The Hill's Morning Report — Trump heads to Paris as attorney general controversy intensifies

The Hill's Morning Report — Trump heads to Paris as attorney general controversy intensifies
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Hill.TV’s “Rising” program starting at 8 a.m. dives into election security and the Mueller probe with Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Watchdog report finds FBI not motivated by political bias in Trump probe Ex-Rep. Scott Taylor to seek old Virginia seat MORE (Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and talks about the increasing number of women serving in Congress with Jocelyn Frye, senior fellow with the left-leaning Center for American Progress, and Sarah Chamberlain, president and CEO of Main Street Republicans.


President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE is off to Paris today, leaving behind a Washington in turmoil over the ousting of Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsLisa Page sues DOJ, FBI over alleged privacy violations Sessions leads GOP Senate primary field in Alabama, internal poll shows Trump rebukes FBI chief Wray over inspector general's Russia inquiry MORE and the change in power in the House.

It will only be a short weekend trip for Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpFirst lady lends a hand to 'Toys for Tots' charity drive The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — GOP, Democrats square off at final impeachment hearing The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - A crucial week on impeachment MORE, who will join French President Emmanuel Macron at a military celebration marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

The president will return to the White House on Sunday, two days before Congress will kick off a tumultuous lame-duck session before Democrats reclaim the majority in the House in January.

Lawmakers will return to the Capitol on Tuesday for the first time in more than a month. 

Democrats are already treating the president’s decision to fire Sessions and replace him with acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, a Trump ally who will oversee special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump MORE’s probe, as their first opportunity to investigate the president and wield powers of oversight.

Renewed debate about legislating protections around Mueller’s investigation is guaranteed to draw Democratic support, and perhaps some Republican backing, as well. #ProtectMueller was trending on Twitter last night and protesters hit the streets demanding the special counsel be allowed to continue unimpeded. 

For now, members of both parties are demanding Whitaker recuse himself from the Russia investigation, citing his past remarks that the probe had run too far afield and that there was no “collusion” between the Russians and Trump campaign. It’s unclear how quickly Trump will nominate a Senate-confirmable successor for attorney general.

The Washington Post: What kind of Trump loyalist is Whitaker?

The Associated Press: White House braces for Mueller, whose team has so far produced 32 criminal charges and four guilty pleas from Trump associates. The work is not done.

On Thursday, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee called for an emergency hearing, demanding answers from Whitaker about how the ouster of Sessions took place, and what it means for Mueller’s investigation.

In a letter, the Democrats warned of a "constitutional crisis" if Mueller is not allowed to finish his work, which has no set timetable and has been in full swing for 1-½ years.

“There is little doubt that President Trump’s decision to force the firing of Attorney General Sessions places special counsel Mueller’s inquiry at grave risk.” — Judiciary Committee Democrats

Separately, Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the likely chairman of the House Judiciary Committee next year, Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Trump rails against FBI, impeachment during Pennsylvania rally Democrats reach cusp of impeachment MORE (D-Calif.), the anticipated new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsTrump request for Ukrainian 'favor' tops notable quote list Impeachment can't wait Adam Schiff's star rises with impeachment hearings MORE (D-Md.), an experienced overseer who will likely lead the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote to the White House demanding officials preserve all documents pertaining to Sessions’s departure as well as the complete record of the special counsel’s work thus far.

The president had telegraphed his intention to fire Sessions for months but the decision to act the day after Democrats won control of the House gives his political opponents an opportunity to immediately wield influence before they have the majority in January.



Meanwhile, Washington remains on alert for new revelations about the special counsel’s findings; Mueller’s footprints were not publicly visible in the weeks before the midterms. That could change at any moment.

CNN: Mueller team preparing final report.

Hill.TV: Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) scoffs at Trump’s threats of counter-investigations.

The Sessions fallout is just one of the emergencies Congress faces.

Fierce internal wrangling for top leadership spots in the next Congress has been going on for weeks, and now the votes are close.

Republicans might hold their conference elections as soon as next week, while Democrats are likely to vote after Thanksgiving.

The Hill: Pelosi critics lose momentum in battle over her ascension.

The Washington Examiner: Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) withdraws from House Democratic Caucus chairman’s race after husband indicted.

The Hill: House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersIsraeli, Palestinian business leaders seek Trump boost for investment project The Suburban Caucus: Solutions for America's suburbs Shimkus announces he will stick with plan to retire after reconsidering MORE (R-Wash.) will not seek another term in GOP leadership.

Also during the lame-duck session, Congress will have to agree to a stopgap measure to fund roughly a quarter of the government’s operations before the current continuing resolution expires on Dec. 7.

Lawmakers are planning to move two minibus appropriations bills, but the president has not ruled out a government shutdown over funding for a border wall.

