The Hill's Morning Report — Dems split on key issues but united against Trump




Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and happy Thursday! 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 Jamal Watkins, NAACP’s vice president of civic engagement.


Democrats are betting that liberal anger at President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery MORE will be enough to carry them to victory in the 2018 midterm elections after a prolonged debate about whether the party needs to instead run on a unified set of principles and proposed policy solutions.

The primary elections have revealed that Democrats disagree on “Medicare for all.” They can’t decide whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement should be abolished, reformed or left alone. There is debate over whether embracing the democratic socialism of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is tacking too hard to the left or the key to unlocking grass-roots energy. Democrats are split on whether Trump should be impeached, and divided over whether House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiConstitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration Why don't we build a wall with Canada? MORE (D-Calif.) should lead the party going forward.

The Hill: Pelosi sees defections from an unusual quarter - the left.

ABC News: Progressives bounce back in primaries.

The disagreements are in part driven by the party’s commitment to racial and gender diversity, as well as a glaring generational divide. In addition, many Democrats are running for seats in states or districts that Trump won in 2016, which will require some compromise and tradeoffs from candidates. And anticipating a large field of potential aspirants in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, the most electrifying platform at the moment for the party remains antipathy for the 45th president.

As such, Democrats are adopting a “do no harm” strategy that banks on the midterm elections being a referendum on Trump, The New York Times reports.

The New York Times: Democrats discard Washington platform in bid for control of the House.

From the Times story:

“None of the individual candidates is being burdened with carrying the national mantle.” – Rep. Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceMcCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader How Pelosi is punishing some critics while rewarding others The 15 Democrats who voted against Pelosi MORE (D-N.Y.)

“We trust our candidates to know their districts and the challenges facing their communities better than anyone.” – Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.)

That strategy ensures the midterms will be all about Trump, who is such a flashpoint of anger on the left that Democrats with ambitions for higher office are refusing to work with the administration on issues even where their interests overlap, such as criminal justice reform.

On Wednesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, another potential 2020 Democratic presidential contender, uncorked this rebuke of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” message.

“We’re not going to make America great again. It was never that great. We have not reached greatness.” – Cuomo

A spokesperson for Cuomo later walked the remark back, saying the governor believes that “America is great” but that the country “has not reached its maximum potential” yet.

It’s the kind of slip that happens when there’s an eagerness to find as much separation from Trump as possible.

Republicans, meanwhile, are running in the opposite direction, electing top-of-the-ticket candidates in the mold of the president. The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports that some GOP strategists are worried that these candidates are unelectable and pose a threat to those running down-ballot.

The Hill: GOP worries House majority endangered by top of the ticket.

Dick Polman: Republican candidates can’t keep Trump out of their districts.

The president is not worried.



More from the campaign trail:

> Gallup: U.S. satisfaction still running at improved level amid economic optimism.

> Cook Political Report: Three more GOP House seats moved to “toss up.”

> CNN Poll: Democrats lead the generic congressional ballot by 11 points.

> The New York Times: What’s behind the impeachment of West Virginia’s Supreme Court?

> Paul Mulshine: Are we headed for a blue wave or a red ripple?

> Steve Israel: Democrats partying like it’s 2006 as Republicans are beset by scandals.


*** Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tells The Hill why right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was suspended by his company. Check out the interview HERE. ***

Rich Lowry: Don’t ban Alex Jones.

Steve Coll: Alex Jones, the First Amendment and the digital public square.


INVESTIGATIONS: Trump on Wednesday revoked the security clearance for 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, a largely symbolic move that underscores the president’s frustration with what he views as political bias against him among top current and former national security officials.

The Wall Street Journal: Trump, during interview, says he yanked Brennan’s clearance because of Russia probe.

Former administration officials can maintain security clearances in part to offer counsel to their successors, but Brennan has not been advising the current administration. Instead, he’s been among Trump’s most vocal critics on Twitter and cable news.

Brennan and other Democrats cast the decision as an effort to silence a political enemy.



The president defended the decision, arguing that Brennan was abusing his position as the nation’s top former intelligence officer for political and personal gain.

