The Hill's Morning Report: Trump’s allies turn against him

 

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Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., featuring retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency and the CIA under two presidents, discussing government security clearances (and his new book), and Sen. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanNew Hampshire's secretary of state narrowly holds seat New Hampshire Dem icon at risk after work with Trump Dem senators call on DeVos to rescind new campus sexual assault policies MORE (D-N.H.), on the nationwide opioid crisis. http://thehill.com/hilltv

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One by one, President TrumpDonald John TrumpActivists highlight Trump ties to foreign autocrats in hotel light display Jose Canseco pitches Trump for chief of staff: ‘Worried about you looking more like a Twinkie everyday’ Dershowitz: Mueller's report will contain 'sins' but no 'impeachable offense' MORE’s longtime friends and allies appear to be turning on him at the worst possible moment.

On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump attorney general pick a prolific donor to GOP candidates, groups: report Press: Mueller closes in on Trump Mueller's findings don't matter MORE barked back at Trump, apparently at his wit’s end after absorbing months of public attacks from the president.

And one of Trump’s longtime friends, David Pecker, the CEO of the company that publishes the National Enquirer, struck an immunity deal with prosecutors investigating a $150,000 payment the president arranged to buy the rights to a story about an ex-Playboy model who claims to have had an affair with Trump.

Sessions and Pecker join a growing list of former Trump associates, friends and allies with whom the president is either feuding or entangled in legal battles.

Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen implicated Trump in two felony campaign finance violations this week when he pleaded guilty to charges he arranged two election-year hush-money payments. Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis says his client is eager to spill the beans on everything he knows to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE.

Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault NewmanOmarosa Onee Manigault NewmanPiers Morgan to Trump: Hire me as your chief of staff John Kelly to leave White House at year's end Ex-Trump staffer’s book describes 'Team of Vipers’ MORE has been on a high-profile book tour attacking the president as a racist, complete with embarrassing audio recordings of her time at the White House.

And former national security adviser Michael Flynn has been cooperating with Mueller’s team and awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI.

Some of these people soured on Trump’s delight in belittling associates. Others have broken with the president after being squeezed by aggressive prosecutors.

But the common thread is that all are now political or legal problems for the president, who increasingly appears isolated amid growing legal threats.

The president’s frustration with the turn of events was evident in an interview on “Fox & Friends” that aired Thursday, in which he railed against “flippers.” 

“I’ve known all about flipping — for 30 or 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. I’ve seen it many times, I’ve had many friends involved in this stuff. It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal.” – Trump

 

More on Sessions…

In a stunning development on Thursday, Sessions declared that he’d heard enough of Trump’s private and public derision and second-guessing.

Trump has spent months tweeting out his anger at Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, which paved the way for Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinMueller’s real challenge Graham vows to push Trump’s AG pick through Judiciary Committee House GOP set to grill Comey MORE to appoint Mueller.

And the president has fumed at Sessions for not bringing charges against his Democratic opponents or what he views as rogue actors at the FBI and Justice Department.

The Washington Post: Critics fear Trump’s attacks will do lasting damage to justice system.

Sessions defended himself following Trump’s “Fox & Friends” interview in which the president said he only gave Sessions the attorney general job to reward his loyalty and asked, “What kind of a man is this?”

The former Alabama senator, who has not publicly commented on prior rebukes from the president, returned fire:

“While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. – Sessions

Trump fired back at Sessions in two early morning tweets on Friday.
 

The back-and-forth has reignited debate over whether Trump will fire Sessions.

Republicans are warning Trump against it (The Hill). Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP-controlled Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi vote Senators prepare for possibility of Christmas in Washington during a shutdown Dem senator: Trump 'seems more rattled than usual' MORE (R-S.C.), who may have inside information here, says he thinks Sessions would be out after the midterm elections (The Hill).

The Hill: Trump-Justice feud deepens.

More on the National Enquirer’s Pecker…

While Cohen has already pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations surrounding payments he made on behalf of Trump to bury allegations from two women who maintain they had affairs with Trump, federal investigators are apparently not done looking into the matter.

The Wall Street Journal: Pecker granted immunity in Cohen case.

Cohen arranged the payment of $150,000 to buy the story rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s claims that she had an affair with Trump. Cohen directly paid adult-film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 not to talk. The president has denied the affairs, but concedes payments were made in an effort to bottle up their accusations.

The Hill: What you need to know about Trump, Cohen and campaign finance laws.

But it gets worse for the president:

The Associated Press: Pecker’s safe contained other damaging stories about Trump.

More news from the investigations front … Manhattan district attorney eyes criminal charges against Trump Organization. Trump has no power to pardon people and corporate entities convicted of state crimes (The New York Times) … Mueller’s ‘speaking indictments’ offer clues to strategy (The Hill) … The one juror who prevented Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortHillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — Officials warn of threat from Chinese spying | China blamed for Marriott hack | Trump open to intervening in Huawei case | FCC mulls ending merger ban on 'Big Four' networks | California floats tax on texts The Hill's 12:30 Report — Cohen gets three years in prison | Fallout from Oval Office clash | House GOP eyes vote on B for wall Dem senator on Trump-Russia: No evidence yet ‘in terms of criminal collusion’ MORE from getting convicted on all 18 charges did not trust any of the government’s witnesses and frustrated the other jurors (Reuters).

 

Perspectives

Cohen turns 52 years old on Saturday.

The Associated Press: A president who demands loyalty finds it fleeting in Washington.

Susan B. Glasser: The courtroom dramas that have changed Trump’s presidency.

Charles Hurt: The dangerous and dishonest political prosecution against the president.

Ryan Lizza: In Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen has the da Vinci of spin.

Bradley Smith: Trump’s payments were unseemly, not illegal.

 

 

LEADING THE DAY

CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: Trump heads to Ohio on Friday to raise money for the state party and for Rep. Jim RenacciJames (Jim) B. RenacciGOP rep: If Mueller had found collusion, ‘investigation would have wrapped up very quickly’ House Ethics Committee extends probe into Renacci Sherrod Brown says he has 'no real timetable' for deciding on 2020 presidential run MORE (R), who is challenging Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDem senator: Trump 'seems more rattled than usual' GOP rep: If Mueller had found collusion, ‘investigation would have wrapped up very quickly’ O’Rourke is fireball, but not all Dems are sold MORE (D), one of 10 Democrats up for reelection in states the president carried in 2016.

There is no recent polling, but three surveys from June had Brown up by between 13 and 17 points.

The Weekly Standard: GOP gets wave of good polls in the Senate.

NBC News: Pennsylvania voters give Trump low marks on tariffs.

Meanwhile, in the House, the analysts at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics moved 10 races toward Democrats and two toward Republicans (Sabato’s Crystal Ball). The good news for the GOP: The race for Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris Rodgers‘Wake up, dudes’ — gender gap confounds GOP women The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — House, Senate leaders named as Pelosi lobbies for support to be Speaker Liz Cheney wins House GOP leadership post MORE (R-Wash.), the highest ranking woman in the House, has been changed from “toss-up” to “leans Republican.”

George Washington University Poll: Democrats lead generic congressional ballot by 7 points.

More polls … A Fox News survey finds that ObamaCare is more popular than the GOP tax cuts (Fox News) … A majority of Republicans and 70 percent of voters overall say they support “Medicare for all” (Reuters).

> Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan Duane HunterCalifornia dreamin’ in the 2020 presidential race Proposed House GOP rules would force indicted lawmakers to step down from leader roles: report Overnight Defense: What the midterms mean for defense panels | Pompeo cancels North Korea meeting | Trump eyes Kim summit in early 2019 | Pentagon drops name for border mission MORE (R-Calif.) and his wife pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges they misused campaign funds (The Hill).

After initially refusing, Duncan has stepped down from his committee assignments (The Hill). It looks like he will continue running for reelection while under indictment in a district Trump carried by 15 points in 2016.

More from the campaign trail … Progressives try to reshape the Democratic Party (Reuters) … The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is gearing up for an internal fight over superdelegates (The Hill) … The DNC’s call to the FBI this week about a possible hack turned out to be a false alarm (The Hill).

> And finally, Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s (D-Texas) viral video defending NFL players who kneel during the national anthem earned him praise from NBA star LeBron James and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenators prepare for possibility of Christmas in Washington during a shutdown Biden to discuss 2020 bid with family over holidays: report Julián Castro launches exploratory committee for possible 2020 White House bid MORE (R-Texas) is betting that won’t fly in their Senate match-up in the Lone Star State. 

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CONGRESS: Senators have been mighty eager to return to their home states for a break until after Labor Day, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP-controlled Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi vote Overnight Defense: Senate moves toward vote on bill ending support for Saudi war | House GOP blocks Yemen war votes for rest of year | Trump throws uncertainty into Pentagon budget | Key Dem to leave transgender troop ban to courts Senate moves toward vote on ending support for Saudi-led war MORE (R-Ky.) on Thursday set his red line before any R&R can commence: Confirmation of 17 judicial nominees, including federal district court judges. That goal was not completed on Thursday, so they’ll be back on Monday to keep at it.

> The Senate passed a massive spending bill for the Pentagon and the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education on Thursday, cheering the GOP leadership with a legislative version of alchemy (The Hill). With its bipartisan achievement, the Senate has now completed nine of 12 appropriations measures.

