The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — The art of walking away from the deal



Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and TGIF! Enjoy the long weekend folks, we’ll be back on Tuesday ... 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!)

"Know when to walk away from the table." — Donald Trump, “The Art of the Deal”

The historic summit between President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report Trump to nominate former Monsanto exec to top Interior position White House aides hadn’t heard of Trump's new tax cut: report MORE and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, once scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, has been called off for now.

The two leaders appear to be testing one another, neither willing to lose face or the upper hand. Lines of communication are still open, but Trump’s decision to walk away raises two questions: What does Kim want? And what is Kim willing to risk to get it?

How did we get here?

In an alternately cordial and bellicose letter to “His Excellency,” Trump said that Kim’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” persuaded him that a summit now was “inappropriate.” Among the reasons the White House cited for the withdrawal decision:

  • North Korea released a statement calling Vice President Pence a "political dummy." The Trump-Kim dialogue has been filled with name calling. Trump has called Kim “little rocket man” and Kim has called Trump “a mentally deranged U.S. dotard.” But North Korea’s statement also threatened to "make the U.S. taste an appalling tragedy," perceived as a reference to nuclear war. That seemed to be the deal breaker for Trump. “You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” he responded. 

The Hill’s Jordan Fabian has a behind-the-scenes look here. https://bit.ly/2J0Kkv5

Now what?

These developments would seem to put an end to talk of a Trump-Kim summit, but the president’s letter to Kim — which the White House says the president penned himself — was diplomatic, even effusive. Trump called Kim’s decision to release three captive Americans from North Korea a “beautiful gesture,” adding, “Do not hesitate to call me or write.”

"It's possible that the existing summit could take place, or a summit at some later date,” Trump told journalists during a bill signing just a few hours later.

By the numbers: The U.S.-North Korea drama began on April 19 and fell apart nearly five weeks later. Pompeo has now met Kim twice. Three Americans came home. Trump knows more than he did on April 18 about the complexities of the Korean Peninsula. The president remains open to a meeting, if the North Koreans are serious about verifiable denuclearization and ready to engage in talks about what the country would gain and give up.

The Hill: Five takeaways from Trump’s decision to quash the summit.

Bloomberg: North Korea expresses surprise at Trump’s decision and says the government remains willing to meet with the U.S. to discuss the pursuit of peace at any time. 

NBC News: Trump wanted to cancel before Kim Jong Un could. Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton at odds.

Reuters: South Koreans are angered by Trump’s cancellation of summit and fear opening for peace was lost. In Seoul today, university students and women’s rights activists protested in different rallies to denounce the U.S. president.



INVESTIGATIONS:  Washington was consumed on Thursday by classified briefings on the origins of the FBI investigation into Trump’s campaign.

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.) — with the backing of the White House — demanded and received a briefing from the FBI and Justice Department on the FBI informant who was in touch with several of Trump’s advisers during the campaign.

The president has said he was spied on for political reasons. Law enforcement insists the use of the informant was justified as part of a counterintelligence investigation.

The original briefing was arranged solely for a small group of GOP lawmakers and senior intelligence officials, but Democrats demanded they be included, and the number of participants quickly swelled.

The Associated Press: Briefing a sign of partisan distrust.

Top leaders from both parties in the House and Senate, along with the bipartisan leaders of the two Intelligence committees — the so-called Gang of Eight — were briefed over the course of two meetings.

White House lawyer Emmet Flood stopped by to plead for transparency. So, too, did White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE. Their presence annoyed Democrats.

“Never seen a Gang of Eight meeting that included any presence from the White House staff. Unusual times.” — Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDems can use subpoena power to reclaim the mantle of populism Is there a difference between good and bad online election targeting? Collusion judgment looms for key Senate panel MORE (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence panel.

What came of the briefings?

More details will spill out in the coming days, but the immediate reaction was predictably partisan.

"Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols." — Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

“I look forward to the prompt completion of the Intelligence Committee’s oversight work in this area now that they are getting the cooperation necessary for them to complete their work while protecting sources and methods.” — 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.).

Elsewhere in investigations — House Republicans set three FBI interviews in the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: Bolton tells Russians 2016 meddling had little effect | Facebook eyes major cyber firm | Saudi site gets hacked | Softbank in spotlight over Saudi money | YouTube fights EU 'meme ban' proposal Dems lower expectations for 'blue wave' Election 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 MORE probe (The Hill) … Longtime Trump adviser Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneRoger Stone slams 'busted' Washington Post over Mueller report Mueller examining conflicting accounts of Stone’s ties to WikiLeaks: report Mueller assembles team of cooperators in Russian probe MORE sought information on Clinton from Julian Assange (The Wall Street Journal)… Trump’s then-lawyers discussed the possibility of a January interview with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE at Camp David (CNN)… Poll finds public wants the Mueller probe to wrap up soon (The Hill).


CONGRESS: The endgame on immigration is approaching. As early as next month, House leaders will have to reckon with the movement by GOP centrists to force a vote on immigration against Speaker Ryan’s wishes. Two more Republican lawmakers signed their names to a discharge petition on Thursday, leaving renegade lawmakers only five signatures short of being able to go around Ryan and bring immigration legislation to the floor. The Hill’s Mike Lillis and Scott Wong have the details.

A new measure approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee would force U.S. technology companies to disclose if they allow foreign interests, including from Russia and China, to hunt for software vulnerabilities inside the federal government, according to Reuters.

The Hill: The Senate approved a new policy for handling sexual harassment complaints in Congress, and sent the bill to the House, which passed its own measure months ago.

>The New York Times: Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced movie mogul, is expected to surrender to investigators in Manhattan today and face sexual assault charges after a months-long inquiry into allegations by numerous women.

>CNN: At least eight women accuse Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior. Freeman on Thursday apologized to anyone who may have felt “uncomfortable or disrespected” by his behavior.


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INTERNATIONAL: China: The Hill: Senate Republicans are pushing back against Trump’s proposed tariffs on imported vehicles. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchGOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Congress should work with Trump and not 'cowboy' on Saudi Arabia, says GOP senator US to open trade talks with Japan, EU, UK MORE (R-Utah) called the president’s floated idea of auto tariffs “deeply misguided.”

Bloomberg: A turbulent week for Trump's trade tactics puts the world on edge. Over five days, the U.S. called off a trade war with China, cast doubt over the framework of talks with Beijing, and threatened tariffs on car and truck imports to protect national security. The president’s repeated trade threats have led to market jitters, but the economic impact has been limited.

Reuters: China scolds U.S. for withdrawing invitation to naval drills.

 WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The Hill: Trump gave a posthumous pardon to the first black heavyweight champion boxer, Jack Johnson, while offering credit to actor Sylvester Stallone for bringing the case to his attention. An all-white jury convicted the boxer in 1913 of transporting a white woman across state lines.

The Hill: Trump signed the first significant rollback of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, enacting a plank from his 2016 platform and responding to financial institutions that sought to ease some federal requirements.

Bloomberg: Profile of Office of Management and Budget Director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyOn The Money: Mnuchin pulls out of Saudi summit | Consumer bureau to probe controversial blog posts on race | Harris proposes new middle-class tax credit Consumer bureau to probe top Trump official's past racial comments On The Money: Deficit hits six-year high of 9 billion | Yellen says Trump attacks threaten Fed | Affordable housing set for spotlight in 2020 race MORE, who also heads the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). “We are still [Massachusetts Sen.] Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren wants probe into whether former U.S. soldiers worked as assassins for UAE 'Broad City' stars urge Clinton not to run again Big Dem donors stick to sidelines as 2020 approaches MORE’s child,” he laments. “As long as we’re identified with that one person, we’ll never be taken as seriously as a regulator, as we should.”

