The Hill's Morning Report — Trump hits the campaign trail to help upbeat GOP




Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and happy Tuesday! Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend and is looking forward to the short week ahead … 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!)

President Trump will get down to the business of campaigning this week with Congress out of town.

The president heads to Nashville today for a rally and a fundraiser for Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Katy Perry praises Taylor Swift for diving into politics Celebrity endorsements aren't kingmakers, but they may be tiebreakers MORE (R-Tenn.), who is in a surprisingly close race against Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen to replace retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe Memo: Trump in a corner on Saudi Arabia Corker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation MORE (R-Tenn.) in a state Trump carried by 26 points in 2016.

The Tennessean: What to know about Trump’s trip to Nashville.

NBC News: Can Blackburn ride the Trump train into the Senate?  

On Thursday, the president travels to Dallas and Houston to fundraise for his own presidential reelection campaign, as well as for the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is charged with protecting the GOP’s slim 51-49 majority in the Senate.

Those campaign stops come as Republicans are increasingly optimistic about the political landscape ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

The Hill: *** In an exclusive interview with The Hill’s Alexander Bolton,*** Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats slide in battle for Senate McConnell and wife confronted by customers at restaurant Pelosi, Schumer: Trump 'desperate' to put focus on immigration, not health care MORE (R-Ky.) says Ohio is in play, a sign that GOP confidence is growing.

The Hill: House Republicans cast doubt on a “blue wave” building.

Still, most election forecasters believe Democrats remain on pace to flip at least the 23 seats they need to claim a majority in the lower chamber.

Josh Kraushaar: Why Democrats are favorites to win the House.

Despite some tightening, Democrats still have a healthy lead in the generic ballot, according to the FiveThirtyEight average.

So what can Trump do on the trail to help himself and his party? This Monday tweet likely foreshadows the president’s message:



Republicans would like nothing more than for Trump to remain focused on the economy every day between now and Election Day. Expect a healthy dose of that in Tennessee.

Polls show that the public is happy about the state of the economy and increasingly likely to give Trump credit for it. Still, there are some potential pitfalls for Trump as the calendar turns to the summer. Rising gas prices could dampen voter enthusiasm on the economy.

And in Texas, things are slightly more complicated. A mass shooting at a high school outside of Houston will demand the president’s attention. Immigration will also likely be on the menu in the border state, as House moderates like Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdO'Rourke's rise raises hopes for Texas Dems down ballot Election 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 Dems struggle to mobilize Latino voters for midterms MORE (R-Texas) revolt against GOP leadership in demanding a vote on “Dreamers” legislation. The Gulf Region is bracing for a new round of tropical storms less than a year after a string of hurricanes devastated the region.

Trump’s handling of all these issues will be in the spotlight this week with the midterm elections less than six months away…

Juan Williams: The midterms will be a referendum on Trump.

Former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.): Republicans are strongly positioned to win Congress again in November.


INTERNATIONAL: Over the weekend, the White House dispatched senior administration officials and a pre-advance team to North Korea, hoping to get an on-again, off-again summit back on track in Singapore on June 12. The West Wing referred Monday to an “expected meeting” between Trump and Kim Jong Un, suggesting optimism that a summit could take place.

The Associated Press: Today, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported from Seoul that senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol plans to head to the United States, potentially for more talks to arrange the summit. He would be the most senior North Korean official to visit the United States in 18 years.

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. decided Monday to defer new round of sanctions aimed at North Korea while summit preparations are continuing.

The president spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday, promising “close coordination” before any summit with Kim, the White House said in a statement. (Trump is set to attend meetings of the Group of Seven industrialized nations, which includes Japan, early in June in Canada.)

This week, the president is set to meet twice with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSaudis say journalist killed in ‘fight’ at consulate; 18 detained Pompeo asks Mexico to help tackle migration ‘crisis’ Trump: 'FAKE NEWS' that Pompeo heard tape of Saudi journalist's death MORE at the White House, according to his schedule.