“Access is particularly inappropriate when former officials have transitioned into highly partisan positions and seek to use real or perceived access to sensitive information to validate their political attacks.” – Trump

Other actions could be in the works against other top former and current law enforcement or intelligence officials who are routinely in the news for attacking Trump or for being attacked by him.

The president has threatened to claw back security clearances for former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperIntelligence chiefs should be commended, despite Trump's attacks on them Hillicon Valley: House Intel panel will release Russia interviews | T-Mobile, Sprint step up merger push | DHS cyber office hosting webinars on China | Nest warns customers to shore up password security House Intel panel votes to release Russia interview transcripts to Mueller MORE, former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyMcCabe's 25th Amendment comments 'taken out of context,' spokeswoman says Ex-federal prosecutor: I would have 'owned' wearing a wire to record Trump Ex-federal prosecutor: 'Thank God' Whitaker is gone, Barr will bring 'integrity' back to DOJ MORE, former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, former Deputy Attorney General Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesHillicon Valley: House Intel panel will release Russia interviews | T-Mobile, Sprint step up merger push | DHS cyber office hosting webinars on China | Nest warns customers to shore up password security House Intel panel votes to release Russia interview transcripts to Mueller How the Clinton machine flooded the FBI with Trump-Russia dirt … until agents bit MORE, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeMcCabe's 25th Amendment comments 'taken out of context,' spokeswoman says The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration Ex-federal prosecutor: I would have 'owned' wearing a wire to record Trump MORE, former FBI special agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, as well as Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr.

The New York Times: Little-known DOJ official makes Trump’s enemies list.

Meanwhile, Trump’s legal team is talking like it is eager to force a September showdown with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE.

"If [Mueller] doesn’t get it done in the next two or three weeks we will just unload on him like a ton of bricks.” – Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to Bloomberg

It is extremely unlikely that Mueller will complete his work in the next two weeks.

Bloomberg: Mueller probe doesn’t need to shut down before midterms, officials say.

Trump’s team and the special counsel are at an impasse in negotiations over whether the president will sit for an interview with Mueller – even as Trump says he’s eager to talk.

The White House doesn’t want a fall surprise that could negatively impact the midterm elections for Republicans, but the investigations are also a useful political tool for the president and his allies.

Finally, it’s up to the jury now in the trial of Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortMueller recommends Manafort serve at least 19 years in prison The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears CNN's Toobin: 'Almost unrecognizable' Manafort 'in danger of losing his life' in prison MORE, who faces a maximum sentence of 305 years behind bars on the 18 counts of tax and bank fraud.

The prosecution and defense made their closing arguments on Wednesday after Manafort’s attorneys rested their case without calling any witnesses.

The Hill: Jury to begin deliberations Thursday.

The Hill’s Lydia Wheeler has been a regular at the Virginia courthouse and filed this colorful piece about the circus atmosphere at the trial.


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Everyone, it seems, has something to say in August …

Speaking up: Today, more than 300 U.S. newspapers will publish editorials critical of Trump and his administration for repeated assaults on a free press (The Boston Globe). The president has called the news media “the enemy of the people,” and shared his displeasure about being on the receiving end of independent press scrutiny during events at the White House and around the world.

Participating dailies include The New York Times, Miami Herald, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, The Denver Post, Houston Chronicle, The Dallas Morning News, Chicago Sun-Times, as well as smaller papers and weeklies.

The Boston Globe: Journalists are not the enemy.

Some journalists argue that while they share the collective alarm, they object to the method of response, believing the news media are handing Trump “another oratorical cudgel to beat them over the head” (Wichita Eagle). On Saturday, Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt said the newspaper’s editorial board did not plan to participate (The Washington Post).

The coordinated effort to amplify objections across the country is the brainchild of The Boston Globe’s editorial page deputy managing editor, Marjorie Pritchard, who told CNN, “Our words will differ. But at least we can agree that such attacks are alarming.”

