The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Washington's week of 'we'll see'

 

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


“Washington went bonkers!”... `Ya think? The Washington Capitals are the Stanley Cup 2018 victors, after waiting more than 40 years to deliver the trophy to the fans in the nation’s capital. After winning 4-3 over the Vegas Golden Knights, the Caps are indeed champions. Congratulations!


In Washington, the art of the political punt goes like this: robust assurances of optimism and goodwill, coupled with gauzy avoidance of specifics, leading to elaborately choreographed stalls.

This was a week replete with examples on issues where stakes are high:

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE, speaking about next week’s scheduled tete-a-tete with Kim Jong Un: “I believe we’re going to have a terrific success or a modified success. … Things can happen between now and then.”

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHow does the 25th Amendment work? Sinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act GOP super PAC drops .5 million on Nevada ad campaign MORE (R-Wis.), eager to soothe festering immigration discord among House GOP lawmakers after an intense, all-conference venting session: “Our new deadline is not to have a deadline.” 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDoug Jones to McConnell: Don't 'plow right through' with Kavanaugh Kavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week GOP, Kavanaugh accuser struggle to reach deal MORE (R-Ky.), working to block a GOP revolt challenging Trump’s new tariffs: “Yeah, I don’t think we need to be trying to rein in the president through legislation.” 

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, after meeting with the president on Thursday: Japan and United States will be in full alignment to seek success for the historic U.S.-North Korea summit.”

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Pompeo: 'We've not been successful' in changing US-Russia relations Positive Moon-Kim summit creates a diplomatic opening in North Korea MORE, briefing reporters about a U.S.-North Korea meeting that remains somewhat free-form: “The approach that President Trump is taking is fundamentally different. In the past, there have been months and months of detailed negotiations, and it got nowhere.”  

*** MORE on North Korea and the summit … It’s about “attitude,” not preparation, Trump said (The Associated Press) … Trump unabashedly confirmed reports that he’s not doing much to bone up for meeting with Kim (The Los Angeles Times) ...

U.S. seeks to normalize relations with North Korea, president says (The Hill)How U.S. officials are preparing to thwart increasingly skillful Chinese spying during summit in Singapore (NBC News) … Trump would invite Kim Jong Un to White House if summit “goes well” (The Hill).  


LEADING THE DAY

INTERNATIONAL: The president will depart the the Group of Seven summit in Canada early, the White House announced late Thursday. He’ll fly directly to Singapore. 

*** Overnight *** … Trump will spend less than a day at the G-7 summit and rely on a senior State Department official to be his stand-in. First meeting this morning: bilateral sit-down with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Group of Seven Summit:

Macron hinted Thursday that a sort of G-6 posture could emerge today and Saturday in Quebec during the annual global summit among the most developed countries, leaving the United States and Trump’s controversial trade tariffs on the outs among allies (Reuters). The Hill reported late Thursday that Trump was none too pleased with Macron.

> The Hill’s Niall Stanage describes political risks and deep discord awaiting the president during the G-7 summit. Several other leaders are being pressed at home to confront the president rather than cozy up to him. And rifts over trade could make Trump look isolated on the global stage only days before his high-stakes summit with North Korea.

*** The G-7 leaders’ agenda is here, representing the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

China - ZTE: The Trump administration threw Chinese telecommunications company ZTE a generous life line. The Hill: The Commerce Department reached an agreement to lift penalties on ZTE. Senators from both parties want to block the administration’s agreement, maintaining that ZTE is considered by the U.S. intelligence community to be a national security risk (Reuters).

Iran: Trump says the administration’s decision to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear deal has altered Tehran’s behavior for the better (The New York Times). “Iran is not the same country that it was a few months ago,” the president said multiple times Thursday.

****

CONGRESS: In the Capitol on Thursday, Republicans were at odds with one another over immigration, trade, the cancellation of the Senate’s August break and how far they should go in public to backstop the president. Nothing got decided. 

House - spending: The Hill: The House voted along party lines late Thursday to approve a White House proposal to claw back nearly $15 billion in previously approved government funding. Conservatives said they experienced recriminations about the original price tag of the $1.3 trillion spending bill enacted earlier this year.

House - immigration: The Hill: Leaders pledge to draft immigration legislation based on Thursday’s conference comments, lawmakers say. It could emerge by next week, but once again they punt the contentious immigration issue another week.

The Hill: GOP staves off immigration eruption for now.

The Hill’s Scott Wong shared some of his newsgathering on Twitter on Thursday afternoon, illustrating House GOP divides:

House Speaker: The Hill: Ryan this week publicly backed statements by GOP Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdySunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Gowdy requests FEMA administrator’s travel records amid allegations Nunes: Russia probe documents should be released before election MORE (S.C.) defending the FBI against claims that it improperly used an informant to spy on the Trump campaign. The Speaker’s remarks infuriated some House conservatives.

Senate - NAFTA: The Hill: Senate Republicans are pressing Trump to end talks on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by Labor Day, fearing the trade dispute will cast a shadow on the midterm elections.

House Democrats - Trump and emoluments: The Hill: Can a group of 200 congressional Democrats sue the president for refusing to divest his business interests? The court face-off involves the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. The case challenges the president’s acceptance of benefits from foreign governments through his businesses while in office without congressional approval. The Department of Justice tells a federal judge the lawmakers don’t have standing.

Congress - drug costs: The Hill: Pharmacy benefit managers could save customers money on prescriptions, but some don’t believe it’s in their financial best interests to do so. States have been putting a stop to a contractual gag mechanism that results in less information for consumers and layers of “middlemen.” Congress is eyeing similar consumer protections.

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IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

 CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: A Republican political consultant in Washington shared with us his take on the midterm terrain following this week’s Super Tuesday contests:  

  • Good News: Dem turnout in California was so-so; 
  • Bad News: multiple private polls in different states show huge energy behind Dem issues, like increasing teacher pay;
  • Good News: generic House ballot has closed from 8 percent to 4 percent Dem advantage in the past few months, almost certainly due to strong economy;
  • Bad News: Trump won’t stop tweeting;
  • Good News: Senate is in better shape — [Democratic Sen. Joe] Donnelly down 2 percent to [GOP businessman] Mike Braun; [Democratic Sen. Joe] Manchin only +2 percent in West Virginia; [GOP Gov.] Rick Scott tied with [Democratic Sen. Bill] Nelson in Florida;
  • Bad News: [Robert] Mueller is like the shark in “Jaws,” circling ever closer, and the music is getting more ominous.

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION:

Giuliani’s tough day: Melania TrumpMelania TrumpTrump Jr. to Dem Senator: 'You admitted to hitting your wife so hard it gave her a black eye!' Melania Trump's spokeswoman gets Hatch Act warning for #MAGA tweet Pamela Anderson claims she convinced Melania Trump to stop wearing fur MORE’s spokeswoman rebuked the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, for publicly describing Mrs. Trump’s beliefs about her husband. "I don't believe Mrs. Trump has ever discussed her thoughts on anything with Mr. Giuliani," East Wing communications director Stephanie Grisham told CNN in a statement.

The ever-talkative Giuliani also got into some hot water Thursday with Secretary Pompeo, who said in response to a question that the former New York mayor does not speak for the administration on international policy. Giuliani, who was in Israel on Thursday, was also skewered on cable television following his sneering criticisms of Stormy Daniels based on her work in the adult-film industry.

Why it matters: Will the president or White House advisers tire of Giuliani? The president’s legal team keeps churning, both in hires and strategy.

Justice Department - leaks investigation: The New York Times: Federal law enforcement officials secretly seized years’ worth of a New York Times reporter’s phone and email records this year in an investigation of classified information leaks. It’s the first known instance of the DOJ going after a reporter’s data under the Trump administration. The seizure suggested that prosecutors will maintain the aggressive tactics to identify government leakers, which were also employed under former President Obama.

*** Related Arrest *** The DOJ arrested a former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer on charges of making false statements to the FBI during the course of an investigation into classified information leaks. The department said James A. Wolfe, 58, misled FBI investigators in December, when he was serving as the committee’s director of security. Wolfe is accused of lying to federal agents about his interactions with three reporters (The Daily Beast).

In a statement, committee chairman Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrKey House Dem's objections stall intel bill as deadline looms Trump assures storm victims in Carolinas: 'We will be there 100 percent' Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas MORE (R-N.C.) and ranking member Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerKey House Dem's objections stall intel bill as deadline looms Russia docs order sets Trump on collision with intel community Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless MORE (D-Va.) called the news about Wolfe’s arrest “disappointing,” adding, “This will in no way interfere with our ongoing investigation” involving Russia’s interference with the 2016 election. 

