The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week)

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*** The Queen of Soul died Thursday at age 76 at her home in Detroit. *** The tributes poured forth honoring Aretha Franklin, a preacher’s daughter who began touring in her early teens and became an icon around the world.  

Warm remembrances of her music and her life filled the news. Among them: The Associated Press; The New York Times; Detroit Free Press; NPR; Variety; NBC News and The Hill.

 

 

Are Republicans running out the clock until the midterm elections?

The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP, Kavanaugh accuser struggle to reach deal GOP making counteroffer to Kavanaugh accuser The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins MORE (R-Ky.) scolded his Republican colleagues in a closed-door meeting on Thursday for skipping votes this week.

The Hill: Senate gets to work in August – but many don’t show up.

Ten senators missed a Thursday vote and 11 missed a Wednesday vote, most of them Republicans, effectively giving Democrats a weeklong majority in the upper chamber.

McConnell warned his caucus that attendance must be better going forward if the Senate is going to get anything done in August. The House is out until after Labor Day.

The most newsworthy action out of the Senate on Thursday was the passage of a resolution affirming that the press is “not the enemy of the people,” which was meant as a rebuke of President TrumpDonald John TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate MORE.

Meanwhile, in the House, some new data from Thursday:

> The election handicappers at FiveThirtyEight give Democrats about a 75 percent chance of winning the House, with models showing Democrats picking up an average of 35 seats. Democrats need to flip 23 seats for a majority. The FiveThirtyEight model shows Democrats picking up anywhere from 14 to 58 seats.

The caveat:

 

> A Pew Research Survey found that Democrats are more active than Republicans when it comes to key indicators, such as attending rallies and donating to candidates. We’ve seen this play out in the protests and street marches organized by liberals since Trump was inaugurated.

It is rare for a party to be in complete control of the government and some Republicans have expressed frustration that GOP lawmakers are not keeping their foot on the gas for what could be the majority’s final stretch.

If things continue along the expected path, Republicans will have three primary achievements from their time in power: Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, a tax reform overhaul, and potentially Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

If Democrats take over the House, they’ll almost certainly swamp the administration with investigations.

Trump is publicly showing confidence, believing that the experts who failed to foresee his victory in 2016 will be wrong again in their forecast of a Democratic takeover in 2018.

Trump, who has been predicting a “red wave” in 2018, gave an impromptu interview to The Wall Street Journal’s Peter Nicholas in which he boasted about his near-perfect primary endorsements record, the attendance at his rallies and his social media reach – all of which he argued portend well for Republicans in the fall.

The president also handed Nicholas polling data and graphs that he said indicated the GOP would beat expectations on Nov. 6.

On Friday, Trump will speak at a fundraising luncheon in Southampton, N.Y., for the Republican National Committee and his own reelection campaign. That puts the president in Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinTrump allies want Congress to find anonymous op-ed author House Republicans ask Trump to declassify Carter Page surveillance docs Biographer criticizes Republicans for using Pat Tillman's memory to attack Kaepernick MORE’s (R) district. Zeldin is a top Trump ally but is running for reelection in a swing district. The Cook Political Report has it rated as “Likely Republican.” The president carried it in 2016 by 12 points.

 

 

More from the campaign trail…

> Reuters: Pressure mounts on Trump to deliver for Iowa ahead of elections.

> The Hill: Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate Ben & Jerry’s co-founders announce effort to help 7 Dem House challengers Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states MORE (I-Vt.) socialism moves into Democratic mainstream.

> The Washington Post: No evidence to support Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonPolitical shenanigans mask true problems in Puerto Rico The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report — Kavanaugh controversy consumes Washington | Kavanaugh slated to testify Monday | Allegations shake up midterms MORE’s claims that Russians hacked into the Florida election system.

> Politico: Super PACs take new steps to hide their donors from the public.

 

LEADING THE DAY

INVESTIGATIONS: What constitutes “reasonable doubt”? That’s the question the jury asked the judge on Thursday in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortFormer White House lawyer sought to pay Manafort, Gates legal fees: report Mueller investigating Russian payments made by Trump Tower meeting organizers: report Cohen questioned for hours in Mueller probe about Trump's dealings with Russia: report MORE, who faces up to 305 years in prison on 18 charges of tax and bank fraud.

