The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Trump seeks `home run’ candidate to succeed Justice Kennedy

The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Trump seeks `home run’ candidate to succeed Justice Kennedy
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     “I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America…” — That’s part of the oath taken by 14,000 immigrants who became U.S. citizens at ceremonies across the country on the Fourth of July (ABC News).

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE interviewed eight Supreme Court candidates this week as he decides on a nominee to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

The president has said his pick will officially be unveiled on Monday, but White House spokesman Hogan Gidley suggested this week that Trump’s pick could become news before then.

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Dems prepare next steps after Trump's veto Overnight Defense: Senate rejects border emergency in rebuke to Trump | Acting Pentagon chief grilled on wall funding | Warren confronts chief over war fund budget MORE (R-Utah), 47, who once clerked for Justice Samuel Alito, is among those who spoke with the president about the job this week, although he’s probably a longshot. So, too, is 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amul Thapar, who would be the first Indian-American appointed to the high court.

Here’s a quick rundown of three candidates who appear to be at the top of the list as the president looks for what he describes as “a home run” nominee:

Brett Kavanaugh, 53, District of Columbia Court of Appeals judge: The Washington Post’s reporting casts Kavanaugh, the staff secretary for former President George W. Bush, as a frontrunner. Some conservatives would be disappointed by this pick, pointing to his past ObamaCare-related decisions. Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Overnight Defense: Senate rejects border emergency in rebuke to Trump | Acting Pentagon chief grilled on wall funding | Warren confronts chief over war fund budget 12 Republican senators defy Trump on emergency declaration  MORE (R-Ky.) has reportedly called the White House to voice his concerns about Kavanaugh (a meaningful development considering Republicans have only a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate).

Still, the young former George W. Bush administration official would be viewed as a solid pick by many Republicans.

     “Judge Kavanaugh’s record shows him to be a jurist who adheres to his principles and can influence his future colleagues on the bench. He is the most qualified candidate by all the criteria that matter. On top of that, he is a good and decent man of integrity. He would be a worthy Supreme Court justice.” — conservative author J.D. Vance, The Wall Street Journal.

Matt Schlapp: With Kavanaugh, America will have a bold, brilliant justice.

Amy Coney Barrett, 46, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge: Conservatives are rallying behind Barrett, a Roman Catholic and a mother to seven children.

Ramesh Ponnuru: Trump should replace Kennedy with Barrett on the Supreme Court.

Steve Cortes: Trump should nominate Barrett.

Barrett is the youngest in contention and would likely meet the stiffest opposition from Democrats in the Senate. We already saw this play out at her appellate court confirmation fight last year. Democrats pressed Barrett on her faith and her membership in a Christian group, “People of Praise.” Republicans objected to how Democrats questioned Barrett, accusing them of anti-Catholic bigotry and of applying a religious test.

Sens. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (D-Ind.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenators offer bipartisan bill to fix 'retail glitch' in GOP tax law Murkowski, Manchin call for 'responsible solutions' to climate change Trump formally taps David Bernhardt to succeed Zinke at Interior MORE (D-W.Va.) — red state Democrats up for reelection in 2018 — voted to confirm Barrett. Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillLobbying world Dem candidate has Hawley served subpoena at CPAC Annual scorecard ranks GOP environmental efforts far below Dems in 2018 MORE (D-Mo.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampAnnual scorecard ranks GOP environmental efforts far below Dems in 2018 Overnight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (D-N.D.) — both also up for reelection in states Trump won in 2016 — did not vote for her (McCaskill didn’t vote and Heitkamp voted against). Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOfficials dismiss criticism that Trump rhetoric to blame for New Zealand attack Kaine says Trump is 'using language that emboldens' white nationalists Mulvaney: Military projects impacted by wall funding haven't been decided yet MORE (D-Va.), who was Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP lawmaker defends Chelsea Clinton after confrontation over New Zealand attacks Klobuchar: Race, gender should not be litmus tests for 2020 Dem nominee Kirsten Gillibrand officially announces White House run MORE’s running mate in 2016, will be pressed to explain why he voted in favor of Barrett. Kaine is also up for reelection this year.