DOJ - ObamaCare: The Hill: The Justice Department argued in court Thursday that key parts of ObamaCare are unconstitutional. Legal experts are skeptical the challenge can succeed, and 17 Democratic-led states have already intervened to defend the Affordable Care Act in the absence of DOJ action as part of a lawsuit filed in February.

EPA: Trump this week again defended Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas MORE, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator. A dozen ongoing investigations and details of his management decisions continue to enliven daily news headlines, suggesting that while the president praises the job he’s doing, Pruitt has a lot of personal concerns he likes to handle. The latest: Pruitt dispatched his large and expensive security detail to locate a favored skin lotion found through a posh hotel chain. Add protein bars and yogurt to that shopping list, The Daily Beast reported. 

DOJ & DHS report: The Washington Times: Thirty percent of federal prisoners are immigrants, the departments of Justice and Homeland Security said on Thursday. A quarterly report is here.

> DOJ - immigration: Reuters: The government is transferring 1,600 immigration detainees to federal prisons in the first large-scale use of federal prisons to hold undocumented migrants.

HUD housing: The Hill: An administration proposal, accompanied by pending legislation in Congress, would raise rents for the poor by 20 percent on average in U.S. metropolitan areas, according to an analysis by the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonBen Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify Report: A third of Ben Carson’s appointees have no housing experience MORE says budget constraints prompted the proposed rent hikes, The Associated Press reported.

INVESTIGATIONS: Politico: The Justice Department’s watchdog on June 14 will release a long-awaited report describing various FBI and DOJ actions leading up to the 2016 election. Inspector General Michael Horowitz will testify June 18 to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and on June 19 to a joint session of the House committees on Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary.

> Horowitz’s findings are expected to call into question decisions by former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyDershowitz: Trump's lawyers could force Rosenstein to recuse himself from Mueller probe New York Times defends bombshell Rosenstein report Donald Trump’s Rosenstein dilemma MORE and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Trump is eagerly awaiting any rebukes of Comey as a shield to defend his decision to fire him.

TIME chronicled 191 arguments made by Trump to date about Mueller’s Russia investigation.

 


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

North America is unprepared for the jobs of tomorrow, by Earl Anthony Wayne and Raquel Chuayffet of The Wilson Center, opinion contributors with The Hill. https://bit.ly/2Jztvrd

California is ground zero for November’s midterms, by Larry Hart of the American Conservative Union Foundation, opinion contributor with The Hill. https://bit.ly/2Jir9hb

 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House and Senate are out until next week.

The president flies this morning to Canada to attend the annual G-7 summit. Trump arrives and will hold a bilateral meeting with Macron. He’ll participate in an official welcome ceremony, followed by a working lunch and the first session of the summit. In the afternoon, the president will pose with other leaders for a group photo, followed by the second working session of the summit. In the evening, he’ll meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The leaders will gather for a working dinner and the third session of the summit. Trump will join the other heads of state at a cultural event after dinner and remain overnight in Charlevoix, Quebec.

ELSEWHERE

> Mars: Curiosity Rover finds ancient 'building blocks for life' on the red planet (Space.com). All the details about organics and methane on Mars, plus scientists’ caveats and popular fascinations appear in two new reports published in Science. Hint: NASA is excited.

> Michigan Medicaid: The GOP-led state legislature approved a bill requiring able-bodied adults in the state's Medicaid expansion program to meet work or job-related requirements. Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign the measure into law (The Associated Press).

 

THE CLOSER

And finally … Oodles of smart Morning Report readers completed this week’s Quotes Quiz!! The Hill heard from savvy guessers as far away as Hawaii and France! We’re delighted to congratulate all the quiz-masters, especially those who correctly matched five prominent politicians with five very different quotes referencing knees. (Correct pairings from Thursday’s newsletter were, Warren - D; Bush - C; Giuliani - A; Obama - E; Trump - B.)

✅ Winners: Jennifer Hodges, Alan Neale, Stephen Baker, Stephanie Solari, Ray Fleming, Chaney Bennett, Raymond Williams, Susan Herron, R. Milton Howell III, LaJean Burnett, John Lange, Patricia Christensen-Woodard, Rachel McGovern, Susan Harber, Curtis Grady, Nancy Magill, Chris Easton, Elizabeth Murphy, Brian Blanchard, Jack Barshay, Mary Vito P. Treano, Sam Kumar, Dave Doering, Sandy Sycafoose, Greg Stetson and Arni Daroy.

Thanks, everyone, for playing!