The Hill: Manafort jury ends first day of deliberations with questions for the judge.

The case is the first to go to trial under Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s special counsel.

One of Manafort’s attorney’s said the jury’s question is the best a defense team can hope for.

“It indicates someone has doubts.” – An attorney for Manafort

The jury resumes deliberations on Friday morning. The Washington Post details the rest of the questions the jury asked the judge in the complicated financial fraud case against Manafort.

The New York Times: The special counsel’s team is so cautious they won’t even disclose their Shake Shack orders.

> Trump’s decision to strip former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanNew book: Putin tried to reinforce Trump’s belief in a ‘deep state’ undermining him Retired admiral resigned from Pentagon advisory committee after writing open letter to Trump Rand Paul ramps up his alliance with Trump MORE of his security clearance has reignited the president’s past feuds with current and former members of the intelligence community, who are furious at the move.

The Hill: Trump escalates feud with intelligence officials.

In a retaliatory op-ed, Brennan accused the president of having colluded with the Russians to steal the 2016 election (The New York Times).

Brennan and others have also accused Trump of trying to silence a prominent critic. The former CIA chief has opposed the president in blistering spots on cable news and Twitter.

Conservatives, of course, point out that Brennan continues to speak out and that the fight with Trump has actually amplified his criticisms of the president.

Most of the reaction to this dust-up has been predictably partisan, but we’ll draw your attention to views from prominent intelligence insiders on both sides of the matter.

Retired Navy Adm. William McRaven, who oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, called Brennan “a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him” (The Washington Post).

“Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.” – McRaven

Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrTrump assures storm victims in Carolinas: 'We will be there 100 percent' Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas Graham: Mueller is going to be allowed to finish investigation MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, backed Trump and called Brennan’s accusations in The New York Times op-ed reckless.

“Director Brennan’s recent statements purport to know as fact that the Trump campaign colluded with a foreign power. If Director Brennan’s statement is based on intelligence he received while still leading the CIA, why didn’t he include it in the Intelligence Community Assessment released in 2017? If his statement is based on intelligence he has seen since leaving office, it constitutes an intelligence breach. If he has some other personal knowledge of or evidence of collusion, it should be disclosed to the Special Counsel, not The New York Times. If, however, Director Brennan’s statement is purely political and based on conjecture, the president has full authority to revoke his security clearance as head of the executive branch.” – Burr

****  

CONGRESS: Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) will meet with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh next week.

The Hill: Schumer sits down with nominee on Tuesday.

Only three Democrats have met with Kavanaugh so far: Sens. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyThe Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh McCaskill to oppose Kavanaugh nomination The Memo: Kavanaugh firestorm consumes political world MORE (Ind.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinCook Political Report moves Texas Senate race to ‘toss-up’ The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh McCaskill to oppose Kavanaugh nomination MORE (W.Va.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampGOP Senate candidate: Allegations against Kavanaugh 'absurd' The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh McCaskill to oppose Kavanaugh nomination MORE (N.D.). Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskill'Kavanaugh' chants erupt at Trump rally in Missouri The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify Drug companies will love Trump's plan to get rid of drug rebates — the consumers will hate it MORE (D-Mo.) is scheduled to meet with him next week. Those four senators are up for reelection this year in states Trump won in 2016.

Democrats had been holding off on meeting with Kavanaugh, demanding Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley extends deadline for Kavanaugh accuser to decide on testifying Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Kavanaugh accuser seeks additional day to decide on testimony MORE (R-Iowa) request documents from Kavanaugh’s time as staff secretary in former President George W. Bush’s White House.

Grassley has limited his request to Kavanaugh’s time as a White House lawyer. Democrats are threatening to sue for the documents.

Meanwhile, the conservative group Americans for Prosperity is sending a letter to Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMurkowski says she’ll wait until Ford testifies before making decision on Kavanaugh Alaska gov, lieutenant gov come out against Kavanaugh The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh MORE (R-Alaska) on Friday urging her to back Kavanaugh’s nomination. You can read the letter HERE.