     “For conservatives, [she] would be exhilarating, but Barrett’s obvious appeal is a double-edged sword. The very things that make her such a compelling pick (her judicial philosophy and qualifications, as well as the chance to dare Democrats to try to take down a highly-qualified female nominee) also make her a threat to a Democratic Party that is increasingly wedded to identity politics.” — conservative writer Matt K. Lewis, the Daily Beast.

Raymond Kethledge, 51, 6th Circuit Court of Appeals judge: A Bush appointee who clerked for Kennedy, you can bet the president would love to tout this nomination on campaign swings through Kethledge’s home state of Michigan, where Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowChris Evans talks NATO, Marvel secrets on Capitol Hill Overnight Health Care: Senators grill drug execs over high prices | Progressive Dems unveil Medicare for all bill | House Dems to subpoena Trump officials over family separations Senators grill drug execs over high prices MORE (D-Mich.) is up for reelection.

    “Don’t make the easy ones hard, Mr. President. Pick a staunch originalist from the heartland that elected you. Nominate Raymond Kethledge.” — conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt, The Washington Post.

The Hill: “Stare decisis,” the buzzword at the center of the Supreme Court fight.


POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: The president continues his aggressive schedule of campaigning at an afternoon rally today in Great Falls, Mont. Trump carried the state by 20 points in 2016, but Montana’s Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSanders, Ocasio-Cortez back 'end the forever war' pledge Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ White House pleads with Senate GOP on emergency declaration MORE (D), a top target for Republicans, will be difficult to take down. The only poll of the Senate race so far shows Tester leading Republican Matt Rosendale, the state auditor, by eight points.

Expect the president to highlight the divisions and generational strife ripping through the Democratic Party just four months before the 2018 midterm elections.

The Memo: Trump faces crucial stretch.

Vermont Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersO'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' O'Rourke says he won't use 'f-word' on campaign trail O'Rourke not planning, but not ruling out big fundraisers MORE (I), the runner-up for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, is the latest potential 2020 contender to call for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a position of opposition that blossomed into a battle cry on the left but is also a risky platform.

Underscoring just how divisive an issue this is, Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous, a progressive whose insurgent bid was backed by Sanders, declined to call for ICE to be abolished during an interview with Hill.TV.

Conservatives are eating it up, believing Republicans are set to capitalize on what they view as political malpractice by Democrats when it comes to immigration, a key national security issue among voters.

Mark Krikorian: When Democrats say “abolish ICE,” they’re really calling for open borders.

Eugene Robinson: Democrats must not defeat themselves.

Meanwhile, the fight over the future leadership of the Democratic Party rages on.

Democratic National Committee chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE made news this week when he said Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28, who toppled Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) last week, represents the future of the party.

The Hill: Progressives poised to shape agenda if Democrats take back the House.

The Hill: Dems seek to one-up each other with Trump attacks. 

Those remarks may not sit well with House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiMulvaney: Military projects impacted by wall funding haven't been decided yet Left-wing Dems in minority with new approach to spending Julian Castro hints at brother Joaquin's Senate run MORE (D-Calif.), who is trying to tamp down generational divisions within her caucus.

Of course, Republicans now have a leadership controversy of their own.

The Hill: Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanJordan jokes that sport coats inhibit him during heated hearings Attorney previously in contact with Cohen pushes back on pardon narrative to CNN Cummings refuses to join GOP's criminal referral of Cohen over perjury concerns MORE’s (R-Ohio) bid for Speaker is complicated by a sexual abuse scandal at Ohio State University.


INTERNATIONAL: Financial and economic analysts are cautiously eyeing rising oil prices. The president blames OPEC, while others fault U.S. policies (The Hill).




