The Hill's Morning Report — Washington prepares to honor McCain




Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report! It’s the final week of August. What a month … 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 remembrances of the late senior senator from Arizona, as shared by two former aides, plus a midterm-focused interview with Vermont’s Democratic nominee for governor, Christine Hallquist.


Former Presidents George W. Bush and Obama are expected to eulogize the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGabbard hits back at Meghan McCain after fight over Assad Mellman: Where are good faith and integrity? GOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority MORE (R-Ariz.) this weekend. McCain will lie in state in both Arizona and the nation’s capital as part of events that end with his burial at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., on Sunday, Sept. 2 (The Hill).

McCain, a decorated Vietnam War hero, former prisoner of war and six-term senator, died Saturday afternoon at his home in Arizona a year after being diagnosed with brain cancer.

On Wednesday, on what would have been McCain’s 82nd birthday, the senator will lie in state in Phoenix, and his family plans a Thursday funeral service at National Phoenix Baptist Church, at which former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenDem strategist says Clinton ‘absolutely’ has a role to play in 2020 It's Bernie Sanders vs. Elizabeth Warren in New Hampshire Harry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus MORE will speak.

His body will then be flown to Washington, where McCain, who served in Congress for 35 years, will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on Friday, one of only 13 former senators so honored (The New York Times).

A procession past the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and a funeral service at Washington National Cathedral at 10 a.m. on Saturday will cap a week of public tributes to a complex man who aspired to be president, revered the United States and the Senate, and never shied from criticizing those who occupied the Oval Office.

McCain will be buried overlooking the Severn River at the U.S. Naval Academy, from which he graduated in 1958, during a smaller, private service. In the last year, he had continued to serve as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, although he had been absent from Washington since December.

Following McCain’s burial, Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey says he’ll appoint a Republican successor to serve out the late senator’s term through 2020. The choice in a state with shifting demographics and politics is seen as a challenge for the governor, who has his own set of political imperatives, reports The Hill’s Reid Wilson. Arizona this year has a closely watched contest to succeed Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePoll: 33% of Kentucky voters approve of McConnell Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union MORE (R), who is exiting the Senate; the state’s primaries are on Tuesday.

Ducey’s pick is expected to add a more reliably conservative vote than was McCain to the now 50-49 GOP majority in the Senate.

The New York Times: Arizona governor faces a tough choice — a senator made from McCain’s mold or Trump’s.

"I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency, for its faith in the wisdom, justice, and goodness of its people." – McCain, 2008 speech accepting the GOP presidential nomination

Arizona Republic: McCain’s legacy was to keep fighting.

Mark Salter: McCain spent his life serving the dignity of his fellow man.

The Associated Press: Nine moments that made McCain.


INVESTIGATIONS: In case you missed it on Friday, The Wall Street Journal dropped a bombshell: Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg struck an immunity deal with federal prosecutors investigating the president’s former attorney, Michael Cohen.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border MORE’s longtime friend David Pecker, who publishes The National Enquirer, also struck an immunity deal in the case.

Bloomberg: Loyalty tested as Trump confidants become witnesses.

Cohen has pleaded guilty to tax and bank fraud charges, as well as two felonies related to payments he arranged to bury stories from women who claim they had an affair with Trump. Cohen says he made the payments at Trump’s direction in order to influence the 2016 election, although some wonder why he didn’t fight those charges, which fall under a legal grey area.

Weisselberg has been with the Trump family for decades, first working for Trump’s father, Fred Trump, in the early 1970s. He has been in control of the Trump Organization’s assets since Trump took office, sharing those responsibilities with the president’s two adult sons.


Politico’s Michael Kruse has an interesting profile of the secretive Weisselberg HERE.

It’s undoubtedly bad news for the president that a top figure in his business empire needed an immunity deal to testify against Cohen, Trump’s self-described “fixer.”

Bloomberg: Trump insiders could offer “holy grail” of long-hidden finances.

The Hill: White House rattled by Weisselberg news.

But it’s unclear at this point whether Weisselberg or the Trump Organization will be investigated further.

The New York Times reports that Weisselberg’s immunity deal was “narrow in scope.”

“It was not … a blanket immunity extending beyond the information he shared, and Mr. Weisselberg remains in his job at the Trump Organization.” – The Times.

The Washington Post: Amid betrayals, Trump’s wall of secrecy breaks down.

The Washington Post: Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis backs away from claims he made about Trump and Russia. (Davis is an opinion contributor for The Hill).



Elsewhere, Trump’s former campaign chairman faces a second trial in September, this one on charges of illegal foreign lobbying.

A jury found Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortMueller won't deliver report to Justice Dept. next week New York preps state charges for Manafort in case of a Trump pardon: report Defending the First Amendment, even for Roger Stone MORE guilty on eight charges of bank and tax fraud last week.

The Hill: Manafort verdict strengthens Mueller’s hand for round two.

The Washington Post: Manafort’s second trial to last three weeks, focus on Ukraine lobbying.


Carl M. Cannon: The damage to the nation that Mueller could do.

Bob Bauer: Trump’s contempt for the law will be his downfall.

Kimberley Strassel: When justice is partial.

Harry Litman: Trump’s last-ditch effort to discredit Cohen is a joke.

Noah Feldman: The Southern District of New York prosecutors will hound Trump and his business empire.

Bradley A. Smith: Legal scrutiny of National Enquirer sets dangerous First Amendment precedent.


CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: Trump on Monday night will host a dinner “celebrating evangelical leadership.”

Trump’s top Christian allies have at times been criticized for supporting the president, whose decadent lifestyle was tabloid fodder in New York for decades. During the GOP primaries, Trump memorably said he had never asked God to forgive his sins.

But many social conservatives describe the president as their “imperfect vessel.” They view Trump’s presidency as a triumph for the religious right, believing he has delivered on everything from defending religious liberty to scaling back abortion rights.

NPR: African-American faith leaders and Trump.

NBC News: Trump approval “remarkably stable” after a stormy week of bad news.

> Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats alike are struggling with how to deal with Trump ahead of the midterm elections.

Republicans are trying to determine what the president’s legal troubles might mean for their majorities in both chambers.

The Hill: GOP divided over midterm threat posed by Trump’s legal travails. 

Democrats, on the other hand, agree that they shouldn’t focus exclusively on the president. That might be easier said than done.

McClatchy: Fall strategy for Democrats is to stop talking about Trump.

Reuters: Democrats face ‘almost impossible map’ to retake U.S. Senate.

More from the campaign trail … House GOP efforts to grow the ranks of female lawmakers could fall flat (The Hill) … The Midwest becomes a gubernatorial battleground in 2018 (The Washington Post) … Former Vice President Biden boosts candidates in purple states ahead of potential presidential run (The Hill) … The Democratic National Committee moves to limit the influence of superdelegates (The Hill).


CONGRESS: Content monitoring: House Republicans have accused technology companies of bias against conservative content, a critique the companies deny. On Sept. 5, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will explain his company’s policies during testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee (The Hill). Dorsey and executives from Facebook and Google were already scheduled to appear Sept. 5 before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Foreign influence on social media platforms: The Hill: Cyber experts and technology companies think it’s too late to completely secure their platforms before Nov. 6 against intrusions by foreign entities. Facebook, Twitter and Google say that they're doing their best but experts note that foreign manipulation efforts are a new inevitability that can only be curbed, not eradicated … The Russian hackers indicted by Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE last month have spent years trying to steal the private correspondence of some of the world’s most senior Christian Orthodox figures, illustrating the high stakes as Kiev and Moscow wrestle over the religious future of Ukraine (The Associated Press).

House GOP – intelligence repercussions: The New York Times reported over the weekend that Russian sources important to the CIA have “gone to ground” and are suddenly silent, hampering U.S. intelligence collection efforts. One possible explanation? The GOP-led House Intelligence Committee’s outing of an FBI informant under its microscope, encouraged by Trump, may have contributed to a chilling effect.


TRADE & INTERNATIONAL: Once again on Sunday, Mexican officials said a deal with the United States on a reworked North American Free Trade Agreement was “hours” away, then backed away from that prediction. Talks with Canada to iron out differences are likely to stretch into September. Mexico voiced similar assurances about the status of negotiations last week (Reuters), and talks resume today at 9 a.m. (Reuters).

Syria: Russia pushed back over the weekend against comments by the Trump administration that military action could be a justified response to future use of chemical or biological weapons by the Syrian government in Idlib (Reuters). Moscow warned the White House against taking “reckless steps in Syria,” a dictatorship heading toward an eighth year of civil war. Russia last week presented proposals to the Turkish authorities to resolve violence in Idlib, a northwestern Syrian region that borders Turkey.

North Korea: North Korea’s state-controlled newspaper on Sunday accused the United States of “double-dealing” and “hatching a criminal plot” against Pyongyang, after Trump abruptly canceled a visit by Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump selects Kelly Craft for United Nations ambassador Father of Alabama woman who joined ISIS sues Trump administration Russia extends detention of US citizen accused of spying: report MORE planned for this week. U.S.-North Korea talks about denuclearization have gone nowhere since June, when Trump met Kim Jong Un in Singapore (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!


The political revolution that began in 2016 continues, by Susan Shelley, The Orange County Register.

Women are rebuilding the Democratic Party from the ground up, by Lara Putnam and Theda Skocpol, The New Republic.

It’s too early to pull the plug on talks with North Korea, by Terence Roehrig, opinion contributor for The Hill.


The House is out until after Labor Day.

The Senate returns at 4 p.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of Lynn A. Johnson to be the Health and Human Services Department’s assistant secretary for family support.

The president will meet over lunch with Vice President Pence. The president and 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 welcome Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his wife Margaret Kenyatta to the White House for a working visit and bilateral discussions in the afternoon. Later, the Trumps host a dinner for evangelical leaders. Pence also participates in the meetings with Kenya’s president, and attends the dinner with religious supporters.

The White House Historical Association begins a four-day “Presidential Sites Summit” today through Aug. 30, featuring national speakers, scholars, journalists, former officials and the largest-ever assemblage of descendants of presidents. Participants discuss a workplace that has defined every presidency: The White House. Summit sessions: Willard InterContinental hotel, Washington. Information HERE.

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.


> Net neutrality revisited: Verizon is dealing with backlash after the carrier slowed internet service capabilities used by firefighters and emergency responders battling the California wildfires (The Associated Press). The controversy triggered lawsuits, plus calls for legislative action to try to restore net neutrality to all customers in California.

> Sexual abuse: Pope Francis, who visited Ireland over the weekend, was assailed for what some Catholics assessed as an inadequate response to sexual abuse by priests and allegations seen as weakening the Catholic Church. On Saturday, the pope received a rare public rebuke from within the Vatican, with Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano calling for his resignation. The former top-ranking Vatican official released a 7,000-word letter asserting that the pontiff knew about the abuses of a now-disgraced American prelate, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and failed to take action (The New York Times). Late Sunday, the pope told reporters “I won’t say a word about it,” adding the letter “speaks for itself” (The Wall Street Journal). He said he would trust journalists to judge its veracity. The Vatican offered no other comment (Los Angeles Times).

> Comedian Conan O’Brien has tried for years to book the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Lyndon B. Johnson, Robert Caro, as a TV guest. Caro has declined. O’Brien explains his Ahab-esque obsession (The New York Times).




And finally … We end today’s newsletter where we started, with Sen. McCain.