The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting




Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and happy Wednesday! 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., tune in for interviews with Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzLewandowski, Democrats tangle at testy hearing State probes of Google, Facebook to test century-old antitrust laws Five takeaways on Trump's ouster of John Bolton MORE (R-Fla.) and former Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelIs war with Iran on the horizon? 3D-printable guns will require us to rethink our approach on gun safety The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Democrats set for Lone Star showdown MORE (D-N.Y.).

Major League Baseball’s best players combined to smash a record 10 home runs at last night’s All-Star game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The American League triumphed 8 - 6 over the National League in 10 innings.


Republicans in Congress are spending what they hope won’t be their final months of governing in the majority by debating how to rebuke President TrumpDonald John TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it MORE and check his authority when it comes to Russia, NATO and trade.

The blowback against Trump’s remarks at a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin has been so intense that the president offered a rare walk-back on Tuesday.

Speaking from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, the president said he misspoke in Helsinki — he meant to say that Russia did interfere in the 2016 election. Trump also praised his senior intelligence officials and their conclusions, a day after favoring Putin’s denials of Russian government interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Pentagon waiting for Saudi assessment on attack | Defense bill talks begin | Border fight takes centerstage | Pentagon finalizes .5B in wall contracts | US withholds Afghan aid citing corruption House Armed Services panel gets classified briefing on Saudi attacks US withholds 0M in Afghan aid citing corruption MORE privately urged Trump to issue a correction, according to Bloomberg.

But the damage was done. Trump’s remarks on Monday in Finland infuriated Republicans and conservatives of all stripes, and the GOP-controlled Congress searched for actions to hold the president to account.

The Hill: Helsinki summit becomes new flashpoint for GOP anger.

The Hill: Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash.

Among the items up for consideration:


“I think we ought to tighten the screws on Russia.” – Cornyn.


Rubio and Van Hollen: Our elections are in danger. Congress must defend them.

Their bill outlines a series of punishments for Russia if the Kremlin is caught interfering again, including new economic sanctions and freezing assets for senior political figures.


  • The House and Senate both passed measures last week reaffirming the U.S. commitment to NATO after Trump clashed with U.S. allies in Brussels. But expect more messaging bills or statements from GOP leaders seeking to soothe global tensions. On Tuesday, for instance, Senate leaders appointed five new Republicans and five new Democrats to a NATO Observer Group that was revived earlier this year.


“We value the NATO treaty. We believe the European Union countries are our friends and the Russians are not. We understand the Russian threat.” – McConnell at a Tuesday press conference.




Fortunately for Trump, the outrage over his handling of Putin does not appear to be threatening the momentum of his nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

No senior administration officials quit the government in protest after Monday’s firestorm. Trump went out of his way to praise Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsTrump has named more ex-lobbyists to Cabinet in 3 years than Obama, Bush did in full terms: report Hillicon Valley: FCC approves Nexstar-Tribune merger | Top Democrat seeks answers on security of biometric data | 2020 Democrats take on Chinese IP theft | How Google, Facebook probes are testing century-old antitrust laws Congress should defy Dan Coats' last request on phone surveillance MORE from the White House on Tuesday, a day after Coats took the unusual step of releasing a statement contradicting the president’s claims at the Helsinki summit.

The Hill: Trump’s Russia remarks put intelligence chiefs in a tough spot.

Still, Republicans are enormously frustrated by yet another controversy that has distracted voters from the party’s focus on the economy and tax cuts. The president issued his rhetorical revisions during a meeting with Republicans convened to discuss a second tax-reduction bill the GOP hopes to champion in September, in time for the election.

Across the aisle, Democrats are demanding post-Helsinki hearings about what the administration promised Putin and Russian officials. They’ll get their first chance next week, when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Pompeo sat across from Putin on Monday and met with his counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, but was not present for Trump’s two-hour, private conversation with the Russian president.

The Memo: Trump allies hope he can turn the page on Russia fiasco.
Reuters/Ipsos poll: Majority of Americans think Trump is mishandling Russia.

Trump defended the Helsinki summit anew over Twitter early Wednesday morning.








***Breaking last night*** Rep. Martha RobyMartha Dubina RobyHere are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Pelosi: GOP retirements indicate they'll be in the minority, with Democrat in the White House The Hill's 12:30 Report: House panel approves impeachment powers MORE (R-Ala.) is the projected winner for Alabama’s GOP primary runoff in the 2nd District (The Hill) … Roby defeated former Rep. Bobby Bright (R), a Democrat-turned-Republican who she ousted in 2010 … Roby had faced backlash for her past criticism of Trump but the president endorsed her reelection effort.

TRADE: In an unmistakable sign that global trading partners are charting new courses around the United States and its protectionist tariffs policies, Japan and the European Union (EU) on Tuesday announced a pact to eliminate nearly all tariffs (CNBC). European Council President Donald Tusk hailed the deal as “the largest bilateral trade deal ever.”

> Japan and the EU account for about a third of global gross domestic product (GDP) and their trade relationship has room to grow, according to EU officials, who expect the deal to boost the EU economy by 0.8 percent and Japan’s by 0.3 percent over the long term (Reuters).

Congress – tariffs: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (R-Utah) on Tuesday echoed Corker in backing legislative steps that would block the Trump administration’s tariffs slapped on imports from allies. Members of the president’s party are deeply opposed to U.S. tariffs on imported steel and aluminum applied to long-standing allies, along with the resulting economic impacts of retaliatory tariffs imposed by other countries.

Hatch took to the Senate floor and to Twitter to make his displeasure clear (The Hill).





Federal Reserve – trade war: The Hill: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell believes mounting trade tensions between the United States and key economic partners could pose serious risks to the U.S. and global economy. In Senate testimony on Tuesday, Powell, who was appointed by Trump to lead the central bank, said escalating tariffs had already stunted business growth.



POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Former President Obama has largely steered clear of politics since leaving the White House. But in a Tuesday speech at the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Johannesburg, South Africa, the former president appeared to take some shots at the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

"Look around. Strongman politics are ascending suddenly, whereby elections, some pretense of democracy, are maintained, the form of it. But those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning."

"The free press is under attack. Censorship and state control of media is on the rise. Social media, once seen as a mechanism to promote knowledge, understanding, and solidarity, has proved to be just as effective at promoting hatred, and paranoia, and propaganda, and conspiracy theories."

“We now stand at a crossroads. A moment in time in which two very different visions of humanity's future compete for the hearts and mind of citizens around the world."

More on the Democrats…

> Senate Democrats face an uphill battle in winning the upper chamber in 2018 but cash will not be a problem — Democratic candidates have built a massive fundraising lead over their Republican challengers (The Hill).

> Vermont Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Krystal Ball calls on Sanders to follow Yang's lead on war on drugs Buttigieg calls Warren 'evasive' on Medicare for all MORE (I) and self-described democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) will hit the campaign trail for the first time together this weekend in support of progressive candidates in Kansas. Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are party outsiders with massive followings among the grass roots.

> House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairwoman Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), announced her bid to replace Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.) as caucus chair for the next Congress. Crowley, who is presently the No. 4 Democrat in the House, lost his primary to Ocasio-Cortez. Sánchez has called on Democratic leaders, from House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPatagonia says to shut stores for a few hours during Global Climate Strike Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Progressives push for changes to Pelosi drug pricing plan MORE (D-Calif.) on down, to step aside for a new generation of leadership (The Hill).

On the Republican side…

> Rep. Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz Former GOP Rep. Rohrabacher joins board of cannabis company MORE (R-Calif.), who has routinely won his Southern California district by double-digits, trails his Democratic challenger Harley Rouda in a new poll (Monmouth University).

> Americans for Prosperity is putting $1.8 million behind new digital and television ads attacking Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillEx-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Ocasio-Cortez blasts NYT editor for suggesting Tlaib, Omar aren't representative of Midwest Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D) in Missouri for not supporting the GOP’s tax-cuts bill (YouTube). McCaskill is a top target for Republicans this cycle. Pence will campaign for her challenger, state Attorney General Josh Hawley, on Thursday in St. Louis (St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

On to 2020 … Strong majority of Democrats want a fresh face in the presidential race (Rasmussen) … Democratic strategists want to see more fight out of their field of potential Trump challengers (The Hill) … A look at the House Democrats who might run for president (The Hill).



ADMINISTRATION & WHITE HOUSE: The president’s policies are making inroads in executive departments, in the courts and in the air.

IRS - anonymity for donors: The Hill: In a victory for conservatives, the Treasury Department and the IRS ruled that certain tax-exempt groups will no longer be required to provide the names and addresses of donors to the government. Conservatives have long urged the IRS to bar collection of the donor information as a way to prevent targeting groups for political beliefs.

> Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Trump: 'Great to see' Pelosi plan to lower drug prices Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices MORE (D-Ore.) vowed on Tuesday to oppose the confirmation of Charles Rettig, Trump’s nominee to lead the IRS, unless he agrees to withdraw the new guidance. Wyden is the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee (The Hill). “It is the latest attempt by [Treasury] Secretary [Steven] Mnuchin and Donald Trump to eliminate transparency and keep officials and lawmakers from following the money,” he said.

HHS - family planning grants: A federal judge on Monday ruled against birth control organizations that tried to block the Trump administration from shifting a federal family-planning grant program toward prioritizing groups that are faith-based and counsel abstinence (Reuters).

Justice Department - AT&T-Time Warner merger: The DOJ's appeal in court of an AT&T-Time Warner merger injected more uncertainty into the business terrain for big deals. It comes as a boost for Disney's efforts to buy much of 21st Century Fox, and serves as a caution for industry giants such as expansion-minded Comcast (CNBC).

Labor Department - persuader rule: The Hill: The Trump administration on Tuesday rescinded a controversial Obama-era rule that would have forced employers to disclose outside consultants they hire to counter workers' union organizing efforts … By issuing a final rule July 17 to do away with the “persuader rule,” the department concluded a contentious regulatory and litigation history that occupied much of the Obama administration. A federal judge had rejected the rule before it took effect, which influenced the current administration’s decision to change course (Bloomberg).

U.S. climate scientists head to France: U.S. climate scientists have been invited by the French government to leave the United States to work there under a grant program created by President Emmanuel Macron. Ben Sanderson, a project scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., is among the first group of 18 researchers to accept the offer. He explains what U.S. funding agencies made clear: “Producing [climate] science that has potential political ramifications was not going to be encouraged [under the Trump administration].” (Yale Environment 360, Yale University).

West Wing turnstile: The Hill: Trump tapped a Capitol Hill and K Street veteran to lead his legislative affairs office. Shahira Knight takes over for Marc Short, who leaves the White House this month for the private sector. Knight, who moves into the job from Trump’s National Economic Council, played a key role in developing last year’s GOP tax-cut bill. In June, many thought Knight was preparing to leave the White House to begin a new lobbying job (Politico).

OMB – deficit estimate: The Hill: The White House Office of Management and Budget announced its updated deficit projection of $1 trillion in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Fiscal hawks and many Republicans view rising deficits and debt as bad news, both economically and politically.

Air Force One re-hued: Trump confirmed an Axios report that he wants the Air Force to overhaul the two-toned blue paint favored since the Kennedy administration on the iconic Boeing aircraft used for presidential travel. Trump’s makeover envisions a red, white and blue scheme, similar to his private campaign jet in 2016 (CBS News). Not everyone is a fan of this idea.



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Putin’s ploy to learn what we know, by Stephen Blank, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Trump’s meeting with Putin was the right thing for America, by Paris Dennard, opinion contributor, The Hill.


The House will meet at 10 a.m. Fed Chairman Powell will testify at a House Financial Services Committee hearing this morning, about "monetary policy and the state of the economy.” A trade subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee will explore a touchy subject this afternoon: “Effects of tariffs on U.S. agriculture and rural communities."

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. to consider judicial and executive nominations. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing this morning about sharks, just in time for mid-summer.

The president has a meeting with the Cabinet. And according to CBS Evening News, he is scheduled to sit down with anchor Jeff Glor for an interview at the White House today for broadcast tonight, with more of the discussion to air Thursday.

The Aspen Security Forum begins today and continues through Saturday in Aspen, Colo. Among federal officials scheduled to discuss current events and policies: FBI Director Christopher Wray (tonight); Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats (Thursday afternoon); Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Nadler's House committee holds a faux hearing in search of a false crime House Democrats seeking Sessions's testimony in impeachment probe MORE (Thursday afternoon); Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenPence taps former DHS spokeswoman as his new press secretary DHS officials called lawmaker visit to migrant detention facility a 'Hill stunt' White House fires DHS general counsel MORE (Thursday evening); John Rood, the Pentagon’s under secretary for policy (Friday afternoon); Michael Collins, CIA deputy assistant director (to discuss China on Friday afternoon); and Paul Nakasone, commander, U.S. Cyber Command and director, National Security Agency (Saturday evening). The forum is presented by The Aspen Institute and NBC News/MSNBC.


> U.S. to make drugs more easily available, cutting the role that doctors play (Bloomberg News).

> Chicago may become the largest city in the U.S. to try a universal basic income, (The Intercept).

> Human cancers aren’t contagious, but dogs and other animals aren’t so lucky (Popular Science).


And finally … We bring you two mysteries, and searches for identities…

Whose remains fill a 30-ton sarcophagus recently found in Alexandria, Egypt? It’s a sealed black, nine-foot-long granite coffin uncovered at a construction site, and the internet has been buzzing (National Geographic).

And who are these happy family members pictured in slides found inside a 1950s-era projector bought at a Goodwill store in North Georgia? (CNN) A search is on to reunite an unidentified family with its photographic history (Atlanta Journal-Constitution).