AFP’s Alaska chapter says it has made 7,000 phone calls on Kavanaugh’s behalf and will be holding town hall meetings to promote his candidacy in the weeks ahead.

Liberals have warned that Kavanaugh could be the deciding vote in overturning Roe v. Wade. Murkowski and Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGrassley panel scraps Kavanaugh hearing, warns committee will vote without deal Collins 'appalled' by Trump tweet about Kavanaugh accuser Poll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it MORE (R-Maine) both support abortion rights. Neither has said how she will vote, but both are widely expected to support the president’s nominee.

> White House negotiations on a criminal justice reform bill are pitting the president against some of his closest allies. In a Thursday op-ed, Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonSprint/T-Mobile deal must not allow China to threaten US security GOP senators condemn 'vulgar' messages directed at Collins over Kavanaugh GOP turns its fire on Google MORE (R-Ark.) warned that sentencing reform being considered is akin to a “jailbreak” (The Hill).

> Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) says he’ll run for Speaker if Democrats take the House and Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiSinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act Internal RNC poll shows Pelosi is more popular than Trump: report Indicted lawmaker angers GOP with decision to run for reelection MORE (D-Calif.) lacks the votes (The New York Times).

At 78 years old, Clyburn would do little to quiet the unrest from the younger generation of Democrats eager to take over leadership positions within the party.

Pelosi, meanwhile, says she’s “perplexed” by the media focus on the leadership race, which has become a major storyline as dozens of Democratic candidates and lawmakers decline to say whether they’d support her bid for Speaker if the party wins a majority in the House in November.

 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

IMMIGRATION: Unaccompanied minors: The Hill: Senators and administration officials clashed Thursday over who has responsibility for unaccompanied migrant children detained under the custody of the government after minors enter the country. During a Homeland Security subcommittee hearing, officials said the government lacks authority and resources to track such children, while senators said the Health and Human Services Department bears that responsibility, even after turning minor children over to private sponsors.

> According to a new report released by the Senate Homeland Security Committee’s investigations subcommittee, no agency claims legal responsibility for unaccompanied minors after they’re placed with sponsors in the United States, and no agency ensures that such children attend their immigration court proceedings (PBS’s Frontline).

> The administration does not want migrant parents, once deported, returning from other countries to retrieve their children separated from them at the border. The government prefers to send dislocated children, of which there are hundreds in limbo in the United States, out of the country to reunite with parents or relatives (Bloomberg).

> Justice Department (DOJ) - deportations: The administration requested the restarting of thousands of deportation cases that immigration judges previously suspended, according to statistics provided Wednesday by the Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which oversees the immigration courts. So far this fiscal year, attorneys for Immigration and Customs Enforcement have sought the reactivation of nearly 8,000 deportation cases that had been pushed off the court’s docket as administratively closed (BuzzFeed News).

> Reuters: Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump vows to get rid of 'stench' at DOJ, FBI NY Times, McCabe give Trump perfect cover to fire Rosenstein, Sessions House Judiciary on NY Times article: I intend to subpoena 'McCabe Memos' MORE issued an order to immigration judges on Thursday to speed up deportations, or show “good cause” for any delays. Critical in showing “good cause” is whether a judge can show that a migrant is likely to succeed in efforts to remain in the United States, either by appealing for asylum or receiving some form of visa or work permit.

> DOJ – immigration judges: EOIR announced the addition of 23 new immigration judges, bringing the total to 351. The administration has sworn in 82 new immigration judges since the end of 2017, and it anticipates hiring at least 75 more judges. The department is expanding the number of judges and working to reduce the average time it takes to add them as a way to speed up the legal processing of asylum seekers and illegal border-crossers.

> DACA – renewal fees: GoFundMe and the pro-immigration group FWD.us say they are working together to help beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program raise the $495 per-application fee to seek to remain in the United States. A GoFundMe hub, gofundme.com/DACA, has attracted an initial $200,000 in donations to help “Dreamers” afford DACA renewal applications. The administration terminated DACA last year, but the program continues to operate under temporary orders by various courts.

