The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Trump girds for battle as Supreme Court announcement nears

The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Trump girds for battle as Supreme Court announcement nears
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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, co-created by Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger. (CLICK HERE to subscribe!)

The Morning Report takes a break tomorrow on the Fourth of July, but returns on July 5. What better way to plan for fireworks than with this reminder … 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

The White House is speeding through the nomination process, with President TrumpDonald John TrumpBroward County official Brenda Snipes submits resignation after criticism Retired lieutenant general tears into Trump over attacks against Navy SEAL: 'Disgusting' Senate barrels toward showdown over Trump's court picks MORE set to unveil his pick to replace former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Monday. 

The White House successfully executed a full-court public relations push ahead of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation last year.

Trump is taking this fight just as seriously, reshuffling West Wing personnel as the White House girds for battle and a hoped-for Senate confirmation in September. The court’s next term begins the first Monday in October. 

The Hill: White House counsel Don McGahn leading Supreme Court search.

The Associated Press: Leonard Leo: Unassuming figure with big voice on high court.

Trump says he has interviewed four nominees so far, with more to be interviewed this week.

The New York Times lists six federal appeals court judges believed to be under consideration: Thomas Hardiman, William Pryor Jr., Amul Thapar, Brett Kavanaugh, Joan Larsen and Amy Coney Barrett. Kavanaugh has been soaking up media attention, while Coney Barrett also enjoys support among conservatives. 

On the Democratic side, the focus is on Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFacebook reeling after damning NYT report Schumer warns Trump to stay out of government funding negotiations Schumer predicts Nelson will 'continue being senator' if 'every vote counted' MORE (D-N.Y.) to corral Senate Democrats to oppose a nominee that might overturn Roe v. Wade, the abortion rights case.

The Hill: Schumer under heavy pressure from the left on Supreme Court. 

The White House insists the president is not questioning potential nominees on the landmark 1973 ruling that upheld a constitutional, legal right to abortion.

           “The president is pro-life but in terms of the process of selecting a Supreme Court nominee … He’s not going to discuss specific cases with those nominees.” — White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellJim Carrey on potentially losing fans over his anti-Trump Twitter art: 'Lose them' Senate barrels toward showdown over Trump's court picks Graham urges GOP leadership to bring vote on criminal justice reform MORE (R-Ky.) is touting what he calls “the Ginsburg Standard,” named after liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who argued at her 1993 confirmation hearing that it is inappropriate to quiz nominees about how they might rule in a potential future case.

           “A judge sworn to decide impartially can offer no forecasts, no hints, for that would show not only disregard for the specifics of the particular case, it would display disdain for the entire judicial process.”  — Ginsburg, 1993 Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing.

Will that logic hold up in 2018? Unlikely.

A new poll from Quinnipiac University released Monday finds 63 percent support for upholding Roe v. Wade. 

Still, American views on abortion are more complex and evenly split. A Gallup survey from June found that 48 percent identify as “pro-life” and 48 percent as “pro-choice.” A majority, 53 percent, say abortion should be legal in only a few or no circumstances, versus 43 percent who said it should be legal in all or most circumstances.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell, Flake clash over protecting Mueller probe Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Border deployment 'peaked' at 5,800 troops | Trump sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | Senators offer bill to press Trump on Saudis | Paul effort to block Bahrain arms sale fails Senators introduce bill to respond to Khashoggi killing MORE (R-Maine), who supports abortion rights and could be a potential swing-vote in the Senate, says she doesn’t believe the Supreme Court would rule to overturn Roe, noting that Chief Justice John Roberts and others on the court have high regard for legal precedent.

           "My hope is that we will be presented with a nominee that has a certain amount of humility and recognizes that it is not appropriate for the Supreme Court to overturn such a landmark decision." — Collins.

NBC News poll: Most want a vote on Supreme Court nominee before midterms.





LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS: Trump heads to White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., today to visit The Greenbrier resort, which is owned by his friend, Gov. Jim Justice (R), who memorably left the Democratic Party last year.

The Greenbrier will hold events honoring the military ahead of the July 4 holiday and the president will speak at a “Salute to Service” dinner.

