress are on a collision course over ZTE as GOP lawmakers join with Democrats to pass measures to keep trade restrictions in place on the telecom giant. Lawmakers want explanations from the administration about its China trade policies and U.S. mixed messages.

The Hill: Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official Overnight Defense: Biden inaugurated as 46th president | Norquist sworn in as acting Pentagon chief | Senate confirms Biden's Intel chief Schumer becomes new Senate majority leader MORE (R-Fla.) again warned the administration Wednesday against letting China off the hook.

 

 

The Hill: Meanwhile, the Pentagon rebuked China for its militarization and aggression in the South China Sea and rescinded an invitation to Beijing to participate in a major international military exercise.

China influenced North Korea’s Kim Jong Un early this month to step back from denuclearization talks with the United States, according to analyst Gordon G. Chang, writing for the Daily Beast. Beijing says it wants North Korea to denuclearize, and that may be true, but most of all it does not want to be left out of decision-making affecting the region.”

North Korea: The Hill — Trump said he expects to know next week whether a planned June 12 summit with Kim will take place. (Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoBiden taps career civil servants to acting posts at State, USAID, UN China sanctions Pompeo and more than two dozen US figures China calls Pompeo 'doomsday clown' after its treatment of Uighurs labeled genocide MORE told reporters on Tuesday that it’s possible the United States will not know whether a meeting is likely to take place until shortly before the June date.)

Late Wednesday, North Korea’s state media reported a foreign ministry official would recommend reconsideration of the U.S.-North Korea meetup.

Vice President Pence was assailed Wednesday for his remarks, which North Korea described as “ignorant and stupid,” The New York Times reported from Seoul. (During an interview broadcast on Monday on Fox News, the vice president warned that North Korea’s government could end up like that of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the former Libyan leader.)

Trade: U.S. trading partners, unhappy with the Trump administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs, are preparing to retaliate, according to Bloomberg. The United States risks a $3.45 billion tariffs bill.

The president is exploring the idea of imposing tariffs on car imports, Reuters reports. Sources said Trump sees the move as pressure on Canada and Mexico to conclude a rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which includes important auto provisions.

Sandeep Gopalan (The Hill, opinion contributor): Trump’s jousting with China to try to reduce America’s massive trade deficit has the potential to fundamentally alter global trade, at a cost to Europe and Asia.

➔  WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, received a security clearance after more than a year serving as a presidential adviser working on a range of sensitive and international policies, according to The New York Times. News of the change suggested a transition from uncertainty about whether Kushner was in peril as part of the special counsel investigation.

Trump is an unapologetic enthusiast about using Twitter as both a weapon and a shield, but he and managers of his social media accounts have occasionally blocked followers who have replied to the president with opposing opinions. On Wednesday, a federal district judge ruled the president is barred under the Constitution from preventing people from viewing his Twitter feed merely because he dislikes their views (The Hill).

The decision was hailed as a victory for the First Amendment, but the Justice Department disagreed and plans to review the opinion (CNNMoney).

IRS Guidance: The Hill — The GOP tax law enacted in December was designed to impose tough new requirements on people living in certain high-tax blue states, such as California and New Jersey, by imposing a new, lower deduction cap of $10,000 for state and local taxes. Now come the IRS and Treasury Department, which promise to issue guidance relating to blue states' efforts to circumvent limits on state and local tax deductions.

Foreign Aid: The Wall Street Journal — Trump repeated a vaguely detailed idea Wednesday for “radical” change to U.S. foreign aid programs, which he said would allow the government to withhold funds to unnamed countries through which illegal immigrants arrive in the United States. “Every time someone comes in from a certain country, we’re going to deduct a rather large sum of money,” he said during a Long Island event focused on immigration. 

POLITICS OF SPORTS: NFL owners on Wednesday approved a policy to fine players who do not stand when the national anthem is played before games (they have the option to remain in the locker room) (ESPN).

Trump and Vice President Pence hailed the decision as a victory for the president’s Twitter-fueled advocacy to stand out of respect when the national anthem is played. Trump has objected to athletes who “take a knee” to protest racial injustice and law enforcement mistreatment of African-Americans.

The president, speaking during the Fox interview recorded Wednesday and broadcast this morning, said he approves of the NFL policy, but would like it to be tougher: “I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms, but still I think it’s good you have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there, maybe you shouldn’t be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, and the NFL owners have done the right thing.”

 

 

Last year, the president loaned his voice to a national sports controversy, recognizing an opening to speak to his GOP base in ways that repeatedly celebrate the American flag, faith, family, the military, law enforcement and veterans.

Some of the president’s detractors argued that Trump and NFL owners ignored the original reason for the athletes’ protests. It is meant to chill the speech of the players whose voices have grown louder than the players—and owners—imagined they could go,” wrote Jonathan Jones in Sports Illustrated.

 

 

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!

OPINION

`Right to Try’ is an ill-conceived bill, by Dr. Peter Lurie, opinion contributor with The Hill. https://bit.ly/2J515VM

My farm crops gained $45K in value since Trump delayed China trade war, but it’s not a done deal, by Iowa farmer Tim Burrack, a member of Global Farmer Network and opinion contributor with The Hill. https://bit.ly/2J3A6Kb

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 9 a.m. for legislative business.

The Senate meets at 9:30 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Jelena McWilliams to be a member and chairperson of the board of directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Secretary Pompeo testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the department’s 2019 budget request.

Trump in the afternoon will present the Medal of Honor to Britt Slabinski, a retired SEAL Team 6 operator, for his heroism during a 2002 battle in Afghanistan. Later Trump meets in the White House with the U.S. Naval Academy superintendent, and the chief of naval operations.

ELSEWHERE

> Hawaii volcano is producing methane and `eerie’ blue flames (The Associated Press).

> From the NPR archives, author Philip Roth, who died Tuesday at age 85, discussed the writing process many times with “All Things Considered.”  Listen to excerpts here.

> History of inks is a history of man (and the first and longest-running form of information technology), by Lydia Pyne, History Today.

THE CLOSER

And finally … The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced this week that Julia Louis-Dreyfus will receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor later this year. Louis-Dreyfus has been a star since television’s “Seinfeld,” and has won a record number of Emmy awards (six) for her portrayal of Vice President Selina Meyer on HBO’s “Veep.”

 

 

The comic actress inspires our Quiz Contest this week, so we hope you’ll play along!

Here’s the question: Which of these performers never (or has not yet) portrayed a U.S. vice president in film or television?

  1. Betty White; B) Woody Harrelson; C) Anthony Hopkins; D) Paul Giamatti; E) Morgan Freeman; F) Ann Coulter.

Share your correct guess to earn a shout-out in Friday’s Morning Report. Email your winning answers to jeasley@thehill.com or asimendinger@thehill.com. (Put “Quiz Contest” in your subject line.) See you tomorrow!