The Associated Press: Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed during a surprise meeting together Saturday to “positively cooperate with each other as ever to improve [North Korea]-U.S. relations and establish a mechanism for permanent and durable peace.” Kim and Moon agreed to have their governments’ top officials meet again June 1. Moon said military generals and Red Cross officials from the Koreas will also meet separately to discuss how to ease military tensions and resume reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

The Hill: Five indicators a Trump summit with Kim might still happen, despite the president’s decision last week to withdraw his participation via letter.

The Hill: On Saturday, the president told reporters that discussions with the North Koreans to resurrect a summit were going “very well.”

Reuters: In their meeting on Saturday, Kim reaffirmed his commitment to “complete” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and to a planned summit with Trump, Moon told reporters in Seoul.

The Hill: Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioO'Rourke's rise raises hopes for Texas Dems down ballot Meghan McCain calls Russian attacks against her father the 'highest compliment' to her family The Memo: Saudi storm darkens for Trump MORE (R-Fla.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, said Sunday he is convinced Kim does not want to denuclearize North Korea.

The Hill: Michael Hayden, a former CIA director, predicted Sunday that North Korea will not give up its nuclear weapons.

CHINA: The Hill: Trump late Friday appeared to confirm that his administration reached a deal to put Chinese telecommunications company ZTE back in business.

The Hill: The president’s and the Trump family’s business deals continue to spark scrutiny. More than 60 Democratic lawmakers say they want an ethics investigation into the president’s ties to China in response to the ZTE Corp. controversy.

The New York Times: China granted seven trademarks in May to White House senior adviser Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpAttacks on public figures are growing The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump sends Pompeo to meet Saudi king | How Trump could work with a Dem House | Trump heads to Florida to view hurricane damage Watchdog files Hatch Act complaint against Sanders for picture with Kanye in MAGA hat MORE for her branded merchandise, raising new ethics questions as her father reached an agreement on ZTE.

Reuters: China will host Iranian President Hassan Rouhani next month at a regional summit, its foreign ministry said on Monday, as major powers scramble to save Iran’s nuclear deal after the United States pulled out.

TRADE: The Hill: Deep disagreements between Republicans and Trump over his threat to apply trade tariffs to imported vehicles are boiling over. At the root of the GOP worries: the midterms, objections from U.S. companies and experts, and economic projections.

Bloomberg: Trump’s proposed auto tariffs, predicated on an argument of national security, appeal to his protectionist base but alienate his allies.

Nikkei Asia Review: Nissan Motor to cut North American auto production by up to 20 percent, impacting jobs, as U.S. sales stall for the first time in eight years and uncertainties abound with unfinished NAFTA rewrite and Trump-favored auto tariffs.

Reuters: British Prime Minister Theresa May reportedly suggested Trump meet with her at her private residence during his July visit to avoid protesters.


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump and leading Democrats pointed fingers at one another this weekend over a controversial immigration policy. The administration’s decision to try to discourage undocumented migrants from showing up at the U.S. border by separating children from their parents triggered howls of protest from Democrats.

In turn, Trump assailed Congress’s minority party, suggesting incorrectly that the policy determinations of the departments of Justice and Homeland Security were “a horrible law.” Republican lawmakers — some uncomfortable with the policy and others queasy about the optics of children torn from parents and placed in temporary holding pens and with “sponsors” — called for changes.

The president turned to Twitter this morning to maintain pressure on Democrats and emphasize border security.




The Washington Post: The reactions from Trump and lawmakers are not a surprise.

The Wall Street Journal: Trump blames Democrats for his administration’s policy.

CNN: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says it lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children after separation from parents. (DHS official testified about the details in April.)

Reuters: Administration official late Monday denied that migrant children “lost”; says children’s sponsors in U.S. not responding to government contacts.

The New York Times: Did the Trump administration separate immigrant children from their parents and lose them?