Perhaps that means he’ll table politics for the day. In the meantime, the official White House twitter account is picking up the slack, attacking Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSenate barrels toward showdown over Trump's court picks Sherrod Brown says he has 'no real timetable' for deciding on 2020 presidential run Banking panel showcases 2020 Dems MORE (D-Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSome of us Midwesterners think maybe Amy Klobuchar would do OK as president Banking panel showcases 2020 Dems Gorka: John F. Kennedy wouldn't be allowed in Democratic Party MORE (D-Calif.) — both potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates — who are calling for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be abolished.

 

 

 

 

 

The Democrats fired back:

 

 

 

Democrats are split on whether to abolish ICE and some would prefer to keep the focus on the children who have been impacted by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy at the border.

The Associated Press: Lawmakers ask for list of children separated from families. 

Elsewhere, we’ve been focusing these past few days on the generational divide in the House, which has raised questions about whether House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiJohn Lewis joins Ocasio-Cortez on climate change push Dem House newcomers split on supporting Pelosi for Speaker Reelection campaign starts now, like it or not MORE (D-Calif.) will remain in charge after the 2018 midterm elections.

Rep. Joseph Crowley’s (D-N.Y.) loss to 28-year-old progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has accelerated that discussion.

Now, it looks like the revolt against Democratic leadership has spread to the Senate.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who is running to replace Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeSenate barrels toward showdown over Trump's court picks Trump’s relationship with Saudi crown prince under pressure Graham urges McConnell to allow vote on bill to protect Mueller MORE (R-Ariz.) in the Senate, told Politico on Monday that she will not support Schumer as the next Democratic leader. 

           “I am not going to vote for him.” — Sinema.

More from the campaign trail … House Democrats have a 9-point advantage in the generic ballot over Republicans (Quinnipiac University) … Ocasio-Cortez is fundraising for Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaJohn Lewis joins Ocasio-Cortez on climate change push Trump and Congress on collision course with military spending Sanders rolls out bill aimed at getting Walmart to raise wages MORE (D-Calif.), the only lawmaker to back her long-shot House bid (The Hill) … Senate GOP PAC books millions in red state ad spending (The Hill). 

Douglas Schoen: Democrats must move back to the middle to win in 2018.

Michelle Cottle: Democrats appealing to the heart? Yes, please.

Jon Gabriel: Democrats took Trump’s bait and that’s a losing strategy at the polls.

Fred Hiatt: The Trump administration’s cruelty will always find opponents.

 

****

 

INVESTIGATIONS:  Will Trump’s former personal attorney and self-described “fixer” turn state’s evidence on the president? 

The Memo: Cohen clues spell trouble for Trump.

That’s the question on everyone’s mind after Michael Cohen sat for an interview with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos on Monday. Cohen, who once said he would “take a bullet for the president,” declared that his only allegiance is to “family and country.”

           “My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will.” — Cohen.

Cohen has not been charged with a crime but special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE referred him for criminal investigation to the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York, which is believed to be digging into his personal business dealings. 

That’s where the president could have exposure, including the payment Cohen arranged to keep adult-film actress Stormy Daniels from discussing her alleged affair with Trump.

But perhaps the most significant development here is that that Trump’s attorneys and Cohen’s new legal counsel, Guy Petrillo, are no longer working together (ABC News).

The two legal teams had been working together in an effort to block the federal government from reviewing documents they argued were protected by attorney-client privilege. The end of that arrangement indicates that Petrillo no longer sees a benefit in Cohen aligning with the president’s legal team.

The Hill: Will Cohen flip? Interview raises new questions.

           “Short of a posting on eBay, Cohen could not be more clear in his pitch to Mueller. It was abundantly clear that he used this interview to remove any doubts as to his willingness to cooperate with Mueller.” Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor and contributor to The Hill.

 

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IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

INTERNATIONAL: Eyes remain on Mexico, North Korea, Germany and Russia this week.

Mexico: The Hill: Mexico’s newly elected president, Andrės Manuel López Obrador, aspires to change his country’s tense relationship with the United States. Trump and López Obrador spoke for half an hour on Monday (USA Today). “I think the relationship will be a very good one,” Trump told reporters.

> Opinion: The Mexican president, known by his initials, AMLO, is something of a paradox (The New York Times). 

Germany: In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her coalition partner, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, struck a deal on immigration on Monday. The standoff over migrant policy had threatened to unravel Merkel’s ruling coalition (The Wall Street Journal). In a stark turnaround, she agreed to build border camps for asylum-seekers and to tighten the border with Austria in a political deal to save her government (The New York Times).