Speaking out, Part I: Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiOvernight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House Zinke, Lewandowski join Trump veterans’ lobbying firm Trump campaign spent nearly 0K of donor money on law firm representing Kushner MORE, a former Trump campaign manager and continued Trump loyalist, says nondisclosure agreements used to try to silence government employees likely violate the First Amendment and are probably unenforceable (The Hill). "I don’t know who did sign, I don’t know who didn’t sign them," he told reporters on Wednesday. "I’ve never seen one because I didn’t work for the government in any capacity. But I don’t know if they’re enforceable." Lewandowski said he signed a nondisclosure agreement in 2015 when he agreed to join the campaign.

Speaking out, Part II: George Conway, Republican attorney and husband of Trump White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayWhite House seeks to clarify Trump remarks on emergency Trump says he 'didn't need to' declare emergency but wanted 'faster' action Trump dismisses Ann Coulter after criticism: 'I hardly know her' MORE, can’t stand her boss and makes no bones about it, The Washington Post reports from its dishy at-home interviews with the couple. “They share a roof and live in different bunkers,” Ben Terris writes. It’s a must-read from start to finish.



National Archives: Vetting and then sharing with Republican senators the paper trail created by Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh has effectively been wrested from the National Archives by an attorney representing former President George W. Bush in a move the independent agency describes as unprecedented in its history of document requests tied to Supreme Court nominees (The Washington Post). 

Homeland Security Department: (The Hill): Some officials inside the Trump administration complain that the Senate is apparently slow-walking legislation that would change the department’s organizational structure aimed at protecting U.S. elections from Russian cyber interference. The House passed such a measure in December.   

INTERNATIONAL: The Trump administration on Wednesday ruled out lifting steel tariffs on Turkey that have contributed to a currency crisis – even if Ankara frees a U.S. pastor, as the White House has demanded. Qatar pledged $15 billion in investment to Turkey, which helped lift the plummeting Turkish lira (Reuters).

> Trump is turning a trade war into a financial war (The Wall Street Journal). U.S. tariffs intensify pressure on the lira, raising the prospect of an open-ended cycle of protectionism and devaluation.

> The Hill’s Sylvan Lane reports on five ways Turkey’s financial crisis could roil the United States.

> Turkey doubles tariffs on some U.S. imports as its currency begins to rally (Reuters).

> Strongmen: Turkey’s president is being cast aside by the White House as Trump favors others allies (Bloomberg) … Hungary’s leader has a friend in Trump after previously being shunned by the United States for “creeping authoritarian tendencies” (The New York Times).

China: U.S. and Chinese officials will meet in Washington later this month to resume discussions about trade differences, Beijing said on Thursday (Reuters).

North Korea: The Treasury Department sanctions Russian and Chinese shipping firms for violations of sanctions on North Korea (The Hill).

Russia: Moscow describes a Pentagon plan to more than double the number of U.S. marines stationed in Norway as “clearly unfriendly.” U.S. forces will be stationed close to the border with Russia (Reuters).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley & Alexis Simendinger Suggestions? Tips? We want to hear from you! Share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


Censorship does not end well: How America learned to stop worrying and put Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: New York says goodbye to Amazon's HQ2 | AOC reacts: 'Anything is possible' | FTC pushes for record Facebook fine | Cyber threats to utilities on the rise Schiff calls out Facebook, Google over anti-vaccination information Senators demand answers from Facebook on paying teens for data MORE in charge of everything, by Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone.

Trump’s arbitration case against Omarosa Manigault NewmanOmarosa Onee Manigault NewmanEx-White House aide Cliff Sims sues Trump NYT: White House says Trump's tan is the result of ‘good genes’ Former White House aide says he's not worried about lawsuit over tell-all book MORE is risky, by Gregory Wallance, opinion contributor to The Hill.

Will White House press briefings return to what they used to be? by Mike McCurry, White House press secretary to former President Clinton and opinion contributor to The Hill.


The House is out until after Labor Day.

The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of A. Marvin Quattlebaum Jr. to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

The president sits down with his Cabinet, and later has lunch with Vice President Pence. In the afternoon, he meets with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump taps FEMA official to lead agency Unscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? MORE.

