The Hill's Morning Report — Trump picks new fight with law enforcement, intelligence community

 

 

 

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border MORE
is looking to kneecap some of his most vocal critics in law enforcement and the intelligence community, threatening to revoke government security clearances for top former Obama administration officials.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday accused six former officials of “politicizing” and “monetizing” their government service. She said the administration is looking into how their clearances can be revoked.

The White House is targeting:

> Former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanOvernight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants Trump: I believe Obama would have gone to war with North Korea Intel agencies' threat assessment matters more than tiff with Trump MORE

> Former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperThe Hill's Morning Report - What to watch for as Mueller’s probe winds down Mueller report may be 'anti-climactic,' says ex-intelligence director Intelligence chiefs should be commended, despite Trump's attacks on them MORE

> Former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyRosenstein: My time at DOJ is 'coming to an end' Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump FBI’s top lawyer believed Hillary Clinton should face charges, but was talked out of it MORE

> Former NSA Director Michael Hayden

> Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeThe Hill's Morning Report — Emergency declaration to test GOP loyalty to Trump Rosenstein: My time at DOJ is 'coming to an end' Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump MORE

> Former national security adviser Susan Rice

The Hill: Trump mulls move against intel critics.

GOP lawmakers defended the proposal, arguing that former officials generally keep the security clearance so they can advise current government officials on policy — not to bludgeon the administration with political attacks.

But Trump’s critics have long accused the first family of “monetizing” the White House for personal financial gain through the family’s hotels and product lines. The proposal sparked outcries that Trump just wants to punish his political enemies.

The former officials are firing back. Some dispute that they still receive classified government briefings or information. The New York Times reports that Comey and McCabe have not had security clearances for some time.

 

 

"The security clearance has nothing to do with how I, or any of us, feel about the president. I don’t get the briefings. I don’t have access to any classified information. … I think this is just … a petty thing to do. – Clapper on CNN, where he is a contributor

Brennan, Clapper and Comey, in particular, have been ubiquitous presences on cable news and social media, giving speeches, writing books and sounding the alarm over the Trump administration’s posture toward Russia and discussing allegations of obstruction or collusion leveled against Trump and his campaign.

Brennan described Trump’s Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin as “treasonous.” Clapper has defended the allegations in the so-called Steele dossier and said it’s likely the Russians successfully swung the election for Trump. Comey is advocating for Democrats to take over Congress.

Some political watchers view their criticism of the president as unseemly. However, their expertise in national security and the intelligence world has turned them into media stars at a time when there is immense interest in the myriad investigations swirling around the White House.

There is deep suspicion on the right that these former officials — described as the “deep state” by Trump’s allies — are behind the torrent of national security leaks that have bedeviled the Trump administration from the start.

It is, of course, illegal to leak classified information and none of the former officials on the White House target list has been accused of a crime. NPR reported months ago that anything former CIA officials write has to be approved in advance by the agency’s Publication Review Board (NPR).

“You invite folks like us on your show because we’re the fact witnesses, not because we have opinions.” – Hayden, on ABC’s “This Week,” earlier this year

But it is a new era for former government officials, who have massive followings on social media and in some cases are earning lucrative cable television contracts. Conservatives will love this fight, even if some will question the wisdom of targeting top former intelligence and law enforcement officials at a critical juncture for special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s probe.

More from the investigations front …

> The trial for Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortMueller won't deliver report to Justice Dept. next week New York preps state charges for Manafort in case of a Trump pardon: report Defending the First Amendment, even for Roger Stone MORE, which had been scheduled to get underway Wednesday, has been delayed a week. But things are looking grim for Manafort. A judge granted a request by Mueller’s team to give immunity to five witnesses against Manafort, who denies bank and tax fraud charges that are unrelated to the 2016 campaign (Reuters).

> The FBI is in possession of 12 audio recordings it seized from Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen. At least one of these is a conversation between Trump and Cohen about potentially making a payment to bury a story about an alleged affair between the president and a former Playboy model. The other recordings are said to be between Cohen and third parties while they discuss Trump (Reuters).

LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: ***BREAKING THIS MORNING*** The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics has changed its ratings on 17 House races, moving them all in favor of Democrats. Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball writes: “Democrats are now a little better than 50-50 to win the House. This is the first time this cycle we’ve gone beyond 50-50 odds on a House turnover.”

It’s primary day in Georgia, where the main event is a runoff between two Republican candidates seeking the governor’s mansion.

GOP voters will choose tonight between Lt. Gov. Casey Cable and state Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Trump is backing Kemp, so it will be another interesting test of the president’s sway this campaign season.

Meanwhile, Trump is in Kansas City, Mo., today as the White House ramps up its political operations ahead of the midterm elections.

