The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Tuesday’s primaries to offer clues for November

 

 

 

Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and happy Tuesday! Our daily email gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. This week, Alexis Simendinger is holding down the fort while co-editor Jonathan Easley is on vacation. (CLICK HERE to subscribe!)



First things first: The Washington Capitals are one victory away from winning the coveted Stanley Cup (Thursday’s big game is in Nevada)! Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper showed up to watch Monday night’s 6-2 victory over the Golden Knights wearing a Knights jersey, which created quite a stir on Twitter. But relax Caps fans – Harper was born in Las Vegas.

 

 

Good morning! Hockey aside, it’s one of the most consequential days of the year. Today’s crowded primary lineup coast-to-coast holds clues for November’s midterm outcomes, so check back tonight at TheHill.com for all the election results.

 

Voters head to the polls in Alabama, California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota.

 

Some helpful primers:

The Hill’s political team outlines seven California storylines to watchWhat to watch across key primary states tonight (Vox) … Contests to watch in Alabama, Mississippi and New Jersey, where polls close at 8 p.m. (FiveThirtyEight) … How California’s jungle primary election rules work (The New York Times) ... California primaries will determine whether Democrats’ chances of winning back the House get easier, or harder (First Read, NBC News).





LEADING THE DAY

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The rip-roaring debate about Trump’s avowed  constitutional say-so to pardon himself as well as call off Justice Department investigations continued Monday with, what else, POTUS tweets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the first time since special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump MORE’s investigation began more than a year ago, Trump is arguing he has vast constitutional powers to steer law enforcement, stop federal investigations and pardon himself, leaving Congress with impeachment as a first-threshold remedy for any alleged crimes. The president continues to say he‘s innocent of any obstruction of justice or collusion to interfere with the 2016 election.

 

The Hill: Trump asserts power to pardon himself, saying he has no reason to exercise that authority because no crime has been committed.

 

*** The Hill’s Niall Stanage interviewed Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani *** – who says a sitting president can be investigated, but cannot be subpoenaed in an investigation. Giuliani challenged legal commentators who disagree with a January letter sent privately by Trump’s team to the special counsel. Giuliani and the president are now describing the letter’s constitutional arguments following the letter’s publication by The New York Times.

 

“It’s the president who has immunity, and if you don’t give it to him, you are not obeying the rule of law,” the former New York mayor maintained. Read Stanage’s reporting in The Memo.

 

The 20-page letter sent in January by Trump’s lawyers included a key revision of fact: on behalf of his son, the president had indeed drafted a misleading statement about a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower that involved a Kremlin-tied lawyer who said she had dirt on presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThree legal scholars say Trump should be impeached; one thinks otherwise Report: Barr attorney can't provide evidence Trump was set up by DOJ Jayapal pushes back on Gaetz's questioning of impeachment witness donations to Democrats MORE. The New York Times examines how the president’s spokeswoman and his lawyers spun different versions of that narrative in public and in private, and why it matters.  

 

> *** BREAKING Monday Night *** The Hill: Mueller says former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortGiuliani meets with fired Ukrainian prosecutor who pushed Biden, 2016 claims: report Top State Department official tells senators he has not seen evidence of Ukrainian interference Justice Dept releases another round of summaries from Mueller probe MORE, under federal indictment, tried to tamper with witnesses.

 

Powerful Debate: Senate Democratic leaders seized on the president’s expansive view of his executive authority to argue that what Trump is describing is not a democracy (The Hill) … Some GOP senators maintain that a sitting president could certainly try to obstruct justice, a federal crime (The Hill) … Richard Nixon’s Justice Department advised the former president in 1974 he could not pardon himself (Bloomberg).

 

The Hill: “Certainly no one is above the law,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.

 

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Philadelphia Eagles Disinvited: The Hill: The president thought he would host the Super Bowl LLI champion Philadelphia Eagles at the White House this afternoon, but scratched the event late Monday after some players declined to attend in protest over the president’s vocal objections to players who kneel during the national anthem. “The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better,” Trump said in a terse written statement. (A musical event “to celebrate America” will be substituted on the South Lawn.)

 

The Hill: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) called the president a “fragile egomaniac.”

 

 

 

 

Taxes: The Hill: Five key things to know about another round of proposed Trump administration tax cuts, a summer sequel.

 

Defense Department: The Hill: The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating allegations of misconduct against Rear Adm. Dr. Ronny Jackson, formerly head of the White House medical unit, and physician to former President Obama and President TrumpDonald John TrumpStates slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Iran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: report MORE.

 

EPA: The Hill: Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittIs Big Oil feeling the heat? Overnight Energy: EPA delays board's review of 'secret science' rules | Keystone pipeline spill affecting more land than thought | Dems seek probe into Forest Service grants tied to Alaska logging EPA delays advisers' review of 'secret science' rules MORE, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, remains under investigation for a growing list of questionable expenditures, including  silver fountain pens and special journals, and alleged violations, such as tasking federal workers to perform errands and services, including booking travel, searching for an apartment, and helping Pruitt purchase a used mattress from the Trump International Hotel.