The Federal Commission on School Safety holds another in a series of meetings examining best practices for school building security. Speakers beginning at 2 p.m. are to include Secretary of Education Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosStudents call on DeVos to offer free tampons, pads in schools to address 'period poverty' DeVos recovering from broken pelvis, hip socket after bicycle accident Student veterans deserve better than the DeVos agenda MORE, Secretary Nielsen, Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight The Memo: Trump and McCabe go to war McCabe book: Sessions once said FBI was better off when it 'only hired Irishmen' MORE and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Location: Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House.


> Back to school: Florida students attending Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, site of a school shooting that killed 17 people in February, started the new school year with heightened security on Wednesday (The Associated Press). Florida became the first state to require police or armed guards at all public schools after the shooting, a mandate many districts are struggling to meet.

> Late penalty: Nearly a decade after the financial meltdown and Great Recession gripped the United States, the Royal Bank of Scotland this week agreed to pay $4.9 billion as a penalty for misleading investors who bought securities backed by risky mortgages between 2005-2008 (CNN Money). It’s the largest such punishment imposed by the Justice Department on a bank for actions that contributed to events that erased 2.6 million U.S. jobs by 2009. (In February, MarketWatch published a list of $243 billion in similar fines paid by financial institutions).

> Abortion: Abortion rights supporters are encouraging state lawmakers to scrub unenforced laws banning or restricting abortions from their books, should the Supreme Court throw decisions back to the states (The Hill). At the same time, a handful of states this year approved among the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, including Mississippi, Iowa, Kentucky, Indiana and Louisiana (Elle).

> Presidential records: U.S. Archivist David Ferriero says managing the enormous volume of electronic and other records created by Trump and all contemporary presidents “keeps me up at night.” Ferriero, interviewed for the White House Historical Association’s podcast “The 1600 Sessions,” explains the challenge faced at the National Archives: “We started collecting email during the Reagan administration, so between Reagan and Bush 41, about 2.5 million email messages; 20 million from the Clinton White House; 210 million from Bush 43; and 300 million from the Obama administration. So that tells you the direction that we are headed.” The interview can be heard at and wherever you listen to podcasts.


And finally … It’s Thursday, so we have another Morning Report QUIZ CONTEST! Win some newsletter fame on Friday by answering five questions correctly. Just send your best guesses to or (and please put “Quiz” in your subject line.)

On this day in 1977, Elvis Presley died at age 42 after a heart attack. Some music scholars hailed him as a civil rights figure because of his early embrace of music that crossed racial, regional and socioeconomic barriers. Elvis’s first single with Sun Records included the bluegrass standard “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” and on that 1954 recording he added his own version of a black blues song. What song was it?

  1. A) “Return to Sender”; B) “That’s All Right (Mama)”; C) “The Wonder of You”; D) “Love Me Tender”

Elvis was drafted into the U.S. Army and spent two years in uniform at a time when he was a world-famous entertainer. When he was discharged from active duty in 1960, he was …

  1. A) Sgt. Presley; B) abusing amphetamines; C) mourning his deceased mother Gladys; D) dating teenager Priscilla Beaulieu, the daughter of an Army officer; E) all of the above.

Elvis had one daughter, Lisa Marie, now a singer/songwriter who has married four times. Her most famous spouse?

  1. A) Billy Joel; B) Keith Cobain; C) Michael Jackson; D) Johnny Ramone.

Elvis met former President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office a few days before Christmas in 1970, when he was 35. He wore a purple velvet suit and a large gold belt, and brought a letter of introduction for the president. He also brought another notable accessory. What was it?

  1. A) Colt .45 pistol; B) scarf he wore during a concert and gave to the president; C) signed glossy photo of himself; D) pair of blue suede shoes.

Soon after Presley’s death, a famous American showed up at Graceland unannounced and was invited inside to file past Elvis’s casket and meet his relatives. An article about that experience appeared in the Sept. 22, 1977, issue of Rolling Stone. The writer was:

  1. A) John Grisham; B) Caroline Kennedy; C) Hunter S. Thompson; D) Jane Fonda.