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

 

 

 

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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 CramerGOP Senate candidate: Allegations against Kavanaugh 'absurd' Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls Kavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates MORE, who is running to unseat North Dakota’s Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampGOP Senate candidate: Allegations against Kavanaugh 'absurd' The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh McCaskill to oppose Kavanaugh nomination MORE (D) in November.  http://thehill.com/hilltv

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*** BREAKING *** NATO members went into emergency session on the second day of a summit in Brussels amid President TrumpDonald John TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate 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 HatchJudiciary Dems say GOP treating Kavanaugh accuser worse than Anita Hill Dem vows to probe 'why the FBI stood down' on Kavanaugh Senate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh 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 RyanHow does the 25th Amendment work? Sinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act GOP super PAC drops .5 million on Nevada ad campaign MORE (R-Wis.)

> Former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryRubio wants DOJ to find out if Kerry broke law by meeting with Iranians Time for sunshine on Trump-Russia investigation Pompeo doubles down on criticism of Kerry: The Iran deal failed, 'let it go' 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 PompeoPositive Moon-Kim summit creates a diplomatic opening in North Korea The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify Haley wasn’t invited to key White House meeting on refugee policy: report 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 CornynKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle GOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford 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 CorkerPoll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it Ford opens door to testifying next week Police arrest nearly two dozen Kavanaugh protesters 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 TrumpTrump Jr. to Dem Senator: 'You admitted to hitting your wife so hard it gave her a black eye!' Melania Trump's spokeswoman gets Hatch Act warning for #MAGA tweet Pamela Anderson claims she convinced Melania Trump to stop wearing fur 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 MaloneyChelsea Clinton: Politics a 'definite maybe' in the future Women poised to take charge in Dem majority A new urgency to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment MORE (D-N.Y.); former Trump campaign manager Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Facing major hurricane, Trump is tested Bannon seeks to boost Republican turnout in midterms with new film GOP destroyed oversight — Dems obligated to clean up mess if elected MORE; Rep. Pete KingPeter (Pete) Thomas KingThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify On The Money: Broad coalition unites against Trump tariffs | Senate confirms new IRS chief | Median household income rose for third straight year in 2017 | Jamie Dimon's brief battle with Trump Blue-state Republicans say they will vote against 'tax cuts 2.0' if it extends SALT cap 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) ManchinCook Political Report moves Texas Senate race to ‘toss-up’ The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh McCaskill to oppose Kavanaugh nomination 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 McConnellGOP, Kavanaugh accuser struggle to reach deal GOP making counteroffer to Kavanaugh accuser The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins 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 McCainTrump hits McCain on ObamaCare vote GOP, White House start playing midterm blame game Arizona race becomes Senate GOP’s ‘firewall’ MORE (R-Ariz.) at home in Arizona undergoing treatment for cancer, observers wonder how Republican Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulConservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Senate approves 4B spending bill Some employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report 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 GrassleyGrassley extends deadline for Kavanaugh accuser to decide on testifying Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Kavanaugh accuser seeks additional day to decide on testimony 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 Jay RosensteinHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Rosenstein: 'I never pursued' trying to record Trump Trump vows to get rid of 'stench' at DOJ, FBI 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 ClintonFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate Heller embraces Trump in risky attempt to survive in November Live coverage: Cruz, O'Rourke clash in Texas debate 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 Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe 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 GoodlatteThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify Goodlatte: Administration undercut law, Congress by setting refugee cap Virginia reps urge Trump to declare federal emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence 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 CummingsRep. Cummings: Will Kavanaugh take lie detector test and ask for FBI investigation? Graham to renew call for second special counsel Hillicon Valley: Sanders finds perfect target in Amazon | Cyberattacks are new fear 17 years after 9/11 | Firm outs alleged British Airways hackers | Trump to target election interference with sanctions | Apple creating portal for police data requests 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 ManafortFormer White House lawyer sought to pay Manafort, Gates legal fees: report Mueller investigating Russian payments made by Trump Tower meeting organizers: report Cohen questioned for hours in Mueller probe about Trump's dealings with Russia: report 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 HolderFBI, Justice Dept plan to redact Russia documents despite Trump order for full declassification: report Dem lawmakers slam Trump’s declassification of Russia documents as ‘brazen abuse of power’ Dem lawmaker jabs Trump call for transparency by asking for his tax returns MORE’s redistricting group (CNN).

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenDems with political experience could have edge in 2020 primary, says pollster Ford taps Obama, Clinton alum to navigate Senate hearing Trump endorses Republican candidate in key NJ House race 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 WarrenMore Massachusetts Voters Prefer Deval Patrick for President than Elizabeth Warren Trump's trade war — firing all cannons or closing the portholes? Poll: Most Massachusetts voters don't think Warren should run for president in 2020 MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate Ben & Jerry’s co-founders announce effort to help 7 Dem House challengers Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiSinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act Internal RNC poll shows Pelosi is more popular than Trump: report Indicted lawmaker angers GOP with decision to run for reelection MORE (Calif.), Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDems' confidence swells with midterms fast approaching Trump's Puerto Rico tweets spark backlash Hoyer lays out government reform blueprint 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 JordanHillicon Valley: Trump cyber strategy lets US go on offense | AT&T urges court to let Time Warner merger stand | Conservatives want wife of DOJ official to testify | Facebook, nonprofits team up to fight fake news | DC camera hacker pleads guilty FBI memos detail ‘partisan axes,’ secret conflicts behind the Russia election meddling assessment Republicans threaten to subpoena Nellie Ohr 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: