The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia

The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia
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Today is President TrumpDonald TrumpEx-DOJ official Rosenstein says he was not aware of subpoena targeting Democrats: report Ex-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' MORE’s 18-month mark in office.

President Trump has announced a second summit with Vladimir Putin even as the fallout from his Monday meeting with the Russian president continues. 

The White House announced Thursday that Putin will be invited to visit Washington, D.C., this fall, presumably before the November midterm elections. Republicans in Washington hoped by autumn to shift away from controversies and stick to selling a strong economy and their tax-cuts bill.




Senate Republicans are trying to convince the president that a second meeting is a bad idea, Alexander Bolton reports (The Hill). Russia is open to accepting the invitation  but Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said it’s important to “deal with the result” of the first summit before jumping to a new one (The Associated Press).

Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsWill the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? Experts see 'unprecedented' increase in hackers targeting electric grid Intel heads to resume worldwide threats hearing scrapped under Trump MORE, who broke with the president earlier this week after Trump suggested he believed Putin over his own intelligence officials, found out about the proposed second summit from the media. In fact, he was being interviewed by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell at a newsmaker event in Aspen. Coats broke into uncomfortable laughter.

“Did I hear you right? Ok. That’s gonna be special.” – Coats 

Trump’s Helsinki summit is still dominating on Capitol Hill, as lawmakers on Thursday announced new hearings, passed a resolution rebuking the president and proposed tough new sanctions on Russia.

A brief recap of the floor action…

> The White House had left open the possibility that if special counsel Robert Mueller were allowed to travel to Moscow to interview the Russian intelligence agents he has indicted for election interference, Trump would in turn allow Russian investigators to come to the United States to question at least two of Putin’s foes. 

Putin wants to interrogate Michael McFaul, the American ambassador to Russia under former President Obama, and William Browder, an investment fund manager who led an effort to pass the Magnitsky Act in 2012, which froze Russian assets and applied economic sanctions. Putin wants the U.S. to revoke the law, which is named after Browder’s lawyer, who died under mysterious circumstances in a Russian prison.

Lawmakers were chagrined that the Trump administration was considering allowing Russia to question a former U.S. diplomat and a renowned Putin critic. The White House backed away from the idea on Thursday, but the Senate proceeded to approve a resolution warning Trump against it anyway. The vote was 98-0.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynBipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua Bipartisan Senate group announces infrastructure deal McConnell: 'Good chance' for infrastructure deal after talks unravel MORE (R-Texas) described the offer as “terrible.” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamProgressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema GOP senators applaud Biden for global vaccine donation plans Lindsey Graham: Dismissal of Wuhan lab leak theory cost Trump 2020 election MORE (R-S.C.) called it “absurd and naive.” Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.) said he has “no idea how that’s even come into consciousness.”



> Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoSunday shows preview: Biden foreign policy in focus as Dem tensions boil up back home Sunday shows preview: Infrastructure expected to dominate as talks continue to drag The triumph and tragedy of 1989: Why Tiananmen still matters MORE is expected to testify next week about what Trump and Putin discussed at the Helsinki summit. But Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMaher goes after Manchin: 'Most powerful Republican in the Senate' Supreme Court confounding its partisan critics Why the Democrats need Joe Manchin MORE (R-Ky.) has added hearings to the Senate’s schedule. He has asked Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Banking Committee Chairman Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoSenate passes long-delayed China bill To address labor shortages, Congress should try a return-to-work bonus Some US billionaires had years where they paid no taxes: report MORE (R-Idaho) to arrange new panel hearings to discuss steps to advance legislation as part of a “national response" to Russian interference in the 2016 election.

We’ve been telling you the past two days about the proposed bipartisan DETER Act, which would sanction Russia for future election interference and is spearheaded by Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFive years after the Pulse nightclub massacre the fight for LGBTQ+ rights continues Rubio calls on Biden to 'forcefully' confront Iran over movement of war ships Bipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua MORE (R-Fla.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocrats reintroduce bill to create 'millionaires surtax' Bass, Van Hollen to reintroduce bill to reform handling of nonviolent 911 calls Democrats to introduce bill to prevent default recurring political donations MORE (D-Md.). That bill picked up eight co-sponsors from both parties on Thursday. (Intelligence officials have warned lawmakers that Russia is currently interfering with the U.S. election process and trying to influence voters with disinformation.)

But not everything Congress attempted on the Russia front yesterday was a success...

> Cornyn blocked a resolution, supported by Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeOn The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP Trump looms large over fractured Arizona GOP Why Republican politicians are sticking with Trump MORE (R-Ariz.), a Trump critic, that would have affirmed the intelligence community’s finding that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Cornyn called it a “purely symbolic vote” and said the Senate has more pressing matters at hand. 

> Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulFauci to Chelsea Clinton: The 'phenomenal amount of hostility' I face is 'astounding' GOP's attacks on Fauci at center of pandemic message Fox host claims Fauci lied to Congress, calls for prosecution MORE (R-Ky.), who has been one of the few Republicans to defend Trump’s handling of the Helsinki summit, blocked a similar resolution put forth by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSocially-distanced 'action figure' photo of G7 leaders goes viral Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema Overnight Energy: Biden seeks to reassert US climate leadership | President to 'repeal or replace' Trump decision removing protections for Tongass | Administration proposes its first offshore wind lease sale MORE (I-Vt.), labeling it “crazy hatred” for the president.

The Hill: Dems unveil a slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia.

> House Republicans voted down a measure that would have subpoenaed the U.S. interpreter who translated for Trump during his more than two-hour, one-on-one discussion with Putin. Some Republicans say interviewing an interpreter who served the State Department and the White House in a diplomatic capacity falls under the purview of intelligence officials, not Congress.

The Hill: Obama, Bush veterans dismiss Trump-Putin interpreter subpoena.

Meanwhile, Trump is lashing out at critics and pointing the finger back at Obama, who was famously caught on a hot mic during an election year telling former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he’d have “more flexibility” on issues like missile defense after the campaign. 

"Obama was a patsy for Russia. He was a total patsy." – Trump in an interview with CNBC. 

The president also tweeted a link to a 2010 interview former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump asks Biden to give Putin his 'warmest regards' Huma Abedin announces book deal Mystery surrounds Justice's pledge on journalist records MORE gave to a Russia-backed television channel in which she said a “strong Russia” is in the world’s best interests.


Fascinating roundup...

> The Hill: Trump demoralizes his own team with dizzying Russia moves.

> The Washington Post: As Russians describe “verbal agreements” in Helsinki, U.S. officials scramble for clarity.

> Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), a former CIA officer, writing in The New York Times: Trump is being manipulated by Putin. What should we do?

> Newt Gingrich, writing for Fox News: The truth about Trump, Putin and Obama.

> CBS News poll: 68 percent of Republicans approve of Trump’s handling of Putin.

> Reuters: Putin blames U.S. for trying to ruin Trump summit outcome.

> Bloomberg: Putin tells diplomats he made Trump a new offer on Ukraine, a referendum on separatist regions.

> The Hill: Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinEx-DOJ official Rosenstein says he was not aware of subpoena targeting Democrats: report Democrats claim vindication, GOP cries witch hunt as McGahn finally testifies Protect the police or the First Amendment? MORE warns of growing threat from foreign influence operations.

> Reuters: Russia shows off Putin’s ‘super weapons.’


CONGRESS: Plenty of politics and some budget substance as the week for lawmakers comes to a close... 

Senate – judicial confirmations: The Hill: Senate Republicans broke a record this week for the number of appeals court judges confirmed during a president's first two years, but the White House on Thursday also made the rare decision to pull a judicial nominee from the Senate floor minutes before a roll call vote, signaling the nominee was coming up short in a whip count. On Wednesday, senators voted to confirm Trump's 23rd circuit court judge since he took office last year, breaking the previous record set by former President George H.W. Bush, who saw 22 appeals court judges confirmed during his administration's first two years.

Senate  IRS: The Hill: The Senate Finance Committee approved Charles Rettig’s nomination to be IRS commissioner on a party-line vote of 14-13 on Thursday. 

