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The Hill’s Morning Report — Trump stirs GOP midterm angst with talk of shutdown

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report, and happy final day in July! 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!) On Twitter, find us at @joneasley and @asimendinger.

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features an interview with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); American Farm Bureau Federation spokesman Dale Moore, talking about the administration’s $12 billion emergency support for farmers; and Cook Political Report National Editor Amy Walter, dissecting the 2018 political landscape.


President Trump is threatening to shut down the government if he doesn’t get sufficient funding for a border wall, throwing Republicans off balance and injecting fresh uncertainty into Washington three months before the midterm elections.

Republicans are eager to discuss the booming economy and their tax-cuts bill as they seek to protect majorities in the House and Senate ahead of what is expected to be a tough midterm election cycle for the GOP.

But Trump is making it difficult for Republicans to stay on message.

“If we don’t get border security after many, many years of talk within the United States, I would have no problem doing a shutdown.” – Trump

A government shutdown over funding for a border wall would be a monster development in an election year and Republican lawmakers on Monday said it would be a no-win disaster if Trump balked at funding the government before voters head to the polls.

The Hill: GOP leaders hope to circumvent Trump on shutdown.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sought to tamp down speculation that the government might shutter.

“I’m optimistic we can avoid a government shutdown.” – McConnell

Lawmakers face a Sept. 30 deadline to pass a funding bill. GOP leaders would rather address money for a border wall after the funding deadline passes.

The president has threatened government shutdowns before and has not followed through.

> In August, Trump threatened to shut the government down over funding for the border wall.

> In March, Trump did it again, but ultimately signed a $1.3 trillion spending package.

> On Sunday, Trump tweeted another shutdown threat over border wall funding.

“The president is making a statement. He’s made that before and he’s very interested and committed to building that wall. Right now, I’m interested in us funding the government in its totality if there’s any way possible.” – Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)

Republicans are hopeful that Trump’s latest threat is merely a negotiating tactic.

“I’ll always leave room for negotiation.” – Trump

It still seems that the likeliest scenario is that Congress passes a short-term spending bill and pushes the fight into December.

But some in the GOP continue to be infuriated that Trump insists on doubling down on the hot-button and inevitably distracting issues that rile up his base, rather than seeking to broaden his appeal as a way to help Republicans campaigning in swing districts and states this summer.

The Hill: Trump sides with House conservatives in favoring shutdown message.

The Memo: Trump is a risk to GOP in the midterms.


INTERNATIONAL: The president says he’s open to meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani “any time” and without preconditions (The Hill). During a joint news conference on Monday with visiting Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy, Trump extended a sweeping invitation to meet with Iran’s leader, with whom he exchanged nuclear-infused tweets last week (The Hill).

“I ended the [U.S. participation in the] Iran [nuclear] deal; it was a ridiculous deal. I do believe that they will probably end up wanting to meet, and I’m ready to meet any time they want to.”  – Trump

The Business Insider: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday restated conditions for any Trump meeting with Iran.

The Washington Post: Trump has become “more emboldened to continue his personal approach to diplomacy” following his meetings with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in Singapore and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

> About Russia, Trump hailed his recent sit-down with Putin, but assured reporters, “The sanctions on Russia will remain as is.”

Other international news… U.S. spy agencies see signs that North Korea is constructing new missiles (The Washington Post) … Britons believe Brexit is turning sour, according to a new poll, and half say they’d like to vote again (Reuters) … More than 70 House Democrats wrote to the administration on Monday seeking the reinstatement of U.S. funding to alleviate “the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza” … Trump’s press secretary issued a stern international statement on Monday: The United States stands with the people of Nicaragua, including members of the Sandinista party, who are calling for democratic reforms and an end to the violence. Free, fair, and transparent elections are the only avenue toward restoring democracy in Nicaragua. We support the Catholic Church-led National Dialogue process for good faith negotiations.”


CONGRESS: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) ended the suspense early, announcing Monday that he’ll back Trump and his party and vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court this fall. Paul met with the judge last week and had previously presented himself as a potential swing vote because of his concerns about privacy rights tied to digital records and property (The Hill).

“No one will ever completely agree with a nominee (unless, of course, you are the nominee).” – Paul

> Also Monday, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin sat down with Kavanaugh for the judge’s first courtesy interview conducted by a Democrat (The Hill). Manchin is among the minority-party senators seeking reelection in states Trump captured in 2016. Manchin voted to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court last year.

> A battle continues among senators about the expanse of Kavanaugh’s substantial career paper trail that they’ll be able to examine as part of his confirmation process. But in the meantime, the National Archives and Records Administration publicly posted on Monday 19 files totaling 1,025 pages related to Kavanaugh’s work on the investigative legal team put together by former independent counsel Kenneth Starr when Bill Clinton was president.

Other news under the domeMichigan Rep. Dan Kildee eyes leadership race as a route to bring Midwest representation to House Democratic Caucus (The Detroit News).


POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: *** EXCLUSIVE *** The Hill’s Reid Wilson, reporting from Los Angeles, explains HERE how Democrats are intent on flipping House GOP seats in California.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) will spend millions of dollars on television advertisements aimed at winning Republican-held seats in historically red Orange County this November, signaling a major play for seats the party must recapture in order to reclaim the House.

The DCCC will announce Tuesday it will spend $3.1 million on television spots in the Los Angeles media market, the most significant part of the committee’s third wave of advertising buys this year.

California has been a major priority for Democrats plotting to recapture the House. Seven of the state’s 14 Republican-held districts voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and the party is hoping that President Trump’s dismal approval ratings in the Golden State translate to pickups.”

> The Morning Report’s Jonathan Easley is also out west, reporting from the Koch network gathering in Colorado.

We told you yesterday about the deep frustration within the network at Trump and the GOP-held Congress over spending and trade.

On Monday, the network made an example out of Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), saying it would not support his bid against Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) because of his federal vote record on spending.

Other Republicans are on notice, too. The deep-pocketed and enormously influential groups within the network are freezing out Republicans they believe have violated the group’s fiscally conservative principles.

The Hill: Koch network freezing out Republicans who have crossed them.

At least for now, the network supports just four Senate GOP candidates – a signal it will be selective as Republicans seek to retain or grow their narrow 51-49 majority.

“We’re raising the bar and raising expectations.” – Americans for Prosperity CEO Emily Seidel

The Hill interviewed more than a half-dozen of the network’s largest donors and found broad support for targeting or freezing out Republicans they view as fiscally irresponsible — even if it costs the party the House and Senate in the fall.

“The Koch network is not an auxiliary for the Republican Party. It’s not a booster club for Republicans. We’re based on principles … if there is short-term pain for long-term gain, it might be unfortunate but it’s necessary.”Art Pope, North Carolina businessman and Koch network donor

> Trump holds a rally tonight in Florida, the battleground state he won by only 112,911 votes in 2016. It’s Trump’s 36th rally in the Sunshine State since launching his bid for the presidency and his eighth rally in the Tampa area.

The president will look to boost some of his closest allies in the state, including Gov. Rick Scott (R), who is challenging Sen. Bill Nelson (D), and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R), who is running for governor. Trump, in Florida races, is the issue that counts, The New York Times reports.

More analysis from The New York Times: In the final 98 days, the midterm battlefields are not what political analysts expected.

Elsewhere along the campaign trail … Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) trails in his bid for a third term (Washington Examiner) … Young Americans are eager to elect new leaders to Congress (The Associated Press) … Democratic candidates are embracing new gun measures, despite the political risks (Reuters) … House Democrats are starting to plan for a push for “Medicare for all” legislation if they win back the House in November (The Hill).

INVESTIGATIONS: Special counsel Robert Mueller’s first jury trial gets underway today, as jury selection begins in the case against Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman.

NBC News: Manafort is first to face trial in Russia probe.

The Washington Post: Manafort will seek to limit evidence of his extensive dealings with Russian-linked Ukrainian oligarchs, including with some who remained in contact with him through 2016.

Yet, the charges against Manafort are about work he did years before the Trump campaign and separate from the investigation into Russia’s interference with the election. He faces a litany of corruption, fraud and tax evasion charges pertaining to political and lobbying work he performed for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Bloomberg: Manafort earned more than $60 million as a political consultant in Ukraine, Mueller says.

The Washington Post on Monday released an 18-minute documentary called “The Foreign Consultant: The spectacular rise and fall of Paul Manafort.” You can watch the video HERE.

Meanwhile, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani told USA Today that the president’s legal team is preparing its own report to counter any report that Mueller’s office might release about the Russia investigation.

Giuliani has been all over the media this week, simultaneously pushing back against Mueller and fighting Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, who is feuding with Trump even as his business practices are being investigated by the FBI.

“I have been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime. Collusion is not a crime.” – Giuliani on “Fox & Friends”

ADMINISTRATION: FEMA: The personnel chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency — who resigned just weeks ago — is under investigation after being accused of creating an atmosphere of widespread sexual harassment over years in which women were hired as possible sexual partners for male employees (The Washington Post).

Justice Department: Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of a federal religious liberty task force (The Hill). Sessions said the task force will ensure that Trump guidance issued last year will be carried out by department personnel “in the cases they bring and defend, the arguments they make in court, the policies and regulations they adopt, and how we conduct our operations.”

Treasury Department: Secretary Steven Mnuchin is preparing plans on Wednesday to finance the surging U.S. budget deficit. His choices are seen as key to the fate of the yield curve, which is drawing scrutiny because of its march toward inversion (Bloomberg) … The flattening Treasury yield curve indicates economic trouble ahead (Forbes) … Treasury eyes $100 billion capital gains tax cut for the wealthy with or without new law (The New York Times and The Washington Post).

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Trump’s fake war on true news, by Jules Witcover, The Baltimore Sun.

Twitter’s censorship sparks a backlash, by Peter Hasson, The Daily Caller.


The House is out until after Labor Day.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. to complete action on the nomination of Britt Grant to be a United States Circuit judge for the 11th Circuit. The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing at 10 a.m. to examine the administration’s controversial immigration enforcement and family reunification efforts.

The president today signs into law the “Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act.” He has lunch with Secretary Pompeo. After flying to Tampa, Fla., Trump headlines a roundtable discussion about workforce development at Tampa Bay Technical High School, and speaks at a rally for his reelection at 7 p.m. at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall. He returns to Washington tonight.

Vice President Pence travels to New York to speak at a National Cybersecurity Summit, where he’ll be joined by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and FBI Director Christopher Wray. Pence then flies to Hawaii, where he’ll remain through the weekend.


> Pope accepts resignation of Australian bishop found guilty of concealing child sex abuse (The Guardian).

> Major medical errors associated with high levels of physician burnout. Mayo Clinic reports findings from recent study using 2014 data (Sacramento Bee)

> At least eight dead as wildfires continue to rage across California (The Los Angeles Times).




And finally … Ex-presidents, former vice presidents and no-longer-first ladies are turning up everywhere … in pairs, enjoying life, and doing good works. Some are still thinking about politics…

> Crowds swooned at the sight of former President Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden reuniting for lunch on Monday at Dog Tag Bakery, a Georgetown establishment run by military veterans (The Washington Post).

> This came days after Obama and his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama were spotted in the VIP seats at the Beyoncé and Jay-Z concert just outside of Washington (TMZ). Retirement sounds nice and looked oh-so relaxed (check out the smartphone videos).

> And former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who liken themselves to brothers-in-arms from across the aisle, reunited for the Presidential Leadership Scholars in Little Rock, Ark. The event was recorded on July 12 but aired last night on C-SPAN. See the pair wonking and riffing again HERE.



Tags Bill Clinton Bill Nelson Dan Kildee Donald Trump Heidi Heitkamp Hillary Clinton Jeff Sessions Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kevin Cramer Kirstjen Nielsen Michelle Obama Mike Pompeo Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Paul Manafort Rand Paul Richard Shelby Rick Perry Robert Mueller Ron DeSantis Steven Mnuchin
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