The Hill's Morning Report — Trump showcases ICE ahead of midterm elections




Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and happy Monday! 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 former CIA chief spokesman (and novelist) Bill Harlow, to discuss government security clearances.


President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall MORE is putting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials front and center ahead of the midterm elections, betting that the hard line on immigration that he rode to victory in 2016 will be a political winner once again for the GOP in 2018.

The president will hold an East Room event at the White House this afternoon that the administration bills as a “salute to the heroes” of ICE.

Law enforcement and elected officials from border states will be on hand, including Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) and members of the National Sheriffs’ Association, who have lobbied Congress to act on Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the southern border.

The ceremony is ostensibly an official White House event but it’s also highly political. ICE has become a flashpoint in the debate over the president’s since-abandoned “zero tolerance” policy of separating children from their parents at the border.

Because of enforcement policies, ICE is reviled by the left, where stories about law enforcement officials seizing illegal immigrants go viral on a daily basis.

The New York Times: ICE detained man who was driving his pregnant wife to the hospital, later said the man was wanted for homicide in his home country.

Some of the most liberal and activist senators have joined calls to abolish ICE. Trump and his allies believe those Democrats are outside the mainstream of voter sentiment, and present an easy political target.

The decision to honor ICE agents at the White House comes as Trump and Republicans scramble to energize the GOP base amid an increasingly bleak election outlook for the party in power.

Democrats need to flip 23 seats to win control of the House. In this startling analysis, The Hill’s Reid Wilson looks at a worst-case scenario for Republicans: A 70-seat wipeout.

The Hill: Democrats see a chance to cut into GOP governorships.

Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Senate buzz grows for Abrams after speech electrifies Dems MORE (D-Md.), the chairman of the Senate Democratic campaign arm, said over the weekend that turnout in recent primaries and growing support from independents could even give Democrats the Senate, where they face a far tougher map.

“Everybody knows the odds are tough but the odds are getting better by the day. We’ve seen this growing momentum at the grass-roots level.” – Van Hollen, on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers”

One final note about the law enforcement gathering at the White House that underscores the tricky politics of 2018:

The National Sheriffs’ Association, which sent members to Washington to join Trump today, opposes the criminal justice reform bill that has been a priority for senior White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerFive things to know about Trump confidant Tom Barrack Dems open new front against Trump Dems launch investigation into Trump administration's dealings with Saudi Arabia MORE. A bipartisan measure, the First Step Act, is pending in the Senate following passage by the House earlier this year.

Reform advocates are searching for a Senate compromise this year, but efforts may have hit a wall as the president faces resistance from allies, such as Sens. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonInviting Kim Jong Un to Washington Senate approves border bill that prevents shutdown 'Morning Joe' host quizzes Howard Schultz on price of a box of Cheerios MORE (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.), as well as potential 2020 Democratic presidential contenders, who are loath to give the president a victory on anything.

The Hill: Sentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against his allies.

The Hill: 2020 hopefuls skeptical of criminal justice deal with Trump.


INVESTIGATIONS:  The New York Times reported over the weekend that White House counsel Don McGahn spent 30 hours meeting with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s team over the course of three marathon sessions (The New York Times).

The discussions reportedly focused on Trump’s firing of 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 and the president’s dealings with Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsEx-Trump aide: Can’t imagine Mueller not giving House a ‘roadmap’ to impeachment Rosenstein: My time at DOJ is 'coming to an end' Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump MORE, who recused himself from the Russia probe. Both of those matters would seem to be of interest to Mueller as part of an investigation into obstruction of justice.

But perhaps more alarming news for the president — the Times cast McGahn’s cooperation with Mueller’s team as stemming from concern that, as White House counsel, he could be set up to take a fall for the president, regardless of Trump’s repeated public assertions of innocence.

Trump blasted back over Twitter.


The episode has drawn attention to former President Nixon’s White House Counsel, John Dean, who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the Watergate scandal.

Here’s a snippet from Dean’s weekend interview with Slate.

Don McGahn is doing exactly the right thing, not merely to protect himself, but to protect his client. And his client is not Donald Trump; his client is the office of the president.” – Dean

Another former White House counsel, Bob Bauer, reacted to the Times report. His opinion, which referenced the Clinton White House, appeared on Lawfare HERE: The very proximity to the Oval Office that distinguishes the role [of White House counsel] and accounts for so much of its value, can also present grave risks for a president in legal trouble.”

For an interesting primer about the White House Counsel’s Office, we recommend an academic backgrounder at White House Transition Project HERE.

Meanwhile, a former attorney for Trump, Michael Cohen, has definitely turned on the president as he navigates his own growing legal troubles.

The New York Times reports that Cohen is being investigated for alleged fraudulent acquisition of more than $20 million in bank loans.

Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, says his client sought guidance from Dean over the weekend. (Full disclosure: Davis is a columnist for The Hill.)

> Debate is raging over Trump’s move to strip 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 of his security clearance.

The president is considering doing the same thing to others, with Department of Justice Official Bruce Ohr at the top of the list (The Hill).

Some, including Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: Trump pushes to speed up 5G rollout | Judge hits Roger Stone with full gag order | Google ends forced arbitration | Advertisers leave YouTube after report on pedophile ring Warner questions health care groups on cybersecurity Cohen to testify before Senate Intel on Tuesday MORE (D-Va.), have questioned whether Trump could eventually consider stripping the special counsel and his team of security clearances as a means of hampering the investigation (The Washington Examiner).

Intelligence officials have been unanimous in condemning Trump’s actions against Brennan as a politically motivated effort to retaliate against a prominent critic.

But some have acknowledged that Brennan may have crossed a line in accusing the president of treason and illegal foreign collusion.

The Hill: Intel officials concerned Brennan’s criticism of Trump went too far.

“John and his rhetoric have become, I think, an issue in and of itself.” – 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 on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

> The jury in the trial of Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortWhite House braces for Mueller report Hillicon Valley: Trump pushes to speed up 5G rollout | Judge hits Roger Stone with full gag order | Google ends forced arbitration | Advertisers leave YouTube after report on pedophile ring Manafort to be sentenced for bank, tax fraud in Virginia on March 8 MORE will begin their third day of deliberations on Monday.

The jury signaled on Friday they’d need more time to consider the 18 charges of tax and bank fraud against Manafort, who allegedly set up foreign accounts to hide millions of dollars from the government (The Hill). The judge on Friday said he’d received threats to his safety and insinuated that the jury may have received threats too (Politico).

Manafort faces a second trial on allegations of illegal foreign lobbying that is scheduled to begin in September.

CNN: Mueller’s team has three times as much evidence against Manafort for second trial.

> Election security: The FBI is investigating a cyberattack against a Democratic House candidate in California who lost a primary in June (Reuters).

That report comes a week after Rolling Stone reported that the FBI is investigating a similar attack against another House Democrat who lost in a primary. Scientist Hans Keirstead was seeking the Democratic nomination in California’s 48th Congressional District to take on Rep. Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherExpanding Social Security: Popular from sea to shining sea Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds Democrats need a worthy climate plan MORE (R-Calif.), who is considered to be among the most pro-Russia lawmakers in Congress (Rolling Stone).

Elsewhere, The Miami Herald reports that Florida election officials are seeking more information about Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William Nelson2020 party politics in Puerto Rico There is no winning without Latinos as part of your coalition Dem 2020 candidates court Puerto Rico as long nomination contest looms MORE’s (D-Fla.) claims that Russians hacked into the state’s campaign infrastructure (The Miami Herald).

Nelson’s opponent in the Senate race, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), has questioned Nelson’s information. NBC News reported some corroboration of Nelson’s claims among unnamed sources, but the confusion opened Nelson up to attacks from Republicans that he may have revealed information that was classified.


CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: Looking ahead to 2020, The Hill’s Bob Cusack and Ian Swanson write about how Trump could pull a primary challenger in 2020 – a rare occurrence for a sitting president. However, a contested fight for the GOP nomination could bolster Trump’s chances of winning a second term. Read about it HERE.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the final GOP contender in a crowded field to drop out of the presidential primary race in 2016, has to be top of mind when considering potential challengers to Trump two years from now. But he received some rough treatment from the hometown paper in this op-ed.

Bob Paduchik: Kasich’s sore-loser role as antagonist-in-chief.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisKamala Harris: Trump administration ‘targeting’ California for political purposes Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night Harris on Smollett: 'I'm sad, frustrated, and disappointed' MORE (D-Calif.) is preparing for a run at the White House. Harris is ready to grab the spotlight at the confirmation hearings for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and she has quietly been trying to remake the Democratic Party in her own image (The Hill).