 

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CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: More political news today...

 

Trump Primary Endorsements: The Hill’s Scott Wong reports the backstory describing how the president’s political embrace becomes a boon among GOP candidates running in states and congressional districts like that of Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.), who says he appreciated Trump’s backing during a tough primary contest against former Rep. Michael Grimm. “This is an enormously important endorsement,” Donovan told The Hill in an interview.

> New York GOP Debate – 77 WABC Radio hosts the first GOP primary debate between Donovan and Grimm June 11 at WABC Radio studios in New York City, with WABC Radio host and political editor Rita Cosby moderating.

 

California Governor’s Race: The Hill: A last-minute endorsement from Trump for Republican John Cox, a candidate for governor, may have averted catastrophe for the state’s GOP. Republicans are desperate to keep control of the House in the nation’s capital.

 

California’s Primary: The Hill: Eight years after California voters bucked party leaders to establish a jungle primary system, Democrats and Republicans alike have serious misgivings about the system. “It's not doing what it was laid out to do. It's making campaigns more expensive, it's making it harder for people to run,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyWhite House calls Democratic witness's mentioning of president's youngest son 'classless' Republicans disavow GOP candidate who said 'we should hang' Omar Nunes accuses Democrats of promoting 'conspiracy theories' MORE (R) told national correspondent Reid Wilson during an interview. “Everything about it is bad. I think it should be removed.”

House - California: The Hill: The race for retiring Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaDuncan Hunter to plead guilty to campaign finance violations Why the GOP march of mad hatters poses a threat to our Democracy Elijah Cummings, native son of Baltimore, gets emotional send-off from Democratic luminaries MORE's (R-Calif.) seat has become a wide open, unpredictable fight with no front-runners in either party. It’s the most expensive House race in the country.

Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonClinton still 'disappointed' Sanders held off on endorsing her in 2016 Booker notes 'anger' over more billionaires than black candidates in 2020 race Fox's Napolitano says obstruction 'easiest' impeachment offense for Democrats MORE: USA Today: The former president cautioned Democrats who believe a "wave" is building that could unseat Republicans after the November elections. "Well, it was building, big time," Clinton said of a surge this year for the party out of power. "It's impossible to tell now, just because there are so many other intervening narratives." The strength of the economy and the prospects for progress on North Korea appear to be bolstering GOP hopes to hold down losses. (Clinton sat down with journalist Susan Page for an interview during a book tour with novelist James Patterson to plug a mystery they co-wrote titled, “The President is Missing.”)

 

> The Hill: Media columnist Joe Concha asks, Did Bill Clinton really think he could dodge #MeToo?

 

> The Hill’s Amie Parnes reports that Clinton is taking some heat during his book tour for not extending a direct apology as part of the current #MeToo discussions to former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

 

Reuters: Will liberal-leaning billionaire Howard Schultz, executive chairman of Starbucks Corp., who announced Monday he’s stepping down from the company he helped build, make a run for the White House? (He’s attracted lots of publicity about his next moves and will be interviewed this morning by CNBC.)

 

DNC Leadership: Politico: Democratic National Committee Deputy Chairman Rep. Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonMinnesota sues Juul over rise in youth vaping Jane Fonda calls for protecting water resources at weekly DC climate protest Progressives ramp up fight against Facebook MORE of Minnesota is expected to make a last-minute entry today in the race for attorney general in his home state. The move would leave the national party committee without a high-level representative for the Democrats’ Bernie SandersBernie SandersGabbard moves to New Hampshire ahead of primary Sanders to join youth climate strikers in Iowa Saagar Enjeti unpacks why Kamala Harris's campaign didn't work MORE wing.



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IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CONGRESS: Senate - Executive power: The Hill: Trump’s assertion Monday that he can pardon himself in a criminal investigation divides GOP senators, who have argued for months that the Russia probe and Mueller’s investigation should proceed. The Hill: GOP Sen. John CornynJohn CornynPush to investigate Bidens sets up potential for Senate turf war Pressure grows on House GOP leaders to hold line ahead of impeachment trial GOP senators warn Trump trade deal will go into 2020 if deal not reached this week MORE (R-Texas) called Trump’s claim to legal immunity as president “academic” and “a distraction,” arguing he sees no evidence of collusion by Trump to interfere with the 2016 election, and no evidence that the president obstructed justice to impede the Russia probe.

 

Senate - Trade: The Hill: Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R-Tenn.), who is retiring in January, is working to draft bipartisan legislation aimed at countering the Trump administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs applied to imports from allied nations. A legislative check on the president’s trade authority remains unclear and faces long odds in Congress this year.

 

Trump reiterated his controversial trade views in a tweet on Monday:

 

 

 

 

House - Spending: The Hill: This week, three fiscal 2019 appropriations bills (energy and water; legislative branch; military construction and Department of Veterans Affairs) are expected to come to the House floor as part of a consolidated measure.

