The Hill's Morning Report — Trump denigrates NATO allies, floats 4 percent solution

 

 

 

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!)

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features an interview with former New Orleans mayor and former Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu of Louisiana, who recently said he’s thinking about becoming a 2020 Democratic presidential contender; and Republican Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerMaryland manufacturers are stronger with the Export-Import Bank White House officials stand by Syria withdrawal, sanctions delay amid bipartisan pushback Sunday shows — Officials rush to Trump's defense on Syria, sanctions MORE, who is running to unseat North Dakota’s Sen. 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) in November.  http://thehill.com/hilltv

***

*** BREAKING *** NATO members went into emergency session on the second day of a summit in Brussels amid President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE’s demands for increased defense spending by the alliance, The Associated Press reports. At this writing, the president is beginning a press conference in Brussels … stay tuned ...

The annual meeting of nations began Wednesday largely where last month’s Group of Seven (G-7) meeting left off — with Trump clashing with American allies and torching longstanding global agreements. As he did at the G-7, the president arrived late to this morning’s NATO sessions.

Trump’s insults and demands renewed global tensions and left Washington scrambling to reaffirm long-held commitments.

The Associated Press: Trump back at NATO after rattling allies, condemning Germany.

> Trump accused Germany of being “totally controlled by Russia” and said the country’s leadership was held “captive” by the Kremlin’s energy interests. Trump’s rebuke to an ally invited criticism against the backdrop of his planned Monday meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the ex-KGB nationalist he often praises.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted to Trump’s insult, tartly reminding her listeners that she experienced Soviet control as a child growing up in East Germany.

I’m very happy that we in the federal republic of Germany live united in freedom — and for that reason, we conduct sovereign policy and make sovereign decisions.” – Merkel

Face-to-face later in the day, Trump insisted he and Merkel enjoy a “very good relationship.” Then he resumed his Germany-bashing on Twitter.

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals Trump to award Medal of Freedom to former Attorney General Edwin Meese Trump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom MORE (R-Utah), a Trump ally, scolded the president when asked about the slap at Merkel.

“I have really the highest opinion of her and those who are with her. I think sometimes you can be a little too critical of the other [NATO] counterparts. I don’t think we should be critical. She’s really good.” – Hatch

The Hill: Trump-Merkel relationship goes from bad to worse.

The New York Times: Politically weakened Merkel hesitates to take Trump on alone.

> The president often fumes that most of the 28 NATO member nations are not footing the bill for their shared defense commitments and instead rely on the United States. On this trip, Trump demanded the entire European alliance meet 10-year goals — now.

"The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025." – Trump tweeted

NATO members agreed in 2014 to move toward committing at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on their sovereign defense capabilities by 2024.

The president’s assertions that NATO members owe the United States money and are in arrears to the alliance are false, according to a detailed analysis by Politifact

> Trump went on to tell Bulgarian President Rumen Radev that NATO countries must double their shares of NATO’s support from 2 percent to 4 percent, a statement that puzzled allies and set leaders on edge in Brussels.

“He just left after he announced that … NATO is not a bourse [stock market] in which one can buy security. But yes, on the other hand, President Trump is right, as each country should build its effective capabilities, and the unwillingness with which Bulgaria spends money on defense is obvious.” – Radev

 

 

The reaction back home

> The House unanimously passed a resolution expressing support for NATO, calling it “the most important and critical security link between the United States and Europe.”

“NATO is indispensable. It is as important today as it ever has been.” – Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate MORE (R-Wis.)

> Former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryDemocrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 He who must not be named: How Hunter Biden became a conversation-stopper Rep. Joe Kennedy has history on his side in Senate bid MORE exploded with anger, releasing a blistering statement lambasting Trump’s “disgraceful” and “destructive” behavior that he said “flies in the face of the actual interests of the United States of America.” Kerry’s worries: NATO, which Putin opposes, is being undercut, and the U.S. image as an international  partner is severely frayed.