House – ICE: The Hill: House leaders from both parties clashed Thursday over a resolution promoted by House Republicans to try to put Democrats on record as opposed to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). House conservatives sought a vote on a resolution supporting ICE, and 133 Democrats voted “present.” Republicans are trying to brand the Democratic Party -- including liberals who have called for the abolishment of ICE based on its enforcement techniques -- as a “socialist” movement.

House spending bills: The Hill: The House on Thursday passed a package of appropriations bills totaling $58.7 billion for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, marking the halfway point in a quest to approve the 12 annual spending bills needed to fund the government. Reaching the halfway point in July is considered unusual based on recent budget history. 

House carbon tax: The Hill: The House passed a nonbinding measure Thursday to oppose the idea of a carbon tax, calling it “detrimental” to the United States. The odds of lawmakers actually adopting such a new tax are miniscule, considering widespread GOP opposition and Republican control of both chambers of Congress and the White House. Republicans nonetheless felt it was important to make a political statement to stave off any appearance that taxing carbon dioxide emissions was likely. It’s a proposal favored by some Democrats to counter greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change.

Senate – CFPB confirmation: The Hill: Trump’s nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Thursday refused to discuss with senators her involvement in the administration’s family-separation policy at the southern border. Kathleen Kraninger said during a confirmation hearing that she played “no role in setting” the administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, but Democratic senators want to know if she helped influence the implementation of the Trump policy they assail.




> Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSanders drops bid to block Biden's Israel arms sale Sanders push to block arms sale to Israel doomed in Senate Schumer tactics on China bill reveal broader trade strategy MORE (D-N.J.), who saw federal prosecutors drop charges of corruption against him earlier this year, is facing a big-money challenger as he seeks reelection in 2018 (The Hill). While Menendez is still the favorite to win reelection in deep-blue New Jersey, a recent poll found Republican challenger Bob Hugin down by only 2 points.

> We know who Trump wants to face in 2020. The president is describing former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenEx-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' News leaders deal with the post-Trump era MORE as his “dream” opponent. Biden will headline a fundraiser for Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) this weekend, who is running for Senate to replace retiring Flake (AZ Central). 

> The OZY fest takes place on Saturday and Sunday in New York City, featuring Hillary Clinton, Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Defense: Austin and Milley talk budget, Afghanistan, sexual assault and more at wide-ranging Senate hearing Top general: Military justice overhaul proposed by Gillibrand 'requires some detailed study' Cher apologizes for confusing Sinema, Gillibrand MORE (D-N.Y.), Salman Rushdie, Cynthia Nixon, Karl Rove, Chelsea Handler, Grover Norquist, Steven Pinker and musical acts from Passion Pit to Common, plus many others. Catch the two-day arts festival in Central Park.




Trump – interest rates: The Hill: In a clear break with presidential custom and financial market expectations, Trump criticized the Federal Reserve on Thursday for raising interest rates. The president accused Chairman Jerome Powell, his appointee, of hindering the U.S. economy with the central bank’s monetary policy. Trump told CNBC in an interview that he’s “not thrilled” with Powell because higher interest rates could constrict economic growth. In response to an expanding economy, robust employment and traditional concerns about inflation, the Fed is widely expected to raise rates again in September.

Drug prices: The White House this week said consumers will be the winners as two large drug companies announced they’ll hold off on hiking prices for the remainder of 2018. Analysts said temporary pauses in drug price hikes will have little impact on consumers and are public relations ploys, according to The New York Times. Nonetheless, Trump led the cheers:



West Wing turnstile: The Hill: The public and congressional furor over Trump’s interactions with Putin on Monday reawakened speculation that White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE may be a short-timer in that role. Will the disastrous Helsinki summit and its aftermath speed up Kelly’s departure (or the president’s eagerness for another new top adviser)? The retired Marine general is Trump’s second chief, and at the end of July, Kelly will have held the traditionally challenging job for a year. 

Endangered species: The Hill: The Interior Department says it wants to change the way the government enforces the Endangered Species Act to protect habitats, but wildlife groups argue the results will place endangered animals and plants at risk.