 

Senate Democrats - North Korea: The Hill: Top Senate Democrats say they will work to block sanctions relief as part of any prospective U.S. nuclear pact with North Korea without tough requirements. Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants House, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law Why a second Trump term and a Democratic Congress could be a nightmare scenario for the GOP MORE (D-N.Y.) joined six colleagues in advising Trump that any agreement with Pyongyang should insist on "the dismantlement and removal" of all chemical, biological and nuclear weapons from North Korea; an irreversible end to North Korea’s testing and research; restrictions on ballistic missile work; verifiable inspections; and permanent status for all terms.

 

Senate Confirmations: The Hill’s Melanie Zanona profiles Jamil Jaffer, a GOP volunteer guide who has helped Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump puts Kushner in charge of overseeing border wall construction: report Hillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Minority lawmakers call out Google for hiring former Trump DHS official MORE, and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS, Sudan to exchange ambassadors for first time in decades Iran expert: Trump's foreign policy approach aimed at instigating 'unrest' Fox's Napolitano says obstruction 'easiest' impeachment offense for Democrats MORE successfully navigate the Senate confirmation process.

 

SUPREME COURT: Justices handed down rulings in two closely watched cases Monday, with several weeks and a stack of decisions remaining this term.

 

In a landmark ruling Monday, the court sided 7-2 with a Colorado baker who refused to make a custom cake for a same-sex wedding. The Hill’s Lydia Wheeler reports the court, in a decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated the free exercise clause of the Constitution when, under the state's public accommodations law, it forced Jack Phillips to make a cake for a wedding he said he morally opposed. The decision did not provide the sweeping victory for religious rights that some court-watchers hoped to see.

 

Separately, The Hill’s Wheeler explained, the court tossed out a lower court ruling that said a pregnant illegal immigrant minor held in federal immigration custody could obtain an abortion. In the unsigned opinion with no dissents, the court said a dispute with the Justice Department became moot once the unnamed teenager obtained the abortion with assistance from her attorneys.



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

Big Tobacco’s smoke and mirrors revived by Scott Pruitt’s science transparency policy at EPA, by Augusta Wilson, Climate Science Legal Defense Fund attorney and opinion contributor with The Hill. https://bit.ly/2Ju7l9S

 

Can a president obstruct justice? by Benjamin Wittes, editor-in-chief of Lawfare, analysis in The Atlantic. https://theatln.tc/2LnNhmY



WHERE AND WHEN

The House returns to work at noon, beginning legislative business at 2 p.m. Votes are postponed until 6:30 p.m.

 

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Robert Earl Wier to be U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of Kentucky. The Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security holds a hearing at 3 p.m. on preventing sexual abuse of athletes. Lou Anna Simon, former Michigan State University president and a former USA Gymnastics president, is scheduled to testify. Simon was subpoenaed last week to appear.

 

The president meets in the Oval Office this morning with Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyTrump: Kellyanne Conway 'must have done some bad things' to 'crazy' husband Trump says Pence will remain on 2020 ticket: 'He's our man 100 percent' Tillerson: Using American aid for 'some kind of personal gain [is] wrong' MORE, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He’ll have lunch with Pompeo, and later host a musical celebration of America on the South Lawn. In the afternoon, Trump meets with members of Congress in the Roosevelt Room. Trump will sign the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research Act into law in the evening.

 

Vice President Pence will join Trump to confer with Ambassador Haley. He’ll head to the Capitol to join the Senate’s GOP policy lunch, then return to the South Lawn for the White House musical event. Later, Pence meets in his West Wing office with former Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), who helped enact the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, designed more than a quarter century ago to safeguard and dismantle weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems in the former Soviet states. (Nunn is co-chair of the Nuclear Threat Initiative and Lugar is an NTI board member.)



ELSEWHERE

> Facebook fell short after pledging to rein in and identify negative campaign ads, The New York Times reports.

 

> Facebook gave device makers deep access to data on users and friends, according to The New York Times. Facebook said it “disagrees.”

 

> Facebook’s troubles with Congress deepen following the Times’s reporting, The Hill’s Ali Breland explains.



THE CLOSER

And finally … “If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same…”

 

That phrase, inscribed above the players’ entrance to Centre Court at Wimbledon and borrowed from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If,” sums up a bit of the atmosphere this week at the French Open.

 

On Monday, tennis great Serena Williams, 36, who has not played on clay in two years and hoped to make a comeback after giving birth to daughter Olympia in September, withdrew before the fourth round in Paris with a muscle injury. It’s the first time the champion, who has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, bowed out of such a major tournament.

 

I’m beyond disappointed,” she said. “I put everything on the court, you know. All for this moment. So it’s really difficult to be in this situation. … For now in my life, I just always try to think positive and just think of the bigger picture, and hopefully the next events and the rest of the year.