House Republicans will also be looking to pass a farm bill and an IRS modernization measure, and possibly tackle criminal justice reforms or another round of tax cuts before the new Congress convenes on Jan. 3 and Democrats seize a majority they have not had since 2010.


Perspectives and Analysis

Lawfare Blog: “A profoundly dangerous moment” has been created by Trump with his ouster of the attorney general.

Andrew McCarthy: Sessions out, Whitaker in, for now. It may be for the best.

Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III: “Unconstitutional” describes Trump’s appointment of the acting attorney general. He is evading the requirement to seek the Senate’s advice and consent for the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and the person who will oversee the Mueller investigation.

Kim Wehle: Sessions replacement could destroy Mueller probe without firing anyone.


CONGRESS: House Democrats are knee-deep in conference planning for next week and next year.

Trump tax filings: The president said this week he will never publicly disclose his tax returns while they remain under “continuous” government audit. He said his business tax returns are so complex, “nobody would understand them.” Many House Democrats, however, are intent on obtaining Trump’s taxes when they take the reins in 2019. A provision in the federal tax code gives congressional tax committees the power to request tax returns from the Treasury Department (The Hill). Bloomberg reports that some Democrats, however, fear a battle over Trump’s tax forms will flop with the public if seen as progressives’ priority.  

Climate change: House Democrats will revive the chamber’s climate change committee, which had been moribund under GOP control and an administration that sidelined the idea of human-caused global warming (Bloomberg).

Budget reforms: A bipartisan, bicameral congressional committee eager to reform the budget process faces a Nov. 30 deadline to unveil its ideas. But with a larger fight expected next month over government funding in this fiscal year, it’s unclear whether budget reformers can gain the support needed to turn recommendations into future law anytime soon (The Hill). 

Border wall: Next month’s lame-duck session with the existing members of Congress will feature some arm wrestling over wall funding Trump promised voters. Democrats are showing signs of softening their long opposition. They want to bolster border security funding in the Homeland Security Department appropriations bill without appearing to give Trump exactly what he wants (The Hill).




CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: The midterm elections aren’t over yet.

The Senate and governor’s races in Florida have tightened to the point where recounts might be automatically triggered.

The Hill: Recount prospects grow as Florida race tightens.
The Hill: Nelson, Scott spar as Florida Senate race nears hand recount.

The Republicans lead in both races and it’s rare that outcomes change during a recount but the prospect of a drawn-out legal battle looms over the key battleground state. Late Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott (R) filed a lawsuit against Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes, alleging her office withheld crucial voter information (The Hill).





Elsewhere, in Arizona, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) has taken a small lead over GOP Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyGroup of veterans call on lawmakers to support impeachment, 'put country over politics' Here are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump Overnight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 MORE in the Senate race to replace Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R). The two women are currently separated by about 2,000 votes (Arizona Secretary of State). There are still votes to be counted. 

And in Georgia, Republican Brian Kemp has a small lead in the hotly contested governor’s race, which remains too close to call. Democrat Stacey Abrams’s team has filed a lawsuit over absentee ballots in Dougherty County and Kemp has stepped down as secretary of state as the legal drama unfolds.

Looking ahead to 2020, Democrats are debating what kind of candidate stands the best chance at defeating Trump. It was a tough night for progressives on Tuesday and whoever Democrats nominate will have to inspire a better showing in Ohio and Florida than the party’s record in recent elections (The Hill).

The 2018 midterms have also set up a fierce fight for control of Congress in 2020. Jordain Carney takes a look at whether Republicans can hold the Senate and Democrats can hold the House in the next election (The Hill).

More from the campaign trail … Poll finds Democrats want to focus on health care and impeaching Trump (Reuters) … Democrat Lucy McBath unseats Republican Karen HandelKaren Christine HandelGeorgia ready for unpredictable Senate race Hundreds apply to fill Isakson's Senate seat in Georgia Ossoff raises 0k in first three weeks of Senate bid, campaign says MORE in pivotal Georgia district (The Hill) … Corporations won big on Tuesday, spending hundreds of millions of dollars to block ballot measures that could have hurt their bottom lines (The Hill) … House gender gap between Dems, GOP widens after midterms (The Hill).

Perspectives and Analysis

Susan B. Glasser: The really crazy times are just beginning.
Sean Trende: Six takeaways from the midterms.
Van Jones: The “rainbow wave” midterms.

Kristin Tate: Dems face tough 2020 battle after blowing chance at “blue wave.”

Keli Goff: Thank Trump for giving us the year of the woman.

Rich Lowry: No, Trump is not diminished.

Bryce Covert: Democrats’ biggest wins are at the statehouses.



Why Democrats should keep Pelosi as leader, by former congressman Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem dilemma on articles of impeachment Republicans need to face reality with hypocrisy on impeachment Elise Stefanik tests impeachment waters for moderates in Congress MORE (D-N.Y.), The Atlantic.

How a Democratic House could help finish Trump’s agenda, by F.H. Buckley, The The New York Post.

Trump said he wants tougher gun laws. Can a new Congress help? by The New York Times editorial board.


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The House and Senate will return to work on Tuesday.

The president and the first lady travel to France. About 70 world leaders, including Russia's Vladimir Putin and Germany's Angela Merkel, will take part in a ceremony on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on Sunday morning to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. France and Great Britain begin joint and separate commemorations today (BBC). 

Vice President Pence has no public events today. On Sunday he will travel to Singapore for a regional cooperation summit led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and then to Papua New Guinea for this year's session of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. White House details of bilateral meetings scheduled between Pence and global leaders are HERE. The vice president will be accompanied in the next week by White House national security adviser John Bolton.

Secretary of State Mike  Pompeo speaks at a Department of State event at 8:30 a.m. in honor of Veterans Day. He and Secretary of Defense James MattisJames Norman MattisThreatening foreign states with sanctions can backfire Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Amazon to challenge Pentagon's 'war cloud' decision in federal court MORE co-host the U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue at the department;  Pompeo meets with Chinese Politburo Member Yang Jiechi at 10 a.m. and with other participants at 10:50 a.m. The secretary hosts a working luncheon for the U.S.-China participants at 11:45 a.m. Pompeo and Mattis hold a news conference at 12:35 p.m. at the department to include Yang Jiechi and Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe.

> Reuters: Mattis is trying to keep U.S.-China tensions from boiling over. Today’s talks include “risk reduction” efforts to drive down the chance of an inadvertent military clash between the two countries, even as the Pentagon is ramping up activity that irritates the Chinese.

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie discusses care for military veterans and takes questions at 1 p.m. at the National Press Club, related to Veterans Day events.



> Supreme Court: Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85, is recovering after breaking three ribs during a fall in her office on Wednesday (The Associated Press).

> Energy: Citing environmental issues, the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline is temporarily blocked by a federal judge in a blow to the Trump administration (The Washington Post).

> Ancient Americans: Scientists are unraveling how and when humans spread across the Western Hemisphere in waves. The earliest known arrivals from Asia left behind DNA traces, including in Alaska and Nevada. New genetic research hints at many dramatic chapters in the peopling of the Americas that archaeology has yet to uncover (The New York Times).

> Federal Reserve: The U.S. central bank held interest rates steady on Thursday but remained on track to keep gradually tightening borrowing costs. The Fed has raised rates three times this year and is widely expected to do so again next month (Reuters). 

> Immigration: To prohibit migrants who cross the U.S. southern border from Mexico from claiming asylum under U.S. law, the Trump administration announced regulatory changes on Thursday to clamp down on asylum claims, a controversial move that added to Trump’s goal to end illegal immigration. The Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security published an interim final rule HERE (The Hill).

> DACA: The Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, revoked by Trump last year but still in operation under court order, appears headed to the Supreme Court. The Trump administration will have to continue waiving deportation for certain immigrants who entered the country illegally as children, according to a ruling Thursday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (The Wall Street Journal).

> Russia sanctions: On Wednesday, Trump said Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014 had “nothing to do with me” and occurred because former President Obama’s “regime let Crimea be annexed.” However, on Thursday, the Treasury Department imposed new Crimea-related sanctions on a dozen Russian individuals and entities under orders from Congress — and on Trump’s watch (The Hill).




And finally … Time to applaud Morning Report Quiz winners! We received a flurry of responses dealing with elections this week.

Readers Steve Valley, Dara Umberger, William Chittam and Carolyn Dixon knew (or guessed) that the largest midterm election wave in the United States occurred in 1894, when Republicans picked up more than 100 House seats and Democratic President Grover Cleveland became the first president to lose both chambers of Congress at once in a midterm election.

The longest-serving Speaker in U.S. history was Sam Rayburn, who was held that post three times for a total of 17 years, until his death in 1961.

Sadly, Mel Carnahan, Carl Geary, Dennis Hof, Patsy Mink, Jenny Oropeza, Sandy Sycafoose and Harry Stonebraker had in common their elections to political office following their deaths (Nevada’s Hof this week became the newest instance of a victorious albeit deceased candidate). 

The Oval Office occupants who enjoyed the longest streak of single-party control in Washington were Democrats Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman, from 1933 to 1947.

And the first woman to chair a congressional committee (the Committee on Expenditures in the Post Office) was California Republican Rep. Mae Ella Nolan, in 1923.