Kerry defended the Obama administration’s efforts to extract additional defense investments among NATO allies, saying the subject was pursued in a “constructive and collegial way.”

“The president set America back this morning. He is steadily destroying our reputation in the world. He is undermining our interests. He diminishes alliances we built to safeguard an economic and strategic force that has allowed millions of people to live in freedom.” – Kerry

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump isolated amid Syria furor | Pompeo, Pence to visit Turkey in push for ceasefire | Turkish troops advance in Syria | Graham throws support behind Trump's sanctions Graham: Erdoğan pledged to Trump to stay away from Kurdish territory in Syria Trump honors Stanley Cup champions, talks impeachment, Turkey MORE, who is accompanying Trump on the trip, said little at the president’s side, but attempted to clean up afterward.

 

 

Backdrop of a tariffs war

Trump’s swing through Brussels unfolded as the trade war between the U.S. and China showed no signs of easing.

The Chinese are threatening new tariffs on $200 billion in U.S. goods, the latest volley between the Eastern and Western powers.

Reuters: China vows to hit back over U.S. proposal for fresh tariffs.

Back in the U.S., the Senate voted 88-11 to include language in the upcoming spending bill “providing a role for Congress” on future tariffs. The nonbinding vote was a symbolic shot at the president and fresh evidence that Republicans in Congress believe Trump’s approach may be politically and economically ill-advised (The Hill).

There’s some anxiety about ... tariffs.” – Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynTrying to kick tobacco again This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington GOP braces for impeachment brawl MORE (R-Texas)

“Support for our legislation will only grow. We will continue to push for a binding vote and are hopeful one will be scheduled in the near future.” – Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong George Conway hits Republicans for not saying Trump's name while criticizing policy Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid MORE (R-Tenn.)

The Hill: Business groups and congressional Republicans express frustration with Trump’s escalating trade fight with China.

Reuters: China plays nice with foreign investors amid escalating trade war.

Trump this afternoon ends his headline-grabbing participation in Brussels. He and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpMelania Trump breaks ground on new White House tennis pavilion Overnight Health Care — Presented by Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing — Buttigieg unveils aggressive plan to lower drug prices | Supreme Court abortion case poses major test for Trump picks | Trump takes heat from right over vaping crackdown Kroger to stop sales of e-cigarettes at stores MORE fly to England and meet with U.S. Embassy staff gathered at Winfield House in London. From there, the Trumps head to Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, to attend a gala dinner tonight hosted by Prime Minister Theresa May. On Friday, the president will meet again with May and has an audience with Queen Elizabeth II.

Reuters: Trade and tea with Queen for Trump on visit to Britain in “turmoil” (and 60,000 signed up to protest in London).

The New York Times: Trump visit to test “special relationship.”

LEADING THE DAY

***Spotted last night at The Hill’s launch party for Hill.TV at the Andrew W. Mellon auditorium … Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani; Rep. Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyNew York Democratic congresswoman hospitalized Cast and crew of 'Unbelievable' join lawmakers to advocate for reducing DNA, rape kit backlog O'Rourke gun confiscation talk alarms Democrats MORE (D-N.Y.); former Trump campaign manager Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiLewandowski told by Fox Business host he was being 'a little slurry' during interview The Hill's Morning Report - New impeachment battle: Pompeo vs. House Dems Lewandowski: 'Fair' to say Senate run might not happen MORE; Rep. Pete KingPeter (Pete) Thomas KingGOP lawmakers blast Trump's Syria decision as 'grave mistake,' 'disaster in the making' Here are the Democrats who aren't co-sponsoring an assault weapons ban Hotel industry mounts attack on Airbnb with House bill MORE (R-N.Y.); The Hill’s chairman James Finkelstein; executive vice president John Solomon and president Richard Beckman ... and Hill.TV hosts Krystal Ball, Buck Sexton, Jamal Simmons and Joe Concha.***

SUPREME COURT: Less than 48 hours after the president announced his Supreme Court nominee, Senate Republicans sounded decidedly upbeat that while the confirmation process for Judge Brett Kavanaugh may prove lengthy, the votes ultimately will be there to seat him on the court.