Arizona Daily Star: Children, parents ensnared in U.S. “zero tolerance” border prosecutions.

National Guard: The Hill: The Pentagon approved hundreds more National Guard troops to support border agents.

Federal firing: The Hill: Trump issued three orders designed to make it easier to fire federal employees.

Hunting & endangered wildlife: The Hill: Pro-hunting Trump officials diminish wildlife protections.

Veterans Affairs: The Hill: The president’s new nominee to lead the department boosts veterans’ hopes for reforms.

Education Department: The Associated Press: Federal court ruled the department violated privacy laws when it used the Social Security Administration (SSA) to help it analyze loan forgiveness for students defrauded by the for-profit Corinthian Colleges. The district court ordered the department to cease debt collection from the defrauded students and to stop seeking SSA's services for the practice.


MORE POLITICS:  California is shaping up to be a surprising battleground state ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

The Hill’s Lisa Hagen reports that Democratic money is flowing into key California House primaries, as Democrats try to avoid being shut out of general election contests.

Politico: Could 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.) lose his seat?

The New York Times: The Evangelical fight to win back California.

Meanwhile, in a more traditional battleground state, The Associated Press reports that Sen. 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 (D-N.D.) may be in trouble with the voters who supported her last election. At issue: The Dakota Access pipeline.

The Hill: Red state Dems tout new bank law for midterms.

The Wall Street Journal: Progressive governors cash in on tax reform.

The Hill: Abortion wars flare up for midterm election.

Politico: Democrats steal from GOP playbook, attack Trump on gas prices.

Quote of the weekend:

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump boosts McSally, bashes Sinema in Arizona Watch live: Trump speaks at Arizona rally Mnuchin to attend anti-terror meeting in Saudi Arabia following Khashoggi disappearance MORE (R-Ariz.), when asked if by NBC’s Chuck Todd if he had ruled out running for president in 2020:

“It's not in my plans but I have not ruled anything out. I do hope that somebody runs on the Republican side other than the president, if nothing else, simply to remind Republicans what conservatism is and what Republicans have traditionally stood for.”

INVESTIGATIONS & MESSAGING: Trump spent the weekend railing against special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s probe and the “spygate” controversy, which has devolved into a semantic debate with the president and his congressional allies on one end and Democrats and media fact-checkers on the other.

Here is how the debate is playing out:






We know that an FBI informant met with three of Trump’s advisers as part of a counterintelligence investigation carried out during the campaign. The president, by claiming that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonO'Rourke's rise raises hopes for Texas Dems down ballot Gabbard considering 2020 run: report Claiming 'spousal privilege' to stonewall Congress MORE infiltrated his campaign for political reasons, has managed to turn this debate about law enforcement involvement in a political campaign into one about his propensity to make false or exaggerated statements.

The Hill’s Amie Parnes explores the president’s weekend efforts to discredit Mueller.

Several high-ranking Republicans, including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Memo: Trump in a corner on Saudi Arabia Trump should stick to his guns and close failed South Carolina nuclear MOX project CNN's Smerconish: What do Saudis have over American presidents? MORE (R-S.C.), rebuked the president over the weekend, saying he shouldn’t conflate an FBI informant with a spy.

But Trump is a master marketer and his “spygate” meme is almost certain to penetrate the public faster and more effectively than the counter-argument that an informant is not a spy.

The New York Times: With “spygate,” Trump shows how he uses conspiracy theories to erode trust.

Bottom line: In the end, the only thing that will matter are the findings of Mueller and Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who will release reports on the FBI’s and DOJ’s handling of the Clinton and Trump investigations.

The Wall Street Journal: Stormy Daniels’s lawyer Michael Avenatti makes Michael Cohen probe difficult for investigators.

CONGRESS: Rep. Tom GarrettThomas (Tom) Alexander GarrettOlivia Wilde knocks on doors to campaign for her mom, Dem House candidate Cockburn Virginia GOP says Democratic candidate ‘hates America’ Virginia reps urge Trump to declare federal emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence MORE (R-Va.) announced Monday he will not run for reelection and instead will seek treatment for alcoholism. The announcement comes days after a bizarre press conference in which he announced his reelection bid and a Politico report in which his former aides accused him and his wife of mistreating them.

According to CNN’s tracker, Garrett is the 44th Republican to either retire or not seek reelection to the House. Open seats are harder to defend and Republicans in the House are dealing with dozens of these.

Immigration: House Republicans expect to meet on June 7 for a two-hour meeting designed to reach a consensus on immigration. If none emerges, more Republicans are expected to endorse the House discharge petition, forcing votes against Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPelosi, Schumer: Trump 'desperate' to put focus on immigration, not health care Trump urges Dems to help craft new immigration laws: ‘Chuck & Nancy, call me!' Sanders, Harris set to criss-cross Iowa MORE’s (R-Wis.) wishes on multiple immigration bills as early as June 25. Trump has threatened to veto any immigration legislation that doesn’t fully fund his border wall and increase border security. If the discharge petition succeeds, leadership is confident that Ryan can bridge the divide and keep the more liberal bills off the floor.

The Hill: GOP leaders scramble to contain immigration rebellions.

The Hill: House immigration fight could boost vulnerable Republicans.

Elsewhere in Congress…Senate sexual harassment bill runs into opposition in the House (The Hill)…Senators worried about Trump’s decision to scrap top cyber post (The Hill)…Senate conservatives introduce Trump’s plan to claw back $15 billion in spending (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!


Trump should declare victory on steel tariffs before we feel the pain, by former Trump transition adviser and former Ohio state treasurer Ken Blackwell, opinion contributor with The Hill. https://bit.ly/2GYM3f3

Conservatives need to argue over ideas, not Trump, by Jonah Goldberg, New York Post. https://nyp.st/2xrLWcq


Congress is in recess until the week of June 4.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Trump believes Kushner relationship with Saudi crown prince a liability: report Christine Blasey Ford to be honored by Palo Alto City Council MORE will have lunch with Vice President Pence and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonHUD official quits amid Interior Department watchdog controversy Inspector general: Zinke used taxpayer-funded travel for his wife Overnight Energy: Inspector general finds Zinke used taxpayer-funded travel for family | Interior says Trump appointee won't be new watchdog | EPA chief says agency taking climate report 'very seriously' MORE. Separately, the president meets with secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and the National Institutes of Health director, Dr. Francis Collins. Later, the president campaigns in Tennessee.


> Hurricane season begins June 1. Alberto, downgraded to a subtropical depression, remains a flooding threat in the U.S. today. Meteorologists expect 10-16 named storms this year (CNN). The New York Times’s Sahil Chinoy (and the newspaper’s graphic artists) examined the most vulnerable areas in America for natural disasters.

Federal, state and local governments subsidize the costs of rebuilding in areas hit repeatedly by storms, floods and fires, with little emphasis on rebuilding requirements for resilience against future disasters. No clear trend in frequency of hurricanes that made landfall in the continental U.S. has been identified in the last century, but the rise in destruction is correlated with the rise in population and wealth along the coasts.

> Lava from Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea volcano continued Monday to threaten a geothermal power station, while Gov. David Ige said the plant was “sufficiently safe.” Lava has never engulfed a geothermal plant anywhere in the world and the potential threat is untested (Reuters).


And finally … A hidden “White Shark Café” in Pacific waters off the coasts of California and Mexico presents a mystery scientists are just beginning to explore after years spent planning and executing a major data-gathering expedition this spring. Why do great white sharks swim thousands of ocean miles to get to a remote location thought to hold little life, and remain there for up to half a year? (NPR)

Humans have explored only 5 percent of the oceans. Sharks, it turns out, know their way around. Video here by Schmidt Ocean Institute (Calif.): https://bit.ly/2sjYpt3