Bloomberg: The Department of Justice launched a criminal investigation into potential bitcoin price manipulation.

FBI: The government launched a new “think before you post” campaign to educate and warn the public about communicating hoax threats online.

The New York Times: The federal director of prisons quietly resigned this week because of what has been described as an ideological turf battle over prison reforms that pitted White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerCongress 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 Kushner on working at the White House: I 'wouldn’t say' it’s 'fun' MORE against Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsConservatives fume over format of upcoming Rosenstein interview Support for legal marijuana hits all-time high: Gallup Beto O'Rourke on impeachment: 'There is enough there to proceed' MORE and the Justice Department. Mark Inch held the job for nine months.

The Hill: Environmental Protection Agency grapples with potential health threat to drinking water.

Space.com: The president issued a directive Thursday to federal departments ordering a review of licensing of commercial space flight launch and re-entry operations.


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!



Trump won't be Charlie Brown to Kim's Lucy with the football, by Michael Auslin, opinion contributor with The Hill. https://bit.ly/2GMtrig

Why I fight for protecting immigrant students and the future of the nation, by Rep. Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralTrump’s threats to cut aid from Honduras is ‘not going to work,’ says Dem Dem lawmaker says US should ‘immediately’ consider arms sanctions against Saudi Arabia The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — GOP faces ‘green wave’ in final stretch to the midterms MORE (D-N.Y.), opinion contributor to The Hill. https://bit.ly/2IO4m8J


Congress is in recess until the week of June 4. 

President Trump delivers the commencement and commissioning address this morning at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Later, he will meet at the White House with Secretary of State Pompeo.

Vice President Pence and second lady Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump, Stormy Daniels trade fire on Twitter | Three weeks to midterms | Pompeo meets Saudi king The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Pollsters: White college-educated women to decide if Dems capture House New book: Pence’s wife refused to say hello to Trump on election night MORE will participate in the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors’ (TAPS) survivor seminar and “Good Grief Camp” in Crystal City, Va. They will join survivors during an art therapy session followed by the vice president’s keynote remarks. The TAPS Good Grief Camp brings together 500 children with mentors over the Memorial Day weekend.


> George Conway’s tweets raise West Wing eyebrows, by Annie Karni, Politico magazine

> Europe’s tough new data privacy rules take effect today. BBC News explains how the law impacts any organization handling personal information linked to residents of the European Union. The Hill’s Harper Neidig and Morgan Chalfant report that tech companies are scrambling to avoid steep penalties from new regulations and users in the United States and elsewhere have been bombarded with online notices about Europe’s privacy laws.

> Companies find ways to get employees to toil for hours without pay, a trend known as "time theft," according to a new study that estimates that workers forfeit billions of dollars in compensation per year, by Stacey Vanek Smith and Cardiff Garcia, NPR’s Planet Money.


We have WINNERS with this week’s Morning Report’s quiz contest! We received some smart guesses, and Mary Vita P. Treano and Sandy Sycafoose correctly identified Betty White from Thursday’s multiple choice quiz list as the actor/performer who has never portrayed a U.S. vice president for film or television. (Some readers thought conservative commentator and writer Ann Coulter had to be the correct answer, but surprise!, she played Vice President Sonia Buck in 2015’s “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!”)

And finally, hoorah … it’s Memorial Day weekend and 41.5 million people (perhaps some of you) will be traveling somewhere, 5 percent more people in-transit than last year, according to AAA. Getaways will be more crowded and more expensive (think the highest gasoline pump prices since 2014 and rising air fares to some locations). But those-in-the-know suggest Americans this year are shrugging off wallet worries. … And don’t forget a bit of history: Memorial Day originated as “Decoration Day” in 1868 in the wake of the Civil War, a way to honor those who died while serving in the U.S. military. It’s been an official federal holiday since 1971. So, salute the flag and the fallen, and enjoy a long weekend!


Library of Congress image, Puck cartoon 1883, screen grab from library holdings