Their confidence grew as Democrats openly conceded they may have a campaign theme this fall but won’t be able to block the nominee.

The Hill: Senate Democratic leadership is stuck between two imperatives.

The Hill: Liberals see Kavanaugh as potential threat to consumer protections.

West Virginia Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by USAA — Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pushed for her ouster GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe Fallout from Kavanaugh confirmation felt in Washington one year later MORE, a Democrat seeking reelection in a pro-Trump state, said Kavanaugh, 53, “seems to be a very fine person,” with attributes he spelled out in some detail.

“You know, we have to just look at making sure that the rule of law and the Constitution [are] going to be followed, and that’s going to basically pre-empt anything else he does. Most importantly, I intend to hear from West Virginians.” – Manchin

Manchin is battling GOP efforts to defeat him. In fact, a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump again vetoes resolution blocking national emergency for border wall Trump invites congressional leaders to meeting on Turkey MORE (R-Ky.) will spend $4.7 million in new ads in West Virginia, North Dakota, Nevada, Indiana and Arizona, Politico reports.

To confirm Kavanaugh, Senate Republicans need 51 votes. Their strategy envisions a unified caucus, accompanied by a few Democratic defectors. With Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain: It's 'breaking my heart' Warren is leading Biden in the polls The Hill's 12:30 Report: Video depicting Trump killing media, critics draws backlash Backlash erupts at video depicting Trump killing media, critics MORE (R-Ariz.) at home in Arizona undergoing treatment for cancer, observers wonder how Republican Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCNN catches heat for asking candidates about Ellen, Bush friendship at debate Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump isolated amid Syria furor | Pompeo, Pence to visit Turkey in push for ceasefire | Turkish troops advance in Syria | Graham throws support behind Trump's sanctions Rand Paul rips Lindsey Graham: 'Wrong about almost every foreign policy decision' MORE of Kentucky will vote. He has some objections to positions Kavanaugh has taken.

The Hill: Sen. Paul’s role in the Supreme Court nomination equation.

Kavanaugh continued making courtesy calls to senators on Wednesday as the Department of Justice, outside groups and the news media began gathering and poring over decades of decisions, writings, memos and statements that senators and their staffs will review.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump's latest plan to boost ethanol miffs both corn groups and the fossil fuel industry Syria furor underscores Trump's isolation GOP braces for impeachment brawl MORE (R-Iowa) is alert to the huge volume of materials he and his colleagues will amass during this confirmation process. He will say only that a hearing on Kavanaugh’s nomination may occur in “August or September.” McConnell would like the full Senate to vote as soon as he’s assembled 51 votes and preferably not later than September.

In an unusual move, Justice Department Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinTrump attacks Sessions: A 'total disaster' and 'an embarrassment to the great state of Alabama' Mueller rejoins DC law firm Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it MORE turned to federal prosecutors for help with the necessary data collection (The New York Times). The White House disclosed that Kavanaugh accrued credit card and other debts, including for tickets he purchased to sporting events (The Washington Post).

The amount of potentially relevant files, emails, memos, notes, articles, rulings, drafts and public statements is gargantuan. Kavanaugh's record includes a clerkship with Justice Anthony Kennedy; staff work with former independent counsel Kenneth Starr; assistance to the GOP during the 2000 election recount in Florida; two years in President George W. Bush's White House counsel's office; three as Bush's staff secretary; and 12 years as a federal appeals court judge. He also teaches law.

 

 

If Senate Democrats insist on a forensic deep-dive into the entirety of the judge’s career record, the confirmation will slow to a crawl (Politico).