Oil supply and prices: Despite the agreement last month by Saudi-led Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia to increase petroleum output by up to one million barrels a day, the price of Brent crude, a benchmark, has risen to above $77 a barrel. The cause: supply outages in Libya and Venezuela, both of which are in upheaval. But analysts also point to the Trump administration’s pressure on U.S. allies to cut oil imports from Iran to zero by November (The Economist).

> Oil prices climb to $75 per barrel and beyond for the first time since 2014 (CNBC).

Iran: President Hassan Rouhani says the United States has not fully considered the consequences of the administration’s threat to ban Iran’s oil. His comments on Wednesday continued to hint at a threat to disrupt oil shipments from neighboring countries if the Trump administration continues to pursue its goal of forcing all countries to halt purchases of Iranian oil (Reuters).

Mexico: The Hill: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo open to future Senate run: 'The Lord will get me to the right place' Overnight Defense: Trump issues first veto over 'reckless' emergency resolution | Pompeo moves to restrict international court probing war crimes | Trump taps Air Force general for NATO commander The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump condemns 'horrible' New Zealand mosque shootings MORE will travel to Mexico July 13 to meet with president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known by his initials, AMLO.

> Rep. Francis Rooney(R-Fla.), opinion contributor with The Hill: The future of U.S.-Mexico relations is uncertain.

> Teresa Puente, opinion contributor with The Hill: Mexico’s new president doesn’t want Mexicans to have to migrate to the United States

NATO: The Hill: Strains in U.S.-European relations are peaking as Trump prepares to face allies at the NATO summit in Brussels July 11-12. 

Middle East: The Hill: Trump’s next move in the Middle East is being watched closely in Israel, where several of Trump’s recent policies have reverberated loudly across the region. The Hill’s Alicia Cohn reports from Jerusalem.

Venezuela: In August, Trump surveyed the regional unrest caused by Venezuela’s unraveling and asked his national security team a question: why couldn’t the United States invade the troubled country to restore stability? The president’s stunned advisers strongly opposed the suggestion, although Trump stuck with it, referring publicly to a “military option” and raising the invasion idea with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (The Associated Press).


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TRADE: Controversy circling the Trump administration’s trade postures is likely to escalate this week.  

NAFTA: The Hill: Businesses worried about trade troubles between the United States and Mexico say they see Trump as the greater threat to the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which also includes Canada, than Mexico's new leftist president, AMLO. 

U.S. impact: Industries Trump pledged to help as president are feeling the sting of trade policies (The New York Times).

China: Beijing on Tuesday said China was fully prepared to respond if a trade war escalates after Friday, the deadline for Trump’s promised new trade tariffs on $34 billion in imports from China (The Associated Press). On Wednesday, China clarified that the first move would have to come from Washington; it would “absolutely not” fire the first shot and would not be the first to levy tariffs (Reuters).

China and European Union: China wants the European Union to issue a strong joint statement against Trump’s trade policies at a summit later this month, but the EU has rejected the idea of an alliance with Beijing against Washington (Reuters).

> China ZTE: The Hill: Despite opposition among Republicans in Congress and elsewhere, the Commerce Department will permit Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE to resume some operations temporarily this summer. GOP senators risk the ire of Trump and his base by objecting to the administration’s posture with ZTE (The Washington Post).

INVESTIGATIONS: We may finally hear from Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who played a critical role in the election year investigations into Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Two powerful House committees have subpoenaed Strzok to publicly testify at a joint hearing on Tuesday.

But Strzok’s lawyer, Aitan Goelman, suggested late Tuesday that his client might not comply with the subpoena. 

     "My client will testify soon, somewhere, sometime. We just got this subpoena today, so I don't know whether or not we are going to be testifying next Tuesday in front of these two particular House subcommittees." — Goelman to CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

Lawmakers grilled Strzok for 11 hours behind closed doors last week. House conservatives say that session produced new and startling revelations about his handling of the investigations, while Democrats are calling the GOP’s interest in Strzok a witch-hunt aimed at undermining special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s probe.

Strzok, who was briefly on Mueller’s team, was pilloried last month in an inspector general report that uncovered dozens of anti-Trump messages he sent to his mistress and FBI lawyer, Lisa Page. One of the messages said he’d do whatever he could to “stop” Trump from being elected.

Inspector general Michael Horowitz’s report found that political bias did not play a role in FBI leadership’s decision not to charge Clinton with a crime. But Horowitz has suggested in testimony that political bias may have driven Strzok to focus on Trump’s investigation, thereby delaying the bureau’s decision to reopen the Clinton case when new emails were found on a laptop that belonged to Anthony Weiner.

Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee released an unclassified summary of its investigation into Russian election meddling. The bipartisan committee broke with their counterparts in the House by upholding the Intelligence Community’s assessment that Russia had a “clear preference” for Trump over Clinton in 2016.

     “The Committee has spent the last 16 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work underpinning the Intelligence Community Assessment and sees no reason to dispute the conclusions.” — Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrGOP's Tillis comes under pressure for taking on Trump Warner says there are 'enormous amounts of evidence' suggesting Russia collusion McCarthy dismisses Democrat's plans: 'Show me where the president did anything to be impeached' MORE (R-N.C.).

The Senate Intelligence Committee did not draw any conclusions about whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to defeat Clinton. They may get into that in further reports, but Mueller will have the final word here.

Bloomberg: Mueller taps more prosecutors to help with growing Trump probe.

The Associated Press: Sanctioned Russian oligarch linked to Michael Cohen has vast U.S. ties.

Reuters: U.K. calls on Russia to give details of nerve attack after two more people struck down.



Celebrating the American experiment on July Fourth, by Dan Mahaffee, opinion contributor with The Hill.

Who really stands to benefit from universal basic income? Guaranteed income, reconceived as basic income, is gaining support across the political spectrum, by Nathan Heller, The New Yorker.

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley & Alexis Simendinger Suggestions? Tips? We want to hear from you! Share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


The House will be back in session on July 10.

The Senate resumes work on July 9.

The president today travels to Great Falls, Mont., to headline a rally for his reelection.

Secretary of State Pompeo today travels to North Korea to continue talks about denuclearization. Pompeo, who will be in Pyongyang until July 7, is pursuing goals set with Kim Jong Un in June (The New York Times).

The Federal Reserve releases minutes from its June meeting this morning. Analysts will examine the central bank’s outlook regarding the impact of  changes in trade policy on the economic recovery. And will the Fed raise interest rates one or two more times before the end of the year? The minutes might reveal some clues.

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m.with Kayleigh McEnany of the Republican National Committee, who describes her party’s fall election strategy as well as efforts to support the confirmation of Trump's pending nominee for the Supreme Court.



> Mueller’s investigators, exploring potential donations to the National Rifle Association from Russian entities before the 2016 election, likely examined the gun lobby’s tax returns (McClatchy)

> 12 boys trapped in a Thailand cave are being trained to breathe through SCUBA masks as rescuers weigh escape options in a race against rains that could delay the efforts for months (The Guardian). Rescuers are also rushing to pump water out of the flooded caves (The Associated Press). 

> The New York Times reassigned and demoted Ali Watkins, the reporter in a leaks case (New York Times)


And finally … If you’re an American history buff, or just a savvy googler, you have an excellent chance of acing the Morning Report’s QUIZ CONTEST today. Just sort out the right from the wrong. Send your answers to or to lock in newsletter fame in Friday’s report. (Please put “Quiz” in your subject line.)

One, and only one, of these statements referencing “nine” is FALSE. Which one is incorrect?

1)   There have been nine U.S. Supreme Court justices since the Judiciary Act of 1869.

2)   The first English colony was founded at Jamestown, Va., in 1609.

3)   New York’s delegates in 1776 did not officially give their support to the Declaration of Independence until July 9.

4)   The ninth president of the United States was the first to die in office.

5)   George Mason, one of the Founding Fathers, and his wife had nine children.