North Korea: Analysis conducted by the Defense Intelligence Agency concludes that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has no intention of engaging in a full denuclearization program, at least for now, CNN reports. An official says the Trump administration plans to present the North Koreans with a detailed list of tasks the government must undertake to begin a denuclearization process. Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTurkey knocks US support for YPG as ‘big mistake’ Trump to speak with CIA about Khashoggi's murder Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Lawmakers struggle with how to punish Saudi Arabia | Trump regrets not visiting Arlington for Veterans Day | North Korea deports detained American MORE will travel to Pyongyang on Thursday.

> Opinion: North Korea will betray Trump (The Hill).

Russia: What is the official U.S. policy when it comes to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014? The answer, once settled, is murkier now that Trump is preparing for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16 in Finland. Trump sets U.S. policy, says national security adviser John Bolton, but the U.S. and Russia “agree to disagree” on Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, says White House spokeswoman Sanders. The U.S. does not recognize Crimea as part of Russia, and sanctions remain in place, she said on Monday (The Hill). 

> Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCorker: 'Everything points' to Saudi crown prince ordering Khashoggi's killing CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Khashoggi murder: report  McConnell, Flake clash over protecting Mueller probe MORE (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned against recognizing Crimea as part of Russia (The Hill).

> The Kremlin insists Russia’s annexation of Crimea more than four years ago is not a topic for discussion during the upcoming Trump-Putin summit (The Hill). Putin is open to talking with Trump one-on-one with just translators, the Kremlin says (Reuters).

“Trump is coming with an agenda that Putin broadly supports. First, reiterating his call for Russia to rejoin the G-7. Second, saying that Crimea is old news and not something he wants to litigate. Third, questioning the utility of NATO, and some 35,000 American troops in Germany. And fourth, Trump hoping to end America's military presence in Syria.”  Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group

ADMINISTRATION & WHITE HOUSE: From immigration policy to the commerce secretary’s financial transactions, some new developments...

HHS – immigration: The Hill: The administration’s “zero tolerance” policy and the department’s role in caring for migrant children has created new pressures in an agency more accustomed to implementing U.S. health care and medical policies than the southern border. The Health and Human Services Department is in damage-control mode.

DHS – number of migrant arrests drop: This development, in particular, cheers the president, but the explanation for it remains unclear. U.S. Border Patrol arrests fell sharply in June to the lowest level since February, according to a U.S. official, ending a streak of four straight monthly increases. The drop may reflect seasonal migration trends or it could signal that the administration’s controversial "zero-tolerance" policy to criminally prosecute every adult who enters the country illegally is having a deterrent effect (The Associated Press).

Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA): Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump labels Schiff ‘little Adam Schitt’ Top House Oversight Dem says he will do ‘anything and everything’ to make Mueller’s findings public Watchdog group demands release of Whitaker's financial disclosures MORE on Monday announced the appointment of former federal prosecutor Uttam Dhillon as acting DEA administrator. Dhillon succeeds Robert Patterson, who retired (The Washington Times).

Commerce Department – WTO: The Hill: Trump may be frustrated with the World Trade Organization (WTO), Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossOn The Money: Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority | Grassley opts for Finance gavel, setting Graham up for Judiciary | Trump says China eager for trade deal | Facebook reeling after damning NYT report Supreme Court agrees to hear arguments in Trump census case The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Democratic race for Speaker turns nasty MORE said on Monday, but it’s a “little premature” to talk about withdrawing the United States from the international trade body. (The president has said the same when questioned about the matter twice in the past few days.) Meanwhile, the president is defending his plans to levy billions in tariffs on the nation’s closest trading partners even as allies retaliate one-by-one (The Hill)

Commerce Department – Ross’s stocks: As a Cabinet member, Ross concedes he executed stock sales and shorted shares in two more companies than previously reported, bringing the questionable transactions to five while serving in government with insider knowledge. The billionaire maintains that he executed all the trades to avoid any impression that his financial holdings represented a potential conflict of interest (CNBC). Not surprising: Ross’s financial actions are undergoing a lot of new scrutiny.

Lobbying to Trump on trade: “What will he see?” is a question Washington’s lobbyists are asking about the president while lobbying in opposition to his tariffs plans. Conventional methods of arguing clients’ perspectives to White House deciders now have an audience of one (Bloomberg).

