The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Some GOP lawmakers reject script on Trump




Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and happy Thursday! 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!)

After tonight, what happens in Vegas may not stay in Vegas: Get ready, Washington. Stanley Cup stakes. Caps vs. Vegas Golden Knights, Game 5, 8 p.m. If you’re not at a watch party, the Caps will broadcast the game outside the Capital One Arena on the video boards located at G and 8th streets NW tonight. No tickets required to watch outdoors.  




Today is Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceBrunson release spotlights the rot in Turkish politics and judiciary Scrap the Third Communique with China, keep the Six Assurances to Taiwan US must encourage world action to end genocide in Burma MORE’s 59th birthday. Happy natal day, Mr. Vice President!



In Congress Wednesday, lawmakers up and down the ranks showcased just how much President TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE can dominate discussions, but also how eager many Republicans are to keep the legislative branch lashed to its own course. Three examples: “Spygate,” immigration, and tariffs.


House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanElection Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight Paul Ryan to campaign for 25 vulnerable House Republicans GOP super PAC pushes back on report it skipped ad buys for California's Rohrabacher, Walters MORE (R-Wis.) joined Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrCollusion judgment looms for key Senate panel The National Trails System is celebrating 50 years today — but what about the next 50 years? Key conservation fund for parks set to expire MORE (R-N.C.) and Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyHouse GOP sets deposition deadline for Fusion GPS co-founder Collusion bombshell: DNC lawyers met with FBI on Russia allegations before surveillance warrant Comey rejects request for closed-door interview with House Republicans MORE (R-S.C.), chairmen and key investigators in Congress, to contradict the president’s tale about a “spy” or FBI mole inside his presidential campaign. The FBI had a confidential informant assisting its Russia investigation, not a spy planted inside the Trump campaign, they say. Florida Republican Rep. Tom RooneyThomas (Tom) Joseph RooneyCongress falls flat on election security as midterms near Senate panel postpones election security bill markup over lack of GOP support Hillicon Valley: FBI fires Strzok after anti-Trump tweets | Trump signs defense bill with cyber war policy | Google under scrutiny over location data | Sinclair's troubles may just be beginning | Tech to ease health data access | Netflix CFO to step down MORE fumed about the president’s fiction: "What is the point of saying that there was a spy in the campaign when there was none?"


Immigration: Trump’s advisers on Wednesday pressed House Republicans, trying to stave off a slow-motion revolt among the rank and file who want an immigration vote on a measure that doesn’t bow to either West Wing demands or Ryan’s efforts at control. It’s a gentle mutiny without a certain outcome, and the Speaker has a come-to-Jesus conference meeting scheduled this afternoon.


Tariffs: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerDemocrats torch Trump for floating 'rogue killers' to blame for missing journalist Trump to send Pompeo to meet Saudi king Trump defends 0B US arms sale to Saudi Arabia MORE (R-Tenn.), who is retiring from the Senate, is leading an uprising with a bill that would check Trump’s executive powers when it comes to levying tariffs on allies. The president privately tried to get Corker to holster his defiance, but failed. “He’s not pleased with the effort,” Corker said after the two spoke by phone. On Wednesday, Trump had to drum up defenders elsewhere among Senate Republicans, although many in his party wring their hands that tit-for-tat tariffs undermine the Republican Party’s long-held free-trade brand, and could be toxic for the economy.  


CONGRESS: Among House Republicans, immigration is the intraparty, legislative lightning rod this week. Among some Senate conservatives, however, it’s Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs that sparked a small rebellion.


House - Immigration: The Hill: House Republicans face a make-or break moment for immigration legislation today. Retiring Speaker Ryan will pitch a long-awaited compromise proposal to rank-and-file Republicans during a much-watched meeting. But it may be too late to halt momentum among the rank-and-file. The Hill’s Rafael Bernal and Juliegrace Brufke report on the House Republicans who want a “bridge” for “Dreamers.”


Congress role - North Korea denuclearization: The Hill: Some lawmakers seek a legislative role as part of the U.S. denuclearization approach to North Korea. Why? Because experience with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal left an impression.


Senate GOP - Trade: Trump met at the White House with Senate Republicans to discuss his trade policies on Wednesday, and joined his advisers in lobbying his conservative colleagues to reject a bipartisan Senate effort to give Congress approval power over tariffs. Senate leaders and Trump allies heeded the president’s pleas:


> During an interview Wednesday with Olivier Knox of Sirius XM Channel 124, McConnell resisted the push among some of his colleagues for a Senate legislative response to Trump’s tariffs, one day after indicating he was open to the bipartisan effort. The Hill reported that the majority leader referred to the effort as “an exercise in futility.”


> Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynTrump defends 0B US arms sale to Saudi Arabia Florida politics play into disaster relief debate O’Rourke faces pivotal point in Texas battle with Cruz MORE (Texas) also waved off the idea of challenging Trump over tariffs, calling it “an executive function.” (The Hill)


*** Addendum: The Hill: Cornyn will be term-limited as the Senate's No. 2-ranking GOP leader, but McConnell told The Hill that Cornyn won't be out of the leadership picture next year.


> Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBrunson release spotlights the rot in Turkish politics and judiciary Saudi Arabia, Turkey to form joint investigation into Khashoggi disappearance Democrats must end mob rule MORE (R-S.C.) issued a statement late Wednesday: “Now is not the time to undercut President Trump’s ability to negotiate better trade deals. I will not support any efforts that weaken his position.”




CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: Both parties, with five months to go until November, sounded uncertain this week about where political winds will blow come November.

California House races: The Hill: Democrats are watching their candidates move ahead in every crucial California House district in which they have hopes of victory in November. They’re increasing the odds of capturing the House majority from Republicans.

GOP midterm messaging: The Hill: In case the GOP tax law alone is not a strong enough sales pitch to mobilize conservative voters in November, Republicans in Congress are devising a backup PR plan. While the booming economy is still expected to be key for the GOP’s midterm messaging, Republicans want to talk up legislative accomplishments to underscore a rationale for keeping GOP control in Washington.


Democrats’ messaging: Washington Post: In an interview, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFive takeaways from the final Tennessee Senate debate Schumer rips Trump 'Medicare for all' op-ed as 'smears and sabotage' GOP senator suspects Schumer of being behind release of Ford letter MORE (D-N.Y.) said Democrats are defending a somewhat smaller roster of nail-biter Senate races this year, although he would not be specific, adding that he asked former President Obama to help Democrats try to win control of the Senate. Obama is expected to headline more fundraisers for progressive candidates in the fall.


> Schumer later told CNN that Democratic candidates are reaching out to voters touting a middle-class agenda focused on affordable health care, infrastructure, access to rural broadband, job training and economic fairness. "We can't just be anti-Trump,” he said. The president “makes the anti-Trump argument himself to the majority of Americans. We have to be for a lot of good, positive things.”


Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump makes new overtures to Democrats Gillibrand backs Manchin, Bredesen despite their support of Kavanaugh Senate heads home to campaign after deal on Trump nominees MORE (D-W.Va.), faced with a tough reelection battle in a state that strongly supports Trump, told Politico in an interview he might back the president for a second term. “I’m open to supporting the person who I think is best for my country and my state,” Manchin said. “If his policies are best, I’ll be right there.


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DHS - Immigration: The Hill: Illegal immigration on the U.S. border with Mexico increased in May, despite the Trump administration’s crackdown and “zero tolerance” policy, according to new U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics. The number of immigrants caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally rose 2,000 last month, to more than 40,000.


> Sanctuary cities: The Hill: A federal judge on Wednesday ruled in favor of the city of Philadelphia in a case about whether the Trump administration could withhold law enforcement grants over city officials' “sanctuary city” policies. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the judge ruled the city’s refusal to help enforce immigration laws is based on policies that are reasonable, rational and equitable.


Justice: Trump commuted the life sentence of a great-grandmother, who has been imprisoned for more than two decades as punishment or a first-time drug conviction, Reuters reported. The president, who had issued five pardons and one commutation before Wednesday’s show of mercy, was lobbied by celebrity Kim Kardashian West. Trump’s decision freed Alice Marie Johnson, 63, from prison, and she expressed her deep gratitude to the president (The Hill).





Melania TrumpMelania TrumpMelania spokeswoman calls for boycott of TI over video 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 The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Trump travels to hurricane-ravaged Florida, Georgia MORE accompanied the president to a briefing Wednesday at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (NBC News). The first lady looked well, and did not speak. On Twitter, the president objected to news accounts about his wife’s long absence from public events following surgery last month (The Hill).


HHS: Trump is expected to propose to Congress that some programs and federal jurisdictions be consolidated and reorganized in the federal government, including a new name for  the Department of Health and Human Services (long ago known as Health, Education and Welfare), Politico reported. Such changes require legislative approval, unlikely this year.




North Korea: Bloomberg described key details behind Trump’s preparations for denuclearization talks with Kim Jong Un in Singapore June 12. One detail: timelines.


> Former NBA star Dennis Rodman, a friend of the North Korean leader, will be in Singapore during the historic Trump-Kim get-together, The New York Post added. “No matter what you might think about his presence. One thing’s for sure the ratings will be huge,” one source observed.


Indeed, social media filled with new interest in U.S. diplomacy:





> Japan, Russia, South Korea and China don’t want to be left out of the summit dynamics between North Korea and the United States. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets with Trump at the White House today. The four countries have been determined to make their presence felt, lining up their own meetings with Trump and Kim and pushing agendas that are, in many cases, at odds with one another, according to The Washington Post.


G-7 + trade: Reuters: Trump is sticking to a tough line on trade, the White House’s top economic adviser said on Wednesday, setting the stage for a showdown with top allies during the annual Group of Seven summit June 8-9 in Canada. “There are disagreements. He’s sticking to his guns,” Larry Kudlow, national economic adviser, told reporters at the White House. “The lines are open, the negotiations are ongoing.” (The Washington Post reports that Trump dreads the G-7 this year because he’s on the outs with his peers.)


