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
© Getty
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, co-created by Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger. (CLICK HERE to subscribe!)

     “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 TrumpFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment 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 LeeOn The Money: Retirement savings bill blocked in Senate after fight over amendments | Stopgap bill may set up December spending fight | Hardwood industry pleads for relief from Trump trade war Retirement bill blocked in Senate amid fight over amendments Senators press NSA official over shuttered phone surveillance program 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 PaulSunday shows — New impeachment phase dominates Rand Paul says Trump has 'every right' to withhold Ukraine aid over corruption Paul dismisses Bevin loss, touts 'red wave' in other Kentucky races 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 DonnellyWatchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-Ind.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinFormer coal exec Don Blankenship launches third-party presidential bid Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics MORE (D-W.Va.) — red state Democrats up for reelection in 2018 — voted to confirm Barrett. Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGOP senator rips into Pelosi at Trump rally: 'It must suck to be that dumb' Iranian attacks expose vulnerability of campaign email accounts Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity MORE (D-Mo.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa 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 KaineProgressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising Lawmakers wager local booze, favorite foods in World Series bets José Andrés: Food served in the Capitol came from undocumented immigrants MORE (D-Va.), who was Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Top diplomat said request for specific probes in Ukraine was 'contrary' to US policy Feehery: What Republicans must do to adapt to political realignment 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 StabenowCentrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Cash surge puts more Senate races in play Poll shows Sen. Gary Peters with slim lead over GOP rival in Michigan 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) TesterOvernight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Overnight Defense: Top diplomat changes testimony to indicate quid pro quo | Dem offers measure on Turkish human rights abuses in Syria | Warren offers plan to address veteran suicide rates Manchin says he wouldn't back Sanders against Trump in presidential race 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 SandersBernie SandersTech firms face skepticism over California housing response Press: Another billionaire need not apply Ex-Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick mulling 2020 run: report 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 PelosiDemocrats sharpen their message on impeachment Congress hunts for path out of spending stalemate Siren song of impeachment lures Democrats toward election doom 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 JordanWhite House struggles to get in sync on impeachment Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry 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 PompeoOvernight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Cheney calls for Turkish leader's bodyguards to be banned from re-entering US Pompeo: Trump to discuss political solution for Syria in meeting with Erdoğan 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).


With 10,000 new seniors every day, it’s more crucial than ever to learn why Medicare Advantage is outpacing FFS Medicare's value.

Read an interactive report from Better Medicare Alliance to learn why.



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 (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' 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 BurrBottom Line Bottom Line GOP senator wants to know whistleblower identity if there's an impeachment trial 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.