The Hill: Kavanaugh nomination raises questions about ObamaCare’s fate.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

INVESTIGATIONS: FBI agent Peter Strzok, who played a key role in the election year investigations into Trump and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Poll: Warren leads Biden in Maine by 12 points MORE, will testify in public today before a joint session of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The Hill: FBI agent set for public grilling.

Strzok, who is on leave from the FBI, was briefly on special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network MORE’s team but was kicked off when Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz discovered anti-Trump private messages exchanged with Lisa Page, a former FBI lawyer with whom he had an affair.

In one of the messages, Strzok said he’d do whatever he could to “stop” Trump from being elected.

The Associated Press: Strzok to testify that he was not tainted by political bias.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids Top Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview MORE (R-Va.) has subpoenaed Page for private testimony but she refused to show up on Wednesday. That has infuriated Republican lawmakers, but Page is negotiating a new date to meet with lawmakers (The Hill).

The highly anticipated public testimony from Strzok ignited yet another skirmish on Capitol Hill, where Democrats are accusing Republicans of demonizing him to undermine Mueller’s probe.

Lawmakers grilled Strzok behind closed doors for 11 hours in June and Republicans say that session produced new and startling information.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the Committee on the Judiciary, and Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsCracks emerge in White House strategy as witness testifies Overnight Defense: Pentagon insists US hasn't abandoned Kurds | Trump expands sanctions authority against Turkey | Ex-Ukraine ambassador says Trump pushed for her ouster On The Money: Trump announces limited trade deal with China | Appeals court rules against Trump over financial records | Trump expands authority to sanction Turkey MORE (D-Md.), the ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, released a joint letter on Wednesday demanding Republicans release the full transcript of that interview with Strzok.

Nadler and Cummings released the questions GOP lawmakers asked Strzok, which they said were evidence their primary aim is to impede the special counsel’s ongoing investigation.

            “This investigation is a political charade — a platform to elevate far-right conspiracy theories and undermine the Special Counsel’s ongoing criminal investigation of the President and his campaign aides, which has already produced five guilty pleas and criminal charges against 23 individuals and entities.” – Nadler and Cummings

Horowitz’s report found that political bias did not play a role in the FBI’s decision not to charge Clinton. But he suggested that Strzok’s anti-Trump bias led him to prioritize the Trump campaign investigation over the Clinton investigation at key moments in 2016.

 

 

 

More from the investigative front … Mueller’s team revealed in court documents former Trump campaign manager Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortRand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter He who must not be named: How Hunter Biden became a conversation-stopper Schiff should consider using RICO framework to organize impeachment MOREs “VIP” prison lifestyle (The Hill) … Attorney Lanny Davis, an opinion contributor at The Hill who is representing Michael Cohen, is sending up warning shot after warning shot at Trump and his legal team (Hill.TV).

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: The Obama administration is back on the scene with the midterm elections only four months away.

Former President Obama loaned his star wattage to a new anti-gerrymandering ad spearheaded by former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials We can't allow presidents and public opinion to further diminish the work of the press Democrats sue over North Carolina's congressional maps MORE’s redistricting group (CNN).

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE will headline a fundraiser next week in Arizona for Senate Democratic contender Kyrsten Sinema (AZ Central).

And this weekend, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE (I-Vt.) will headline the American Federation of Teachers convention in Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

There is speculation that Clinton, Warren and Sanders might all seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, underscoring the generational tension in the Democratic Party right now, which is making room for new stars, like 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who recently knocked off the No. 4 Democrat in the House, Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), in a primary race.

Rep. Linda Sánchez (Calif.), the fifth ranking Democrat in the House, is calling for a complete overhaul of Democratic leadership next year.