Iran nuclear deal: The Wall Street Journal: Senior European officials conceded in a letter to the Trump administration that their efforts to salvage the 2015 Iranian nuclear accord by maintaining major trade and investment with Tehran are buckling in the face of the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, and planned U.S. sanctions. The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, revised legislation that seeks to shield EU companies that continue doing business with Iran, and gives them a framework to recover any damages suffered as a result of U.S. sanctions.


> Obama administration & Iran deal: The Associated Press: Senate Republicans reported Wednesday that the Obama administration secretly issued a license to let Iran sidestep U.S. sanctions to access Iranian funds via an American bank. The plan failed when two U.S. banks refused to participate because Iran was barred from the U.S. financial system, senators said. Although the maneuver did not happen, the revelation is re-igniting the bitter debate over the nuclear deal itself and whether former President Obama was too eager to grant concessions to Tehran.


China - ZTE lobbying: The Hill: Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE is spending big on K Street as it works to save the company. For help in Washington, the company turned to three firms and representation that includes ex-lawmakers, former federal regulators and individuals with ties to Trump.



ABC News reported Wednesday that the Justice Department's internal watchdog concluded that former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyFBI investigated whether McCabe leaked info about Flynn and Trump to media House Judiciary chairman threatens to subpoena Rosenstein Three reasons Mueller may not charge Trump with obstruction MORE defied department authority in 2016. According to one ABC source familiar with a draft report, it explicitly used the word "insubordinate" to describe Comey's behavior leading up to the presidential election. Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s determinations have been undergoing internal clearance for weeks. In the draft version, Horowitz also rebuked former Attorney General Loretta Lynch for her handling of the federal investigation into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCarter Page files defamation lawsuit against DNC Dems fear party is headed to gutter from Avenatti’s sledgehammer approach Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight MORE's personal email server, the sources told ABC.


On Tuesday, the president tweeted his impatience that he wanted the IG report out.




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!


There will be no Trump collapse, by opinion columnist David Von Drehle, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2M7RsnQ


In weighing religion versus equality, the Supreme Court takes the cake, by Lawrence Friedman, opinion contributor with The Hill. https://bit.ly/2HnWyJ7


The House convenes at 10 a.m., and final votes could happen late tonight. In the afternoon, Energy Department officials will testify about the electric grid of the future, including cybersecurity concerns, before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s energy subcommittee.


The Senate gets to work at 10:00 a.m. to consider the nomination of Kenneth L. Marcus to be assistant secretary for civil rights at the Justice Department. The Senate Appropriations Committee will mark up the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Military Construction, VA Appropriations bills for fiscal 2019.


The president meets with Japan’s prime minister at the White House, hosts a working lunch for Abe, and the two leaders will hold a joint press conference. Later, Trump will meet with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Trump says 'rogue killers' could be behind missing journalist | Sends Pompeo to meet Saudi king | Saudis may claim Khashoggi killed by accident | Ex-VA chief talks White House 'chaos' | Most F-35s cleared for flight GOP strategist says Trump is taking 'appropriate stance' with Saudi Arabia Saudi Embassy in DC cancels National Day celebration amid uproar over missing journalist MORE.


> Analysis: Where California would head if Gavin Newsom is elected governor, by Angela Hart, The Sacramento Bee.


> Why Guatemala’s volcano is deadlier than Hawaii’s, by Sarah Gibbens, National Geographic.


> The unraveling of Nicaragua, by Tim Rogers, The Atlantic.


And finally … This week’s Morning Report QUIZ CONTEST is about knees. Just match each of these speakers to his/her quote, and email all five pairs correctly to asimendinger@thehill.com (add “quiz” to your subject line, please). Winners will appear in Friday’s Report:


1) Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHatch mocks Warren over DNA test with his own results showing '1/1032 T-Rex' Warren DNA test reinvigorates fight with Trump 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, D-Mass.; 2) Former President George W. Bush; 3) Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; 4) Former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaChance the Rapper works as Lyft driver to raise money for Chicago schools Americans are safer from terrorism, but new threats are arising Donald Trump Jr. emerges as GOP fundraising force MORE; 5) President Donald Trump.

A. “Well, Kim Jong Un got back on his hands and knees and begged for it, which is exactly the position you want to put him in.”

B. “He was begging for my endorsement. I could have said, 'Mitt, drop to your knees.' He would have dropped to his knees."

C. “I believe in the separation of church and state, but I understand from having been tested by a little fire what Lincoln meant when he talked about spending some time on his knees.”

D. “We need to hold Wall Street accountable for issuing the kinds of deceptive loans that nearly brought our economy to its knees in 2008.”

E. “So the bottom line here is, we can't just cut our way to prosperity. Making it harder for our young people to afford higher education, allowing them to earn their degrees, that's nothing more than cutting our own future off at the knees.”