> Trump has levied some of his sharpest Democratic attacks on a trio of women – House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiOn The Money: Senate Dems to introduce resolution blocking Trump emergency declaration | Banks made billion in extra profits thanks to GOP tax law | IRS analyst charged with leaking Cohen's financial records Coast Guard lieutenant accused of planning domestic terrorism denied bail Inviting Kim Jong Un to Washington MORE (Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenKamala Harris: Trump administration ‘targeting’ California for political purposes Harry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night MORE (Mass.) and Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersPrivate insurance plays a critical part in home mortgage ecosystem On The Money: Lawmakers closing in on border deal | Dems build case for Trump tax returns | Trump, Xi won't meet before trade deadline | Waters in talks with Mnuchin for testimony Waters in talks with Mnuchin for testimony on lifting of sanctions on Russian firms MORE (Calif.). Could those attacks against women backfire on Republicans in competitive House races? The Hill’s Melanie Zanona reports (The Hill).



Self-described democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who memorably knocked off the No. 4-ranking Democrat in the House in a primary last month, has not attracted the ire of the president yet.

But she’s taken plenty of heat this weekend for shutting out the media from a “public” event with constituents.





Meanwhile, the nation’s most famous democratic socialist, Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersKamala Harris: Trump administration ‘targeting’ California for political purposes Harry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night MORE (I-Vt.), is testing the strength of his progressive brand in the Florida Democratic gubernatorial primary, as he seeks to help underdog candidate Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, across the finish line (The Hill).

Minnesota Democrats are standing behind another of Sanders’s acolytes, Rep. Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Top Dems call for end to Medicaid work rules | Chamber launching ad blitz against Trump drug plan | Google offers help to dispose of opioids Ilhan Omar defends 2012 tweet: 'I don't know how my comments would be offensive to Jewish Americans' States scramble to fill void left by federal shutdown MORE (D-Minn.), who has denied allegations from a woman who claims that he physically and verbally abused her.

NBC News: Minnesota Democrats endorse Ellison for state attorney general amid abuse allegations.

More on campaigns and politics …  Trump is casting a long shadow over the nasty and expensive GOP Senate primary in Arizona, although so far he’s steered clear of the race (The Hill) … A new polls finds Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) trailing his Democratic challenger by 5 points (Wisconsin Public Radio) … … Three scenarios for how the House leadership races will play out (The Hill) … Democrats aim to win back Pennsylvania, Trump voters (The New York Times) … The Trump tax cuts have been a bonanza for GOP donors (The New York Times).



SUPREME COURT: Republican senators are accused of sidelining the National Archives as the GOP marches toward Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing in early September. Democrats and aligned outside groups are bristling over GOP tactics, and were cheered when the Archives pushed back in a statement (The Hill).

The Washington Post analyzes Senate Democrats’ vows to learn from the past when it comes to putting process or policy before voters when opposing a GOP Supreme Court pick. The same article notes that abortion-rights groups plan anti-Kavanaugh events in Phoenix and Las Vegas because Arizona and Nevada are two states where Republicans are defending Senate seats in November.

Senate Democrats have launched a campaign to accuse Kavanaugh of misleading the Senate a dozen years ago about his legal involvement in recommending sweeping executive authority to combat terrorism (The Hill).


TECH & MEDIA: California privacy activists took on Silicon Valley, and won, by Nick Confessore (New York Times magazine).

> Facebook opens up its contents to researchers, but not about the 2016 election (NBC News).

> Facebook defends against new accusations filed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development that it illegally allows real estate sellers to restrict their advertisements by characteristics such as race (The Hill).

> Facebook and CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergPrivacy groups accuse Facebook of deceiving children into spending parents' money Pinterest blocks all vaccine-related searches in effort to combat anti-vax content Hillicon Valley: Kremlin seeks more control over Russian internet | Huawei CEO denies links to Chinese government | Facebook accused of exposing health data | Harris calls for paper ballots | Twitter updates ad rules ahead of EU election MORE are pressured anew to remove Holocaust denier content (Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect).

> Trump warned of censorship on social media platforms, and argued over the weekend that “good and bad” entities on social media should be free to speak and be heard (The Hill). The president used a trio of tweets to complain about what he sees as partisan silencing of his defenders:







> Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, whose content has been barred, removed or limited by tech companies, allegedly destroyed evidence ordered to be preserved as part of a defamation lawsuit brought against him by parents of victims of school shootings in Connecticut in 2012 (The New York Times).


TRADE & INTERNATIONAL: China: Meetings planned this fall between Trump and President Xi Jinping of China are part of a road map to resolve trade disputes, according to officials in both nations (Wall Street Journal) … China shifts to Iranian oil tankers to keep oil flowing and sidestep U.S. sanctions reimposed on Tehran (Reuters) … Worried that U.S. sanctions on goods imported from China could kick in as soon as next month, U.S. businesses, from fishing trawlers to fabric and crafts stores, have a message for Trump: “Don’t do it” (The Associated Press).

NAFTA: The Hill: One year into the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Trump's divide-and-conquer strategy is reaching an inflection point, at least in the timetable envisioned for negotiations. The president has said talks with Mexico are progressing, but he’s also said he won’t sign any new NAFTA pact until after November.

> Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on Sunday that outstanding bilateral issues between Mexico and the United States could be resolved by the middle of this week (Reuters).

Turkey: The government of Turkey is refusing to release an American pastor held under house arrest, despite the U.S. threat of additional economic sanctions (Bloomberg). In remarks to reporters on Friday, the president said, “Turkey has, in my opinion, acted very, very badly. …They can’t take our people. So you will see what happens.”

> In talks with Turkey, U.S. demands release of pastor and delinks potential sanctions relief as a related reward or ransom (Wall Street Journal).

Iraq: U.S. forces will stay in Iraq “as long as needed” to help stabilize regions previously controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a spokesman for the U.S.-led international coalition fighting the militants said on Sunday (Reuters).

Afghanistan: In the past week, the Taliban have overrun a city, burned down government facilities, hidden in civilians’ homes and killed hundreds of their opponents. Yet, many in the country express hope that the Taliban and the government can agree to a cease-fire and hold peace talks (The New York Times)  … Trump may not have closed the door on a proposed private force in Afghanistan to augment the U.S. military, an idea the Pentagon does not favor (NBC News).

India disaster: Thousands of people are stranded as floods submerged the southern Indian state of Kerala, where hundreds have died in little over a week. Indian officials are pleading for more help to survive relentless monsoon flooding (The Associated Press).

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!


Confronting the scourge of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church: The Pennsylvania grand jury report – and the future, by New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan (New York Daily News).

Anti-student agenda at Education Department under Secretary DeVos is Trump’s most radical move, by Robert Shireman, former deputy undersecretary for education in the Obama administration (USA Today).

Democrats should trade identity politics for more inclusive politics, by Douglas Schoen, opinion contributor for The Hill.



The House is out until after Labor Day.

The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. and resumes consideration of the Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Act of 2019. Senators are scheduled to vote on two amendments beginning at 5:30 p.m. The Hill’s Jordain Carney takes a look at the week ahead (The Hill).

The president has lunch with Vice President Pence. In the afternoon, Trump will use an East Room event to praise the work of the government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. 

First lady 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 speaks at a summit about cyberbullying prevention organized by the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention. Her remarks address effects of social media on young people, which is part of her “Be Best” campaign. The event in Rockville, Md., will include a panel discussion with representatives of social media platforms.

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 ScottTop Dems blast administration's proposed ObamaCare changes Virginia congressional delegation says it's 'devastated by’ Richmond Turmoil The Hill's 12:30 Report: AOC unveils Green New Deal measure | Trump hits Virginia Dems | Dems begin hearings to get Trump tax returns 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.


> Drug companies go to court to try to stop states’ attempts to hold down pharmaceutical costs, by Robert Pear (The New York Times).

> It’s not just in Italy where bridges are failing (The Economist) … A state-by-state look at the most structurally deficient bridges in America (Business Insider). Alert: A Washington, D.C., bridge is listed.

> The great Chinese art heist: Is the Chinese government behind one of the boldest art-crime waves in history? by Alex W. Palmer (GQ)


And finally … Two items this morning: First, we’re sharing former President Obama’s summer reading list (and his commentary for readers), posted to Facebook on Sunday:

And totally unrelated … a sign of our partisan times? A Connecticut city tweaked plans for its Paul Manafort Drive because the name has agitated some residents for months. The street, including a “small clarification,” will now be “Paul Manafort Sr. Drive,” honoring New Britain’s ex-mayor and the father of you-know-who (Hartford Courant). (You won’t be surprised to learn this signage compromise has not mollified the entire community.)