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 PenceVirginia couple gets home detention in Jan. 6 case Officers' powerful Capitol riot testimony underscores Pelosi's partisan blunder RealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump 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 TrumpMajority of Americans in new poll say it would be bad for the country if Trump ran in 2024 ,800 bottle of whiskey given to Pompeo by Japan is missing Liz Cheney says her father is 'deeply troubled' about the state of the Republican Party 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 RyanTo cut poverty and solve the labor shortage, enhance the Earned Income Tax Credit Wisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans RealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump MORE (R-Wis.) joined Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSeven-figure ad campaign urges GOP to support infrastructure bill Senate starts infrastructure debate amid 11th-hour drama The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-N.C.) and Rep. Trey GowdyTrey GowdyTrey Gowdy sets goal of avoiding ideological echo chamber with Fox News show Fox News signs Trey Gowdy, Dan Bongino for new shows Pompeo rebukes Biden's new foreign policy 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 RooneyRepublican rips GOP lawmakers for voting by proxy from CPAC House Dem calls on lawmakers to 'insulate' election process following Mueller report Hill-HarrisX poll: 76 percent oppose Trump pardoning former campaign aides 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 CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  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 CornynWhite House trying to beat back bipartisan Cornyn infrastructure amendment Senate GOP shifts focus to fight over Biden's .5 trillion budget McConnell warns Schumer cutting off debate quickly could stall infrastructure deal 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 Graham19 House Democrats call on Capitol physician to mandate vaccines The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by AT&T - Simone wins bronze with altered beam routine The job of shielding journalists is not finished 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 SchumerChuck SchumerYouth organizations call on Biden to ensure 'bold' climate investments New York Times calls on Cuomo to resign 'The Squad' celebrates Biden eviction moratorium 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 ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama limiting birthday party to family, close friends amid COVID-19 concerns Azar regrets Trump didn't get vaccinated on national TV Franklin D. Roosevelt's prescient warning MORE 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 ManchinJoe ManchinSenate rejects GOP effort to add Trump border wall to bipartisan infrastructure deal Youth organizations call on Biden to ensure 'bold' climate investments Democrats barrel toward August voting rights deadline 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 TrumpAzar regrets Trump didn't get vaccinated on national TV Only Trump can fix vaccine hesitancy among his supporters Trump discussed pardoning Ghislaine Maxwell: book 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 ComeyBiden sister has book deal, set to publish in April Mystery surrounds Justice's pledge on journalist records NYT publisher: DOJ phone records seizure a 'dangerous incursion' on press freedom 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 ClintonBriahna Joy Gray: Progressives like Turner should reconsider running as Democrats Biden wishes Obama a happy birthday Ohio special election: A good day for Democrats MORE's personal email server, the sources told ABC.


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




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There will be no Trump collapse, by opinion columnist David Von Drehle, The Washington Post.


In weighing religion versus equality, the Supreme Court takes the cake, by Lawrence Friedman, opinion contributor with The Hill.


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 PompeoMike Pompeo,800 bottle of whiskey given to Pompeo by Japan is missing Noem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event Poll: Trump leads 2024 GOP primary trailed by Pence, DeSantis 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 (add “quiz” to your subject line, please). Winners will appear in Friday’s Report:


1) Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHillicon Valley: Senators highlight security threats from China during rare public hearing | Facebook suspends accounts of NYU researchers who've criticized platform Democrats urge Amazon, Facebook to drop requests for Khan recusal Senate Democrats to introduce measure taxing major polluters MORE, D-Mass.; 2) Former President George W. Bush; 3) Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; 4) Former President Barack Obama; 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.”