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 John TrumpNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Ocasio-Cortez: Trump contributed less in taxes 'than waitresses and undocumented immigrants' Third judge orders Postal Service to halt delivery cuts 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 ComeySteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Judge will not dismiss McCabe's case against DOJ Democrats fear Russia interference could spoil bid to retake Senate 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 RyanTrump, Biden have one debate goal: Don't lose RNC chair on election: We are on track to win the White House Kenosha will be a good bellwether in 2020 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 Owen McCarthySunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election House to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power Ginsburg becomes the first woman to lie in state in the Capitol 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 ScottMaybe they just don't like cowboys: The president is successful, some just don't like his style Lobbying world Lawmakers warn Pentagon against reduction of US forces in Africa 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 NunesOvernight Defense: Stopgap spending measure awaits Senate vote | Trump nominates former Nunes aide for intelligence community watchdog | Trump extends ban on racial discrimination training to contractors, military Trump nominates former Nunes aide to serve as intel community inspector general Sunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election MORE (R-Calif.), House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdySunday shows preview: Election integrity dominates as Nov. 3 nears Tim Scott invokes Breonna Taylor, George Floyd in Trump convention speech Sunday shows preview: Republicans gear up for national convention, USPS debate continues in Washington 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 SchumerDemocrats blast Trump after report reveals he avoided income taxes for 10 years: 'Disgusting' Biden refuses to say whether he would support expanding Supreme Court Schumer says Trump tweet shows court pick meant to kill off ObamaCare MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi preparing for House to decide presidency if neither Trump or Biden win electoral college: report Trump seeks boost from seniors with 0 drug discount coupons GOP senators confident Trump pick to be confirmed by November 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 KushnerAbraham Accords: New hope for peace in Middle East Tenants in Kushner building file lawsuit alleging dangerous living conditions Trump hosts Israel, UAE, Bahrain for historic signing MORE met with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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 ManafortFBI official who worked with Mueller raised doubts about Russia investigation Our Constitution is under attack by Attorney General William Barr Bannon trial date set in alleged border wall scam 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 PapadopoulosTale of two FBI cases: Clinton got warned, Trump got investigated Trump says he would consider pardons for those implicated in Mueller investigation New FBI document confirms the Trump campaign was investigated without justification 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 RogersHouse Democrats push for resuming aid to Palestinians in spending bill House panel approves bill funding WHO, paring back abortion restrictions Democrats take aim at Trump's policies on 2021 funding markups MORE (Ky.), Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaBottom Line Ex-GOP congressman to lead group to protect Italian products from tariffs Head of Pennsylvania GOP resigns over alleged explicit texts 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 CarterDonna Imam wins Democratic runoff to face Rep. John Carter House panel advances bill banning construction on bases with Confederate names Democrats see victory in Trump culture war MORE (Texas), Robert AderholtRobert Brown AderholtLobbying world The Hill's Coronavirus Report: WHO vs. Trump; Bernie's out Bottom line MORE (Ala.), Mark AmodeiMark Eugene AmodeiBipartisan lawmakers call for Postal Service relief Mnuchin details IRS challenges with cash-only marijuana businesses On The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare MORE (Nev.), Jeff FortenberryJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FortenberrySave wildlife, save ourselves Lawmakers cry foul as Trump considers retreating from Open Skies Treaty Where do we go from here? Conservation can show the way 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 ClapperOn China, Biden is no Nixon — and no Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report - Speculation over Biden's running mate announcement Trump slams former intelligence officials to explain 'reluctance to embrace' agencies 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 RubioGOP online donor platform offering supporters 'Notorious A.C.B.' shirts Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power 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 PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS says it will leave Baghdad embassy if Iraq doesn't rein in attacks: report Watchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump Trump's push for win with Sudan amps up pressure on Congress  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!