Trump – communications: The Hill: “The other side of Trumpism” has now muted the president’s first-year yen for tweeting about gains in the stock market. A more volatile 2018 now makes for riskier West Wing messaging.

Trump – tweets and declassification: A federal judge rejected arguments on Monday that the president effectively confirmed the existence of a classified program when he used his Twitter account last July to counter particular newspaper coverage. The judge ruled that Trump’s statements were too ambiguous to waive the government’s right to withhold the information (Politico).

Melania TrumpMelania TrumpMichelle Obama's stylist downplays controversy over Melania Trump jacket Trump offered Ricardel ambassadorship to Estonia after Melania forced her out of White House: report Michelle Obama: I never had a presidential staffer fired MORE – paid for use of photos: The first lady earned six figures from an unusual deal with photo agency Getty Images, in which major media organizations have indirectly paid the Trump family. The president’s federally required financial disclosure recently revealed that Melania Trump, a former model, earned at least $100,000 since becoming first lady for the use of any of a series of 187 photos of the first family shot between 2010 and 2016 by a Belgian photographer (NBC News).

West Wing staff turnover and compensation: The Associated Press examined the annual White House staff list released publicly last weekend and calculated that the overall turnover has been in excess of 37 percent during the calendar year ending June 30 (it’s much higher among the top-tier assistants to the president). According to AP’s analysis from the most recent White House staff data, 141 staffers who worked for the president at that point last year are gone, with 138 new arrivals. AP also compared annual lists to identify key staff members who remain with the West Wing and have seen their salary rise since 2017.

OPINION

Making Puerto Rico a state by 2021, by Andrés L. Córdova, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2KEGbNZ

America’s overburdened foster care system is failing children, by Shari Levine, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2MFuJ2a

 

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!

WHERE AND WHEN

The House will be back in session on July 10.

The Senate resumes work on July 9. 

The president has lunch with Secretary of Defense James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump and Congress on collision course with military spending Trump defends border deployment amid fresh scrutiny Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Lawmakers struggle with how to punish Saudi Arabia | Trump regrets not visiting Arlington for Veterans Day | North Korea deports detained American MORE. This evening, Trump speaks at the “Salute to Service” dinner at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

 

ELSEWHERE

> On Sunday, Vermont became the ninth state to legalize recreational marijuana. Adults over age 21 are able to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, two mature marijuana plants and four immature plants (The Associated Press)

> Emergency room bills are ballooning with seemingly arbitrary and substantial “trauma response fees,” even if a patient suffered no trauma (Kaiser Health News and Vox). A trauma fee is the price a trauma center charges when it activates and assembles a team of medical professionals that can meet a patient with potentially serious injuries in the ER. It is billed on top of the hospital’s emergency room physician charge and procedures, equipment and facility fees.” 

> The Department of Education is in the midst of a top-to-bottom review of a troubled federal grant program for public school teachers. NPR’s reporting prompts 19 senators to admonish Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosACLU slams DeVos's Title IX plan: Changes will make it 'less safe' for sex assault survivors Department of Education unveils new rules to protect those accused of sexual harassment Millions being spent on U.S. Marshals Service security detail for DeVos: report MORE that it is “urgent that these mistakes are fixed.”

 

THE CLOSER

And finally … Found alive but saved?  Rescuers located 12 boys and their coach in Thailand after they became trapped more than a week ago in a partially flooded labyrinth of caves. British divers located the entire group on Monday, deep underground, but the news this morning is that teams of experts sent from multiple countries to the cave site are unsure how to help the group of boys to safety through now-flooded, dangerously narrow, pitch-black passageways (CNN).

It’s estimated that the boys are located about 1.2 miles into the cave and close to six-tenths of a mile below the surface. Authorities say they will begin supplying the trapped group with four months' worth of food and prepare to teach the boys how to use SCUBA equipment. But expecting the boys to navigate underwater is seen as a highly risky plan, especially if the boys are not experienced swimmers. (The rainy season ends there in four months.)

 

 

 

Experts in cave rescues at the site include a U.S. military team, an Australian group, British cave experts and Chinese emergency responders.

“These are challenging conditions and there’s a lot of consideration for safety. … The environment outside is contributing to the environment inside,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jessica Tait, part of a 30-member U.S. military team assisting in the search operation, referring to the rain that has been flooding the cave. “It’s challenging.” (The Associated Press