FCC – Sinclair merger: The Hill: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) accused Sinclair Broadcast Group of trying to deceive regulators as the media giant sought approval of a $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media. The commission on Thursday questioned the company’s plan to sell off a number of local television stations as a way to bring the merger in compliance with media ownership regulations.

Trade policy – public opinion: More polled Americans disapprove of Trump’s new tariffs applied to U.S. trading partners than approve, according to a Pew Research survey released on Thursday. But the results also show a pronounced partisan divide. While 73 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say the increased tariffs are a good thing for the country, 77 percent of Democrats say the tariffs are a bad thing for the nation, CBS News reported. Because many lawmakers face opposition to the tariffs among their constituents as November elections approach, the survey will be scrutinized on Capitol Hill.


The American government will keep on fighting to state the truth on Russia, by Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and of the National Security Agency, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2zPTcQG

There was nothing remotely treasonous in Trump’s performance with Putin, by Ned Ryun, former writer for President George W. Bush, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2JDwqv2


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!


The House is out until noon on July 23.

The Senate returns Monday at 3 p.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Robert L. Wilkie to be secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department. 

The president and Melania TrumpMelania TrumpJill Biden, Kate Middleton visit school together in first meeting Jill Biden wears 'LOVE' jacket 'to bring unity' to meeting with Boris Johnson White House gets back to pre-COVID-19 normality MORE depart the White House this afternoon to spend the weekend in Bedminster, N.J.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be in New York City today to meet with Ambassador Nikki HaleyNikki HaleyPence slams Biden agenda in New Hampshire speech Vandalism at Rep. Mace's home sparks bipartisan outcry 9 Republicans not named Trump who could run in 2024 MORE and members of the United Nations Security Council, as well as Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and the Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations Koro Bessho, to discuss North Korea. Pompeo will also meet with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.

The Washington Post hosts a newsmaker discussion at 9:30 a.m. about cyber threats and how the government works with industry to thwart attacks, moderated by reporter Ellen Nakashima, with Tonya Ugoretz, director of the cyber threat intelligence integration center, and Dr. Jason Matheny, director of intelligence advanced research projects, both from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Location: 1301 K Street N.W., Washington.


> Comcast pulls out of merger bid for Fox News assets, conceding to Disney, by Liana B. Baker and Carl O’Donnell (Reuters). 

> The special counsel’s office released a list of more than 500 items the special counsel is treating as evidence against former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortLegal intrigue swirls over ex-Trump exec Weisselberg: Five key points There was Trump-Russia collusion — and Trump pardoned the colluder Treasury: Manafort associate passed 'sensitive' campaign data to Russian intelligence MORE, by Darren Samuelsohn (Politico). You can read the list of evidence HERE.

> Dr. John Whyte, an internist and director of professional affairs and stakeholder engagement at the Food and Drug Administration, will leave the FDA at the end of August to become the chief medical officer for WebMD.

> The father of two survivors of the Parkland school shootings in Florida was shot and killed during an armed robbery in his own convenience store. Ayub Ali was 61. (NBC 6).


And finally … The Morning Report’s QUIZ CONTEST winners! Lots of readers know a thing or two about Air Force One, and those who submitted six correct answers to Thursday’s trivia challenge are: Shin Inouye, Milt Mungo, Dara Umberger, Lorraine Lindberg, Tom Ledoux, Nancy Stenberg, Norm Roberts, Alan Borack; Sandy Sycafoose; Catherine Houston and Patrick Alford.

The answers:

  1. Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to fly on an airplane, making his maiden flight in 1910.
  2. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to fly on a government-sanctioned presidential aircraft. That was in 1945.
  3. The aircraft FDR flew on was not called “Air Force One.” It was known as “The Sacred Cow.”
  4. Gary Oldman played the terrorist who hijacked the presidential plane in the 1997 thriller “Air Force One,” starring Harrison Ford. The money line from that film: “Get off my plane.”
  5. The current Air Force One planes are 31 years old, according to the White House, although expert reader Tom Ledoux tells us they’ve only been in service for 28 years.
  6. There is no escape pod on Air Force One.