She singled out the top three Democrats in the House — Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Democratic debate starts with immediate question on Trump impeachment White House, Pentagon, Giuliani reject House subpoenas MORE (Calif.), Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Buttigieg targets Warren, Sanders on health care ahead of debate | Judge overturns ObamaCare transgender protections | Poll sees support drop for 'Medicare for All' Hillicon Valley: Google, Reddit to testify on tech industry protections | Trump joins Amazon-owned Twitch | House to vote on bill to combat foreign interference Overnight Health Care — Presented by Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing — Judge blocks Trump 'public charge' rule | Appeals court skeptical of Trump arguments for Medicaid work requirements | CDC offers guidance for treating vaping-related cases MORE (Md.) and Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (S.C.) — saying it’s time for them “to pass the torch to a new generation” regardless of the outcome of November’s midterm elections (The Hill).

“Having the top three leadership of the same generation, I think it’s time for that generational change.” – Sanchez

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, responded:

    “House Democrats are focused on winning in November and if you are rowing in the opposite direction, you are only helping Republicans.” – Hammill

The Hill: Democrats struggle with unity amid leadership tensions.

More politics … The battle to control state houses across the country will play out across the rubble of the Blue Wall that Trump punched through in 2016 (The Hill) … Speaker Ryan is the latest GOP leader to defend Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanTop State Department official arrives for testimony in impeachment probe 10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable Ex-Trump aide to tell Congress she objected to Ukrainian ambassador's removal: report MORE (R-Ohio) against accusations he turned a blind eye to sexual assault while acting as a wrestling coach at Ohio State University in the 1980s and 1990s … Ryan was more forceful in defending Jordan than he was last week (The Hill).

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

Beyond smart: Kavanaugh’s credentials, and the limits of intelligence, by Ezra Rosser, opinion contributor with The Hill. https://bit.ly/2N9JNoV

Democrats need big-tent energy policies that appeal to Americans, by Paul Bledsoe, opinion contributor with The Hill. https://bit.ly/2N5E97k

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 10 a.m.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Paul Ney Jr. to be general counsel of the Department of Defense.

The president leaves Brussels this afternoon for England, where he and the first lady remain until Friday, then on to Scotland over the weekend.

Vice President Pence is participating in a series of regional radio interviews this morning.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the Consumer Price Index and real earnings reports for June at 8:30 a.m.

Secretary Pompeo has a jammed schedule today in Brussels: This morning he attends a Syria small group meeting, and in the afternoon, he attends an energy security meeting with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg; meets with High Representative Federica Mogherini; attends a U.S.-EU Energy Council meeting; sits down with Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi; meets with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir; meets with Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi; and hosts a Defeat-ISIS ministerial gathering, all at NATO headquarters.

ELSEWHERE

> Facebook is working to prevent the use of its platform to stir ethnic violence in Myanmar, the company tells The Hill’s Ali Breland. Myanmar’s situation has become a test of Facebook’s pledge to rapidly respond when its platform is used for political or unsavory purposes (The Hill).

> Lawyers for eight Guantánamo detainees who have never been charged with crimes asked a judge on Wednesday to rule their era of war in Afghanistan ended and they should be freed, by Carol Rosenberg, The Miami Herald.

> Soccer: ⚽ The FIFA World Cup final on Sunday is set: Croatia v. France …Tennis: Today at 9:15 a.m. ET at Wimbledon, seven-time champion Serena Williams, 36, plays Julia Görges from Germany in the women’s semi-final.

THE CLOSER

And finally … Trending: A global push to eliminate plastic straws, stir sticks and tons of non-biodegradable trash from oceans and the environment... How an eight-minute video of a struggling sea turtle convinced Starbucks to ditch 1 billion plastic straws (Forbes) … American Airlines the latest company to jettison plastic straws and stir sticks (USA Today) … D.C. City Council plans a hearing on proposed measure to ban plastic straws (The Hill) … Rundown of major companies banning plastic straws (Money magazine). … “STRAWS” (the 2017 documentary) … And that cringe-inducing video clip showing a Texas A&M University marine biologist in 2015 laboring with pliers to extract a straw embedded in the nostril of an injured sea turtle, HERE: