The Hill's Morning Report — Prime-time drama: Mystery shrouds Trump’s Supreme Court pick




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President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE announces his nominee to the Supreme Court at 9 p.m. from the East Room of the White House in a dramatic, reality television-style presentation that will kick-start a furious confirmation battle just four months before the midterm elections.

The president said Sunday he had narrowed it down to four finalists. His decision, he said, will be made by noon today.



The White House is ramping up the tension and going to great lengths to keep people guessing and the identity of the nominee concealed until the last possible moment.

The Hill: Trump’s Supreme Court decision energizes the White House.

The Associated Press: In the past, back doors and a tunnel helped Supreme Court nominees remain secret until announced.

If Republicans can stick together and confirm the nominee, as they did with Justice Neil Gorsuch, it could tip the balance of the high court in favor of conservatives for a long time to come.

The stakes:

***Breaking this morning*** … the conservative Judicial Crisis Network will launch $1.4 million in new cable and digital ads after the announcement tonight pressuring Democratic senators in Alabama, Indiana, North Dakota and West Virginia to back the president’s nominee … Sens. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyRepublicans may regret restricting reproductive rights Sanders traveling to Iowa, Indiana to pitch Biden's spending package Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda MORE (D-Ind.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampWashington's oldest contact sport: Lobbyists scrum to dilute or kill Democrats' tax bill Progressives prepare to launch counterattack in tax fight Business groups aim to divide Democrats on .5T spending bill MORE (D-N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBiden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan Manchin: Biden told moderates to pitch price tag for reconciliation bill Biden employs flurry of meetings to unite warring factions MORE (D-W.Va.) were expected election year targets, but Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who is not up for reelection until 2020 but represents a deep-red state, is a new twist.

The Hill: Trump court battle imperils Senate Dems, House GOP.

The New York Times: Red-state Democrats face “a terrible vote.”

Meanwhile, the campaign to influence the president’s decision is in full gear. Here’s a list The Hill compiled of who top conservatives have endorsed so far

The man making a late charge up the boards?  Judge Thomas Hardiman of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, 53, a Pennsylvania native who was the runner-up to Gorsuch last year. Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, served with Hardiman on the 3rd Circuit and has recommended him to the president. Hardiman was confirmed 95-0 by the Senate for his current post in 2007.

The New York Times: Trump gives a fresh look to Hardiman for Supreme Court.

We’ve been filling you in on the other finalists, but a couple quick notes ahead of the sweepstakes finale tonight...

  • 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett, 46, the youngest of the group and a favorite among social conservatives, would probably have the hardest time getting confirmed and seems to have lost momentum in recent days.

  • The New York Times reports that McConnell has tried to nudge Trump to tap either Hardiman or 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Raymond Kethledge, 51. Some have described Kethledge as “Gorsuch 2.0” but conservative media, such as Breitbart News, have been hammering him in recent days and vowing to sink his nomination over his past immigration decisions.

  • District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh, 53, was an early favorite, but his ties to former President George W. Bush and his extensive judicial record, including some opinions on health care that have drawn criticism from the right, might make him a risky bet.

The takeaway: Republicans we talk to believe the GOP will ultimately unite behind Trump’s nominee, no matter what, rather than risk pushing the Senate’s confirmation deliberations beyond September, and especially beyond the November elections. The Supreme Court’s next term begins the first Monday in October.


INTERNATIONAL & WHITE HOUSE: The president has a big week ahead, including a consequential NATO summit in Brussels, and meetings outside London with British Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth II. A week from today in Helsinki, Trump meets one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In Brussels, Trump will continue to urge NATO allies to boost their defense budgets, while relations between the president and some world leaders are increasingly strained. Here are five issues to watch at the annual summit (The Hill). … NATO, under fire from Trump, is expected to trumpet its heightened readiness (The Wall Street Journal). … Ahead of the NATO and Putin summits, Trump’s unorthodox diplomacy rattles allies (The Washington Post).

Anticipating demonstrations and protests while in the United Kingdom for four days (including two days in Scotland), Trump will largely avoid downtown London while meeting with May and the queen (The Guardian). … Among the vivid anti-Trump displays expected in the city: A giant balloon depicting the U.S. president as a rotund baby wearing a diaper (The New York Times). … The White House says the president is unconcerned about protesters and is more “beloved” around the world than some of his predecessors (The Times of Israel).

Trump’s agenda during his upcoming meeting with Putin remains somewhat open-ended, much to the consternation of German officials, who say there has been no coordination with NATO allies leading up to the Putin meeting. They fear Trump might allow the Russian president to exploit Trump’s determined avoidance of any friction (Reuters). His disposition toward Putin is decidedly warm, while the State Department’s official stance with Russia is less so:



North Korea: And speaking of chilly diplomacy, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoRepublican lawmakers raise security, privacy concerns over Huawei cloud services WashPost fact-checker gives Pompeo four 'Pinocchios' for 'zombie' claim about Obama Iran deal Poll: Biden, Trump statistically tied in favorability MORE found a rough reception in Pyongyang last week while discussing denuclearization. He did not meet with Kim Jong Un, and while the secretary called the talks “productive,” the North Korean officials were scornful (Bloomberg). … Pompeo sees a bumpy road ahead (Reuters). … The United States and North Korea are still at odds on all issues of denuclearization drawn from the Trump-Kim summit last month (The Associated Press).

Pompeo, as America’s top diplomat, remains a notable example of the “big personality appointees” the president was drawn to for his Cabinet. But as marquee leaders exit departments and agencies, Trump’s executive team is slowly becoming populated with technocrats, reports The Washington Post.



POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: A new development in the debate on the left over whether Democrats should support abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Writing in an op-ed for The Washington Post, Obama’s former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says that calling to abolish ICE is “not a serious policy proposal.”

The outright abolition of ICE would compromise public safety. ICE is a law-enforcement agency. It consists of essentially two components: enforcement and removal operations, or ERO, and homeland security investigations, or HSI, which is dedicated to the investigation of cross-border crimes such as smuggling dangerous drugs and contraband, the theft of intellectual property, child pornography and human trafficking.” — Johnson

And BuzzFeed has an interesting piece on this in which they asked Democrats what it would look like to abolish ICE. There was no conclusive or unified response.

BuzzFeed: Democrats don’t actually know what abolishing ICE would look like.

The Hill: Clash looms over ICE funding. 

Trump has already seized on the calls to abolish ICE to cast Democrats as extremists on border security. It is an interesting debate unfolding on the left at a time when Democrats believe they’re poised for big gains in the House as the midterm elections approach.

Washington Post/Schar School poll: Democrats have 10 point lead in generic ballot, enthusiasm advantage.

More from the campaign trail … House returns to work this week under a cloak of uncertainty as both parties face leadership challenges (The New York Times) … Voter optimism holds key to GOP’s midterm hopes (The Hill) … The progressive populist who wants to help Democrats win back the Rust Belt (Bloomberg) … McConnell confronted by protesters at Kentucky restaurant (The Hill) … Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanAllies see rising prospect of Trump 2024 White House bid Republican leaders misjudged Jan. 6 committee Watchdog group seeks ethics probe over McCarthy's Jan. 6 comments MORE (R-Ohio) denies knowledge of abuse claims at Ohio State University (The Hill).


IMMIGRATION: A federal judge has denied a request by the Trump administration to extend a deadline to reunite families that have been separated after being apprehended crossing the border illegally.

The deadline to reunite all children under the age of 5 with their parents is Tuesday. The administration has until July 26 for everyone else.

The Associated Press: Judge insists deadline be met to reunite children at the border.

ACLU: Less than half of child reunions will be met by deadline.

Meanwhile, the rolling public relations disaster from the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy continues.

The Associated Press: Kids as young as 1 in U.S. court, awaiting reunion with family.

A few polls on this issue…

Reuters/Ipsos: Immigration top issue for U.S. voters, economy a close second.

Washington Post/Schar School: Most Americans oppose key parts of Trump immigration plans, including the wall. But more voters trust Trump on border security than Democrats.

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!


Against packing the courts: Democrats have learned nothing from Merrick Garland, by Kevin D. Williamson, opinion contributor, The National Review

Do poor people have a right to health care? by The New York Times editorial board

People are returning to the labor force, a key step for the economy. By Evan Kraft, opinion contributor, The Hill.


The House returns to work on Tuesday.

The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Mark Bennett to be United States Circuit Judge for the 9th Circuit. A cloture vote on Bennett’s nomination is expected at 5:30 p.m.

The president will have lunch with Vice President Pence at 12:30 p.m., and later announce his nominee to the Supreme Court tonight in prime time from the White House.

The vice president will join the president for lunch in the private dining room, and later attend the Supreme Court announcement in the East Room.

Secretary Pompeo will complete meetings in Hanoi with Vietnamese officials, and travel to Abu Dhabi, where he meets with UAE leaders.


> Four of 12 trapped Thai boys were rescued from a flooded labyrinth of caves, officials say, and are in stable condition in a hospital. Planning for the remaining eight children and their coach, trapped for two weeks, hinged on specific conditions, and another “extraction run” was underway today (New York Times). Late on Sunday, a spokesman said rescuers worked for at least 10 hours to prepare for the Monday morning operation, involving about 90 divers in total, 50 of them from foreign countries (Reuters).

> The death on Sunday of 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess in the U.K., who was exposed to the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, launched a murder investigation with potentially international implications. Authorities believe Sturgess, along with a companion, suffered accidental exposure via their hands to a contaminated object (The New York Times)

> A journalist’s conscience led her to reveal a source to the FBI, and her disgust with House GOP treatment of the FBI nudged her to publicly disclose her 2017 decision. She explains why, by media columnist Margaret Sullivan, The Washington Post.


And finally … If you’ve ever hiked, or even gone for a long walk, you’ll appreciate TWO dog-saves-a-hiker tales this morning. Nanook, a “guardian angel” husky is apparently a self-trained rescue dog. He helped a college student from Tennessee, who was hiking alone in Alaska in June and got into trouble not once, but several times (The Associated Press). Nanook’s owner was not surprised when he heard the details, because it’s happened before. “He just does it on his own,” he said.



In Arizona, an intrepid golden retriever puppy named Todd bounded between his owner and a snake in late June while they hiked, and suffered the brunt of the battle on his head (ABC7). His injured, swollen face went viral on Facebook, and suddenly the Arizona Diamondbacks saw an uplifting PR opportunity, naming Todd a team hero.





Without question, we think dogs make for happy hikes and longer lives!