> As senators consider the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, Democrats sought to learn whether the 53-year-old judge would recuse himself if criminal issues tied to Trump were to come before him on the bench. During discussions, the nominee balked at recusal, but eased his stance on presidential immunity from prosecution while in office, according to senators (The Hill).

> Kavanaugh’s momentum has sparked a bit of progressive backlash against Virginia Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineTim Kaine: Trump was 'fact-checked to his face' by Pelosi, Schumer While G-20 Summit was promising for US- China trade relations, Congress must still push for an exclusion process Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Border deployment 'peaked' at 5,800 troops | Trump sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | Senators offer bill to press Trump on Saudis | Paul effort to block Bahrain arms sale fails MORE (D), the former Democratic Party vice presidential nominee in 2016, who met with the nominee this week. Kaine will not say how he’ll vote, and some on the left think studied neutrality, even if temporary, is politically unhelpful.

 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Criminal justice: The Hill: The president on Thursday threw cold water on a criminal-justice reform package being crafted by the Senate, following recent passage of a House measure. Trump indicated he wants to revisit the politically charged issue after November's midterm elections.

> The president is said to favor the idea of the death penalty for those convicted of trafficking in fentanyl, the synthetic and powerful painkiller (Bloomberg).

> The niece of the late civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. gave the White House a list earlier this month of 100 prisoners for possible consideration for presidential clemency. Alveda King handed the list to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerProtesters host dance party outside Stephen Miller's home Dem lawmaker pledges hearings after CIA briefing on Khashoggi Trump signs order aimed at revitalizing economically distressed communities MORE (Washington Examiner).

 

 

Defense – Afghanistan: Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL and the controversial founder of Blackwater (now renamed), tells The Hill during an interview that he has not given up his pitch to the Trump administration to replace most U.S. troops in Afghanistan with private contractors (The Hill). The Pentagon is not in favor, but Prince aims to rekindle the president’s interest via his media appearances, including on Trump’s favorite morning program, “Fox & Friends.”

Education Department: Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosJob satisfaction down at nearly 60 percent of federal agencies Why afterschool is a proven and smart choice The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Bush memorial service in Houston | House passes two-week spending measure | Markets drop after Chinese executive's arrest MORE is weighing the idea of allowing schools to buy guns with federal funds (The New York Times).

Health care: The Hill: The administration should better manage ObamaCare after enrollment dropped by 5 percent this year, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said on Thursday. It recommended that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) set enrollment targets for 2019, a practice abandoned by the Trump administration, and better manage local groups responsible for signing people up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

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INTERNATIONAL: The government of South Africa lashed out at Trump on Thursday after he tweeted that the State Department would be looking into alleged seizures of white-owned farms and the “large scale killing of farmers” in the country, an assertion the government said was false and “only seeks to divide our nation and remind us of our colonial past” (The Associated Press).

The president waded into an emotional and racially fraught lands-redistribution debate on the African continent after watching some coverage on Fox News and then tweeting his reaction (Bloomberg). It was unclear what role, if any, he imagined the United States playing in South Africa’s governance decisions.

 

 

North Korea: At the State Department, Secretary Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoGOP-controlled Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi vote Hillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — Officials warn of threat from Chinese spying | China blamed for Marriott hack | Trump open to intervening in Huawei case | FCC mulls ending merger ban on 'Big Four' networks | California floats tax on texts Russia plans to pull bombers from Venezuela on Friday, White House says MORE named a retiring Ford Motor Company executive as the administration’s new envoy to North Korea (The Hill). Stephen Biegun, Ford's vice president of international governmental affairs, will travel with the secretary to Pyongyang next week. Biegun previously worked in the White House under former President George W. Bush and former national security adviser Condoleezza Rice (Detroit Free Press).

Russia: White House national security adviser John Bolton said on Thursday that he warned Moscow late in 2017 against meddling in this year’s midterm elections (Reuters).

China: Another round of U.S. 25 percent tariffs and reciprocal levies in Beijing went into effect on Thursday as representatives of both governments concluded talks in Washington with no evident breakthrough to curtail the widening trade impasse (Reuters). China to keep hitting back with targeted tariffs (Reuters).

Brexit - United Kingdom: Britain on Thursday was a nation trying to come to grips with a possible “no-deal” exit from the European Union — meaning it could sever agreements with longtime partner nations without finalizing prearranged pacts on trade, travel and security (The Washington Post). While the government under Prime Minister Theresa May has worked to tamp down doomsday predictions, official advisories released on Thursday suggested confusion, added costs and dysfunction. Barely 200 days remain before Britain exits the European Union in March.

Australia: Scott Morrison is Australia’s new prime minister after Malcolm Turnbull was ousted late Thursday (BBC).


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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!

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OPINION

What sugar high? The economy has pent-up energy to burn, by Stephen Stanley, chief economist for Amherst Pierpont Securities. https://bit.ly/2w5O4DW

This shark bets the bull market will continue, thanks largely to Trump, by "Shark Tank" investor Kevin O’Leary. https://bit.ly/2OZTh6W

 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House is out until after Labor Day.

The Senate will return on Monday at 4 p.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of Lynn A. Johnson to be HHS assistant secretary for family support. 

The president and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Cohen gets three years in prison | Fallout from Oval Office clash | House GOP eyes vote on B for wall First lady, Santa hand out 'Be Best' gear at Toys for Tots event The Hill's Morning Report — Will Trump strike a deal with Chuck and Nancy? MORE will visit a children’s hospital unit in Columbus, Ohio, before the president participates in GOP political events in Columbus. The Trumps then return to the White House.

Vice President Pence speaks at a luncheon meeting of the Republican National Lawyers’ Association in Washington.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell speaks this morning at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City's annual economic symposium. His timely topic? "Monetary policy in a changing economy."

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 ScottOvernight Health Care: House set to vote on bill targeting drug companies for overcharging Medicaid | Dems press Trump officials on pre-existing conditions | Tobacco giant invests .8B in Canadian marijuana grower A new Congress, time for a new focus on public education Top Dems press Trump officials for answers on pre-existing conditions 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

> Leaks case: Former government intelligence contractor Reality Winner, 26, was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison for leaking a top secret report to a news outlet (The New York Times). She is the first person sentenced under the Espionage Act during the Trump administration, and her sentence is the longest ever imposed in federal court for unauthorized disclosure to the media.

> Immigration: Trump administration intentionally slowing required FBI vetting of refugees to forestall U.S. entry (NBC News). Number of refugees admitted to U.S. plunged, data show. 

> Workplace safety: Two Walt Disney World workers died in separate accidents since July and another lost a finger this summer as a result of a workplace mishap (The Orlando Sentinel).

> Service: Starbucks is letting some employees volunteer to split their workweeks with local nonprofits as “service fellows” in 13 cities (CNN). Two hundred employees applied for 36 paid slots that will blend commerce and charity as part of a new program.

> Hurricane: Hawaii received power generators and other supplies in prepositioned locations before the onslaught of Hurricane Lane, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said on Thursday. The president also issued an emergency declaration for the Hawaiian islands. Friday morning, the cyclone is a powerful Category 3 storm moving slowly on a “perilously close” track to the islands (CBS News). The storm's sluggish movement threatened to bring prolonged rain, flooding and the risk of landslides.

 

 

THE CLOSER

And finally … The Morning Report QUIZ CONTEST winners! Kudos to readers who proved to be master guessers on Thursday (or are exceedingly savvy about Wall Street): Norm Roberts, Lorraine Lindberg, Dara Umberger, Carol Katz, Brian J. Bergquist, Sandy Sycafoose and Patrick Alford.

> You may recognize the former prosecutor who put famed junk bond trader Michael Milken behind bars from recent headlines – it’s Rudy Giuliani. James ComeyJames Brien ComeyTrump attorney general pick a prolific donor to GOP candidates, groups: report Trump: Comey saying Dems 'have to win' in 2020 'exposed his partisan stance' Hillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — NRCC exposes security flaws 2 years after Russia hacks | Google Plus to shut down early | Scathing House report scolds Equifax for breach | McCarthy knocks Google ahead of CEO's hearing MORE and Preet BhararaPreetinder (Preet) Singh BhararaGOP senator suspects Schumer of being behind release of Ford letter Preet Bharara questions whether Trump will respect ‘presidential alert’ system Republicans shift course after outside counsel falters MORE were also U.S. attorneys for the Justice Department’s Southern District of New York.

> One does not need a very high level of education to become a stockbroker – just pass the Series 7 & 63 exams and you’re in. No college or even high school education required.

> Surprisingly, the largest one-day point drop for the Dow Jones Industrial Average happened earlier this year, when the index fell 1,175 points, a 4.6 percent loss. The previous largest point drop was in 2008, when it fell 777 points. On “Black Tuesday” in 1929, the Dow fell only 30 points but shed 12 percent of its value.

> Earlier this year, Stacey Cunningham became the first woman to lead the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in its 226-year history. The first woman to hold a seat on the NYSE? Muriel Siebert in 1967, although Victoria Woodhull became the first female stockbroker all the way back in 1870 when she opened a brokerage with her sister.

> And finally, there are competing theories about why a down market is called a bear market, including that bulls thrust their horns upward while bears swipe downward with their claws. But here’s the recurring explanation we flagged: old-time traders of bearskins would sell the skins they had yet to collect, a short-sell that bets on the price dropping.

Thanks to everyone who played!