***

ADMINISTRATION: White House pomp: The president’s much talked-about military parade in Washington will be postponed until 2019, the Pentagon announced on Thursday (The Hill). The revised plans became known hours after reports that the pomp would cost $92 million, or $80 million more than an initial estimate (CNBC). The event had been planned for Nov. 10 (days after the midterm elections). The public show of military might, if it takes place, is to feature armored vehicles, aircraft flyovers and period uniforms. 

Trump confided last summer that he’s long envisioned a spectacular parade in the United States, something like the Bastille Day parade he witnessed in France at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron. “It was one of the most beautiful parades I have ever seen. And in fact, we should do one one day down Pennsylvania Avenue,” he told The New York Times. 

White House circumstance: In the latest installment of savvy bookselling and public drama instigated by former Trump aide Omarosa Manigault NewmanOmarosa Onee Manigault NewmanSales of political books up 25 percent in 2018: report Woodward book breaks 93-year publishing record Stormy Daniels announces new tell-all book: 'Full Disclosure' MORE, she went on MSNBC on Thursday to release a tape of the president’s daughter-in-law offering her a $15,000-per-month job with the president’s reelection campaign days after she was fired last year from the White House staff (The Hill).

Manigault Newman says the offer was hush money. Lara Trump, an adviser to the campaign, issued a statement saying the offer was made because the Trump team “cared so much about her personally.”

Lara Trump’s parting shot: “I hope it’s all worth it for you, Omarosa, because some things you just can’t put a price on.”

The president, who in the last week called his former “Apprentice” colleague “a dog” and “a lowlife,” mocked Manigault Newman anew on Twitter (The Hill). 

> Trump is known as a spontaneous communicator, including with major news outlets. The Wall Street Journal’s Nicholas, mentioned above, wrote that he was surprised on Wednesday to land a 20-minute interview with the president. Nicholas’s behind-the-scenes description of the Oval Office exchange is as interesting as the policy and political topics they zoomed through. Read his reporter’s notebook account HERE.

Justice Department – 3D printed guns: Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday pledged to "vigorously enforce" laws against "plastic firearms that are undetectable," despite the department’s opposition to state efforts to block the publication of blueprints for 3D printed guns online. The administration filed a brief on Wednesday defending public access to such printing plans (The Hill).

DOJ - opioids: The administration is using new powers to propose a significant decrease in opioid drug manufacturing next year. Justice officials and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are proposing an average 10 percent decrease in the manufacturing quotas for six frequently misused opioids in 2019 (The Hill).

> Trump urged the attorney general to bring federal suit against opioid makers (The Hill).

Environmental Protection Agency – clean water: A federal judge on Thursday issued a nationwide injunction on the administration's delay until 2020 of a Clean Water Rule, known as Waters of the U.S. The delay was backed by the White House and initiated by the EPA under former administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas MORE. The decision in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina means the rule is now the law of the land in 26 states where district court judges have not stayed the regulation. The waters rule redefined which wetlands and small waterways are covered by the Clean Water Act (E&E News)

***

INTERNATIONAL & TRADE: Russia: White House national security adviser John Bolton will discuss arms control treaties and Iran’s role in Syria in talks with Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev in Geneva next week, an administration official said Thursday (Reuters).

> Despite new U.S. sanctions announced against Russia last week, the Kremlin hopes Trump may yet deliver on promises of an improved relationship between the two countries (Bloomberg).

Iran: The administration is forming an interagency task force on Iran, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPositive Moon-Kim summit creates a diplomatic opening in North Korea The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify Haley wasn’t invited to key White House meeting on refugee policy: report MORE announced on Thursday (The Hill). The purpose: Coordination of multiple issues in play with Tehran, including issues important to other stakeholder nations. The administration continues to refute suggestions that a significant U.S. policy goal is regime change.

China: Pentagon says China’s military “likely training for strikes” against U.S. targets (Reuters).

Turkey: The administration warned Turkey on Thursday to expect more economic sanctions unless it hands over detained American pastor Andrew Brunson (Reuters).

> Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Trump signs first 2019 'minibus' spending package | Mueller probing transactions by Russian organizers of Trump Tower meeting | Stocks brush off trade fears On The Money: Cohen reportedly questioned over Trump dealings with Russia | Trump hails economy | Tells workers to 'start looking' if they want a better job | Internal poll shows tax law backfiring on GOP Trump announces tariffs on 0B in Chinese goods MORE issued a warning to Turkey. “We have put sanctions on several of their Cabinet members. We have more that we’re planning to do if they don’t release him quickly,” he said, speaking about Brunson, who is under house arrest in Turkey (The Hill).

> Turkish lira is steady as of Friday, despite new threats from the administration (The Associated Press).

Tariffs: Trump, during an interview on Wednesday, said he expects the administration’s tariffs policy to rescue the U.S. steel industry (The Wall Street Journal).

> Where the White House sees a boom, most economists see a blip (The Associated Press)

David Dollar, Brookings Institution senior fellow: As the trade war worsens, the trade deficit increases.

 

***

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 and media group-think, by Carl M. Cannon, RealClearPolitics. http://bit.ly/2MtHH6G 

Can the Democrats fix Washington? by Michael Tomasky, The New Republic. http://bit.ly/2nLe8zi

The queen, Aretha Franklin, is dead, by Armstrong Williams, opinion contributor for The Hill. http://bit.ly/2MBt15G

 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House is out until after Labor Day.

The Senate is out today. Senators return next week to begin consideration of measures to fund Defense, and Labor, Health and Human Services and Education for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

The president will make two political appearances in Southampton, N.Y., this afternoon and then fly to New Jersey to spend the weekend at his property in Bedminster.

The Commerce Department at 8:30 a.m. reports on new housing construction in July. Because of a decline in June, analysts are looking for signs the housing market may be softening during a period of higher mortgage rates, tax changes and rising costs for imported lumber because of tariffs.

Invitation from The Hill: Sept. 12, newsmakers discuss “A Healthy Start: Infant and Early Childhood Nutrition,” featuring Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottHealthy business vs healthy people — how will this administration address the two? Washington turns focus to child nutrition The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — McConnell warns of GOP `knife fight’ to keep Senate control MORE (D-Va.), and Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Brandon Lipps from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Hill’s Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack kicks off a conversation about maternal, infant and early childhood nutrition, and progress toward the goal of healthier eating. RSVP HERE.

 

ELSEWHERE

> Hidden figures: Trump’s speeches feature mystery men the White House won’t name, by Toluse Olorunnipa, Bloomberg.

> Higher Education: New York University makes tuition free for all medical students (The Wall Street Journal).

THE CLOSER

And finally … This week’s Morning Report QUIZ CONTEST winners!

To mark the Aug. 16, 1977, death of Elvis Presley, we threw out five questions in Thursday’s newsletter about the King. This week’s victorious guessers are: Milt Mungo, David E. Letostak, Mary Vita P. Treano, Carol Katz, Mike Woodard, Peter J. Sprofera, Sandy Sycafoose and Patrick Alford.

And the answers … Elvis’s first single with Sun Records in 1954 included his own version of a black blues song, “That’s All Right (Mama).” (A live performance of the song, performed by Presley at the Louisiana Hayride in 1954, is HERE.)

After spending two years in the Army, Elvis was discharged in 1960 as Sgt. Presley; had begun to abuse amphetamines, which contributed to a lifelong prescription drug problem; mourned the loss of his mother, who died while he was in the service; and was dating Priscilla Beaulieu, whom he met while stationed in Germany. She was 14. (The correct answer was “all of the above.”)

Elvis’s daughter Lisa Marie was famously married to Michael Jackson.

Elvis met former President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office in December 1970. He brought with him a Colt .45 pistol (TIME).

Soon after Presley’s death, Caroline Kennedy showed up outside Graceland unannounced, with a freelance journalism assignment to come back to New York with an article. Her coverage appeared the next month in Rolling Stone.