The president will address the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention and hold a fundraiser for Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley, who is looking to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillPoll: 33% of Kentucky voters approve of McConnell McCaskill: Lindsey Graham 'has lost his mind' Trey Gowdy joins Fox News as a contributor MORE (D-Mo.). McCaskill is one of 10 Democrats in the Senate up for reelection in states Trump carried in 2016.

The Hill’s Niall Stanage has an interesting piece noting how Trump’s approval ratings have been stable despite a month dominated by controversies. The numbers have Democrats acknowledging that a “blue wave” in November is not guaranteed.

The Memo: Trump’s stable ratings confound Democrats.

NBC-Wall Street Journal poll: Trump is strong with the base, weaker in the middle.

Vice President Pence also has a busy week of campaigning, with three stops over the next three days in Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia, all of which feature key Senate races in the fall.

The New York Times: For Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (D-N.D.), her Supreme Court confirmation vote is just one tripwire.

> What will Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFive takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump MORE (R-Wis.) do after Congress? Some conservatives are hopeful he stays in Washington to lead the American Enterprise Institute, the hub for right-leaning intellectuals shaping conservative policies (The Hill).

> On the Democratic side, House Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse to vote on background check bills next week Why Omar’s views are dangerous On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 MORE (D-Md.) unveiled his economic agenda, vowing that Democrats will be laser-focused on easing middle-class financial anxieties if voters give them control of the lower chamber (The Hill)

More on politics and campaigns … The conservative Judicial Crisis Network is putting another $1.5 million behind ads pushing red-state Democratic Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal Gabbard cites ‘concerns’ about ‘vagueness’ of Green New Deal MORE (W.Va.), Heitkamp and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (Ind.) to back Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh (The Hill) … A new study finds national support for Kavanaugh’s confirmation is narrower than for past nominees (American Enterprise Institute) … Democrats have an unexpected opportunity to win a Senate race in conservative Tennessee (The Hill) … House special election in Ohio poses latest test of Democrats’ momentum (Bloomberg) … Young voters make up a larger share of the electorate in Florida after a push by March for Our Lives organizers, but post-Parkland voter registration trends in the state match 2014, when Republicans won (Miami Herald).

INTERNATIONAL: Trump’s war-warning tweet directed at Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani late Sunday night is part of the administration’s pressure campaign on Tehran (The Associated Press). And as The Hill’s Rebecca Kheel reports, it vexed the foreign policy and defense communities and reverberated through corridors at the Pentagon.

Sanders, at the White House, said as little as possible about Iran or Trump’s intentions Monday. John Bolton, the president’s national security adviser, issued a brief statement, reinforcing his boss (The Hill).

 

 

Today, Iran threatened to respond in kind if the United States tries to block its oil exports (Reuters). “Color us unimpressed,” Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote referring to Trump’s Sunday tweet, which had been typed in all-caps (Reuters).

 

 

Observers noted that Trump’s anger at Iran follows a Helsinki summit with Russian President Putin that was not well received on Capitol Hill and among conservatives he counts on as part of his base. His detractors suggest Trump is making a determined effort to shift the focus from Russia, to flex his muscles and reprise a performance he used with North Korea to try to jump-start negotiations.

 

 

 

U.S. and Iranian officials last week argued about which country was the aggressor in cyber attacks aimed at the other. The pattern in the United States contributes to Iran’s complaints that the Trump administration is a destabilizing force in the world, and wants to train suspicion on Tehran as a pretext for U.S. cyber and other assaults (NBC News).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

ADMINISTRATION: Robert Wilkie will be sworn in this week as Veterans Affairs secretary, following Senate confirmation on Monday (The Associated Press). He succeeds former secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinIs a presidential appointment worth the risk? It’s time to end the scare tactics and get to work for our veterans House Democrats open investigation of Trump associates' influence at VA MORE.

Trump’s Russia expert at the National Security Council, Fiona Hill, will meet today at the White House with former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul (The Washington Post). McFaul is a frequent Putin critic who earned the Russian president’s ire while serving in Moscow during the Obama administration. Hill attended the Helsinki summit with Trump … (And it’s worth a reminder this week that GOP lawmakers continue to lobby for tougher sanctions on Russia.)

EPA and Transportation Department – vehicle emissions: The Trump administration is expected as early as Thursday to propose revoking California’s authority to set state vehicle emissions rules and mandate the purchase of electric vehicles, Reuters reported Monday.

Trade: Trump’s tariffs policies are increasingly unpopular among GOP lawmakers and leading representatives of the financial industry (The Hill). Trump allies worry the administration will not reach a deal on a rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by Labor Day, as the president’s advisers privately pledged to lawmakers. But Mexico, eager to achieve some momentum in the negotiations before the country’s newly elected president takes the reins, said it sees progress this week in the stalled NAFTA talks, Reuters reported.

Republican candidates seeking office this year in states Trump won in 2016 are concerned when they read reports that project significant job losses per state tied to the administration’s tariffs and all the retaliatory levies slapped on U.S. products.

The New York Times: Tariffs trim Ohio plant’s profits, while support for president is steady.

This graphic, below, created by economists at the firm Trade Partnership Worldwide in Washington, also made the rounds on social media Monday.

 

 

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

Trump’s tax cut hasn’t done anything for workers: Wages were supposed to rise. Instead, they’ve fallen, by Noah Smith, Bloomberg opinion contributor. https://trib.al/G69T9at

The Trump administration is gutting the bedrock of U.S. environmental law, by Geoffrey Haskett, opinion contributor with The Hill. http://bit.ly/2uYtxj7

The U.S. should capitalize (literally) on the #MeToo movement, by Jamille Bigio and Rachel Vogelstein, opinion contributors with The Hill. http://bit.ly/2uJgGSC

WHERE AND WHEN

The House convenes at 10 a.m. and considers legislation beginning at noon. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a timely hearing at 10 a.m. about “cyber-securing the vote” and ensuring the integrity of the U.S. election system.

The Senate meets at 10 a.m. to debate a package of four spending bills for 2019 funding for Interior and Environment; Financial Services; Transportation and Housing and Urban Development; and Agriculture departments and related agencies.

The president will travel to Kansas City, Mo., to speak for the first time as president to the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. He’ll also participate in a political roundtable event with supporters and address a donor event while in Missouri.

Melania TrumpMelania TrumpTrump, Harris, Ocasio-Cortez, Charlie Kirk among Twitter's most-engaged users The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld dies at 85 MORE will fly to Nashville, Tenn., to visit the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University as part of her Be Best campaign for children’s welfare. The first lady will participate in a roundtable discussion about neonatal abstinence syndrome and tour a neonatal intensive care unit. She’ll also meet patients before returning to Washington.

Pence participates in the swearing-in of Gordon Sondland as U.S. ambassador to the European Union and Ron Gidwitz as ambassador to Belgium. In the evening, he headlines a campaign event for GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale in Billings, Mont.

What a racquet! Today, check out the Washington Kastles Charity Tennis Classic at Kastles Stadium in Washington, D.C., pitting lawmakers and journalists across the net. The Hill is a media sponsor, and editor-in-chief Bob Cusack is competing, along with NBC’s Peter Alexander and others with wicked backhands. Lawmakers serving for charity will include House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteIt’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling House GOP probe into FBI, DOJ comes to an end MORE (R-Va.); Reps. Dave Brat (R-Va.) Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosAssault weapons ban push tests Dem support House Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 Progressives to target Dem reps in 2020 primary fights MORE (D-Ill.), Joyce BeattyJoyce Birdson BeattyDem rep says lower tax refunds are 'bad news' for the economy Dem rep says refunds are low because GOP tax policy doesn't benefit most Americans House Dems worry about lack of women of color in leadership MORE (D-Ohio), Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanOvernight Energy: Court rules for Trump in environmental case over border wall | House bill would stop Alaska refuge drilling | Ads target Dems over Green New Deal Lawmakers introduce bill to ban drilling in Alaska wildlife refuge Overnight Energy: EPA enforcement numbers at historic low | Dems push resolution to back Paris climate agreement | Top lawmaker demands Interior nominee's schedules MORE (D-Calif.), Tom RooneyThomas (Tom) Joseph RooneyEx-GOP lawmaker joins family firm  The Year Ahead: Tech braces for new scrutiny from Washington GOP struggles to win votes for Trump’s B wall demand MORE (R-Fla.) and Kevin YoderKevin Wayne YoderMike Pompeo to speak at Missouri-Kansas Forum amid Senate bid speculation Yoder, Messer land on K Street Bold, bipartisan action on child care will win plenty of friends MORE (R-Kan.); and Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants GOP senator: Border deal is 'a very good compromise' Push to include contractor back pay in funding deal hits GOP roadblock MORE (R-W.Va.). Details and ticket info HERE.

ELSEWHERE

> For the first time, a female Ebola survivor infects others (The New York Times).

> While federal employment shrinks in Washington, D.C., government contractors are on a hiring spree (The Washington Post).

> Workers are increasingly “ghosting” interviews amid strong job market (USA Today).

THE CLOSER

And finally … it’s Shark Week! When the Discovery Channel first launched its yearly wall-to-wall programming of all-things sharks, there’s no way they could have foreseen it becoming the beloved national institution that it’s become today.

Here’s the Discovery Channel’s line-up for the week, featuring athletes, celebrities, scientists, feeding frenzies and giant sharks. http://bit.ly/2LJpqi3

Speaking of giant sharks, someone found these massive fossilized shark teeth on Monday in a Maryland creek (CBS News). The Megalodon is extinct, right? Please tell us it is extinct.

Twitter is of course on the case, with Chris Gronkowski, the brother of New England Patriots tight end, Rob Gronkowski, celebrating Shark Week in a way that only the Gronkowskis do.